Difference Between Egoism and Altruism

Egoism vs Altruism

The difference between egoism and altruism highlights the differences between two extreme human natures. Egoism and altruism can be considered as two different terms. These highlight two extremes of the nature of human beings. Egoism refers to the quality of being excessively self-centered, or else selfish. Altruism, on the other hand, refers to the quality of being completely selfless. Psychologists have always been fascinated with this changing nature of the human being, when his actions sometimes border on altruism and at some other times they border on egoism. According to them, a number of factors influence this interplay between diverse actions. This article attempts to comprehend the difference through an understanding of individual terminology.

What is Egoism?

The term egoism is also referred to as egotism. This term can be defined as the quality of being excessively conceited or self-centered. A person, who is egoistic is usually inconsiderate of others and focuses solely on the individual self. Such a person would engage in any activity that harms others and benefit himself. In this sense, one can say, the sense of morality and moral obligation towards others, is lost on him. This can be understood through an example. A man who is married and has two children decides to leave them because they are weighing him down. The family is poor and the wife and children are incapable of earning for the family. The man finds that the situation is too hard and that he should not waste his life on such a pathetic situation and merely leaves. In such a scenario, the person is completely self-centered. He is inconsiderate about the others in the family and feels no moral obligation. Some believe that it is in human nature to be egoistic. For example, Thomas Hobbes who was a philosopher stated that human are naturally selfish. According to his thought, men are engaged in a war against each other due to their selfish nature. However, one cannot claim that all individual are egoistic. This can be understood through the concept of altruism.

Difference Between Egoism and Altruism

Egoism – leaving your family helpless

What is Altruism?

Altruism can simply be defined as unselfishness. It is when a person puts the needs of others even before himself. This is why it can be considered as the opposite of egoism. Such an individual is so concerned about others that he completely ignores himself. For example, take a soldier who sacrifices himself to save the others of his battalion, or else a parent that risks herself or himself to save the child. These are instances where an individual completely forgets his own self. In some situations altruism is at the cost of one’s own self. Then it is considered as a sacrifice.There is a strong moral obligation and also emotional attachment that makes the individual be altruistic. Some people believe that this should not be considered as altruism, because the individual puts himself forward for another who is known to him. But altruism expands further. When an individual at a train station saves the life of another who is a complete stranger to him, risking his own life, this is also altruism. Psychologists have been engaging in various studies to understand why people engage in such behaviour.

Egoism vs Altruism

Altruism – man risking his life to save someone.

What is the difference between Egoism and Altruism?

• Egoism can be defined as extreme self-centeredness whereas altruism can be defined as selflessness.

• These two can be considered as two extremes of human quality.

• An egoistic person only cares for himself, but an altruistic person cares for others ignoring his own self.


Images Courtesy: Woman and children and saving a woman via Wikicommons (Public Domain)