Are we not all selfish?

1 year, 7 months ago

I once heard a quote that went something like, “Everyone is selfish, even Mother Theresa only did the things she did because of the feeling it brought her.”

And with that I wonder are we not all, each and every one of us, in search of our own pleasure and happiness? Is selfishness in and of itself really such a bad thing?
I feel like we automatically apply a negative connotation to the word and associate it with greed and a disregard for others, as it often is associated with, but at the very root of it selflessness is selfish too, is it not?

We must primarily take care of ourselves if we are to ever be able to care for others as well, no?

August 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm

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Profile photo of josephm josephm (@josephm) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@i.dea, “you get what you give” is self motivated through spiritual reward systems. selfishness is kind of an illusion(with in moralistic standards) because we are all trying to help the world(but we are the world?) the best we can, but truthful way’s of being lies within our own reason.

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Profile photo of Paola Paola (@paolavecuriosidad) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

well, speaking in terms of Darwinism, the selfish quality in a person is a surviving quality is it not? it was the fittest, which is why it may have survived. if all beings lived in a constant state of selflessness, it would result in abandonment of one’s own safety. i think selfishness is necessary, inherent, and a result of natural selection, but the extent that we allow it to control our minds is where we have control of it.

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Profile photo of Faithflower Faithflower (@peacelove) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@i.dea, IF someone thinks of others, then it can get out of hand if you sacrifice yourself, that feels like painful, so it does exist to sacrifice and feel painful when you do it, that is totally not selfish because it hurts when it is not reciprocated, therefore in the light of doing it for the greater good gives us a relieve that we do it for a purpose that is bigger than just this worldly existence, it gives meaning to religion and believing in something bigger than ourselves…thus we sacrifice and are relieved at the same time…the relieving part is not the purpose, it is the side effect of doing something for someone else. But that is from a perspective of when someone believes in higher purpose.

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Profile photo of Sasho Stoyanov Anonymous (@) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@i.dea Another way to look at it is how needy exactly you are. If you don’t need as much as someone you’re in comparison with you just might be happier than them. Not needing something and having it is pointless. Egoism is needing more for yourself than for others, altruism is needing others to have what they need. It doesn’t mean not taking care of yourself, because then you won’t have anything to give. And that’s where my understanding ends. You can’t teach a person to need less, but if you could it would be a gift.

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Profile photo of Johnny C Johnny C (@johnnychang00) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@i.dea, I don’t think selfishness can be avoided, it is simply the natural instinct. However, the way I think about why selfishness has such a negative connotation is that I try to imagine a world filled with selfless people instead. Although my imagination may be wrong, I think if everybody’s natural instinct was to be selfless, I would imagine the world to be much better.

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Profile photo of Tim Tim (@HunterBukowski) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@i.dea, Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead will agree with you entirely.

And I agree. Selfishness is the only way to live. Follow only what you want.

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Profile photo of Bryan Bryan (@Substratum) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

What is selfishness? Is it good or bad? It depends on the meaning, the context, the distinctions regarding when, where, whom and why? Is it selfish of me to eat dinner in a world where 18,000. people die each day as a result of hunger and hunger related diseases? Of course it IS! Of course it IS NOT!

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Profile photo of Ray Butler Ray Butler M (@trek79) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@i.dea, Everyone is selfish, it is just the way it is, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Every “good” thing people do can be motivated by a selfish logic, if selfish people were smarter then they would see the logic in performing “selfless” deeds.

People do “good” things because it makes them feel good, but it also makes them more friends and less enemies. People who perform deeds of personal gain aren’t doing anything wrong unless it is harmful, but people should also not allow desire and fear to make their decisions for them.

I keep using “quotation marks” for the word “good” because it is a fake word, so is bad. The world exists, our evaluation of this being good and that being bad is not necessary, by logic we can see if something causes pain or difficulties, we don’t have to create fear to deal with it.

Look at love; does calling it “good” improve it? Does not calling it “good” make it cease to exist? For both of these, the answer is no, values like good and bad create desire and fear, love is a universal truth that doesn’t require validation from us, our validations are not what cause action they only alter the nature of action.

Every harm and pleasure can be rationalised by logic and dealt with appropriately without adding negative or positive connotations to them, like Yin and Yang; which one is the bad one? Neither. Cause and effect is the same, dynamic forces of the universe do not contain intent, they just exist, without intent nothing can be considered malevolent or benevolent.

Humans are the only real phenomena capable of intent (that we know of) but our intent can only be driven by logic or impulse, neither of these two need to have a connotation, but fear and desire are impulses caused by our evaluations of nature, logic is forged by discipline over impulse, we can react to impulse or assess by logic, that is the only real difference between good and bad, selfish and selfless.

