Altruism

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Reply Sat 3 May, 2008 03:43 pm
Does altruism exist? Do selfless acts truely exist?

I find it interesting when people say that they do considering that unconditional actions do not exist in that there are conditions within every action.

All actions acted upon revolve around the self who is maker of them.

But what exactly does these conditions stem from? Selfishness.

So aren't we all psychological egoists then?

I believe people are inherently selfish and when I have studied altruism I'm under the impression that not a single example of selflessness exists as everything is conditional.
 
de budding
 
Reply Sat 3 May, 2008 04:13 pm
@Pessimist,
Hello pessimist and welcome Smile

I think an intentionally enforced moral obligation towards a specific 'act', concerning the welfare of others, shows enough good intention for me to think the individual selfless. But I notice a lot of people who intentionally enforce 'acts' such as those- like letting a fellow driver out at a junction, for some form of self gratification.
The same kind of sentiment I feel can be found in charity, especially among celebrities who will often slur charity into publicity. But even the common man might offer some pennies to charity to alleviate guilt or gratify ones self as good person, or perhaps toss some change at a homeless man to silence him or let off an impression to people in the vicinity .

In my opinion truly selfless acts exist but, they come with a defiant sense of duty which must- as a prerequisite , be embraced to qualify the actions. But I'm pretty idealistic.

Dan.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sat 3 May, 2008 04:58 pm
@Pessimist,
Well said, de budding. I think, however, that our new (pessimistic Razz ) friend needs some other information as well. I have learned this from Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He explains that ego can only exist by comparisson. So ego can only spring into life when one interacts with another. An easy example is that someone will simply endure the pain of many wounds when alone on a plane crash-site, but will stumble and collapse when rescue is near.

Rousseau explains this by the following thought:
When someone lives in a group and that someone has more to eat for example (being a good hunter perhaps) than can be eaten by one person this person may give it to a hungry person. Offcourse this hungry person is gratefull; which our hunter is happy with. We see that the best hunter has most to give away and is therefore most appreciated by others. When one hunter compares his "amount" of appreciation to the appreciation another hunter "got" one may feel neglected or superior.At that moment the ego has kicked in. The desire to be appreciated (by a desirable female for instance) makes for the situation the people compare themselves with others and by that action one creates definitions (values) for oneself thereby creating ego; for what is ego if not the value people give themselves?

I hope this part is helpfull. It links in with what de budding has said. The "duty" de budding speaks of replaces the "goal" (in our example the appreciation). This has an enourmous effect on the actions taken because it no longer involves a striving towards a personal gain and therefore in no sense something which can disrupt balance.

Well, I hope this helps..

Arjen
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Sun 4 May, 2008 03:59 pm
@de budding,
de_budding wrote:
Hello pessimist and welcome Smile

I think an intentionally enforced moral obligation towards a specific 'act', concerning the welfare of others, shows enough good intention for me to think the individual selfless. But I notice a lot of people who intentionally enforce 'acts' such as those- like letting a fellow driver out at a junction, for some form of self gratification.
The same kind of sentiment I feel can be found in charity, especially among celebrities who will often slur charity into publicity. But even the common man might offer some pennies to charity to alleviate guilt or gratify ones self as good person, or perhaps toss some change at a homeless man to silence him or let off an impression to people in the vicinity .

In my opinion truly selfless acts exist but, they come with a defiant sense of duty which must- as a prerequisite , be embraced to qualify the actions. But I'm pretty idealistic.

Dan.



Quote:

Hello pessimist and welcome Smile
Hi.

Quote:

I think an intentionally enforced moral obligation towards a specific 'act',
1. What is a moral obligation?
2. Specific acts of what exactly?
3. Enforced? How?
4. Why are people obliged?

Quote:

shows enough good intention for me to think the individual selfless.
What are good intentions specifically?

"The road to hell is paved in good intentions."

Quote:

But I notice a lot of people who intentionally enforce 'acts' such as those- like letting a fellow driver out at a junction, for some form of self gratification.
What else could it possibly be beyond self gratification?

