Everybody is 100% selfish

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  • #51
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From an evolutionary view it makes perfect sense that we should be self-interested or interested in preserving our bloodline, in order to preserve the bloodline. In response to the comments made by loseyourname about life risking situations. I wonder if women who can no longer produce offspring would be more willing to risk their life for the life of their children. My presumption would be that they are much more willing to risk their lives for a family member than a woman who could still potentially produce children, because they can no longer benefit their bloodline.
 
  • #52
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I haven't read most of the stuff posted here nor have I read much literature on 'selfishness'. So I apologise if my views echo with those already posted here.

Everybody is 100% selfish--is a very vague and unspecific statement. Whether we are selfish or not depends on our degree of empathy. Notice the keyword here--Empathy and NOT just sympathy. Sympathy is something very passive which most of us are capable of. But, empathy is something much deeper and it extends beyond self. Most of the time, the reason we fail to understand others is we lack empathy. Often, the capacity to empathise is not found even between spouses, parents and children, friends etc. as often as we don't realise our own selfishness.

Speaking of whether parental love is selfish, again empathy comes into the picture. A lot of parents are quite narcisstic(remember the cliched "chip of the old block"?) and view their children merely as little extensions of themselves rather than individuals different from them. No wonder they are puzzled when their children exhibit behaviour different from them(not necessarily a negative behaviour).

So to sum it all the degree to empathise with others makes us less selfish. Well that's my opinion anyway....
 
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  • #53
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moose said:
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 ;)

Interesting point, but there is something you dont get (or you have not said). If you do something for someone else, good is being done for them and you. If you do something out of "selfishness", you are the only one that profits good. Get my point eh?
 
  • #54
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I'm finding it difficult following some of the thinking that has been expressed here, for example:

Enos said:
Although I agree with humans as relative beings to a certian point I do believe that there is no free-will when you narrow things down enough. Although we all have freedom to choose any available choice there is, whether the action becomes what is expected, We still have no choice but to choose. And that isn't relative. The choice to end choice is a choice itself. The matter of our being still exist and our existance is not our choice also.

Every action is an invented property because every action is relative. Our actions are reflections of our choices and we can always choose differently from other beings. As long as there are different beings sharing the same territory and holding different concepts of what choices are considered right and considered wrong then there will be different groups, species, races..etc..
Everything that is relative is a concept but the only absolute thing is that we have no choice in choice itself. That thing about absolutes is that it only exist in the present. And relative beings can only dwell in the past and predict the future.

This sounds a lot like Determinism. Do you really want that? It is an idea that has been more or less going around in circles for about 300 years. see the following:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/#1


Enos said:
Well that thing about the best possible action is that actions only exist in the present and the results are based on cause and effect. So whether you look back and think "I could have done better" that doesn't change the fact that when you did choose it was the best choice.

Ditto!


Enos said:
Trying to prove that you can do something that seemingly doesn't benifit you in an act of control. Testing the rules you thought that applied to you and in doing so hiding the rules to give you a sense of control. Many people are more than willing to sacrifice their happiness to prove something or to help someone esle. However I strongly believe that every action is the best possible action. This meaning needs the combinations of the words "Every action is the best possible action" in order to make sense so selfish is out,




Enos said:
To bring a better understanding of the best possible action I guess I'll start with human actions. Where your life is at now is a series of the best possible actions through out your whole life. But where most people get mixed up in the meaning is when they automatically assume "If my life was a series of the best possible actions then why isn't my life perfect or at least better."

It's really a matter of limits one sets for themselves by gathering information from observations, knowledge from others, theories and experience. These limits are both physical and mental. Of course when two ideas collide and contradict each other the idea with the stronger emotions involved will win. If fear wins over you will be afraid, If anger takes over you will be angry. If pride takes over you won't give up. Pretty simple so far.

