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Selfism refers to any philosophy, doctrine, or tendency that upholds explicitly selfish principles as being desirable. It is usually used pejoratively.

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Paul Vitz

The term "selfism" was used extensively by conservative Christian critic Paul Vitz in his book Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship. Vitz deconstructs the selfist movement(s) and tries to uphold God-centered altruism, and claims that all of modern-day liberalism and leftism are essentially selfist at their core. He lays the blame predominately at the feet of Erik Erikson, Erich Fromm, and other prominent psychologists of the third quarter of the 20th century (ca. 1950-1975 CE).

Vitz's targets

Explicit selfishness as a desirable end and moral good had diverse manifestations during that period, for example, in the writings of David Seabury, Ayn Rand, and even among some of Rand's near-opposites, such as Erikson and Fromm. Rand called her philosophy Objectivism. Later popularizers of similar positions include Nathaniel Branden, Paul Lepanto, Robert Ringer, Harry Browne, and David Kelley. None of these named the system they espoused "selfism" or characterized it as "selfist", although both Seabury and Rand included the word "selfishness" in the titles of books presenting their views. Many of these figures were pro-capitalist secularists ("atheist capitalists"), but Seabury was a Christian, while Erickson and Fromm were prominent leftists.

Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, also expressed an at least partially selfist philosophy and gave credit to Ayn Rand and others.

Origins of selfist thought

An early example of "selfist" thinking is the egoistic philosophy of Cyrenaic hedonism. Cyrenaics were skeptics and materialists (but perhaps nominally Greek pagans). Thomas Hobbes, who could also be viewed as "selfist", was a materialist but also advocated loyalty to a strong government and state church. Joseph Butler, whose philosophy is unmistakably selfist, was generally regarded as an orthodox Christian and was canonized an Anglican saint. The views of Friedrich Nietzsche provide a more proximate link to the modern selfists.

See also

References

  • The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand, ISBN 0451163931,
  • David Seabury. The Art of Selfishness (1990, 1971).
  • Paul Vitz. Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-worship (2nd ed., Eerdmans, 1994, original ed., 1977) (W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI)
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