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Is there logic in sacrificing your happiness for the world?

  1. Oct 31, 2003 #1
    What makes people want to help others?
    If you are a realist, you will accept the fact that we are primarily looking out for ourselves. Except a LIMITED number of people, like Mother Teresa, Jesus, Moses, Buda (I don't remember more for the moment . who do give up their well-being to help others. Without nothing concrete in return...
    What makes people want to help others? Plz don't answer that "you will be treated the same way you treat people"; that's the selfish approach.
    Don't think of the love you feel for your family, friends, lover, etc. You are getting love in return, or whatever. Nor think of the responsibility towards family, institution, job, or the world. That is moral education, imparted to us so we can be respectable.
    What makes people want to help others? I mean, what is a logic reason to become an idealist (contradiction!) and sacrifice your own happiness to make others happy? (By the way, not trying to get anybody depressed, i'm trying to get an answer here!)

    By instinct, we first try to fulfill physical needs (hunger, health well-being, comfort, etc). Then emotional needs (to be loved and respected by a number of people).
    The phase of “I want to be of help to others” may come only after when we have satisfied those 2 first phases... But what makes different the needs and wants from the ideals? Why do we have ideals anyways, if we cannot fulfill them completely, being imperfect humans? Are there people without ideals/dreams?

    If eventually we realize that there's no complete happiness, or chance to help EVERYBODY, or perfection, or whatever, how come we are educated from children to follow dreams and believe we can do everything is there is a will?

    Am i making any sense here? Too much questions?
    Plz share your opinion * thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2003 #2
    What logic is there in self-interest? (especially when you consider that, since there is no separate or unchanging self, you may be continuous with your 'future self' but you are not the same.)

    Motivation has nothing to do with logic. Our fundamental drives are emotional. Rationality can be applied only once the desired end is known.

    Some people get deeper satisfaction from helping others than from helping themselves.
  4. Oct 31, 2003 #3
    okk, i wanted to know that motivation of the people who find satisfaction in helping others... besides that it's morally correct...
    i didn't get the part of "consider that, since there is no separate or unchanging self, you may be continuous with your 'future self' but you are not the same"[?]
  5. Oct 31, 2003 #4


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    A world in which people help eachother is nicer to live in. The desire to live in that kind of world is very great. Convincing ourselves that we live in that kind of world brings contentment. It is much more difficult to make the arguement that we live in such a place, if we do not practice it. I don't think it is an overt, concious decision, but rather something subconcious.

    It may even be a genetic predisposition - whatever we consider to be "our world" we want to make better. It might be only our family, or tribe or village, but in recent centuries, it has expanded to our nation. It may even be expanding to be our species, or our planet.

  6. Oct 31, 2003 #5
    Read Derek Parfit's comments and thought experiments on the nature of personal identity in 'Reasons and Persons'. There is no part of you physically or mentally which will remain identical over the next year. Thus your sense of 'being the same person' is derived from being continuous with your future and past selves and from sharing memories and goals. If you somehow split in two like a bacterium, there would be two future selves continuous with your current self. If one of those selves was due to embark on a six-week holiday in the Carribbean and the other was going to be severely tortured, should you be pleased or worried? If a machine made an absolutely identical copy of you, would it be you? What if the original was not destroyed? etc

    Read Derek Parfit's chapter on 'Is it ever rational to be irrational?' in the same book. And read Richard Dawkins' descriptions of the evolution of altruism in 'The Selfish gene' etc. Now put two and two together.

    There is some selective advantage in being genuinely altruistic. People trust you. Altruism and selfishness exist in an equilibrium in the gene pools of all complex animals. The selective advantage may or may not coincide with what is good for us personally. Certainly there are potential rewards for altruism, but often people just find that satisfying as an end in itself.
  7. Oct 31, 2003 #6
    We all do everything for ourselves! including jesus. Jesus did what he did to because it was mentally rewarding to do what he did. Obviously his mental values exceeded his physical values.
  8. Oct 31, 2003 #7


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    Selfishness is evolutionarily advantageous, but so is altruism. Consider a pack of animals in the wild being stalked by a predator. When a member of the pack sees the encroaching predator, the most selfish (and self-preserving) thing to do would be to quickly hide away and let the predator get someone else. Yet what invariably happens is that the observant animal makes a big fuss to alert his pack of the presence of the predator, making it an even bigger target for attack.

