Altriusm, a nice way to express your selfishness?

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  • #1
noblegas
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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?
 

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  • #2
I_am_learning
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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
leroyjenkens
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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
DaveC426913
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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
disregardthat
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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
noblegas
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If an individual is acting to the benefit of a community in which the individual is placed, the act isn't automatically selfish.
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
Galteeth
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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
DaveC426913
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noblegas, you haven't addressed my counterargument.

Why do you assume that an atruistic act must completely exclude any personal benefit?
 
  • #9
JoeDawg
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therefore, your "altriusm" would be just another expression of 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
noblegas
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noblegas, you haven't addressed my counterargument.

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

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
noblegas
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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.
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.

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.
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
JoeDawg
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Yes, but altriusism is defined as making a conscious and intentional attempt to be charitable and kind to your fellow man.
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 a selfish act may benefit humanity as a whole does not make that act altruistic.
Just because an act may benefit the individual does not make it selfish.
Yes I agree that some of our behavior is institinctive.
Then it is entirely irrational and unmotivated by conscious, intent or self interest.
being selfish , as well as being "altrustic" Is based on our own survival
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.
our own survival
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
DaveC426913
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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,
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
DaveC426913
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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?

No.

Selfishness means thinking of yourself first, others second.

Altruism means thinking of others first, yourself second.
 
  • #15
noblegas
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No.

Selfishness means thinking of yourself first, others second.
Yes, selfishness is putting your own needs and desires over the interests of others , but if your own deeds and desires involved helping others, then you are meeting your needs first, and therefore charitable and other forms of benovolent acts are selfish acts. Same methodogy applies when you perform a "selfless" deed for your mate. When you buy her flowers or a diamond ring, those acts will indirectly benefit her because if she is happy with the gifts , she is happy with you and therefore you are happy. There is an interesting neurobiology study by Duke medical researchers were they found that people who were perceived as self-less members of their community, that certain regions in the brain light up when participating in charitiable acts, in the same region of the brain that drives are desire for food and sex(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070528162351.htm).
 
  • #16
DaveC426913
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...if your own deeds and desires involved helping others, then you are meeting your needs first,
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.


Same methodogy applies when you perform a "selfless" deed for your mate. When you buy her flowers or a diamond ring, those acts will indirectly benefit her because if she is happy with the gifts , she is happy with you
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
noblegas
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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.
how does it bordered on a strawman? You never defined altruism and I never misrepresented the definition of altriusim.
It is an evolved observable behavior, that exists in both animals and humans.
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.

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.
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
noblegas
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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.
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.

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.
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.

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.
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.
 
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  • #19
DaveC426913
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Can you fix the above quoting?
 
  • #20
JoeDawg
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and I never misrepresented the definition of altriusim.
Yes, you did.
Yes, but altriusism is defined as making a conscious and intentional attempt to be charitable and kind to your fellow man.
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.
There are lots of behavior exhibited by human beings
You completely missed the point.
Altruism is especially evident within animals that share more similar genes with you.
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.
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.
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
noblegas
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Yes, you did.
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
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
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.

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.
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.
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.
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
DaveC426913
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I see what JoeDawg is saying.

You are defining altruism as an act of intent.

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.
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.)

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.

Yes. Amoeba, humans, same thing. It is not an intent; it is an action.
 
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  • #23
noblegas
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He is not suggesting it's involuntary, he is claiming that the intent behind the act is irrelevant; it is the act itself.
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
DaveC426913
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how is the intent behind the act irrelevant?

You have to have intent to carry out an altruistic act, otherwise it would not be carried out.
Please see posted examples of altruism in animals. Instinct is not intent.
 
  • #25
noblegas
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Please see posted examples of altruism in animals. Instinct is not intent.

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.
 
  • #26
DaveC426913
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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.

OK, so humans are more sophisticated; that means they have a wider range of options. Does that mean they can't operate at an instinctual level like an animal?

It also means the intent behind a human act does not have to be relevant. Like with animals, it is the act itself.

A human can commit an altrustic act even if it benefits him personally (the benefit does not negate the altruism).
 
  • #27
JoeDawg
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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.

