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How to know if you're being selfish (and whether or not that's bad) - Mark Hopwood


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The question of whether or not humans are inherently selfish is one of philosophy’s oldest debates. The idea that we only act out of self-interest is an extreme stance that few philosophers would endorse. However, the idea that all humans have a deep selfish streak is something many philosophers would agree with. So, are we innately selfish? Mark Hopwood explores this classic conundrum.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Want to learn more about some of the philosophers featured in this video? Try these other videos to get some more background on the life and works of Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant, or take a look at this TED-Ed lesson to see how Kant’s views on moral duty apply to a practical problem about lying. If you’re interested in finding out more about the science of selfishness, this short piece offers a helpful summary of some recent studies.

You can take a deeper dive into the philosophy of Iris Murdoch here, get a beginner’s guide to her life and work from this podcast episode, or see her in action in this 1978 interview on the relationship between philosophy and literature. Murdoch was part of an extraordinary group of female philosophers (also including Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Mary Midgley) who studied at Oxford during the second world war—you can read more about all four women in the recent group biographies Metaphysical Animals and The Women Are Up To Something, or get a quick overview here.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Mark Hopwood
  • Director Avi Ofer
  • Narrator Adrian Dannatt
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

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