    This behavior directly contradicts the notion of genetic selfishness. The fussing herd animal is not just protecting its direct kin, it is protecting every member of its pack, no matter how genetically distant. Why? Well, if the animal acted in the most selfish manner, hid away and let the predator pick off some other member of the pack, the pack wouldn't last very long. The species would quickly go extinct. Here altruism hinders the survival chances of the individual in order to benefit the whole. So there are selective pressures and behaviors operating on the entire group, rather than just particular individuals.
  9. Oct 31, 2003 #8
    You make a very good point, to which I add that selfishness and altruism are not necessarily incompatible traits (they can be expressed at the same time). You see, if the animal was self-sacrificing for others of his species, but not so with others, then that could be considered a "selfish" species, with altruistic individuals.
  10. Nov 2, 2003 #9
    I feel the only thing you would get in holding back your true happiness would be less happiness. yes there are lots of contridictions out there that will try to repress happiness and turn it's energy to angry but is that right? I feel no
    Helping others is out of care resulting from love, there are issues at times that blind us from seeing that at times. Usually resulting around what we protect or others believe. Is helping others right? not if you take the person choice or individualism right out of it. otherwise I think help is help, like a helping hand when your down.
  11. Nov 7, 2003 #10
    No, after reading some David Hume, I don't think there is any ultimate logic sacrificing yourself for others. According to Hume, In the end, it's a matter of empathy. It's not just some things girls whine about, empathy is a huge matter in our own home base.

    You meet Hume's sceptisism. There's nothing that tells us that a ball will move after been hit by another ball(cause and effect) except what our habits tells us.

    Here's some of Hume in Jostein Gaarder's Sofie's World:

    - To act responsible is not to sharpen your wits, but to sharpen your own feelings for others well being. " It doesn't work against reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world because I don't want a scratch in my thumb. " said (David) Hume.
    - That's a scary assumption.
    - It's maybe even more scary to mix the cards. You know that the nazis murdered a million of jews. Would you say it's something wrong with their reason, or something wrong with their emotional life.
    - It's primarely something wrong with their emotions.
    - Many of them were clear in their head. In this way, behind the most emotional tensed actions it often lies ice cold calculation. After the war many nazis was judged, but they weren't judged because they were unreasonable. They were judged because they've been cruel. Actually it's happening that people that's not been really OK in their head, hasn't been judged for their actions. We say that they are "long-term mentally damaged", or that they've been "crazy during the scene". It has never happened that someone has been set free because they've been emotionless.
    - No, anything less would be silly.
    - But we don't have to stick to the most grotesque examples. If a flood accident make many people needs help, it's the emotions that decides if we either help or not. If we'd been unemotionial and let the 'cold reason' decide, we would maybe think that it would do good if some millions died because the earth is threatened by overpopulation anyway.
    - I almost get angry that it's possible to think that way.
    - And that's not your reason getting angry.
    - Thank you, that's enough.

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2003
  12. Nov 7, 2003 #11
    It is as simple as "selfish" behavior.

    Their are 2 types of fitness: Direct and indirect, the first being ones on reproductive success and the second being the passing of at least part of your genes through your relatives; therefore, an indivual will help a close relative in its time of need in order to increase its own fitness. "Alturism" is a perfect example of this. Alturistic behavior is found in alarm calling in prey. A particular organism will call out to warn others (usually his relatives) that a preditor is coming - but in doing so he will increase his chances of death.

    The other is reciprocation. Animals with memeroies will help others in their time of need only if the other reciprocates in thier own time of need. There was a study done on vampire bats in South America - in time of food (blood) shortage the bats would share food with the others in the colony, but only if the other bat would reciprocate. This, also, increases the fitness level of the individual.

    Now, I understand with humans it is much more complicated than this, but you must start with the basic make up of all organisms before you can even begin to understand the complications of humans.

  13. Nov 17, 2003 #12
    There're different levels/classes of living things.

    You can group animals and insects into one and human beings in another. Although you'll agree that there're sub groupings in the animal kingdom where intelligence (in the human basis) is concerned. Everything we classify stems from our human benchmark isn't it?

    Now on to your question....... Self sacrifice for the goodness/bliss/safety of others is an inherent value in all living things. Its more pronouced in some (Mother Theresa, Jesus, Buddha...) compared to many others.

    Examples of these in the animal kingdom ----> You see a pack of adult elephants protecting their young in the face of adversity. Individual monkeys have been known to come face to face with potential death (in the form of leopards) in a bid to get their young to safety.

    Now I'm sure you don't need me to go into examples of human kindness and self sacrifices. Its difficult to quantify what makes people want to help others. The inherent "urge" to help has always been there for the longest time.

    Well in a way, I guess you really do not need to ask this question because the answer is very simple and elegant after some pondering.

    Good day Lady.
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