Selfishness, Self-Interest, and Self-Love

6402 Words26 Pages
Selfishness, Self-Interest, and Self-Love Too much self-interest becomes selfishness. But…too much little self-love – in business as elsewhere – shows a lack of spirit and backbone, which is not approved. John C. Wood Mezgebu K. Feleke & Johan De Tavernier ABSTRACT This article illuminates the difference between the act of selfishness, self-interest and self-love, usually confused and overlooked in ethical discourses. In the contemporary economical and social life human behaviour is dominated by self-interest. From a Christian viewpoint most ethicists criticize self-interest as a ‘narrow’ view that could ingeniously embrace harmful selfishness. Do we agree with them? Though we consider its importance as a primary motive for acting in market economical and political affairs, we argue that ethical standards basically require a moral outlook that goes beyond the dominant self-interest model. Since most people have both a benevolent and self-interested attitude, we view self-love as indispensable for cooperation and social behaviour. Christian love essentially unites persons with the ontological good – originated from God – and transforms the self to be concerned both for oneself and the good of others on the level of identity. This article presents a more subtle critical analysis of self-interest – an sich a-moral - while it proposes self-love not only as a necessary condition to undertake genuine morality but also as a guarantee for the moderation of self-interest. KEY WORDS: Agape, love, self, self-interest, selfishness, self-love. Introduction In most ethical discourses, one may observe confusion between an act of selfishness, self-interest, and self-love. Some seem to intentionally mystify their meaning while others inadvertently employ them interchangeably to explain one’s act in relation to oneself. Moral philosophers, like Ayn Rand,
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