An ode to selfishness

Being self-centered is not considered a virtue. The world selfish is full of negative connotations and receives its share of brick bats. While altruism is lauded, selfishness is loathed.

But that does not stop us from being full of ourselves. If being self-centered is really as terrible and unhelpful as it is made out to be, why is it still so widespread?

Because selfishness has an important role. Being self-centered has kept us alive and is hardwired through evolution. If we did not care enough about ourselves, anyone who realizes the vastness of the solar system alone is likely to stop bother living. If our lens is large enough to encompass cosmic scales, it renders our own selves that much more trivial. As a consequence, there would no good reason to get out of bed and start living.

Selfishness has kept us alive through periods where our lives were difficult and our survival was not guaranteed. It is a self-propagating quality: only genes that preserve selfishness have survived through the eons. The ones that do not have long been fossilized.

What we see in our times is merely a correction. Being selfish is no longer as relevant in a stable world, where survival and well-being are guaranteed. All of this criticism that it receives is because we have more of it than is optimal. It is important to realize that this is a comparative and not an absolute treatment.

Selfishness has played and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. It is thanks to selfishness that we are alive today to appreciate virtues such altruism.

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