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  1. #61
    Senior Member Moiety's Avatar
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    Every action can indeed be considered selfish.

    Personally, selfishness is not a word that I associate with that much of a negative subtext, though. And that is where the issue lies. This topic is so often debated BECAUSE we are doing just that. We start the debate already making the assumption that selfishness (due to indoctrination, education and simple everyday usage of the word) is a bad thing instead of looking at it as natural animal reaction to the world around us.

    Selfishness per se isn't morally wrong in my opinion, so it doesn't have that bad a connotation for me.

    I think we like to believe the old granny that brings dolls to sick children has a good reason and has achieved a higher plane of human wisdom to live her life as an unselfish person, but the truth is...the more I read about it, the more I think we are a slave to what we already are.

    That's why upbringing has such a powerful effect on whether you into a criminal or a generally nice guy...we like to think it's good or evil are ALWAYS conscious actions...to give people points for doing good deeds and to give them bad points for doing bad deeds....but the truth imo, is that it's not that clear cut and that we largely acted based on unconscious processes. Even when we are acting using our conscience, we are still influenced by our natural inclinations that were simply shaped by our environment and that we can't influence as much as we think we can (or at least it usually takes a lifetime and a lot of willpower and LSD to achieve )...


    The other way to tackle the topic is to talk about semantics of course.
    Last edited by Moiety; 05-24-2010 at 04:00 PM. Reason: now with improved synthax!! :)

  2. #62
    What is, is. Arthur Schopenhauer's Avatar
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    Yes, I am trying to look beyond good or evil.
    INTJ | 5w4 - Sp/Sx/So | 5-4-(9/1) | RLoEI | Melancholic-Choleric | Johari & Nohari

    This will not end well...
    But it will at least be poetic, I suppose...

    Hmm... But what if it does end well?
    Then I suppose it will be a different sort of poetry, a preferable sort...
    A sort I could become accustomed to...



  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagnificentMind View Post
    Uh, it's not selfless if it's done for an internal reward.


    The source is the difference of preference.
    You have two problems here...
    - one, you can't scientifically prove that all people engaging in selfless acts receive some kind of internal reward (this is assumed, but has not been proven) hence the reason altruism is still something being studied by evolutionary biologists.... If there is a reward, then there must be a reason why an act is rewarding... and that reason must be quantified or else you are simply subjectively stating your opinion.

    - two, the difference is not the source, not scientifically...
    The difference you are referring to is the superficial coating over the problem at hand.. why are people motivated differently? Is it genetic? Is it environmental? Is it learned? A combination? If so to what extent is selflessness a choice versus a mere expression of a gene like hair or eye color...

    Superficially we can come to the conclusions you have made, but scientifically if we want to get any actual understanding of human behavior we'd have to know the answers to many questions... things have to be quantified and defined...

    - what are the motives for selfless acts? (if it's genetic can it even be defined as a conscious motive)
    - is there truly a reward? if so what kind? (it must be quantified and defined)
    - is the reward biological, social, or both? to what extent does each play a role in the motivation, if there truly is any motivation (because that assumes a certain level of conscious choice)

    and the list goes on... it simply isn't as easy as saying science says that people get an internal reward from doing nice things therefore no act is ever selfless... because science does not say this.. science eludes to it, but has yet to prove the source of motivation or if there truly is any real choice and thus conscious motivation involved. The rest is all philosophical which while interesting cannot be used to seriously describe human behavior... someone can also philosophically argue the existence of everyone else in the world, and yet the lives of everyone else in the world goes on despite any confusion about their place in it...

  4. #64

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagnificentMind View Post
    Yes, I am trying to look beyond good or evil.
    I dont believe that's possible, that's a true dichotomy, there arent many and often there are false dichotomies, for instance I would say co-operation vs. competition, socialism vs. individualism, but good and evil is pretty much it.

    What would you suggest is beyond that for instance? I consider a lot of those who hypothesis about moving beyond that are either mistaken or deceiving, you can be extra good or extra evil but beyond either? Not really.

  5. #65
    Senior Member Moiety's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    I dont believe that's possible, that's a true dichotomy, there arent many and often there are false dichotomies, for instance I would say co-operation vs. competition, socialism vs. individualism, but good and evil is pretty much it.

    What would you suggest is beyond that for instance? I consider a lot of those who hypothesis about moving beyond that are either mistaken or deceiving, you can be extra good or extra evil but beyond either? Not really.
    That's like drawing a line around a bottle in the middle, and saying that when the water line is above the middle it's "full enough" and if it's below the line it's "not full enough". You've defined the system and the spectrum, but that doesn't meant that is an appropriate way to look at the bottle. * Maybe it's more relevant if it's coke or water or oil. Maybe it's another thing.


    EDIT : * or an appropriate way to look at the bottle in this case

  6. #66
    null Jonny's Avatar
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    People are motivated to act by stimuli from the brain. These "stimuli" manifest themselves in consciousness through perceived wants, desires, needs, etc. There can be a rationalization taking place (higher cognitive function) or simply a raw primal urge or something in-between. If the criteria for true selflessness requires that one act independently of these factors, then one would literally have to be without a self (or consciousness) in order to truly be selfless.

    However, for the most part, selflessness (if we wish for it to mean anything at all) should apply to those individuals who gain pleasure when others gain pleasure, and who consider others when making decisions. The more consideration given to others, the more selfless.

    End.
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  7. #67
    What is, is. Arthur Schopenhauer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    I dont believe that's possible, that's a true dichotomy, there arent many and often there are false dichotomies, for instance I would say co-operation vs. competition, socialism vs. individualism, but good and evil is pretty much it.

    What would you suggest is beyond that for instance? I consider a lot of those who hypothesis about moving beyond that are either mistaken or deceiving, you can be extra good or extra evil but beyond either? Not really.
    I meant that I don't believe in good or evil. I am choosing to not look at what's has been defined as good or evil, but what is most beneficial. So I'm looking beyond the concept.

    Also, I think some of what has been defined as "good" is bad, and some of what is "evil", is not bad.

    I think the concept of good and evil is more religious than anything, as religion sets an absolute standard of some sort of morality and calls it pure and just and good.

    I have no absolute standard.
    INTJ | 5w4 - Sp/Sx/So | 5-4-(9/1) | RLoEI | Melancholic-Choleric | Johari & Nohari

    This will not end well...
    But it will at least be poetic, I suppose...

    Hmm... But what if it does end well?
    Then I suppose it will be a different sort of poetry, a preferable sort...
    A sort I could become accustomed to...



  8. #68
    Priestess Of Syrinx Katsuni's Avatar
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    Everything a human does is selfish, at least on some scale, but there are ways to provide selfishness to self via proxy, which's the biggest thing that's required for this to be true, is the acceptance of this as a basic fact, that humans, can, and will, project their desires for themselves onto another in their place.

    For example, sacrificing oneself for someone they love (be it a child, a lover, or some other relationship), though they themselves are lost, they have projected their own desires onto their proxy of self (their other half or whotever they feel 'completes' them) as if it was their own self.

    In short, yes, yeu may be gone, but they will live on in yeur name.

    The difficult issue here is that not everyone provides this proxy status upon all individuals at all times or in all manners and sense of strength.

    One person may consider only themselves and noone else. They are considered selfish.

    Another person may go one step out; they consider themselves and immediate blood relatives and family, marriage, etc, but nothing else. They are considered good people though, despite being only one step outwards. These are individuals where they may be willing to let 100,000 people die, so long as they save the one person THEY care about, it doesn't matter if the world burns in the process. Honestly, this's quite selfish of an attitude, yet it's commonly portraited as selfless in movies and north american media.

    This can expand outwards further in many layers; from friends, acquaintances, to race, to religion, nationality, gender, species, life in general, inanimate objects.

    For examples...

    Race -> Racists who associate with only those they consider to be the 'same' as them. Others have no intrinsic value and are irrelevant. They project themselves onto their 'group', and consider damaging a member of ones' race to be damaging themselves, either directly or indirectly.

    Religion -> A current topic being the depictions of muhammud or however his name's spelled, pisses of those of his religion as if it were a direct insult to them, when honestly, it's only an insult to the one guy. They project themselves outwards onto a religious group/concept as if it were their own selves. An action taken, though it may doom themselves (if an extremist, not everyone is durr, so don't assume I don't have this stipulation in here XD ), will benefit their religion, thereby supporting themselves in the end.

