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Old 03-31-2009, 07:20 PM
 
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I read a book years ago by Robert Ringer and one of the things that struck me was when he explained that "all people always act in their own self-interest, all the time" - but that it doesn't mean it's a bad thing in the "bad" way selfishness is traditionally viewed. In fact it's not inherently good OR bad; it just is. A human being's goal in life is to be happy. This is obviously an extreme oversimplification, but that means you do whatever think will bring you the most overall happiness at that particular time.

When I have brought this up before, people have typically said something like: "well the other day I went to visit my sick grandmother instead of going on this great trip some friends were taking; that wasn't selfish!"

Sure it was. That person decided that the benefit of visiting grandma - whether it was the pleasure of her company or simply the satisfaction of knowing they had done the "right thing" vs the guilt they might've felt if they didn't go - out-weighed the pleasure of the trip w/friends.

I'm not even sure if this is a "debate" topic or not exactly, but wasn't sure where else to put this; am I the only one who gets this?
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Old 03-31-2009, 07:26 PM
 
Location: Way upstate NY - Where the snow flys
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Nope, your not the only one. I thought I was. I agree 100%, but never thought anyone else adhered to that philosophy.
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Old 03-31-2009, 07:39 PM
 
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I don't think people do things always or never, there's always shades of grey. Same with what motivates them.

I can't see that someone giving up their life to save another is motivated by selfishness or are thinking of what they can get out of it because clearly they'll not be around to bask in the self satisfaction of their deed.

I understand what you and Robert Ringer are saying but I think it's a little difficult to speak in absolutes about what motivates the individual, so whilst this may apply in some cases, I'd warrant it won't apply in all.
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:25 PM
 
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Sorry joey, but people, by definition (according to our friend Webster) are "human beings making up a group or linked by a common characteristic or interest". There's nothing in the dictionary that defines people as selfish. That may be Mr. Ringer's OPINION, but we are NOT, by definition, selfish.

There are plenty of selfish acts, and even some totally selfish people, but ALL people are not selfish ALWAYS.

It's pretty arrogant to define a service person in our armed forces or other branches of protection as selfish when they go to fight the fight and leave everything that's most precious to them behind to be alone and wait.

It's pretty arrogant to define a police officer or firefighter as selfish when they put their lives on the line every day and have families at home worrying.

It's pretty arrogant to define mothers who sit up all night with a sick child as selfish when she gets not sleep and has to go to work or continue to tend children all the next day, every day.

It's pretty arrogant to define fathers who work extra hours to provide for their families as selfish.

With all the selfLESS acts a person performs throughout his/her life, it's clear to me that people are not ALWAYS selfish, and we certainly are NOT defined by our selfishness.
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:16 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Of course they are, people don't act altruistically if it hurts their self interest (kids are part of self interest, we all do it).
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:19 PM
 
Location: Pensacola, Fl
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
Sorry joey, but people, by definition (according to our friend Webster) are "human beings making up a group or linked by a common characteristic or interest".
Which means selfish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
There's nothing in the dictionary that defines people as selfish. That may be Mr. Ringer's OPINION, but we are NOT, by definition, selfish.
There's nothing that explicity says it, but it's always implied.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
There are plenty of selfish acts, and even some totally selfish people, but ALL people are not selfish ALWAYS.
When you really think about it, all acts are indeed selfish; one way or another.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
It's pretty arrogant to define a service person in our armed forces or other branches of protection as selfish when they go to fight the fight and leave everything that's most precious to them behind to be alone and wait.
As Mr. Joey clearly pointed out, people do what they think will make them happy through the means they have (i.e. selfish). If a soldier goes to fight, they are doing what they think will bring them happiness. It is a selfless act, but still selfish in it's roots.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
It's pretty arrogant to define a police officer or firefighter as selfish when they put their lives on the line every day and have families at home worrying.
Doing what makes them happy (or what they think will bring them happiness).

