SELFISHNESS AND SELF-SACRIFICE
TO say that selfishness and self-sacrifice are equally selfish does seem to the unthinking person a mere foolish remark; which, if suspected to be true, would fill him with astonishment and horror. But the view of such emotions should the rather tend to recommend the doctrine to the thinker. For wonder, as he knows, is the beginning of philosophy; and a shudder comes over the not yet initiated, when the deeper mysteries are unveiled.
But seriously, is it not strange that men can believe in a world of universal self-seeking, and men whose theories (the phrase is not mine) have not come from 'raking into that filthiest of all jakes, a bad mind', but whose lives in many cases were self-denying, and who were better and wiser than ourselves? This on one side is a fact, just as, on the other side, the common belief in self-sacrifice is a fact; and such facts as these should engage our attention. For what we most want, more especially those of us who talk most about facts, is to stand by all the facts. It is our duty to take them without picking and choosing them to suit our views, to explain them, if we can, but not to explain them away; and to reason on them, and find the reason of them, but never to think ourselves rational when, by the shortest cut to reason, we have reasoned ourselves out of them.
But our present undertaking has narrow limits. We intend, so far as possible without reference to others, to ask, and in our own way to develop, the question, What is selfishness, and what self-sacrifice? and to include in that the inquiry, What ground is there for the denial of unselfishness? And with this last let us begin, not with