The Selfish Nature Of All Actions

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boagie
 
Reply Mon 3 Sep, 2007 01:19 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Isn't the fact that helping others makes a person feel good, significant? Maybe it shows that his motive in helping others in not to feel good, but rather it is simply to help others and in doing so, he also feels good.Why must it be that his motive is to feel good? Why isn't that possible too? After all, it isn't really fair cynically to say that Joe helped Bill only so that he would feel good, when, in fact, Joe helped Bill because he just wanted to help Bill, and just as a result, because Joe is such a good guy, Joe felt good. How, after all, do you know that account of what happened, wasn't true? And, then, too, doesn't it depend on what it was that Joe did to help Bill. Maybe he helped Bill just so he, Joe, could feel good, when Joe gave Bill a ride when Bill's car was being repaired. That didn't inconvenience Joe all that much, and, so, his feeling good as a result of helping Bill might well outbalance the negative feeling of being inconvenienced. But, suppose Joe helped Bill out by going in front of Bill when someone was shooting at Bill, and taking the bullet for Bill. Is it then plausible to say that Joe took the bullet for Bill in order to feel good about helping Bill? Isn't that different? So, although it might be plausible in some cases to say that Joe helped Bill in order for him to feel good, in other cases it becomes very implausible.


kennethamy,

I think in considering action one must assume the subject is moved within before moving without,so what is it that moves this individual from within to over ride through his actions the prime directive? Even in more mundane circumstances ones actions towards a compassionate act for another may well depend upon that individuals beliefs about themselves.If they consider themselves compassionate individuals,then,something must be done at this given time to maintain that belief.If one refuses food to the hungry how could one maintain such a stance.There is time for this mental operation in the more mundane examples of kindness.I remember myself one time giving into a panhandler who in all probablity was feeding me a well prepared line,but it was more painful refuseing than giveing into someone at least in poorer circumstances than my own.These examples of kindness are not quite like an example of sacrifice,it really is a matter of degree.As compassion is the bases of all morality so to identification with, is the bases of all compassion.

Just as often as not, the act of self-sacrifice is done for complete strangers in grave circumstances.There has to be some means of understanding this.As is often stated by the heros in these cases,there was no time to think,so what happened,Schopenhaur says it is a metaphysical breakthrough,space and time which generally informs us of our separateness,is broken and you and other are one,subject and object are one.In the more mundane examples there is a logic which is very understandable and which was put forward in Mark Twains,"What Is Man." Self-sacrifice you might say is the ultimate example of identification with,ultimate compassion.The term hero is often misused in this culture,often applied to someone sick or fallen, someone who does another a great kindness,the term is very freely used.Our sense of the hero is properly when the individual self-sacrifice,is sacrificed to the group,to other.This in my thinking does not diminish the sarifice but simply underlines a greater reality,one only those who have made the sacrifice can claim to have touched.



Schopenhaur:"The Foundations Of Morality"
Mark Twain:"What Is Man."
 
Justin
 
Reply Mon 3 Sep, 2007 04:08 pm
@boagie,
Boagie makes a good point!
[INDENT]"From his cradle to his grave a man never does a single thing which has any FIRST AND FOREMOST object but one- to secure peace of mind, spiritual comfort for himself." - Mark Twain
[/INDENT] Twain further explains that there is no sacrifice to big for the master inside of us. Our spirit, will sacrifice our body to have peace of mind and spiritual contentment.

Consider the Navy man who jumps on a grenade to save harm to his fellow officers. The act may have looked to be selfless but if he had not done this his spirit would have suffered great discomfort.

