The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.
In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.
Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests.
How can the "popular meaning" of a word be "wrong"? Don't people mean what they mean? (Rand's implicit answer is: no, they don't.) Rand's contention that the exact meaning of the dictionary meaning of selfishness is "concern with one's own interests" is misleading. That may be one of the definitions of selfishness. But there are multiple definitions of the word. Merriam Websters provides three:This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.
- concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
- arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
- being an actively replicating repetitive sequence of nucleic acid that serves no known function
; also : being genetic material solely concerned with its own replication
One word, sir: our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two aspicious persons, and we would have them this morning examined before your worship.
Is our whole dissembly appeared?