Altruism... believe it, or not?

Discussion in 'Religion, Beliefs and Spirituality' started by J Dylan, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. So, while reading into Digit's thread on fighting evil, I ran into a post which reminded me of a very interesting topic.


    Now, i've had this discussion many times before, and it seems a fairly apparent topic given the definition of this word.... but... Can an act truely be altruistic? Consider this.

    Very young children (majority), if you've noticed, seem to find great pleasure and joy in things like: holding doors open for people, fetching things for people, etc.
    In other words, these children seem to be naturally motivated to help other human beings.
    A trait which is supposedly inherent in the genetics of a human being is to help other human beings.

    However, this act [altruism], in order to be a natural motivation... must have some kind of reward.
    This reward is feeling good about oneself when committing altruistic acts.
    So, if we feel good about ourselves when we commit acts of extreme kindness and generosity, does this eliminate the concept of true altruism?

    I cannot delve much deeper into this topic, as I'm sure you all understand what I'm saying by now.

    If we come to recognize and remember that committing altruistic acts will make us feel good, is any altruistic act truely without its consideration for oneself?

    I suppose that altruism is certainly possible, but is altruism really altruism as often as we think it is?
  2. I can see where you're coming from, but does it really matter if people are still doing good deeds?
  3. “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?" Mathew 5:43-47

    i think it is essentially inevitable that people will feel good about themselves when they do good to others. it makes much sense. and unfortunately, humans arent exactly the epitome of moral perfection. we all want some kind of reward, whether we will admit it or not. i suppose its human nature. without some kind of incentive, what reason is there to do anything?
  4. egoism, i would claim over altruism,

    i think people who do good for themselves do good for other people as well. you have to love yourself before you can love someone else.
  5. I think the current science is showing that the brain can get a bit of a high when a person does something 'unselfishly.' So, technically, they are getting something back.

    I don't think this rules out altruism (would you really call a person 'selfish' because they truly enjoy helping others?)

    Perhaps a person is only being altruistic if they would do good deeds even if they knew noone would ever find out. Doing good works is still doing good works, though, so I remain grateful even to the egotists.

  6. That's the selfishness, in unselfishness.

    Good thread, very interesting the way you explain it. :D

    Altruism is what I choose, but it's not completely unselfish. In more ways than one ;)
  7. I find that I do more truly unselfish deeds whilst stoned rather then sober.
    ^ watch this.

    selfishness.... it becomes a very complicated topic once you reccognise that the "I" that you are, does not stop at your skin, and that you are intertwined so intricately and thoroughly with all else that is, that you are effectively one being... and so, how can any act be either altruistic, or selfish?

    that which truly benefits the whole, truly benefits me. that which truly benefits me, truly benefits the whole.

    edit)))) waffle removed from end, pre-empting arguments against that statement. please, just dont argue against it, the explanation will get too long. :D added "truly"s. that should about do it. :D
  9. yay, double post time. haha.



    are you opening the door to recieve the reward of feeling good, recieving thanks or even the more grandiose "make the world a better place"? or are you opening the door to make it nicer/easier for someone else?
    if you were to do it soley for the gratification, then its clear, this won't lead to a happy place. if you let go of any expectation of reward, the reward no longer becomes the motivation, and instead, is just a happy bonus, is just the natural give and recieve of keeping all boyant.

    *shrugs & wanders off looking at some flowers*
  10. as the definition says its opposed to egoism. i would not believe in it as its opposed to something, im not going to take a side of good or evil, egoism or alturistic. if i say im alturistic i must accept the fact that egoism is a part of the equation therefore im egotistical as well.
  11. egotistical, rather strong word for it..
  12. for example-- something that I can think of that might break through my wall of altruistic impossibility:

    Either A) A complete stranger, or B) someone you hate (you choose, whichever you think fits the situation better) is walking across a busy street near you, and doesn't notice a car coming toward him/her. The car shows no signs of slowing down or recognizing the situation, and you jump in front of the car and push either A) the stranger or B) the person you absolutely hate, out of the way of danger-- in turn risking your own life/physical health.

    This situation might qualify as altruism in its entirety
    but people definitely think of altruism as things like picking up trash, holding doors open etc-- which I think my original argument definitely applies to
  13. Altruism is kin to the eastern religions sense of enlightenment.It is probably kin to the original teachings of the Abrahamic religions as well. If you can find me a person who is truly altruistic I would like to me him. He would cetainly be a much better person than me.

    When I do good things it makes me feel good. I think that negates the possibility of me being altruistic. I benefit from being good so I do not think I could call it unselfish concern.

    If it is truly possible to transcend your own ego then altruism exists. If people can not transcend ego then it does not exist.
  14. If we did not feel good about our actions we wouldnt do them...
    so, while the idea of altruism is ideal, i dont think it can really hppen. of course this is not to say that all actions are selfish, its just thatwe wouldnt perform behaviors that gave us no reward.

    this parallels very well with classical conditioning, if we didnt get rewarded, we wouldnt do that behavior.
    For example, (to steal a previous example) holding a door open for somebody is always a kind gesture, however if evrytime you held the door as a child you received a demeaning reply you wouldnt do it any longer, because it would make you feel bad

    to be altruistic you must be totally neutral to what you are doing, but even if you held the door open and the prson would simply walk in and not acknowledge you (a neutral response), you would abandon this behavior.

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