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is all human action motivated by self-interest?

 
 
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 12:49 pm
there are some desires which human beings simply cannot avoid, such as hunger, sleep, sex etc. these things are not based puerly on self-interest, hunger wants to eat, however your interests may not. however, it would seem as those people can override even these natural desires, even if you are hungry you do not have to eat, or sleep or have sex. every human has the desire to eat, but if one is not interested in eating one does not have to. so it would seem that we do simply act out of self-interest, regardless of our uncontrollable desires.

however, psychological egoism does suffer from circular reasoning; it assumes what it concludes, that people act purely out of self-interest. also, people claim to act on an altruistic basis, the "selfless concern for others", such as christians and indeed atheists.

in not sure on this one.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 11 • Views: 9,162 • Replies: 41
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Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 01:23 pm
@existential potential,
Even altruism may be motivated by self-interest. When I am altruistic, it makes me feel good, and maybe some of my motivation for being altruistic is due to the personal pleasure it gives.
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joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 01:39 pm
@existential potential,
We've been down this road before: "Is genuine altruism possible?"
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hawkeye10
 
  0  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 02:07 pm
the mistake is not being able to see outside of the individual, specifically the rational part of the individual. Much of what we do is determined by genetics and culture, which is passed down to us through the millenia. We control only part of what we do and who we are, we are aware of even less.The op is of little use because it fundamentally misunderstands the reality of the situation.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 02:40 pm
@existential potential,
I would say yes. But self-interests can also coincide with group-interests, and in many cases the coincident interests actually supersede those interests which are purely for self.

existential potential
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 04:35 pm
@rosborne979,
that may be so, but in certain situations acting for the group could still be ultimately motivated by self-interest. for example, a gang member may act in a certain way apparently with the group-interest in mind, however he may have second thoughts about his actions, but will not take an alternative route of action, even if it is the right thing to do, because if he does he knows his life may be in danger. his actions are motivated by self-interest due to fear of the consequences of not conforming with the group.
Merry Andrew
 
  0  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 05:26 pm
@existential potential,
What Joe from Chicago said. Too boring to say the same things over again.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 05:32 pm
@rosborne979,
As a matter of fact, your thesis is proven by many cultures in this world; especially those that have lived in semi-isolation. I believe the US had it from the creation of our country even up to current times. Most people donate to needy causes all the time when they are able.

As a matter of fact, I was reading an article just the other day about a donor who became a customer at a food kitchen. I'm sure these stories are becoming more common as our economy tanks.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Nov, 2008 08:12 pm
@Merry Andrew,
Merry Andrew wrote:

What Joe from Chicago said. Too boring to say the same things over again.

Well, let me be clear: I didn't link to that earlier discussion because I thought it would be too boring to say the same things over again. This is an interesting subject and a previous discussion on a particular topic has never precluded further threads on the same subject. I linked to that earlier thread in the hope that anyone reviewing it would benefit from some of the arguments and insights contained therein, even though the thread eventually descended into yet another discussion about non-dualism, which was the usual course of things in the Philosophy Forum back in those days. Perhaps EP will have better luck with this thread than I did with mine.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 11:23 am
@existential potential,
Quote:
that may be so, but in certain situations acting for the group could still be ultimately motivated by self-interest.

That's kinda what I meant.

If you assume that things which make you feel good (like doing charity and being altruistic) are ultimately self motivated because you want to feel good, then everything seems to be driven by self motivation.

But my point was that self-interest could easily have a coincident overlap with group-interest. In which case it might be doubly motivating.
existential potential
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 01:10 pm
@rosborne979,
but isn't a "group-interest" nothing more than a collective self-interest?
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 01:13 pm
@joefromchicago,
I read that whole thread, in it's entirety, just a few weeks ago.

It's a thorny question and really one of perspective. Caveats about 'lab vs. reality' aside, I think that true altruism comes from attempting good acts without ever knowing whether or not you were successful, or trying to know; merely the act itself is worth it.

I don't really consider it valid to say that the feeling of self-gratification that arises from the decision to attempt good acts denies altruism; maybe only under the most stringent definitions of it.

Cycloptichorn
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 01:16 pm
@existential potential,
Quote:
but isn't a "group-interest" nothing more than a collective self-interest?

I don't know. It feels like we're just mincing words at some point.
0 Replies
 
Bella Dea
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 01:25 pm
You can try not to sleep but eventually you will fall asleep, regardless of your wishes.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 06:23 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:

I read that whole thread, in it's entirety, just a few weeks ago.

Good lord!

Cycloptichorn wrote:
It's a thorny question and really one of perspective. Caveats about 'lab vs. reality' aside, I think that true altruism comes from attempting good acts without ever knowing whether or not you were successful, or trying to know; merely the act itself is worth it.

