Saturday, October 27, 2012

Is selfishness immoral?

Why do people think selfishness is immoral? Its because they have a zero-sum worldview. They believe that conflicts of interest are unchangeable. They believe that the result of conflicts is inevitably that someone loses while the other wins. In this context, a selfish person is interested in himself winning, and he doesn't care that other people lose as a consequence of his decisions.

These people also believe that altruism is good. They believe that one *must* sacrifice his own interests, in order for other people to get what they want.

But the zero-sum worldview is wrong. The rival theory, non-zero-sum, is the correct theory. Conflicts of interest are not inherent facts of human nature. People in a conflict (*any* conflict) *can* reach a common preference such that no one loses -- they all win.

People with the non-zero-sum worldview believe that selfishness is good. In this context, a selfish person is interested in himself winning, and he expects the other person to win too, and he tries to make it happen. So both people get what they want -- a common preference, so they both win.

These people believe that altruism is bad. They believe that they don't have to sacrifice their interests in order for the other person to get what they want.

There is an objective morality about every conflict, an objectively better choice -- namely one that allows everyone to get what they want. To say that selfishness must be at the expense of others is to deny that *all problems are soluble*, specifically conflicts of interest.

Ayn Rand called this view Rational Selfishness. So Rational Selfishness is selfishness with a non-zero-sum worldview. The immoral type of selfishness is Irrational Selfishness, which is selfishness with a zero-sum worldview.

David Deutsch created the process known as Finding Common Preferences. See his book _The Beginning of Infinity_.


- Zero-sum situation: A situation in which one person wins (+1) and another loses (-1) such that the sum is zero (1 + -1 =0).

- Non-zero-sum situation: A situation in which one person wins (+1) and the other does too (+1) such that the sum is above zero (1 + 1 = +2).

- Problem: A conflict of ideas, e.g. a disagreement between two people, or a conflict of two or more ideas within one person.


- All problems are soluble. (Credited to David Deutsch in his book _The Beginning of Infinity_.)

- All life is problem solving. (Credited to Karl Popper in his book _All life is problem solving_.)


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