Plentyoffish dating forums are a place to meet singles and get dating advice or share dating experiences etc. Hopefully you will all have fun meeting singles and try out this online dating thing... Remember that we are the largest free online dating service, so you will never have to pay a dime to meet your soulmate.
     
Show ALL Forums  > Science/philosophy  > No such thing as a selfless good deed?      Home login  
 AUTHOR
 nipoleon
Joined: 12/27/2005
Msg: 3
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?Page 1 of 6    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
There's no such thing as a selfless good deed.
There's also no such thing as a selfless bad deed either.

We all share in each others fortune.
Seek not to enrich yourself at the expense of another.
 rec_diver
Joined: 11/13/2011
Msg: 4
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/24/2011 7:26:08 PM
Your sister and you of course share lots of similar genes. By helping her, you are instinctively preserving your gene pool and that's more an evolutionary adaptive trait rather than just being altruistic because it makes you feel good about yourself.

Now if the little girl crying in the corner was a perfect stranger, you might have a point.
 Aristotle_Amadopolis
Joined: 12/8/2011
Msg: 5
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/24/2011 7:35:08 PM
So surely this is an example of at the least an exception to the rule? This is, of course, if the notion is even "fact" at all lol

Your thoughts?

I would hand over the keys to my boat to get a kid to stop crying.*




No such thing as a selfless good deed?

IMO The only time it can be selfless is when no one knows who did it and the doer keeps it to him or her self.

So technically there is not such thing as a selfless act, as knowing of said act could in fact no longer make it selfless.




* I would take the keys back as soon as the kid was asleep.
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 6
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/24/2011 8:37:10 PM
No such thing as a selfless good deed? Hah!

Assuming that doing good is the right thing to do, and morally speaking, one OUGHT to do the right thing, the concept of reward (even an unconscious one) should not (and often doesn't) enter into it.

To spite rumours to the contrary, altruism is alive and well.
 IgorFrankensteen
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 7
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 12:20:45 AM
I think we go overboard sometimes, with concepts like "selflessness."

I fully support and endorse the general idea that people should be encouraged to think of the greater good, and I think that this is WHY so-called selflessness is given extra kudos. I almost constantly do little things for the sake of making the world better for everyone, like removing objects from public walkways that I know someone could step on and be caused to fall. As with your own examples, I know very well that every little thing I do, I do because I believe it makes MY world a better place. So strictly speaking, none of my conscious acts are ever selfless.

But what I'm getting at is, that the whole THRUST of encouraging selflessness is mislabeled. This is a result of the basic CONCEPT having become associated with problematic words LIKE selflessness. What it really ought to be called is, something like "everything-and-everyone-ness" thinking or some such. It requires a long explanation, and a lot of maturity and life experience to even understand what the whole concept is about, and why so many people KNOW that it is something to BE praised, that society watered the verbiage down to "selfless acts."

It's kind of like watering the huge concept of the deep and thorough intertwining of lives, work, effort, emotion, hope, and so forth that we all pursue here, and call it "dating," or even "marriage." Someone after the fact, can point out quite accurately (though being a bit picky ) that not all marriages are equal, and claim that therefore the entire concept of the search for a mate is based on crass falsehoods.

Those of us who know better, can clearly see that such a critic is wrong, but since the nomenclature is what it is, the critic can make a successful technical argument which does make sense on paper.

Anyway, I think you see what I'm getting at. The word "selfless" in terms of this discussion was never supposed to mean that the actor got NOTHING WHATSOEVER for their acts, it was meant to encourage people to think in larger terms than personal short-term profits all the time.

The very good reasons why we also DO watch out for people who are trying to PRETEND to be acting selflessly, while actually being completely selfish jerks in reality, are what makes the CONCERN about whether or not an act is really "selfless" (we really need a better term) or not, something to keep an eye on.

My own appreciation is, that I will only criticize a so-called selfless act, if the person doing it insists that they DO get something for doing it. People who claim to be acting for the greater good alone, but who also demand something in return, are being ingenuous, and we should call them on it.

