General Question

weeveeship's avatar

Would the following behaviors be considered selfish and/or unethical?

Asked by weeveeship (4622points) February 9th, 2011

By selfish, I mean “devoted to or caring only for oneself”.

I treat “selfish” and “unethical” as separate adjectives for an action. An act can be selfish but ethical (not offering a terrorist a ride). An act can be unselfish but unethical (doing something out of love that violates laws or ends up hurting people). Other combos are possible.

All scenarios are hypothetical.
1. Each student is assigned a pair of safety goggles. Joe grabs his own pair of safety goggles but would not grab Mike’s pair for Mike even though Mike’s pair is right next to Joe’s.

2. People are rushing onto the bus with no line. All of them are equally capable individuals. There is only one space left on a bus. Kevin happens to enter the bus before anyone else and thereby, claimed the remaining space.

3. Tina is sitting on a bus. There is an empty seat next to her. A young lady is standing in the aisle. Tina offers the young lady the seat next to Tina. The young lady shakes her head and says it’s all good. Tina puts her heavy backpack on the empty seat. (I assume there is no law that says that one can only occupy the seat one paid for).

4. Minisoft Corp. sets up a table and gives away free pens. Assume Minisoft has a huge supply of pens. Bob grabs a pen even though he likes Orange Computer, a direct rival to Minisoft, and would never dream of using Minisoft’s products.

5. Allan is a very smart but shy boy. One of his classmates, Joyce, who is known to be a slacker, wants Allan to explain a math problem to her. Allan is under no duty to Joyce (i.e. they are not math partners, etc.) and they in fact do not know each other very well. Allan shakes his head and says he is busy.

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20 Answers

everephebe's avatar

1. Thoughtless rather than thoughtful. If there is some intent behind this then, it is perhaps a selfish one.
2. ? If poor ethics are involved, it’s whatever is the cause of lack seats for all. It’s happenstance for Kevin and the other kids.
3. If we assume there is no law against it as you say, Tina is ok.
4. Marketing works in mysterious ways, maybe someone else sees it and buys Minisoft.
5.That’s life.

Ethics and selfishness don’t seem to be very involved in this. Unless you’re asking us to do your homework @weeveeship that would be unethical and selfish.

weeveeship's avatar

@everephebe Thanks for your responses. Nope this is not homework. Just some observations from daily life that I am pondering.

GingerMinx's avatar

1) Selfish but ethical.
2) Ethical, not selfish.
3) Ethical, not selfish.
4) Ethical, not selfish.
5) Ethical, not selfish. He is shy.

MacBean's avatar

1.) Joe is a dick. Possibly selfish, possibly not, depending on the details of the situation. But a dick, nevertheless.
2.) Kevin is lucky. That seat is rightfully his.
3.) Tina was thoughtful to offer the seat first. If more people board the bus and she doesn’t offer the seat to them, too, she’s rude. And probably thought the young lady was cute. XD
4.) Bob is… sensible? Free pen! Why not? It’s not like he had to use the pen to sign something saying he’d buy Minisoft before he was allowed to have it.
5.) I might call Allan rude if I didn’t suffer from various social anxieties myself. But I do, so I say give the poor kid a break. Surely someone else can help Joyce.
I don’t really see any of these as ethical or unethical. They just… are.

meiosis's avatar

I’d agree with all the above, although being English and thus able to form an orderly queue of one, I’d consider everyone involved in the scramble to get on the bus, Kevin included, to be selfish. Form a queue people, it’s not hard.

weeveeship's avatar

@meiosis Yeah, I agree. Too bad the crowd is too disorderly to figure out who should get on first.

Disc2021's avatar

1. Did Mike ask Joe to grab him his pair of goggles? If he didn’t, I don’t think it’s selfish or unethical – rather just routine habit to grab your own pair of goggles before class begins. If Mike asked and Joe refused, I’d go with selfish, but not unethical.

2. I cut Kevin some slack. What else was he supposed to do, ask all of the others rushing on the bus if they’d like to share the last remaining seat in 10 second intervals? Neither selfish or unethical.

