Nature of Selfishness | INFJ Forum

Nature of Selfishness

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Aoiluna, Sep 3, 2008.

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  1. Aoiluna

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    Ok a topic was brought up in my developmental psychology class about whether humans are inherently selfish, innately good, or they start out with a blank slate (Locke's tabula rasa).
    My love of definitions:


    Selfish:

    1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
    2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motive

    Good:

    1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man.
    2. satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree: a good teacher; good health.
    3. of high quality; excellent.
    4. right; proper; fit: It is good that you are here. His credentials are good.
    5. well-behaved: a good child.
    6. kind, beneficent, or friendly: to do a good deed.


    I would love to hear everyone's thoughts.
     
  2. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    I would say that ideas like "selfish" and "good" are socially constructed concepts and they have no basis in the natural world. In other words, they are ideas that were created by humans for humans and they are by no means innate, nor exist outside of human perception. As a result of being constructed, the definitions and symbolism of the words vary from individual to individual and they also change across time and between cultures.

    So I guess you could say that my argument is that human nature is inherently relative.
     
  3. Quinlan

    Quinlan Right the First Time!

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    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_26_171/ai_n27303257

    I think it's a human's natural state to look out for others (which I suppose could be a definiton of "good" or "unselfish") and environmental influence and trauma creates selfish behaviour.
     
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  4. Quinlan

    Quinlan Right the First Time!

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    We are social animals, so are apes and dolphins and any other animals that live in groups, so social constructs are as much a part of the natural world as anything else.
     
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  5. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    A social construct is any phenomenon "invented" or "constructed" by participants in a particular culture or society, existing because people agree to behave as if it exists or follow certain conventional rules.

    By that definition, I don't think that apes or dolphins possess social constructs because they do not "agree or behave" according to any "conventional rules". Therefore, social constructs do not exist in nature, and are unique to human experience.

    Dolphins and Apes are only social in the sense that they live and interact in groups.

    Edit: After thinking about it for a bit longer, I have to concede there are behaviors in which animals engage in which are not socially conceived but are biologically driven. These behaviors are instinctual, and thus born from innate understanding. Humans have an innate instinctual drive to preserve themselves and an innate instinctual drive to adhere to the group. These drives probably provide the basis for the social constructions of "selfishness' and "goodness". I would say those concepts are thus inherently flawed if they are taken to be mutually exclusive since adhering to the group often improves chances of one's self preservation and reproduction.
     
    #5 Satya, Sep 3, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  6. Quinlan

    Quinlan Right the First Time!

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    You get back to the argument of is there such a thing as pure alturism? Or are you always benefiting yourself in either a direct or indirect way.

    I think there are plenty of conventional rules that any group animal needs to abide by to remain part of the group, if a chimpanzee shows antisocial behaviour I'm sure it would get driven out of the group. If a male lion does not submt to the leader of the pride, the leader will drive him out.
     
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    #6 Quinlan, Sep 3, 2008
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  7. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    It is a rather dumb argument. It demonstrates the faulty belief that whatever occurs in nature that leads to the social construct of "selfishness" is not mutually exclusive to whatever natural force leads to the social construct of "goodness". It could then be argued that there are times when it is good to be selfish and times when it is selfish to be good.

    The problem with your idea is that you are defining the rules and standards. A chimp that shows antisocial behavior isn't going to be ostracized from the group because there is an "understood rule or standard" among chimps that they are against antisocial behavior but simply because, the chimps will find it difficult to associate with that chimp and so they will learn to avoid that chimp. Chimps do not have standards or rules because they don't have an effective language in which to explain or pass on such things. Language is where social constructs are born. In other words, no language means no social constructs, or rules or standards, or any conventions. Now humans can apply their own conceptions of rules and standards to the animal world, but the animals themselves have no conception of those things. That is what you are doing with your chimp and lion examples.
     
    #7 Satya, Sep 3, 2008
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  8. Quinlan

    Quinlan Right the First Time!

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    Rules and agreements don't always need to be verbalised, animals live by the implied rules of the group. The rules are there, the chimp doesn't know what it's called but it's there and we as humans can observe the implied rules. I don't see the difference between implied group rules and ones that are communicated through verbal or written language.


