Sure. In order for me to explain what I think selfishness is, first let me explain what I think sacrifice is. Sacrifice is giving up something valuable in exchange for something comparably worthless.
So, if I'm a rich man and I give five hundred dollars to my church tithe, and I let everyone know, that's not a sacrifice, because I enjoyed the value of my fellows' esteem in exchange.
If I'm a poor man and I give all the money I have to the church tithe and say nothing, that is a sacrifice. I don't get esteem, I don't get to eat, and in the long run if I don't eat I probably don't even end up feeling very good about having given my money away.
If I'm a poor man and I spend a good part of the money I have on my lover, leaving me enough to eat and using the rest for lavish gifts I know will bring him joy -- on the premise that knowing my labor and nothing else caused his joy -- that is not a sacrifice. I don't lose or directly imperil my life by my choice, and I gave not because I was compelled by faith or by my lover's demands, but because I got a return on my investment.
Sacrifices, as such, are immoral, because they require a reduction in one's overall accumulated value -- ultimately in terms of the sheer quality of one's life.
Selfishness is the refusal to make sacrifices. It is the process by which one gives with the expectation of a return on investment. Rational selfishness is the process by which one may reasonably expect the return in this lifetime, since it cannot be rationally assumed (that is, assumed without faith) that there is any life but this one. The rationally selfish person also refuses to make of anyone else demands to which she herself does not submit. (i.e., the rationally selfish industrialist does not dump waste irresponsibly, since it demands other people to deal with its toxicity, and she herself would not want to be put in that position)
Suicide is selfish, because it is a point-blank refusal to give up what one values, the time while one is alive, for something one does not, the saving of others from the pain of one's absence. I am beginning to think, however, that in nearly every instance suicide cannot be rationally selfish, and being irrational, is no more moral than sacrifices are, for all that it is selfish.
Last edited by Lord Caspen
on Thu Feb 16, 2006 6:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. -- Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward.