I remember, in about year 8, I got stuck into a very long argument with my religious teacher about 'selfishness' (it took up the entire lesson, my peers were indebted to me for giving them a 'free period').
It was my contention that all humans were completely, utterly, and undeniably selfish and that it was impossible for them to be any other way. My religious teacher (the two-faced, homosexual, sodomising, pervert he ended up being revealed to be) took the other side and asserted that humans were not necessarily selfish (and later he condemned me to hell, because he could see no fault in my logic that if I denied 'God' that when I died I would go to hell. Luckily for me, I considered him to be insane (you know, believing in God, etc.) otherwise that might have been upsetting news..).
I realised that I was correct about human selfishness at that time, and since then my opinion has not changed.
I think it is interesting that I get an objection from nearly everyone that I tell this to, because it is clearly true.
Selfishness is about being 'entirely' concerned for one's self.
You can use the word to describe 'the truth' (as I do) or as 'behavior' (as many perceive its meaning).
Even from a behavioral perspective, humans are entirely selfish. Even when they die to save others; something that is probably considered to be the most 'selfless' act a person could conduct.
The only way that I think it might be possible not be selfish is to entirely deny your significance, something that I don't think is *entirely* possible for a human to do. And even if it were, what use then would selflessness have, except to serve the selfishness of another?
I always thought it was clever how the church (being a collection of scammers, not some 'ethereal', 'intangible' entity) could tap human selfishness, and try to get selfless behavior, by offering rewards in an afterlife. Very clever. Evil though, I'm sure. “Be humble and charitable, otherwise you won't go to heaven!”
Obviously, any decision that you make, will be the one that you think is in your best interests. It doesn't mean you won't be wrong, but it does mean you're selfish.
I think “wanting to be remembered” is probably the best description of what most people use as their selfish goal to encourage selfless behavior from themselves, particularly when they don't believe in an afterlife.
Perhaps people who behave selfishly are just trying to be honest..?
People don't like witnessing selfish behavior in others, because it is not likely to align with their personal selfish agenda. Selflessness on the other hand..? Give it to *me*, *I* want it!
Maybe you say it's impossible to be selfless to justify your selfishness?
I think 'the truth' is that people can't be anything other than selfish.
I think people can exhibit 'selfish' and 'selfless' *behavior*, but I think 'selfless behavior' will always have a 'selfish' agenda.
I try not to behave selfishly, but I always do what I think is in my best interests (even when I don't understand why).
I think winning the affection of (at least some) other people tends to be in my best interests, and with all my other grating personality traits, I could hardly afford to be to be perceived as too selfish.. otherwise I might find my self living alone.. hey.. wait a minute! ;)
>> Even from a behavioral perspective, humans are entirely selfish. Even when they die to save others; something that is probably considered to be the most 'selfless' act a person could conduct. <<
In what way can dying for another be considered selfish? Are you saying that it's due to the person's alleged selfish desire to be remembered? If so, what if wanting to be remembered doesn't enter into it? What if it's done out of a sense of duty or love? I trust you will say it's impossible, but still -- what if?
If it wasn't impossible, then it wouldn't be selfish.
Happy now? :)
Seriously though, haven't I made my point that a person will always "make a decision" and that decision will always be the one that *they* want to make? They might not like any of the options they have to choose from, and pick the "least worse" one, but they still pick the one that they think is the "best for them".
As for what their 'real' selfish motivation is, "wanting to be remembered" was only speculation on my behalf. I don't even understand my own motivations for life. I can barely begin to guess at others'.
p.s. "Sense of duty or love" is just another selfish motivation. It could be considered to fall under "wanting to be remembered" too, especially if death was imminent. :/
Behavior driven by "sense of duty or love" could very well be described as "behaving so as to be perceived as one who was driven by a sense of duty or love".
Bah! I was supposed to have said:
If it wasn't impossible, then it mightn't be selfish.
>> Happy now? :)
But of course! :)
I actually agree with your thoughts insofar as I believe that humans (take me, for example) are selfish. I'd even say that people are *virtually* incapable of committing selfless acts.