    Nationality -> When the WTC was attacked by terrorists, many in the USA took it as a direct attack against themselves personally, and many were willing to hurt anyone outside of their nation, so long as their 'people' were safe. There were alot of bad cases of racism immediately after the WTC with people commuting whot they believed to be 'selfless' acts of martyrdom, when really they were only saving their projected self image. Nazi's in WW2 were another example; the leadership didn't really HATE other countries so much as it just considered germans to deserve the absolute best, and was willing to kill everyone off if it made germany strong. It wasn't for them, themselves, but for their friends, their relatives, their country, it was all selfless... except it really wasn't.

    We can extend this even further; there are those who are willing to harm other creatures, not for need of survival, but for entertainment. They have no connection with anything beyond their own species. Others, such as many environmentalists and animal rights activists, feel direct connection with species outside their own - they help themselves via proxy by helping another creature which they project themselves onto. It may not be the creature itself, but a cause, a thought, or an idea; tying oneself to a tree to prevent logging isn't so much the need to stop a logger from hurting ONE tree, but to emphasize an idea by personifying it as an extension of their own self.

    This can even be extended outwards to the entire planet as a whole, in extreme cases, despite it's not even technically a living entity as such.



    But this's just examples of more extreme cases... it all comes down to oneself being able to help ones' own self by detaching ones' views toward oneself and projecting onto another, be it an individual, an idea, a group, or an icon.

    In so protecting or aiding their projected self, they are aiding themselves, even if it is at direct cost to self.

    Soooo if yeu were to go back to the original example, of sacrificing yeurself to save a loved one, yeu aren't really sacrificing yeurself so much for *THEM* selflessly... as yeu are turning them into a proxy of yeurself, and thereby helping yeurself indirectly. Sure, yeu may die, but they live on in yeur stead, and specifically, do so by carrying part of yeu with them in a sense. Yeu live on, despite being dead.

    We are geared as a species for survival. The race requires all forms of selfishness though, proxy on many scales, and on a self scale. Killing yeurself is generally bad, since it means one less member of yeur species running around... however, if it's considered to be valuable enough, such as saving several others, it's worth the risk.

    A great example here is someone inside a burning building, and 10 people outside. Chances are 9 of them will NOT go into the building; on average only ONE will go in to try to rescue the other. It's a double or nothing bet. If yeu come out successful, or break even, yeu've either gained one, or lost nothing. If yeu loose, yeu loose one more than yeu would've otherwise. Numerically speaking, this means yeu have 2/3rds of a chance of either profit or no loss and only 1/3rd chance of loss. In terms of trying to perpetuate the species, it's worth the risk.

    Sending a SECOND person in, however, would pose too high a risk, and ruins the equation. This cutoff point will make it unlikely for others to step forwards, with the assumption that someone else is already taking care of it, and may actually manifest as direct conscious thought within their minds.

    If noone went in to save the person in the building, eventually someone'll notice noone's doing anything, and will usually try to help by themselves.

    This isn't always the case, but generally, the idea is for the species to try to keep themselves alive as a whole. Sometimes this means being "selfish" and keeping yeur own self alive. Other times, this means self sacrifice for a greater whole. Both are essential in order for the species to prevail overall in the end.

    And honestly, we need MORE selfish people than we do "selfless" ones, or else 10 people run into the burning building, and they all die, now yeu're short 11 people instead of 1.

    So yeah, we're not REALLY being truly selfless, each and every action is designed to bring pleasure, contentment, ease of conscience, or some benefit to self, directly, or indirectly, and if need be, via projection onto a proxy of self to enable such a decision.

    Any time yeu think "if that were me", it's self projection, and yeu're helping yeurself, not them, as a more clear example, though by far not the only one.

    So yeah, we're all selfish, but even so, that's not a bad thing. As with the burning building scenario, we need both the selfish and the selfless. Without a mixture, we'd have died out long ago. And honestly, by statistical requirement on a global scale for species self preservation, we require more selfish people than we do selfless.

    Which's exactly whot we have.

    It's worked well so far, even if it does lead to wars from time to time, but even those come down to territorial or resource disputes, or a religious belief which's essentially resource of the afterlife for eternal perpetual survival of the species. In the end, if there's not enough to go around for EVERYONE, yeu have to 'thin out the herd' a bit... which we do on our own naturally, quite adeptly. Since we've gotten more people, our little tribal disputes have gotten larger as well. How much do yeu want to bet in WW3 we wipe out several BILLION people, since we've swelled in population so much since WW2? If the world can't sustain all of us, we'll naturally cull ourselves of the weak so that the strong survive, and perpetuate the species as a whole, even if it requires sacrificing alot of us to do it.