Deep inside of man is his spirit. His body and his spirit are separate and apart. The spirit (the ether and energy), which is the essence of man, controls the body of man. Whether we realize it or not, our spirit is eternal and our spirit knows this. Therefore, the sacrificing of the body for the contentment of the spirit is not as heroic as we may tend to believe.
[INDENT]Our consciences take no notice of pain inflicted upon others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to us. In all cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to another person's pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable. - Mark Twain "What is Man?"[/INDENT]
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 3 Sep, 2007 10:28 pm
@Justin,
Justin wrote:


Consider the Navy man who jumps on a grenade to save harm to his fellow officers. The act may have looked to be selfless but if he had not done this his spirit would have suffered great discomfort.



And so you think that the Seal said to himself, "I guess I am going to feel very uncomfortable unless I kill myself, so I think I'll kill myself so that I won't feel uncomfortable then"? How come, do you think, that the others didn't think that way? Maybe they wouldn't feel quite so uncomfortable if they didn't kill themselves, or what? I, myself, think it would be pretty uncomfortable to blow myself up, but that's just me, I guess.
 
Justin
 
Reply Tue 4 Sep, 2007 08:03 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
And so you think that the Seal said to himself, "I guess I am going to feel very uncomfortable unless I kill myself, so I think I'll kill myself so that I won't feel uncomfortable then"? How come, do you think, that the others didn't think that way? Maybe they wouldn't feel quite so uncomfortable if they didn't kill themselves, or what? I, myself, think it would be pretty uncomfortable to blow myself up, but that's just me, I guess.

Actually, no I don't. It's something that happened in an instant. There was probably no rational thoughts involved because the spirit could do no other during that instant. In Twains book, the spirit can do none other than seek peace of mind and spiritual contentment.

Why the others didn't think of it or do it, I don't know. You'd have to go all the way back to birth and understand the thoughts and languages and the basic spiritual building of the mans being. Why do most people separate themselves from their spirit? Why do most people not even realize they are spiritual beings living in a body? Lots of questions....

You said you would feel uncomfortable blowing yourself up and I have to disagree with you. What if a child was near? You blew yourself up and saved the child. Would your spirit be content? Sure it would because you did what would bring your spirit peace of mind and contentment. Now what if you had the chance to do something to save this child but you didn't do it and the child died? Then what... would your spirit be content then? Maybe people where there and they seen you had the opportunity to act but didn't... would this cause spiritual discomfort? What if the story made the news and reporters were talking about how the boy could have been saved but heroism and sacrifice wasn't shown by the person nearest.... Would your spirit be subject to great discomfort then? If the spiritual discomfort became something you couldn't live with, you'd more than likely take your own life...

Basically Twain is saying that if the spirit is uncomfortable, it's going to do only that which eases the discomfort. If that means suicide or a heroic sacrifice, our spirit will sacrifice our body without second guessing.

Spirit is eternal and our bodies are not. If we do something to our spirit that makes it uncomfortable, it has to live with whatever has been done for eternity. The body is a simple shell that is here today and gone tomorrow and forgotten soon after.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 4 Sep, 2007 02:02 pm
@chad3006,
chad3006 wrote:
A great book on this topic is from one of my favorites--Mark Twain. It's called What is Man? You can get a free ebook version here. An example of a seeminly selfless act from the book is: If a man jumps into the water to save another, he's really acting selfishly because he couldn't live with himself if he didn't. So, he's essentially acting to please his own nature. Twain's version is more eloquent, of course, so I encourage anyone interested in this subject to give it a read.


I wonder how Twain doesn't know that the man's nature is unselfish?
 
TK421
 
Reply Sun 9 Sep, 2007 06:46 pm
@kennethamy,
*jumping in, without having read all of the previous posts*:

"Selfishness" is the act of satisfying one's own needs or desires at the expense of another's and usually implies morally reprehensible behavior.

[B wrote:
chad3006][/b]An example of a seeminly selfless act from the book is: If a man jumps into the water to save another, he's really acting selfishly because he couldn't live with himself if he didn't. So, he's essentially acting to please his own nature.