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
It's pretty arrogant to define mothers who sit up all night with a sick child as selfish when she gets not sleep and has to go to work or continue to tend children all the next day, every day.
Same thing as before.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
It's pretty arrogant to define fathers who work extra hours to provide for their families as selfish.
Same thing as before.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormy night View Post
With all the selfLESS acts a person performs throughout his/her life, it's clear to me that people are not ALWAYS selfish, and we certainly are NOT defined by our selfishness.
What you fail to do is look beyond the word itself. You see selfish, always, and humans in the same sentence and you automatically have a knee jerk reaction. It's much more deeper than that. All of what we do (whether it be a selfish or selfless act) benefit us in the end. The mother who takes care of her child is benefiting herself (as well as the child) because she would feel guilty and bad about herself if she didn't. The father that works extra hours on the job is also a beneficiary of his labor because he'd feel guilty if his kids didn't have anything to eat. Our own selfishness can benefit others (such as the mother, father, firefighter, policeman, and soldier) but it is inherently selfish by nature. That's the point.

Of course, I'm playing devil's advocate so there is still quite a few gray areas.
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:28 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
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Ringer. I read him years ago. He was the one with the iceball theory. In essence, it was "In a billion years the earth will turn into an iceball, so don't take things so seriously. You'll be lost in time anyway and what you did in life won't amount to squat."

What you relate is a variation of the tedious Ayn Rand whinge that everyone who is ethical has to act in their own interest first. The logic is supposedly Aristotelian, but in fact it is nonsense. Humans act based on a variety of needs and wants and ethical motivations. I'd happily lay down my life for my wife. To me, that is no big deal. There are mothers that would do the same for their kids, etc.. That is not a selfish motivation, any more than the self-immolation of Buddhist monks. The same goes for people who go to war for their country. Rand and others try to twist it into selfish behavior, but the plain fact is we have multiple motivators. Sometimes one wins out over the others. As a rule, most folks go for spheres of influence - selfish to themselves, selfish to their families, selfish to their religion, selfish to their country, selfish to humanity, selfish to the planet. Selfish, in this context is simply motiviation that the person BELIEVES what they are doing will act in the best interest of the sphere. Whether or not it works out that way is a different issue.

Hadn't thought about R. Ringer in a few years. BTW, one thing that helped me easily remember is that about that time was the time I decided to keep a notebook, where I summarized the cogent thoughts of every book I read, so that I wouldn't have to wade through the BS of books like the "Peter Principle" a second time.
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:32 PM
 
Location: Blankity-blank!
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Religion is organized selfishness. Capitalism is selfish greed. Both work together hand in hand.
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Old 04-01-2009, 05:42 AM
 
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This is just semantics trick, because with this explanation it would literally be impossible to do something unselfishly. But in an evolutionary look at it, caring for your children is genetically programmed into you, so it isn't a selfish act its an instinctual one that is forced upon us.
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Old 04-01-2009, 07:25 AM
Status: "happy again, no longer catless! t...." (set 5 days ago)
 
Location: Cushing OK
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"Selfish" is a loaded word with many negatives associated with it so saying a woman who sacrifices to care for her child is "selfish" conveys the wrong meaning.

But we ARE wired to survive. At least in some way most of us. If we lost all the toys and had to deal, some of us would not make it. Some of us simply do not have the mental tools to cope and do not survive by choice.

Some few see clearly. Many survive by being sheeple and waiting for orders. But in a sense even that is a form of survival, that of the herd.

But what we all do with all of our actions is to self justify them. Didn't go to mom's for dinner since the car sounded funny, rather than didn't go because Mom is in a bad mood and Dad is taking it out on everyone. Tomorrow when hopping in the car for work the justification still feels quite right because justifications need not be logical or rational. Even serial killers have reasons they believe justify their acts.

We also are rewarded by our acts. Even those which sound unselfish. This involved our belief in what is right to do. I give someone a sandwitch who is hungry. Why would I do this when I still need lunch? But there was a satisfacton in me of doing a good thing. That directly pleases the individual. And same individual buys another sandwitch, but maybe this time, feeling so good about themselves, does a treat to the better one that costs more. So satisfction is even more a reward.

And we have loyalties and beliefs. We believe a parent protects and guards our children. So when a woman risks or sacrifices her life for her child it is part of belief and loyalty. She would do nothing else. Yet in a society where that was not the rule the reward would be gone for all but the few who did not accept the rules.

So its true that our actions are alway in some way a reward. It varies in nature and justification and sometimes it is selfish. But the concept is much more complicated than that.
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