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Selfishness is often defined as an evil that deals with one caring for oneself more than for others. Many evils in the world are blamed on selfishness. Hunger, poverty and illness are supposedly all results of someone just wanting to get theirs. However, is all self-interest bad? If not, is self-interest really the problem?

Let us examine a few examples of selfishness. How about when a man breaks into the home of another man and steals his television because he needs the money that he'll get from pawning it? How about a man who saves money for years to put his only son through college? How about the man who goes to the grocery store and makes the healthiest choices that he can for his own nutrition? Which of these examples features an immoral action? All three men are exhibiting selfishness but only the first is evil.

The thief thinks that he is helping himself by stealing the television set but when he steals from another man, he undermines his own existence as a human and attempts to live as a parasite rather than the capable man that he could be. He does not stop to think about the consequences of his actions, not even the immediate, obvious results that would come from being caught stealing. This is an act of irrational self-interest. The man is thinking of his own wealth but gives no thought for the consequences. The man who saves money for his son's education is also being selfish. He gains selfish pleasure from giving his son the best start in life that is possible. The man buying has determined the best things to eat to nourish his body. This is another example of rational self-interest though the consequences (all positive) do not generally get any attention.

Self-interest is not the issue but rather irrational self-interest

Since we can find examples of selfishness that are positive, it is clear that self-interest is not the issue but rather irrational self-interest. Self-interest that does not consider the consequences is not self-interest at all but rather mindlessness. The man who starves his family by spending every penny they have on street drugs is not selfish; he is irrational.

So, with a little consideration, you will quickly see that the real root of evil is irrationality, not selfishness. The thinking man will quickly perceive that preserving his own life is good and from that assertion, he will make decisions regarding his health and happiness and the health and happiness of those who are valuable to him. The rational man will learn that to do something "just because" or to do something in spite of the consequences is the worst mistake that he can make and the greatest evil that can be committed.

Life is a state that requires a great deal of activity. We must feed our bodies and minds; we must exercise our muscles and protect ourselves from danger. Each of these activities requires a great deal of rational energy. If one does not use his mind, he will quickly die. Thus, we can see clearly that rationality is the virtue and irrationality the true evil. Why then do we not go around pointing fingers at the irrational rather than the selfish?


Original posting by AnnaLarie on Jan 4, 2012 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=676

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