Even if our would-be savior didn't have a choice, which is debatable, and risks his life simply "to please his own nature", it does not follow that the act was selfish. Clearly, those aspects of his nature which he can't help but satisfy are selfless. Claiming that the man was selfish in acting to please his selfless nature just doesn't make sense.
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Sep, 2007 07:13 pm
@TK421,
TK421 wrote:
*jumping in, without having read all of the previous posts*:

"Selfishness" is the act of satisfying one's own needs or desires at the expense of another's and usually implies morally reprehensible behavior.



Even if our would-be savior didn't have a choice, which is debatable, and risks his life simply "to please his own nature", it does not follow that the act was selfish. Clearly, those aspects of his nature which he can't help but satisfy are selfless. Claiming that the man was selfish in acting to please his selfless nature just doesn't make sense.


TK421,Smile

Actually, you raise again a difficulty of the past in this thread, one of a problem with semantics. When someone takes advantage of another for their own material gain it is said to be selfish, when one reaches for a glass of water to quench their thirst it is said to be selfish, self-serveing ect..,. According to Mark Twain's, "What Is Man", most every action one can think about is in this class of the self-serveing principle,even when it is not immediately apparent.Actually if you re-read this thread and straighten out for yourself this small problem of semantic it would be most appreciated. For such a small problem, it has cause much disruption-------------Thanks TK421!!!!!!!!Smile
 
TK421
 
Reply Sun 9 Sep, 2007 11:03 pm
@boagie,
I see that Kennethamy has already explored one of the points I just made. Apologies. On the issue of semantics, very few, if any, philosophical arguments will not at some point break down into a battle over the meanings of the words we use. Semantics is a huge, inescapable part of philosophy.


So if we replace the thesis of this thread "All Actions are Inherently Selfish" with "All Actions are Inherently Self-Interested", we have a much more solid conclusion which proves trickier to refute. Looking again at the case of self-sacrifice, probably the best representative of selfless acts, those who claim that the man who, at great peril, swam to the other, drowning man's aide, benefits greater from the act than if he'd not risked his life (the capacity to live with himself thereafter - or, simply, that it makes him feel good), agrue therefore that the act was self-interested rather than selfless.

Hmm. I think my argument stands even if we replace the morally loaded "selfish" with the more neutral "self-interested". Here it is again, slightly modified:

Even if our would-be savior didn't have a choice, which is debatable, and risks his life simply "to please his own nature", it does not follow that the act was entirely self-interested. Clearly, the characteristics of his nature which drove him to save the drowning man are selfless. Claiming that the man was self-interested in acting according to these selfless features of his character just doesn't make sense.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 Sep, 2007 04:43 am
@TK421,
TK421 wrote:
I see that Kennethamy has already explored one of the points I just made. Apologies. On the issue of semantics, very few, if any, philosophical arguments will not at some point break down into a battle over the meanings of the words we use. Semantics is a huge, inescapable part of philosophy.


So if we replace the thesis of this thread "All Actions are Inherently Selfish" with "All Actions are Inherently Self-Interested", we have a much more solid conclusion which proves trickier to refute. Looking again at the case of self-sacrifice, probably the best representative of selfless acts, those who claim that the man who, at great peril, swam to the other, drowning man's aide, benefits greater from the act than if he'd not risked his life (the capacity to live with himself thereafter - or, simply, that it makes him feel good), agrue therefore that the act was self-interested rather than selfless.

Hmm. I think my argument stands even if we replace the morally loaded "selfish" with the more neutral "self-interested". Here it is again, slightly modified:

Even if our would-be savior didn't have a choice, which is debatable, and risks his life simply "to please his own nature", it does not follow that the act was entirely self-interested. Clearly, the characteristics of his nature which drove him to save the drowning man are selfless. Claiming that the man was self-interested in acting according to these selfless features of his character just doesn't make sense.


A many would be loony on the score of just rational cost-benefit analysis to risk death (for heaven's sakes) just so that he can avoid the discomfort of a guilty conscience (which is probably unjustified) thereafter. Can you imagine the man arguing with himself: "if I don't risk my life, the discomfort will be very great. So I'll risk the probability of death". It is preposterous.
 
