Of all that have tried the selfish experiment, let one come forth and say he has succeeded. He that has made gold his idolhas it satisfied him? He that has toiled in the fields of ambitionhas he been repaid? He that has ransacked every theatre of sensual enjoymentis he content? Can any answer in the affirmative? Not one. And when his conscience shall ask him, and ask it will, Where are the hungry whom you gave meat? The thirsty whom you gave drink? The stranger whom you sheltered? The naked whom you clothed? The prisoner whom you visited? The sick whom you ministered unto? how will he feel when he must answer, I have done none of these things,I thought only of myself!
It is a quality that confines a man wholly within himself, leaving him void of that principle which alone should dispose him to communicate and impart those redundancies of good that he is possessed of.
Let any one who is conversant in the variety of human life reflect upon it, and he will find the man who wants mercy has a taste of no enjoyment of any kind. There is a natural disrelish of everything which is good in his very nature, and he is born an enemy to the world. He is ever extremely partial to himself in all his actions, and has no sense of iniquity but from the punishment which shall attend it. The law of the land is his gospel, and all his cases of conscience are determined by his attorney.
It is curious to observe how people who are always thinking of their own pleasure or interest will often, if possessing considerable ability, make others give way to them, and obtain everything they seek, except happiness. For, like a spoiled child, who at length cries for the moon, they are always dissatisfied. And the benevolent, who are always thinking of others, and sacrificing their own personal gratifications, are usually the happiest of mankind.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Goodness, and Goodness of Nature.
Selfishness is not an excess of self-love, and consists not in an over-desire for happiness, but in placing your happiness in something which interferes with, or leaves you regardless of, that of others. Nor are we to suppose that selfishness and want of feeling are either the same or inseparable. For, on the one hand, I have known such as have had very little feeling, but felt for others as much nearly as for themselves, and were, therefore, far from selfish; and, on the other hand, some of very acute feelings feel for no one but themselves, and, indeed, are sometimes amongst the most cruel.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Wisdom for a Mans Self.