Things seemingly get more complicated when you bring things up like self inflicting pain and suicide. But that again is rather just the collision of ideas and values rather then excluding these actions from being called the best possible actions, you just need to seek the meaning in these actions. If one wanted to feel more in control then self inflicting pain makes more sense, there are other reasons like being forced or manipulated to do so by threatening your life or someone else's. Suicide is rather a choice one makes when they evaluate their life and begin to believe that there is meaningless or living on with the pain in their life is needless pain and their beliefs hold truth with respect to themselves. If you truthfully see no outs in the pain in your life and believe in no chance of pleasure or happiness within your reach then suicide is usually considered. I say usually because there are other ways of giving up like going in a mall with a shotgun and randomly killing people or moving to the "south of France and changing your name to Vincent." (stole this line from goodwill hunting).

You can pretty much find the best action in every great or stupid choices you made in your life if you think of the reasons behind your choices. Why did I jump off the cliff and tear my ligaments? Because my friends jumped and my pride exceeded my fears but my fears exceed my theory of how much force was need to make the jump. With those combinations I jumped with wobbly legs and didn't make it.

Well I think I explained things a litttle more clear then light traveling a straight path through vaccum and I hope things make more sense now.


By "best possible action" you appear to be inferring that which has the strongest emotional pull on the person acting. This, in turn, appears to conform to the model proposed by Abraham Maslow, as described at the sites below. Could that be the case?

http://www2.cedarcrest.edu/academic/mus/cmcanall/jbrozen/honors/people/maslow/maslow.htm [Broken]
http://changingminds.org/explanations/needs/maslow.htm
http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/maslow.html
http://web.utk.edu/~gwynne/maslow.HTM [Broken]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Maslow#Hierarchy_of_Human_Needs
http://elvers.stjoe.udayton.edu/history/people/Maslow.html [Broken]



bstruck said:
From an evolutionary view it makes perfect sense that we should be self-interested or interested in preserving our bloodline, in order to preserve the bloodline. In response to the comments made by loseyourname about life risking situations. I wonder if women who can no longer produce offspring would be more willing to risk their life for the life of their children. My presumption would be that they are much more willing to risk their lives for a family member than a woman who could still potentially produce children, because they can no longer benefit their bloodline.


Probably not (in most cases), because self survival is a more basic priority than species maintenance, especially when the former is concrete and immediate and the latter is abstract and removed.

Finally, it would be nice if someone could pull together the ideas that have been expressed in this string, to come to a comprehensive package.

KM
 
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  • #55
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I've noticed that in the discussion that has gone on in this string so far, much of the disagreement (or confusion) has resulted from semantic differences rather than from actual differences in opinion. Put simply, it is quite difficult to express ideas clearly if there are no clear and unique definitions for the terms used. To this end, I have tried to come up with (a start at) more concise (if somewhat arbitrary) definitions for some of the main terms used. These include:
1) selfish (adjective): striving to promote the welfare and advantage of ones-self, at the expense of one or more others. This may or may not include resorting to acts that are unethical, illegal or immoral. An act of this type requires some (overt or otherwise) component which is performed with the express purpose of disadvantaging one or more others. Theft, cheating and class discrimination are examples of this type of activity. [selfishness (noun), selfishly (adverb)]
2) self-interested (adj.): striving to promote the welfare and advantage of ones-self, while, at the same time performing no acts consciously calculated to disadvantage others. Working for a living is an example of this type of activity. (Getting the job may have been either self-interested or selfish, however the act of working itself can be considered self-interested.) [self-interest (noun)]
3) self-centered (adj.): an activity that includes both those that are selfish and self-interested.
4) self-aware (adj.): involving the state in which one is cognizant of the relationship of oneself to others. If this state does not exist, any resulting activity cannot be considered selfish or self-interested, only reflexive. Other than humans, only great apes and cetations (dolphins) appear to have any degree of this quality. [self-awareness (noun)]
5) instinctive (adj.): refers to actions, responses and activities that were acquired at birth.
6) conditioned (adj.): refers to actions, responses and activities that are learned.
a) externally-conditioned: imposed by outside influences, i.e. environmental.
b) self-conditioned: imposed on oneself, generally through practice.
c) introspectively-conditioned: formed as a result of ones' own deliberations.
7) reflexive (adj.): refers to actions that are performed automatically (without volition or conscious control), as result of some stimulus, and that require essentially no forethought. [reflex (noun)]
8) volitional (adj): refers to actions that require forethought and conscious control. [volition (noun), ]

The words given above, are an attempt to take the ambiguity out of the terminology by designating unique words for each activity or condition, and for each word to have a unique activity. This was just a rough-cut designation, so if more fitting terminology is found, it should be substituted.

