When we love someone, it is not that we simply love the person; we love the way that the person makes us feel, and we develop a psychological attachment to that person.
In many cases, we do not love the way the person makes us feel. For example, when a child engages in self-destructive behavior, this makes a loving parent feel very bad. Sometimes, this can go on indefinitely, and the parent may never again have another positive feeling as a result of their love for their child. Nonetheless, many parents will continue to love their children, and continue to feel bad as a result.
This is a psychological attachment, but it has no reward. You might say that it's not the reward, but the desire for a reward that motivates the parent. Perhaps someday the child will change their behavior, and the parent desires the positive feelings they will have on that day. I would reply that this sounds plausible. However, it proves nothing. It also sounds plausible that the parent has an instinctive motivation to act in the interests of their offspring.
Here's a concrete example. If the parent is motivated only by the desire for reward, and the possibility of reward is removed, the parent should no longer be motivated, correct? Imagine the child is a long-time heroine addict, and the parent has been trying to help the child change their life the whole time, without any success. Now, the parent becomes aware the child has contracted a disease which will kill them within some short period of time. The parent does not believe the child will change their life before they die. So the parent does not believe they will ever have another positive feeling as a result of their love for their child.
In this situation, if the parent is motivated only by desire for reward, they would stop trying to help their child, correct? Do you believe this is what the parent would do in every case? I don't. I think many parents would continue to try to help, even though they believed it was a hopeless, lost cause. They would continue even knowing that all they would ever received for their efforts is suffering.
Now, I believe you can come up with a way to explain the parent's behavior that comes back around to self interest. So can I. But does this mean the behavior actually is motivated by self interest, or simply that this is one possible explanation? Why should self interest be the only possible motivation in the head of a human being? It is certainly true that every action the human takes is the result of some motivation in their head, but this is not by any means synonymous with, "Every action the human takes is motivated by self interest." That is, unless we define by fiat every single action a human being takes as motivated by self interest, simply by virtue of the fact they are human, in which case the argument becomes trivial.
Imagine some kind of robot programmed with a simple motivation: to push people out of the path of moving cars, and let itself be destroyed in the process. The robot is not motivated by self interest, correct? True enough, the robot is not human, and such a simple robot could not reasonably be considered conscious or alive, or even possessing "motivations" at all, in the human sense of the word.
But the robot and the human have at least this much in common: they are both physical mechanisms operating by physical laws in the physical world. It is possible for such a mechanism to take some action that helps out someone else and is not motivated by self interest. Now, my question to you is, is there some good reason a human being is incapable of taking such an action, that is, an action not motivated by self interest?
Certainly, human beings are often motivated by self interest. But why? I do not believe there is some a priori logical proof that self interest must be the one and only ultimate motivation for all the actions of a conscious being. As complex as human beings are, we were created by evolutionary processes subject to the vicissitudes of a changing environment. We developed self interest because the organisms with genes that contributed to self interest helped those genes get propagated. Is it not possible we also developed selflessness toward our offspring because the organisms with genes that contributed to such selflessness helped those genes get propagated?
hue-man wrote:(emphasis mine)
We love our children more than almost any other person and will protect them by any means, because we feel like they are a part of us, almost like a limb. When we sacrifice ourselves to save another we are relating that someone or something with ourselves.
I agree with the first clause, but the rest does not logically follow. To me, it sounds like an attempt to crowbar apparently-selfless behavior into a framework that begins with the assumption no behavior is selfless.
"If we take any action for the benefit of another, we must be thinking about it as if it was benefiting ourselves."
does NOT logically follow from this
"Every action we take is the result of some motivation in our heads."
Is it not possible we have a motivation in our heads for selflessness, simply because that motivation is what allowed the genes that cause it to be propagated?