Does altruism really exist? | INFJ Forum

Does altruism really exist?

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by AUM, Nov 19, 2009.

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  1. AUM

    AUM The Romantic Scientist

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    Definition of altruism:
    Do you think people can be true altruistic? I mean, I'm pretty aware that most people can be selfless with people they care about and are close to them, but, what about strangers?

    If you say yes, than wouldn't you say that even the fact that you do selfless acts to feel good about yourself would be acting for your benefit? Is there a pure altruistic behavior in the nature of a human being?

    (I apologize for sounding redundant but I want to be really specific on what basis I'm giving the word value. )
     
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  2. bamf

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    For me, the feeling good afterwords is a benefit but definitely not the reason I act altruistic. To see other people happy is the motivation behind; in all honesty it has nothing to do with me. If I feel good, well that's just a good side affect. I definitely don't do it to feel good about myself, in fact that sort of motivation has never crossed my mind.
     
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  3. Raccoon Love

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    i think it is possible to be altruistic to someone you don't know, however we are not pure therefore no one can be 100% altruistic, we have all been selfish at some point in our lives no matter how selfless we claim to be or our actions demonstrate. I always score high on altruism on online assessments, this is do to the fact that I'm often very concerned about the welfare of others, and I'm not really better competitive, however I don't take pleasure in doing it. I do it because I think it's the right thing to do as a human being.I know I have been selfish so I'm not pure, ex: me ranting about life and how much I do not enjoy it when in reality some other people are dying of hunger. That can be described as selfish and self-absorption, I notice the more I become depress the more self-center i become.
     
  4. Billy

    Billy Contents Under Pressure
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    I agree with this, people can act altruistic just because its the "right" thing to do, the feeling good afterward is rarely the motivation, just a reward for doing the "right" thing.

    Also I find that people like INFJs who live on Fe tend to get empathy main lined to them, therefore it isn't always a conscious choice to do the right thing. if you can truly feel what someone else is feeling just by association and not make a conscious effort to do it, then its definitely possible to be altruistic.
     
    #4 Billy, Nov 19, 2009
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  5. bamf

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    I wouldn't say caring about yourself makes you any less altruistic. You have to be alive and able bodied to help other people, in fact I'd venture to say that it could be selfish not to care about yourself because if you aren't 100% in body and spirit, you're not helping other people to the best of your ability.
     
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    AUM

    AUM The Romantic Scientist

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    Assuming that everyone should feel the same way you do, then why do you think that not too many people are altruistic if being so is going to make others and yourself happy? Could it be ignorance, culture or ones own nature?(Given that most people pursue what is going to provide them with happiness.)
     
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  7. bamf

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    I like to think that most everyone has some good in them, but to give to others unconditionally takes time and effort. People are lazy.
     
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  8. Puck

    Puck Perilous Pixie
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    Emphatically yes! I do believe in altruism, from which feeling good is a by product. How do people know that it feels good for them to act altruistically in the first place? My reasoning here is that they presumably did it at least once before they knew there was any kind of payoff for them. What they do after this may be tainted in the eyes of the more cynical among us, as being in their own best interests, but that first time at least - the leap of faith, to do something for humanity rather than for the self, is evidence enough for me.
     
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  9. Solar Empath

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    If feeling good about something negates any altruistic value in your world then no, there can be nothing but selfish motivation.

    I refuse to live in that world though.
     
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  10. Solar Empath

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    If people are valuable then I am just as valuable as someone else. Why then should I be willing to make others happy and help them, but be deemed 'selfish' if I also help myself? Am I suddenly less worthy of help and happiness?
     
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  11. Roger

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    I have seen many occasions in my life. Sometime people can be truly altruist. Or may be some people use this tool to get benefit from others. If you want to know that person is selfless or not, i suggest we need to wait and be patient. Time will reveal everything about them. It will tell person is being selfless because it gives them nice feelings. If they are wrong, you will come to know about it.
     
  12. DefectiveCreative

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    Looks like I differ from most everyone who's posted so far (wonder if it's an Fi v Fe thing?) in that I definitely think that true altruism (in the sense of complete selflessness) doesn't exist. Everything we do is, at heart, motivated by self-interest (which is very different to selfishness btw).

    It's only after we've already made the decision to help, on a subconscious level and based on self-interested impulses, that we then consciously rationalise other more "altruistic" reasons why we are going to/are helping someone.

    What you're saying there is that it makes you feel good to see other people happy, so I'd argue that you are, in fact, being motivated by self-interest.

    Same goes for this. If doing the "right thing" is important to you, then it would make you feel bad to not do it. Therefore, when you help someone because it's the "right thing to do", you're actually being motivated by the self-interested impulse to avoid the unpleasant feeling of not doing the "right thing".

    Maybe as they were growing up they saw people around them helping others and how good it made them all feel. More likely though they simply act out of self-interest and then, after the fact, realise that it made them feel good.
     
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  13. Solar Empath

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    The issue I have with this is you are assuming that personal emotional benefit is the primary reason for acting. I do not believe that an emotional benefit invalidates an action as altruistic. I also reject the ramifications of a world view that states that all actions by all people occur because of self interest.
     
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  14. DefectiveCreative

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    "True" altruism (that is, complete selflessness) necessitates complete ignorance of any potential consequences that may stem from the act of helping someone, because if you are aware of any of the consequences it will effect your decision making process, and all decision making processes are essentially acts of self-interest because they are made using our own unique life-view.

