Abraham Lincoln believed selfishness prompts all good deeds….

Title: The Concept of Selfishness Promoting Good Deeds: An Analysis in Relation to Abraham Lincoln’s Views


The relationship between selfishness and the promotion of good deeds has been a subject of significant philosophical debate. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, made a thought-provoking assertion that selfishness serves as the driving force behind all good deeds. This statement challenges conventional assumptions about selflessness and altruism. In this paper, we will explore the rationale behind Lincoln’s belief and provide an analysis of why we agree with his perspective.

Understanding Abraham Lincoln’s Perspective:

Abraham Lincoln, renowned for his exceptional leadership during a tumultuous period in American history, possessed a profound understanding of human nature. In a speech delivered in 1860, Lincoln stated, “The heart of a man does good deeds, not because of self-sacrifice, but on account of selfishness.” Lincoln proposed that individuals engage in acts of kindness and benevolence primarily due to self-interest and self-preservation.

Analyzing the Concept of Selfishness:

To comprehend why we agree with Lincoln’s belief, it is imperative to examine the notion of selfishness and its manifestations. Selfishness, from an analytical standpoint, refers to the inherent inclination of individuals to act in their own best interest. It represents the pursuit of personal gain, satisfaction, or well-being above all else. However, one must recognize that selfishness does not imply a complete disregard for others. Instead, it entails placing one’s own needs, desires, and aspirations as paramount.

In the context of good deeds, selfishness can be seen as a catalyst for positive actions. Individuals often engage in acts that resonate with their self-interest because of the benefits derived from such acts. These benefits can range from increased social status and reputation to personal satisfaction and happiness. In essence, individuals commit to good deeds because they believe it will ultimately serve their self-interest by improving their personal well-being and social standing.

The Psychological Perspective:

From a psychological perspective, several theories provide insights into why selfishness can drive individuals to perform good deeds. One such theory is the concept of egoism, which asserts that all human actions are driven by self-interest. Psychologists argue that individuals are guided by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Consequently, performing good deeds can be seen as a means to achieve personal satisfaction and self-gratification.

Moreover, social psychology highlights the phenomenon of reciprocity as a key factor in promoting good deeds. The reciprocity norm suggests that individuals tend to reciprocate the favorable actions of others. By engaging in good deeds, individuals create a positive and supportive social environment, leading to increased reciprocity. This, in turn, benefits the individual by establishing a network of social support, cooperation, and goodwill.

The Role of Empathy:

While it may seem counterintuitive, empathy, often associated with selflessness, can also be explained through the concept of selfishness. Empathy refers to the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is argued that individuals engage in acts of empathy because it provides them with personal fulfillment. By experiencing empathy towards others, individuals develop a sense of connectedness, belonging, and emotional rewards. Thus, acts of empathy can be seen as inherently selfish, driven by the need for personal well-being and psychological satisfaction.

The Concept of Self-Interest:

To further strengthen our agreement with Lincoln, it is crucial to consider the concept of self-interest. Self-interest represents the pursuit of one’s own advantages or benefits. It is the acknowledgment of one’s own needs, desires, and well-being. By engaging in acts of kindness, individuals can enhance their self-esteem, self-worth, and overall happiness. This, in turn, benefits their psychological and emotional state, enabling them to function effectively in society.


In conclusion, the idea put forth by Abraham Lincoln, suggesting that selfishness prompts all good deeds, provides an alternative perspective on the relationship between self-interest and benevolent actions. Lincoln’s belief challenges conventional assumptions about altruism and highlights the role of self-interest as the underlying motive for good deeds. Analyzing selfishness from psychological perspectives such as egoism, reciprocity, and empathy supports Lincoln’s assertion. It emphasizes the inherent human response to pursue personal satisfaction, happiness, and social rewards through acts of kindness. By acknowledging the role of self-interest in promoting good deeds, we can gain deeper insights into human behavior and further understand the complexities of moral actions.