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  1. #1
    Senior Member swordpath's Avatar
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    Default Does everything we do have a hint of selfishness at its root?

    Is there such thing as a selfless act?

    Every voluntary decision we make (besides things we have to do), can it be considered selfish to some degree? Giving gifts, helping someone else even if it takes a self sacrifice, etc. Not immediately pleasurable in a tangible way maybe but when we commit a "selfless" act, can it actually be considered that? Giving someone $100 even though you really can't afford it at all, being cold and uncomfortable because you gave the coat off your back to someone else, donating to charity etc.; in some way we have a sense of self fulfillment and a boost in a narcissistic view of ourselves. Agree/disagree? Discuss.

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    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.

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    Senior Member FallsPioneer's Avatar
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    I would think it depends on the person, but there's always some selfishness involved.
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    Furry Critter with Claws Kiddo's Avatar
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    Selfishness is a subjective term. We can change the perspective to meet any situation. 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.

    However, relativity holds that as long as we can define one extreme, the other must exist. So if you believe in a truly selfish act, you must believe in a truly selfless act. You can't exactly go around defining black without white, cold without hot, light without dark, etc.

    But if you want a specific act of selflessness then consider a man who throws himself on a grenade to save his comrades. Chances are he won't live to enjoy any satisfaction, nor is he guaranteed to save anyone. (Of course, such cases demand that there is a heaven to act as a reward for such a sacrifice.)

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    Kiddo's pretty much got it, but I would just like to add that when you say that selfless acts are done for selfish reasons, this is a misunderstanding of the terms "selfish" and "selfless". Sure, you may get pleasure out of selfless or moral acts, but that doesn't make them "selfish" except for in a sophistical sense. 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.
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    I was going to ask how we were defining "selfish."

    I don't think that just because we happen to be geared to do things that can at least partially benefit ourselves that we can label those actions negatively as "selfish."

    In fact, I think that "good" happens because we choose to expand our ego boundaries to include other people (perhaps even humanity in general) and thus when we do something good for them, it's a similar feeling as in doing good for oneself... even if the action overall has some immediate negative impact on oneself.

    (We empathize with others because we see ourselves as connected to them; and so we care for them like we would care for ourselves.)

    And "selfish" then would be a conscious decision to not expand one's definition of "oneself" beyond oneself, even when others are in need.
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    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBeatGoesOn View Post
    Is there such thing as a selfless act?

    Every voluntary decision we make (besides things we have to do), can it be considered selfish to some degree? Giving gifts, helping someone else even if it takes a self sacrifice, etc. Not immediately pleasurable in a tangible way maybe but when we commit a "selfless" act, can it actually be considered that? Giving someone $100 even though you really can't afford it at all, being cold and uncomfortable because you gave the coat off your back to someone else, donating to charity etc.; in some way we have a sense of self fulfillment and a boost in a narcissistic view of ourselves. Agree/disagree? Discuss.
    Define the boundary of self.

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    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBeatGoesOn View Post
    Is there such thing as a selfless act?

    Every voluntary decision we make (besides things we have to do), can it be considered selfish to some degree? Giving gifts, helping someone else even if it takes a self sacrifice, etc. Not immediately pleasurable in a tangible way maybe but when we commit a "selfless" act, can it actually be considered that? Giving someone $100 even though you really can't afford it at all, being cold and uncomfortable because you gave the coat off your back to someone else, donating to charity etc.; in some way we have a sense of self fulfillment and a boost in a narcissistic view of ourselves. Agree/disagree? Discuss.
    Perhaps technically, there is no selfless act. All our perceptions are influenced by and relative to our selves, our own consciousness. All acts involve something in relation to the self, either physical, mental, or emotional. But the fact that some people are motivated by experiencing satisfaction from helping others is still a good thing overall. And if that is what makes them happy and is beneficial rather than harmful to others, why is it a problem?

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    Senior Member swordpath's Avatar
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    I guess I didn't mean to set the question up implying that if it isn't selfless it's automatically selfish. More like, there is always a hint of selfish benefit in acts that are seemingly selfless (even if the intent is 99% good willed and in hopes of benefiting someone else). So I was curious if there is even such a thing as a completely selfless act.

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    I figure that selfishness is the key to happiness, if there truly is such a thing.

    Some people help out at their local church and give to charity. The reason being: so they can get jewels and eternal happiness in Heaven.

    People who cheat on their spouse or do something they are otherwise guilty of due to moral wrongness tend to be do-gooders; helping out the community and so forth. This obviously stems from the selfish act of avoiding the responsibility they don't want to take by covering up the bad deed.

    If helping others makes you feel good, then I guess you're selfish, too. But I just think these people are weird.

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