Enlightened Self-Interest: The source of all good things in the universe, and thanks to mélith, a basic principle of life when you’re an Imperial. Doing well by doing good; doing good by doing well.
(Much more reliable than altruism, far less prone to coercive perversion – altruism’s bad enough when it becomes slave morality, but it’s so readily turned into slaver morality – and infinitely less condescending.)
I do have to wonder how the eldrae might respond to some of the more esoteric positions of justifying apparently “altruistic” behavior by claiming it’s actually a sort of high-functioning self-interest — for instance, through appeals to a belief in a sort of panpsychic monopsychism a la Averroes and Spinoza.
(Or, to put it in local terms, someone who believes fervently in pattern identity, but also in the mathematical implications of Leibnitz’s transcendental law of homogeneity on said patterns.)
Expand that a bit?
To a first order of approximation: “show me the [pan|mono]psyche”. Ain’t no-one going to bite on the appeal to the ineffable unless you’re prepared to eff it.
To a second order of approximation: “That’s unhealthy behavior for a collective consciousness. Altruism in such a context is like feeding your phobias or your tumors; you just end up with lots of sick parts feeding off you.”
(Bearing in mind, of course, that when we say altruism here, we’re meaning Comtean altruism; i.e., the ethical obligation to live for the sake of others.)
Hypothetical response to the first bit (and also to clarify the above comment): “Oh, that’s easy! Just solve for x where x is the fundamental personality pattern of the entire Universe, and keep in mind that when adding up different orders of infinitesimals, only the largest-order terms really matter.”
(Let’s also imagine that, in doing so, they hypothetically prove that the quantum phenomenon that causes sophont consciousness itself originates from a single (though inherently non-local, in terms of physical topography) “broadcasting source” implied to be inherent in the fabric of the universe itself hitting a part of the brain that acts sort of like a psychic monopole antenna or a “Chinese knockoff” version of a transcendent soul-shard, and that the problem of coercion is itself tied to the entropic decay of the universe producing quantum noise that interferes with the signal.)
Which could color their second-order responses as well: “Does the fact that ‘others’ suffer a sickness unto death mean that we should abandon them and deny them palliative care to help ease the transition?” and “What if the shock from near-constant traumatic recourse to tourniquets and amputations at the slightest hint of infection is doing more damage to the patient (i.e. the universe) in the long run than allowing the disease to simply burn itself out?”
(And just to clarify, I’m not talking about those who use, whether by intent or otherwise, “altruism” as a cloak for dullism; I’m more thinking along the lines of those who are so committed to fixing dullism (after their fashion) that they see the normative principle of consent as holding them back from “rescuing people from themselves” when — according to their calculations — dramatic intervention now would cause more good and less suffering and death in the long run, but have just enough of a conscience that they realize that abjuring consent entirely would be A Bad Thing — sort of like the situation in “A Good Man.”)