This is actually why its important to distinguish between 'intent' and 'action'.

How does one determine the 'intent' of an organization? In fact, the individuals in an organization may have different, even contradicting, and self-contradicting intentions.

A car company sells cars for profit. That is pretty simple. It is selfish, because the act of 'profiting' benefits the company more, more so than it does the person buying the car. Profit = getting more value than the car is actually 'worth'.

That doesn't make car companies 'bad'. A certain amount of selfishness can benefit an individual, a company, and a community. Profit can be used to expand the company, pay shareholders, or give current employees raises and/or benefits. But this is not altruism, because it involves a very clear exchange of benefit.

I could also have no intention of helping others, but despite my best efforts, because of those damn unions and government regulators, my company might actually end up benefiting the community. Obviously that's not altruism either, even if others still benefit.

Altruism-selfish is really more of a spectrum.

I could give to charity. That is an altruistic act by most definition... althought it is less 'altruistic' if I then use my charitable reciept to get a tax break... and its less so, if I only did it so that I could impress people. This is where intent comes into it. You could try and reduce this to a binary, where its either/or, but life is more complex than that. Intent can modify our assessment of a particular act, but that doesn't change the nature of the act in general.

Similarly, there are occasions where doing things for others makes us feel good, or where we don't even think, we just act out of pure instinct. The first is probably less altruistic than the second, but feeling good is not an inkind exchange. When you feel good about giving to charity, the charity is not giving you anything. You are rewarding yourself with a good feeling. That is different.

Intent can alter how we view actions, but we can also talk about the actions distinctly and separately.
 
  • #28
JoeDawg
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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.
Yes it can be. Just check out the news. When someone dives into a river to save a child from drowning, the first thing people will ask is why they did it. Invariably, they will say, they didn't think, they just did what anyone would do. It was instinct, just like the amoeba.
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.
Wolves don't make good pets because they are instinctively less docile than dogs. Even certain breeds of dog are more dangerous in this fashion. The fact I recognize the problem is instinctive doesn't mean I'm going to let my child play with a wolf. Your logic is not sound.

Most human behavior is habit and instinct. Even if one believes in some sort of freewill, most of the daily 'decisions' we make are only vaguely voluntary. Do you voluntarily choose where your foot lands every step of the way when you are walking down the street? Of course not.
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.
You're conflating individuals with populations. Populations matter to evolution, 'persons' do not. Certain individuals can influence the culture... and therefore the mating habits of a population, but its what the population does that is important.

Individuals rarely have much impact of evolution since it usually takes several generations for a mutation to get distributed widely enough to survive and individual preference usually has its basis in genetics.... although enviroment does play a role.
 
  • #29
TheStatutoryApe
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JoeDawg said:
Altruism-selfish is really more of a spectrum.

This.

NobleGas: You are favouring selfishness in the function your definition. Why is it that even a small bit of selfishness makes an action selfish while no amount of altruism makes an action altruistic? We would not say that a dark room is no longer dark because I have lit a match nor would we say that a sunny day is dark because there is a patch of shade beneath my feet. Definitions that function in this way do not make sense.
 
  • #30
Dembadon
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how is the intent behind the act irrelevant? ...

The intentions are irrelevant in this way:

Motivations/intent do(es) not change the definition of a word.

The intent(s) upon which one acts when being altruistic do(es) not change how altruism is defined in the English language. You keep implying that altruism has an ever-changing definition based on the intentions of those who behave altruistically. Are you suggesting there be multiple definitions in the dictionary which cover all the ways that intent can shape one's perspective of such definitions?
 
  • #31
DanP
109
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Motivations/intent do(es) not change the definition of a word.

True, but,

altruism: the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others

If you manifest concern for the welfare of others only to satisfy your own devilish purposes, it contradicts the definition. It is not selfless.
 