A classic example that shows up in these forums and in the world of mate-hunting in general, is the "nice guy/gal" syndrome or equation. These people CLAIM that they are constantly "selflessly" doing good deeds for others. The problem is, that they want the "nice" actions to be directly rewarded with money, sex, or otherwise traded for what they are after in the world. Thus they are NOT just "being nice" to other people, they are trying to BUY other people.

And don't even try to get me started on politicians, pundits, and pseudo-religious pushers.
 abelian
Joined: 1/12/2008
Msg: 8
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 12:33:43 AM

So surely this is an example of at the least an exception to the rule? This is, of course, if the notion is even "fact" at all lol

No, it's not. You did what you did because it was the least painful of your choices. The easiest way to understand a person psychologically is to understand why he/she makes choices that, superficially, appear to be selfless.
 IgorFrankensteen
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 10
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 6:11:42 AM
You seem to be caught up with trying to isolate an irrefutable, truly selfless positive act. I understand the fascination with the search, it's the sort of thing I've done many times myself. It can be very satisfying, just to work out what otherwise feels like an untidy wrinkle in the background tapestry of my mind.

Another way of looking at it to suggest to you: the only way an act can be COMPLETELY selfless, would require that the SELF not even be aware of the act, OR that the person acting be severely mentally handicapped, such that they can't put together that their actions have consequences.

After all, it is built into any act, that the actor CHOOSES to do what they do. As soon as choosing is involved, the reason to act come into play. The reasons I remove dangers from the world as I find them(and do various other little things like that), is because I will both directly and indirectly benefit from doing so.

*I feel better for having done every tiny positive thing I do.
*I feel horrible if someone is injured because I failed to act. I have real instances in my life that I still ache about, where bad things happened because I failed to act.
*The more smoothly the world works around me, the more easily I can get my OWN things done.

Back to the only possible TRUE selfless acts: mentally odd people, such as sociopaths (with whom we usually associate NEGATIVE actions) or the particular autistic folks who appear to have NO emotional rewards system built into themselves. In them, you might find the tiny niche of actions that you are looking for. Someone who does something, which benefits many others, but which provides not even a sense of satisfaction to the actor.

I'm pretty sure that isn't an emotionally satisfying answer to what you've posed, but I think that the only way to meet your requirements for a truly selfless act, that all emotion must be removed from the situation. Unfortunately, doing so removes much of OUR emotional satisfaction with having WITNESSED the true "selfless act." Self defeating? Or just fodder for another philosophical consideration?
 Truthisee
Joined: 12/7/2010
Msg: 11
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 7:45:06 AM
no sacrifice is purely altruistic, we give only with the expectation to receive.

this encompasses all we do, each action towards both ourselves and others, without exception.

 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 12
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 9:15:47 AM

no sacrifice is purely altruistic, we give only with the expectation to receive.

this encompasses all we do, each action towards both ourselves and others, without exception.


You should have prefaced that by saying "In my opinion..". Not doing so makes it a claim, and the burden of proof falls on you.

Frankly, I think your assumption is easily disproved by a single example of a selfless act (ego not involved). This is perhaps best exemplified by the "hero" that jumps on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers, or the men (or women) who at peril to (and sometimes costing) their own lives, and without even thinking, instinctively rush to save an infant (or even an animal) from death. A psychologist might say that only those with a lower sense of self worth would do it, and I might concede this to be of greater likelihood; however, I would not concede it to be universally true, as I'm sure that altruism is part of our evolved genetic makeup, wherein we have an instinctive drive to ensure the survival of others in our community (particularly children) even at the expense of our own lives if necessary. You could perhaps make the case that the reward/payoff is in the number of people saved by an act of altruistic sacrifice, and that if it is instinctive to our nature, we have no "choice" in the matter, but the absence of ego in an act is sufficient to make it selfless.

 Truthisee
Joined: 12/7/2010
Msg: 14
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 10:01:18 AM

This is perhaps best exemplified by the "hero" that jumps on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers, or the men (or women) who at peril to (and sometimes costing) their own lives, and without even thinking, instinctively rush to save an infant (or even an animal) from death.



