Unselfishness

Abstract
In this paper I argue that the prohibition on desire in the orthodox Indian systems is not simply a prohibition on selfish desires. The word “selfish” is ambiguous. It can mean either “self-interested” or “excessively self-interested.” Since only excessively self-interested actions are prohibited, the prohibition on desire cannot be a prohibition on all self-interested desires. But the prohibition on desire cannot be a prohibition on excessively self-interested desires either, because this class of desires is too insignificant to explain the general preoccupation with the elimination of desire in the tradition. Finally, I argue that selfish desires are indeed prohibited, but only if by “selfish” one means “based on false beliefs about the self.” Even then, however, selfish desires do not exhaust the class of prohibited desires because some prohibited desires are based on false beliefs about things other than the self
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