Egoism Vs. Altruism

Egoism Vs. Altruism
Teenwolf
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Posted Aug 8, 2004 - 3:37 PM:

In a time of war, I began to grow curious as to what others thought about the existence of egoism and that of altruism. A good place to start would be the actions of your every day human. Do you believe that people act more from egoist thoughts, that of doing what I am about to do will benefit me in the long run, or altruist thoughts, that of sacrificing for another person?

Just to throw a few arguments out there to maybe help people start, here are two sides of an old war story: A group of soldiers out on patrol suddenly run across and thrown grenade. One soldier reacts by jumping onto the grenade, which severely injured and eventually caused him death, but saved the lives of those around him. 1. This man acted out of altruism, based on the claim that there is no reward in death, and he therefore gave selflessly. 2. This man acted out of egoism, knowing that his life would be unbearable knowing he could have saved his friends and did not try.

Where do you stand on egoism vs. altruism? Please feel free to break away from this example too. Thanks a lot!
Cobra_coils_Mongoose
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Posted Aug 9, 2004 - 2:07 AM:

I observe people acting more out of egoism than altruism- or just virtue in general. Any action that has moral implication has potential to be influenced by social norms, opinion of peers, previous habitual decisions, relationship with family, and their own sense of selflessness.
A man find a wallet and returns it to the owner. Did he do it because he felt empathy and expected no reward? Or did he try to get brownie points with St. Peter fearing retribution in the afterlife for his sins?
I believe self preservation influences our actions and therefore makes much of what we do a habit.
To be honest I think a lot of what we do is done with little or no thought at all and that people rarely have moral battles within themselves. It's stimulous reaction almost.
But to get off the tangent I'll use a broader example. After the Oklahoma city bombings we were real compassionate and sympathetic for the victims. Sorrow was the general mood despite the fact that a militant force pulled off a complicated terrorist act. Now after the attacks in 2001 on the WTC buildings the reaction was retribution and vengence, paranoia of other nations and lashing out bassed on fear and association. Similar scenarios yet they reveal the "us" against "them" mentality on a macroscopic level, if looked more specifically it's the result of a lot of "me" versus "you" mentalities uniting.

CcM
Cobra_coils_Mongoose
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Posted Aug 9, 2004 - 6:13 AM:

Another scenario to ponder.

Let's say one night you were conversing with a friend that introduced to an interesting subject, for the sake of continuity let's say it's the concept of virtuous actions being legitimate or not based on the motive.
Now let's say you, not having the original perspective, distribute an article about the subject matter without giving credit and implying it was your own original thought.
Would this be an action out of egoism or alturism? Is it egoism because of claiming another person's thoughts as your own? Or is it altruism to share the point of view irrigardless of the source?
Hypothetically of course....
CrazyDave
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Posted Aug 10, 2004 - 6:46 PM:

Cobra_coils_Mongoose wrote:
Another scenario to ponder.

Now let's say you, not having the original perspective, distribute an article about the subject matter without giving credit and implying it was your own original thought.
Would this be an action out of egoism or alturism? Is it egoism because of claiming another person's thoughts as your own? Or is it altruism to share the point of view irrigardless of the source?
Hypothetically of course....
If implying it was your own original thought, you are of course lying.
This is clear egoism. The intellectual credit for the idea, not just the skill in writing the article, is being claimed for one's own credit.

If, however, the friend who had the thought was consulted and expressed his wish not to be credited, then there is no deception and this is fine. But I still think that the wish to use the idea is egoist. If, perhaps, the original friend shared the idea knowing that he was making a sacrifice (for argument's sake, the loss of his own article), it was altrustic.

