The Paradox of Selfishness


I recall both my parents berating me and my siblings for being too selfish. We generally accepted the criticism as accurate and fair. I mean taking food out of little brother’s lunch pail because I was hungry was understandably a selfish act.

However, at the tender age of 6 it occurred to me that all humans have to be selfish to survive. Consumption of water and sustenance are necessary for the self to survive and necessarily selfish pursuits. My father selfishly drank alcohol to get his mind off the stress of facing a nasty and aggressive boss at work. We knew this, but chose not to label dad as selfish in the same sense he and mother branded us as selfish.

Acceptable Selfishness

So I became a philosopher before puberty for noting selfishness was not unconditionally wrong. I felt bad for my Dad knowing that he had to earn money for his family by having to tolerate an obnoxious jerk of a supervisor at the car dealership where he was employed.

Justified Selfishness

Certainly, drinking water and eating food constitute selfish acts that are justified. Metaphysics guru Alan Watts points out the term selfish is too vague a concept to be unconditionally branded as wrong. This takes the pressure off of many of us if we understand this. Mr Watts, in a way, sends a message of tolerable if not comfortable insecurity.


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