Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

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Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#1  Postby Scott » March 16th, 2008, 11:53 am

I do not like when people praise selfishness, but I also do not like it when people condemn self-interestedness. But the disagreement may be mostly terminological. Let me explain what the terms mean to me.

I believe a conscious being must be self-interested. I would define a conscious being as having interests (e.g. goals, values, desires, etc.) and having the will-power to make choices to try to achieve those interests. Thus, in a way, a each person always makes choices based on his or her self-interest. But people are ignorant and stupid to varying degrees. Even though they make choices in an attempt to fulfill their interests, they often make counter-productive choices out of ignorance and stupidity.

I think we would all recommend that people avoid ignorance and stupidity to fulfill their interests.

Nonetheless, to me, the term selfishness refers to someone whose interests or behaviors are distinctly self-centered, sociopathic, and/or self-harmful. I believe it is most often used to refer to an especially materialistic, short-sighted, or superficial person. It is also heavily associated with greed which generally refers to an obsessiveness with some types of personal gratification that distorts a person's perceptions rendering them stupid. Consider Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, for example.

Most humans find it in their self-interest to help others and to not be selfish, namely because of feelings of empathy and sympathy. Just as it makes us feel happy to eat delicious food and sleep in a comfortable bed, it also makes us happy to help others and join hands with the people around us. Just as an intelligent, self-interested person may choose to purchase some delicious, healthy food for a certain price, a person may choose to get the pleasures and benefits of associating with others even when it has drawbacks and costs.

Sometimes hurting other people or refusing to help them is selfish. Other times it is a healthy way to protect yourself and provide help to others and an effective way to fulfill your desires. Some associations with other people will help you help others, which generally will make you happier. Some associations will just hurt you and hinder your ability to help others, which will generally make you less happy.

Some people have a much stronger desire to help others. But most of us have a lot of that desire. Rarely, there are sociopaths who do not have a sense of empathy; they are to empathy what the blind man is to sight, but they are rare (and dangerous). For most people, selfishness is foolish and self-harmful. In other words, it is generally in most people's self-interest to not be selfish.

What do you think? How would you define selfishness and self-interest?
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Post Number:#2  Postby MrK » March 21st, 2008, 2:07 pm

Sometimes hurting other people or refusing to help them is selfish. Other times it is a healthy way to protect yourself and provide help to others and an effective way to fulfill your desires.


Yes!-If a beggar steels from a shop (an independent one, to keep politics out of the argument) he is acting out of self-interest, for he needs it to survive, however if a person who can afford the bread steels it from the same shop, the act of steeling is out of selfishness. To have a single standard for everyone in this particular instance is inadequate as some are richer than others, and not only in an economic sense. Some are more able to be altruistic, perhaps out of an abundance of love, of happiness, of success. How can someone give something they don't have themselves?
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Post Number:#3  Postby trid2bnrml » April 4th, 2008, 4:56 am

I think the two terms are related because without one, you can't have the other.

I think the terms are comparative mirrors of each other.

To me, selfishness and selflessness are but degrees on the same scale, as measures of empathy. To one extreme, selfishness means with little or no empathy for others. On the other extreme, selflessness would be putting the needs of others before your own needs, in the most extreme, to neglect your own needs because you feel others are more needy than yourself.

I think there are gradient measures in between, with the most of us healthy people in the middle, where we help others when we can, while attending to our own needs. This might suggest that in the center there is a balance.

I don't think a balance exists, because the entire idea is subjective to opinion, as to what is "normal", and what is "extreme" either one way or the other.

Finally, I find it difficult to rate my own position on this scale based on what the perception of society is, because I can only hear the loudest cries, but to be fair, I also need to hear the faintest whispers before I could consider "society" as my guide to myself.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#4  Postby ape » July 19th, 2009, 10:27 pm

[quote="Scott"]Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness.
Ape:
Because we can not think nor speak nor act without ourselves, selfishness and self-interest are equivalent and neutral terms.
Charitableness hints as the solution: this is self-Love or Love of self as all words and their opposites.
This all-encompassing attitude of Love of self then enables us to identify the real culprit as the attitude-problem or the problem-attitude: SELF-HATE OR HATE OF SELF as any words OR SELFHATISHNESS.