I find your example strange- it entails notions of a kind of intellectual property that would be of public benefit when given. Most explorations of this issue would involve something more recognised, more tangible.
Luchok
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Posted Aug 10, 2004 - 8:40 PM:

I think this debate (egoism vs altruism) is often misfocused.
Egoism = self-centered actions and toughts. Altruism = Self-sacrifying actions and thoughts. I would propose a look at a synthesis between both = self-less (I lack a better word; self-expressive would work as well, or better) actions and thoughts. It has been my experience (not much anyway rolling eyes ) that self-centered actions and thoughts end up ultimately being as self-denying as "sacrificial" altruism. It denies self-expresion and locks us up in a tail-chaising game that has no real reward. One seem to need to transcend the egoist constant whining and longing to really express oneself fully; then one becomes an offering to the world and to oneself. Sort of like an eye; it needs to be blind to itself in order to see properly. After all, love, which I find the one thing that might make this existance worth, is essentially self-transcending and self-rewarding at the same time.



Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

Though I'm not a christian, I've always found this words from St. Francis of Assis to hold much wisdom; when I find myself living by them are the moments when I feel most alive, and happy to be so. So am I an egoist or an altruist? I think both and neither at the same time. nod
Rachel
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Posted Aug 11, 2004 - 5:20 PM:

I've heard that many economists deny the existence of altruism and instead look for hidden self-interest. If you save someone's life, at great risk to your own, is it altruistic or are you just avoiding the inevitable guilt you might feel if you did not?

I personally like to believe that true altruism does exist. I can't imagine the womanizing, gambling, alcoholic Oskar Schindler cared to much about making himself feel better when he saved thousands of lives at incredible risk to his own.
Cobra_coils_Mongoose
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Posted Aug 11, 2004 - 11:26 PM:

Here is a question to ponder.

Consider your mother and father (or one or the other in the case of having a single parent). Are the actions they perform when rearing you or assisting you out of egoism or altruism? I think this is an instance where altruism truly exists.
Never have I felt anything my parents have done was done expecting something in return or out of guilt but rather that they truly want to see me live happily.

-CcM
wes
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Posted Aug 12, 2004 - 2:49 AM:

rachel wrote:

I personally like to believe that true altruism does exist. I can't imagine the womanizing, gambling, alcoholic Oskar Schindler cared to much about making himself feel better when he saved thousands of lives at incredible risk to his own.

Couldnt this be just another form of what Teenwolf was saying?:
Teenwolf wrote:
This man acted out of egoism, knowing that his life would be unbearable knowing he could have saved his friends and did not try.


Maybe he saved those people cause in the end it would hurt him greatly if he didnt.


I personally am unsure. Egoism to me makes alot of sense, but at the sametime I find the idea..unsettling and Im reluctant to accept it even though I dont have a reason to doubt it. disapproval
Rachel
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Posted Aug 12, 2004 - 4:56 AM:

wes wrote:
Couldnt this be just another form of what Teenwolf was saying?:


It could be, I'm not completely convinced myself except that Schindler was a womanising alcoholic, which leads me to think he didn't care too much about what other people thought of him or even what he thought of himself.
EntropicOrder
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Posted Aug 12, 2004 - 11:10 AM:

I agree with Luchok, people are normally both at the same time. It is possible for a person to be more self-serving and another to be more self-sacrificing, but no man is an island and no man can live without sustaining himself. I think it is a problem to be more one than the other, but I think the problem with most people is a small sum total of both. In other words, I think what we need is a strong amount of both. If someone is neither doing something for themselves nor for others, then they are just lazy or apathetic, and I think that's more of a problem than people being too egoistic or too altruistic.

The synthesis of altruism and egoism is when what you want is also what other people want. In the example given the man acted in such a way that it benefited his comrades, but also in such a way as to avoid regret and misery for his own life. Most importantly, he acted, but he also acted harmoniously with his own and others' interests.

I see decisions on a spectrum. The whole spectrum is what a person does because the person wants to do it. (I don't think it is possible to decide to do something you don't at least want for indirect reasons.) One one end of the spectrum is wanting things that only benefit yourself and the other end of the spectrum is wanting things that only benefit others. Both ends are extremely dangerous, and the heathy moral balance is right in the middle.
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