I have heard some people make a supposedly deep claim that you yourself are more important than someone else because from your point of view, you are yourself and therefore your interests are more important for you than the interests of others. If that wasn’t clear, it can be said in first person: “I am the most important person to myself, because I am myself.”
This is just a convenient excuse to justify being selfish. It makes a claim but does not justify it with any reasons or even a logical connection.
Point of View
It starts with the claim that “I am the most important person to myself” and justifies it by appealing to point of view: “from my point of view, I readily appreciate that I have goals I want to accomplish and can benefit from or suffer due to choices that involve me”. Since someone knows what they themselves want, and only they experience their own happiness and suffering, they easily understand reasons for being selfish. Only “you” can really experience your own sadness or happiness. If you let someone else eat the last piece of cake, you experience sadness while they do not. Since these consequences are purely personal, they then assume that the only relevant person in such a situation is themselves. This “point of view” argument essentially dismisses other people’s feelings, goals, and experiences, perhaps in a sort of solipsism where one can only be sure that they themselves exist, so only they themselves matter. This is dehumanising others at their expense and your benefit (it’s selfish), and it is illogical because it only takes into account the point of view that someone is familiar with (their own), but ignores any possibility of other people’s points of view. If “my” point of view is so important to myself, then surely “your” point of view is important to you. Following from this, it is only logical to see that every individual has their own point of view and whatever importance you give to your own point of view equally applies to everyone else involved. If any one person is the most important to their individual self, then everyone is the most important person to themselves. From an exterior, universal, or objective point of view, the same logic that says that “I am the most important person to myself” applies to everyone, so everyone is important, and more important everyone is equally important according to this.
The point of view argument uses circular logic to justify selfishness by assuming that we should be selfish. According to it, the reason “I” am more important is because I am myself. The moment you talk about “me” being important though, it’s already obvious that “I” exist, and it’s just the identity theorem that states that “I am myself”. As such this doesn’t justify anything, all it does is focus on yourself and ignore everyone else, to set up an environment where one can feel alone to feel better about being selfish. It basically says that it’s OK to be selfish because we should be selfish, which doesn’t make any sense.
Furthermore, it appeals to their own sense of individuality. It can be argued that “I am an individual with my own character, tastes, personality, goals and experiences. As these things constitute who I am, I care about what happens to them and want to control any decision that involves them.” Everyone has their own life, and it makes sense to want to shape it as you want, for example to have pleasure and success, and to avoid displeasure and pain, to take a very simple example. In this way the person will feel the responsibility to make decisions that benefit themselves, and allow others to make their own decisions independently. This is not wrong, but it is narrow minded, as it again ignores the possibility of working with other people to help each other get what they want or need.
It also appeals to a sense of desperation: “If I do not look out for myself, who will?”. The answer they do not think about is that your parents will, your true friends will, your partner will. And if they don’t, they’re not very good family/friends/partners. There is a point to be made for being cautious when trusting others to think about you, but this does not mean that you are the -only- person who will ever care about your interests. This fallacy is also promoted by the cynical ideas that individuals cannot rely on others for help, and that others will harm you at their own benefit every time. This involves the “survival of the fittest” fallacy and makes unsupported assumptions about human and individuals’ nature. There are some people who will not want to help you, and some people who will harm you, but that is not everyone and there is no evidence to suggest that it is human nature, or to predict with any accuracy when this will happen and when it will not. Humanity has not come as far as we did by working alone; it is only through working together and understanding each other’s wants and needs that we can achieve more through helping each other and ourselves.
What this argument ignores is the idea of working together. It is an excuse to give in to the desire to be selfish. Our ids want things even when our morality says that we should not take them. This argument tempts those who struggle with that and allows them to take what they want and lie to themselves so that they do not feel guilty about it. They do not feel responsible when they think that they are following the “rules” of life, and when they are told that there is nothing wrong with hurting others. There is of course a balance where everyone should care about everyone’s (including their own) happiness. That way we do not depend on only ourselves to assure our happiness, we have others who can help us the same way we help them. It is when we sacrifice and hate others that things fall apart.
The people who cynically say that everyone is just out for themselves, even when they help others aren’t considering the people that sacrifice themselves and their happiness for the sake of others. Many parents do this for their children, firefighters do this for strangers. It would be cynical but also presumptuous to attribute this simply to a selfish desire to help people in order to feel good. We shouldn’t help others o make ourselves feel better or to make sure that they help us, we should do it because it’s morally correct, and many of us do exactly that, even when the sacrifice and pain we suffer outweigh the good feeling (or lack of guilt).
Thinking only about yourself or limiting your thought to only your own point of view is limiting yourself and your thought. It is close minded and intentionally accepts your biases without any attempt to mitigate or surpass them. If you resign yourself to be biased without trying to compensate for it then you set yourself up to make mistakes, resulting in a counter productive and even self destructive result. To be open minded you must realise what biases and fallacies affect you and try your best to overcome them, even if it is difficult or impossible. In most cases it is possible to reduce the effect of biases to the point where they will no longer matter, but this often requires you to be open minded and take help and advice from others.
We should think about both what we and everyone else wants equally to assure every individual’s wellbeing and happiness.