Quote:

The same kind of sentiment I feel can be found in charity, especially among celebrities who will often slur charity into publicity.
As a form of self idolatry, no?

Quote:

But even the common man might offer some pennies to charity to alleviate guilt or gratify ones self as good person,
Under selfish motives and conditions of course.

Quote:


or perhaps toss some change at a homeless man to silence him or let off an impression to people in the vicinity .
That would be my impression.

Quote:
In my opinion truly selfless acts exist but,
Can you name some?

Quote:
they come with a defiant sense of duty which must- as a prerequisite , be embraced to qualify the actions.
Duty of course is embraced for rewards later upon acting for it.

Selfish motives.

Quote:

But I'm pretty idealistic.
I'm not on the otherhand.

Arjen wrote:
Well said, de budding. I think, however, that our new (pessimistic Razz ) friend needs some other information as well. I have learned this from Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He explains that ego can only exist by comparisson. So ego can only spring into life when one interacts with another. An easy example is that someone will simply endure the pain of many wounds when alone on a plane crash-site, but will stumble and collapse when rescue is near.

Rousseau explains this by the following thought:
When someone lives in a group and that someone has more to eat for example (being a good hunter perhaps) than can be eaten by one person this person may give it to a hungry person. Offcourse this hungry person is gratefull; which our hunter is happy with. We see that the best hunter has most to give away and is therefore most appreciated by others. When one hunter compares his "amount" of appreciation to the appreciation another hunter "got" one may feel neglected or superior.At that moment the ego has kicked in. The desire to be appreciated (by a desirable female for instance) makes for the situation the people compare themselves with others and by that action one creates definitions (values) for oneself thereby creating ego; for what is ego if not the value people give themselves?

I hope this part is helpfull. It links in with what de budding has said. The "duty" de budding speaks of replaces the "goal" (in our example the appreciation). This has an enourmous effect on the actions taken because it no longer involves a striving towards a personal gain and therefore in no sense something which can disrupt balance.

Well, I hope this helps..

Arjen



Philanthropy is done out of the desire for public status and recognition but if we look more deeply the motive hidden from display is the desire of power.

Anything else is the self indulgence of idealizing and romancing actions or situations to make them appear more real than real.

Often enough vanity helps carve the way where some sense of ambiguity is used to describe our deeds in order to impress others for some self gratifying goal.

What exactly is compassion to you and why do you look at it as being unselfish?

As I said before all actions are selfisly conditional as there exist no such thing as unconditional acts.

We condition acts for ourselves in our various forms of pleasure, convenience, and our own luxory.

Arjen wrote:
I have many thoughts like these. I wonder how you see the "enslavement" by socienty though. Call it a second opinion. How do you see that happening?


We enslave people by judgement of worth, public evaluation and value.

We do it by monetary exchanges, collective standardizations or what we call the status quo.

We do it through the means of classism which people in power call necessity.

We do it through the means of the master slave relationship.

We do it through the perceived intellectualism of educational institutions in that if a person doesn't come to know A, +1, or E= Mc square we push them to the lowest of statuses in society where we naively expect them to be content with such arrangements through unrealistic obedience while we call them inferiors for their lack of knowing certain things.

We do it through this post-modern age where we reduce disenfranchised individuals to be mechanical objects or functions where they almost become robotical in this industrial age of ours.

We do it through alienation, isolation, social ridicule, mockery, defamation and through many other deceiving appearances.

We do it through dominance and submission which results from competition.

We marginalise other people who do not meet the ideal worth of what we call a productive citizenry or those who not own the ideal amount of money to live equally ideal socially constructed happy lives.

We do it by limiting other people's social mobility and interaction by materialistic or authoritive agencies.


(Take your pick.)
 
step314 phil
 
Reply Sun 4 May, 2008 08:35 pm
@Pessimist,
Evolution demands that it be rewarding to one's self to be an altruistic person, or else altruism wouldn't evolve. But it is not selfish to be an altruist, by definition. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that being an altruistic person (by nature) might be more rewarding than not being an altruistic person. Indeed, altruistic people, wanting to advance beauty, tend to love fellow altruists most, and that love can be more rewarding than the sacrifices that altruistic behaviors imply. Good people unselfishly love beauty because it is their nature to do so. They would get more if they could ignore their nature when sacrifices are involved, but that is against their nature, so they can't.