TK421
 
Reply Mon 10 Sep, 2007 10:59 pm
@kennethamy,
Yeah, I think if we can conceive of a situation where an atheist risks her life to save another's, knowing or believing that she will die in the attempt, the notion that all actions are purely self-interested becomes suspect. I doubt anyone would disagree that the above example is possible and if we admit the possibility the theory collapses.


An additional problem with the view that all actions are fundamentally selfish is the implication that all actions are also fundamentally immoral. If all actions are fundamentally immoral, then all actions should be condemned. I can't imagine anyone seriously holding this position. Of course, we could alter the meaning of the word "selfish" but, as has already been discussed, arbitrarily changing the meaning of words in an argument undermines the purpose of philosophy. To give a very simple illustration, it's something akin to arguing that "good" really is "evil", after having changed the meaning of the word "good" to mean "evil", for no sensible reason (I don't believe this numbers among the official fallacies, though it seems as if it should).

But "selfishness" has already had the snot beaten out of it and I only raised it's bludgeoned corpse to draw attention to a further problem with the claim that all actions are fundamentally self-interested. Reaching for a glass of water to satiate your thirst is not selfish (assuming of course that the action does not negatively impact another) as it is an amoral act. Acts which are purely self-interested are acts which are purely amoral. Holding that all actions are self-interested robs all actions of any sort of potential moral dimension and we lose the system which allows us to praise or condemn actions in a way that we clearly need (which actions deserve condemnation or praise is another matter).
 
boagie
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 02:33 am
@TK421,
You win guys,its a black and white world!Wink
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 07:15 am
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
You win guys,its a black and white world!Wink


Well, at least one in which rational argument often wins. No, it is not a black or white world. But if you ignore a distinction like that of doing something selfish, and doing something self-interested, it certainly can seem to you to be a black or white world.
 
boagie
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 09:09 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Well, at least one in which rational argument often wins. No, it is not a black or white world. But if you ignore a distinction like that of doing something selfish, and doing something self-interested, it certainly can seem to you to be a black or white world.


kennethamy,Smile

Assume I acknowlege your wisdom here, as I personally have no problem with there being selfish behaviour or self-serveing behaviour, where would you like to take this.Does your explanation tell us that when someone sacrifice themselves for complete strangers, its because he wants them to be REALLY HAPPY? Is this your conclusion? Please we are at a point I think where you so strongly disprove of the possiablities I have presented, it is time for you to put forth your theory[explanation].If self-sacifice is done for this purpose,to make people really happy, it need to be established now.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 10:06 am
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
kennethamy,Smile

Assume I acknowlege your wisdom here, as I personally have no problem with there being selfish behaviour or self-serveing behaviour, where would you like to take this.Does your explanation tell us that when someone sacrifice themselves for complete strangers, its because he wants them to be REALLY HAPPY? Is this your conclusion? Please we are at a point I think where you so strongly disprove of the possiablities I have presented, it is time for you to put forth your theory[explanation].If self-sacifice is done for this purpose,to make people really happy, it need to be established now.


It would depend on the circumstances. But I would say that often when someone helps others, it is in order to relieve them of distress. I suppose if that happens, it will make them happier than they were when they were in distress, and the agent had that in mind when he decided to help them. After all, if someone runs out of gas while driving, and needs help, and someone comes along who goes out of his way to take him to a gas station where he can get some gas, and then takes him back to his car, I imagine that the man who ran out of gas will be happier than he would have been if he had not been aided. Wouldn't you? And, wouldn't you think that the person who aided him would have that in mind? I hope this example makes the point clear.
 
