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"Petty" selfishness vs "rational" selfishness?

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Gwen
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Commonly, when introduced to the idea of 'selfishness' people talk about things like cutting queue, not giving way to other pedestrians, eating all of your favourite food during dinner not caring if others get to eat some or not, not giving up your seat on public transport to the elderly or needy. Are these actions rational and selfish, or are these kinds of 'petty' selfishness irrational? Why? Nathaniel Branden also talks about people being selfish over trivia (if I remember his words correctly). Shouldn't we also be selfish over trivia as a result of applying principles consistently? Is my understanding of what he writes correct, that what he refers to as 'trivia' it is about all or some about the examples I gave above which people call 'petty'?

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I don't know what Nathaniel Branden work you are referring to.

What you described as "petty selfishness" and gave examples of is a kind of metaphysical solipsism in practical everyday action. It is a refusal to recognize that other people exist, have rights, should be treated justly, etc. Of course it cannot be justified that other people do not exist, so all of that behavior is wrong. It is illogical, irrational, and not even selfish.

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"Most people begin practising self-sacrifice almost from the day they are born. With each year they give away more and motr of their desires and ambitions in order to "belong".

Predictably, the result of this self-sacrifice, is that, in a kind of perverted rebellion, they often end up being petty, narrow-minded, and "selfish" over trivia. Trivia are all they have left to fight for, after they have surrendered their souls.

"Do you mean it's NOT immoral to be selfish?" is a way of asking, "Do you mean I don't belong to others?Do you mean my first obligation is NOT to live up to someone else's expectations?"

Such a thought is both exhilarating and frightening." [N. Branden, Honoring the Self.]

Yes, I think that your examples are of 'trivial' selfishness, which I call the self-indulgent kind. (Not to say however one must always give up one's seat on the bus, as an imperative.)

When one has largely absconded on one's own self, all that's left becomes extremely critical to hold on to, I see Branden as meaning.

If it's all one has left, one will feel fear and anger - asserting one's "petty" priviliges to the 'nth' degree.

This is not the confident self-assertion of a rationally selfish person, but a last remnant of it.

Essentially it denotes counterfeit self-esteem. "Subjective selfishness", maybe.

(I'm thinking of the OWS bunch, and other "we want-ers" round the world.)

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What you described as "petty selfishness" and gave examples of is a kind of metaphysical solipsism in practical everyday action. It is a refusal to recognize that other people exist, have rights, should be treated justly, etc. Of course it cannot be justified that other people do not exist, so all of that behavior is wrong. It is illogical, irrational, and not even selfish.

Which is more fundamental, being objective or being selfish?

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Which is more fundamental, being objective or being selfish?

Basically I am also asking: Why should I respect the rights of others when doing so would conflict with my self-interest?

Being objective is more fundamental. How else can one reach any justified conclusion at all, including whether one should be selfish? The philosophy advocated here is called Objectivism, not selfishism or egoism, which puts the emphasis in the right place.

Respecting the rights of others never conflicts with your objective self-interest, because whether or not your own rights are to be respected depends on respecting others.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Respecting the rights of others never conflicts with your objective self-interest, because whether or not your own rights are to be respected depends on respecting others."

I'd like to elaborate slightly on this point. When answering this question, Ayn Rand elaborated that the asker should consider any criminal or dictatorship. In each situation, they gained their short and mindless self-interest, though in the long run they perished because they destroyed the producers of society. Remember, Oism does not revere second handers: the hero in The Fountainhead was Howard Roark, not Peter Keating (or worse, Ellsworth Toohey). The hero in Atlas Shrugged was Dagny Taggart, not James Taggart. Selfish men and women produce, not destroy.

If you would like more evidence, Rand (correctly) held that ethics (and more fundamentally, metaphysics and epistemology) will reflect politics. Note that capitalism is based upon selfishness and the non-aggression principle (it's immoral to use force), while socialism is based on altruism and force.

Regarding your other examples, Objectivism sees man as a heroic being that is capable of adjusting his background to himself and that pursuing his own interests benefits others. Altruism sees man as a sacrificial animal, that, if interpreted correctly and practiced consistently, is incapable of love. From this ask yourself which would treat his fellow man that he meets on the street with more respect.

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