The notion that all actions can be defined as selfish is called psychological egoism. It is refuted nicely in Nathaniel Branden's essay "Isn't Everyone Selfish" in Ayn Rand's book The Virtue of Selfishness:
Psychological egoism doesn't even rise to the level of a false theory of ethics. It is a non-theory that abdicates responsibility for offering principles to guide human choices.
There is a reason why Rand called selfishness a virtue. Self-interest is not automatic; it must be understood and chosen.
answered Sep 30 '10 at 07:34
Andrew Dalton ♦
Everybody could be considered selfish in the sense that they do their best to achieve the values of their philosophy, whether consciously or unconsciously. However, Objectivism is centered around a more specific definition of selfishness--rational selfishness. Rational selfishness is different from the popular idea of selfishness by virtue of being a product of the conscious mind. A rationally selfish person consciously chooses his philosophy and consciously choose his actions in accordance with that philosophy.
So, it would be incorrect to say that everyone is selfish in the way that Objectivists means it.
answered Sep 17 '10 at 07:46