Note how selfhatishness sounds like selfishness.

So I wd write the Opening Sentence as:
I do love it when people love and in Love praise selfishness or self-interestedness because I think people shd love themselves as all words which causes them to love all other people no matter who they are or what they have done or where they come from. And so I only hate it when people hate self-interestedness or selfishness or any word and its opposite, all of which describe the self of ourselves and of all others.
Then the rest I would write like this:

I believe a conscious being must love self as interested and disinterested.

I would define a conscious being as having interests (e.g. goals, values, desires and undesires, etc.) and having the will-power to make choices to try to achieve those interests and non-interests.

Thus, in a way, each person always makes choices for or against self based on his or her self-Love. But most people, unless and until taught better, are self-hatish to varying degrees. Even though they make choices in Love of self in an attempt to fulfill their interests, they often make counter-productive choices out of Hate of self as disinterested.
Example:
Many love self as knowledgeable and smart but at the same time hate self as ignorant and stupid, not realising that knowledge and ignorance, wise and fool go together, and so end up trying to be smart in Love out of Hate for being a fool, not realising that self-Hate for self as stupid and ignorant is the real stupidity and the real ignorance in the first place that leaves them as fools even when they end up wise, and as doubly fools when they end up fools.

I think we would all recommend that people avoid the Ignorant and Stupid attitude of Hate for self as ignorant and stupid to fulfill their interests and disinterests, and commit to the Wisdom of Love of self as all words and their opposites which leaves us wise even fools, and as twice-wise when wise.

So, to me, the term selfhatishness refers to someone whose interests or behaviors are distinctly self-Hate-centered, and thus automatically sociopathic, which is self-harmful even when healing self, and doubly harmful when hurting self. I believe it is most often used to refer to an especially Haterialistic, and thus short-sighted, or person with a superficial layer of self-Love covering deep self-Hate. Hate of self as any word means stealing Love from self and others and thus is also heavily associated with greed which generally refers to an over-desire and over-obsessiveness with some types of personal gratification that distorts a person's perceptions rendering them doubly stupid. Consider Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, for example.

And etc.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#5  Postby nameless » July 20th, 2009, 3:47 am

Scott wrote:How would you define selfishness...

Bias toward the ego self. See below.

...and self-interest?

Depends on what you mean by 'self'. (and Perspective)
Everyone that I have ever come into contact with refers to 'themselves personally' as 'self' ('my'self). So, as far as definition goes, the term 'self' must, of necessity, include every Conscious Perspective (us), Borg-like. Then, what is done in the interest of 'self', is for the upliftment (interest), one way or another, of all features of 'self', everyone.

Ego-self imagines/believes 'self' to be 'autonomous' from other 'selves', not only autonomous but in a hierarchy of which he is the pinnacle.
Hence apparently 'selfish' behavior.

And 'charity' is simply not taking more than your share of resources.
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Post Number:#6  Postby Belinda » July 20th, 2009, 6:19 am

Scott, I not only agree with everything you wrote in this post last year I also find its revival to be timely.
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Post Number:#7  Postby Nick_A » July 20th, 2009, 11:35 pm

IMO, from the secular perspective, Self interest is really selfishness with altruistic overtones so is double edged. It can do good, but just don't cross it.

The recent encounter between Harry Alford, the president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce and Barbara Boxer in the Senate is a good example.

Barbara Boxer likes to lump all blacks together in this group that must be flattered. Harry Alford talked her down calling her a racist for it.

Her self interest included her idea of altruism. She couldn't see that denying Mr.Alford's individuality was really racist. What is worse is that she couldn't see it even after having it pointed out. She couldn't see that he wasn't part of a group. As he said, he's not a black that knows his place as part of a group that does what the group does in her mind.

Barbara Boxer's self interest is based upon selfishness that denies another's individuality.

As an aside I have to tell of an account I read years back concerning a truly great man I have so much respect for that I rarely mention his name.

