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  1. #1
    Senior Member InTheFlesh's Avatar
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    Default Selfishness and what it means

    It is completely wrong, in my eyes, that we let society assign such a negative connotation to the word, “selfish”. I have 4 points to make on this. First, to say that we’re wrong to follow our instincts and do what’s best for ourselves is not a bad thing. Second, all these people make some claim about selfishness subtracting from the greater good. In this area, they contradict themselves without having the awareness to notice it. Third, our current economic system is centered on the notion of being “selfish”, and I’d say it’s done fairly well. Fourth, the outcome of selfishness can be beneficial to others; it’s situational and cannot be pinned down to always being “bad” or always being “good”.

    First, to be selfish, by definition, is to do what is best for you; it is one of our primal instincts. Telling a human not to be selfish is like telling a dog not to chase a cat. Good luck winning that battle. Adding to that, there is no set definition for how much is too much for you, so there’s really no way to even argue it. Some people might feel they have enough if they have 100$, and start handing money out to homeless people. While others will still feel that they need more when they own a billion dollar corporation. You can’t argue perception.

    Second, to tell someone not to be selfish so a group or family can gain more is a selfish act in itself! The person telling you not to be selfish is part of that group or family, I’m assuming, and they will benefit if he/she can convince you that ‘selfishness is bad’. They’re going to take from you and redistribute it throughout “the group”. In that group is the person who convinced you to not be “selfish”, and he is getting a portion of what you gave. He wouldn’t tell you otherwise if he didn’t have a stake in it! This can be rationalized however you chose, but in the end the other person is gaining from your loss. Screw those “selfish” hypocrites.

    Third, our current economic system is centered on being selfish, we would be much worse off as a society if it weren’t. The driving force of Capitalism is, well, Capital! Capital is defined as money invested by individuals into a certain industry in hope of getting an undefined amount of money back. Without these “selfish” investors, we would never have had the technological or medical advances that we’ve had in the past. “Selfish” investors fuel the medical field, investing capital into everything from trying to find the cure for diseases like Cancer and HIV, to trying to find out the most efficient way to stop a toddler’s nose from running. Each and every investor is hoping their company will find the cure, because if they do, a huge amount of kickback will come their way. I don’t know where you stand on this, but curing Cancer sounds like it would be pretty helpful to a lot of these people who are dying a slow and painful death of the disease, whom might I add would not benefit much from taking 10 chocolates from one person and handing them out to a group. These advances and investments are completely ignored by the Utopians that condemn “selfishness”. In this case, not being selfish would support Communism. It all becomes about the “greater good”, while unknowingly it just starts making everything worse for everybody.

    Fourth, to be selfish is not always even a bad thing, it’s situational. Let’s start it off with this, helping people is a selfish act. Seems random and absurd? Let me break it down. When the majority of people do something that’s good for others, they are looking for the admiration and affection they get from others after they accomplish a task. Helping others is a way for many people to gain the affection they need, to reassure them that they have done well. When people lack the self-confidence needed to reassure themselves that they live a meaningful, productive life, the after effects from helping others can be a great way to have someone else comfort you indirectly. People then begin to help others, not purely to see the others happier, but to see that you helped them get there, and you were praised by them for doing so, thus, people-pleasers. (I have another post I’ll put up to elaborate on that). Back to my point, who’s to say you being selfish in needing others approval is a bad thing for this “society” that they’ve trying to make better. If both sides gain from it, I see no problem with it. It’s like if you had a car that ran on ocean water and shot gold from the exhaust pipe. The ocean water is the drive some individuals possess to help people, getting from point A to point B much faster than if you walked is the affection you get from helping, and the gold-exhaust is what the people around you get from your selfish drive to help others. In this case, I see nothing wrong with being “Selfish”.

    One thing I have to say to those who proclaim selfishness as bad, think about it. The self-admitted goal by these individuals is to make everything better for everybody, when you read that, your mind should be ringing with the word communism. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that things are never going to be perfect for everybody, you can only make things perfect for yourself, either by a change in perception, or working for it. If by being what some Utopian calls “selfish” you can have a better life, so be it! The very same people that claim you’re a bad person because you’re selfish ignore all the good things selfishness has done for this country.

    Although, in the end, if you ignore the fact that selfishness;
    -Built up one of the highest standards of living in the United States
    -Saved millions and millions of lives in the medical field by supporting innovation and leading to the creation of new medications
    -Can include helping people around you and doing things that outwardly would be perceived as self-less;

    Selfishness is the worst thing that was ever instilled to us as a race.

  2. #2
    Ginkgo
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    There's a difference between selfishness and self-interest. All motivation rises out of self-interest; even the motivation to be altruistic. Selfishness, on the other hand, is egocentric. Selfish people expect their interests to be met, even at the expense of others. Selfish people also have a strong sense of entitlement and possessiveness. A good analogy would be the seagulls from Finding Nemo. Every individual seagull claims that a scrap of food is already his, and therefore they are selfish. If they had simple self-interest like a rational consumer, then they would see the food as a potential prize. They would feel compelled to obtain while still maintaining the benefit of the doubt.

