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Positives and Negatives of Egoistic Living versus Altruistic Living Discussion

Egoism and Altruism

To many people, egoism is the most natural of human feelings.  Each living thing seeks its own self-preservation.  Ayn Rand is one moral philosopher who argued that egoism or selfishness is the only true morality. She argues that egoism is a moral virtue while the opposite called altruism is not a virtue but a vice.

On the other hand, John Locke’s social contact theory about the origin of social and political cooperation is all about the benefits of cooperation for the common good and we can’t just live for ourselves alone. 

For our discussion, we will take the two examples given in the eText where the conflict between egoism and altruism are clear.Here is the quote:

“Popular culture is full of examples of the conflict between egoism and altruism. Television programs like Survivor create circumstances in which people are forced to forge short-term alliances to maximize their own self-interest. The film and book The Hunger Games shows us a life-and-death competition in which children struggle for survival in a war of all against all. In these contexts, egoism is to be expected and altruism is an exceptional and heroic virtue” (Ethics, MacKinnon, 2015, p.41).

For our discussion, please answer the following two questions related to the above quote and also the video materials on the philosopher Ayn Rand:

Let’s discuss these ideas:

[1] What can we learn about the positives and negatives of egoistic living versus altruistic living from the show Survivor? (TV trailer):

Or the book/film The Hunger Games? (trailer):

If you are not familiar with either of these, discuss the topic with someone who is familiar with one or the other of these shows/films.Do you agree with the idea that egoism and altruism are at odds or in conflict?Why or why not?  In your view, which (egoism or altruism) work best for people’s survival in normal life?

[2] After hearing about the moral values of Ayn Rand (video interview with Mike Wallace: do you think her call for living selfishly and not altruistically threaten the moral values of America, as the interviewer Mike Wallace suggests?  And what would you say are the real moral values of America today that keep our society running as it does?


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