    It's really rather remarkable to think about, just how well built we are for survival. We are designed from the ground up to try to survive. Our bodies are designed to be difficult to damage (put yeur hand over yeur eye... notice that bone structure around it? It's designed to give yeu the maximum amount of awareness of surroundings visually, while still protecting the eye itself, two forms of protection equally distributed for maximum effect), our emotions and instincts are designed to make us react to keep either ourselves alive, or those who will create more (women and children) alive, and even in our bloodiest moments of self damaging, such as wars, we are still attempting to preserve whichever path is most likely to suit our survival long term.

    See... this is the kind of thing that should make yeu wonder about intelligent design. Yes, evolution is possible to create some aspects of this, but there's stuff built unto our minds and instincts which assume situations which wouldn't've even occurred 100 years ago. Evolution doesn't work that fast... we were built with crap in mind that couldn't've been predicted at the time of creation.

    Doesn't necessarily mean there's a god or anything, but it is rather impressive just how automated we really are. I mean, we've been supposedly left alone pretty much for about 2000 years and so far, have only managed to make MORE of us, despite that we've been trying to kill ourselves off in the process.

    I guess, all I can really say, is selfishness is an incredible trait of species survival, and has been doing an amazing job of it for thousands of years, and seems more than adaptable enough to handle new situations as they present themselves.

    We are selfish. It's not a bad thing. Though it does get on peoples' nerves if yeu get a little TOO selfish.

  9. #69
    Senior Member Lex Talionis's Avatar
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    That depends on what you intend to convey by "lie." It isn't a "lie" in the sense that somebody maliciously developed the notion and spread it in order to beguile the masses. For a more practical definition of what I believe you intended to ask, I will rephrase the question in this way, "is pure selflessness impossible?"

    Pure selflessness, in the form of a sacrifice on the part of the individual with no "reward" whatsoever, is not necessarily impossible, but it is highly improbable. Selflessness in the sense it is usually understood, however, can very well exist, and does exist, if we simplify the definition to mean a sacrifice on the part of the individual from which he or she does not derive any or very little material reward in comparison with the sacrifices made, and/or takes great risk in the form of some type of punishment or harm as a result of his or her actions. Therefore, the standard definition of "selflessness" in the way in which it is usually applied would be closely related with the term "self-sacrifice"; and in fact, all selflessness has a proportional element of self-sacrifice to the magnitude of what is entailed by the requirements of the act, and the consequences thereof.

    Pure selflessness, on the other hand, is actually an undesirable characteristic because it is illogical and reckless. Without a reward in the form of even the slightest emotional satisfaction at having helped somebody else at your own expense, the very notion of giving, sharing, and collaborating becomes impossible to gauge, and as a result, unproductive. Human society would cease to be human society, and even the very basic concept of the nuclear family would deteriorate; man would then be relegated to the status of the solitary animal whose individual members only interact in so far as reproduction is possible, and quickly part ways afterward.

    It truly is pointless to fret about the existence and illogicality of pure selflessness.
    "Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily."
    —Bonaparte

  10. #70
    What is, is. Arthur Schopenhauer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lex Talionis View Post
    That depends on what you intend to convey by "lie." It isn't a "lie" in the sense that somebody maliciously developed the notion and spread it in order to beguile the masses. For a more practical definition of what I believe you intended to ask, I will rephrase the question in this way, "is pure selflessness impossible?"
    If one believes in selflessness, he is decieved - beguiled. Not all lies are maliciously created; you see this happening when we one lies/(decieves) to oneself; There are many other examples where lies are not crafted with ill-intent.

    It truly is pointless to fret about the existence and illogicality of pure selflessness.
    But dear boy, who is fretting about such things? And what exists in this almighty universe that is not pointless and devoid of purpose or meaning?

    That last question may fool you for a minute.
    INTJ | 5w4 - Sp/Sx/So | 5-4-(9/1) | RLoEI | Melancholic-Choleric | Johari & Nohari

    This will not end well...
    But it will at least be poetic, I suppose...

    Hmm... But what if it does end well?
    Then I suppose it will be a different sort of poetry, a preferable sort...
    A sort I could become accustomed to...



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