Every human unit makes himself the centre of the world, which he views exclusively from that standpoint. (SCHOPENHAUER)

Every human unit makes himself the centre of the world, which he views exclusively from that standpoint. (SCHOPENHAUER)

Egoism is, from its nature, limitless. The individual is filled with the unqualified desire of preserving his life, and of keeping it free from all pain, under which is included all want and privation. He wishes to have the greatest possible amount of pleasurable existence, and every gratification that he is capable of appreciating; indeed, he attempts, if possible, to evolve fresh capacities for enjoyment. Everything that opposes the strivings of his Egoism awakens his dislike, his anger, his hate: this is the mortal enemy, which he tries to annihilate. If it were possible, he would like to possess everything for his own pleasure; as this is impossible, he wishes at least to control everything. “All things for me, and nothing for others” is his maxim. Egoism is a huge giant overtopping the world. If each person were allowed to choose between his own destruction and that of the rest of mankind, I need not say what the decision would be in most cases. Thus, it is that every human unit makes himself the centre of the world, which he views exclusively from that standpoint. Whatever occurs, even, for instance, the most sweeping changes in the destinies of nations, he brings into relation first and foremost with his own interests, which, however slightly and indirectly they may be affected, he is sure to think of before anything else. No sharper contrast can be imagined than that between the profound and exclusive attention which each person devotes to his own self, and the indifference with which, as a rule, all other people regard that self,—an indifference precisely like that with which he in turn looks upon them. To a certain extent it is actually comic to see how each individual out of innumerable multitudes considers himself, at least from the practical point of view, as the only real thing, and all others in some sort as mere phantoms.

 

The state —this masterpiece, which sums up the self-conscious, intelligent egoism of all—consigns the rights of each person to a power, which, being enormously superior to that of the individual, compels him to respect the rights of all others. This is the leash that restrains the limitless egoism of nearly every one, the malice of many, the cruelty of not a few. The illusion thus arising is so great that, when in special cases, where the executive power is ineffective, or is eluded, the insatiable covetousness, the base greed, the deep hypocrisy, or the spiteful tricks of men are apparent in all their ugliness, we recoil with horror, supposing that we have stumbled on some unheard-of monster: whereas, without the compulsion of law, and the necessity of keeping an honorable name, these sights would be of everyday occurrence. In order to discover what, from a moral point of view, human beings are made of, we must study anarchist records, and the proceedings connected with criminals. The thousands that throng before our eyes, in peaceful intercourse each with the other, can only be regarded as so many tigers and wolves, whose teeth are secured by a strong muzzle. Let us now suppose this muzzle cast off, or, in other words, the power of the state abolished; the contemplation of the spectacle then to be awaited would make all thinking people shudder; and they would thus betray the small amount of trust they really have in the efficiency either of religion, or of conscience, or of the natural basis of Morals, whatever it be. But if these immoral, antinomian forces should be unshackled and let loose, it is precisely then that the true moral incentive, hidden before, would reveal its activity, and consequently be most easily recognized. And nothing would bring out so clearly as this the prodigious moral difference of character between man and man; it would be found to be as great as the intellectual, which is saying much.
 

 

 

THE BASIS OF MORALITY
ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

 

 

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