General Question

ninja_man's avatar

Is preservation of ones life the end-all goal for humans?

Asked by ninja_man (1133 points ) September 2nd, 2012

When faced with death do other considerations (moral and philosophic) give way to self-preservation?

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25 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Obviously it all depends on the person. I am 53 now and yes, if I had to choose between myself or my 24 year old daughter dying it would be a choice with moral and philosophical leanings for me. I feel that I should concede to the younger human at this point.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Actually, as a rule, the answer is NO. The anthropological goal is “survival of the tribe” or the species, but NOT the individual. A single member can live or dies, but promulgation of the group as a whole is the key factor.

downtide's avatar

@elbanditoroso is right. Given a choice between saving themselves or saving their children, most people will instinctively choose to save their children and sacrifice themselves. That is purely about perpetuation of the species and one’s own bloodline.

marinelife's avatar

Pretty much. It’s the Hunger Games.

Sunny2's avatar

I don’t think so, but it certainly does seem to be the case when you look at the financial problems for the medical field. 80 and 90 year old lives are extended at any cost if the family wants it to be so. So thousands of dollars are spent so someone old lives a few more months. I have “do not resuscitate” requests and have asked my offspring not to keep me alive. In times past, death was accepted as expected and natural, now it’s someting to prevent at all costs.

flo's avatar

I think people choose to save their children because they couldn’t live with themselves otherwise. I don’t know if they thinking of perpetuation of the species at the time.

SavoirFaire's avatar

No. There is an endless stream of stories about people who sacrifice their lives for others, typically for what they perceive to be some greater good. If self-preservation were really a psychological trump card, these sorts of tales would be rare to non-existent.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@flo – i don’t think it is even a conscious decision (me or the kids) – it is one of those genetically imprinted decisions that were created and evolved over millions of years. In fact, I am sure that the decision (save the species) is a lot like a nine month old learning to crawl – genetic imperative. Not conscious thought.

flo's avatar

@elbanditoroso but why isn’t the ”one of those genetically imprinted decisions that were created and evolved over millions of years” be about the guilt, that would be too unbearable to live with having done such a filthy, rotten thing to choose my own life over my child. It is contrary to what a parent is supposed to be about. Protecting our children, from death or from peadophiles (Toddlers and Tiara) and other things is our job.

flutherother's avatar

No, it’s a poor human who lives his life entirely within his own skin.

Nullo's avatar

No. History is full to bursting with people who have died for their beliefs, for example.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@flo – I am not God; nor am I a cultural anthropologist.

woodcutter's avatar

It’s the tribe, without that, one is nothing.

ninja_man's avatar

Well you folks have given me some hope for humanity! Thanks all!

fremen_warrior's avatar

@ninja_man‘s original question: what does it matter when you die? We’re all worm food sooner or later.

_Whitetigress's avatar

I literally stay alive for the enjoyment that life brings and coincidentally I believe I’m wired to have kids and teach them my philosophy. I don’t know is that self-fish? Is that me, trying to produce a copy of my thoughts. (it’s actually quite crazy to think just like cells multiply, humans multiply, and even in socities we can measure some people go for this label, some go for that label, some represent themselves this way or that way, and then we teach uniqueness when really there is a certain type of people, and this can be measured through similarities of beliefs)

“When faced with death do other considerations (moral and philosophic) give way to self-preservation?”

As mentioned above, I think sacrificing myself for my kid would actually be preserving myself in a way. Of course I recognize my son is his own person, but data wise, through genes and philosophy I live on, sort of.

wundayatta's avatar

I think evolution has developed several different strategies for survival of the gene pool. Some involve focusing on individuals and encouraging people to prioritize their own genes above all else. But there are other strategies as well, including those that involve sacrificing one’s life for others.

SO preservation of one’s extended set of genes—extended as in the genes of relatives as well as one’s own genese—seems to help explain more behavior than simple preservation of one’s own genes. But it’s all just a hypothesis in search of supporting evidence, still.

ninja_man's avatar

@wundayatta Better than not having a hypothesis at all.

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flo's avatar

@elbanditoroso okay, me neither and most people aren’t.

wk143sk's avatar

It’s actually been mathematically proven. Humans are only kind to one another to further the “compassion” part of their bloodline. Like if a mother pushes a stranger out of the way of and oncoming car, and is killed, the compassion in her bloodline is lost. But is a mother pushes her own children out of the way and is killed, then the bloodline continues through the children. No act is ever 100% selfless.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wk143sk Not only has it not been mathematically proven, the (non-mathematical) “evidence” you give is spurious. It confuses several issues. For instance, I have no personal interest in my bloodline continuing. The notion that I do have such an interest comes from a misleading—even if occasionally useful—anthropomorphizing of nature and the evolutionary process. My genes function in such a way as to promote their continuation, but they do so by creating a machine (i.e., me) that has its own preferences and motivations. My interests may conflict with what we may loosely refer to as my genes’ interests, and thus self-sacrifice could very well be contrary to my own interests regardless of the purpose for which evolution may have programmed me.

gailcalled's avatar

@wk143sk: It’s actually been mathematically proven.

Please provide the proof. I (and Fermat) want to see it.

ninja_man's avatar

@wk143sk That does beg the question of what soldiers (typically young with no children) were doing when they threw themselves on grenades or walked back into fire to retrieve a man.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@ninja_man I suppose the obvious answer is that those soldiers were just plain bad at math. ~

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