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“Me, myself & I”: practical egoism, selfishness, self‐interest and business ethics

Jelena Debeljak (Teaching Assistant at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management, Zagreb, Croatia.)
Kristijan Krkač (Professor, at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management, Zagreb, Croatia.)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 7 March 2008

5261

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to elucidate some of the arguments against egoism in the current debate, as well as to create some new arguments, or rather objections (epistemological and ontological from the position of egoism as moral solipsism), and to explicate some arguments against egoism (descriptive, normative, and ideological) as being not so convincing. It also aims to explicate Jesus's second commandment in a fashion similar to that of Adam Smith when he tried to combine self‐love with sympathy.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is based on the premise that some foundational philosophies, worldviews, or paradigms exemplify at least one type of egoism/selfish strategy. In that light the analysis of egoism and the objections are formulated.

Findings

They paper finds that present arguments in favour of egoism in business, and especially as certain “business ethics”, are not acceptable, at least on the practical and theoretical grounds on which they are presented as sound arguments.

Research limitations/implications

The paper implies that there is fundamental difference between theoretical and practical egoism, and that practical egoism sometimes uses the theoretical one as its “quasi‐justification”.

Practical implications

The paper can be summarized in a series of general advices about an altruistic attitude and practices which in the long term show more benefits than costs for any group, and consequently for business organizations as well.

Original/value

The paper presents ontological and epistemological interpretations and objections against egoism, emphasizing the somewhat neutral or at least bivalent position of Adam Smith regarding the matter in question, and introducing altruistic strategies as being compatible with the basic ideas of a free‐market system.

Keywords

Citation

Debeljak, J. and Krkač, K. (2008), "“Me, myself & I”: practical egoism, selfishness, self‐interest and business ethics", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 217-227. https://doi.org/10.1108/17471110810856974

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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