Is Survival Selfish? a Philosophical Examination

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 605 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Words: 605|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Selfishness of Survival
  2. Necessity of Survival
  3. Psychological and Emotional Survival
  4. Interdependency and Empathy
  5. Conclusion

Survival is a basic necessity for all living beings. It is the drive to live and thrive, to sustain oneself and potentially pass on one's genes to future generations. While survival is viewed as a natural and innate desire, is it ultimately a selfish one? This question has been examined by many philosophers throughout history, and continues to be a topic of debate in contemporary society. In this essay, I will explore both sides of the argument and ultimately argue that survival is not inherently selfish, but rather a necessary and justifiable act.

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Selfishness of Survival

Firstly, those who argue that survival is selfish often point to examples of extreme cases where one's survival may come at the expense of others. For instance, in situations of natural disasters or societal collapse, those who prioritize their own survival over others may hoard resources or commit acts of violence to ensure their own safety. These actions can be seen as selfish because they prioritize the survival of oneself over the survival of others.

Necessity of Survival

However, this viewpoint neglects the fact that survival is a fundamental right of all individuals. It is a basic instinct that drives life, and denying oneself the right to survive is inherently self-destructive. Additionally, the prioritization of one's own survival in times of crisis is often a matter of necessity rather than choice. In situations where resources are limited and competition for survival is high, individuals may be forced to act in ways that could be seen as selfish in order to ensure their own survival. While this may be morally ambiguous, it cannot be simplistically labelled as selfishness.

Psychological and Emotional Survival

Moreover, the concept of survival is not limited to physical survival alone. Psychological and emotional survival are also important considerations, particularly in situations of mental distress or trauma. The act of prioritizing one's own mental or emotional well-being over the needs of others is often viewed as selfish, yet it is necessary for individuals to maintain their own mental health and ability to function effectively in society.

Interdependency and Empathy

In addition to this, the argument that survival is selfish is often premised on a limited and individualistic understanding of human nature. Life is not lived in isolation, and individual survival is often intertwined with the survival of others. In communities where cooperation and interdependency are required for the survival of all members, prioritizing one's own survival is often synonymous with the survival of the group. This is evident in survival situations such as those faced by soldiers or emergency responders, where individual survival is fundamental to protecting and serving the greater good.

The notion that survival is inherently selfish also ignores the role of empathy and concern for others in human behavior. Altruism, or the act of putting others' needs above one's own, is a central tenet of many ethical and moral systems. It allows individuals to act compassionately towards others, demonstrating a sense of responsibility towards the welfare of others. This further undermines the argument that survival is inherently selfish, as empathy and concern for others are often integral to prioritizing the well-being of the broader community.

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While it may be argued that survival is driven by self-interest and a desire for individual preservation, the argument that survival is necessarily selfish is flawed. Survival is a fundamental right of all individuals, and is often necessitated by situations of crisis and trauma. Moreover, the interdependent nature of human society and the presence of empathy and concern for others demonstrates the complexities and nuances of human behavior. When viewed in its full complexity, survival can be seen as a necessary and justifiable act that is not inherently selfish.

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

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Is Survival Selfish? A Philosophical Examination. (2024, March 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
“Is Survival Selfish? A Philosophical Examination.” GradesFixer, 07 Mar. 2024,
Is Survival Selfish? A Philosophical Examination. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Is Survival Selfish? A Philosophical Examination [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 07 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from:
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