    In my opinion, for a group to be organised (like a wolf pack or a chimp troop) then the members of that group will have to operate within implied rules and standards or else it would be chaos and there is actually very little chaos in the animal kingdom.
     
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    #8 Quinlan, Sep 4, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2008
  9. OP
    Aoiluna

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    Well I will go ahead an state what I said in my class and elaborate.

    I believe that humans are by nature selfish in order to maximize survival potential. Being selfish is looked at as a negative quality, but I perceive it as a positive quality of infants trying to survive. A baby doesn't care if you want to sleep, if he is hungry he will cry until he is fed. If infants did not express their needs selfishly it would be more difficult to take care of them because they still need to develop the language in which we communicate with.

    Many of us are brought up to be 'good' yet it is difficult to honestly say that there is a thing such as true altruism. Doing something good for someone, doing the 'right thing', or giving something up always seems to help the individual in some way. Many people do it so that they look better to the world, thus improving their 'moral status'. Even if one does good to just feel good about doing a good deed, they are still receiving emotional pleasure from it.
     
  10. Satya

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    Are you suggesting that animals live by conditions which govern their own behavior that are implicitly enforced within the group purely by their learned behaviors and subsequent actions? That is actually how anthropologists believe that humans first began to develop into societies and cultures. The difference between humans and other social animals in this respect was that humans were able to grasp symbolism and thus develop langauge. Hence the problem with your idea is that for animals to conceive or understand "rules" they have to be able to both make assumptions and to generalize from those assumptions. Social animals are rather good at assuming, but without the use of symbols, they are not good at generalizing. Chimps can assume from past experiences with an antisoical chimp that they won't enjoy the presence of that chimp when they see that chimp again because they have learned from that experince, but since they have no conceptoin of "behavior" due to their lack of symbolism, they do not understand that other chimps who behave in similar fashion will not be too fun to hang with until they have experienced those chimps.

    In short, you cannot concieve rules unless you can generalize, and you cannot generalize unless you can use symbols. And as you may remember, social constructs only exist for those who can understand rules.


    That just demonstrates your human bias. Language is such an integrated part of your existence that you cannot imagine an existence without it.
     
  11. Entyqua

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    Three basic thought functions of ANY thinking being...
    Will it harm me
    Can I mate with it
    Can I eat it

    Thus saying that YES basic instincts are Selfish in nature...Once these questions are answered more questions form in a higher beings mind...Example If I can mate with it do I find it attractive..If so how would they feel about it..how would I feel about it...what are the consequences...ect...

    A great quote and I cant remember who said it

    "One would say that Watching out for number one is inherent for watching out for number two"
     
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  12. Quinlan

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    In the wild, wouldn't selfishness mean surviving on your own? For humans survival means depending on the group to protect you. Selfless individuals are embraced by the group and have lots of babies, while selfish individuals are shunned by the group, face the wilds on their own and end up having no babies.

    The stronger your tribe is the fitter you are for survival. So we have evolved to cooperate and do things for others because that strengthens the group. However the root reason for the act is to increase your own chance of survival to pass on your genes, which is selfish. hmmm... passing on your genes is a selfless act because once your dead you get no benefit from it, sooo humans are inherently selfless. :D
     
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  13. Quinlan

    Quinlan Right the First Time!

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    A dog can be trained not to bite by reward and punishment from it's owner. Does that dog then need to be trained not to bite each and every new human it comes across because it can't generalise? The dog learns biting its owner will result in punishment and therefore it's "wrong or bad" in it's mind, it then generalises what it has learnt and applies it to all humans. Some dogs might need more extensive training but eventually they'll generalise it.

    Animals are capable of a lot of communication, body language can be just as powerful for teaching rules as verbal language is, in some ways its more powerful. We pass on standards of behaviour through words, a wolf will pass on standards of behaviour through a bite on the arse or a growl.

    Maybe I'm completely missing the point here.
     
