Egoism is the word that is usually pronounced with disapproving overtones. It is supposed that “egoistic” equals “bad” by definition. But is it really so? What is egoism, after all?
Egoism, as a dictionary entry goes, is the preference of one’s own interests over the interests of others. Nothing is said here about eating infants, doing evil out of pleasure or anything like this. It is simply the preference of my interests over the interests of all the rest, which is, as far as I know, one of the general behavioral principles of any human.
The reason is that “one’s own interests” may be very different when we speak about different people. One may consider it to be in his best interests to eat as much of various foodstuff as it is possible, and there is nothing wrong in it until he violates the egoistical interests of somebody else and takes money from him by force in order to please his own belly. The other may consider it to be in his interests to do good to other people – if he does it because he considers it to be right, it is really in his own, egoistic interests.
Interests don’t become any less personal, because they are located not in the person’s stomach but elsewhere. We should understand that, after a fashion, every person is an egoist, because we all tend to follow our own interests. It is our interests that vary, not the attitude towards them. And a rational egoist is the one who pursues his own ends without violating the rights of others, because he knows that, in the long run, it is the most profitable line of action.