I'm not sure how one can accomplish the separation of the act from the actor. For instance, handing over a $5 bill to a beggar might, from the perspective of a casual observer, be indistinguishable from handing over a $5 bill to an armed robber, but I doubt that many people would consider the latter to be the same act as the former. Yet the only thing that really distinguishes the two actions (apart from the identities of the recipients) is the intent of the person handing out the cash.

Cycloptichorn wrote:
I don't really consider it valid to say that the feeling of self-gratification that arises from the decision to attempt good acts denies altruism; maybe only under the most stringent definitions of it.

Suppose a person says: "I feel really depressed. I know what will cheer me up! I'll give $5 to a beggar!" She then gives $5 to a beggar, and she indeed feels much better as a result. Was she acting altruistically?
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 06:28 pm
@joefromchicago,
I doubt it matters what the motivation to give is, because the end result is the same; $5 given in good or bad feelings by the donor still equates the same to the person receiving the "gift."
gungasnake
 
  0  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 06:41 pm
@existential potential,
Quote:
is all human action motivated by self-interest?


Only in the case of psychopaths like SlicK Klintler.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 06:47 pm
@cicerone imposter,
cicerone imposter wrote:

I doubt it matters what the motivation to give is, because the end result is the same; $5 given in good or bad feelings by the donor still equates the same to the person receiving the "gift."

You're judging two entirely different acts here: the act of the giver and the act of the receiver. I'll concede that the beggar's act of receiving the $5 is, in this situation, unaffected by the giver's intent, but then we're not really interested in the beggar's act of receiving, since it is unlikely (although not impossible) that the beggar is acting altruistically by taking the money.

As for the irrelevance of the giver's intent, some slight reflection would demonstrate the error of that notion. For instance, let's say that the person in my hypothetical says to herself: "I'm depressed. I know what will cheer me up! I'll play a trick on that beggar and give him a phony $5 bill!" She then gives the beggar what she thinks is a phony $5 bill but which is, in truth, a genuine $5 bill. Once she realizes her mistake, she is even more depressed than before. Now, considering that she ended up giving $5 to the beggar in this second scenario, was her act morally the same as her act of freely giving $5 to the beggar in the first scenario?
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 07:25 pm
@joefromchicago,
You're throwing in the mix something not intended by the first issue of giving; $5 is $5 and we weren't talking about bogus. It was about the intent of the giver whether in good or bad spirit; the value to the recipient does not change.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 09:51 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

Cycloptichorn wrote:

I read that whole thread, in it's entirety, just a few weeks ago.

Good lord!

Cycloptichorn wrote:
It's a thorny question and really one of perspective. Caveats about 'lab vs. reality' aside, I think that true altruism comes from attempting good acts without ever knowing whether or not you were successful, or trying to know; merely the act itself is worth it.

I'm not sure how one can accomplish the separation of the act from the actor. For instance, handing over a $5 bill to a beggar might, from the perspective of a casual observer, be indistinguishable from handing over a $5 bill to an armed robber, but I doubt that many people would consider the latter to be the same act as the former. Yet the only thing that really distinguishes the two actions (apart from the identities of the recipients) is the intent of the person handing out the cash.


I'm not sure I would say that someone who gave money to a robber would be acting under the same intent as someone who did to a beggar. It's the intention of the act that matters, not the act itself.

Quote:
Cycloptichorn wrote:
I don't really consider it valid to say that the feeling of self-gratification that arises from the decision to attempt good acts denies altruism; maybe only under the most stringent definitions of it.

Suppose a person says: "I feel really depressed. I know what will cheer me up! I'll give $5 to a beggar!" She then gives $5 to a beggar, and she indeed feels much better as a result. Was she acting altruistically?


Well, no; the words 'I know what will cheer me up' kinda give that one away.

Instead, let us say that you leave food sitting outside your door, b/c you know that there are starving families living in your neighborhood that you see on your street from time to time. You don't know if they are taking it or not, and you don't make an effort to know; you are simply putting it out there in case someone needs it. That's altruism to me, an act or situation in which you don't know if you are making a difference or not, but acting for the sake of committing good acts. Some would argue that the feeling you get from this negates altruism, but I dunno. It somehow would lack the certainty that comes from knowing you are helping someone.

I'm also surprised that nobody has brought up the classic: jumping on a grenade. Difficult to argue that sacrificing one's life leads to enjoyment that you 'did the right thing' afterward. Things start devolving into variations of what you would have wanted and is that some sort of pre-emptive enjoyment on your part...

Cycloptichorn
 

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