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I'm trying to find an antonym for altruist but Google searching has been fruitless. The section of sentence is "... a population of altruists will therefore be fitter than a population of non-altruists."

Would egoists work?

  • Isn't an altruist someone who is philanthropic? Wouldn't that be a more appropriate word than egoist? ... a population of philanthropists will therefore be fitter... – Tucker May 9 '14 at 8:09
  • @tucker I'm looking for an antonym – rg255 May 9 '14 at 8:17
  • So you are! This is why I should read the question first. Well, what form of altruist are you pertaining to? If it's stinginess, then you can try niggard, although that might get you into trouble for those who don't know the word. – Tucker May 9 '14 at 8:22
  • @tucker evolutionary biology, classic discussion is the problem of how altruistic behaviour evolves, generally referred to as altruistic vs selfish behaviour. – rg255 May 9 '14 at 8:24
  • Colloquially, selfish bastards fits the bill. (Or US congressmen -- your choice.) – Erik Kowal May 9 '14 at 10:09
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I think self-servers might work better than egoists—although in this era of gas stations that require customers to fill their car's gas tank themselves, it may invite misinterpretation when applied to human beings.

One of the strongest proponents of self-interest as the fundamental motive underlying all human conduct was Bernard Mandeville, who detected primal selfishness at the bottom of everything from parental care of infants to societal support for charity schools, and who (beginning in 1714) wrote about it at great length in The Fable of the Bees. So from a philosophical point of view and with regard to human behavior, I think, the opposite of an altruist is a Mandevillean; but Mandeville himself would have argued that altruist has no opposite because ultimately there is no such thing.

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It would, but you might prefix it with "rational" or "ethical" to make it clear that you mean "egoist" in the sense of political science or philosophy (one who acts only for one's own interests, either just because, or as a matter of principle) rather than the popular sense of "a person who thinks highly of themselves".

Depending on the context, "misanthrope" might also be a suitable antonym.

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  • He said the context is evolutionary biology. So we're talking about organisms, not necessarily people. These words tend to be used metaphorically, as in selfish genes. – Barmar May 10 '14 at 11:22

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