  3. #3
    Probably Most Brilliant Craft's Avatar
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    Tater, is selfishness a type of self-interest? Is it the "negative" type of self-interest?

    Selfishness is possessiveness? But if we deconstruct the word itself, isn't it just "Self" and "fish" and "ness"? Where is possessiveness here?

  4. #4
    Senior Member InTheFlesh's Avatar
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    Self-interest generally refers to a focus on the needs or desires of oneself. The two over-lap, selfishness just adds the lack of regard for what others have. What I'm trying to say, is that it's not always bad to look out for yourself before others. I'm sure the 'selfish' investors in the medical field weren't worried about the people that were in need of such medication that they were investing in, they only wanted what was best for them. Selfishness shouldn't have the underlying assumption that you're automatically going to damage someone else along with it, there's just a lack of regard. Your analogy is a play on words, when they all claim that the food is theirs, they are all assuming they are more able to get the food or they deserve it more, almost to the point of ignorance. To be selfish just means you want to do what is best for you, regardless of other people. It is looking out for what is best for you. It doesn't mean you're ignorant. A selfish person in that situation might even not even fight for the food, as they see they couldn't obtain it either way. You can want what's best for yourself and have a lack of regard for others. To be selfish is not to be ignorant.

  5. #5
    Ginkgo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craft View Post
    Tater, is selfishness a type of self-interest? Is it the "negative" type of self-interest?

    Selfishness is possessiveness? But if we deconstruct the word itself, isn't it just "Self" and "fish" and "ness"? Where is possessiveness here?
    Well selfishness is a product of self-interest, and yes it is negative.

    Selfishness has many colloquial meanings but I prefer to use this one because the distinction could be made.

  6. #6
    Senior Member LEGERdeMAIN's Avatar
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    How you can place moral labels(negative/positive) on amoral instinct unless you're talking about a certain instance of selfishness and then specify for whom it is negative while also acknowledging that that particular instance of selfishness probably has positive effects for one or more individuals.

    There are certain phenomena originating from selfishness that are not good for everyone and, sometimes, anyone. I think that's really the most you can say about the effects of what some might see as excessive selfishness without citing a specific example.

    To be concerned with the minimum necessary requirements for living is selfish and there are definitely positive and negatives effects on the people who are in your periphery, as well as neutral/no effects(nofx, its a pun). For example, if I have successfully stocked up the minimum necessary food items to last for a week and my roommate has not, my roommate may(and they usually do) eat whatever is necessary for them to avoid malnourishment.

    This is obviously a situation in which that individuals selfishness has deprived me of some amount of food. In this case, he has been affected by his own selfishness positively while I've been affected negatively. If we're looking at the situation from my point of view, it's wrong and bad but if we're looking at it from his perspective it was right and good, since an individuals survival is always(usually) more important than someone else's. Perspective is a huge part of assignment of moral labels to actions, to look at it objectively we would be forced to say that it was both good and bad, right and wrong, so: selfishness(in this case) is both good and bad.....am i right or wrong?
    “Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I’m here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba…”


  7. #7
    Senior Member InTheFlesh's Avatar
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    Yes, that's what I was trying to say, in essence. I just took a very pro-selfishness stance on it since there are so many from the opposite viewpoint. In the first paragraph I said it; "It is wrong we let society put such a negative connotation on the word 'selfish'." It can be a good and bad thing, it's arguing perception, which I also stated you can't really do. That's why I think it's wrong that everyone sees it as such a bad thing. It basically promotes ignorance of all the good things selfishness can do.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mystic Tater View Post
    There's a difference between selfishness and self-interest...
    See this the distinction that Rand and her followers cant make.

    There's normal and pathological in almost everything.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by InTheFlesh View Post
    Yes, that's what I was trying to say, in essence. I just took a very pro-selfishness stance on it since there are so many from the opposite viewpoint. In the first paragraph I said it; "It is wrong we let society put such a negative connotation on the word 'selfish'." It can be a good and bad thing, it's arguing perception, which I also stated you can't really do. That's why I think it's wrong that everyone sees it as such a bad thing. It basically promotes ignorance of all the good things selfishness can do.
    I highlighted the first part because I really would question whether or not there are any, let alone many, opposite viewpoints, altruism, social conscience, kindness or helpfulness all have a bad rap, they're consider the neurotic crutches of losers and suckers, and even though they appear to have some currency still it is generally just front, the sorts of anti-social elements who riot at worldly injustice for instance will criticise the anti-social consequences of the wealthiest individuals decisions and consider themselves completely consistent.

    The second part I highlighted because there is no benefice what so ever to selfishness and its no mistake that the people who wind up dependent upon or attached to highly selfish individuals usually have some character flaw with compells them to act that way while everyone else gives the same individuals a wide berth. Selfishness is only ever accidentially, incidentially or unintentionally beneficial or good.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    Max Stirner wrote a wonderfully insightful book on the matter: 'The Ego and Its Own'.

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