I agree with the string initiator, that selfishness is our basic trait. It's our link to the animal kingdom and our past - - - our possession of the main characteristic that helped us survive via natural selection before we had achieved our present level of self-awareness and superior cognitive abilities which now allow us (if we so choose) to displace selfishness with a higher and more effective capability - - - but we overwhelmingly don't do so; because it's just too comfortable to remain in our old patterns.

Where I differ from some of the others apparently, is in three areas. First, I don't believe that we are 100 percent selfish. (Maybe 99% - - - who knows?) It is this small minority trait in us (we all have it, but most don't develop it) which has allowed us to (painfully) advance our civilization over the millennia, but we are essentially still just Cro-Magnon humans.

The second difference is the fact that I do not believe in "Determinism" , that our nature and environment control our future. I believe instead that, with slow painful steps, we can improve our civilization; never to reach perfection, but certainly we can make it a lot better. - - - On the other hand, I harbor no illusions. - - - Nothing is going to come easy. (Things could also get worse.)

The third difference stems from my belief that, despite our "advances" in civilization, we are not essentially different 'inside'. Our moral rules, Laws, etc. just serve to inhibit our animal tendencies in some areas. We are far from achieving the "Best of all possible worlds".

These are reasons that I find this string so informative and important. I think that this is an important subject, and one that deserves a discussion that is as comprehensive as possible. I hope that these (definitions) will help a bit.

KM
 
  • #56
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I use the words "best possible action" because I apply this principle to everything in the universe. So saying "strongest emotional pull" is a step down because that only applies to emotional beings and does not apply to forced actions like free-falling from a roof or other types of things that our emotions have no control over.

From a quick look at what Abraham Maslow says is that the need for food, health and sleep is top priority. While their seems to be some pyrimad to explain his theory, that isn't the case with my beliefs. If one values pride and honor more then ones own life then taking away their primary needs will not work if your trying to torture some information out of them.

If the quick look wasn't good enough then let me know. Thanks.
 
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  • #57
mathwonk
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This reminds me of a conversation i had 35 years ago with a rather insightful friend. I said I had noticed most of my acquaintances were selfish, and he said, "you know what that tells me? It tells me you are selfish."
 
  • #58
Lisa!
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"Our firs and last love is self-love"
I really believe that "everybody is 100% selfish".but it's really difficult to prove.




I want to ask you some questions:
1.Why do some people devote their lives because of others?
2.Why do parents still love their bad children?
3.Do you think that a person who doesn't like himself,is able to like others?
4.Do you think that being selfish is bad or not?
 
  • #59
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I want to ask you some questions:

Lisa! said:
1.Why do some people devote their lives because of others?
2.Why do parents still love their bad children?
It happens as naturally as our brain functions, I think, in accordance with what we are told by our emotions.
 
  • #60
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I do believe we have no control over what will happen in the future. Death hints this determinism all the time. Sure we can choose to do this or choose to do that. From all the experience and all the different emotions you've felt throughout your whole life, the choice you make is in a way made before you were even born. Every atom that makes up your mind and body is the same as every atom that makes up the dirt you walk on, the food you eat, the planet you live on, the moon, the sun, the galaxies and the universe. Noting through a universal point of view makes you more special than the comets that follow their predetermined paths. The only real difference between us and that comet is that we are able to observe our path. We then feel so connected with the change of paths that we begin to feel that every twist and turn our path makes is our choice. To be selfish requires seperating from the universe and see oneself as the body that you observe through. So to believe choice and free-will is rather a selfish act itself because you must believe that you are different from every thing esle.
 
