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    Thread: Are all of people's actions; At their root, self-motivated?

    1. #1
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      Question Are all of people's actions; At their root, self-motivated?

      This was a question that arose while practicing meditation last week. I asked myself why I was meditating. I told myself it was because I wanted to lucid dream. Why did I want to lucid dream? Because it was fun. I thought it was strange that meditation, generally thought of as a sacred activity, was just a tool that I was using for my own enjoyment.

      I thought of other things in my life: Why do I go to college? So I can get a job and have enough money to pay the bills. Why do I go to Taekwondo? So I can become stronger physically and mentally, be able to defend myself, and it's fun. Why did I volunteer to teach Taekwnodo? Resume-building, and I find it fun.

      All of my motivations for doing anything were ultimately things I was doing for myself. I asked myself if there was anything I ever did purely out of the goodness of my heart. I recalled a time I took a trash bag to the woods behind my neighborhood and picked up all the trash along the walking trail. But I didn't do it because I wanted to clean up the environment or do a good deed. I did it because I was sick of looking at the trash every time I walked by.

      It's easy to see why someone like a criminal might carry out a bad action, such as stealing or killing. They steal because they are motivated to have enough money to pay the bills, and know that, logically, criminal activity and the price they might pay if they are caught outweigh the difficulty they may have in finding a legitimate way of acquiring what they need.

      So my question is, does anyone truly do anything out of the goodness of their heart, or is it all relative to their personal motivations? Take for instance, people who volunteer to be an educator or doctor in a third world country? Seems like a pretty selfless thing to do. But are they doing it because they are genuinely nice people, or are they doing it because they can't live with the guilt that these people are suffering and they are not doing anything to help them? Or is there even a difference at that point?

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    2. #2
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      Yes - quite right most things are for Me if I am honest ... I alow my self to 🌌🌠🌈 imagine I am helping myself so that I can be of more use to others or at least not be a burden to anyone - including myself🙅💆💫

    3. #3
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      It is a very good question. Personally I believe that all human action is in some way egoistic, yes. But maybe not in the sense that they only care about themselves.

      Allow me to clarify what I mean with that. The basis for my reasoning is that all value, including peoples, is relative. For example, my family is very valuable to me but (I would suppose) only marginally so to you, if at all, and vice versa.

      Now what does this have to do with egoism? Everything. Most importantly, it means that you are not always the most valuable person to yourself. Many parents would for example willingly sacrifice themselves for their children because they care more about their children lives then their own, and throughout history we see many times that there are things that people are willing to die for, things that they valued far more then their own lives.

      This brings us back to your question whether people who volunteer abroad could be doing it for their own sake. It is true that they might be doing it just for the travelling, indeed I know some who do, or maybe to feel that "givers high". But it could also be that they care for these people, that they are valuable to them, more valuable to them then what they might lose by helping them.

      This is how I see the world. For me there are no good and bad people, just people who value different things. Make of it what you will.
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      Many parents would for example willingly sacrifice themselves for their children because they care more about their children lives then their own
      I've heard someone argue that even THAT is selfish because they're trying to protect their genes. Reproduction, you know.


      @OP: I think being social is inherently human. So we kind of have to be altruistic sometimes in order to be "part of the group".
      Being good basically always has a positive side-effect for you, so you could always say it's actually selfish, but I don't think people only do it for themselves

      When you're helping strangers for instance (which few people do anyway), there's really no benefit for you other than being able to say to yourself "I've been a kind person today".
      In the end, is wanting to be able to say "I'm a kind and friendly person" really so selfish?
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    5. #5
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      This immediately reminded me of a controversial post by Dr. Michael Karson on Psychology Today, which I'd really recommend reading. The name of the piece: The Myth of Intrinsic Motivation
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    6. #6
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      Very interesting indeed. I've also wondered about this. How about this one:

      Why does a pilot safely land his plane instead of crashing it to the ground? Because he value's his own life? Probably. Because he takes pride in his skills as a pilot? Maybe. Because it goes against his nature? Likely. All selfish reasons. Then does that rule out the non selfish reasons? Does that mean he doesn't value the lives of the passengers? I don't think so. Does it mean he doesn't care about his co-pilots / friends? I doubt that as well.

      The way I see it, one doesn't rule out the other. The brain is capable of facturing many things before making a decision. Even when I am at my most honest and think deeply about why I do stuff, I can never point to one thing. I always end up disagreeing with that later on. I think it's all a wishwash of things that decide whether or not you want to do something. Some selfish, others selfless.