So it can be rewarding to be (by nature) an altruist, but it isn't rewarding to behave altruistically.

It's a mistake I have noticed the evolutionary biologists tend to make. They just jump into game theory right away to try to describe what goes for altruistic behavior, never bothering to consider whether it might be possible to judge innate moral character otherwise than by using games, etc., to judge behavior, etc. It's quite reasonable, really, to suppose that moral character could be judged fairly well provided most altruism occurs in the mating sphere (and I think intuitively that is indeed where love is most important), because then rewards would be rewards of more mutual children. To the extent altruism is directed mainly at mates, giving more mutual children, pretenders to altruism would never be able to use deception to get more sensitive children than they otherwise would. There would be a strong correlation between moral deceptiveness and moral insensitivity (the inability to judge moral character in others), and moral insensitivity is comparatively easy to judge by judging the ability to judge oneself.

Looking at it even more from a distance, there is no reason whatsoever really to think that those trying to advance beauty (of which goodness is a major part) would be any less successful in their endeavors than those trying to advance themselves. Actually, since advancing beauty depends heavily on advancing those who (unselfishly) love beauty, moral, altruistic people may actually be more successful than selfish people, but not because they are selfish, but just because good people love one another more than bad people do (and good people don't tend to love bad people).
 
Arjen
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 10:00 am
@Pessimist,
Pessimist, do you know Kant's philosophy?
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 01:59 pm
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:
Pessimist, do you know Kant's philosophy?


I've read many of Kant's works, yes.

I despise his moral and ethical outlooks as unrealistic idealisms but I admire his pieces on reason where he illustrates man's tendency of self destruction by his own innovations.
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 02:00 pm
@step314 phil,
step314 wrote:
Evolution demands that it be rewarding to one's self to be an altruistic person, or else altruism wouldn't evolve. But it is not selfish to be an altruist, by definition. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that being an altruistic person (by nature) might be more rewarding than not being an altruistic person. Indeed, altruistic people, wanting to advance beauty, tend to love fellow altruists most, and that love can be more rewarding than the sacrifices that altruistic behaviors imply. Good people unselfishly love beauty because it is their nature to do so. They would get more if they could ignore their nature when sacrifices are involved, but that is against their nature, so they can't.

So it can be rewarding to be (by nature) an altruist, but it isn't rewarding to behave altruistically.

It's a mistake I have noticed the evolutionary biologists tend to make. They just jump into game theory right away to try to describe what goes for altruistic behavior, never bothering to consider whether it might be possible to judge innate moral character otherwise than by using games, etc., to judge behavior, etc. It's quite reasonable, really, to suppose that moral character could be judged fairly well provided most altruism occurs in the mating sphere (and I think intuitively that is indeed where love is most important), because then rewards would be rewards of more mutual children. To the extent altruism is directed mainly at mates, giving more mutual children, pretenders to altruism would never be able to use deception to get more sensitive children than they otherwise would. There would be a strong correlation between moral deceptiveness and moral insensitivity (the inability to judge moral character in others), and moral insensitivity is comparatively easy to judge by judging the ability to judge oneself.

Looking at it even more from a distance, there is no reason whatsoever really to think that those trying to advance beauty (of which goodness is a major part) would be any less successful in their endeavors than those trying to advance themselves. Actually, since advancing beauty depends heavily on advancing those who (unselfishly) love beauty, moral, altruistic people may actually be more successful than selfish people, but not because they are selfish, but just because good people love one another more than bad people do (and good people don't tend to love bad people).


Quote:


Evolution demands that it be rewarding to one's self to be an altruistic person, or else altruism wouldn't evolve.


What's altruism? In all my conversations noone has ever explained a full definition of the term.

Why isn't altruism not another form of selfish display?

Quote:

Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that being an altruistic person (by nature) might be more rewarding than not being an altruistic person.


