Ethical egoism (also called simply egoism) is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds merely that it is rational to act in one's self-interest. Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help and serve others (Vezi Drepturi pozitive - Sa ne dea, sa ne faca).
Max Stirner was the first philosopher to call himself an egoist, it is questionable if he wanted to install a new idea of morality (ethical egoism) or argue against morality (amoralism). Others, such as Thomas Hobbes and David Gauthier, have argued that the conflicts which arise when people each pursue their own ends can be resolved for the best of each individual only if they all voluntarily forgo some of their aims — that is, one's self-interest is often best pursued by allowing others to pursue their self-interest as well so that liberty is equal among individuals. Sacrificing one's short-term self-interest to maximize one's long-term self-interest is one form of "rational self-interest" which is the idea behind most philosophers' advocacy of ethical egoism. Egoists have also argued that one's actual interests are not immediately obvious, and that the pursuit of self-interest involves more than merely the acquisition of some good, but the maximizing of one's chances of survival and/or happiness.
Noted egoist Ayn Rand argued that there is a positive harmony of interests among free, rational humans, such that no moral agent can rationally coerce another person consistently with his own actual, long-term self-interest. Rand argued that other people are an enormous value to an individual's well-being (through education, trade and affection), but also that this value could be fully realized only under conditions of political and economic freedom. According to Rand, voluntary trade alone can assure that human interaction is mutually beneficial (sau cum spunea Adam Smith, "Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog"). Rand's student, Leonard Peikoff has argued that the identification of one's interests itself is impossible absent the use of principles, and that self-interest cannot be consistently pursued absent a consistent adherence to certain ethical principles. Recently, Rand's position has also been defended by such writers as Tara Smith, Tibor Machan, Allan Gotthelf, David Kelley, Douglas Rasmussen, Nathaniel Branden, Harry Binswanger, Andrew Bernstein and Craig Biddle in his 2002 work, Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It.
Philosopher David L. Norton identified himself an "ethical individualist," and, like Rand, saw a harmony between an individual's fidelity to his own self-actualization, or "personal destiny," and the achievement of society's well being.[
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that egoistic or "life-affirming" behavior stimulates jealousy or "ressentiment" in others, and that this is the psychological motive for the altruism in Christianity. Sociologist Helmut Schoeck similarly considered envy the motive of collective efforts by society to reduce the disproportionate gains of successful individuals through moral or legal constraints, with altruism being primary among these.
In addition, Nietzsche (in Beyond Good and Evil) and Alasdair MacIntyre (in After Virtue) have pointed out that the ancient Greeks did not associate morality with altruism in the way that post-Christian Western civilization has done. Aristotle's view is that we have duties to ourselves as well as to other people (e.g. friends) and to the polis as a whole. The same is true for Thomas Aquinas, Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant, who claim that there are duties to ourselves as Aristotle did, although it has been argued that, for Aristotle, the duty to one's self is primary.
The term ethical egoism has been applied retroactively to philosophers such as Bernard de Mandeville and to many other materialists of his generation, although none of them declared themselves to be egoists. Note that materialism does not necessarily imply egoism, as indicated by Karl Marx, and the many other materialists who espoused forms of collectivism.
It has been argued that ethical egoism lends itself to individualist anarchism, as in the work of Murray Rothbard, and is another way of describing the sense that the common good should be enjoyed by all. However, most notable anarchists in history have advocated
socialistic altruistic views.