Egocentrism: Egoism, Narcissism and Egotism

  • For Sabine


Egocentrism is considered as "the seeing of everything from oneself".1 Besides 'egocentrism' the word 'egocentricity' can also be used. Except that these words are synonymous to each other they also have the same etymology. Both consist of the words 'ego' and 'centre'.2 'Ego' here stands synonymous for 'I'.3 It is through the Latin 'ego', also referring to an I, derived from the Greek 'egó',4 which also refers to an I.5 The word 'centre' subsequentially refers to a middle point6 and is through the Latin 'centrum', also referring to a middle point, derived from the Greek 'kéntron',7 which besides to a sharp point also refers to a middle point.8 So in egocentrism a certain I regards the middle point. Put differently does someone who is egocentric place himself in the middle point of his world.

That the I in the middle point of a world is placed means also that all others are placed outside that middle point. That someone sees everything from himself means also that that person sees nothing from someone else. With egocentrism thus all attention is directed to the own I. In academic psychology then egocentrism is seen as a feature of an antisocial personality disorder that is coupled with a callous lack of concern for others.9

Here however we are not professing academic psychology but rather contemplative psychology or psychosophy. And from that perspective can in egocentrism be discerned between less-worthy-complexeous egocentrism, (equal-)worthy-complexeous egocentrism and more-worthy-complexeous egocentrism. In all cases the attention is fully directed to the own I as the middle point of the world. However with less-worthy-complexeous (or inferiority-complexeous) egocentrism is the I seen as less worthy against the background of more worthy others, with (equal-)worthy-complexeous (or equality-complexeous) egocentrism is the I seen as equal worthy against the background of equal worthy others and with more-worthy-complexeous (or superiority-complexeous) egocentrism is the I seen as more worthy against the background of less worthy others.

With less-worthy-complexeous egocentrism the attention is thus directed to the own I in the middle point of the world whereby that I is seen as less worthy than the surrounding others. As a result of this shall the regarded egocentrist direct all attention and energy to the transference of worth from the surrounding others to himself. What is tried to be transferred in this way can be everything which the less worthy feeling egocentrist consciously or unconsciously deems to be of worth. This form of egocentrism we also know under the name of 'egoism'. Egoism is less-worthy-complexeous egocentrism. It regards "the life attitude of someone who constantly aims at the own interest and the own welfare".10 This we find again in academic psychology where egocentrism is described as "self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure".11

Now such an egoistic strife can lead to two results. For the egoist can fail or succeed in his strife for transference of worth to himself. When the egoistic strife to worth transference fails then the I in the middle point of the world shall stay being considered as less worthy and the egoistic attitude of the regarded egocentrist shall stay unchanged.

When the strife to worth transference of the egoist however succeeds then the egocentrist shall start to consider his I in the middle point of the world as worthy. And in that case thus a shift takes place from a less-worthy-complex to a worthy-complex. Now an egocentric worthy-complex we also know under the name 'narcissism'. Narcissism is (equal-)worthy-complexeous egocentrism. It is generally understood as "love for oneself"12 and is according to academic psychology as 'narcissistic personality disorder' characterised by "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy".13 It then is also through (German) academic psychology that the term 'narcissism' has reached the English language. In that psychology the term was derived from the name of a figure in Greek mythology, namely 'Nárkissos' (in Latin 'Narcissus').14 In that mythology about Narcissus he falls in love with the reflection of himself in a pond at which he stays staring until his death.15 And such a self-admiration and self-fulfilment is thus also what characterises the narcissist.

It shall be clear that the pure narcissist shall not strife for transference of worth from others to himself. For he is completely self-fulfilled and sees nothing of worth in the world which could be added to himself. He only stays staring at the reflection of himself and all attention and energy go there. These attention and energy shall however make the ego of imaginative worth grow until the narcissist thinks to become aware of a more-worthiness in relation to less-worthy others. Here worthy-complexeous egocentrism shifts towars more-worthy-complexeous egocentrism. The regarded egocentrist considers himself as being of more worth than others and shall direct himself to transference of his worth to others. This directedness is known under the term of 'egotism' (not to be confused with 'egoism'). Egotism is more-worthy-complexeous egocentrism. It is generally understood as "mania to continuously speak about oneself".16

This egotism must certainly not be confused with altruism or genuine philanthropy in which the attention for the other comes first. For in all the above described conditions does egocentrism come first. That people also can have non-egocentric less-, equal- or more-worthy-complexes is true. However these personality conditions are here not under consideration.

Further must egoism, narcissism and egotism not be considered as completely separate personality conditions. As described it are often phases that are possibly gone through within egocentrism. An egoist who knows success in his life shall easily pass towards narcissism to after some time search the connection with others again from an egotism. Everybody knows them; the success gurus who after through selfishness having achieved something put themselves as example to learn presumed unsuccessful people that they must become more like them. Let us however surely not follow them in their egocentric egoism, narcissism and egotism.

  • Henry George Liddell / Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996.
  • Mark P.O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology, Oxford University Press, New York / Oxford, 2003.
  • Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, A-E, dr. Marlies Philippa / et alii (redacteuren), Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2007.
  • Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, Ke-R, dr. Marlies Philippa / et alii (redacteuren), Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2007.
  • Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, Washington / London, 2013.
  • Oxford Latin Dictionary, Oxford University Press, London, 1968.
  • Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Hedendaags Nederlands, zoeksoftware, versie 2.0, Van Dale Lexicografie bv, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 2002.