I think there are many level of selfishness. I would say that most actions by most people have a bit of selfishness attached to the reasons of the action. Take Mother Theresa whose selfish reason to help the poor was for the reward she would earn in heaven. Policemen’s and firemen’s selfish reasons could be that they feel alive the most when they are in danger saving someone else. Parents have their own selfish reasons. But really I think those that care about others do good deeds because it gives them a “good” feeling. So this is why I think every generous, caring action could be considered selfish because after all you as the “giver” received a self-rewarding pat on the back.
If I had the Ring of Gyges (the ring had the power to make the wearer of the ring to be invisible), I would do whatever I could to benefit myself and my loved ones, however, not at the cost of others. I would do things like listen in on big companies’ board rooms and I would play the markets. I would try to find ways to make money that did not harm anyone directly. Well these are the worse things I would do. I could not do anything truly evil even if I were invisible. My conscience would keep me from doing evil. Even though I may be invisible to others, I could still see inside myself.
Who is John Galt?
I do believe in Ayn Rand’s philosophy on the ethics of altruism. If each capable individual does their best to be their best by looking out for their own interest then they would fulfill their societal duty to be a productive member of society. This does not mean that as stated above that you cannot or should not help others. Looking out for your own interest and being selfish in that way does not preclude you from being generous or thoughtful. It is each one’s responsibility to achieve all that you can. I also agree with Rand that capitalism is the morally superior economic system and that morality demands respecting the individual rights of all. Capitalism drives an economy for all to grow, socialism drives an economy for government and restrictions of freedom to grow.
Do you agree with Altruism? Is someone selfish because they look out for their own best interest?