There exists no guarantee.

I have met many elderly people who played by the rules and out of what is considered altruistic social exchange their entire lives and still they remain in poverty working the same miserable jobs against their own will in heart ache for example.

(Many remain alone in isolation.)

And then there are those who have acted selfishly or violent throughout life without pity for others who have made a life of successful abundance for themselves in contrast.

Quote:

Indeed, altruistic people, wanting to advance beauty, tend to love fellow altruists most, and that love can be more rewarding than the sacrifices that altruistic behaviors imply. Good people unselfishly love beauty because it is their nature to do so. They would get more if they could ignore their nature when sacrifices are involved, but that is against their nature, so they can't.



I've never seen a unselfish action. What does it look like?

Quote:
It's a mistake I have noticed the evolutionary biologists tend to make. They just jump into game theory right away to try to describe what goes for altruistic behavior, never bothering to consider whether it might be possible to judge innate moral character otherwise than by using games,


Morality and ethics is innate? Huh?

That sounds absurd.

Quote:

etc., to judge behavior, etc. It's quite reasonable, really, to suppose that moral character could be judged fairly well provided most altruism occurs in the mating sphere (and I think intuitively that is indeed where love is most important), because then rewards would be rewards of more mutual children. To the extent altruism is directed mainly at mates, giving more mutual children, pretenders to altruism would never be able to use deception to get more sensitive children than they otherwise would. There would be a strong correlation between moral deceptiveness and moral insensitivity (the inability to judge moral character in others), and moral insensitivity is comparatively easy to judge by judging the ability to judge oneself.

Looking at it even more from a distance, there is no reason whatsoever really to think that those trying to advance beauty (of which goodness is a major part) would be any less successful in their endeavors than those trying to advance themselves. Actually, since advancing beauty depends heavily on advancing those who (unselfishly) love beauty, moral, altruistic people may actually be more successful than selfish people, but not because they are selfish, but just because good people love one another more than bad people do (and good people don't tend to love bad people).


The rest of your post sounds like random redundant romanticisms almost nostalgic making things appear more real than they actually are.

I'm not ever sure where to even start in replying to it.

(I'm not even sure I can reply to it because it simply sounds so unbelievable and unrealistic.)
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 02:14 pm
@Pessimist,
Quote:
I've never seen a unselfish action. What does it look like?


Your mother giving birth to you.

If you have children, you will see yourself act selflessly.

But to the substance of my brief post:

I agree that people tend to be selfish. However, the claim that all actions are selfish is non falsifiable. You cannot possibly show that every action was made for selfish reasons - this particular discussion exists on these forums.
 
boagie
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 02:14 pm
@Pessimist,
Pessimist wrote:
Does altruism exist? Do selfless acts truely exist?

I find it interesting when people say that they do considering that unconditional actions do not exist in that there are conditions within every action.

All actions acted upon revolve around the self who is maker of them.

But what exactly does these conditions stem from? Selfishness.

So aren't we all psychological egoists then?

I believe people are inherently selfish and when I have studied altruism I'm under the impression that not a single example of selflessness exists as everything is conditional.


Pessimist,Smile



Just a suggestion, read Mark Twains, "What Is Man".

http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/twain/wim.txt

Also perhaps read Schopenhauers, "The Foundations Of Morality". Shopenhaurer is known as perhaps you know, as the pessimistic philosopher.

Also there has been another thread on this, called, "The Selfish Nature Of All Action." good luck!!
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 02:15 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Your mother giving birth to you.

If you have children, you will see yourself act selflessly.

But to the substance of my brief post:

I agree that people tend to be selfish. However, the claim that all actions are selfish is non falsifiable. You cannot possibly show that every action was made for selfish reasons - this particular discussion exists on these forums.


Quote:
Your mother giving birth to you.


How is that unselfish?

It is called self preservation of genes whether you are giving birth or raising a child.


