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Altruistic vs. selfish behavior


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Good question:

 

I once had someone ask if I would take a bullet for someone...

 

I would take a bullet for ANYONE!

 

What I mean is, at least in my mind right now, I know we have to help one another. Who knows what would happen if the "flight or fight" response kicked in automatically to "flee", but I would like to think I would help others.

 

I have said to my friends before that I think that people are mostly evil and then I see someone help an old lady or someone give up a seat. I try to remember that my mom always said to treat others with respect, no matter what.

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I think it is best for people to lead by example. If you are a good and decent person and treat others with respect, others will follow you. There will always be some who are evil, but by and large I have found that the more good I try to do, the more good I see in people around me.

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I agree with renaissancewoman about the innate selfishness. It's hard to be truly altruistic because even if you're making a huge sacrifice with no obvious payoff, you still get a good feeling -- because you did what's right, etc. In my opinion, doing something for the sake of that feeling is selfish. If being selfless makes you happy...then being selfless is selfish. If that makes any sense.

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Our species has made it through years of kill or be killed. There's still an innate sense that we need to take care of ourselves first. Its outdated, but still there, some people have gotten beyond that and really are altruistic. However, there are still those who take it too far though and don't play nice in society. I think most people fall between with a fair balance of both.

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I agree with renaissancewoman about the innate selfishness. It's hard to be truly altruistic because even if you're making a huge sacrifice with no obvious payoff, you still get a good feeling -- because you did what's right, etc. In my opinion, doing something for the sake of that feeling is selfish. If being selfless makes you happy...then being selfless is selfish. If that makes any sense.

 

 

I concur. Stripped away to its barest form, every action is motivated from a selfish desire to experience some sort of pleasure. Transcendence from one's subjectivity is not possible and thereforeeee prohibits any sort of pure altruism. In the end, there are simply people who derive pleasure from helping others.

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There are good and bad people in this world. It would be nice if there were more good and less of the bad.

 

I forwarded this because I think it has a special message that could be related to this topic.

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven and Hell

Author Unknown

 

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and

said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like."

 

The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors,

and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large

round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew,

which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

 

But the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They

appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long

handles that were strapped to their arms, and each found it possible

to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the

handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back

into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their

misery and suffering. The Lord said, 'You have seen Hell.'

 

They then went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly

the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the

large pot of stew, which made the holy man's mouth water. The people

were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, also strapped to

their arms, but here the people were well nourished and plump,

laughing and talking.

 

The holy man said, "I don't understand."

 

"It is simple" said the Lord, "In this place the people have learned

to feed one another..."

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I read to homeless children at the shelter they live at. They get a lot out of it and so do I - I enjoy it, I feel like I am contributing, etc. So, partly it's altruistic in that it's totally volunteer and partly I enjoy it. sometimes I don't feel like going and I go anyway because it is the right thing to do. I'm not sure that we have to focus on total altruism in order to add to the good in this world - if we held that as the standard, most people wouldn't even consider helping others if they thought it would be looked at as at least partly selfish.

 

I don't believe on focusing on testing your altruism by considering "would I take a bullet for anyone" - I believe in focusing on actions that increase the good in this world, small and large.

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What Makes someone selfish. It could be many things. Perhaps a rough upbringinging which may have encouraged them to have this attitude but then apparently there have been studies of identical twins where with the same upbringing one was good and the other bad.

 

I actually think that some people are born evil and no amount of goodness or love can change them.

 

There are bad seeds on this planet and the best you can do is learn discernment so you can steer well clear of them and protect yourself.

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Those of you who are making the argument that altruism is essentially selfish: There are plenty of easier activities that are also self-rewarding. Why undertake to do the difficult thing that is unselfish, when the easier selfish thing is so much closer? Some sacrifice of self is always associated with altruism, and the fact that altruistic acts offer their own intrinsic reward does not negate that. This is why sociopaths are not known for their charitable endeavours.

 

No one is born bad; sociopaths are made. People are born with genetic tendencies and inherited traits, but which ones get expressed is determined by upbringing. Some children are less genetically gifted than others, but no infant is "born bad," anymore than any other.

 

If you want to become the sort of person who would take a bullet, you have to make choices that are altruistic so often that it becomes a reflex. Then, when the times comes when you have to react without thinking, you react out of that ingrained habit to sacrifice your own needs for those of others.

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