# Altriusm, a nice way to express your selfishness?

1. Mar 6, 2010

### noblegas

altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Is altruism a benign form of selfishness and is it itself a subconscious act of selfish ness? If selfishness is suppose to be defined as an act where you act in your own self-interests, and if the principles of ethics that you defined for yourself or that you adhere to is based on helping those around you, wouldn't practicing those set of principles be promoting your self interests , and therefore, your "altriusm" would be just another expression of selfishness? And even when humans carry out an act of altriusm as a group , such as when the a group of pop artists congregate together to do a horrible rendition of a somewhat mediocre song that was also created for the purpose of raising money to assist poor people in africa; You could argue that the musical artists were doing the charitable acts because they would look more favorable to their fanbase and they would garner new fans who approve of their behavior and consequently, the sales of their records would go up and therefore, their motivation for carrying out the charitable act would be selfishness. Ultimately I think tThere is no escaping selfishness even when people make a conscious effort to do so .Though I probably should , I don't have to read Richard Dawkin's book the selfish gene to see the evolutionary reasons for altruism ; I suspect that when our social societies resemble the social societies that were formed by chimpanzees , we helped a member of out tribe because it was beneficial to have that member of the group alive because it was essential to the groups survival, not because of a random act of kindness.but it would increase the groups chances of survival if their were many members in the tribe as possible. What do you guys think? You think that not acting selfish is an impossible act?

2. Mar 6, 2010

### I_am_learning

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

I agree you. Even if you killed yourself in order to save someone; I can point out selfishness; You killed yourself in order to prove you aren't selfish (or to satisfy your heart) (and hence gain name and fame after demise!!)

3. Mar 6, 2010

### leroyjenkens

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

I think altruism isn't necessarily selfish. If you do something that's purely for the benefit of your species and is detrimental to yourself, it's not selfish. But you could argue that the motivation to do it is what is selfish, like the release of dopamine that you may get from doing something good for somebody else.
Some people may not feel good about helping others, which I guess are the people who don't help others, since they have no selfish motivation to do so.

It's hard to find an act that you can't classify as selfish. People always bring up the instances of people in war jumping on a grenade to save everyone else. I'm not sure if that has ever really happened. It seems to me like you'd have to react quickly in that situation, and whatever action you take would be the instinctual one. I don't see jumping on the grenade to be anyone's instinctual reaction.

4. Mar 6, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

You're defining altruism as an act of absolute unselfishness, i.e. you are not willing to consider an action to be altruistic unless the actor derives no personal benefit from it.

Redefine altruism as an act that benefits someone more than it benefits you (often involving a sacrifice on your part). You consider their needs first, and your own second (does not require ignoring your needs).

Consider the definition of selfish as the opposite. Selfish does not mean the other person derives zero benefit; it simply means you consider yourself first and them second.

If you go back through all your examples listed above, you will realize that every one of them is now within the bounds of altruism.

5. Mar 6, 2010

### disregardthat

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

I second Dave's comment, and add: acts commonly referred to altruistic acts may very well have their evolutionary reasons in what benefits "the tribe", but even so,and even if one was aware and conscious of this reason, that doesn't make it selfish! If an individual is acting to the benefit of a community in which the individual is placed, the act isn't automatically selfish.

6. Mar 6, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

What are some examples where you considered a person performing some sort of 'benefit' for the community in which his motives for carrying out that benefit isn't selfish? Even when we are helping out people in haiti, we do it to produce a feeling of goodness in ourselves, just like humans engage in sex to "feel good". I mean even when parents perform an 'unselfish' act such as saving their children by sacrificing their own lives in the process, it really isn't unselfish because as a parent we want our kids to carry own our genes to the next generation, because we as human beings would liked to live forever but that is not a realistic option so the next option would be to carry out our legacy , which would be our genes we carry on to the next generation. We want our lineage to live on through our genes.

7. Mar 6, 2010

### Galteeth

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

It depends. I agree with you that most altruism fits into this category. There was another more specific, "collectivist" altruism that ayn rand always talked about as being an inherent form of evil, whereas self interests are always subjugated to the greater good of the collective. The thing is, since theoretically, everyone is doing this, it is for no one's benefit, only for the benefit of some abstraction, and actually makes everyone worse off in total. Of course, in the real world, this would never happen, as someone would choose not to "sacrifice".

8. Mar 6, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

noblegas, you haven't addressed my counterargument.

Why do you assume that an atruistic act must completely exclude any personal benefit?

9. Mar 6, 2010

### JoeDawg

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Or, your selfishness is just another expression of altruism.
What is good for me, is good for other individuals as well, thefore being selfish sets the example for all, and benefits all. All selfishness is altruistic.

The problem here is you are confusing behavior with motivation.

Both selfish behavior and altruistic behavior can be observed in nature as being instinctive. Both have survival value, so they exist. Both can be detrimental to survival as well.
So neither has implied value based on survival. They are merely observed strategies.