( Preserving your own genetical material is selfish.)
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 02:18 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
Pessimist,Smile



Just a suggestion, read Mark Twains, "What Is Man".

http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/twain/wim.txt

Also perhaps read Schopenhauers, "The Foundations Of Morality". Shopenhaurer is known as perhaps you know, as the pessimistic philosopher.

Also there has been another thread on this, called, "The Selfish Nature Of All Action." good luck!!


Thanks for your suggestions. I shall take them up.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 03:06 pm
@Pessimist,
Just because an action benefits the actor does not mean the action was selfish. To say of an action that it was selfish is to say the action was motivated by self-interest.

Unless you can divine the motivations of every individual and every individual's actions, every single one, you cannot claim that all actions are selfish.
 
step314 phil
 
Reply Mon 5 May, 2008 08:21 pm
@Pessimist,
Pessimist--

If you don't think selflessness exists, What is your explanation for why many people claim differently? Do you think people claim to be unselfish to try to get people to love them unselfishly? Well, why would people evolve that trait, i.e., the tendency to claim to be unselfish in order to be loved unselfishly, if no one loves anybody unselfishly and so there could be no profit from it? Or perhaps you think those claiming to be unselfish try to give the impression of being unselfish for selfish reasons, to try to make others believe that they will be treated unseflishly and thus rewarded if they consent to some sort of trusting relationship. But if no one ever gets loved unselfishly, Why would anyone be expected to evolve to be so gullible to believe otherwise given the negative consequences of falsely believing someone is going to love you unselfishly? And if it is selfishness that causes people to claim unselfishness, and you claim to be selfish, why aren't you pretending to be unselfish the way that selfish people do, or at any rate, why are you making a big deal about the matter? My pessimistic explanation is that you are selfishly feeling the need to belittle the unselfish because you consider people who are viewed as being more unselfish than you as your competitors. You probably want selfishness to be seen as something winners have more than losers because you want to be seen as a winner. At the least do yourself a favor and don't believe your own falsehoods; unselfishness exists.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 6 May, 2008 08:28 am
@Pessimist,
Pessimist wrote:
It is called self preservation of genes whether you are giving birth or raising a child.

( Preserving your own genetical material is selfish.)
For many people having a child is an unintentional side effect of sex. For people who are intentionally having a child, most people are patently unaware of "genetic material".

You honestly believe it's consciously about preservation of genetic material? Try that one as a pick-up line.

The thing is, Pessimist, so long as we make conscious decisions you can always rationalize that there is some hedonistic motive, or at least ascribe some individual benefit. But this rationalization is not all that useful. Whether or not a decision is ever TRULY selfless is moot -- because in the end people DO make painful sacrifices for the benefit of others.

And insofar as philosophy is interested in conscious decisions, what matters to philosophy is why people THINK they're doing something.

Psychology will get into subconscious motivations, and it may be worth exploring in psychological terms if there is any even subconscious notion of personal benefit when people make altruistic decisions. But it's without a doubt that people do altruistic things without any notion of personal benefit.
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Tue 6 May, 2008 11:28 am
@Aedes,
I just don't understand altruism.

For whatever reason why people believe in altruism it must be pretty weak or at the very least subordinated to people's selfishness given the level of tolerance throughout the history of people in the world unto the present of other people's exploitation, oppression, suffering, inequality,segragation, alienation, isolation and enslavement.

Altruism must be pretty pathetically weak and subordinated to people's selfishness given the number of wars and genocides in our history of being in the heart of soldiers or citizen masses jeering soldiers of all sorts to murder.

We can speak of the potential or fabric of altruism everyday in debate but it still does not change anything of the tolerance of other people's suffering that goes on everyday. So much for altruism.............
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 6 May, 2008 11:32 am
@Pessimist,
Quote:
For whatever reason why people believe in altruism it must be pretty weak or at the very least subordinated to people's selfishness given the level of tolerance throughout the history of people in the world of other people's exploitation, oppression, suffering, inequality and enslavement.


I don't follow.

The reason people "believe" in altruism is because, throughout history, selfishness has caused so much violence.

As selfishness causes violence, altruism seems to be the appropriate alternative - selflessness instead of selfishness.

