I consider myself blessed. My friends constantly challenge me to think more closely and less guardedly, and in so doing they help me see more clearly more often. In recent times, a friend talked to me in great depth about selfishness. He was talking about his own selfishness and his inability to consider himself better than other people because of it. This is something I have often thought about and I always come up with the same thing. Human beings are incredibly selfish, even when we’re being selfless!
It is hypocritical to fault people for living for themselves. We are all doing the same, everywhere. Selfishness is built into us. Call it a genetic typeset. Call it a genetic flaw. We’re all selfish, whether it is in our pursuit of happiness or whether we’re doing good things to please other people. The reason we do something good is not different to the reason we all live, and indeed, breathe. There should be no confusions or delusions about who we are inside. We’re all selfish, even when we’re ‘nice’.
I have long been a student of philosophy; in particular, I have been fascinated by the studies of psychological hedonism (the theory that each individual seeks his own pleasure) and ethical hedonism (the theory that each individual ought to seek his own pleasure). In other words the former, psychological egoism, indicates that each individual seeks his own interest; each person is selfish. The latter, ethical egoism, suggests that each person ought to be selfish.
The human being is extraordinarily selfish, cunning, and stubborn, but capable of being selfless if we believe we can profit by it. We would save a baby falling into the fire solely to avoid our own pain, and to save ourselves our own guilt. Lately the world has been rocked by tragedy. A lot of us did all we could to help. When I sat down and examined my reasons for my behaviour, I realised I’d done so out of compassion, out of love, out of an ability to empathise, and out of an inability to see people suffer because it caused ME pain. That was an incredibly human and selfish reaction from me. I am not blinded by the so-called selflessness of human beings – it doesn’t exist. I am not a placard-waving, rose-coloured spectacles-wearing person living in denial of what the average human being is all about. Selfishness is absolute. Selfishness completes us. That’s all there is to this, quite literally.
From ‘The Essays of Love – What Makes Us Human?’ by Antoinette Legronaes:
“Once we understand pure altruism to be hypocritical and based on selfishness and the ego we understand there is no human motivation that is not selfish in nature. Love is another example. Love is perhaps the strongest emotion we possess. Love, compassion and understanding can each defeat both hatred and anger. But love is ultimately selfish too. That’s part of the beauty of love… that you know that your own love loves you because it makes them feel good. Without the subconscious admittance of this, love would be less satisfying. If love was a god-inspired emotion then the love from another human being would be worth less and become more of a veneer. This is not how we perceive love. Because we understand that we love someone because they make us feel good to be with them we also understand that they love us because we make them feel good. This combination is a supreme gift to our ego and helps explain why love is easily the most potent emotion.
That love, our most sought after feel good emotion and a common generic social aim, would be weakened if it was not based on selfishness is a telling fact. Even more than altruism, love suffers if we deny that it is selfish in nature. Subconsciously I do not think it is possible for us to believe that love is altruistic, I think it’s such an obvious falsehood that our subconscious can never be convinced no matter how much conscious doublethink we employ.”