Selfish vs. Self-Centered

Posted by jmlesniewski 8 years, 3 months ago to Philosophy
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I've been thinking a lot about these two concepts over the last two ones and am thinking of writing something about it. What are your thoughts on it?


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  • Posted by LetsShrug 8 years, 3 months ago
    My non-academic definitions of the two are this:
    Selfishness- making my own self-interest a priority (opposite of altruism).
    Self centered- thinking everyone should give a shit about you.
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    • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
      Yes, that is along the lines of my thoughts. I'm thinking there's more to self-centered though which is more in line with what people mean when they commonly say "selfish."
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      • Posted by LetsShrug 8 years, 3 months ago
        Like...it's ALL about ME. Selfish (self interest) is all about me, but I don't expect anybody else to make anything all about me (just me for me). Self-centered would be me wanting EVERYbody to make it all about me. (I'm babbling, sorry, but to me that's the difference between the two...and it's a pretty big difference if you ask me. One is not demanding of others and the other one is very demanding of others....which leads into “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.")
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        • Posted by khalling 8 years, 3 months ago
          really? I see both of the terms used interchangeably. if you think about the two words like an equation, they should come up with a different meaning. what's wrong with being centered in yourself? wouldn't lots of yoga and meditation types be good with that? The word self could be defined as one rationally pursuing self interest. centered means, you can't easily be knocked down :)
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          • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
            1. They are different words so they have different meanings, otherwise there wouldn't be a need for both of them.

            2. The word self doesn't mean "rationally pursuing self interest." "Self" is a term that refers to an existent, it doesn't tell us what to do with that existent. (Note: The definition of self is "A person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, esp. considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.")

            3. (spawned from two) I would argue that individual words should NEVER be prescriptive (tell us what to do with something). Rather, they should be descriptive (telling what is). Even words such as "good" or "bad" don't tells us what to do, only what something is.
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            • Posted by CapitalistFred 8 years, 3 months ago
              "1. They are different words so they have different meanings, otherwise there wouldn't be a need for both of them."

              Thatis classic circular reasoning. Your gratuitous assertion (that every word has a different meaning than every other word) can be gratuitously denied.

              There are many many words with the same meanings as others - we call them synonyms.
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              • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
                I agree there are synonyms and you have pointed out an error in my approach, but based on your tone and word choice, I have no desire to continue a discussion with you.
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                • Posted by LetsShrug 8 years, 3 months ago
                  "Tone"? I think hearing a 'tone' in the written word is difficult to do correctly. My typewritten 'tone" has been misinterpreted a thousand times over. (But I'm butting-in here. Sorry.)
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                • Posted by CapitalistFred 8 years, 3 months ago
                  Which was the word that offended you?

                  In logic we call (any statement of fact that is unsupported by data) a gratuitious assertion.

                  My intention was not to offend, and the fact that you have evidently taken offense at me pointing out your logical error is quite telling.
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            • Posted by khalling 8 years, 3 months ago
              I disagree. Some words are prescriptive. Like the imperitive. Go!
              I assumed we were working in a philosophical context. You are presuming "need" for both. I am asking you to question that. I don't know the origins of self-centered. but I'll bet you some monopoly money it's been used in speech fewer years than selfish has. why is that? We don't need the word ebonics, for example. :)
              self absorbed is more descriptive than self-centered.
              btw, like the web presence. In particular, the Offspring t shirt.
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              • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
                The word ebonics describes a specific existent.

