It is believed that humans act for different reasons; but for whom, or what, do or should they act? Is the reason humans act for themselves, for God, for the reaction of other people, or for the benefit of the planet? Is it even believable that we have a choice as to why we act and for whom? Is it possible for an individual to ever act only according to his or her own interests, without ever regarding others’ interests? On the other hand, is it possible for an individual to ever truly act for the benefit and / or betterment of others in complete disregard for his or her own interests? An egoist would argue against that idea, because egoism states that an action is right if and only if said action promotes long-term, rational self-interest, as long as it obeys the moral side constraints.
This would mean that Mother Theresa is helping the poor solely because it makes her feel good about herself. Although it may sound somewhat outlandish, it definitely rings true in some ears. Although I do not completely agree with egoism, it certainly does make sense and it is absolutely being displayed in the world around us. Whether humans are naturally born and necessarily selfish, in order to survive, and it is out of their control or it only makes sense to humans for them to act in favor of their self-interest, egoism stands true.
From early in our existence, all human beings become aware that it is satisfying to eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired and unpleasant to touch something that burns them. Humans become aware of this because eating stops their hunger pains; sleeping stops the feeling of tiredness and not touching the fire prevents pain due to burning. These sensations of pleasure and pain give humans the knowledge of the goodness and badness in certain things, in much the same way as the senses of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch give humans knowledge of the existence of things. As a result of said knowledge, humans are able to form valid moral principles through induction, and therefore are able to apply those principles to specific situations for which our senses by themselves are not suitable to handle. Without this foundation, the knowledge of moral and immoral would not be possible, and consequently morality would be a measly false notion.
In addition, one could argue that it is simply a predisposed survival instinct for humans to act in a manner that promotes their self-interest and that instinct is what brought man-kind to what it is today. In others words, our choices can really be considered predetermined by the knowledge gained in previously learned experiences, if it is that we choose to act in a manner which promotes our self-interest. What if humans had the ability to give up there desires and just concentrate on what’s best for others and / or the world in general? Would life as we know it be the same if humans did not have the determination to achieve their desires? Absolutely not, this would a very classless and unknowledgeable society. Consequently, society as a whole is better off if each person works to bring about his or her own self-interests.
In all voluntary actions humans do what they want, as it doesn’t make sense to do something they don’t want to do, and when they do what they want their actions are therefore considered to be selfish. Would it make sense to act in any other manner, as long as the action is rational? It is unreasonable to expect one to act in a manner in which they do not agree with, do not like, or find unfulfilling. So, in agreement with Ana Rand, it is basically a moral duty to pursue one’s own interests. This is the case because if acting in one’s own self-interest is reasonable, then it is a moral requirement that one acts in one’s own self-interest. Additionally, if people pursue their own interests as they conceive them, then the interests of everyone is promoted. It goes back to the old saying, «you can not make anyone else happy, if you are not happy yourself».
Whether it is humans’ naturally learned and necessary instinct to be selfish, in order to survive, or it only makes sense to humans for them to act in favor of their self-interest, egoism remains in the world around us. Although the previously suggested points of view differ greatly, due to the fact that one point of view states selfish is natural and out of humans’ control and the other point of view states it would simply not make sense to not be selfish, they both arrive at the same conclusion. The world is a better, happier and more production place if everyone acted in a manner which promotes their own long-term, rational self-interest, without disobeying the moral side constraints. Although I do believe these points of view are convincing, I also believe they do have their weakness due to lack of balance. Balance is always necessary and anything at an extreme can not be considered completely positive. While, it is reasonable and necessary for humans to act in a manner which does promote their self-interest, I do not believe or agree that it is necessary for one to act in said manner, exclusively.