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Introduction 1

Difference between Egoism and Selfishness 2

Reason 1 3

Reason 2 3

Reason 3 4

Conclusion 5

Works Cited 6

Egoismand Selfishness


Thereis a substantial difference between egoism and selfishness in humanbehavior and character. Although the two may seem alike in a sense,they are quite dissimilar.Friedrich Nietzsche, who is the writer of The Gay Science brings uphis philosophy concerning these two facets. His book was firstpublished in 1882. In its contents, the author plays with severalthoughts regarding human beings and the aspect of morality. Heaccurately describes the work as his most personal. He talks aboutthe death of God and also the doctrine of eternal recurrence. Hisphilosophy is brought out in the discussions that follow concerningart, ethics, knowledge and truth, as well as the intellectualconscience and how the aspect of logic came into being. Jean-LucGodard is the director of the film Breathless which was developed in1960. The movie basically illustrates the lives of two characters,Michel and Patricia. Their actions and relationship is brought outfrom the beginning to the end. The audience is able to relate totheir difference in perception, self-view and character. This paperlooks at the difference between egoism and selfishness on these twosources.

Differencebetween Egoism and Selfishness

Firstand foremost, it is important to understand the basis of Nietzsche’sphilosophy of the higher man, and to appreciate the egoism aspectdescribed by him. He believes that self-interest is necessary for anindividual to attain the heights that are possible for him. Ethicalegoism purposes that an action is right, or morally approved andjustified, if at the end of the day, it promotes the self-interest ofthe person who does it. It tends to indicate that an individualshould perform the act that satisfies his or her self-interest.Selfishness, on the other hand, is described as the desire to do whatis in one’s best interest although, in this case, the process doesnot involve a clear and rational thinking. The author describes thistype of selfishness as irrational. He, however, equates egoism as aform of positive selfishness which is ideal for one’s well-being.Ideally a selfish person performs an act unconsciously withoutnecessarily thinking of himself. A further explanation reveals thatan individual who focuses too much energy on their career might attimes be considered more selfish than one who gives things to others.

Inthe film, Breathless,Michel is depicted as both egoistic and selfish. However, the egoismaspect is more pronounced based on his actions. His behavior isinfluenced by the movie stars he has seen. Almost everything that hedoes is to enable him to achieve the highest status. It is for thisreason that he steals and convinces Patricia to let him stay with herwhile hiding from the police. His egoistic character is brought outby his willingness to indulge in actions which, although risky, wouldeventually propel him towards achieving the uppermost self-status.Michel kills, and steals without a second thought just to get moneyfor his benefits. His selfishness can be seen when he does notconsider other people’s feelings, interest and desires. He wantsPatricia to follow his lead, but on the other hand, denies her thefreedom to do what she truly desires. Michel is therefore selfish andegoistic, but his egoism dominates more.


Michel’slife is not well defined. He seems to live for the moment. He engagesin dangerous activities and also takes advantage of Patricia whooffers him a place to stay. He doesn’t have the intent or the urgeto develop a plan for his future. On the contrary, he does what hefeels needs to be done based on the immediate circumstances. This canbe seen by the crimes he commits especially theft. Michel wants to belike the stars he watches in films and in the process, he indulges inin deeds that benefit him alone. He does not care what others want orfeel as long as his desires have been satisfied. His desire for moneyand a classy life is the only item in his thoughts. Also, the youngman almost destroys the life of his Lover Patricia due to his egoism.He wants to be with her so much that he doesn’t care about her lifegoals and objectives. He tries to persuade her in vain to move toRome.


Michellacks objective reasons for doing things. As such, the man’s desirepushes to extremes that eventually hurt him. For instance, during oneof the criminal escapades, he shoots and kills a police officer. Forsomeone who never seems to care about other people’s feelings, hisreluctance to leave without Patricia magnifies the egoism. Althoughsome might see this as an act of love, Nietzsche alludes that egoismcan also be involved in aspects of affection. Therefore, Michel’scharacter compels him to try and convince Patricia to sacrifice hercareer and be part of the run. If he wasn’t egoistic, leaving herin peace and running would be the best choice, or accept to bearrested. Michel’s depiction drives the audience to ask whether ornot he has any feelings towards anybody. As such, even hisrelationship with Patricia is doubtful. We already know that Michelhas his own well-being as the priority and thus the commitment toPatricia could just be a pretense to get whatever he wants. Possibly,he intended to acquire protection, shelter, food and maybe a form ofleverage if need be. Despite being aware that their relationship putshis girlfriend in danger of being arrested, he encourages her to bepart of his plan. Michel fails to create a substantive foundationthat leads his life. On the contrary, he deals with events as theycome, taking any action that seem necessary for survival.


Michelis extremely motivated by his self-interests. As seen before, helikes the character played by Humphrey Bogart and begins consideringhimself a tough guy. A typical tough guy engages in crime and riskyengagements and Michel is no exception. He does not only steal money,but also cars. He is also a liar and a cheat, taking advantage ofpeople and especially women who tend to fall for him due to thecharisma. Because of his criminal activities, he pretends, kills andputs other people’s lives in danger. The extents to which he goesjust to achieve the goals are quite extreme. These activities rangefrom murdering a law enforcement officer, making Patricia be seen asone who hides fugitives, involving her in the plan to escape, andalso endangering the lives of people during police evasion. The lackof reason, coupled by advanced levels of self-importance drives himto do things that are considered life-threatening. Not once does hefeel like surrendering to the police, and even when he knows the endis imminent, attempts an escape. The producer bases his story on thefact that Michel would not give up before attaining a higher status.One that he has always wanted to have. It is for this purpose thathis death can be viewed as heroic, since he dies chasing thecherished desires to the very end.


Basedon the film, we can be able to attest that Nietzsche’s ethicsemphasizes on the naturalistic approach. An egoistic moral code comesinto play and its real life happenings are illustrated in actualsituations. Even though some might consider this idea as radicalcompared to the contemporary morals, it might not necessarily be so.Life happenings play an important part in the choice of decentconsiderations. This outlook doesn’t support the lack of having aproper view. The statements provided are described in a pejorativesense, aimed at a specific group of people whose prosperity could behindered by acceptance of morality. The foundation and commitment tonaturalism further influence the egoistic moral code in the shapingof character, flourishing and value of life. This is the reason as towhy the author exalts independence, personal development, excellenceand growth. He mentions all these as essential virtues. Egoism canalso be accounted for in behaviors such as love, benevolence,friendship and assistance to those in need. The aspect ofselflessness is also a component of this discussion. Ultimately,these views are quite moral and good, but can also be harmful anddestructive. Also, generosity is an element that is abundant inegoism as seen in the film featuring Michel and Patricia in theirdealings.


Nantz, Derrick Phillip. Nietzsche on Naturalism, Egoism and Altruism. Thesis. Atlanta: Georgia State University, 2007. Print.

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