- Enlightened self-interest
Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in
ethicswhich states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest. [ [http://www.adti.net/toc_book/ch2_08.htm Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America (Ch. 8)] ] [ [http://web.missouri.edu/ikerdj/papers/Rethinking.html Rethinking the Economics of Self-Interests] ] [ [http://criticalmastiff.blogspot.com/2005/07/enlightened-self-interest-vs-communal.html "Enlightened Self-Interest" vs. Communal Responsibility] ]
It has often been simply expressed by the belief that an individual, group, or even a commercial entity will "do well by doing good". [ [http://money.cnn.com/popups/2006/biz2/howtosucceed_dowell/ Howard Schultz: Dare to Be a Social Entrepreneur] ] [ [http://www.volunteermatch.org/corporations/resources/docs/GH_CCS_2005.pdf Doing Well by Doing Good 2005: The Trajectory of Corporate Citizenship in American Business] ] Enlightened self-interest might be considered to be unrealistically idealistic and altruistic by detractors and practically idealistic and utilitarian by proponents.
In contrast to enlightened self-interest is simple
greedor the concept of "unenlightened" self-interest", in which it is argued that when most or all persons act according to their own myopic selfishness, that the group suffers loss as a result of conflict, decreased efficiency because of lack of cooperation, and the increased expense each individual pays for the protection of their own interests. If a typical individual in such a group is selected at random, it is not likely that this person will profitfrom such a group ethic.
Some individuals might profit, in a material sense, from a philosophy of greed, but it is believed by proponents of enlightened self-interest that these individuals constitute a small minority and that the large majority of persons can expect to experience a net personal loss from a philosophy of simple "unenlightened" selfishness.
Unenlightened self-interest can result in the
tragedy of the commons.
Enlightened self-interest also has implications for long-term benefits as opposed to short-term benefits to oneself. [Marilynn Brewer. Individual Self, Rational Self, and Collective Self. Pscyhology Press UK 2001, p. 84] When an individual pursues enlightened self-interest that person may sacrifice short-term interests in order to maximize long-term interests. This is known as
An individual may choose to forsake pursuing immediate gratification by supporting and not interfering with others' pursuit of self-interest. An individual may have to sacrifice his immediate self-interest for the purpose of a positive relationship to a group of individuals to which he relates. For example, a merchant likely will maximize profit over the long term if she chooses to be generous to her customers in a manner beyond the requirement of policy, say, in accepting returns and refunding the purchase price when not required to by the letter of the law. By doing so, she may lose short-term gain but likely will eventually profit from increased business volume as she gains a reputation for being reasonable, honest, and generous.
Rational selfishnessis a term generally related to Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy, refers to a person's efforts to look after their own well-being, to cultivate the self and achieve goals for the good of the self. The focus in rational selfishness might be considered to be more self-directed (where the benefit to the group or society is a desirable by-product) than the focus of enlightened self-interest which is more group-directed (and the benefit to oneself might be more of the by-product).
Enlightened self-interest is also different from pure
altruism, which calls for people to act in the interest of others often at the expense of their own interests and with no expectation of benefit for themselves in the future. Some advocates of enlightened self-interest might argue that pure altruism promotes inefficiencyas well.
Adam Smithand the Invisible Handof the market
*E. E. "Doc" Smith, in his science fiction book "
Subspace Explorers", posited an economic formula that would control profits and bonuses, which he referred to as "The principle of enlightened self-interest".
Notes and references
Alexis de Tocqueville
Adam Smithand the Invisible Hand
* [http://www.learningtogive.org/papers/index.asp?bpid=23 J.B. Steenbergen: "Enlightened self-interest in Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America"]
* [http://www.ssu.missouri.edu/faculty/jikerd/papers/Rethinking.html J. Ikerd: "Economics of Enlightened Self-Interest"]
* [http://users.ox.ac.uk/~jrlucas/ethecon/ethecon.html M.R. Griffiths & J.R. Lucas: "Ethical Economics"] particularly [http://users.ox.ac.uk/~jrlucas/ethecon/chap13.pdf Chapter 13]
* [http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1280120 Enlightened self-interest@Everything2.com]
* [http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring02/Holt/enlightened.html Enlightened self-interest business model]
* [http://www.strategy-business.com/press/16635507/05309 Daniel Yankelovich: The Thought Leader Interview]
* [http://www.objectivistcenter.org/showcontent.aspx?ct=984&h=53 David Kelley: Generosity and Self-Interest]
* [http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring02/Holt/enlightened.html Public Relations Ethics: Enlightened Self-interest Model]
* [http://www.principalvoices.com/2006/collaboration/introduction.html The age of the responsible corporation]
* [http://www.smartrecovery.org/resources/library/Articles_and_Essays/Self-Acceptance/enlightened_selfinterest.htm Enlightened self-interest from a perspective of self-help (Smart Recovery)]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
enlightened self-interest — noun : behavior based on awareness that what is in the public interest is eventually in the interest of all individuals and groups polls that are kept honest only by the enlightened self interest of the pollsters … Useful english dictionary
Self-interest — can refer to any of the following concepts:*Egoism *Selfishness *Ethical egoism *Psychological egoism *Individualism *Objectivist ethics *Hedonism *Epicureanism *Enlightened self interest *Indirect self interest … Wikipedia
self-interest — n. 1) enlightened self interest 2) in one s own self interest * * * [ˌself ɪntrɪst] enlightenedself interest in one s own self interest … Combinatory dictionary
self-interest — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ enlightened, rational ▪ economic, material ▪ individual, national ▪ naked, pure … Collocations dictionary
Enlightened absolutism — (also known as benevolent despotism or enlightened despotism) is a form of absolute monarchy or despotism in which rulers were influenced by the Enlightenment. Enlightened monarchs embraced the principles of the Enlightenment, especially its… … Wikipedia
enlightened — adj. Enlightened is used with these nouns: ↑mind, ↑ruler, ↑self interest … Collocations dictionary
SELF-DEFENSE — (in modern Jewish history). Jewish efforts against attacking mobs in Russia and in Austria Hungary from the end of the 19th century until shortly after World War I. The nature of the pogroms in this period (especially in the years 1881–82,… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Outline of self — The Self is the individual person, from his or her own perspective. To you, Self is you. To a different person, Self is that person. The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the self: Contents 1 Essence of oneself… … Wikipedia
Topic outline of self — The self is the individual person, from his or her own perspective. To you, self is you. To someone else, self is that person. The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to the self: Essence of oneself : Main articles:… … Wikipedia
Grover Cleveland: American Interest in the Cuban Revolution — ▪ Primary Source Although the strife in Cuba was not a major issue in the presidential campaign of 1896, its importance for America was already recognized by political leaders. In his final presidential message to Congress on… … Universalium