"Interests"- it's for your own good?

Lisa Rogers EQDOMAIN.EQWQ.LROGERS at email.state.ut.us
Mon Apr 10 10:50:08 MDT 1995

I've been thinking about "interests" and self-interest for several
days now, because I've noticed that it seems very problematic.  I had
not been aware that it was recognized as a problem by anyone else,
and I'm curious to find out more about the state of thought on the

I know what I mean by it, and I use it all the time in my own work
(in the evolutionary ecology of humans), but its meaning is not at
all clear to me in the way the terms are used in discussions on this

If preferences are what you think you want, but interests are what is
really good for you (not morally "good") then what is good for one?
Defined how and by whom?  Is it good for the individual or the group?
 Which group, how large, and when is it in the interests of an
individual to give up something private for "the good of the group"?
 Measured by what and over what timespan?

It seems important to me because socialists are trying to persuade
people that it "is in their own interests" to do this or that, and I
suspect that it is not only due to "false consciousness" or
brainwashing that they do not buy it.  It may not really be in their
own interests at all, depending on how that is defined.

I think this relates to my question about views of human nature.  Or
shouldn't human nature be oriented towards or facilitative of the
pursuit of a human's interests?  Could the function of this wet
machinery I call myself be related to its origins/creation?

Lisa Rogers

H.C.:  This is where the whole> question of interests comes in, and
where I think Justin is wrong to dismiss> the problems associated
with "acting in one's interests" as if they had no> bearing on his
argument. (This also intersects with several other conversations
currently being pursued on the list regarding the nature of> racial
and national oppression).

J.S.:  Actually I do not dismissd this problem. What I do is sweep it
under the rug, because I don't know yet how to think about interests.
If law school and legal practice permit, perhaps I will be able to
work out a view. I have been thinking about the issue on and off for
about 15 years, and it is as hard a subject as I have ever grappled
with. My only consolation is that the discussions of interests of
which I am aware are not very good, even when by good people, which
indicates to me that it's nbot just me being stupid.

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