General Question

Ibrooker's avatar

Is every action of a human out of pure self interest?

Asked by Ibrooker (60points) September 24th, 2008
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

23 Answers

deaddolly's avatar

Not, every. Depends on what life stage you’re in. Depends on your values etc.

sundayBastard's avatar

Yes! There is no such thing as altruism. I am sorry. Look I even answered this question for some reason. Maybe just so you would know of my existence or think I was smart or to outdo someone else or for a future friendship or enemy. no such thing as altruism.

blastfamy's avatar

Is it in a parent’s self interest to provide for their child at a fundamental level?


sundayBastard's avatar

Yes! It is! Mommy feeds baby. because mommy fears the feeling she would have(then maybe she would want to die), if baby starve. no such thing as altruism. sorry. none. that is just how it is and it’s OK. It’s a survival program buddy

basp's avatar

I think we receive some kind of return for every action we take. The return isn’t always what is expected but there is always an expectation of some kind of return.

augustlan's avatar

I used to think so. Back when I was a cynical teen As I’ve grown and learned, I’ve changed my mind. I do many, many things that are not in my best interests, but are for the benefit of someone else. Yes, I know it can be argued that it makes one feel good to do good, but I don’t buy that. I think humans can, and do, rise above that level. Many times one acts without any thought at all, such as in an emergency situation. In that instance there is no time to even think about what will be gained from your action.

sundayBastard's avatar

Your brain processes 4 billion thoughts per second (only 2,000 that you could possibly be aware of). There is plenty of time. It is ok. This is who we are.

basp's avatar

You make a good point about an emergency situation. All though, I think a good argument could be made against that. There is the expectation one will receive gratitude for a heroic act.

sundayBastard's avatar

Yes. This is just how we are. Your thoughts are so fast. There is time. When you walk do you consciously tell your legs to move every step? You are constantly processing so much information it is unreal. Even in an emergency situation.

blastfamy's avatar

4 billion thoughts per second covers most of the subconscious: breathing, heartbeat, etc.
Many of the calculations cover the fluidity of movement and conscious thought that you take for granted.

In a crisis situation, people act fast based on pre-concieved notions of right and wrong. Say, for instance, that someone pulls a gun on the president. For no other reason that he is the president (an important position) would someone jump in front of the bullet. I don’t think that the idea of the notion of heroism comes into play. These people are among the theory Z. They are self motivated to do what is right for the sake of it. No reward involved.

sundayBastard's avatar

The reward is obtained by them prior to their action.

sundayBastard's avatar

ie. the feeling….......of doing what is right.

basp's avatar

blast, the fact that they would want to do something because it is the right thing to do implies they expect a return. Our society operates on the belief that if you are a good person good things will happen for you.

sundayBastard's avatar

that is what i am saying

sundayBastard's avatar

There is no such thing as altruism.

AstroChuck's avatar

Of course. How can it be any other way?

blastfamy's avatar

I guess you’re right…

roadventer's avatar

Yes, we act in self-interest. However, most of us do recognize that serving the interests of others is often in our own self-interest.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

Hm, yes. Wow. But yeah.
“There is no such thing as altruism.” As sundayBastard so blatantly, but truthfully stated.

SuperMouse's avatar

I would differentiate between self-interest and self-preservation. Of course we all act out of a desire to preserve our life here on Earth. The self-interest part might be determined by where a person sits on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The higher you are on the scale, the more likely you will be in a place to act out of something other than self-interest. Once your own house is securely in order, your focus can shift a bit.

wundayatta's avatar

Damn, sundaybastard! I have had this argument using the same logic you used, over and over, and I lose every time. What do you have that I don’t? You’re good!

I will throw this into the mix: evolutionary biologists tend to analyze all behavior in terms of survival value. Apparently we aren’t built just to consider our own survival, but the survival of our group, or species. This is why some people are willing to sacrifice themselves for others, such as soldiers who might throw themselves on a grenade to save their buddies, and others who die to save someone else.

I think that all this might change if we are more careful about our definition of altruism. If we define it as actions that bring more immediate benefit to other individuals than to the person taking the action, we might not have a debate. Yes, helping someone else may have a kind of karmic effect which eventually returns to benefit you; and yes, helping another person is a kind of social glue that creates the expectation of reciprocation even though we do not, ostensibly, do it for that purpose; but in the near term, we are doing something for someone else, not ourselves.

We could test this. I know a number of people here who have said that they do altruistic actions with no expectation of return. We could tell them to go be altruistic, and make sure they get no return, not in status or approval or anything. We could see how long they kept up the altruistic work. My bet is that it wouldn’t be long before they would be bemoaning the damn ingrates they were trying to help, and soon after that, they’d give up on their altruistic behavior.

lifeflame's avatar

I think it all comes down to how you define “self”

I believe it is possible to do things for the purpose of something greater or outside ourselves. The act, of course, might happen to be rewarding to myself, but that’s not why I did it.

Of course, you can argue that every act that we do is altruistic; but when you start getting into unconscious motivations and thoughts then things get a bit hard to prove. Then it starts to smell a bit like someone who claims that you are “in denial” of something, where basically, the more you try to argue against it, the more it appears to “prove” the argument:
A: You have a cold because you have unprocessed repressed feelings…
B: I don’t think so, it’s just a cold…
A: See, you’re in denial!
B: What the..?!
A: It’s ok, just let it out…

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