Does Selflessness Even Exist?

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#1 Posted by dunl12496 (5710 posts) -

When you do something for someone else you do it to feel better about yourself. So...?

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#2 Posted by airshocker (31700 posts) -

In my experience selflessness usually isn't the reason somebody does something for another person. I have been surprised before, though.

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#3 Posted by Genetic_Code (13125 posts) -
That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.
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#4 Posted by poptart (7085 posts) -

The idea that we're inherently selfish is an age old theory. Alturism does exist however, although examples of which are very few and far between. Most acts we perceive as charitable can be traced back to the self.

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#5 Posted by airshocker (31700 posts) -

That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Genetic_Code

You need yourself to commit suicide,

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#6 Posted by sherman-tank1 (8315 posts) -

*prepares self for lengthy arguements on the topic*

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#7 Posted by mmmwksil (16421 posts) -

Well, when I do something for someone else, there's more than likely an ulterior motive. Once in a while, though, I gift just to make the other person happy. :)

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#8 Posted by jimmyjammer69 (12239 posts) -

Total selflessness? I doubt it. But there's no need to take such a reductionistic stand as you're doing. You yourself began, "when you do something for somebody else...", so you're already admitting the altruistic act in your premise.

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#9 Posted by poptart (7085 posts) -

*prepares self for lengthy arguements on the topic*

sherman-tank1

If you look back through history and find examples of those who've given their lives to save others, then that in itself is the embodiment of a selfless act, ergo alturism exists. It's just that things we think are selfless often are not. In the end it doesn't really matter as a behaviour perceived as kind doesn't actually change, and it's better to believe that kindness exists than to adopt a such cynical approach.

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#10 Posted by FrostyPhantasm (8521 posts) -
When i'm walking home at night and theres a line up of cars waiting on a red light, after i finish crossing the street i hit the pedestrian button and it changes the lights so they can go through instead of waiting. I have no reason of doing it as doing it, or not doing it doesn't affect me.
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#11 Posted by JinjonatorX (639 posts) -
I do things for other people because it makes me happy to make them happy. If I got no happiness whatsoever out of doing things for other people, I likely wouldn't. And neither would anyone else. You do it because you want to. Keywords: you want to. Selflessness is masochism.
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#12 Posted by Ilovegames1992 (14221 posts) -

I give blood. I dont do it for any satisfaction. When people say "well done" i justshrug. I find it perverse that you wouldnt do it. If you have something to spare you dont need, give it to somebody less fortunate.

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#13 Posted by NuclearNerd (399 posts) -
I believe it does.
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#14 Posted by Ace6301 (21389 posts) -
I've given things away that directly harm me. It doesn't make me feel good and I don't get to see the persons reaction when I do it. I do it just because it's the right thing to do. I'd say that's pretty selfless. Also there's people who give their lives for people they've never met. Pretty sure that giving everything to help someone you don't know at all is selfless.
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#15 Posted by poptart (7085 posts) -

I give blood. I dont do it for any satisfaction. When people say "well done" i justshrug. I find it perverse that you wouldnt do it. If you have something to spare you dont need, give it to somebody less fortunate.

Ilovegames1992

Well from the 'inherently selfish' perspective the bolded statement is telling, i.e. you view giving blood as a given social expectation, and thus the act is not driven by the desire to give blood, merely to prevent the negative emotion resulting from not conforming to this social expectation.

The basic formula regardless of the act in question is - does the positive effect on myself (disregarding everyone else) outweigh the negative if I do not. For others who do not conform to the social expectation of giving blood and therefore little to no guilt is attributable, they are more likely to not bother.

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#16 Posted by leapMC (296 posts) -

I donate hair all the time, but I don't do it to be selfless. I have no use for it and it makes wigs for little kids, if I was little and bald I would love for someone to donate hair for me to have a wig. :)

I never needed a wig growing up but I know that a good act inspires good acts in those little tykes and it feels good to know that you're feeding a non-vicious cycle.

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#17 Posted by foxhound_fox (96696 posts) -
Uh... yeah. It is a state of mind, not a choice.
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#18 Posted by Genetic_Code (13125 posts) -

[QUOTE="Genetic_Code"]That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.airshocker

You need yourself to commit suicide,

Yes, but you are giving yourself up, generally for selfless reasons such as a lack of self-esteem or to be less of a burden on other people.

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#19 Posted by Fightingfan (38011 posts) -
This is why when I do something for someone like my mother and she says "thank you" I respond with "You're not welcome, I only did it because you're my mother.".
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#20 Posted by Fightingfan (38011 posts) -

I donate hair all the time/p>leapMC

I use to do that too, my mother had breast cancer growing up and I've always rocked hair like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.

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#21 Posted by Vodka_FTW (74 posts) -

That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Genetic_Code
Depends on how you look at it. Or maybe the persons position in life.

