The Harmony of Selfish Interests
Oct 21, 1994
A vivid example of our culture's notion of egoism is the character Kathleen Turner plays in the popular movie Body Heat. After adopting a false identity and marrying a rich man, she seduces William Hurt's character into helping her do away with her husband. She then frames him for the murder, making it look like she has been killed. While he rots in jail, she spends the rest of her life in the tropics with the money, living it up on the beach. This, say both our society and our philosophical tradition, is a classic example of what it means to be selfish. A perennial Latin saying reflects this attitude: homo homini lupus–man is a wolf for man.
This paper explores how the concepts of altruism and selfishness are commonly held, and the thinking methods behind them.