One of his students asked if he could introduce his mother to him. This woman was a very influential woman in the community known for her generosity.

At the meeting she mentioned her altruistic efforts in the community. Finally he remarked that he knows about such responsibilties. After all he has 82 wives. She soon left in a bit of a huff. She returned in a week and thanked him. She said she never knew how much of her atruism wsn't for others but really just an effort to puff up her own ego. He smiled at her.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace
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RE: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#8  Postby kk23wong » July 25th, 2009, 8:48 am

With reference to the first post in this thread,

Live and Death. Philosophy is not only in minds but bodies. Existence is the form and mind is the process. Thinking, Emotion, Desire. They are different, but all in one. The one who process them is live. Death is not a process but an end. Soul can only exist if you have love in your heart.

Consiciousness is something physical and you make it mental. Selfishness come from motive bought by your desires. You are yourself, but the God is everywhere. She is not only herself, but all in one. She is unique here, but maybe not in the universe.

Selfishness come from birth, so as your lives. Power of the god come from birth, so are we. Birth is the method and lives belongs to us. Those who can think have greed. Good and Evil are come from birth. They are not contracy, but different. The definitions of good and evil vary. They are built inside your heart.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#9  Postby RJG » March 28th, 2012, 10:29 pm

Selfish is a moot word. We are all selfish, some more obvious than others.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#10  Postby Scott » April 14th, 2012, 1:34 am

Well, this topic is four years old, so I'm a little late in replying. ;)

Trid2bnrml wrote:To me, selfishness and selflessness are but degrees on the same scale, as measures of empathy. To one extreme, selfishness means with little or no empathy for others. On the other extreme, selflessness would be putting the needs of others before your own needs, in the most extreme, to neglect your own needs because you feel others are more needy than yourself.

Selflessness if taken literally as such seems to to be a clear contradiction, or in other words nonsense. Everyone is inherently self-interested. The so-called selfless person is very unselfish in that he or she may be very kind, charitable, emphatic, peaceful and sacrificing of his own selfish interests (e.g. for personal monetary wealth, glory, power and material comforts), but he or she is still self-interested in the sense that he or she wants to help others, that helping others make he or she happy him or herself and thus ultimately he or she is trying to do what he or she wants and achieve his or her own goals to make him or herself happy. There is a huge spectrum from the most disgustingly selfish people to the most amazingly, beautifully kind, charitable, unselfish and empathic people, but everyone on that spectrum is still self-interested. Unselfish realize that it is in their own interests to be generous, help others and so forth even if it is at the sacrifice of more immediately self-centered goals such as having a fancy car, big house, fame, fortune and free time to play expensive video games, masturbate and such.

RJG wrote:Selfish is a moot word. We are all selfish, some more obvious than others.

Using the definition in the OP, it seems clear to me that though we are all inherently self-interested, we are not all inherently selfish. If you are using different definitions than those in the OP, please state them.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#11  Postby RJG » April 14th, 2012, 11:01 pm

Scott wrote:
RJG wrote:Selfish is a moot word. We are all selfish, some more obvious than others.

Using the definition in the OP, it seems clear to me that though we are all inherently self-interested, we are not all inherently selfish. If you are using different definitions than those in the OP, please state them.

Yes, you defined and explained the difference between self-interest and selfishness well. I should have read the OP before posting, as my comment better fits your 'self-interest' explanation.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#12  Postby DeeElf » August 24th, 2012, 11:33 pm

Scott wrote:It's generally in most people's self-interest to not be selfish.

I agree with your definitions wholeheartedly, and would take your premise further and add that it's always in our best self-interest not to be selfish.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#13  Postby Maldon007 » August 25th, 2012, 1:25 am

I have always thought of selfishness as doing what you want/getting what you want, while knowing it will negatively impact others, and doing/getting it anyway.

While self interest being more of an effect of human nature, as too proximity... What's close is what's important, nothing is closer to you, than you. I think that is why we think of selfishness as only personal, it's about the selfish person, not their family/friends, it is singularly about them. Where self interest ripples out from the individual... my self interest is served just as well (or damn near) when someone close to me is bettered, as it would be my personal betterment.

I think a major part of the difference is in the intent, one is concerned only with the ME, and specifically unconcerned with collateral damage... The other, is maybe more about what you NEED than what you want and doesn't require a disregard for others, as I believe selfishness does.

But I don't think I agree that being selfish can never be in one's self interest. There may be circumstances that require what is in essence selfishness, to satisfy self interest. Winning a soccer game may require you to "steal" the ball, which in my mind is a form of selfishness, but may be in your self interest. Or say you found yourself in a horrible situation- A masked psycho kidnaps you and forces you to fight another captive, to the death! ...Thumb wrestling for food privileges. If you win, you eat, loose & starve... Doing your best, to the detrimnet of your fellow prisoner is selfish but serves your self interest as well... or it might, anyway.
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#14  Postby Mattmaximillian » August 9th, 2013, 12:04 pm

Scott wrote:I do not like when people praise selfishness, but I also do not like it when people condemn self-interestedness. But the disagreement may be mostly terminological. Let me explain what the terms mean to me.

I believe a conscious being must be self-interested. I would define a conscious being as having interests (e.g. goals, values, desires, etc.) and having the will-power to make choices to try to achieve those interests. Thus, in a way, a each person always makes choices based on his or her self-interest. But people are ignorant and stupid to varying degrees. Even though they make choices in an attempt to fulfill their interests, they often make counter-productive choices out of ignorance and stupidity.

I think we would all recommend that people avoid ignorance and stupidity to fulfill their interests.

Nonetheless, to me, the term selfishness refers to someone whose interests or behaviors are distinctly self-centered, sociopathic, and/or self-harmful. I believe it is most often used to refer to an especially materialistic, short-sighted, or superficial person. It is also heavily associated with greed which generally refers to an obsessiveness with some types of personal gratification that distorts a person's perceptions rendering them stupid. Consider Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, for example.

Most humans find it in their self-interest to help others and to not be selfish, namely because of feelings of empathy and sympathy. Just as it makes us feel happy to eat delicious food and sleep in a comfortable bed, it also makes us happy to help others and join hands with the people around us. Just as an intelligent, self-interested person may choose to purchase some delicious, healthy food for a certain price, a person may choose to get the pleasures and benefits of associating with others even when it has drawbacks and costs.

Sometimes hurting other people or refusing to help them is selfish. Other times it is a healthy way to protect yourself and provide help to others and an effective way to fulfill your desires. Some associations with other people will help you help others, which generally will make you happier. Some associations will just hurt you and hinder your ability to help others, which will generally make you less happy.

Some people have a much stronger desire to help others. But most of us have a lot of that desire. Rarely, there are sociopaths who do not have a sense of empathy; they are to empathy what the blind man is to sight, but they are rare (and dangerous). For most people, selfishness is foolish and self-harmful. In other words, it is generally in most people's self-interest to not be selfish.

What do you think? How would you define selfishness and self-interest?


Well sir, I would first like to start off by saying without mankind's instinct of selfishness, we would have gone extinct many years ago. Our possessive and selfish instincts keep us alive as individuals and make us avoid death, harm, or distress at all costs. With that said, let us analyze selfishness in a more social aspect. When you say they can become "ignorant and stupid", you should see to it that this is only an outside opinion and view of the individual's will. If the egoist is truly and egoist, they would have no qualms about what other people say about them or how they critique their will. I do not see how this can be self-harmful. One could say that with this way of thinking, everything would lead to complete and utter chaos, and I say that the contrary is actually true. The egoist is much more inclined to save a man in a river drowning due to the egoists realization of how important the "self" is and the value of the individual.
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."- Nietzsche
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Re: Selfishness, self-interest, and charitableness

Post Number:#15  Postby Gamnot » August 9th, 2013, 2:27 pm

The Personality theorist, Alfred Adler stressed the concept of social interest which is something that is learned. For a person with fully developed social interest, helping others when possible is reflexive. Selfishness can be taken to mean a lack of or impoverishment in social interest.
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