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#22 Posted by poptart (7085 posts) -

[QUOTE="airshocker"]

[QUOTE="Genetic_Code"]That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Genetic_Code

You need yourself to commit suicide,

Yes, but you are giving yourself up, generally for selfless reasons such as a lack of self-esteem.

If a person perceives their sufference to outweigh the impact of ceasing to exist will have on those left behind, they are more likely to end their lives, i.e. the drive to commit suicide may be selfish. Conversely if a person thinks their suffering is less than the impact it will have on the family they leave behind, they're more like to perpetuate their life of misery.

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#23 Posted by Ace6301 (21389 posts) -
That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Genetic_Code
How is suicide selfless. If you have anyone at all who cares about you you're hurting them purely to ease your own perceived suffering. I'd say that's incredibly selfish.
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#24 Posted by leapMC (296 posts) -

[QUOTE="leapMC"]

I donate hair all the time/p>Fightingfan

I use to do that too, my mother had breast cancer growing up and I've always rocked hair like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.

Lol, cool.

Where did you donate the hair to? I did that angels something-something thing. But then I found out they sell the wigs they make so I threw out my last bag because no one else would take it. :/

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#25 Posted by airshocker (31700 posts) -

Yes, but you are giving yourself up, generally for selfless reasons such as a lack of self-esteem or to be less of a burden on other people.

Genetic_Code

Meant to throw a :P in there. Sorry. I was just teasing you.

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#26 Posted by ZumaJones07 (16458 posts) -
Yea. I'm not thinking about myself 24/7. If I do something for someone else, I'm usually not thinking about how it benefits me.
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#27 Posted by Fightingfan (38011 posts) -

[QUOTE="Fightingfan"]

[QUOTE="leapMC"]

I donate hair all the time/p>leapMC

I use to do that too, my mother had breast cancer growing up and I've always rocked hair like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.

Lol, cool.

Where did you donate the hair to? I did that angels something-something thing. But then I found out they sell the wigs they make so I threw out my last bag because no one else would take it. :/

Locks of love, is what I used.
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#28 Posted by mindstorm (15254 posts) -
In the sense that a person is capable of being absolutely selfless in an act without exception, I was to about to answer with a resounding no. However, I then thought of the exception of Jesus.
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#29 Posted by sonicare (55404 posts) -
That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Genetic_Code
Not necessarily. Many people consider it to be extremely selfish as it puts your loved ones through incredible grief.
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#30 Posted by Ace6301 (21389 posts) -
[QUOTE="Genetic_Code"]That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.sonicare
Not necessarily. Many people consider it to be extremely selfish as it puts your loved ones through incredible grief.

Depending on how you do it some poor bastard has to clean it up too.
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#31 Posted by sonicare (55404 posts) -
[QUOTE="sonicare"][QUOTE="Genetic_Code"]That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Ace6301
Not necessarily. Many people consider it to be extremely selfish as it puts your loved ones through incredible grief.

Depending on how you do it some poor bastard has to clean it up too.

LOL, never jump from a tall building. Think of the poor street cleaner.
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#32 Posted by leapMC (296 posts) -

[QUOTE="leapMC"]

[QUOTE="Fightingfan"] I use to do that too, my mother had breast cancer growing up and I've always rocked hair like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.

Fightingfan

Lol, cool.

Where did you donate the hair to? I did that angels something-something thing. But then I found out they sell the wigs they make so I threw out my last bag because no one else would take it. :/

Locks of love, is what I used.

I think that I've heard of them! Glad to see someone who cares. :)

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#33 Posted by nintendoman562 (5593 posts) -

To be honest I don't think altruism should even be pursued. Who wants to do something that doesn't have any self-benefits?

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#34 Posted by ghoklebutter (19327 posts) -
Altruism certainly exists, even though it's not very obvious.
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#35 Posted by commonfate (13320 posts) -

I think for the most part it doesn't but there seems to be some rare instances.

Do you hold the door for the elderly lady because you really want to make her day better or because you subconsiously don't want others or yourself to view you in a negative light? I remember in high school all the kids that would do community projects and their reason was always because they enjoyed helping others. My question to them is then are you just fulfulling your own selfish desire to make yourself feel good? If someone didn't want to do whatever work but did, wouldn't they be the selfless one?

Also, sometimes you hear of people doing heroic things, somehow saving someone's life or preventing bodily harm. 9/10 people list why they did it just because they did, their body told them to or some other similar answer. I believe that is because they subconsiously know that they could not guiltlessly walk away from the scene of an accident or unfortunate circumstance. I mean how many people could drive by a horrible car wreck and just instantly not care. Most people would stop simply because they could not bear the thought of leaving someone on the side of a road to die or without help, the guilt would be too strong to bear.