  • #32
noblegas
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Yes it can be. Just check out the news. When someone dives into a river to save a child from drowning, the first thing people will ask is why they did it. Invariably, they will say, they didn't think, they just did what anyone would do. It was instinct, just like the amoeba.
Okay, I guess it can be. But that does not mean that altruism did not evolved from selfish desires. We our a species who's ancestor came from local groups/tribes that comprised of probably of about forty members, most of whom were are kin. Of course , when one of the members of our ancestor's small tribe was hurt and injured in any sort of what, or their life was threatened, the members of the local tribe would probably be greatly concerned not only because losing one member would decrease the chances of the tribe survivals, but losing a member of the tribe would also decrease ones chance of shared genes being flourished to the next generation. For subsequent generations, as our tribes became less localized and more globalized and therefore encounters with kinfolk became more dispersed and spread all over near and far populations, and this trait was passed onto our gene pool but this trait was expressed when we encountered local people who our in danger but do not share the same genetic makeup. Going back to the man jumping into save the drowning child, guilt would perhaps enter and stay in his mind if he decides not to saved the child and he would feel partly responsible for not taking the opportunity to saved the drowning child. In order to save himself the experience of 'if I had used that opportunity to saved the child when it was open, the child would still be alive'. One could interpret that as a selfish act because you don't want have the burden

Similarly, there are occasions where doing things for others makes us feel good, or where we don't even think, we just act out of pure instinct. The first is probably less altruistic than the second, but feeling good is not an inkind exchange. When you feel good about giving to charity, the charity is not giving you anything. You are rewarding yourself with a good feeling. That is different.
. I think often we feel good when we do a charitable act, especially if their our minimal losses at our end when one carries out a charitable act. I disagree with you about feeling good not being any of exhange value. Just because the exchange value is not a monetary value does not mean that it is not an exchange. For example, even though this act that many humans engage in is not based on monetary value, humans engaged in sex for pleasurable reasons other than procreation or we eat a certain kind of food because fires up our tastebuds.

Most human behavior is habit and instinct. Even if one believes in some sort of freewill, most of the daily 'decisions' we make are only vaguely voluntary. Do you voluntarily choose where your foot lands every step of the way when you are walking down the street? Of course not.
Actually , I do. I make a conscious effort to avoid the cracks of a square block sidewalk.Yes, some of the actions we carry out daily, waking up , sneezing, yawning, having a sense of smell, our all involuntary. However, I would not go as far as the actions carried by many humans rarely voluntary. There are plenty of actions that our voluntary, such as :elevating your thinking, forming friendships and breaking up courtships, driving , blinking(even though we can't understand how we carry it out on an elementary level , its still voluntary, deciding where you want to live, making the choice of whether or not to go on a school shooting spree) , All of those actions and most actions carried out by human beings are voluntary and so free will cannot be an illusion. Because if it were an illusion , why would we have choices ?
 
  • #33
noblegas
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Wolves don't make good pets because they are instinctively less docile than dogs. Even certain breeds of dog are more dangerous in this fashion. The fact I recognize the problem is instinctive doesn't mean I'm going to let my child play with a wolf. Your logic is not sound.
Rapists and murderers don't have those titles assigned to them because it is in their nature. It is assigned to them because they made the choice to carried out those acts. The analogy is terrible because one has to assumed that just like the wolves were born to be more wild than the domestic dog, the rapist and murderer are the way that they are because they are wired that way and therefore cannot make a conscious attempt to avoid such their violent acts which is a ludicrous assumption.
 
  • #34
CRGreathouse
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
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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.

I'm not sure that I like these definitions. The criterion for perfect selfishness would seem to be paying no heed whatever to the needs of others, not merely putting them second to yourself. Similarly, the criterion for perfect selflessness would seem to be doing that which will maximize benefits to all, even if it happens to benefit you more than others.
 
  • #35
DaveC426913
Gold Member
20,813
4,278


I'm not sure that I like these definitions. The criterion for perfect selfishness would seem to be paying no heed whatever to the needs of others, not merely putting them second to yourself. Similarly, the criterion for perfect selflessness would seem to be doing that which will maximize benefits to all, even if it happens to benefit you more than others.

The point is, they are not absolutes. It is a continuum from one end of the scale other.

What you are describing is absolute altruism and absolute selfishness. The fact that I have to qualify them with "absolute" means that it is not a given.
 

Suggested for: Altriusm, a nice way to express your selfishness?

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