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  1. #11
    Senior Member reason's Avatar
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    No. An act is only selfish if it is possible to have chosen to do something else (e.g. it is not selfish for you to return to earth after jumping, even if you intend and receive some benefit from it). If there is no choice, no alternative, no other option in the matter, then an act cannot be selfish. Now, if every choice, every decision, that we make and its associated act, is tainted by selfishness at its root, then it is impossible for us to choose otherwise, since the act of choosing is itself always a selfish act. However, in this case it is impossible to not be selfish, and there is no choice, no alternative, and no other option. Therefore, there are no selfish choices.

    Evidently, this is a contradiction. Either, you can reject the premise that an act is only selfish if it is chosen, or reject the premise which associates every possible choice with selfishness (i.e. adopt a different definition of "selfish"). I prefer the latter.

    (Edit: technically, it is not the impossibility of an act which is relevent, but whether an agent thinks that an act is impossible. For example, if you thought that it was possible to defy gravity, then falling to earth might be a selfish act, even though, objectively, the act was not possible. In consequence, an agent can be selfish even if it were impossible to be selfless, objectively, because they might think they were choosing among alternatives. However, if you think that every choice is selfish, then you fall back into the aforementioned paradox. In other words, a selfish choice is contingent not on the truth, but what an agent thinks is true, even if they are wrong.

    In consequence, it cannot be true that every choice is selfish if selfishness must be a choice, because if we hold the view that every choice is selfish, then there is no choice but to be selfish, and thus no selfish choices. Objectively i.e. the universe does not contradict itself.)
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  2. #12
    Mamma said knock you out Mempy's Avatar
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    Nocturne, what are you talking about? lol

    Kant illustrated this by arguing that the only actions that had any moral worth were ones people did, despite not wanting to, in the name of duty. For example, if a guy knocked up a girl he didn't like, he would show moral worth by marrying her and taking care of the child even though he didn't want to.
    Yes, but doing the moral thing is what made him feel good as a person. It made him feel worthy.

    Surely you could get more pleasure in certain situations if you did not act on behalf of another... it is a matter of cultivating your desires to make them less "selfish" in the raw sense of the word.
    It's true that in the raw sense, we think of selfishness in terms of disregard for others' needs, gluttony, greed. We picture a black-eyed lustful bastard. But for some people, those who have a particular sense of good, there is nothing that makes them feel better than doing things which are unselfish in the traditional sense of the word. Any other choices would make them feel bad. Still, the common denominator among all actions is probably the path of least resistance, ie, what makes one feel the best. In that sense, everything is selfish, ie, done in the name of the self, with the self in mind.

    I'd agree that selfish is a term with such a negative stigma, and that being selfish in some senses is very good, and necessary. It is, in so many ways, necessary to one's survival and happiness to be selfish. For example, you can't live your life sacrificing yourself for others, or your needs will never be met. If you sit on too many councils, join too many causes, and give too much of your time and energy, you will end up exhausted and malnourished in all senses of the words. More importantly, you have to wonder what is wrong with someone who can never say /no/. A balanced person will consider their needs as well as the needs of others (but primarily their own, first). They will not be doormats.

    I also agree that everyone has their own opinion of selfish. Jennifer brought up an interesting point that extending your awareness beyond just yourself is unselfish, and I'd probably agree with that. I'd also agree with Athenian that even if doing good in the world and for others is selfish, it is good, but only if one is also considering one's own needs too.

    Being free means one can give or not give, receive or not receive. If you ignore your own needs because you feel you are not allowed to have them, you are identifying too much with the self-image of "I am good. I am selfless." It's just a mechanism for feeling needed and wanted. Eventually when sacrificing yourself doesn't make you feel needed and wanted, you'll turn to other, more forceful methods. Not to mention you'll be pretty damn bitter and resentful.

  3. #13
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sassafrassquatch View Post
    Pretty much. People do good things because it makes them feel good. If they don't do something they think they should they feel bad and no one likes to feel bad. So everything we do is inherently selfish even the selfless things.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.
    Force meat.

  4. #14
    Senior Member INTJMom's Avatar
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    I was an extremely selfish person when I was young. Everything I used to do, even if it was a good deed, was motivated by the fact that it made me feel good to do it.

    However, the definition of "true love" is when you act in the best interest of the other person. A lot of times that requires something uncomfortable or self-less of us. I think people do act in the best interest of anther person every now and then, but I think it's not how we normally operate.

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildcat View Post
    Force meat.
    Wha?

  6. #16
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nocturne View Post
    If there is no choice, no alternative, no other option in the matter, then an act cannot be selfish.
    Voluntary was used in the OP. Gravity is not voluntary, nor is falling back to earth an act.

    In any case, yes, everything is selfish because ever act in which we must make a choice is formed from our own minds. The natural outcome of any choice we make is that it is our choice and selfish by an extension. It is only the abstracted measurement that defines if we are being selfish or not. In that case, it's easy to say that people will make sub-optimal choices for their stated goals... however, it is equally easy to say that people are unaware of their own needs. Those needs will drive any decision made, making any decision a fullfillment of the needs, hence selfish.

    (Simple refutation for those that don't want to bother: the choice to die cannot be selfish.)

  7. #17
    Occasional Member Evan's Avatar
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    every action a person takes is a series of physical reactions inside of them -->
    every action a person takes is internally motivated -->
    every action is selfish

  8. #18
    ~dangerous curves ahead~
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildcat View Post
    Define the boundary of self.
    Quote Originally Posted by dissonance View Post
    every action a person takes is a series of physical reactions inside of them -->
    every action a person takes is internally motivated -->
    every action is selfish
    ^^ In lay terms, to ground wildcat's point. We do project our circle of self beyond our person as we mature (hopefully). You could call it taking responsibility in the simplest of sense. This enlarged self could include family, friends, community, country, etc.

    "Global citizens" come about when you no longer see yourself as one person but in a web of relations without the normal boundaries we know, and your actions are taken into consideration of this wider self.

    What is selfish or selfless is then a question of where your locus of self lies.

    Perhaps you're right that for "global citizens / do gooders", they're merely selfish, but their selfishness benefits others - does this make the act selfless?

    Depends on whom is asking the question, isn't it?

  9. #19
    Occasional Member Evan's Avatar
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    selfish and selfless are not opposing terms in the way i'm using the words

  10. #20
    ~dangerous curves ahead~
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    ^ You got wildcat's post and had a good follow-up to it.

    I was trying to use both of your comments together to explain the force-meat comment more. *heh* Obviously failed.

    *scuttles back to my corner*

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