What motivates behavior is habit, nothing more, which is why we observe both strategies in nature. So it really just depends on circumstance and point of view. Selfish/Atruistic is merely a spectrum of behavior. Reducing one to the other is pure semantics.

10. Mar 6, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

exclude any personal benefit? I am arguing that an altruistic act cannot exclude any personal benefit because you boost you self-esteem and abide your own ethics of being charitable, which would be selfish acts ; Officially, altruism is defend defined by acts of 'self-lessness' . Altruism is supposed to be an antonym for selfishness;I don't agree with the current definition of altruism and I presented counter-examples where people who are acting out of 'selflessness' are really acting in a selfish manner.

11. Mar 6, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Yes, but altriusism is defined as making a conscious and intentional attempt to be charitable and kind to your fellow man. Just because a selfish act may benefit humanity as a whole does not make that act altruistic. A car manufacturer may provide jobs too millions of autoworkers but not because he cared about the jobless plight the autoworkers might have face(even though I don't consider that feeling unselfish) , but because he wanted to hire workers that would produced and manufacture automobiles. Thats not an act of self-lessness.

Yes I agree that some of our behavior is institinctive. But the keyword is survival. Since being selfish , as well as being "altrustic" Is based on our own survival, then how can being altruistic not be based on selfish needs if you claim that we performed altriustic acts based on our own survival? .

12. Mar 6, 2010

### JoeDawg

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

That is a very narrow definition. So I'd say it borders on being a strawman.
It is an evolved observable behavior, that exists in both animals and humans.
Just because an act may benefit the individual does not make it selfish.
Then it is entirely irrational and unmotivated by conscious, intent or self interest.
Altruism and selfishness are strategies that sometimes result in survival. Most of the time, both strategies fail to produce survival. Most of the individual creatures that have ever existed, never procreated, and didn't survive long. Both altruism and selfishness, more often than not, promote death and destruction.
You are intentionally limiting your concept of survival to the individual, if survival of the individual was primary, you would not be here. Humans are very weak as individuals, we only really thrive in groups. We evolved in small family based tribal groups, where survival was predicated on communal living and competition with other groups and the environment.

Procreation is inherently altruistic, so like I said, it all depends on how you construct your point of view.

13. Mar 6, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

I guess I thought your argument was 'no act is altruistic since no act is truly selfless'.

If you grant that personal benefit can come from an act of altruism then it seems to me that this discussion seems to be over before it started.

14. Mar 6, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

No.

Selfishness means thinking of yourself first, others second.

Altruism means thinking of others first, yourself second.

15. Mar 6, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

16. Mar 6, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Are you seriously suggesting that people are being selfish when they volunteer at a soup kitchen? Sure, they feel better about themselves, but the act does good for others without any hope or expectation of reciprocation.

This has nothing to do with the rest of your arguments. I don't think anyone suggests that buying things for one's mate is altruistic; the relationship is too tightly bonded to meaningfully separate one's happiness from the other's.

Again, an act such as volunteering in a soup kitchen does not benefit the receivers of the gift in any way that could be reciprocated upon the volunteer (he'll have to find his own pleasure internally). That's what makes it altruistic: there's no hope or expectation of any kind of payback. Contrast this with the mate-mate relationship above.

17. Mar 6, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

how does it bordered on a strawman? You never defined altruism and I never misrepresented the definition of altriusim.
that definition of altruism is too vague to me. Observable behavior? There are lots of behavior exhibited by human beings that have absolutely nothing to do with altruism. Your definition looks like it should be more narrow. I never denied that altriusim existed in animals. I know this. Altruism is especially evident within animals that share more similar genes with you. The reason is obvious: Because the animals taht share the genes want to ensure that copies of their genes will continue to flourish rathe than an animal you share dissimilar genes with.

Well , since the lifetime of a human being is very limited, they want to make sure their genetic legacy will be carried on to the subsequent generation , and so human beings engaged in procreation to ensure that their legacy will not be forgotten. Sort of analogous to the pyramids of the depictions of some pharoahs being erected in the name of them; Those pyramids of the depictions of pharoahs were built because they did not want to be forgotten , even though they would be dead for thousands of years and more years to come. Making sure you lineage is passed on to the next generation and generations to come is the way to leave your mark on the world and therefore the act is of procreation is inherently selfish.

18. Mar 6, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Yes, thats true. But when organizations that were designed for the purpose of creating a profit such as car companies like General motors , , whether it be creating jobs for their employees who might have been previously unemployed or providing a good or service that would raise our standard of living, we considered their the motives of their acts selfish, even though they contribute something to humanity.

Yeah, that was a bad example, because altrusitic deeds are based off how 'selfless' you are to strangers. Don't know what I was thinking when I used that example to support my argument.

