Peace and Safety on this Twentieth to all Epicureans and Humanists everywhere!
It gets parroted so often and by so many people seemingly in positions of moral authority, that many people never quite shake off the insinuation that the ego is bad, the insistence on “banishing the ego”. It’s such a hypocritical and empty teaching! I feel that it’s time to finally crush–nay, pulverize!–this false idol of “selflessness” with the hammer of philosophy, which wouldn’t be worthy of its name if it didn’t heal our moral diseases just as medicine that doesn’t heal the body is no good.
People should respect the ego, listen to the ego, gain insights from the ego, and–most importantly!–present legitimate grievances based on the needs of ego. Otherwise it’s difficult to have wholesome interpersonal relations. Perhaps PD6 is the best reference point to explain how the ego is a necessary and “natural good”.
In order to obtain protection from other men, any means for attaining this end is a natural good. – Principal Doctrine 6
How else will the world know that others are trampling on our civil rights? How else will our family members, friends or co-workers understand that we suffer when we hear certain remarks or jokes, when we are excluded from certain things, or when we are treated a certain way? Only totalitarianism and tyranny are served by this false doctrine that the ego is an evil that must be conquered. The serious moral difficulties generated by the unqualified, unevaluated repetition of the false teaching that ego is “bad” were considered in Philodemus’ Herculaneum scroll On Anger, where we discussed how there are:
… ennobling causes to which we can dedicate ourselves to channel our anger. Philodemus spoke of these when he spoke of “virtuous dispositions” underlying our natural and rational anger.
Anger, like all the other experiences tied to the “ego”, can serve a higher purpose and become virtuous (that is, productive of a life of increased pleasure). This is done by channeling our legitimate, rational and natural indignation into causes that help to heal and repair the world and the society, instead of qualifying anger and “ego” as immoral and applying value judgments to the victims rather than the perpetrators of injustice. When we do this, we are living authentically ethical and moral lives.
The so-called “ego”, our self-recognition in the mirror and in interpersonal relations, is an essential component of a human person and his or her dignity. Nature did not waste its efforts. Natural selection favored human beings with a sense of self for a reason. We have ego for a reason: the fact that only sentient beings have ego is an indication that the tangibles of ethics apply not to inanimate things but to sentient beings, for whose sake we have a tendency to be moral. We can only hurt, love, help, cooperate, abuse, and experience other realities pertinent to being ethical, with regards to other sentient beings. Ego is an essential point of reference in all morality.
The claim that we can be ego-less is false and sets an impossible and depraved standard before us, making people pointlessly “scale a hill of virtue” only to experience the detrimental fruits of a false teaching that breeds hypocrisy.
Let’s respect our Selves and not allow ourselves to be dragged into empty discourse in this manner.