  • #61
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So to believe choice and free-will is rather a selfish act itself because you must believe that you are different from every thing esle.
I have a different view on this. Doesn't the ability to exercise free-will and choice makes us essentially HUMANS. The question is: Is the nature of the choice we make-- Selfish? The irony here is, the greatness of an individual is not solely dependent on his abilities, power and talents BUT largely on the kind of choices he makes--for good or for bad.

The fact is every human is indeed unique. The spirit of our existence is to co-exist in harmony and unison inspite of our differences
 
  • #62
GeD
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Reshma said:
I have a different view on this. Doesn't the ability to exercise free-will and choice makes us essentially HUMANS. The question is: Is the nature of the choice we make-- Selfish? The irony here is, the greatness of an individual is not solely dependent on his abilities, power and talents BUT largely on the kind of choices he makes--for good or for bad.
Yes, if someone were to believe that they had free-will, the nature of this choice is selfish. Because that person assumes that they control their destiny - that they are more powerful than the rest of nature. Their being human beings, or their choices being supposedly good or bad has no bearing on this. It is selfish in nature.

Reshma said:
The fact is every human is indeed unique. The spirit of our existence is to co-exist in harmony and unison inspite of our differences
Uniqueness with co-existence is not an argument against selfishness. Survival requires banding up and working together to defeat a common enemy. This co-existence is a product of the necessity of that kind of power. If you take a look at history, it shows us that existence is more likely to be dependent on conflict than co-existence - taking life, eating life to continue life. Competition (doesn't have to be nasty) with animals and other people is highly rampant - even when with people we co-exist with. In fact, the conditions of co-existence seem to be temporary and always changing sides.
 
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  • #63
tut tut... so should be all die cos we shouldn't be selfish?
i dont think people are selfish... well some are... but depends on the situation and the act... we obviously live for ourselves... but that doesnt make us selfish... it just keeps us alive.... if it were an act of selfishness... to not be selfish we shouldn't wanna live...
 
  • #64
I'd say a human being is eccentric, when u r born as a kid, u consider ur self the sun and everyone else orbits around u, everyone elkse should work to satisfy u...

And then growing up, u find that out there, there r many eccentric creatures juts like u, and u start to understand ur limits, that everybody else is as eccentric as u r, that soemtimes, uv'e to do things for others as they may do for u...

The world selfish isn't a lovely one, and growin up u notice that u can't be selfish and accordingly, u try to help people, to prove urself to be unselfish, and interested mroe in people than urself. Still u r self-eccentric and whenever u prove something like that u r happy and this turns to be in ur favour, more than other's...

If u r unhappy doin it, u'd be a creep, because if u r goin to do soemthing for soemone u should be hppy to transmit ur feeling to him..

I'd say ebign eccentric isn't that bad, cause sometimes it helps u realize that there's something more, a little effort u need to do in favour of others...U r still eccentric, looking for ur own good, at least ur self satisfaction..

But that doesn't make u bad..

Selfishnes sis another form of disease, specially for adults, it consists - for me- of course, of underestimating what happens to anyone outside ur orbit..U consider that people are their for ur own good, but why r u here??? Because poeople should try to make me happy...
Unless u realize that this is a circle and what goes around comes around, u'll stay imprisoned in ur own galaxy, no one will help u out cause everyone except for u, will realize u r selfish..
 
  • #65
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I'm not 100% selfish, but I am definitely selfish to an extent.

Basically, I live life to appreciate and love God for everything he has given me. My dad tells me that it's a crime to not live up to your potential, that's abusing your gift. My selfish desires are really a desire to fulfill my destiny. If I sit at home doing nothing all day, what good am I doing? I'm certainly not helping myself or anyone else. But if I become successful, then I give back to society, I have helped myself, helped others, and done what God wants me to do.

My point is that selfish desires are the impetus for success, but generosity and understanding for others are what makes you a complete person. You can't have one without the other. I believe someone who is both selfish and generous at the same time is the best person (somewhat of a contradiction, but not fully so). Someone who tries his best to accomplish his goals, but is always willing to help others. In other words, he tries his best, but always motivates others to do the same and gives them a helping hand.
 
