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Selfish Interest and Its Modivation of Moral Action

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Philosophy 101

Selfish Interest and its Motivation of Moral Action

In the beginning of humankind there were believed to be no moral laws or actions. How did we come to know morality? This issue can be resolved if we are to identify what it means for a creature to survive. With cooperation, individuals can aid in the survival of the other. Survival is a primary instinct of all living things and therefore propels the potential for humankind into moral societies. We are interested in the fulfillment of the common goal, in this case, survival and perpetuation of mankind. For there to be a common goal, there must be an individual goal which may be construed as a selfish prerogative.

Humankind originally may not have possessed morality by standards of modern society. There may have been no motivation to act out of moral duty. Motivation may have begun primarily out of selfish interest. Cooperation to gather food would have reinforced the common goal of survival in harsh climates. This cooperation would have given rise to a kind of moral code. Human life would be valued as an active cooperator and therefore a provider or gatherer. The survival of one man or woman would aid in the group survival in some way.

Thievery would have been prevented because nobody would want to lose their possessions. However, there are always sociopaths in a community which would give no consideration to the loss of his or her belongings. Moral actions come about insofar as the common goal of the community is met. The common interest is a shared selfish interest.

One man alone may not survive in the wilderness. Two men may survive with one gathering food and the other watching out for threatening situations. The two men would not want the death of the other because their goal of survival would not be met. It is this selfish but common interest of survival that would prompt the creation of the moral law, "do not kill." If one of the men killed the other, both would ultimately die. We have moral codes to prevent such a situation and favor the common goal.

I would have to agree that moral action is indeed motivated only by selfish interest. We all enjoy a comfortable and secure life at home each night. We feel comfortable because we know that home invasions do not occur on a daily basis. Even without civil law enforcement, we would feel somewhat



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