You could perhaps make the case that the reward/payoff is in the number of people saved by an act of altruistic sacrifice


don't have to, you just did.


we have no "choice" in the matter, but the absence of ego in an act is sufficient to make it selfless.



You should have prefaced that by saying "In my opinion..". Not doing so makes it a claim, and the burden of proof falls on you.


funny, I was thinking the same thing.


 MikeWM
Joined: 2/7/2011
Msg: 15
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 10:18:53 AM
One of the problems with the idea of "selfless" is that people tend to focus on actual personal gain as being the benchmark

But there are other less obvious "gains" that are usually there

One would be that if you didnt do "the thing" you might feel guilty or bad in some other way because of it. Or the after effects of not doing the "thing" might cause you to feel you should have

Similarly, social conditioning gives people long lists of what is the "right" thing to do in many scenarios. and living with doing the "wrong" thing is actually a negative.

So avoiding having to live with knowing you did the wrong thing is in effect a net positive gain despite being kind of intangible in terms of an actual gain as it merely maintains the current equilibrium

So just because nobody else might know about an act doesnt by itself make it "selfless"

I think for something to be truly "selfless" it would also need to be something you didnt enjoy doing, didnt avoid feeling negative about if you hadnt done it and perhaps even something you regretted doing after the fact to ensure there was no "gain" whatsoever not even on a personal level or by the indirect avoidence of any negatives rather than just positives if that makes sense?

So in your example there are fairly obvious and clear "gains" to be had there by your action so its far from being selfless or altruistic at all
 MikeWM
Joined: 2/7/2011
Msg: 16
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 10:40:24 AM
I fail to see why Louis Slotin would even rank in a discussion about altruism

One about who should recieve the darwin award though might be a more apt thread to mention his name on seeing as he died by accident (not choice) and due to what can be described as his own lack of knowledge and ineptitude

For something to be "selfless" it does actually need to be by choice really

Otherwise you could class hitler as being selfless because he was selflessly killed (allegedly) to ensure the end of WW2

So as slotin didnt kill himself for a specific purpose but infact died because of his incompetence I really struggle to see why you threw his name into the fray
 Truthisee
Joined: 12/7/2010
Msg: 17
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 10:42:22 AM
Nope you're wrong



That was easy...


yes, as a matter of fact, it was.


messages this easy, er, I mean short, cannot be posted.



 apurfectmeow
Joined: 11/19/2011
Msg: 18
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 11:29:37 AM
Dont some of us choose to do things some of the time just because they make us feel good (even if we dont realize it at the time)? Is not that in itself is its own reward?
 MikeWM
Joined: 2/7/2011
Msg: 19
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 12:02:09 PM
Even if theyre done because theyre what we have been taught we "ought" to do theres also a reward in the fact the person doesnt then have to live with self recrimination due to not doing what they feel they "ought" to have done if that makes sense?

Thinks we dont think we should do, get nothing out of and see no benefit in doing tend to also be the things we DONT do

if you really want to burrow into the rabbit hole of the selfish nature of mankind you only have to look at interpersonal interactions really

No friendship or relationship is "unconditional". Yet as a species we do like to try and convince outselves that the opposite is true

Everything we do has a reward or a price on some level. And when the return doesnt match the expenditure we dont do it

All that varies is the exchange rate and currency
 aremeself
Joined: 12/31/2008
Msg: 20
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 12:19:42 PM
running over to pull a burning hose out of a 45 gallon drum of gas my brother had lit by accident, and was standing beside with his mouth open in shock, I think, wasn't a selfless act on my part.

also, when we do these things without thinking about them, are they really selfless?
 MikeWM
Joined: 2/7/2011
Msg: 21
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 12:41:26 PM
Thats another good point

I had totally forgotten about the instinctual examples as its been ages since I've seen a discussion on this

We cant claim any cognitive value to something we do instinctually. And for something to be in the true sense of the words "selfless" or "altruistic" we would really need to have consciously and cognitively chosen to do them

Otherwise you might as well say "I selflessly removed my hand from the soldering iron when it got so it hot it started to hurt"
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 22
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 2:59:49 PM
you might as well say "I selflessly removed my hand from the soldering iron when it got so it hot it started to hurt"


Considering that the pain signal often doesn't even reach the brain for processing before the body reacts and pulls the hand away, I'd say you came up with a perfect example of a selfless act. there was NO conscious or cognitive choice involved, and therefore NO EGO. One might call it an egoless act (and what would you call an egoless act if not selfless?)
 MikeWM
Joined: 2/7/2011
Msg: 24
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 4:17:20 PM

would you call an egoless act if not selfless?