    Personally I'm not sure if it's even possible to be completely ignorant in that way, because I think that there will probably always be aspects of any given situation that you will be able to extrapolate potential outcomes from. And even if you couldn't, it could be argued that - if the consequences are unknown - your subconscious would decide against helping someone simply as an act of self-preservation.

    I'm interested to hear what you believe the ramifications of living in a world without "true" (though perhaps in the context I'm using it, it would be more accurate to say "full") altruism would be, because I happen to think that we are living in that world right now.
     
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  15. Solar Empath

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    A world where all actions are primarily motivated by self interest is a world where everyone in your life is only your friend/spouse/parent because they get something out of it. Your intrinsic value is secondary to their self-interest.

    It's a world of takers, and the only 'true' answer to any request is 'what's in it for me?'
     
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  16. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    Yes, I think true altruism does exist. This does not negate the possibility of some level of self interest, but even beyond this.....yes, in its truest forms it does exist. I have seen it many times.
     
  17. DefectiveCreative

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    I have to emphasise that these decisions are being made on an unconscious level (or in the "Id", if you prefer the Freudian version). People (in general) aren't standing around consciously thinking to themselves "What's in it for me?", their unconscious is making the decisions it thinks is best for itself and then we consciously rationalise those decisions afterwards, usually without even realising that that's what we're doing (a recent study showed that - even with simple yes/no choices - the subconscious mind makes a decision anywhere up to 6 seconds before we consciously "decide" what choice we're going to make).

    Even on a biological level it's what we're programmed to do (if you agree with Richard Dawkins about the selfish gene theory), we make decisions based on ensuring the survival of our particular genetic code, which is part of the reason why parents (usually) put their children's well-being ahead of their own.

    As for friends seeing you in terms of what you can do for them, that's exactly what we all do. We determine who our friends are based on what we bring to each other, and I say "each other" because if helping a friend or simply even making them feel good makes you feel good, then it helps to create a reciprocal cycle of giving between you.

    If someone doesn't make me feel good when I'm around them, why would I call them a friend? Wouldn't it make more sense to be friends with people who make you feel good? (It's important to note that I'm talking over the long term. Everyone has bad days and it isn't in our best interest to make snap decisions about people based on limited interaction with them).

    There's a pretty simple answer to the concern that a world motivated by self-interest would be a cold and uncaring place where people simply use others and ignore their "intrinsic value", and that is to consciously invent reasons to care, because as CBT shows concious thought patterns can eventually become ingrained on an unconscious level.

    For example, like Billy we could decide that helping others is the "right thing" to do, we would then be motivated to offer help to others because to do otherwise would make us feel bad. Alternatively we could develop a holistic empathy towards others, which would have the same effect, with the addition that it would begin to create a balancing point between using others and respecting their "intrinsic value".
     
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    #17 DefectiveCreative, Nov 19, 2009
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  18. Solar Empath

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    I understand the viewpoint, but I disagree for three reasons:

    1: I disagree with the definition of self interest used here. The term as used here by default encompases anything that would cause someone to choose something, from hair to mood to morality. Self-interest here is 'anything considered positive by the individual' basically. The word becomes redundant. Self interested decision is like three sided triangle. This wouldn't be so bad if the term outside of this context still meant that. It doesn't. It implies a decision based mostly on real personal gain. Outside of this situation we would describe a decision made from self interest as a decision that leads to detectable quantifiable gains for the individual. We would not describe a stranger saving a child from drowning as self interested anywhere outside of this specific discussion. We would describe them as altruistic.

    2: I disagree with the psychology. I do not believe that all decisions are made subconsciously and then rationalized. I believe that we are able to override the subconscious with our conscious minds. You cover this a little when you describe changing one's subconscious. It can be overridden on an immediate case basis as well. This is pretty much the definition of courage. When we experience fear and are driven to subconsciously run, we instead consciously decide to override that and make a stand. Likewise a person may decide to act selflessly in a situation where every impulse pushes them to run or quit. This would be an altruistic decision.

    3: Finally, I disagree with it morally. What happens when people start consistently and consciously applying this viewpoint to their lives? When you have to admit to yourself even within the behaviorist framework when your husband/wife says 'I love you' that they are only saying it because of self interest? Some people would better detect false kindness, but others would develop a deep cynicism about humanity and goodness in general. I think that the negatives outweigh the positives here.

    Conclusion: I don't argue with the data. However the conclusions drawn and the weight given to the subconscious in the system are not foregone. They represent merely a philosophic viewpoint. The data can and have been interpreted in other ways. I disagree with the behaviorist viewpoint.
     
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  19. bamf

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    Altruistic or not?

    A man who has a wife and two kids at home is driving down an empty street one night without a cell phone. He notices a house is on fire and hears a person calling for help. He rushes into the building without second thought in hopes to save the person.


    Personally I don't see how someone in such a situation could be acting with self interest. To risk your own life to try and save another in a situation with no known outcome...well I just fail to see how it could be self-motivated at all. If this isn't altruistic, then I don't know what is.
     
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  20. Gaze

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    Pretty much agree with this. I think when you sacrifice your own needs and self-interests to act on behalf of someone else, to give of yourself to help, save, etc. in a selfless act without seeking personal gain, then you are on the verge of demonstrating true altruism.

    The key to determining whether an act is truly altruistic is the motive, action, and response.
     
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