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Why are people still confused about "selfishness"?

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AshRyan
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People commonly regard Nietzschean "egoism" and altruism as polar opposites. However, the two moral codes were explicitly integrated by Hitler in Nazi Germany--and are in fact, though not explicitly, integrated in every dictatorship that exists, and by every action performed in accordance with either code of morality (the very concept of sacrifice implies the questions "of whom?" and "for whom?"), because they are actually the same code.

How can anyone have any illusions left about altruism, particularly about its relationship to any false (i.e., sacrificial) "egoism"? It has been historically demonstrated so widely that they are in fact not opposites, but flip-sides of the same coin that how anyone can still separate the two and pretend that they're not related would seem to require active evasion.

Any thoughts?

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This may be a stupid question, especially since I spent the same two days listening to Ridpath's lecture on Nietzsche as you did, but how did the Nazi's embrace Nietzsche's egoism? I see how they were both idealists (qua Kant) and pragmatic nihilists (qua Nietzsche) -- but how were they in any way egoists?

Another question -- do the words "selfishness" and "egoism" necessarily mean "rational self-interest" or simply "what one perceives to be in one's interest"? As I see it, "selfishness" subsumes both rational selfishness-- that is doing what is truly in one's self-interest, and "unbridled selfishness" -- that is acting on whims, pragmatism, irrational fantasies, etc. Under this definition, Nietzsche is in fact an egoist, albeit an irrational one. Of course since he rejected the self as such, this is debatable..

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This may be a stupid question, especially since I spent the same two days listening to Ridpath's lecture on Nietzsche as you did, but how did the Nazi's embrace Nietzsche's egoism?  I see how they were both idealists (qua Kant) and pragmatic nihilists (qua Nietzsche) -- but how were they in any way egoists?

Another question -- do the words "selfishness" and "egoism" necessarily mean "rational self-interest" or simply "what one perceives to be in one's interest"?  As I see it, "selfishness" subsumes both rational selfishness-- that is doing what is truly in one's self-interest, and "unbridled selfishness" -- that is acting on whims, pragmatism, irrational fantasies, etc.  Under this definition, Nietzsche is in fact an egoist, albeit an irrational one.  Of course since he rejected the self as such, this is debatable..

Rational self-interest and "selfishness" should NOT be grouped together and opposed to altruism. This violates the proper hierarchy of these concepts.

The proper division to make is not between "selfishness" (whether rational or irrational) and "altruism", but rather between true selfishness, or a self-centered moral code, or a non-sacrificial ethics (you can look at it in any of these ways), and other-centered, or sacrificial, morality (which subsumes both altruism and Nietzschean "egoism"). The reason why is because a code of ethics that says you should sacrifice others to yourself is more fundamentally similar to a code that says you should sacrifice yourself to others than it is to a code that says you should live your own life, sacrificing no one to anyone. The two variants on sacrificial ethics are in fact not opposite; they imply each other (barring nihilism, which is just sacrifice for the sake of destruction, for no one's alleged benefit). If people are told to sacrifice for someone else, whoever that someone else is is simultaneously (allegedly) benefitting from the sacrifice of others made on his behalf. And when someone, like Hitler, wants to sacrifice others to himself, the best way to do it is to convince them to go along with it willingly (i.e., get them to accept altruism). This is how the two variants on sacrificial ethics imply each other. Whether one is the victim or the beneficiary of sacrifice, the main focus of any sacrificial ethics is on others. Thus, "egoists" of the "sacrifice others to oneself" variety should not be regarded as genuinely selfish--the "others" are still a central component in that outlook.

That should answer your second question. And based on that clarification, the answer to your first question is obvious. Not all of the Nazi's accepted Nietzschean "egoism"--but as altruists, whether they realized it or not, their sacrificing themselves for the sake of "the State" logically implies that whoever represents "the State" (e.g., Hitler) is the beneficiary of their sacrifice. While Hitler preached altruist ethics to the masses of Germany, telling them to sacrifice for the State and what not, he himself was heavily influenced by and practiced Nietzchean "egoism"--naming himself the benefactor of all the sacrifice demanded of everyone else.

If these are opposites, then why do they always seem to go hand-in-hand like that? Clearly, altruism and Nietzchean "egoism" are not mutually contradictory at all--it is only rational selfishness, as identified by Ayn Rand, that stands in opposition to either of those codes. It would be a contradiction to try to simultaneously practice rational selfishness and either of the variants on sacrificial ethics. No such contradiction is involved in the simultaneous practice of altruism and Nietzchean "egoism"--in fact, they practically require each other.

I hope that clarifies my earlier comments.

My original question, then, was, given the fact that altruism and Nietzchean "egoism" do in fact go hand-in-hand like that, which has been demonstrated on such a massive historical scale (with the Nazis, communists, and other dictatorships), why do people still view them as opposites, and don't realize that the real alternative is genuine selfishness?

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