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Dániel Boros
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If selfishness is concern with one's own interest than what is greed?

If Ayn Rand redefined selfishness shouldn't we redefine greed as well?

Greed, wiki definition

"As a secular psychological concept, greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves."

I would argue that until the last word the definition of greed is in fact the same as the definition of selfishness.

Desire in this context means the same as the word concern and how much one needs is a subjective assertion based on one's values.

How much one deserves from the amount he or she desires however is not necessarily subjective.

If the person used force to obtain his wealth, than he would definitely not deserve what he has even if he desired it.

Therefore I would define greed as: concern with one's own interest without respect for the rights of others.

I believe the word greed defined this way is accurate and useful.

Any thoughts on this?

P.S.: Greed is not Good :twisted:

Edited by Dániel Boros
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Therefore I would define greed as: concern with one's own interest without respect for the rights of others.

I believe the word greed defined this way is accurate and useful.

Any thoughts on this?

How is acting without respect for the rights of others demonstrating a rational concern with one's own interest? An individual acting in concert with their own rational self-interest, recognizes the role that rights play in all of his interactions with others.

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Good topic.

I think that this really comes down to the definition. If greed is truly "concern with one's own interest without respect for the rights of others." Or even "..an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves." Then no, it is not good.

The moral man does not seek undeserved gain nor does he seek to cheat others, which is equivalent to looting.

If someone were to define greed as "a desire for wealth beyond what one needs" or something like that, I would not call that bad. I once was talking with my sister about some successful (wealthy) friends of ours who started several businesses. I was speaking of them in admiration, of course, because they have created a great deal of wealth through their own excellence. And my sister, being of the liberal mind-set, made a negative comment, wondering why any individuals should amass so much personal wealth. "Why does anybody need that much?" Or something like that.

I believe that people like my sister see wealth as a zero-sum game and when people are successful they taking away other's people's share.

Language is powerful. What is the positive word that describes a virtuous seeking of wealth? Perhaps this is part of the reason that capitalism itself is under attack. People look at the wealthy with suspicion and envy instead of admiration and respect.

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How is acting without respect for the rights of others demonstrating a rational concern with one's own interest?

It does not

An individual acting in concert with their own rational self-interest, recognizes the role that rights play in all of his interactions with others.

A greedy person by definition does not recognize that. That is why he would be okay with stealing and cheating.

And my sister, being of the liberal mind-set, made a negative comment, wondering why any individuals should amass so much personal wealth. "Why does anybody need that much?" Or something like that.

That would make greed subjective. Who decides how much is "too much"?

For A person B person is greedy, but for C person B person is not greedy won't work.

Edited by Dániel Boros
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the essence of greed is an unmitigated desire. It does not specify a particular content, just a specific intensity towards that content, whatever it may be. Greed for wealth, greed for women, greed for the unearned, etc... Its possible to be rationally greedy for something

Edited by Mikee
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I remember the scene in the movie Wall Street when Chalie Sheen asks "How many yachts can you ski behind?" etc. This definition of greed completely misses the point and I hate to fall into the trap of saying that enough is enough when it comes to wealth.

Should Warren Buffett have stopped growing his fortune at say $1M, or $10M, or $100M? Is there some number that is enough, beyond which is simply naked greed? I say "no." By his virtue he has created prosperity not only for himself but for his many investors.

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Greed can be good - I would define it as "intense hunger." Just as with selfishness, it is not necessary to load the term with negativity.

One can be greedy for knowledge, for wealth and remain rational and respectful of individual rights in one's pursuit of those goals. Greed should not automatically imply immoral or irrational or evil.

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There has been at least one longer thread on the forum already on the subject of greed, if you try a forum search. In short, it was pointed out that greed is a false concept, since its main differentiation from similar concepts is a negative evaluation on excessive selfishness. Selfishness, of course, can't be negative and definitely can't be excessively negative. If one is to grant that some greed is ok, at what point does it become too much? Etc.

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Sometimes greed is used to describe a short-term attitude where a person let's their emotions make them reach fro something that isn't good for them in the long run. For instance, "I was greedy and ate too much; now my stomach hurts and I've blown my diet".

In that use it is a negative that describes unmitigated desire (to use Mike's term): i.e. desire unmitigated by the appropriate amount of rational thought and action.

Edited by softwareNerd
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softwareNerd we have better words to describe such actions. Can you think of any instance where that isn't true? I think greed should somehow be connected to money and gain. Whenever I hear greed I think of gold...mmm. my precious...

To Friedman greed is essentially the same as selfishness and self interest.

By the way greed is one of the deadly sins. Are you sure we want to affiliate something like that with self interest?

I know nobody cares, but still...

There has been at least one longer thread on the forum already on the subject of greed, if you try a forum search. In short, it was pointed out that greed is a false concept, since its main differentiation from similar concepts is a negative evaluation on excessive selfishness. Selfishness, of course, can't be negative and definitely can't be excessively negative. If one is to grant that some greed is ok, at what point does it become too much? Etc.

Maybe that is why I think it should be redefined in a way or perhaps the only way that can actually make it negative and make sense.

As I said I would redefine greed the way I did because it would be more useful.

A word without meaning is not useful.

Many people believe that greed is evil and leads to crime and only with my definition can that be true.

I am glad I am not the only one to see inconsistency in it's current definition.

Edited by Dániel Boros
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By the way greed is one of the deadly sins. Are you sure we want to affiliate something like that with self interest?

I know nobody cares, but still...

As is pride, and advocates of rational self-interest damn well shouldn't give that one up.

The fundamental problem with the idea of greed is not simply that it carries a negative connotation, but that with greed that negative connotation is inexorably tied to the idea of "too much." In common usage, greed is much more closely tied with wanting too much than it is with disregarding others' rights. Plenty of instances of greed don't even involve rights, like the food example sNerd gave. The implication inherent in the word is that selfishness must always be limited, that it cannot be allowed to overstep its bounds or it hurts everyone involved. The problem, of course, is that rational selfishness should not be limited; it should be one's guiding principle in life. Violating rights is bad, regardless of whether the intentions were selfish or selfless, and rational self-interest is good up to any degree, it cannot be excessive. The word should just be thrown out.

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Because greed does have a negative connotation, I tend to use it in the instances where people want something so badly they will use unethical means to obtain it, or will otherwise let their judgment be clouded. Desire or selfishness should be reserved for acquisitiveness well within the bounds of ethical behavior (and even "selfishness" I will not use in front of a non-Objectivist unless I know they know what I mean by it). I know words have specific meanings and we should abide by them. I also know that words are used to communicate, and in furthering that purpose, I won't intentionally use a word that I think my interlocutor won't understand correctly.

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Such as?

Gluttony perhaps? Sorry I forget you could not use that word in English as one could in Hungarian...

English ****s

Anyway greed doesn't sound right in that context as much as it should

Because greed does have a negative connotation, I tend to use it in the instances where people want something so badly they will use unethical means to obtain it, or will otherwise let their judgment be clouded.

Yes that's exactly how I defined it.

I wasn't thinking of using this definition of greed in everyday life. More like in a debate where the objectivist/libertarian is attacked by an alturist saying that in a free society with selfish people everyone would cut each others throat over money.

One could argue that that is not seelfishness because it is not in the best rational interest of the individual to violate human rights and that such a thing should be called greed instead.

Assuming you had a chance of defining the term, I think it is an important distinction that can make things more practical for the debater.

Edited by Dániel Boros
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