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#36 Posted by Darthkaiser (12447 posts) -
I've done things without expecting something in return in the past. Feels kinda good, I like to think that if you ask nothing life rewards you, if you ask something then that something is your reward....or something along those lines.
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#37 Posted by MrGeezer (59115 posts) -

I give blood. I dont do it for any satisfaction. When people say "well done" i justshrug. I find it perverse that you wouldnt do it. If you have something to spare you dont need, give it to somebody less fortunate.

Ilovegames1992
If you didn't give blood, would you feel better about yourself, worse about yourself, or exactly the same?
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#39 Posted by commonfate (13320 posts) -

I've done things without expecting something in return in the past. Feels kinda good, I like to think that if you ask nothing life rewards you, if you ask something then that something is your reward....or something along those lines.Darthkaiser

Subconsious desire to improve one's feeling of self-worth?

Would you continue to do good things if you didn't feel good about them?

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#40 Posted by MrGeezer (59115 posts) -
[QUOTE="Darthkaiser"]I've done things without expecting something in return in the past. Feels kinda good, I like to think that if you ask nothing life rewards you, if you ask something then that something is your reward....or something along those lines.

Exactly. It feels good. That feeling is a very important self-reward. Ask yourself how many good deeds you do, and then ask yourself how many of those deeds you would still do even if doing it made you feel AWFUL. I'm not saying that there are NO truly selfless acts. I'm just saying that most "selfless acts" really aren't that at all. I'd also add that it really doesn't matter. I might donate to the poor and homeless because I have the underlying motive of feeling better about myself and stroking my ego. Big freaking deal. Regardless of motive, I actually did help someone, so what difference does it make whether or not I was being truly selfless? Generally, I'm more concerned with results. When I do something that results in helping someone else, I'm more concerned about the fact that I actually helped someone, and less concerned with abstract philosophical concepts such as whether or not I was more concerned about my own interests.
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#41 Posted by Ilovegames1992 (14221 posts) -

[QUOTE="Ilovegames1992"]

I give blood. I dont do it for any satisfaction. When people say "well done" i justshrug. I find it perverse that you wouldnt do it. If you have something to spare you dont need, give it to somebody less fortunate.

MrGeezer

If you didn't give blood, would you feel better about yourself, worse about yourself, or exactly the same?

Never thought about it. I wouldnt feel bad about myself for not, just wonder why not.

I didnt used to give blood. I havent changed in my outlook having given blood and will continue to do so. Just logical to me. Not to sound too Mr Spock :)

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#42 Posted by Ilovegames1992 (14221 posts) -

[QUOTE="Ilovegames1992"]

I give blood. I dont do it for any satisfaction. When people say "well done" i justshrug. I find it perverse that you wouldnt do it. If you have something to spare you dont need, give it to somebody less fortunate.

poptart

Well from the 'inherently selfish' perspective the bolded statement is telling, i.e. you view giving blood as a given social expectation, and thus the act is not driven by the desire to give blood, merely to prevent the negative emotion resulting from not conforming to this social expectation.

The basic formula regardless of the act in question is - does the positive effect on myself (disregarding everyone else) outweigh the negative if I do not. For others who do not conform to the social expectation of giving blood and therefore little to no guilt is attributable, they are more likely to not bother.

Hm i don't find it a social expectation. Just logic on my part. I just cant understand why people dont see the same logic as me.

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#43 Posted by Jackc8 (8515 posts) -

I think most people who donate time or money to charity just do it because it makes them feel better about themselves.

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#44 Posted by gamingqueen (31076 posts) -

That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Genetic_Code

Not if someone likes you out there and wants you around.

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#45 Posted by surrealnumber5 (23044 posts) -

it does, in truly random acts. if you pass a bumb a buck without thinking or interacting with that person there was no cognition in the act of giving and so it is selfless. once thought is put into the action it stops being a selfless act and becomes a selfish act as you have, on some level, done a valuation on the possible outcomes.

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#46 Posted by surrealnumber5 (23044 posts) -

[QUOTE="Genetic_Code"]That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.gamingqueen

Not if someone likes you out there and wants you around.

just because someone does not take all factors into consideration does not mean they are purposely omitting factors, perfect information is rarely available and often times it is not prudent to consider ancillary information

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#47 Posted by Just-Breathe (3130 posts) -
That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Genetic_Code
No, suicide is the most selfish act a person can commit.
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#48 Posted by Ilovegames1992 (14221 posts) -

[QUOTE="Genetic_Code"]That's not always true though. Suicide is selfless.Just-Breathe
No, suicide is the most selfish act a person can commit.

Not if they have no ties to this world it isn't.

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#49 Posted by Necrifer (10629 posts) -

I wrote a whole essay on why everything we do is selfish.

I still don't know if I believe it though. :?

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#50 Posted by Necrifer (10629 posts) -

Not if they have no ties to this world it isn't.

Ilovegames1992

Then how would you be doing it for anyone other than yourself?