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Altruism

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Altruism

Postby Raya » Mon Jul 07, 2003 7:34 am

According to Freud (and others) we are driven by the pleasure principle: we behave in order to maximise pleasure minimise pain. <br />This implies that everything we do is in our own interests, so that even if we do something for others, this is inherently selfish; we do it because it makes us feel good.<br /><br />Then again - even if we ARE driven by the pleasure principle - do we not still choose how we seek pleasure? Isn't there something to be said for the fact that some people choose to do things for other people, while others focus on addressing their own desires?<br /><br />In light of all this - is there any such thing as 'altruism', or is it just another form of selfishness?
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Re:Altruism

Postby Milito » Mon Jul 07, 2003 4:50 pm

Given the scope of some acts which may be defined as altruistic (I'm thinking in particular of a room in the Peace Tower in Ottawa, where one can find all the citations for the Victora Cross awards to Canadian soldiers - most of whom earned the award posthumously) I don't believe that *all* altruism can be called selfish. Or is there a point at which altruism stops being altruism and becomes something else - in either the selfish direction or a beyond-altruism direction?<br /><br />The Oxford English Dictionary (print version!) defines altruism as "regard for others as a principle of action". Selfishness is defined as being "deficient in consideration for others, alive chiefly to personal profit or pleasure". Based on the definitions, the two are mutually exclusive. (In my nice, orderly, black-and-white-and-grey-does-not-exist world!)<br /><br />Kilmeny
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Re:Altruism

Postby benissimus » Mon Jul 07, 2003 11:57 pm

I have long considered this to be at least mostly true. The rewards of kindness are feelings of pleasure or rewards, which are, after all, what we really seek when we do a favor. If we say thank you and someone does not smile back or thank us in return, doesn't that diminish the happiness which caused us to want to thank them in the first place?<br /><br />Then again, when we are faced with decisions to please ourselves or please ourselves and others, we often choose the latter. So when it is convenient and fairly effortless, we do choose some diluted form of altruism.<br /><br />None of this matters to me though, since I am a hardcore believer in Determinism :P
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Re:Altruism

Postby jagorev » Sat Jul 12, 2003 2:51 am

Here's a much better and more general statement of Freud's view, which is basically utilitarianism. By economist Ludwig von Mises, in his monumental (and monumentally obscure) book Human Action. Sorry about the length. <br /><br />"Acting man is eager to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things. He would have neither wishes nor desires; he would be perfectly happy. (snip)<br /><br />"In colloquial speech we call a man happy who has succeeded in attaining his ends. A more adequate description of his state would be that he is happier than he was before. (snip)<br /><br />"But we must avoid current misunderstandings. The ultimate goal of human action is always the satisfaction of the acting man's desire. There is no standard of greater or lesser satisfaction other than individual judgments of value, different for various people and for the same people at various times. What makes a man feel uneasy and less uneasy is established by him from the standard of his own will and judgment, from his personal and subjective valuation. Nobody is in a position to decree what should make a fellow man happier.<br /><br />"To establish this fact does not refer in any way to the antitheses of egoism and altruism, of materialism and idealism, of individualism and collectivism, of atheism and religion. Their are people whose only aim is to improve the condition of their own ego. There are other people with whom awareness of the troubles of their fellow men causes as much uneasiness as or even more uneasiness than their own wants. There are people who desire nothing else than the satisfaction of their appetites for sexual intercourse, food, drinks, fine homes, and other material things. But other men care more for the satisfactions commonly called "higher" and "ideal". There are individuals eager to adjust their actions to the requirements of social cooperation; there are, on the other hand, refractory people who defy the rules of social life. There are people for whom the ultimate goal of the earthly pilgrimage is the preparation for a life of bliss. There are other people who do not believe in the teachings of any religion and do not allow their actions to be influenced by them."<br /><br />Basically, all human action is "selfish", insofar as individual human action aims at happiness (as JS Mill put it) or a removal of felt uneasiness (John Locke's terminology). Whether this is to be achieved by altruism or self-interest is up to the individual. It's silly of Freud to say that human action aims at something so narrow as "pleasure".
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Re:Altruism

Postby Emma_85 » Wed Jul 16, 2003 4:29 pm

The utilitarian principle is greatly flawed, and I wouldn't consider Freud to be an utilitarist at all.<br /><br />Freud says that everyone pursues pleasure, and that this pleasure can be found in many different ways (one of them is through work for example). <br />I don't actually know how Freud explains altruism, it's probably something like that: you walk past a beggar, maybe a poor woman, and you can't bear to see her suffer, like you feel her pain. So when you give her some money you feel better, which means you did not give her the money solely so that she feels better, but because by easing your pain you also ease your own. <br /><br />Something like that, anyway. <br />I think that's not quite the whole truth, though, you can't narrow down all actions to self-interest.
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Re:Altruism

Postby dneril » Wed Jul 16, 2003 10:54 pm

The most of you have a great misunderstanding when you address this topic - you all take on the standard that altruism is what should be the standard.<br /><br />Philosophy, if I may remind you, is the science of what ought to be, not what is - what is right, not what is prevalent.<br /><br />So I urge you to think - is altruism "right"? Because, truly, you are only debating altruism in practice, not altruism in principle.<br /><br />It seems like we are all just a result of our society, being "rationalists", and concerned with actuality, rather than "principalists" -- or some may say "idealists" -- who are truly concerned with the same topics which philosophy is meant to address.<br /><br />And on that note, may I say that I argue against altruism, in any form, that it's essential principal is "all before I", and that that principal is self-destructive and contrary to life. The way a man should think is "I before all", so that he may prolong his life as long as possible, and so that he may be of sound mind.<br /><br />Remember, scholars of old, your principals dictate your life, whether you take them on consciously or simply absorb them unconsciously. So, if you love your life, you will be conscious of the righteousness of your life, and not exclusively concerned with living alone.
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Re:Altruism

