An internet oasis of open discussion without personal attacks
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.
Scott wrote:How would you define selfishness...
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.
RJG wrote:Selfish is a moot word. We are all selfish, some more obvious than others.
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.
Scott wrote:It's generally in most people's self-interest to not be selfish.
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?