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Selfishness and making others pay

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Kangaroo
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Could someone explain selfishness to me a little more? 
Especially with this example: People around are just irrational. It would be easy to start a cult or religious sect where people would give me money. Why is that not selfish? I know it is not. But I am somehow superficial in my understanding.

Thanks!

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What I am about to say is a pessimistic way of looking at things, but I would argue the following: You were forced to live. No one asked if you wanted to be born, and now you are most likely going to experience intense pain, madness and death. Now, you have the next eighty years or so to make it all worth it. The phrase "You only live once" is often used as an excuse to do something goofy at a party. However, when one examines the fact that they will only live once, the preciousness of their own existence becomes obvious, and the desire to waist it on petty things vanishes.

So I ask myself at least, what makes the pain, suffering, senility, and death worth it? The answers to that don't include spending time around crazy people who I secretly despise. Just to make it clear, life is not just pain, suffering, senility, and death. In fact those can be very small parts of life if you are rational. If you are not rational, and spend time manipulating people, violating the rights of others, and just being and over all asshole, you will push the good out of life and bring in the bad.

Ethics are for your benefit, for you to live your life. You can use game theory to imagine situations in which unethical actions may bring an advantage to someone. However this usually doesn't take into account the full context of an individuals existence.

Edited by Hairnet
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Could someone explain selfishness to me a little more? 

Especially with this example: People around are just irrational. It would be easy to start a cult or religious sect where people would give me money. Why is that not selfish? I know it is not. But I am somehow superficial in my understanding.

Thanks!

 

Faking reality is never selfish.

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If you do not create anything, only consume, you are a second hander. If you try, to the best of your ability to create, you are first-hander. As Francisco said, "those who do not earn their money lose it." If you were to make your money by getting the better of others you are probably the same person who will blow all their money. When the time comes the money stops what will you have? Make the most of the charity you recieve, spend it on anything productive. You don't need a degree in biophysics, just be self supportive and you're fine.

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Using your time thinking and planning about deluding people, hoping to find people stupid enough to fall for your lie seems like such a waste when you could be, say, spending your time dreaming up something you think would be amazing to create, producing it, and trading it making honest money with people who are like-minded allowing you to gain a reputation for quality work attracting people of similar values. 

 

When you think about doing what is selfishness, think about doing what would truly maximize your enjoyment of life over the course of your lifespan. Its important to look at all the different connections and consequences of your actions and think long term, not just short term. Also, don't get caught up in solely material values. Being aware of spiritual values such as self-respect, no internal conflicts, motivation, and enjoyment can make situations like the one you proposed easier to analyze.  

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Thank you all for your answers, they made selfishness and egoism a bit clearer to me. But I have a lot more reading to do.

But thanks! :)

Just as a side note... I'll add the opinion that selfishness itself is amoral, and is determined by what you do:

 

The rational selfishness of doing what makes you a better person... 

 

...or the irrational selfishness of doing what makes you less of a decent human being.

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Just as a side note... I'll add the opinion that selfishness itself is amoral, and is determined by what you do:

Huh? How is selfishness amoral? It's what a proper morality is, therefore moral. Yes, it's determined by what you do, but it is not amoral. The other posts here clarified that I think.

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Just as a side note... I'll add the opinion that selfishness itself is amoral, and is determined by what you do:

 

The rational selfishness of doing what makes you a better person... 

 

...or the irrational selfishness of doing what makes you less of a decent human being.

I am going to be charitable.

Are you saying that selfishness is pursuing one's desires? Some desires are good and some are bad, ergo pursuing your own desires is an amoral concept?

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Huh? How is selfishness amoral?

 

You make selfishness immoral or moral by your own actions.

It's what a proper morality is, therefore moral. Yes, it's determined by what you do, but it is not amoral.

Selfishly acting to get what makes you less of a decent human being is immoral.

 

Selfishly acting in your own best interest to be a better human being is moral.

 

So you see selfishness is amoral. You make it moral or immoral by that which you choose to be selfish about.

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I am going to be charitable.

Are you saying that selfishness is pursuing one's desires? Some desires are good and some are bad, ergo pursuing your own desires is an amoral concept?

 

Yes. 

 

Pursuing what you love in itself is amoral.

What you pursue makes it moral or immoral. 

 

Some people choose to love what is right enough to do it because it is in their own rational selfish best interest...

 

...while others choose to love what self destructively makes them less of a decent human being.

Edited by moralist
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What you pursue makes it moral or immoral. 

Only what you pursue matters? Not that you pursue it?

 

 

Pursuing what you love in itself is amoral.

What you love comes from what you evaluate as right. Isn't pursuing what you evaluate as right called integrity regardless of whether it is in your rational self interest - do you mean to say this is amoral? 

Edited by bert
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Selfishly acting to get what makes you less of a decent human being is immoral.

Well, this is incorrect, if you pursue destructive things knowingly, that can't be selfish. Acting selfishly by doing bad things, to put it simply, is not actually not selfish. Anything ultimately against life is unselfish - irrational or evasive.

 

What you pursue is actually insufficient for an action to be evaluated as selfish. The *why* is most important here, because that's the basis any action is made. Does a fireman risk his life because it is his duty to altruistically save others, or because he has dedicated his own career for his own good? Only the latter would be evaluated as moral. Selfishness isn't either moral or immoral, it is wholly moral. When "what" is primary, that is intrinsicism, which selfishness per Objectivism is not.

