I have been in a quandary over what selfishness means and as to its moral value. More than several years ago now, I converted into the thinking that there is no such thing as selflessness, since every act, is and must be an act for the self, since everything anyone does benefits themselves in some way.
And for a very long time this is what I thought. Entailed in this thinking, was the belief that only being concerned for oneself, or involved with oneself wasn’t bad selfishness, and since selfishness itself was considered a moral standard, one could never be ‘too selfish.’
Now, however, I’ve come to a certain realization, mainly through observing people who were limited in a way I could seemingly not identify for so long.This identification, in having become clear and explicit, I now know that there is no necessarily good or bad selfishness in the way I’d thought. I guess I sort of detached the idea of selfishness from its objective facts in reality.
The quandary lied in the act of equivocating a moral value for a moral standard. But now I make a distinction between selfishness as a value, and selfishness as a moral standard. A standard is ‘an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.’
Hence, when selfishness is used and thought of as a standard of morality, like in the same irrational way when giving or generosity become standards, rather than values inside an umbrella system with its own standards, we are brought to moral disaster and inner conflict.
And that is why,objectively, selfishness must be defined by exclusive concern for the self, period, without value judgements mixed inproperly and non-objectively into the definition. What ever the nature of the actions are, in being selfish, it must be judged on the basis of the consequences it generates.
That is to say that selfishness is not good or bad per se, or in itself, and hence, cannot be used to stand for a philosophic moral tenet in itself as individualism would purport to do.
For example, in a reality dominated by very selfish people, all the benefits of more collective or social organization and action are lost, and vice versa. Nevertheless, after having known the benefits of having a wider range of experiences, many of them from knowing people, I can clearly see that so much has been gained especially and in some cases, exclusively in hindsight.
In maintaining that there is no selfishness possible in existence, one must skirt the fine line between actions which are the result of previously incorporated personal values, and ones that are not.
An action, for instance, which is off the cuff, and not yet incorporated as being a personal value, let alone why, is very possibly a sacrifice at the the time, hence, meaning that there IS an actual sacrifice at work.
An individualist would tell you that no, there is no possible such thing as sacrifice since even in acting out of a non-personal value, actions are still done on the basis of what will further the organism’s life overall, short, or long-term, no matter how complex this gets.
I beg to differ.
This conclusion presupposes first of all, that a person by nature, is pre-formed, and is necessarily so put together as to have all conclusions on all situations already made, which they don’t.
It is from this fact which I observe with great consistency, which allows much arbitrariness into the nature of people’s choices, creating personal conflict between values. That is, if people were simply acting out of unadulterated selfishness, there would be no conflict.
It also presupposes that we even know the conclusion behind what form of personal and social philosophy is absolutely correct for human beings which I would say is not impossible, but is not at present consistently achieved.
The truth is that, it is probably true that a certain balance, though not necessarily the kind of ‘balance’ we think of in terms of being equal, yet a certain type of harmony between personal values and collective, does produce positive results for human existence, and that without this ‘balance’ human existence becomes far less productive, severely limited, and even destructive.
Note though that this, then, still allows for an objective definition of human nature in itself.
In any case, I now hold that the arbiter of the human choice of philosophic values, must be on the basis of positive and negative results, of which is another debate, but in my view, should never depart the facts of reality.