selfless acts

do they exist?



There is a selfish motive behind every act.

human beings are intrinsically selfish.

i agree joe

could you give an example already in use?

whether an act is selfless is hard to define.

you certainly see people acting to help others for no material or social reward.

some would argue that act was not ultimately selfless because it, at some level, made the person feel better, or at least relieved anxiety over the other person's condition.

but if it relieves anxiety over the other person's condition, and that person does not have any real impact on your life, you have to wonder why you have anxiety in the first place.

For instance, for a Christian to commit acts that are seemingly selfless, eg. giving money to charity, even a grand act like giving their million dollar fortune to charity, is purely selfish as they are expecting the grandest reward for this "selfless" act when they go to heaven.

Same thing for any religion which advocates selflessness and altruism. There is always a reward for such acts.

People also perform supposedly selfless acts because it makes them feel good or makes them feel like a better or morally better person.

Helping those in need or sacrificing something for someone else can often make you happy.

ive pondered everything mentioned so far in this thread, and agree with a lot of it.

we are all selfish imo. hell, its a survival instinct. it just depends on to what degree we are selfish, or how well we hide it...or if we choose to fight it. if we choose to fight it, i see that as selfish too. for example, you are about to act in a selfish way, then, realize that it is indeed selfish, so you choose "not to stoop to that level". it is because you dont want to be disappointed in yourself, and/or dont want others to consiter you selfish.

as far as selfless acts toward other people. i still think every example, in every circumstance has elements that could be consitered selfish. you do something not expecting anything in return---but it still makes you happy to do it, or relieves some level of guilt that would inevitably appear had you chosen not to. even if you would not have felt guilty having not done it, you still get some sort (even if abstract) of satisfaction from doing said act.

the only act i havent reconciled or catagorized yet (and maybe a few of you could shed some light on this) is dying for someone.

now, if you were single, nothing really to live for, just kind of going about your daily life with no purpose, or even kinda bored with life, i could see this as an easier go ahead and die for a best friend for example if that situation had to come up. ...and, it would also be an easy decision to die for your family, children, wife and stuff like that because i think a lot of people would.

but would any of the above die for a stranger? especially if they did have a family to support! it would be selfish if they didnt, of course, because everyone wants their family to survive. but what if you died for a stranger, with your own family depending on you with no other motive than not wanting to see that person die, and thats it? is there something im overlooking? some obvious detail i keep skipping over? because it seems to me, however stupid, that dying for a stranger when you have so much to lose (and your family and friends to lose) would be a pretty selfless act.

like i said, there maybe some detail im overlooking, so if you see it clearly, please make note of it, cuz i cant quite wrap my head around this, lol


This issue requires care, because too often the idea of self-interested action is used circularly.

If I assume that all actions are self-interested, then I can prove that all actions are self-interested, but that shouldn't impress anybody. It begs the question, and is circular and vacuous.

If your feeling is that actions are self-interested, then the question you need to ask is this: what criteria do I have that would make me see an action as NOT self-interested?

true. its really hard to find a static reference point from which to judge all of this. but that is exactly what im looking for! im trying to find something solid here, and i cant seem to grasp it. i guess im trying to force something into black and white, and not shades of gray, yet even shades of gray drives me nuts! am i making sense? im not really sure.

but you are definately right about the subject being circular. hell, everything is it seems. haha, almost makes me want to give up on analyzing ANYTHING!

but not quite

The definition of a selfish act should not be 'one that causes the self pleasure' but whether the act benefits the self at the expense of others.

Similarly the definition of an altruistic act should not be' an act that does not bring pleasure to oneself but helps others' but should be an act 'that helps other people whether it bring pleasure to the self or not'.

I would call an altruistic person someone who DOES get pleasure from helping other people.

acts can be selfish without being at the expense of others

What I am saying is that we should redefine 'selfish' as an act that benefits oneself at the expense of others.

Since in normal day language..we wouldn't call someone selfish who makes themselves food and takes a shower. Although these things benefit the self. We tend to use the word selfish in normal language to define someone who acts in a way to benefit themselves at the expense or at the very least neglect of others.

i have helped people just because i wanted to help them,no reward needed or wanted.

i do agree that as a society we are immensly selfish,but there are always exceptions.

yes Robert, but did you feel good about helping them?

see, even if that wasnt your motive (to feel good about yourself) it still could, if looked at that way, be consitered selfish because you benifited from it.

hell, why am i even writing this crap? none of it makes sense anymore anyway, lol!


"see, even if that wasnt your motive (to feel good about yourself) it still could, if looked at that way, be consitered selfish because you benifited from it."

But why are you defining selfish that way?

It doesn't make sense to. If the definition of a selfish act is "an act that benefits you"...well then of course there are non selfish people do things that don't benefit them all of the time. have you ever made a bad decision? Have you ever fucked yourself over? Gave into a vice you shouldn't have? Those, by your definition would be selfless acts since they didn't benefit you.

It makes no sense to define selfishness that way.


 testing testing, 1-2, 1-2

Google Daniel Batson.

He's a psychologist who is essentially the champion of the idea that not only are people capable of true altruism, but that it can be proven scientifically.

However, he has really hit the wall lately, as his latest set of studies have suggested that altruistic species can be more successful than selfish ones in the long run (at least based on the computer modeling he has done), so even if you're not aware of any benefit, it's still there. Ooops ;-)  

 LOL,perhaps it was a bit selfish on my behalf

*selfless acts*

I find they just feel good. It's like... walking in the rain. No one else has to konw that you do it, you just end up with many, many, many happy little things going on that undergird that bit of life that is public.

 Can simply holding the door for another person be a selfless act OR is it, because I feel good about it, a selfish act?