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Everybody is 100% selfish

  1. Mar 13, 2005 #1
    If you think about it, why do you do anything? Everything that one does is towards themselves. There is a reason why everybody does anything. If you help someone out, you are happy that you helped them out. If you bought somebody a gift, you could be happy that you bought the gift. Slaves did what they did because they did not want to die or whatnot. If you sacrifice yourself for something, you are doing it because you feel it is right and you feel better about it. Its amazing how some people don't realize this. If you do something, its because you want to.

    Then again, it all depends on your definition of selfishness ;)
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 13, 2005 #2


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    I'd say self-interested. Selfish has too many negative connotations and seems to imply that an action be done at the expense of another. Certainly not all human action qualifies in that regard.
  4. Mar 13, 2005 #3
    I agree. I have held and argued this view in the past couple of years without success, because the word "selfish" makes it too hard to admit because of the negative connotation (like loseyourname mentioned). I propose that we put together a better way of wording the idea so that it doesnt scare people away. lol Self-interest is better - more positive, but seems to me that it would take additional explanation.
  5. Mar 13, 2005 #4


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    Read Ayn Rand.

    - Warren
  6. Mar 13, 2005 #5
    Oh, another thought: What about a parent giving up his/her life for the life of his/her child? Is this still in self-interest or is something else behind it: such as genetic programming, social conditioning, etc... What do you guys think?
  7. Mar 13, 2005 #6
    You mean because of the "ego" theme? It is literature written by a person just like us. Although Anthem was an interesting read...
  8. Mar 13, 2005 #7


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    I'm aware that Ayn Rand was a person. :rolleyes:

    Her philosophy, logical positivism, includes at its heart the idea that all actions are done for selfish reasons. Several of her novels deal almost exclusively with this topic. I only bring them up because she has examined this selfishness theory quite thoroughly already.

    - Warren
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2005
  9. Mar 13, 2005 #8
    Thus I ask, "You mean because of the ego theme?" I wont be rolling my eyes at you though.

    I simply said that because we already agree with her position, reading more from the same view point isnt going to offer anything new.

    This is not to say that you shouldnt read her. May as well if it interests you...
  10. Mar 13, 2005 #9


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    sometimes being a parent changes this "selfishness" you claim we all are.
  11. Mar 13, 2005 #10
    We do what we do because we have been programmed to do it by our genes. It would be possible for our genes to program a brain to always reference back to personal interest, but is it likely? Would you say that a computer program is doing what it does because the action is in its self interest? I think it is far more likely that we have been programmed with many different motivations that are not all unified under the umbra of "self interest."
  12. Mar 13, 2005 #11
    I say we just do the best we can with what we got. We got beliefs and morals too.
  13. Mar 13, 2005 #12


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    This "selfishness," which really should be changed to "self-interested," also needs to be qualified to fall in line with current research. Self-interest has been found not to act at the level of the individual organism, but rather at the level of the individual gene. There is no distinguishing at the genetic level between you and your child. Your child is 50% you genetically, and studies have persistently found that organisms have an evolutionary logic that causes them to take exactly a 50% risk of their own death to ensure the survival of their children (in animals that display altruistic behavior of any sort). The likelihood of taking such a risk can actually be mathematically modelled depending on how closely related the person is to you. You are more likely to risk your life for your child than for your sibling, more likely for your sibling than for your cousin.

    None of these studies have ever been conducted on humans, so I have no idea if human altruism is equally predictable. The only point is that displaying altruistic behavior toward any member of one's in-group, and particularly toward one's own kin, does not in any way contradict the hypothesis that all animal behavior is self-interested (provided we qualify the hypothesis by saying that the self-interest is at the genetic level, rather than the organismic level).
  14. Mar 13, 2005 #13
    The evolutionary logic is not always in the interest of the organism. It's in the interest of the organism's genes, and the organism is not identical with its genes. In any case there are always inferior mutants who do not conform to the optimal behavior for propogating their genes, so their non-optimal behavior does not work in favor of their genes, so they can't even be said to be fully motivated by that.
  15. Mar 14, 2005 #14


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    Well, the presence of feeling "right" or "better" after an action is not sufficient evidence to prove that we acted with only self-interested reasons. People can feel pleasure or benefit from an action, even if they had no intentions of getting them.
    Also, there are cases where either a person chooses randomly (ie. all choices are thought to end up with the same consequence) or the consequence of the action is not known at all by the person. In at least these cases, action is simply instinct - not preceded by attempting to do what one feels is right or what would be good for self-interest. One could argue that even this is an egoistic action, and I won't offer any resistance.

