Monday, January 05, 2015

Egotism vs Egoism

There is a very fine but very sharp divide between egotism and egoism, both of which are centered on the self. But it is the assumption of superiority that divides the two. Egotists have the luxury of automatically assuming they are aways right; egoists are never really sure. The egotist looks outward to feed his sense of superiority; the egoist realizes that, while he might assume what others are thinking or feeling, he can never really know for sure, and therefore looks within himself for answers.

Overt self confidence is a mark of an egotist; the lack of it is the mark of an egoist. The egotist, like an exploding supernova, projects his sense of superiority outward; the egoist, like a black hole, draws everything into himself, and can never truly be sure that what he finds there is correct.

While I have a certain grudging admiration for what I consider to be the gall of egotists, I am definitely an egoist. And because I cannot be sure of anyone else, I can seldom be totally sure of even myself. The result is, of course, utter confusion, and it is a state in which I have existed my entire life.

I am far too often conflicted as to whether I really believe what I think I believe. There are few things in life which are all black or all white. Every argument does, indeed, have two sides—and occasionally more. I seldom encounter a statement that I cannot, with however faulty logic, refute in some way. 

I’m enough of an armchair psychologist to be fairly confident, given the human tendency to self-delusion, that egotism undoubtedly often masks a deep sense of insecurity, and is used to shore up a fragile ego. I tend to equate egotism to agnosticism: both boil down to the statement, “I don’t know!”

There is very little in life that is absolute; few things either pure white or totally black. The more questions one asks, the more complicated life seems to get, partly because questions beget questions. The point could be made that the fewer questions—especially philosophical ones—one asks of life, the better. The vast majority of the world’s population manages to get through life by asking a minimum of questions not related to their day-to-day functioning. The tendency to just going along with whatever hand life deals them and not think more than a year or two ahead is undoubtedly also helpful.

Because there are so very many things we do not and cannot know about the world in which we live, let alone about ourselves and our true motivations, we tend to bumble through life making choices and personal decisions based on personal feelings, experiences, and preferences. And the amazing thing is that we do all this without giving any of it a single conscious thought.

I feel fairly confident (never, as a typical egoist, being able to be absolutely sure of anything) that there are a great many people among my 7.2 billion fellow humans who share my beliefs. 

But I can’t be sure.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

And a new season of Dorien Grey blog posts has officially kicked off, allowing us to know that we may never know where you will take us next...because you don't know. lol

It reminds me of the theory of deconstruction. If you think you know what something means, then you don't. But if you realize you don't know what it means, then you do since deconstruction is almost never complete.