                The word "go" is not prescriptive. You made it that way by putting it into a sentence.
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                • Posted by khalling 8 years, 3 months ago
                  since one definition of the word go is to act, it's prescriptive.
                  I feel like we're debating an is-ought. If you start with a premise of human life has value you can go from "is" to "ought" in 1 second. Now we're discussing ethics. Is that your interest? If your interest is linguistics, then I'll disagree on your definition of self centered. Webster's first definition starts with "concerned solely or chiefly with one's own welfare, interests." it ends with egotistical. second definition is "independent, self-sufficient." third, "centered in oneself" I referred to this definition earlier. finally, "fixed,unchanging." If you want to change the definition to include not in one's rational self interest, ie. what people commonly consider "selfish" are you any better than cultures that have changed the definition of o altruistic or selfless to be synonymous with "good"?
                  About the same time I first read Fountainhead, I was taking a critical theory . I was struck that I was being taught to value the critic the same or higher than the producer, because that was really the point. Toohey, anyone?
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  • Posted by EAJewett 5 years, 1 month ago
    I was going to post a similar question, as "how to best explain selfish is not a bad thing?"
    Lots of good thought here. The word selfish certainly has picked up some undeserved baggage. I posit it is based on enlightened self-interest, which to my mind is one of the most honest motivations. I find it very difficult to explain to someone who hasn't read Rand.
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  • Posted by wgingram1 8 years, 3 months ago
    Best damn description yet.
    I look out for myself front and foremost.
    I will not intentionally harm another
    If I do I just insure it was not with malice.
    I help others who deserve my admiration and who live by my standards.
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  • Posted by CapitalistFred 8 years, 3 months ago
    They are completely synonymous. There is no difference whaysoever between being self centered ( ie all of my priorities are based on MY personal values) and selfishness (a concern with one's own affairs).

    Anyone who is truly selfish is. by definition, self centered. Why in the world would anyone center themselves on anyone else??? Is it even possible?
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    • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
      It is a false dichotomy between self-centered and other-centered.
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      • Posted by CapitalistFred 8 years, 3 months ago
        In what way is that a false dichotomy? Are you saying that there is a 3rd way?

        1) Self centered
        2) Other centered
        3) What else is there upon which to center your life? I suppose one can concieve of an unbalanced person with no center whatsoever who "blows with the wind"..... is that what you have in mind here?
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  • Posted by $ bigjim 8 years, 3 months ago
    I think a clearly defined, rationally argued clarification of these concepts would be very helpful. Getting the people that need to read to actually read it will be the hard part.

    Will this be your first submission to the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies that you posted about? :-)
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    • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
      No, I doubt I'll ever submit to that--or any other--academic journal unless I go back to school to get a PhD.

      Who do you think needs to read it?
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      • Posted by khalling 8 years, 3 months ago
        like if I give you a diploma, you'll finally get that you've got a brain? I can whip one up for you that's kinda fancy.
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        • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
          I don't understand your comment.
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          • Posted by khalling 8 years, 3 months ago
            Sorry, I was joking ala Wizard of Oz. Although I respect some academicians in, say, the Institute, they are a tight club based on meritocracy. Ayn Rand did not have a Phd. in Philosophy. Independent thinking is essential, and liberal arts programs at universities aren't known for churning them out. You might not get your paper accepted by a journal but, if you write well on your chosen topic, you'll have an opportunity to influence people.
            Here's my take on the topic. Rand wrote eloquently in the Virtue of Selfishness about the subject and the strong influence of Aristotle shaping her views on the concept. Many philosophers claim she took Aristotle's words out of context and that she ignored concepts such as "altruism" and my favorite, "harmonization." In popular culture, there is slight separation of the two concepts, but the upshot is both are treated as anywhere on the scale from plain rude to a mental disorder and narcissism. Here is my favorite: from Mayo Clinic, if encountering a selfish person, "stay calm and polite at all times." Point is, both words are mostly used incorrectly. A person pursuing virtuous selfishness acts in their own best self interest. A narcissist doesn't behave in their own best self-interest. If you bring in the concept of greed to be a litmus, the same applies. Pursuing wealth at the cost of your own best self interest is not rational and therefore would not meet the litmus for Rand's definition of selfishness.
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            • Posted by $ 8 years, 3 months ago
              Right, that's why I said I would only submit to an academic journal if I was studying for a PhD. I see no reason to otherwise.

              Yes, the Mayo Clinic example is interesting, but like you say, there is only a "slight separation" between the two. My question is what is the separation and why is it important (if it is important at all)?
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              • Posted by khalling 8 years, 3 months ago
                well if I were expanding on the theme, I would say that self-centered is not an important word. Words have meaning, and unfortunately, these words are taken out of context so much, I say weed the field for a better harvest. The word is selfish. Own it and take it back. Write it 20 times and use it in a sentence out there in the world. But now you'll know why people are always calm and polite around you. :)
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