Is there such a thing as a truly unselfish act?


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Is there such a thing as a truly unselfish act?

by Josh Clark

How Stuff Works

I subscribe to How Stuff Works for practical information, but I came across this article and I thought it was curious. It is a kind of noncommittal examination that places questions in the minds of readers, so it is not bad in that respect. But it is strange to see neither Compte nor Rand among the credits, expecially as altruism is highlighted. Actually, Objectivism was represented (without mentioning Objectivism). Craig Biddle was quoted from an article in Capitalism Magazine and also Raymie Stata from the TAS side (MIT, 1990's). The article almost starts out like an Objectivist discussion:

In an episode of the TV sitcom "Friends," entitled "The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS," two characters -- Phoebe and Joey -- engage in a contest based on the theories of philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Is there such a thing as a truly unselfish act, they wonder, one in which someone benefits while the person performing the act receives nothing in return? Joey believes not; Phoebe sets out to prove him wrong.

That sounds like a comedy idea Rand could have developed easily.

Also, it was good to read a quote like the following in a text that, before Rand, probably would have preached the virtue of altruism:

In the eyes of an egoist, altruistic behavior allows people to be exploited by totalitarian governments...

I am glad to see the brain scan experiments starting to get this kind of exposure. I have participated in too many discussions where Objectivism is used to justify and even extol lack of empathy as a virtue. Apparently helping out strangers gives people the "warm fuzzies" and this is a selfish pleasure. The emotion feels good. Actually, this emotion would explain why altruism never goes away from one generation to the next. People like to feel good and they always get primary biological nature mixed up with normative conceptual knowledge, i.e., ethical principles and individual rights.

Michael

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The link up there is not working for me. :o

That episode of Friends is hilarious. We were just discussing it in my Ethics class not too long ago, actually. One of my faves, by far. It's hilarious when Phoebe is saying how she tried to sneak up to an old man's doorstep and rake the leaves or whatever and he "practically forcefed me milk and cookies!" Hahaha. Or when she lets a bee sting her so that it can look tough in front of its bee friends, and Chandler says, "You know the bee probably died, right?" LOL!

And then finally when she donates the money to PBS and it gets Joey some camera time and she says, "Oh, my donation is what helped Joey get on camera...Oh, I feel so good! Oh no!!"

Anyhow, people in my ethics class were hard pressed to find an unselfish act. I don't understand why they try...it's like, "Oh no! I wouldn't want to be considered selfish, that's baa-a-a-ad!" Heehee.

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Kori,

The link works now. There was some kind of glitch where there were 2 "http://" indications. I tried to copy over it and delete it, but it stayed. So I removed all formatting and did it again.

I have no idea why it misbehaved like that. The Divine Spirit of All Things Informatics was restless, I suppose...

Michael

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I am glad to see the brain scan experiments starting to get this kind of exposure. I have participated in too many discussions where Objectivism is used to justify and even extol lack of empathy as a virtue. Apparently helping out strangers gives people the "warm fuzzies" and this is a selfish pleasure. The emotion feels good. Actually, this emotion would explain why altruism never goes away from one generation to the next. People like to feel good and they always get primary biological nature mixed up with normative conceptual knowledge, i.e., ethical principles and individual rights.

Michael

I am glad too. Our Highest Moments are epiphenomena of electro chemical reactions. Which is what I have been saying for some time. We are Meat that walks, talks and rationalizes its actions.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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meat: "The flesh of animals as used for food."

You may be meat, Baal, but no one is knawing on my bones.

--Brant

I am glad to see the brain scan experiments starting to get this kind of exposure. I have participated in too many discussions where Objectivism is used to justify and even extol lack of empathy as a virtue. Apparently helping out strangers gives people the "warm fuzzies" and this is a selfish pleasure. The emotion feels good. Actually, this emotion would explain why altruism never goes away from one generation to the next. People like to feel good and they always get primary biological nature mixed up with normative conceptual knowledge, i.e., ethical principles and individual rights.

Michael

I am glad too. Our Highest Moments are epiphenomena of electro chemical reactions. Which is what I have been saying for some time. We are Meat that walks, talks and rationalizes its actions.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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meat: "The flesh of animals as used for food."

You may be meat, Baal, but no one is knawing on my bones.

--Brant

We are Meat that walks, talks and rationalizes its actions.

Brant, always glad to see you. I read Baal as first-person confession. He rationalizes his actions, blames his flesh, claims he cannot do otherwise.

W.

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