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every action is selfish...

 
 
Reply Fri 8 Jul, 2011 06:44 pm
every action you take is in some way beneficial to you.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 7 • Views: 9,640 • Replies: 151
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jul, 2011 08:14 pm
@hamilton,
What if you jump in front of a bullet meant for someone else?
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jul, 2011 09:27 pm
@hamilton,
If you define altruism as any action which when taken improves another's survival, and threatens/risks your own, then it is clearly not. This is how Dawkin's defined it in the Selfish Gene, and I think that there's something to it. Further, it's not to your benefit, but to your genes (but that is another topic).

What this means is that you can do many actions for others that appear to be charitable, but are actually selfish. This is what you're getting at, but it's only half of the picture. A person may do something that appears absolutely selfish, but the degree of risk to themselves makes it an ultimately altruistic act given that it benefits the survival of someone/something else.

There are plenty of actions that a person can take that reward others and do not benefit themselves.

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Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jul, 2011 11:08 pm
@failures art,
I have consider this issue since I took contact with Evolution more closely and regarding your words I must say that even when there´s no apparent reason for a unselfish act to take place ultimately there´s the aspiration in every human being to transcend his programming...all n all, that keeps seaming pretty selfish to me...(I just don´t have the luxury of keep having your kind of faith...but then I truly appreciate your optimism.)
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:26 am
Does this mean there is no difference between Mother Theresa and Bernie Madoff? It may work philosophically on paper but does anyone actually think this way?
George
 
  2  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:38 am
The words "selfish" and "beneficial" represent a very wide spectrum.
At the very end of the "selfish" spectrum you can say that even the
most unselfish act in some way validates the doer's sense of right.
And thus -- at one end of the "beneficial" spectrum -- it is beneficial
to the doer, and thus selfish.

But, as others here have pointed out, what is the relevance of the
argument to the world of common sense? This is the sort of argument
that has always given philosophy a bad name.







Fil Albuquerque
 
  -1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:46 am
@George,
Really ?
...I love the bad name then...hope it keeps going on to prevent the shallowness of pragmatic thinkers like you of taking over completely...
"God" forbid the day Philosophy becomes what you believe it should be...your place is in Politics not in Philosophy...
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:51 am
@failures art,
Quote:
There are plenty of actions that a person can take that reward others and do not benefit themselves.


While I am inclined to agree with you, this implies that altruism exists.
I have some doubt that human beings are capable of preventing benefit to their self image by selfless acts.
That level of humility doesn't seem attainable, after all, we remain human.

Our motive may be altruistic, and we may be humble enough to keep our mouth shut, but how are we to avoid that moment of self-esteem which is beneficial to us?
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:53 am
@George,
George wrote:
At the very end of the "selfish" spectrum you can say that even the most unselfish act in some way validates the doer's sense of right.


I agree: as is always the case in this kind of argument, the benefits of the action have to be conflated with the motivations behind the action. It's the only way the selfishness argument works. But that's rarely the way it works in real life. If I buy a $0.99 cup of coffee with a dollar, I'm aware that I will receive a penny back. It doesn't follow that the motivation behind my purchase was to receive a penny. Likewise, if I jump in front of a bullet to save someone, I'm aware that this validates my sense of right, or that it "transcends my programming" (as it was put above), or whatever. It doesn't follow that my motivation was to validate my sense of right, or to transcend my programming, or whatever. It was to save someone, plain and simple.
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:55 am
@wayne,
Which is why I used Dawkins' definition of altruism which does not employ motive as a part of the definition. It is only concerned with if an action benefits another and the risk to yourself. The motive can be anything, all that matters with a definition like this is what someone does. In this way it's much simpler to discuss because we cannot know a person's true or full motives. We can however evaluate the product of their actions (to a degree where a useful summary is applicable).

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Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:55 am
@wayne,
The problem with altruism is that it goes against "work" like it is described in Physics...simple.
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Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 08:58 am
@failures art,
Agree fully...nevertheless still is a convenient way to go about it to where I stand...
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:00 am
@wayne,
Quote:
Our motive may be altruistic, and we may be humble enough to keep our mouth shut, but how are we to avoid that moment of self-esteem which is beneficial to us?


A case in point to my post above. Why does the benefit trump the motive? Why must we judge an action according to its benefit rather than its motive? The only reason to do so, it seems to me, is to make the selfishness argument work.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:04 am
@Shapeless,
One could point because it works as a valid answer...but then is like distinguishing charity from Social integration...does it really work ?
...or does the motive changes all in the way we go about it ? ( it goes/runs deeper than that...)
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:07 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
I'm afraid I don't understand what you're saying.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:10 am
@Shapeless,
Well I just did answer your question on the best possible way on why the motive does matter...what is it that you did n´t understand ? or was just my bad English at work there ?

Have you ever heard about the difference between giving a fish to someone who is hungry or teach him to fish...Charity is appalling...I detest charity...something very common in Latin Catholic country´s like my own....
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:21 am
@Shapeless,
Good point.

"He meant well"
0 Replies
 
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:24 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Quote:
what is it that you did n´t understand ? or was just my bad English at work there ?


That's part of it, yes. But mostly it was the bit about "but then is like distinguishing charity from Social integration," which was too opaque for me to unpack.


Quote:
Have you ever heard about the difference between giving a fish to someone who is hungry or teach him to fish


I have, yes. I often cite it as a classic example of a false binary, since it is usually assumed that we can do only one of those things, never both. It's a rather apt example, in fact, since the choice of judging an action either by its motive or by its benefit is another false binary.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:29 am
@Shapeless,
The very term "judging an action" reminds me of the old Korean proverb where the old guy finds a horse, "could be a good thing, could be a bad thing"

Maybe that judging an action, and judging a person are two sides of the same coin here.
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 09:34 am
@Shapeless,
But there´s where you get a wrong turn...it is n´t a false binary when one is meant to preventing you from doing the other...aside that I agree with what you mean on that regard...we can do both.

(actually "charity" in its common parade it is a very "clean/polite" way of applying Darwinism)
 

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