Self-Wisdom and Egoism

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Self-Wisdom and Egoism.


To the Editor of Liberty:

"Self-wisdom" is not synonymous, not co-extensive, to my mind with intelligent Egoism. From this statement G. B. Prescott, Jr. can revise his argument. The author of the term "self-wisdom" gave no definition. Among the meanings which he may have had is this: Wisdom directed to the care of self. In this case the person has himself in view as an object. He is planning and deliberating what will build up, guard, and preserve himself,-- add to his pleasures or release him from his pains. This must certainly be a large share of intelligent activity; but this is not the specific characterization of Egoism, as I use the term. Egoistic is whoever and whatever acts out the self. In writing this I am doubtless gratifying myself, but to inform Mr. Prescott is my object. Were I contemplating and working for some well-assured benefit to myself, held in prospect before my mental vision, and calculated to be the result of this writing, that would be "self-wisdom." But if I am subject, the doer, and in nowise an object to myself, the spontaneous act is Egoistic simply,-- 'tis my own,--but not a matter of "self-wisdom." In such case I do not have self present to mind as an object. Now all generosity is of this character. If calculated to benefit self, it would not be generosity. The man who would never do a generous act till he had calculated it to be profitable would perhaps seem generous, but the appearance would be deceptive. The intelligent generous man must indeed learn by experience that he needs to guard against ruining himself by generosity, but, even as he grows cautious, he never needs to know more than that it is not unsafe to follow his natural bent of generosity. That is to say, he does not need the contemplation of any increment of pleasure to himself. His pleasure is: his pain as seeing suffering is: and he acts unless checked by considerations of wisdom and unwisdom, not necessarily of "self"-wisdom. If his thought is this,--to guard against against evil to others,--it is wisdom to stop and reflect whether, in a given case, it is well to follow the impulse of generosity. Now, to act so unless checked by reflection is quite different from needing the stimulus of a consciously-entertained prospect of benefit to self.

Tak Kak.

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