This goes against the grain for me, my maternal bloodline is McWhinnie martyr, my star sign Cancerian, yet is selfishness the stark reality and altruism just a sweet illusion?
Psychological egoism may be the purest philosophy or movement espousing selfishness.
Going along the lines that our actions are all ultimately selfishly motivated, perhaps in pursuit of pleasure along the lines of psychological hedonism, or to avoid pain or guilt.
It goes right back to ancient philosophy such as Epicureanism.
The 1975 touch on this in current hit “The Sound”:-
“It’s not about reciprocation it’s just all about me
A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe
There’s so much skin to see
A simple Epicurean Philosophy”
Jeremy Bentham and Herbert Spencer took it forward, bandwagon ridden further by Nietzsche, Freud and the behaviourists in modern times and then the “mighty” Ayn Rand incorporated it in Objectivism in such works as “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead”. Even an essay called “The Virtue of Selfishness”.
Hitler was arguably more left-wing. Rand disciple Nathaniel Branden kept it going with his “philosophy of self-esteem”.
Perhaps this has shaped some American thinking even now, it seems odd to me that Republicans see themselves as moral and yet believe in everyone for themselves and that the poor should just work harder.
When I have been in the USA many there expressed they felt our British NHS is crazy, that we would pay from our wages for other people’s healthcare. I think they would just see others die and shrug what is that to do with them.
The Conservative Party in the UK are just plain ugly and awful, at least they barely even pretend to be moral.
Evolutionary biology ties itself in knots, Richard Dawkins is nearly guilty of anthropomorphism with selfish gene chatter, all sorts of mental gymnastics seem to be necessary to explain altruism seen across nature, as initially brought to light by Auguste Comte, from game theory to increasingly convoluted models such as The Prisoners’ Dilemma.
Even many Prosperity Gospel Christians and New Thought New Agers are not immune, the teachings of Abraham Hicks do not judge the poor and sick for their plight exactly, but do seem to attribute it to the results of their thinking.
What of kindness? Many of the above would leave babies to starve in a gutter with no qualms, but to any human readers, doesn’t kindness feel better? Even if you are being selfish doing it?
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention” – Oscar Wilde
“Be kind whenever possible – it is always possible” – Dalai Lama
As Morrissey sang in “I Know It’s Over” and quoted on my manly charm bracelet:-
“It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate.
It takes guts to be gentle and kind”