 

As relevant to the OP, a good question to start reasoning with is why make a religious sect as manipulation. Presumably, a lot of money. But how does the manipulation impact your life further?

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Only what you pursue matters?

Yes.

Not that you pursue it?

Every livng human pursues. It's essential to life just as is breathing.

What you love comes from what you evaluate as right. Isn't pursuing what you evaluate as right called integrity regardless of whether it is in your rational self interest - do you mean to say this is amoral? 

No. Morality depends on whether pursuing what you evaluate as right... actually is right.

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Well, this is incorrect, if you pursue destructive things knowingly, that can't be selfish.

"Knowingly" is the operative word. Everyone believes that what they pursue is in their own best self interest... whether or not it actually is. Some people choose to love truth, while others choose to love lies. What each of us loves is purely a personal choice.

As relevant to the OP, a good question to start reasoning with is why make a religious sect as manipulation. Presumably, a lot of money. But how does the manipulation impact your life further?

It makes you less of a decent human being.

 

Manipulation conforms to moral law in that to the extent that you seek to manipulate others... to that same degree you are suceptable to being manipulated by others.

 

Or as the old saying goes...

 

"The easiest man to con is a con man."

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"Knowingly" is the operative word. Everyone believes that what they pursue is in their own best self interest... whether or not it actually is. Some people choose to love truth, while others choose to love lies. What each of us loves is purely a personal choice.

No, psychological egoism is invalid, because some people pursue things in the self-interest of others. Again, the reasons why one acts establishes what is selfish. Part of that involves what one knows - if you honestly know something to be in your long-term self-interest, then it is selfish, even if it does not conform to what I know.

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No, psychological egoism is invalid, because some people pursue things in the self-interest of others.

...and I'm certainly one of them. I daily further the self interests of others because it is in my own self interest to do so.

Again, the reasons why one acts establishes what is selfish. Part of that involves what one knows - if you honestly know something to be in your long-term self-interest, then it is selfish, even if it does not conform to what I know.

...and the reality of the just and deserved consequences of our own actions is the final judge of whether or not what we do is actually in our own best self interest.

Edited by moralist
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I wonder if this will be helpful.  I just made this entry in the Principle of two definitions thread:

 


 

Is it possible to do the same thing for selfishness?:

 

A1 objective selfishness - pursuit of a value from a self serving motive.


A2 normative selfishness - pursuit of a value that sustains or furthers your life. 


I'm open to any adjustments if this is not exactly right.

 

 

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Also to be considered is what Ayn Rand had to say about the actual meaning of selfishness:


 

Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is:
concern with one’s own interests.



This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether
concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what
constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such
questions.

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Also to be considered is what Ayn Rand had to say about the actual meaning of selfishness:

 

(a little more from same the link)

 

"The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.

In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.

 

Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is:concern with one’s own interests.

 

This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions."

 

And I agree... selfishness itself is amoral. Whether what we are selfish about is good or evil is determined by our own actions and the consequences they spin into motion.

Edited by moralist
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It's saying the concept alone is not going to tell you it is in fact good. Ethics is the way to then establish if selfishness is in fact good or bad. That is, you have to figure out if selfishness is moral or immoral. Later on, one may evaluate selfishness as good. So, again, it is not amoral. I don't know what your point is. I just want to emphasize though that the context of discussion here is Objectivism. It's cool if you want to discuss the validity of the ideas, just like Kangaroo is doing, just be careful not to take the stance of a philosophy free for all where everything goes.
 

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I wonder if this will be helpful.  I just made this entry in the Principle of two definitions thread:

 

Is it possible to do the same thing for selfishness?:

A1 objective selfishness - pursuit of a value from a self serving motive.

A2 normative selfishness - pursuit of a value that sustains or furthers your life.

I'm open to any adjustments if this is not exactly right.

 

As I replied in the other thread, I would take out any mention of motive. 

 

A1. acting on one's own values, where value is whatever one chooses to gain or keep

A2. acting on one's own values, where values are chosen rationally, to further one's own life

 

In contrast, altruism is acting on others' values, and utilitarianism is disregarding personal evaluations altogether, like moralist seems to be doing (I guess he thinks whatever Middle Eastern shepherd came up with the Ten Commandments was way more qualified in deciding what the right values are for someone living in the 20th century, than he would be. He's probably right, too. I just wish he'd leave the rest of us out of it.)

Edited by Nicky
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As I replied in the other thread, I would take out any mention of motive. 

 

A1. acting on one's own values, where value is whatever one chooses to gain or keep

A2. acting on one's own values, where values are chosen rationally, to further one's own life

 

In contrast, altruism is acting on others' values, and utilitarianism is disregarding personal evaluations altogether, like moralist seems to be doing (I guess he thinks whatever Middle Eastern shepherd came up with the Ten Commandments was way more qualified in deciding what the right values are for someone living in the 20th century, than he would be. He's probably right, too. I just wish he'd leave the rest of us out of it.)

 

(scratch the previous reply)

 

Let's rephrase:

 

A1 objective selfishness: The action to gain/keep a self serving value

A2 normative selfishness: The action to gain/keep a self serving value that is pro life.

 

Reference to motive removed.  After some thought, I realize it's not necessary to know the motive. (copied of reply to the other thread)

Edited by Craig24
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