3. Tina isn’t being selfish, rather just resourceful. If someone isn’t going to sit next to her, why not make use of the seat? I do agree, that if she doesn’t offer to move the bag as more people come piling onto the bus, then it would be selfish – and maybe a little unethical.

4. Bob is still doing Minisoft a favor, just by taking the pen. Consider the flashing advertisement to others every time Bob pulls the pen out to jot something down – or if he leaves the pen somewhere anyone else may have access to it. Neither selfish or unethical, especially since he’s doing exactly what the company wants him to do – take their free pens.

5. I agree that Allan is shy, not exactly selfish or unethical. Perhaps it’s simply just that Allan was preoccupied with his own work, or too shy to explain the problem to another classmate – perhaps girls make him even more shy.

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BarnacleBill's avatar

I don’t think any of these questions have anything to do with ethics, because ethics have to do with moral implications of actions.

1. Neither moral nor selfish. Joe is under no obligation to Mike to get Mike’s glasses for him, unless Mike asked him to, and he didn’t. Then it would be selfish. It would be gracious if he did.
2. Kevin is entitled to the seat on the bus if he was first in line. He should, however, surrender it to an older person, pregnant female, someone carrying a child. If he does not, he’s selfish.
3. Neither selfish nor unethical. She should move the backpack and surrender the seat if asked. She offered, and was turned down.
4. Neither selfish or unethical. The purpose of branded giveaways is to gain exposure of a brand. Bob’s use of the pen will still fulfill the intent of brand awareness. Every time he uses that pen, he will think of Minisoft. If he likes the pen, he will think favorably of Minisoft. If he loses the pen or lends the pen out, others will think about Minisoft.
5. It is selfish of Allan to not explain the problem to Joyce.

iamthemob's avatar

My answers for 1–4 are exactly the same, to the letter, as @BarnacleBill.‘s

For (5), however, I would say that it’s not selfish. There is no indication that Allan did not actually care about Joyce’s dilemma…any care would negate the possibility of it being selfish based on the definition – and generally, as he’s very shy, without knowing more it’s very possibly shyness that’s the main reason. So…I would say “need more facts, but based on what’s known…no.”

meiosis's avatar

Allan is busy. He’s under no obligation to either help Joyce or to explain why he’s busy. The shyness would seem to be a red herring.

iamthemob's avatar

@meiosis – He says he’s busy. There’s no indication that it’s not an excuse resulting from his desire not to interact with people generally.

CaptainHarley's avatar

1. Neither unethical nor selfish. Most likely just thoughtlessness.
2. Not unethical, but somewhat selfish.
3. Neither unethical nor selfish, so long as there are no other people standing besides the girl who refused the seat. If there are others, it’s simply selfish.
4. Not unethical, but somewhat selfish.
5. Not unethical, but selfish.

meiosis's avatar

@iamthemob Equally, there’s no indication that Tina has coated her backpack with Polonium in a dastardly attempt to slowly kill fellow bus passengers before her suicide later that afternoon, but we have to work with what we’ve got. And what we’ve got is that Allan says he’s busy. Maybe he’s busy helping the kid who missed loads of lessons because of illness, maybe he’s busy because he’s close to cracking level 27 of WizardKraft III, it simply doesn’t matter. Joyce should stop being so rude and selfish as to expect others to help her get out of a hole of her own making.

iamthemob's avatar

@meiosis – That we only can rely on what we have is exactly what I’m saying as well. Nothing we’re given indicates that he’s selfish in refusing to answer – he might be, but from what we have, no. But it’s the fact that he’s shy that pushes me to the “no” side rather than the fact that he “says” he’s busy – we’re not told anything about whether or not he really is, or what he’s busy with, etc. – for me, the fact that he says that he’s busy seems more the red herring here.

tinyfaery's avatar

And this is why we shouldn’t judge others based on superficial observations. You will NEVER know what is going on in someone else’s head.

glenjamin's avatar

I agree with some of the other answers, so I won’t be redundant. Would like to add that I would like to see more questions like this (hypothetical scenario evaluation)

Soubresaut's avatar

By selfish, I mean “devoted to or caring only for oneself”.
Going by this, and ignoring possible thoughts toward others:

1. Joe’s selfish, yes. But so is Mike if he expected Joe to get his goggles for him. Don’t think I’d go so far as to say unethical, though.