Altruism isn't the belief that people tend to, or naturally, act selflessly; altruism is the notion that people should act selflessly.
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Tue 6 May, 2008 11:35 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
I don't follow.

The reason people "believe" in altruism is because, throughout history, selfishness has caused so much violence.

As selfishness causes violence, altruism seems to be the appropriate alternative - selflessness instead of selfishness.

Altruism isn't the belief that people tend to, or naturally, act selflessly; altruism is the notion that people should act selflessly.



Quote:
I don't follow.


You may say that altruism exist and you may speak of it's potentiality but it does nothing in hiding it's own utter hypocrisy.

You may speak of idealistic fantasies of moral agencies or innate principles but it does nothing in the world considering all the violence and inequality that nonetheless still exists.

It is so easy and convenient to discuss the potential or existence of altruism along with morality in distracting oneself from the actual world of ongoing malice through denial of what the world actually is that we live in.

Such denialability I admit is a clever ruse if not a ingenious form of distraction.

Quote:

he reason people "believe" in altruism is because, throughout history, selfishness has caused so much violence.


Perceived notions of morality have caused considerable violence through fanatical belief and fundamentalism.........

It also creates a considerable level of hypocrisy.

Honestly I see no difference between what you call morality or altruism in contrast to selfishness.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 6 May, 2008 11:43 am
@Pessimist,
You keep ranting about hypocrisy and all sorts of other negative claims you attach to altruism, but one statement of yours keeps ringing in my mind:

Quote:
I just don't understand altruism.
How are you going to indict something for hypocrisy when you do not understand it?

Quote:
You may speak of idealistic fantasies of moral agencies or innate principles but it does nothing in the world considering all the violence and inequality that nonetheless still exists.
You did read my previous comments, right? The fact that that violence and inequality exists is exactly the value of altruism - those abuses are the result of selfishness. Altruism is not a distraction, it's an attempt to overcome the rampant selfishness that is destroying us. Altruism is the refusal to be distracted from the real problems of the world; altruism is an attempt to address those problems and correct them. We call this ethics.
 
Pessimist
 
Reply Tue 6 May, 2008 11:48 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
You keep ranting about hypocrisy and all sorts of other negative claims you attach to altruism, but one statement of yours keeps ringing in my mind:

How are you going to indict something for hypocrisy when you do not understand it?

You did read my previous comments, right? The fact that that violence and inequality exists is exactly the value of altruism - those abuses are the result of selfishness. Altruism is not a distraction, it's an attempt to overcome the rampant selfishness that is destroying us. Altruism is the refusal to be distracted from the real problems of the world; altruism is an attempt to address those problems and correct them. We call this ethics.


Quote:
You keep ranting about hypocrisy and all sorts of other negative claims you attach to altruism, but one statement of yours keeps ringing in my mind:


I don't just attach hypocrisy to morality or altruism I observe it.

Quote:
How are you going to indict something for hypocrisy when you do not understand it?


Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in what I said.

Let me refrain and be more blunt in my re-approach of what I meant.

I really don't understand how other people perceive altruism or morality.

I do however have my own understanding of what altruism or morality is contrarily....

I'll tell you what I think about both subjects..................


Both are clever ruses or systemizations that people use in order to fake and feign righteousness along with virtue in order to get what they selfishly desire by that of fabrication.

By faking or feigning righteousness and virtue one can pretend to have special authority by fabricating it fictionally/metaphysically in order to get what one desires where with other people's collective fear of such a authority people of all sorts are so eagerly ready to give up their freedoms into obedience in playing the masquerading charade of the whole game.

I look at morality or altruism as one giant do as I say not as I do of irrational emotions.

I look at morality or altruism as sublimation of irrational emotions through transformation by preying on people's fears, wants and desires.

Finally both are wishful forms of thinking with thoughts of grandeur in projecting fantasies of how the universe ought to be in contrast without considerance of what existence actually is where in comparison people instead are more concerned about their own unrealistic projections on life.

It is very clever in it's application I'll give you that not to mention that almost 89.9% of people in the world foolishly believe in it.
 
 

 
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