There is no monetary payback, but it makes you feel good when you volunteer act a soup kitchen. It makes you feel happy when you are helping out others. Why else participate in those acts if it does not elicit any of feelings of positive emotions? I certainly do not expect most people who are highly involved in charitable acts and perform other form of altruistic acts would not reciprocate no kind of emotion when performing an altruistic act to a stranger.

Last edited: Mar 7, 2010
19. Mar 6, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Can you fix the above quoting?

20. Mar 7, 2010

### JoeDawg

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Yes, you did.
Altruism can simply describe an observed behavior, it doesn't require knowledge of intent, or even that there is any intent, it can simply be instinctive. Motivation is irrelevant.
You completely missed the point.
You assume there is a decision making process where none exists. Genes don't make decisions, they simply do what they do, and either survive or not.
Really? So an amoeba is concerned about its legacy. You are talking nonesense.
Procreation is instinctive. It is completely irrational and altruistic. Its about sacrificing oneself for another. The fact of similar genes doesn't change the self-sacrificing nature of the act. You are doing backflips to justify your ideology.

Evolution doesn't care whether you are selfish or not. Evolution is about adaptation of populations(not individuals) to their current circumstance, sometimes that means selfish organisms survive, sometimes it means they perish.

21. Mar 7, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

I did not . I used the defiction of altruism as defined by dictionary.com and wikipedia and I gave reasons why I have problems with the official meaning of altruism
Of course it does. The act of altruism is not an involuntary act like sneezing would be an involuntary act or using the bathroom would be an involuntary act. You have to have knowledge that you are intending to carry out the act . You speak as if we aren't in control of our actions. You talk as if every human behavior is instinctual and consciousness and motivation behind the actions are illusions projected by the human brain. If thats the case, lets excuse the behaviors of those individuals that engaged in the acts of rape and murder if all human behavior is instinctual and therefore beyond our control.

You assume there is a decision making process where none exists. Genes don't make decisions, they simply do what they do, and either survive or not.

Are you really trying to compare an amoeba to a human being. The thought process of an amoeba is no where near the level of the thought process of a human being. Scientists are not not even sure if organisms like the amoeba possess any sense of awareness. I think you are the only one here trying to promote an ideology and please man subdued the strawmans . I didn't say that amoeba's are concerned about their genetic legacies. In fact, their are lots of animals who don't make an investment in their offsprings and some even show cannabalitistc tendecies by eating their offspring. I was specifically talking about human beings and to a very lesser extent chimpanzees since I made a comparison between the two species in my original post.
Selfish decision made by human beings certainly influences Evolution of a species in the near future as well as the environment that species inhabits because human beings are somewhat involved in deciding which genes get passed to their offspring based on the species that they choose to mate with . If a person or populations of persons decides to mate with redheds rather than blondes based on their personal preference, lnatural selection will favor redheads over blondes and blondes will eventuallt die out. The humans who exclusively wanted to mate with redheads were acting out in their self-interests and their own desires and not considering whether or not all the non-red heads survived. That would be selfishness influencing our evolution as a species.

22. Mar 7, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

I see what JoeDawg is saying.

You are defining altruism as an act of intent.

He is not suggesting it's involuntary, he is claiming that the intent behind the act is irrelevant; it is the act itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism_in_animals
"...some animals do behave in ways that reduce their individual fitness but increase the fitness of other individuals in the population; this is a functional definition of altruism..."

A spider is being altruistic when it allows its newly hatched young to feast on its body. (A spider does this instinctively, but it doesn't matter. Altruism's defintion is limited to the act.)

Yes. Amoeba, humans, same thing. It is not an intent; it is an action.

Last edited: Mar 7, 2010
23. Mar 7, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

how is the intent behind the act irrelevant? Because the act that you perform benefits your fellow man , thats makes the act altruistic ? If intent here is null, then a car company that produces cars for their fellow man our provides shelter for their fellow man makes their acts altruistic then? Just because you act in a way that benefits the population you reside in as well as yourself does not make the act itself altruistic. You have to have intent to carry out an altruistic act, otherwise it would not be carried out. I don't naturally want to helped my fellow man, I must want to do it. For lots of people who value adhering selfish possessions over helping their fellow man, when they see $100 dollars on the ground even with ID, they are going to likely keep it for themselves. If the individuals value helping people over acquirning self-possessions , they are going to likely try to determined who lost the$100 bill. It greatly depends on whether you value following a certain code of ethics that is based on helping your fellow man more , or you value acquiring possessions for yourself more than helping your fellow many, whether the latter would inevitably benefit man or not. Which ever actions you choose to carry out, they are both related to your self-interests.

24. Mar 7, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Please see posted examples of altruism in animals. Instinct is not intent.

25. Mar 7, 2010

### noblegas

Re: altriusm, a "nice" way to express your selfishness?

Please Considered my examples. I already acknowledged that altruism exists in animals . Human beings and animals don't possess the same level of consciousness, and so the level of intent of certain actions in animal would not be very influential in behaviors of certain animals because they cannot grasps concepts like intent and selfishness.