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bodyhead's avatar

Can something be truely moral if you get a reward for doing it?

Asked by bodyhead (5520points) September 11th, 2008

If I get paid a lot of money to help others, is it still morally correct? If I’m good just to get into heaven is it still morally correct?

Isn’t morality just being good for the sake of good? If this is true then can any theist be truly moral or is it only non-believers that can be truly moral?

I believe that I’m good, kind and sweet to people but when I die I rot in a box. You might believe that when you are good, kind and sweet to people, you’re laying a foundation for your eternity.

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14 Answers

GAMBIT's avatar

When we do something it should be from our heart. We should not be looking for anything in return. Giving joy to others is a gift and a reward in itself but we can not control how other people react to what we do. I try to be a good husband and father to my wife and daughters in return they give me more happiness than I feel that I deserve. I can carelessly throw a rock into a pond but the rippling effects of the water send beauty to my eyes.

Elbert Hubbard said “the love we give away is the only love we keep”

JackAdams's avatar

I can’t improve on the words GAMBIT wrote, so I’ll just applaud him, agree with him, and then go wash my socks.

nikipedia's avatar

I do not accept the premise that morality relies on “just being good for the sake of being good”. I see two independent components to morality:

(intention) + (result) = extent of moral goodness

So if your intentions are completely noble, but something goes horribly awry and you end up hurting people, it seems fair to call the net of that action not completely moral. E.g., my horrible roommates want to have a clean house. Nothing wrong with that. But in the process of seeking a clean house, they are making my life horrible.

Let’s call the desire for a clean house +2 morality points. Not super moral, but a little bit.
Let’s call the result of this intention—that is, the extent to which they are making me miserable— -50 morality points.

2 – 50 = -48 morality points.

Roommates fail at morality.

In your example, if someone is getting paid to do good work, I don’t think that has any bearing on whether or not his/her intentions are good (well, in the abstract—practically, we could have a whole separate discussion on greed and how money influences psychology/behavior). I can get paid to do morally righteous work AND do it because I am a good person who wants to do good in the world. Those two factors can coexist and not interact with one another.

But this whole answer is cheating, because we have not yet agreed upon definitions for “good” and “moral”, and I think that problem is really at the heart of this discussion.

Harp's avatar

Certainly, to do something with a motive of getting a reward calls into question the altruism that we associate with our ideal of selfless goodness, but it doesn’t make the act immoral per se. We admire those who act with indifference to personal gain, but good can still be done even with a view to personal advancement. Just don’t expect to become a hero that way.

The problem with mixing personal gain into the mix is that reflexively seeking our own advancement can just as easily lead us to take actions that harm others, and here we’re on dangerous moral ground. When we take our own welfare as our moral compass, we will continually find ourselves in this position.

There are certainly times when morality calls upon someone to act contrary to his own interests. That call will be easier to make if one has the habit of putting the interests of others first. But there will be plenty of times when rewards accrue to people who work for the wellbeing of others, and that doesn’t diminish the value of the work.

Viewing this from the point of view of religious merit, however, changes the equation. If there is some kind of cosmic scorekeeping system behind morality, then I guess you’d have to go by the rulebook of whatever game you’re playing. But personally, I think morality boils down to being constantly on the watch for ways to make everyone’s lives a little better, and doing as little harm as possible in the process; it just happens that things tend to go better for me as a result.

PupnTaco's avatar

I call it “enlightened self-interest.” We feel good when helping others, and that feeling is our reward.

susanc's avatar

Well, suppose I do something to help someone out, and it works, they’re actually
If that delights me, does it cancel the fact that
it also delights them?
What a punitive idea.

MacBean's avatar

It’s still morally correct. It just might not still be altruistic.

tinyfaery's avatar

My work also consists of helping people, though I do not get paid a lot of money. Sometimes, when I try to explain to a client that I care what happens to him/her, they often retort “No you don’t, it’s just your job.” And it is my job, but it is still my choice.

bodyhead's avatar

Waitresses and strippers also tell their customers that they enjoy the company their customers bring to the table. The more they ‘enjoy’ the company of their customers, the more they get paid.

wildflower's avatar

I really don’t understand the motivation for this question. How can the fact that you earn a living doing something that agrees with your morals, make it immoral…...???

Morals are subjective. What is moral/immoral to you, may not be to someone else. If you’ve found a job where the morals of the function match your own, that’s just a good thing!
A lot of people have to compromise their values or morals to make a living – be glad you don’t!

Strauss's avatar

Doing something to help others is a good thing. If you can find a way to get financial rewards for it, it is a bonus.

A shallow example:

If there is a need in a community for meals to be prepared, and you feed the masses out of altruistic feelings, that is a good thing.

If you open a restaurant, and folks like to come and pay you to prepare their meals, that is a bonus.

manoffaith3112's avatar

Lovely question, and it gives something interesting to think on bodyhead.

The first part I’d like to adress kind of had two questions. Is it still moral to do something if a person gets paid for it? Well,

manoffaith3112's avatar

Sorry the last answer is messed up. Here is the complete answer of mine. This is a good question, and it gives something interesting to think on.

The first part I’d like to address kind of had two questions. Is it still moral to do something if a person gets paid for it? Well, is it still wrong to rob someone even if the victim ends up not having any thing to steal? Is it still wrong if a husband beats his wife, and still doesn’t get any money for it? In my opinion a lot of being good is the intent of the heart. If I gave every thing I was worth to a good cause, but still didn’t love other’s that isn’t very moral.

If you were referring to the Christian faith perhaps it was a misunderstanding some where along the way that a lot of people have. I’ve talked to a many people and a number of people have thought the same thing. That being good enough brings you into heaven. Some religions promote that too. However, the bible does not teach being good enough will get a person brownie points with God. Doing a lot of good things is not the payment for getting into heaven. Instead that payment was paid at calvary, and believeing and repentence is the way to get into heaven. Unfortunately that kind of thinking of being good enough stops a lot of people from having faith in God, and a relationship with Him. Its by faith and not by works is where any one comes to God. The great part of being a Christian is knowing acceptence and love right where I’m at right now. Right at the beginning of one’s journey by faith. Perhaps I’m not so good. Perhaps I’m really awful sometimes, and can’t seem to be good enough. But any one can still find a way to make it to heaven through Jesus. No person who is good have hardly been sinless all their lives and they need Jesus too.

Could a deist or an atheist do good things? Not having any idea of there being a God; that there is nothing out there. Or believeing God doesn’t do anything supernatural as a deist, and that God quit paying attention to His creation and walked away doesn’t stop people from doing good or kind things. There are all kinds of people who do kind or good things that don’t have any thing to do with God. But again it isn’t through being too bad or too good to get to heaven. I’ve been bought by a price. The price being the blood shed by the Son of God, Jesus. That is how a person gets to heaven.

I hope this helps promote understanding.

Nullo's avatar

Consider: it is moral and good to compensate people for their troubles. How, then, can compensation be immoral?

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