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by Satya Prakash
Issue 9
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What exactly is Selfishness? The popular usage of selfishness is for a sinful adjective where one person behaves in total disregard to consequences of his/her actions on others. The selfish person will be ever ready to do anything just to satisfy his/her whims. But is there any positive aspect of Selfishness; is it justifiable to be selfish? The answer lies in how we define selfishness.

One of the first people to speak about the positive aspect of selfishness was Ayn Rand which was illustrated in her book “Fountainhead”. The virtuous aspect will be clear if we see the alternate (correct?) definition of Selfishness. Selfishness is related to one’s own self. A person will be selfish only when the person is true to his/her mind, thoughts, values and all the actions by such a person will be out of his/her convictions. Such a person will go through all kinds of difficulties and obstacles but will never compromise with his values and thus be selfish. The most distinguishing feature of that person will be ‘integrity’ i.e. such a person will ‘walk his/her talk’. Such a person will never sacrifice others for own needs or will indulge in any ‘desire-satisfaction’ acts. Such a person will be ready to suffer all kinds of hardships to live for the ‘self – values’; and most importantly a selfish person will never be hypocrite.

The popular usage of selfishness as sinful behavior implies acts which are done for whim-fulfillment, and not for ‘self’. Every person has some biological and psychological needs and these needs are ‘objective’. A person will always strive to fulfill these needs and hence selfish. Humans live in social world and to satisfy the objective needs there will be interactions and those interactions has to have the virtues of benevolence, rationality, rationality etc. Hence such persons will never act in disregard to others rather act in regard to oneself.

The concept of objective needs of a person can in some way explained by the theories given by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene “ . Dawkins answers questions such as why are people. What is Man ? Is there meaning to life? By saying that all this are there just to make the gene survive. Gene – the unit of heredity will do anything to survive, an animal is nothing but a machine made to survive the gene. Thus there is selfishness in any animal, there is this ‘objective need ‘. Gene is the basic and abstract unit of selfishness. This explains the reason for objective needs and hence selfishness.

In fact if one has to judge whether the feeling of love, friendship, respect or admiration is true or not then one should see if the person exhibiting such a feeling is selfish of not. If for that person love, friendship, respect etc are catering to his needs then it is a true feeling and the person will always be committed. If they are for his whim-fulfillment then those feelings are shallow and there will be no commitment. Just for illustration, most of the time teenage love or friendships don’t last, why? Because at that time a person is not sure of his or her own self or objective needs so there is no way to find whether those needs are fulfilled by the present love or friendship. To understand ‘Self’ is the prerequisite to selfishness. A person is most true when he/she is selfish. Love, friendship, respect is nothing but token of satisfaction of those objective needs.

Satya Prakash writes the My Journey blog.
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