Where we seem to differ is that I believe people at times actually do manage to commit truly selfless acts. By your argument (i.e. acting selflessly is impossible), no one in the history of time has every done something without his own personal best interest in mind. Even in my cynicism I cannot fully believe that.
But, yeah -- in and of themselves, humans are selfish bastards.
These people who commit selfless acts, do you suppose they do so because they deny their (relative) significance?
Would their selflessness serve the selfishness of others?
Am I right? ;)
I suppose they do deny their relative significance -- "relative" being the operative word. IOW, you can realize that you have an intrinsic significance and yet still act selflessly by realizing that there are "things" even more significant still and sacrificing for them.
If I've ever been certain of anything it's that selfish people will line up in droves to take advantage of someone else's selfless act. On the other hand, some people will understand a selfless act and partake in it without "taking advantage." And I suppose there's a third type that will dismiss a selfless act as being a selfish act in disguise and write it off altogether (not to name names or anything :).
Am *I* right?? :)
> Am *I* right?? :)
You might have been, except at this point I'm pulling my trump card, taking things to a whole new level, and asserting a deterministic physical reality in which context this conversation has no meaning!
Selfishness presupposes one and one's ability to choose -- right now I don't feel like giving you that as taken.
I'd talk more about it, except I think first we'll have to establish that it's possible for two abstractions constructed of physical 'stuff' to engage in meaningful communication.
Since we'd likely need to communicate in order to do such a thing, and since we can not presuppose the integrity or usefulness of communication we're going to have to accept that we can't prove such communication possible, implying that we can't talk any more about it!
p.s. It's still always about perpetuating humanity isn't it..?
So, 'selflessness' is when one perceives that one's 'group' is going to derive a greater benefit from the detriment of themself..? I.e. benefit outweighs the cost.
>> You might have been, except at this point I'm pulling my trump card, taking things to a whole new level, and asserting a deterministic physical reality in which context this conversation has no meaning! <<
Doh! Just when it was getting good, too! :)
>> So, 'selflessness' is when one perceives that one's 'group' is going to derive a greater benefit from the detriment of themself..? I.e. benefit outweighs the cost. <<
I don't think that's true in the strictest sense (i.e. I don't believe that selflessness is a form of "ends justifying the means"), but I suppose I could sort of agree with the sentiment if given enough leeway in how we define concepts such as "one's 'group'", "benefit", and "cost".
But we'll never know for certain as I have a little trump card of my own, and it's called "going to bed". :)
Until next time, my friend...
Hehe. Good night. :)
"one's 'group'" == love?
"cost" == "one's detriment" (e.g. death)
"benefit" == perceived greater potential for the perpetuation of humanity
Being selfless is like being selfish because in some cases you also benefit from what you do for others, which makes it ethical. For example, if invent something, you benefit from the invention as much as others do. You did something good for yourself and for others at the same time. This idea comes mainly from Benedict Spinoza, but there are others who we have seen express it. Spinoza believed that if people act according to how other people act, everyone will act in harmony. This kind of relates to the idea of “being selfless is like really being selfish in disguise.” This idea is ethical because it explains why people’s selflessness overcomes the selfishness. For example, in the prodigal son, the son is selfless when he leaves his great life, but that is also selfish because he is thinking of only himself and not thinking of the pain that his family is enduring. The golden rule also applies to this idea. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” In a sense, isn’t that both selfless and selfish? Another big example of being selfless and selfish is when giving to charities. Some people who give to charities do it so they can get a Nobel prize or just to get famous, or just for the fact that other people benefit from those charities. Or if you think about, this also implies to when you are shopping for someone else. You are taking your own time and money to shop for someone else, but you are being selfish because you want them to like your gift, or because it will boost that person’s self-esteem. Also, those people who are denying themselves and are devoted to the poor and sick, and deep inside they expect the approval or recognition of others.
Those who give money to philanthropic organizations are selfless because they give, but are selfish because they know that they will become famous, so that is why some people give. Maybe people say it's impossible to be selfless to justify your selfishness? I think the truth is that people can't be anything other than selfish. I think people can exhibit selfish and 'selfless behavior, but I think selfless behavior will always have a selfish agenda.