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Profile photo of Ray Butler Ray Butler M (@trek79) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@i.dea, The only place impulse seems to have is in moments where a reasonable analysis has no time to develop, spur of the moment, but that would mostly be for fear, if you have time to build desire then generally you have time to formulate rational logic. But fear should not be a motivator in situations that grant sufficient time for an assessment.

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Profile photo of I.dea I.dea (@i.dea) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

Man I juss needa say all ya’ll are dope. I’m new-ish to HE but this typa shit swirls around all the time in my head. I was initially skeptical in posting, wondering if I’d be understood but I’m mad glad that I did.

Definitely helped me come to a more complete understanding and personal view on the topic.
Much lxve,

Feel free to continue discussing this though any outlook is a beneficial one.

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Profile photo of Samantha Samantha (@sammie) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

Even if you’re the most selfless person that ever lived…….that in turn MAKES you enlighteningly (if that’s a word) happy… so in turn you’re being selfish bc it’s making you happy.

It makes me think of that Abraham Lincoln story.. lemme google it:
“According to the story, Lincoln was riding with a friend in a carriage on a rainy evening. As they rode, Lincoln told the friend that he believed in what economists would call the utility-maximizing theory of behavior, that people always act so as to maximize their own happiness, and for no other reason. Just then, the carriage crossed a bridge, and Lincoln saw a pig stuck in the muddy riverbank. Telling the carriage driver to stop, Lincoln struggled through the rain and mud, picked up the pig, and carried it to safety. When the muddy Lincoln returned to the carriage, his friend naturally pointed out that he had just disproved his own hypothesis by putting himself to great trouble and discomfort to save a pig. “Not at all,” said Lincoln. “What I did is perfectly consistent with my theory. If I hadn’t saved that pig, I would have felt terrible.””

Yes that’s the one. :)

Go ahead & be selfish!!! If you better yourself you’re just in a better position to help everyone else.. some people are dicks about it, but eventually I think they get it right. :)

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Profile photo of Sasho Stoyanov Anonymous (@) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@sammie, What’s the moral of this story? A little mud won’t get in my way of having a delicious pork sandwich?

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Profile photo of Eq Eq (@truthseeker) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

Agreed. There is no such thing as altruism. Every time you do something good to others, you gain something out of it. Some may disagree and say that you don’t think about the personal gain when helping an old lady across the street, but I do think that whether consciously or unconsciously, the goal of getting (in that case, emotional) satisfaction remains.

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Profile photo of Sasho Stoyanov Anonymous (@) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@truthseeker, Dumb argument, me thinks. Following your logic altruism is helping people and feeling bad about it. Fucking idiotic. Hahahah

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Profile photo of Sasho Stoyanov Anonymous (@) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

No offense, btw. I just imagined feeling depressed after being helpful or running away from being complimented.

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Profile photo of Samantha Samantha (@sammie) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@beyond, the moral of the story is that I’m (& everyone else is) as much of a selfish prick as you are ;)

I think were all getting a little caught up in our differing definitions of all these silly symbols for communication we call words. Fuckin words getting in the way all the time..

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Profile photo of Sasho Stoyanov Anonymous (@) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

@sammie, Just as much? I disagree. There’s an invisible scale for selfishness and has the nerve to change.

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Profile photo of emma emma (@emmaclaire) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

I feel like people tend to think of selfishness as a fixed state. I don’t think it is. There comes a time in everyone’s life when they act in the interest of themselves, sure. Obviously Mother Theresa allowed herself enough food to be able to survive, as well as other amenities. If you define selfishness as acting in the interest of self some of the time, then yes I suppose we are all selfish. People tend to view it like the biblical sinners – we have all sinned and are therefore sinners. Well, yes. But you can’t discredit all the good acts and selfless things people do some of the times. I don’t think Mother Theresa did good things simply to feel good. Hell no. She did it because she knew people needed it. Maybe she felt good about it but that was NOT the cause of her actions. Like, for example, you may start running because you love it and end up looking hotter and feeling healthier as a result, but that wasn’t your initial goal.

How about this. When you realize that you are intricately and inextricably connected to the earth and people around you, it becomes natural to give when you see need. This doesn’t mean giving your sandwich away to a hungry person when you are hungry. It means splitting it if you can manage. Look after yourself, and when you are able, look after others too. Because they need it. It doesn’t always make you feel good. Sometimes it makes you feel terrible and puts you in a bad position. Are we all selfish? I don’t think so. Not always.

Here is an applicable quote from “The Prophet” that might get you thinking.

“There are those who give little
of the much which they have-
and they give it
for recognition and their hidden desire
makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,
and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy,
and their joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain,
and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not
pain in giving, nor do they seek joy,
nor give with mindfulness of virtue:
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle
breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God
speaks, and from behind their eyes
He smiles upon the earth.”

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Profile photo of Stfrancis Stfrancis (@Stfrancis) 1 year, 7 months ago ago

Alexis De Tocqueville – Self Interest Properly Understood

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