  • #66
I believe that humans are all selfish, but to different levels. You really have to take into consideration the spin that society and things like the media have put on selfishness. The fact of the matter is, the mental genetics of humans are generally the same (save the extremes; genius and retardation) and selfishness all depends on how your mind has been brought up. To actually determine whether or not human nature is selfishness, one would have to design an experiment where the extremes tested; in one area, all social forces would boost selfishness and idolize the selfish, and in another social influences would boost selflessness and caring for others. The control would be like a lord of the flies situation with kids on an island and no rules. Unfortunately, this will never happen in America because no single person can control the media. Maybe Puerto Rico...
 
  • #67
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All individuals, human, plats, animal alike, surely seems to be environmentally and genetically conditioned to priorities concernes of ones own tribe or genepool. The combined conditioning is the _program_ that one is run by and its "selfish" output is a perfect representation for the logic of gametheory. Free will is conditioned by the same standards and so is ones feelings of affection. However, if the conditioning is stretched to the extreme where individual specimens sence of identity become concerned only for themself, a specimen with a program of identity that encompass all mankind could get a lot of advances by exploiting the logic of so many selfconcerned identities. If so, ascetism would be a major survival script in todays society. What survives is best adapted to the environment, not necessarily the most selfish program. The ascetic doesn't have to do what he does in order to survive and hence have selfish motives in the background - survival would just be logical outcome of its actions. This logic applies to more then ascetism. The will to survive is by no means the highest function of an individuals program of behaviour.
 
  • #68
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"Selfish" means doing something while *only* thinking of the benefit to yourself. I'm sure there are some humans that only think of themselves and don't consider the standpoint of other animals and hence, only act if they have some benefit and don't act otherwise, but most humans do not have that luxury. If you have a family for example, you will have to do things for others even if you do not want to do it or it has no benefit. Same thing if you have a job, etc. For example, when my parents bought a house the previous owners abandoned their cat and the responsibility for it's survival fell on me. It was either feed it and take care of it or it goes to the pound (read: dies). So I buy it's food, feed it and clean it's living space, change it's water every day. What do I get out of it? Fleas. It's not like I am asking the cat for anything in return (and in fact, I am losing money and inconvenienced by the whole thing). I am doing it because I don't think it's right to just kill the cat because it had crappy owners.

People misinterpret "selfish" into a blanket term meaning that every action comes from the "self." Of course it does, ultimately your mind commits to something and you do it. That does not mean that every action is done primarily FOR the self though. Not even close. The people who think in such a way are people I fear...for they will harm other humans mercilessly using the self righteous "excuse" that ALL the other humans are just as selfish as themselves...
 
  • #69
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All humans are selfish to a certain percentage-I highly doubt it's 100%-it is a subjective categorization, which doesn't have a reliable measurement because there are so many factors attributing to a particular action.

But is it humanly possible for cessation of that "selfishness" to eventually occur through the continual practice of a religion such as Buddhism? Not unlike Pavlov's theory, can we condition ourselves to selflessness, or is it that within the field of trying to attain selflessness we are in fact being selfish for wanting such a goal.

I just want to hear your thoughts.
 
  • #70
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It's circular logic. Obtaining 100% "unselfish" or 100% "selfish" behavior for your entire life is impossible. The reality is more of a mix (with some leaning more to one side than the other). Think about it, if people were always selfish would we even understand what the word meant? NO, we would have no way to discern between selfish behavior and unselfish behavior if behavior was only one thing all the time. The reality is that we are a bit of both depending on the situation. I am not saying that being selfish is always bad, in fact, I firmly believe that NO person should be "unselfish" by seeing to someone else's needs at the *expense* of their own needs. One needs to attain the means to his own survival before he can extend his efforts to the survival of others.