2. All of them are selfish. Kevin just got lucky. I don’t think it’s unethical. It’s bus-seats for the fastest.
Actually, they’re all using a bus. So while they’re maybe selfish in their rush, they’re ethical and semi-selfless in their use of a ‘greener’ mode of transport.

3. If Tina puts her backpack on the only open seat on the bus, both selfish and unethical even if she asked one lady. If there is another or are other open seats then it really is all good.

4. Bob’s more an opportunist than selfish or unethical. The pens are for people to take, regardless of the brand of the laptop in the bag you add the pen to.

5. If Joyce really just wants help (not an answer) with one math problem, she’s not really being a slacker, and either Allan is very very shy or he’s being a tad selfish. If it’s that she’s wanting him to do all of her work, then he’s being ethical but selfishness/unselfishness doesn’t really come into play, and she’s both selfish and unethical.

(Just because I can’t stop, haha ; )
An act can be selfish but ethical (not offering a terrorist a ride).
It’s only ethical if you know for sure that they’re a terrorist that is going to cause harm. Unethical if you’re racial profiling. And it’s also selfless (selfish in that you won’t give him a ride, I guess) if you refuse to drive that person to a group of people for him to blow up.

An act can be unselfish but unethical (doing something out of love that violates laws or ends up hurting people).
Ethics can drive you to break laws, as challenges, protests, etc. Laws aren’t perfect and can be unethical themselves. And if you meant to harm someone, unethical. But if it was an accident—I don’t think accidents can be unethical, just very very unfortunate.

Meego's avatar

Everything has a “Big Bang” Theory :))

1.Why does Joe have to do favors for Mike? Will Mike give Joe a gift for the favour?

Sheldon: You bought me a present? Why would you do such a thing? I know you think you’re being generous, but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation. The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve given me. Ah, it’s no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year. Oh, I brought this on myself by being such an endearing and important part of your life…

2.Sheldon: Well, that speaks volumes, doesn’t it? All right, I suppose I’ll go put on my bus pants.

Leonard: What the hell are bus pants?

Sheldon: They are pants one wears over one’s regular pants when one sits on bus seats that other people have previously sat on. But perhaps from your lofty heights atop the corporate ladder, you’ve lost touch with the struggles of the common man.

Leonard: Look, I’m still happy to drive you to work. Nothing’s changed in that regard. We’re still roommates, we’re still friends.

Sheldon: Except you identified me, your best friend, as a gangrenous limb that needed to be severed from the organism and tossed away. The desperate act of a little man with a big Napoleon complex.

Leonard: You know what? Go put on your bus pants.

3.Anything can start a conversation.
Sheldon: I made tea.
Leonard: I don’t want tea.
Sheldon: I didn’t make tea for you. This is my tea.
Leonard: Then why are you telling me?
Sheldon: It’s a conversation starter.
Leonard: That’s a lousy conversation starter.
Sheldon: Oh, is it? We’re conversing. Checkmate.

4.I have a pen and you don’t!
Sheldon: There’s an economic concept known as a positional good in which an object is only valued by the possessor because it’s not possessed by others. The term was coined in 1976 by economist Fred Hirsch to replace the more colloquial, but less precise “neener-neener”.

5.Joyce doesn’t really want help she just wants Allan…
Raj: My religion teaches that if we suffer in this life we are rewarded in the next. Three months at the North Pole with Sheldon and I’m reborn as a well-hung billionaire with wings!
Sheldon: Leonard, you may be right. It appears that Penny secretly wants you in her life in a very intimate and carnal fashion.
Leonard: You really think so?
Sheldon: Of course not. Even in my sleep-deprived state, I’ve managed to pull off another one of my classic pranks. BAZINGA!

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