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Is there such thing as selflessness?

  1. May 27, 2004 #1
    Mother Terhesa, bless her soul. Though selfless? I think not.

    If I care so much for someone that I would do anything for them, is it not because caring for them made ME feel good?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2004 #2


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    Selfless is a bit of a strong word. It must be difficult to perform an action without taking into any consideration the effect it will have on yourself, but I am sure it is at least possible in theory. I suspect you would most commonly find this in people with children. I'm sure there must be some instinctual mechanism by which a parent makes sacrifices that are of absolutely no benefit to themselves for their children. They may derive pleasure from seeing their children succeed later in life, but they have no guarantee that they will be around to see it.

    You might also want to take into account cases of mental illness. Some of the actions of a mentally ill individual are likely motivated by no discernable reasoning process; that is, they do not take into account the effects on themselves or on others. Their actions are simply compelled by their illnesses.
    Last edited: May 27, 2004
  4. May 27, 2004 #3
    What!?!? People are gaining happiness from helping people? How dare them! Selfish good for nuthins!
  5. May 28, 2004 #4
    Does this not imply a desire to sacrifice for children? Things taste good for a reason: in attaining pleasure from caloric substances we are able to sustain our bodies, in the fact that we will turn to food when hungry (as opposed to inedible substances). Im sure there is an instictual component in parents that would make them do anything for their children. If some action or behavior is a function of a desire to do so, then is not a parent "sacrificing" merely to close some circut in their brain that would make them feel content, happier, better?

    If one was mentally ill, I suppose that selfless acts are possible (in theory). I figure only one lacking qualia is completely capable of selflessness.
  6. May 28, 2004 #5


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    There is nothing inherent in compulsive action that necessitates the deriving of pleasure from the action. The desire need not be conscious. Some parents seem to be made quite miserable by their children, yet they continue to sacrifice for them.
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