For society to be healty, there should be a sort of mutualism taking place where people are working together for mutual survival. Such mutalistic relationships DO exist in nature, they are not exclusive to humans (for example, bacteria in plants fixing N^2 to help the plants get nitrogen, both species benefit as the bacteria lives off the plant). By definition, if you do something for yourself that also benefits another, you are not being selfish because selfish requires that your thought process consider ONLY yourself. Being "selfish" is looked at as being negative because in certain situations it leads to the destruction of a possible mutualistic situation where one person decides to live at the expense of other lives (more of a "predatory" than mutalistic situation can easily develop with such thinking). The other lives (eventually) fight back against the predator and this leads to a sort of Darwinian conflict over who gets to live. Society doesn't like conflicts (as in many cases we have enough resources that there is simply no good reason why both animals can't coexist) so selfishness=bad for us in certain situations. It's up to your to figure out in which situations you need to stand up for your own right to live and in which you need to cooperate. Doing so is not being "selfish", it's called being a responsible adult.
 
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  • #71
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It is my guess that those who believe we are not always selfish also believe that love is the highest form of emotion that is able to (ever) be experienced.
 
  • #72
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Does every love expects reciprocity?
If so, then it is only a trade...
 
  • #73
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It is my guess that those who believe we are not always selfish also believe that love is the highest form of emotion that is able to (ever) be experienced.

Emotions are chemical reactions. It is equally possible for someone to receive an "intense" pain as it is an "intense" joy (emotions that are equal in magnitude in their observable effect on the individual, I'm sure both of us have had examples of each somewhere in our lifetimes). My view is that it has to do with the strength of the reaction in the body at the time when the emotion is being produced. For example, when you first went on a roller coaster as a kid you might have had an "intense" experience because you were experiencing a new stimulus and information was pumping very rapidly to your brain. I bet the emotion wasn't the same the 100th time you went on the roller coaster (even though the ride "experience" remains constant).

Either way, I don't see the connection between the topics of emotional intensity and selfishness. They are two completely unrelated topics in my view. What I really want to know is that if the purpose of philosophy is to open everyone's mind, why do most philosophical arguments that I read try to generalize human behavior in a very rigid way?
 
  • #74
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Either way, I don't see the connection between the topics of emotional intensity and selfishness. They are two completely unrelated topics in my view.

They are not connected in regard to the question posed at the beginning of the thread - however, I believe it is necessary to question our own motivations because the question more or less shapes how we act. Who here is being completely honest with themselves? It's not that I don't think there are people who see love (or one of its subsidiary emotions) as the apotheosis of human experience, it's just that these people are rare, usually confined to religion, and don't normally visit PF.
 
  • #75
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In terms of the importance of questioning one's motivations in order to become a better person, I am certainly in agreement with you (though I would stop short of calling it "necessary" as many people seem to survive without ever stopping to think about this sort of thing). Certainly this type of questioning is a form of "losing innocence" of the sort that we experience as we grow up. I remember when I was a teenager I thought I was in "love" with a girl who I knew in advance I could never marry. However, I was fooled by my crotch into thinking I was "madly in love" so I went ahead with it. In "reality" as I understand it to be at the moment, I was really young and horny and here was a girl who was interested in me and I was willing to ignore that I knew it wouldn't work to satisfy that (at the time) unquestioned impulse. Because of that decision both of us got attached. When the inevitable breakup occurred once we realized we could never marry, we both suffered. Now I understand what that particular "feeling" means more clearly, so when it triggers, I can keep myself better under control. Lesson learned.

It is true that we have inherent biological impulses that can cause us to make poor or selfish decisions at times if we just let them run rampant and don't learn what those impulses are and how to challenge them. The part where the conversation loses me is when people claim that ALL human actions are selfish. That sort of extremist thought is dangerous, and it serves as a sort of denial that we humans possess the ability to modify our behavior and do unselfish things. Humans DO possess the ability to make decisions that benefit themselves as well as others and the more control over our bodies we have the more ability we have to overcome "selfishness" should a situation arise where we need to act in an unselfish manner in order to avoid conflict (even if in doing so we have to go against what our "feelings" are telling us to do at a given moment).
 

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