OldCrow
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 10:09 am
@boagie,
Could it be said that acts of instinct are not self serving, as it is not nesessarly a conscious choice. We drink water in order to survive. We eat in order to survive. The mind overlays these instinctual drives with desire in order to make sure that we do not avoid them consciously. I sleep because my body does so with or without my selfish or self-interested desire. I actually desire not to sleep.. but it happens anyway.:mad:

(IMHO) Self-interest and selfishness require a conscious effort.

On a conscious level, I desire (selfish act) to protect my progeny from danger. Yet if they are about to be harmed, I do not think befor I act. At that moment I have no self serving desire to be a good dad, or a good person. There is no thoughts of 'I'm a hero to my kids..' I do not think of how acting or not acting will make me feel after the fact. I just act. Instinct drives me to act with out thought for anything but their immediate safty. I can not see the selfishness of such actions.

I think this has been explored eariler... but I thought I'd throw my half cent in anyway...Smile
 
Justin
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 10:47 am
@OldCrow,
kennethamy wrote:
A many would be loony on the score of just rational cost-benefit analysis to risk death (for heaven's sakes) just so that he can avoid the discomfort of a guilty conscience (which is probably unjustified) thereafter. Can you imagine the man arguing with himself: "if I don't risk my life, the discomfort will be very great. So I'll risk the probability of death". It is preposterous.

Kenneth, a man doesn't sit there and justify or argue with himself prior to doing something. If man's actions are controlled by his spirit, then there's no time to reason the benefits of doing the action. We call it instinct but the spirit will act accordingly in a split second to satisfy spiritual needs. Twain offered several tests which proved to the student than man cannot control his spirit. It's the spirit that controls the man. An example could be in thoughts.
[INDENT] Later on today, put it into your head what you will think of first thing tomorrow. Whatever it is, place it in your mind so that the first thing you wake up in the morning, your mind with be thinking of the thought you had instructed to it. You'll find it very difficult to force your mind to think about what you have instructed it to.
[/INDENT]
kennethamy wrote:
It would depend on the circumstances. But I would say that often when someone helps others, it is in order to relieve them of distress. I suppose if that happens, it will make them happier than they were when they were in distress, and the agent had that in mind when he decided to help them. After all, if someone runs out of gas while driving, and needs help, and someone comes along who goes out of his way to take him to a gas station where he can get some gas, and then takes him back to his car, I imagine that the man who ran out of gas will be happier than he would have been if he had not been aided. Wouldn't you? And, wouldn't you think that the person who aided him would have that in mind? I hope this example makes the point clear.

The agent in the above paragraph brought himself spiritual contentment and peace of mind because of how it made the agent feel helping another man out in need. Sure, it made the day of the stranded guy and it was probably appreciated... and in turn, this brought the agent spiritual contentment because he felt good about what he had done.

Why did he stop in the first place? The agent could have driven by. However, if he had done that, in this case, the spirit of the agent would have suffered discomfort because of the thoughts he was having. The agent would have felt uncomfortable because he didn't stop. Sure helping the guy is the immediate thought but if he didn't help when he could have, he would be struggling with himself and his spiritual contentment. Thoughts could have raced through his mind.

After the act, both the stranded fellow and the agents' spirits smile with contentment. In the case above, the agent could do no other than the leadings of his spirit in search of contentment.

This guy that was stranded could be an escaped convict or a murderer... the agent doesn't know him. Does the agent care?... not really because what matters to him is the he doesn't pass the opportunity to satisfy his own spirit.

The beauty of it is that it is a win-win situation for both. When you make someone else feel good, most often it makes you feel good. Our intentions might not be selfish, but the spirit will lead the man to none other than it's own peace of mind and spiritual contentment. If it's in balance with the Universe, everyone involved will win.

Let's take a greater look at this. Offer circumstances in which this would not be the case. We can break them down further like Twain did to find the underlying principle.

