Intro: this is an intro to a series of posts on self-interest; I will only make normative statements on self-interest with a context
The title is a mantra from the Lowell mill girls from over a century ago who exclaimed “Gain Wealth, Forgetting All but Self” because waged labor felt like waged slavery for them. There are costs to competition, but it is claimed that competition is our nature and is what we do. The cause of competition of course is self-interest which is deeply woven into the fabric of our language.
Thus, we better be sure that our discourse, with its social norms and simple logic, is not merely a reflection of Western philosophy but a clear window into our human nature. The philosophy we inherited can thwart us with its entailments and cause us to favor self-interest over empathy. It is of course ironic that when we oppose self-interest it is because it doesn’t serve our interests.
But the irony goes away once we empathize with others realizing that no one wants to lose a conflict of interest battle and become inadequate. Morality evolved to restrain self-interest, so we can gain the benefits of cooperation. It is therefore in our interest to not forget about those that are left behind from competition because we may need them after we lose our conflicts of interest.
Objective: culture and language may overstate and justify self-interest; how much of our language reflects our true nature
This is the intro to a series on how the English language has a bias caused by Western philosophy to favor self-interest in contrast to empathy. I hope to answer the question of how much does language reflect our true nature versus how much does it construct our realities from its embedded social norms and from the caveman-logic we use. This will require the help of cognitive linguistics.
I am not labeling self–interest in general only that in some contexts it may not serve the best interest of everyone. I am also not interested here in the benefits of competition, natural selection, and pursuing our own interests. That would be a separate discussion. This is about the costs of competition and self-interest. I also don’t mean to say that I am against self-interest.
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