Our culture entertains a schizophrenic attitude towards human nature. On the one hand, egoism is held to be our most powerful motive, playing a crucial cultural role by explaining the appeal of capitalism and providing a foundation for individualism. By contrast much of the continental intellectual tradition speaks of wholeness and alienation, seeing human nature not as self-interested but as herd-like. Guldmann argues that this schism reflects two diverging conceptions of human agency, and that the attempt to locate human nature somewhere along a continuum between egoism and altruism presupposes a misleading picture of what it is to be a human being. The second, ’continental’ tradition is more illuminating because it recognizes that human beings are necessarily committed to some conception of the ultimately significant.

chapter |22 pages


chapter 1|4 pages

The Presumption of Egoism

chapter 2|20 pages

The Ambiguity of Egoism

chapter 3|28 pages

Egoism’s Unofficial Opposition

chapter 4|36 pages

Egoism and Heroism

chapter 5|44 pages

A Phenomenology of Heroism

chapter 6|42 pages

Heroism and Human Encounter

chapter 7|26 pages

Heroism and Individuality