Exactly as the title says. Tell me why being selfish is wrong.

I'm not of the opinion that a rational, considered self-interest is wrong. I think it's usually the best way to go. In fact, I would say it's kind of like our default setting, but I've seen quite a few people post recently about how being selfless is good. I disagree.

Why do you think that selflessness is good? Why do you think that selfishness is bad? Do you think it's the other way around? Or maybe neither is good nor bad?

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That's an interesting way to think about it: a predator/prey relationship.

To continue the analogy, you're saying we should strive to be more like herbivores who can hold off a predator like an elephant or a triceratops?

I bring up 'predator/prey' relationships, because of a paper I wrote for a feminist theory class I took about 12 years ago. I was attempting to build a logic model for patriachy, and as I wrote the paper it appeared that the best model/metaphor could be 'predator/prey'.

Culture does seem to map behaviors to high ideals, and sacred images, but at core IMHO, we are, at times, hiding tooth and claw. Sometimes the vail of pretense becomes thin, and people can see the wizard behind. Present economic conditions and corporate attempts at 'personhood', could be examples. My personal ideals are painfully streached to breaking at times, but I keep a look out for something more, which can keep me from becoming excessively jaded.

Your examples of Elephant or Triceratops, are not bad examples. I think in some way the growth of cities was an attempt to build some fortifications to protect humans, which while smart, can be good eating for some creatures..;p(. Cities concentrating humans and their issues into higher densities, creates a context for different forms of relating.

Another issue that seemed to be implyed by thought resulting from the paper, were 'scale invarient' patterns or relating. Predator/Prey, codependency, cooperation, etc, while observed in nature, could appear at larger scales. Person to person, corporation to corporation, state to state, territory to territory, planet to planet, etc.

I had no solution for the moral/ethical issues that can plague our relationships, but becoming aware of our choices, and the results, might keep us balanced.


I like this--I believe you've correctly identified the optimum, which is to neither sacrifice yourselves to others... nor others to yourself.

The caricature of selfishness that exists today is the latter, sacrificing others to yourself.  It is simply not the case that you have to either sacrifice yourself to others or others to yourself,

:) ooh this discussion is becoming quite fruitful, i like it 

Selfishness that results in physical or pychological harm to oneself or other living things is manifestly wrong from a humanistic or societal point of view.

From the standpoint of biological evolution, it is neither right nor wrong morally, but usually promotes survival fitness.  

To put it more succintly: no harm - no foul. 

"My mother was a "perfectionist" and it literally destroyed her life and robbed her of enjoying and being the human she could have been. The bottom line to me is that we do our best (learn to say "good enough") to be moral..."

If great minds think alike, then you are in good company.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." ~Voltaire

Sadly, 'good enough' can be the enemy of safe construction,,,;p)

Not meant as a criticism per se, but Maslow's hierarchy does lack strong empirical support. Of the need theories, Alderfer's ERG theory and McClelland's Need Theory have better support in research and are logical extensions of Maslow.


Right now I know of a woman that is too busy going through her things to feed the 2 children she is watching. One is hers the other is her boyfriends. She often stays up late watching netflix, then gorges on junkfood, or whatever she can find before she goes to sleep at 3am. She wakes up anywhere between 10am and 12noon and has to smoke before making the kids "breakfast". The boyfriend is at work but on some days is no better.

Selfless: 3 guys hear a screeching of tires. A mini van has stop and they hear a scream. They react. They save a woman in her early forties from a would be car jacker and known rapist. They never had/took the time to see what was in it for them. They had not time to weigh possible losses. End result: Woman is alright, the carjacker and convicted rapist is back in prison, and the 3 guys that just reacted -not a scratch. Oh and she sent us gift baskets.

In your first instance, I would not call that selfish behavior as much as self-destructive behavior. The way I see it is that any behavior that leads to a gluttonous or slothful lifestyle is not in one's self-interest. That sort of behavior leads to definite health risks down the line. Further, She sounds like the kind of person who doesn't take care of herself at all. If she was selfish rather than self-destructive, she would be working, living a healthy lifestyle, and trying to foster a healthy relationship with her boyfriend and her children. As it stands, she's just shooting herself in the foot.

For the second instance, I'll start out by saying that I in no way mean to demean the heroic action of those three men (I it take to mean by the inclusion of the word "us" that you were one of them), so if I happen to insult you, I sincerely apologize ahead of time as I have no intention of doing that. You say that no one took the time to see what was in it for them. A lot of heroic actions happen like that. There is no thinking there is just acting. If there is no thinking then it's really more a matter of instinct. If we act on instinct can we really say that action was somehow morally good? Can a reflex be good? Further, it was one attacker against three defenders. If it was the other way around (3 attackers and 1 defender) would the result have been the same? Might there have not been some hesitation and reconsideration?

I've done something similar, but to a lesser extent on a number of occasions. Mostly it was breaking up fights between strangers. (I'm always surprised how often people want to use violence to solve their problems!) I realized later after one of them, that I wasn't just doing because. There were a lot of thoughts racing through my head at once.

1. I didn't want anyone to be injured while I could do something about it.

2. I didn't want to potentially be embroiled in someone else's legal matter.

3. I didn't want potential harm to come to anyone I was with.

4. I wanted were I was to remain a safe place to visit.

5. I would want someone to do the same for me if someone was determined to beat me in the face.

6. I wanted the situation to end so I could go back to enjoying what I was doing.

My point is that even though stopping fights between strangers might seem like a selfless thing to do, my intentions were selfish. Either way the end result was the same.

Just this last weekend, I was driving down a country highway and noticed smoke across the road. I passed a house where a small fire in a drainage ditch had grown out of control because no one was attending it. I turned around and checked out the fire. It wasn't caused by accident, it had spread from a small pile of leaves to a 12'x12' area, and was starting to spread into a vacant lot between two houses that was full of dead leaves and brush just waiting to go up in flames. I informed the owner that the fire had spread. Needless to say, she was surprised. As I was leaving I called the fire department to get them out there as well. Now this all might seem selfless, but it wasn't. I did it because people's lives were in danger because of someone's ineptitude. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself knowing that my inaction led directly to someone's death. I called the fire department because I sincerely doubted the woman could put out the fire by herself and it was on the verge of spreading drastically. They would be the best chance for putting out the fire and they could fine her dumb ass for leaving a fire unattended. Lastly, I did it because I'd want someone to save my house with something as simple as a warning and a phone call. 

Again another instance where a rational self-interest led to what would be considered "good" actions. Since you seem to be of the opinion that selfishness is "bad" (judging strictly from your post), given my examples can you say outright that it is?

In the first instant -the self destructive bit - the fact that she puts herself before the kids make it selfish.

The second instance put yourself in her shoes. then ask yourself  if you would consider an instinctual reflex as "good". Your idea of "good" is narrowed to moral which changes from person to person. So if you only want to site moral there is no reason to have written in the first place.

Either way I have to agree with Umbra it is the social construct that defines them.

I should add that there is more to the story that lends to selfishness in account 1 that would point selfishness as oppose to gluttony etc. I'm bad about leaving out details cause I don't want to leave an exhausting response.

 Let me be more clear. Selfish naturally has a negative connotation. Selfless naturally has a positive... There are other words to use than selfish if it doesn't fit the context. You could say you are "doing whats in you best interest". Selfish is harmful to yourself and others.

So by saying "Since you seem to be of the opinion that selfishness is "bad" (judging strictly from your post), given my examples can you say outright that it is?" You should know I'm not going by your examples. I'm saying it's not "good" as you put it to harm myself or others. Hope thats a better explanation. ;)


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