I would call any act with ANY hint of survival, or self protection whether from physical, emotional or psychological harm or negatives as being the complete opposite of "selfless" really

Same would also apply where someone gets physical harm as a byproduct of avoiding emotional harm IE a broken leg saving a child from the path of a runaway car

Because on a subconcious level a mechanism fired to act and we would be hard pushed to categorically know that part of the trigger into action wasnt social conditioning and/or avoidence of the way they would feel if they didnt act

Just because very little is thought cognitively or consciously in such a situation doesnt negate a hell of a lot of processing going on in the subconcious part of the brain that will depending on condtioning and instincts combined arrive at EITHER the action or innaction decision
 apurfectmeow
Joined: 11/19/2011
Msg: 25
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 5:52:10 PM
It is not an instinct to save a child or not get burned. We are taught these things through learned behaviors. Are the only true selfless acts through instinct?
 Aristotle_Amadopolis
Joined: 12/8/2011
Msg: 26
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 6:16:54 PM

It is not an instinct to save a child or not get burned. We are taught these things through learned behaviors. Are the only true selfless acts through instinct?

It is instinct to save a child, because from an evolutionary standpoint the ones that had those instincts had a greater chance of survival.

We are not taught then, we are born with them, in the same way that a mother bear is born with the instinct to protect her cubs.

So the act would not be selfless as the reason for doing it is to protect your seed.
 MikeWM
Joined: 2/7/2011
Msg: 27
view profile
History
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 6:22:18 PM
Actually that isnt true

its instinctual to save "our" children, and to some extent children in our pack

But throughout history its been very frequently displayed as the opposite where "other peoples" kids are concerned, especially competing tribes or packs and its quite common in the animal kingdom too to "dispose" of the competitions offspring going back to the age of dinosaurs infact

Removing your hand from heat however isnt a taught response, that one is infact instinctual. Although we do "learn" modern sources of heat, but the basic instinct to go commando and move our hand away from a source of pain is pretty much one we have always had
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 28
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 6:29:49 PM
In the case of touching a blisteringly hot oven element, the reaction time is less than the normal 0.3 seconds and is in fact a reflex processed by the spinal cord before reaching the brain for "cognitive" processing. Since the signal doesn't get processed by the brain before the reaction occurs, the ego has nothing to do with it and the action can be considered entirely selfless. Granted, the reaction in this case can't be considered altruistic, or particularly "good" (since it's entirely electrochemical/mechanical), but it IS selfless.

Who is to say that similar unthinking reactions don't occur when danger to others is perceived? (The former live grenade example might be suitable in this case.) If altruism exists in ant colonies & beehives, I see no reason it should not exist in people.
 Aristotle_Amadopolis
Joined: 12/8/2011
Msg: 29
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 6:35:42 PM
If altruism exists in ant colonies & beehives, I see no reason it should not exist in people.

I think it does, but when an altruistic act happens very few if any will ever know about it.

Saving someones life and then slipping away without anyone knowing would be more altruistic than waiting around for the camera crew and a medal.


Donating to a charity is an altruistic act.

Donating to a charity anomalously is more of an altruistic act.
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 30
No such thing as a selfless good deed?
Posted: 12/25/2011 7:27:25 PM
@ Irregulator...
I think it more likely that people tend to fall for an assumption without really giving the assumption itself the critical analysis required before its acceptance. Robin Upton raises the example of an economics class he took where one of the first things out of the prof's mouth was that "We assume all people are self-serving." He didn't buy the assumption and has since developed an alternative, altruistic economic model.
Show ALL Forums  > Science/philosophy  > No such thing as a selfless good deed?