Postby bingley » Thu Jul 17, 2003 2:34 am

Dneril's text:<br /><br />And on that note, may I say that I argue against altruism, in any form, that it's essential principal is "all before I", and that that principal is self-destructive and contrary to life. The way a man should think is "I before all", so that he may prolong his life as long as possible, and so that he may be of sound mind.<br /><br /><br />Dneril's signature line:<br /><br />All evil that has sprung from the world has come from force. Beware the man who claims ";Might makes right"; because he is a man who has no values, and doesn't care for them.<br /><br /><br />Isn't there something of a contradiction here? Surely the man who uses force is the ultimate expression of one who puts "I before all".
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Re:Altruism

Postby Skylax » Thu Jul 17, 2003 5:45 pm

From Publilius Syrus:<br />Quid est dare beneficium? imitari deum.<br />"Qu'est-ce que dispenser un bienfait ? C'est imiter la divinité."<br /><br />How do you say that in English?
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Re:Altruism

Postby benissimus » Thu Jul 17, 2003 10:57 pm

What is it to give kindness (perhaps adoration/idolatry)? It is to imitate God.
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Re:Altruism

Postby jagorev » Fri Jul 18, 2003 7:23 pm

I don't quite agree with Utilitarianism myself. However, "minimize pain", as in giving money to the poor lady, is utilitarian, just like "maximize pleasure".
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Re:Altruism

Postby Emma_85 » Fri Jul 18, 2003 9:20 pm

yes, but there is one anoying thing people seem to forget: that there are two very important points:<br /><br />1) and more importantly to not harm others<br /><br />it's something every one should do and is much more important than <br />2) helping people.<br /><br />but some people think that it's enought just to give a beggar a few coins, and then feel like they are real benefactors, but don't mind making life really difficult for everyone else.<br /><br />for example people that donate money to 'help the aged', but then put their parents into a bad nursing home, just cause they can't be bothered to look after them at home and care for them. <br />
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Re:Altruism

Postby jagorev » Sat Jul 19, 2003 8:41 am

Often helping yourself can help others.<br /><br />That's how the economy works.<br /><br />I mean, trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship, are much better at alleviating poverty than charity, not that charity doesn't have a role.
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Re:Altruism

Postby Emma_85 » Sat Jul 19, 2003 11:23 am

lol, i can tell someone here's been reading too much Adam Smith...
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Re:Altruism

Postby annis » Sat Jul 19, 2003 1:18 pm

[quote author=dneril link=board=13;threadid=221;start=0#1454 date=1058396074]<br />And on that note, may I say that I argue against altruism, in any form, that it's essential principal is "all before I", and that that principal is self-destructive and contrary to life. The way a man should think is "I before all", so that he may prolong his life as long as possible, and so that he may be of sound mind.<br />[/quote]<br /><br />You've set up a false dichotomy here. Total self-abnegation is a different matter than an ethical concern for others and a willingness to lay aside one's own interests in favor of another's when that is the ethical thing to do.<br /><br />--<br />wm
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Re:Altruism

Postby jagorev » Sat Jul 19, 2003 8:22 pm

Nah, I haven't read Adam Smith. I've just lived in different parts of the world, running on different economic systems, and I've seen which has more poverty and which has less.
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Re:Altruism

Postby vinobrien » Mon Jul 21, 2003 10:12 am

More than Adam Smith, you sound like Ayn Rand.<br /><br />The word "altruism" was created in the early nineteenth century by the French philosopher Auguste Comte who also gave the world the word "sociology" and so has a lot to answer for. His altruism is not simple benevolence or charity, but rather "the moral and political obligation of the individual to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of a greater social good". <br /><br />Ayn Rand did not oppose helping others in need, providing that such actions are voluntary. What she opposed was the use of coercion in social relationships so that altruism, in Rand's view, is evil partly because it serves to justify coercion, especially governmental coercion, in order to benefit some people at the expense of others.
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Re:Altruism

Postby Episcopus » Tue Sep 30, 2003 8:19 pm

[quote author=Raya link=board=13;threadid=221;start=0#1081 date=1057563254]<br />According to Freud (and others) we are driven by the pleasure principle: we behave in order to maximise pleasure minimise pain. <br />This implies that everything we do is in our own interests, so that even if we do something for others, this is inherently selfish; we do it because it makes us feel good.<br /><br />Then again - even if we ARE driven by the pleasure principle - do we not still choose how we seek pleasure? Isn't there something to be said for the fact that some people choose to do things for other people, while others focus on addressing their own desires?<br /><br />In light of all this - is there any such thing as 'altruism', or is it just another form of selfishness?<br />[/quote]<br /><br />Yes. If I were to save some one's life, I would know that this might be because I might not be able to live my life with such guilt should I leave my mother, or whomever else I be saving. <br /><br />Yes. Bangs hand on table.
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