Does this make any sense?
  • What you do to another person you do to yourself.
  • The world is a reflection of what we reflect into it.
  • When you hurt your neighbor, you hurt yourself.
  • If you make another mans' spirit suffer discomfort, your spirit will suffer discomfort.
So, is it selfish or is it selfless? Either way, when we lift another human being, we lift ourselves. This could be construed as selfish but the principle of it goes back centuries and is also a message in the Bible.

Great thread! Look forward to more reading on this, thank you all for sharing your thoughts.
 
boagie
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 11:02 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
It would depend on the circumstances. But I would say that often when someone helps others, it is in order to relieve them of distress. I suppose if that happens, it will make them happier than they were when they were in distress, and the agent had that in mind when he decided to help them. After all, if someone runs out of gas while driving, and needs help, and someone comes along who goes out of his way to take him to a gas station where he can get some gas, and then takes him back to his car, I imagine that the man who ran out of gas will be happier than he would have been if he had not been aided. Wouldn't you? And, wouldn't you think that the person who aided him would have that in mind? I hope this example makes the point clear.


kennethamy,

So we are then to believe that the person who sacrifices themselves to another/a compete stranger, it is to increase their happyness.Where is the distress that caused the action if not in the subject sacrificeing himself.A psychopath would not be moved to action at his own expense.If you would be believed you must explain the working of such psychological revelation,so simple it has been over looked by the psychological community.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 05:27 pm
@Justin,
Justin wrote:
The agent in the above paragraph brought himself spiritual contentment and peace of mind because of how it made the agent feel helping another man out in need.



Could be. I don't know, since I made up the story. But even if it is true that all this contentment was brought to the agent, what makes you think that the agent did what he did in order to achieve that contentment? He may have done it only to help the person who ran out of gas? It is one thing to to something in order get something out of it. It is quite a different thing to do something to help the person and distress and, then, get the satisfaction of helping another in distress. Just because the latter occurs, it does not mean that was the motive. The motive may have been simply to help another person. That the agent received satisfaction from helping another person is just fine. But why do you think it was the agent's motive?
 
boagie
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 06:56 pm
@OldCrow,
Welcome OldCrow!!

Instincts are an interesting topic perhaps the purest form of self-interest, because it is bred in the bone does not negate its value as self-interest. There are a number of understands around the term consciousness and intelligence. Most of the effects of instinct would be acknowledge to be in the interest of the organism to preform,so linking it back we might assume both for the animal and its species the preformance was indeed modivated by self-interest, imprinted over the eons to react to the same triggers.

You are correct though we in this discussion are speaking,or so we think,of a conscious evaluation modivating our actions.If one is going to do something because it is the right thing to do,he must think it is the right thing to do.If he wishes to consider himself as the type of person whom does the right thing when its call for, he must perform this act to maintain his self image.There is some material this discussion was based upon,Mark Twain's "What Is Man", and Schopenhaur's "The Foundations Of Morality" much of the confusion in this thread is due to not everyone have read the material.


As to your acting without thought it takes a thought to move your hand to touch your face,it does not happen, accept perhaps in the case of self-sacrifice,there something else happens Schopenhaur calls it a break through,where your normal morality is taken to new heights,here identification with other is absolute the concept of self incompasses other.In this state the sacrifice is to the larger concept of the self.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2007 07:02 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
kennethamy,

So we are then to believe that the person who sacrifices themselves to another/a compete stranger, it is to increase their happyness.Where is the distress that caused the action if not in the subject sacrificeing himself.A psychopath would not be moved to action at his own expense.If you would be believed you must explain the working of such psychological revelation,so simple it has been over looked by the psychological community.


I don't think you understand. It was the person who ran out of gas who was distressed. Wouldn't you be? The person who helped, was inconvenienced, but that is just what was nice about him.
Look, it isn't such a big deal to go out of your way to drive someone to a gas station, and then drive him back to his car. Why would someone have to be a psychopath to do that? Maybe he is just being nice. Has the motive of just being nice been overlooked by the psychological community? Why do you think so. But, suppose it has been, so much the worse for the psychological community.
 
 

 
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