top of page

Is selfishness bad?

Are there any cogent arguments against selfishness?

Ambiguous words

Most speakers and writers do not provide a glossary to clarify expressions or words that they use that could otherwise have ambiguous meanings.

The meaning of "selfish"

As such, the listener or reader is often left guessing or assuming the denotations of words that may remain ambiguous for the reader, even in the context that a given speaker or author is using.


And often, when the reader is making an assumption about a word's meaning, they are not even aware that their understanding of a word is different from the author's. This is one of those especially pernicious types of ignorance where what they "know" can very well not be so and they don't have any clue that's true.


I often find myself guessing about the meaning that an author intends when using the ambiguous word “selfish.” When I use this word, I simply mean, “concern for one’s self-interest.” This definition does not imply that you are not concerned also about the self-interests of others. Additionally, it says nothing about whether the self-interest is short-term or long-term, which may be conflicting or not.

People argue against short-term selfishness, favoring long-term selfishness

Considering all this, I have read many polemics that argued against “selfishness.” In every case, what I found out, in the end, was that the author was arguing against short-term selfishness because it damaged or interfered with long-term selfishness, which the author was very much for.


The writer was, in fact, favoring selfishness, as long as it included long-term selfishness.


In conclusion, I have found no cogent argument against selfishness, given the meaning, “concern with one’s self-interest, both long-term and short-term."

bottom of page