Looked these two words up but unclear as to how they might differ or if one is a specialisation of another.

  • individualism: The moral stance, political philosophy, or social outlook that promotes independence and self-reliance of individual people, while opposing the interference with each person's choices by society, the state, or any other group or institution.
  • egoism: The belief that moral behaviour should be directed toward one's self-interest only.

I posted about this on a Q&A site and the conclusions were that:

  • They are almost the same or even inseparable.
  • Ethical egoism says you should only do stuff if it makes you feel good and individualism says you can only do things for the sake of individuals with “society” or “country” or “humanity” being fictional abstractions.
  • Individualism is it is about freedom of individuals with an egoistic nature and behaviour that is positive in not being selfishness or selflessness.
  • There is confusion about ethical egoism in that some people fail to recognise that the ego can extend beyond one's self in practising altruism for the personal benefits it can give.
  • 2
    This is potentially an interesting question, but I think it's likely to be closed for failure to show your research unless you can cite a couple of relevant definitions and then briefly explain why they don't help you understand the different between the two terms. Please consider adding something along those lines to your question.
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 20, 2016 at 4:08
  • @SvenYargs hope the current edit more than fufils the requirement.
    – James P.
    Dec 20, 2016 at 15:10
  • This is an interesting question, but has gone beyond simple dictionary semantics and crossed over into what I think is philosophy. You might get more meaningful answers at philosophy.stackexchange.com
    – Mitch
    Dec 20, 2016 at 16:17
  • 2
    You have earned a reversal of the "needs to show research" closure, in my opinion, and I have voted to reopen. The question may, in respect of its philosophical ramifications, be beyond our poor powers here at English Language & Usage, but I think that we might at least attempt a straightforward assessment of the differences in dictionary definitions of the two terms. And in any case, when we close a question for lack of research and the poster responds by citing research, I think we should acknowledge that the hoop we initially identified has indeed been jumped through.
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 20, 2016 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


Egoism - a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action. Individualism - a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount.

Egoism talks about self-interest as the motivation of individual action. Individualism stresses the primacy of individual rights in society. See the US Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Contrast this with Collectivism defined as the theory and practice that makes some sort of group rather than the individual the fundamental unit of political, social, and economic concern.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.