    I'm pretty sure most people over the age of 2 and aren't deluded know this - everyone is self-interested (ie. all act in a way to benefit their self-interests/values). I think the biggest problem is that people don't believe that everyone is "selfish" - that everyone will sacrifice anyone and everyone just to serve their own interests. The difference is between "cut-throat-action" vs "self-interested-action".
    ^^ Has been said by loseyourname and Barbie already.

    However, the reason that no one is "completely" selfish is because we lack or are finite in POWER - we do not have absolute power over our recognized enemies. If one had absolute power (or felt strongly enough that he does), I'm sure that at least for that certain period of time, he would act 100% selfishly.
  16. Mar 14, 2005 #15
    Quantifications like 100%, and everybody, don't apply on this world, especially when describing human behavior. As much as spin masters would like a 100% response to every saleable ideation, it just doesn't happen. Universal selfishness implies that every action is a reaction to stimulus, that forwards immediate selfish goals.

    Each of us has a fire to feed, other than that, and the activities attendant to that, it is a field with many variables. So various is the experience that I submit, it is individual and unique and above categorization. I think that the sameness that runs through existence has to do with feeding our fires, and survival. I maintain that the structure and sameness, or even similar chaotic history, has to do with the "selfishness", or (survival) mode; the entire rest has to do with the doings of the universe in general, some of that set intersects with the sets of our doings, and more in a bland-to wondrous way, having more to do with the ongoing processes of the universe, and our link to them.
  17. Mar 14, 2005 #16


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    Though I can certainly see the logic of it - pretty much every action one takes can be shown to have a positive consequence for the person who takes it - but I don't buy it. I think it ignores the concept of "caring".

    I definitely need to read some of her work though...

    loseyourname - interesting idea, quantifiable altruism. I never considered that.
  18. Mar 14, 2005 #17
    Objectivism vs Logical Positivism

    Ayn Rand's philosophy was Objectivism.

    Greenspan and Rand didn’t hit it off. According to Nathaniel Branden, he was philosophically a logical positivist and economically a Keynesian, both doctrines anathema to Rand. “How can you stand talking to him?” Rand asked Branden. “A logical positivist and a Keynesian? I’m not even certain it’s moral to deal with him at all.” (Barbara Branden doesn’t remember it that way, and neither does Greenspan. She and Greenspan deny he was ever a Keynesian.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  19. Mar 24, 2005 #18
    I'll keep it simple.

    What on does, does for oneself. What is oneself? It's your beliefs, morality, values, your mental and physical being.

    If you believe that your life is less valuable then the life of anothers then you should have no problem risking yours when the situation arrives.
    If you believe that the physical and mental stimulation of a cigarette is more important then the long term effects of smoking or better then the suffering of the craving caused by addiction exceeds the pain of quiting then you will continue smoking.
    If you think one more moment in your miserable life isn't worth the pain then you will find a way to deal with that whether it involves murder, suicide or a mid life crisis then that is what will happen.

    Every action whether the outcome is what was expected or not is done because at the time you choose to do the action is what was the best possible action that you could think of doing in the time given. Whether you had a split second or a couple years to make that choice.

    Any selfish and altruistic act is based on actions meant for oneself. And we tend to consider much family, friends, race, life, matter as oneself. Depending on our views on life, universe or our compassion.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2005
  20. Mar 24, 2005 #19


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    If an action were TRULY altruistic, then it is not done for one's self. To say that someone acts altruistically for selfish reasons is a contradiction of concepts.

    If you are instead invoking the possibility that we may psychologically delude ourselves into thinking we act altruistically, or we have deeper intentions than we realize, such that altruistic acts are in fact a misnomer and all acts are done for ourselves, then you might be right.

    Again, however, I will quote you the same arguments I posted before - that we can't be 100% selfish (even though I would agree that we are always looking over our self-interests).

    Thus, I it would be reasonable to state that everyone is self-interested, but assuming that we are all completely selfish would require more arguments.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2005
  21. Mar 24, 2005 #20
    Maybe I should have said "seemingly altruistic"

    I do think it works 100% or completly.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2005
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