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  14. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    That isn't generalizing, that is classical conditioning. And no, dogs do not generalize not biting their owner to not biting all people. They sometimes need to be conditioned to not do so. However, most dogs will not bite other people once they have been taught by their owner because dogs are pack animals and they are hormonally driven to follow the cues of the pack leader, which would be the owner. As such, as long the owner does not show aggression or fear towards other people, the dog will not be inclined to attack.

    We attach words to symbols. The only symbols that can be attached to bites and growls are pain and emotional reactions. They are not comparable.

    Yes you are because you have drifted completely from the point of whether or not animals are capable of social constructs to whether or not they are able to communicate via non verbal communication as effectively as we do with verbal communication. You have already conceded in a prior post that animals are not able to understand rules, and therefore you conceded that they are not able to have social constructs. So I really have no idea why you are debating me on communication.
     
  15. Quinlan

    Quinlan Right the First Time!

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    You're right I have drifted way off track, so back to your original statement. Being selfish is just a term applied to certain behaviour.

    Behaving in a way that only benefits the individual is an action that can be observed, so the concept isn't socially constructed it just is. So it is possible for humans to be biologically driven to exhibit behaviour that only benefits the individual. It is my opinion that humans are biological driven to take actions that benefit others, however this can be effected by environmental influence and trauma.

    On the other hand when I finally (damn S) look at the big picture I can see that good, bad, selfish and beneficial are meaningless outside of human perception.

    Edit: actually having gone back and read the start of the thread what I meant to original say was "We are social animals, so are apes and dolphins and any other animals that live in groups, so social constructs (as an natural extension of the social interactions seen in the animal kingdom) are as much a part of the natural world as anything else." and then I got off track with whether animals follow rules or not...
     
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    #15 Quinlan, Sep 4, 2008
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  16. crissy

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    People try to oversimplify human motivations. There is no such thing as a purely "selfless" act. For a person's actions to be characterized as unselfish, they can't personally benefit at all. That means no good feelings, no friendships, NOTHING positive. Even if someone is sacrificing their life for a cause or for another person, it can still be characterized as selfish.

    For example, years ago, when I saw my sister drowning, I went to save her. If I had not, I would feel guilt and shame. To avoid that negative feeling I was forced to overcome my fear of danger and help her. She lived.

    There is also the issue of people dying for a cause. In that case, the person is ranking the cause above their own self-interest, but if they truly believe that the cause is more important than their own life and they did not take steps to fight or die for it, then once again they would feel guilt. I my case it would be the cause of "freedom and justice for all" motivating me to join the military.

    In the end it comes down to what the person fears more, death or shame, but either way...it is selfish.

    Now, I posed most of this from the negative aspect of avoiding guilt or death. You could put it more positively by saying that someone was seeking life or happiness and fulfillment through serving others, but it is not in my nature to say it that way. That is because my mind is an unhappy and jaded place. Also, if you die trying to help someone or for a cause...you don't really get to enjoy those positive feelings that long.
     
    #16 crissy, Sep 4, 2008
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  17. G.Kai

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    Perhaps there is a kind of selfishness that comes from the survival instinct, but I'd like to make a distinction between survival, and a person who is emotionally or materialistically greedy at the expense of others. I can't speak for the other INFJs here, so I don't know if I'm going to be addressing an INFJ trait, or if it's just me.

    I've actually had to learn how to be more selfish. My tendency is to see to everyone else's happiness before my own. Helping others is one of my core behaviors, to the point that it often interfered with my own success and well-being. I would feel guilty if I put myself before others in making important life decisions. I started thinking about flying on a commercial jetliner. When they tell you about the oxygen masks, they always instruct you to put your own mask on before you try and help someone else - you can't help the other person when your own brain is oxygen-starved (yes, I know this relates to survival but bear with me). In my case, I've had to learn how to express my own emotional and materialistic needs without feeling guilty about it. It hasn't been an easy lesson for me, but I'm starting to get the idea. If I show the same nurturing side of myself to me as I do to others, I am caring for my inner and outer person, which allows me to continue to help others without feeling resentful about my own needs not being met. When they're not being met, it's usually my own fault. I guess I'd say that there is a healthy form of selfishness that I've had difficulty embracing. Is it me, or is it an INFJ trait? Can anyone else relate to this?
     
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