      Unless you argue that even selfless things, come down to selfish motivations in the end (which I think you do, correct me if I'm wrong here). Then I would have to agree with your last sentence. What is the difference? In the end I act upon something I feel, so it's always based on me and thus selfish. It's phisically impossible for me to do something purely for someone else on purpose, since I would have to know that I do it for someone else and therefore I would do it because of what I know. Because I have reached the conclusion that I should do this thing, you can always argue that it is based on myself and thus selfish. So I would say that the only way to do something completely selfless is by accident.

      I guess what I am trying to say here is: You can never do anything without having a reason for it. Anything you do, whether you realise it or not, you do with some kind of reasoning. Even if it is just for example: "because I always do it". So because you do it for your own reason, you can always argue it's selfish.

      Then again, this whole thing also depends on your definition of selfish and selfless. When is something selfless?

      BTW: When I say selfish or selfless I mean motivated by the self or not. Nothing more, nothing less. I do not view either as right or wrong.

      [EDIT:
      Quote Originally Posted by Conscience View Post
      I've heard someone argue that even THAT is selfish because they're trying to protect their genes. Reproduction, you know.
      Do you mean the book "The selfish gene" by Richard Dawkins?]
      Last edited by MrPriority; 08-17-2015 at 10:53 PM.
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    7. #7
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      It's not who we are underneath, but what we do, that defines us.

      Sometimes movie quotes have a place in Extended Discussion. Who knew?

      I believe that to a certain extent, our motivations serve our self interest. But I don't believe that anything is true 100% of the time: after all, if we always acted in our own best interests, we would never sabotage ourselves.

      We may serve others in order to fulfill our own needs. But in the end, all that matters is our effect on the world.

      I pick up a half-eaten copy of a book by Neil Gaiman, and decide this is all his fault.

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      I don't think truly selfless actions are even possible. Even if you do something like die or willingly allow yourself to be tortured in another's place, its often due to an inability to live with yourself if the alternative happenned. ("I love you, so, I can't watch you die" or something similar). We're really just trying to stave off potential guilt or acting out of habit for no real sake other than habit.

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      Quote Originally Posted by splodeymissile View Post
      I don't think truly selfless actions are even possible. Even if you do something like die or willingly allow yourself to be tortured in another's place, its often due to an inability to live with yourself if the alternative happenned. ("I love you, so, I can't watch you die" or something similar). We're really just trying to stave off potential guilt or acting out of habit for no real sake other than habit.
      I disagree with your two examples. I really don't think that if I chose to be tortured or to die in someone's place that I would be doing it because of guilt or out of habit. I don't commonly take physical punishment for others or die in someone's place, and neither would I feel that I would not be able to live with the consequences of letting the other person die. Personally, I know I probably wouldn't be that bothered about it, but let's say I was actually being somewhat emotional for once, I still would easily be able to live after that person's death, even if it makes me depressed for a while.

      I'm not saying that there can't be cases like that, and that cases like that don't happen. What I'm saying is that it is foolish to think that these will always be the case. That still doesn't mean the acts that aren't because of the reasons you stated are selfless either, per se.

      I think it's important in this thread to make a distinction between doing something for personal gain, in vain, or selfishly--versus doing something that has ties to yourself and in someway in the future may actually benefit you (which may not even have been intended at all). Yes, you could say then, everything you do involves you. But then again, that's stating the obvious. If we are going to decide that this is the only answer we are willing to agree on, then there might as well not be a thread at all. I mean, it kind of goes without saying that anything you do will involve yourself. But, if we want to discuss what I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, I think it might have some interesting discussion qualities.
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      Quote Originally Posted by snoop View Post
      What I'm saying is that it is foolish to think that these will always be the case.
      This is what I was trying to get at.

      This discussion is basically all about the concept of enlightened self-interest. If we act according to our personal greed, we end up suffering in the long run. Therefore, we act in a way that encourages positive group dynamics, so that other people will care for us when we need it.

      In the same vein, let's consider the example of Mary sacrificing her life to save Sandy, in a case where the two people are not related. Enlightened self-interest would say that it might be reasonable for Mary to risk her life to save Sandy, but not to deliberately sacrifice it. In weighing the possibility of sacrificing her life for Sandy, the possibilities for Mary are:

      First outcome: Mary does not sacrifice her life, and has emotional trauma from Sandy's death.

      Second outcome: Mary sacrifices her life, and is dead, even though Sandy lives.

      The outcomes are not equal, so is it really reasonable to say that Mary's sacrifice was selfish?
      Last edited by Samael; 08-22-2015 at 04:13 AM.

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      I do stuff to help people all the time, stuff I really don't want to do. I am sure a lot of people do. You are saying people are doing it to avoid guilt, but it is pretty easy to make up excuses to not do stuff and not feel at all bad about it. A lot of us probably do make up excuses to avoid a lot of stuff, and we don't feel terrible about those excuses, we just move on with life.

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