In Defense of Selfishness

For all organisms other than humans, selfishness is an inborn biological instinct and as such, it is not found fault with. For all organisms in the animal and plant kingdom, the instinct for survival, the instinct for self preservation is basic to its survival as an individual and as a species. Selfishness flows from this instinct for self preservation. In the process, every organism tries to maximize its pleasure and minimize the pain.

So do human beings. But why is selfishness frowned upon when it comes to humans? It is believed that if everybody is selfish to the extent of an animal and not generous at all, human relations tend to dry up. Being selfish for even petty things can make social life miserable.

Being Selfish: Anything Wrong?

However, there is nothing intrinsically wrong in being selfish. Human beings are expected to behave in a manner that benefits them the most.However, their selfishness should not cause undeserving harm to others. And man’s selfish behaviour should be within the bounds of law. That means selfishness should not result in jungle rule.
Given that man has a right to selfishness, he can choose to enjoy the pleasures of being generous. But that should be his choice rather than an imposition - moral or otherwise. He should have the freedom to decide his level of generosity in every day life. And when it comes to big decisions in life like career or marriage, he should exercise his right to be selfish because he is completely going to be responsible for the decisions he takes and has to personally bear the consequences of his decisions.

However, it is nice to show generosity at times if one can afford it. There may be situations when a small thing for us may be a big thing for another person and by giving him that, we may make a big difference in his life or make him extremely happy. If we are generous at times like that, we may voluntarily CHOOSE to be generous because being so will give us happiness and satisfaction of helping someone in extreme distress. However, no one should think that being generous is a human obligation towards fellow human beings and CHOOSING not to be generous at times makes us any less human.

To prove the point, let us see what selfishness popularly means. It means not giving something that we have to someone who needs it. If it is immoral to be selfish, it means we should try to be as selfless as possible. That means we should be ready to give away whatever we have which the other person does not have. That means we have to give up our property, food, house, books, car and even our clothes and donate them to someone who doesn’t have them. Doing anything less than that will make us selfish and hence immoral! And why should we earn all these riches if it is immoral to keep them? That means, no one earns anything because no one has any incentive to earn it. That means no one even produces food and the world would come to an end. This is an absurd derivation. This obviously means that our assumption that being selfish is immoral is wrong.

Finally, “to be able to say “I love you” one must first learn how to say the “I”” . selfishness is not a vice but a virtue.

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