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Selfishness is having more concern for yourself than for others. It is caring, through thoughts or actions, more about your own needs than the needs and well-being of other people. It may be accompanied by a lack of empathy. Selfishness is the opposite of selflessness. It is also different, though related, to self-centredness and self-affirmation. Many psychologists approve of a healthy level of selfishness, in order for some people to stay happy.
In the study of ethics and morality, selfishness is usually considered bad. In contrast, acts of selflessness are praised. Wider debate about it, however, such as in philosophy, psychology and economics, has shown that scholars have had many different opinions about its value and consequences. In most major religions, selfishness is considered an immoral or bad habit. In Christianity, it is associated with pride, often considered the worst of the Seven deadly sins. Aristotle condemned men who would only try to profit themselves; but he approved of those who would try to gain the praise from others that he deserved.
In the context of modern-day economics, there is a much wider opinion. Bernard Mandeville has argued that the economic advancement of society depends on selfish actions. Ayn Rand argued that selfishness is a virtue and the cause of all progress.
- N. Symington, Narcissism (1993) p. 8
- Dante, Purgatorio (1971) p. 65
- Aristotle, Ethics (1976) p. 301-3
- Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (1970) p. 410 and p. 81-3
- P. L. Nevins, The Politics of Selfishness (2010) p. xii-iii