Submitted by Ashy in AskRaddle

i don't really buy into it, the main argument i've heard for it is that "oh people don't help each other for the sake of helping / being a good person, they help each other because if they don't they'll feel awful", like to me that's not even an argument for humans being selfish, in fact it's kind of an argument to the contrary because it shows we have an innate desire to help one another. dunno. what are ur thoughts?

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CaptainACAB wrote

Human nature doesn't exist.

The word "selfish" has an overwhelming negative connotation, typically used against those who have harmed others to advance themselves; but this is not an incorrect usage of the word. It is not used to describe people who help others at all, regardless of the actual motives of that person. There is no motivation that exists that can't be perceived as selfish: "Altruism" rewards someone with feel good chemicals because empathy; for those without empathy that cling to some code of conduct, the act of "doing good" presumably becomes a satisfying abstraction, likely akin to completing a to-do list: something to maintain but is nonetheless satisfactory to complete because it feels like you did something you set for yourself.

Doing something to alleviate guilt is not selfless, but it's not bad to be selfish and it isn't good to be selfless, contrary to popular belief.

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Ashy OP wrote

i can agree with all you've said there, or well, most of it. i think it's largely a semantic argument at this point.

i'm more interested to hear what you have to say on human nature, i've heard that several times but never seen anyone actually elaborate on it.

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CaptainACAB wrote

i can agree with all you've said there, or well, most of it. i think it's largely a semantic argument at this point.

It is. I vaguely recall the argument being considered unscientific (or something to that effect) because there's no way to disprove that altruism is selfish/egoistic in nature.

i'm more interested to hear what you have to say on human nature, i've heard that several times but never seen anyone actually elaborate on it.

Prepare for a wall of text, then.

My take on the issue might be different or the same as any so-called post-modernist, I dunno; haven't really read any. Beyond the fact that it's a clumsy appeal to nature to attach modern ideology to some nebulous often poorly defined idea of what a "human" is, beyond the bio-essentialism, beyond the collectivism, beyond the humanism, and beyond the vaunted universalism that European philosophies/ideologies espouse; there's simply no reason to believe in an immutable, innate, set of behaviors to a species as irrational and individualized as the human race.

Our brains categorize things and see patterns that may or may not actually be there, but we erroneously apply this thinking on ourselves and each other, in focusing on what makes one group of humans similar and another group different, we attempt to categorize in order to unify; this has the effect of "othering" the out-group. Historically, this has led to the dehumanization of many subgroups of people which leads (and has led) to the justification of the subjugation or extermination of other human beings who just were not "human enough". What is "human nature"? What's "human enough"? Well, history has taught us that these questions are often answered by whoever has the biggest stick or the loudest mouth. We know that ethnic minorities are human now, but even today you'll find someone who disagrees; you'd find more people who disagree in the past. But overall, polite society has deemed that "humanity" includes the not-white people. Because non-white people have displayed a sufficient enough "human nature" to become human. To most people as long as you assimilate into the dominant culture. Cool. We'll just dehumanize the next vulnerable minority.

So ethnicity alone doesn't dictate "human nature", it must be a cultural phenomenon! A human is only a human if they're compatible with a set of values that develop within a society after a certain period of time! How much time? I dunno, but it's definitely been enough time since I'm human and would never perform the inhuman acts committed by my countrymen 50 years ago. And I know that I'm human because I was raised in humane society A unlike those savages in society B, who are not human because they don't abide by the definition of natural human behavior that my society just so happens to embody. If this sounds recursive and self serving, that's because that's what any argument that hinges on "human nature" is.

So, I've ranting about how "human nature" has been used as crude rhetorical bludgeon, but that doesn't actually disprove the idea of an objective set of behaviors that resides within each individual human. It's actually pretty easy to do. Consider the existence of "stigma" in human socialization. Consider the very existence of the term "neurotypical" and that neurotypical individuals can have completely opposing ideals, experiences, and behaviors despite the fact that their brains are wired the same way. Consider the fact that mass societies require conformity in order to exist and the various forms of indoctrination and punishment it employs against the individual to suppress any idiosyncrasies that aren't sufficiently "benign". These things exist as evidence of the fact that none of are truly "the same". There is no "human nature" because humanity as a whole isn't an a single entity, but billions of individuals with their own experiences, feelings, values, behaviors, and oddities. Any similarities between billions of individuals are too broad to effectively use for an argument, especially not for what amounts to "why my worldview is the best and everyone agrees with me even when they say they don't, actually".

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existential1 wrote

This is one of those things that are so contingent on the definitions used that I cant even answer it in good faith. Even in the comments here, there are multiple definitions or assumptions about the terms "inherent" and "selfish."

Its not your fault either, OP. Thats language and words.

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kokoaitu wrote

I would first argue against anything being inherent, but that is besides the point.

I would argue against humans being selfish.
I would argue for human being generally self-interested. There is a small distinction between these points.

"oh people don't help each other for the sake of helping / being a good person, they help each other because if they don't they'll feel awful"

I would argue that these are the same thing. A "good person" "helps" people because "helping people" makes them feel good. It doesn't feel good because the person was helped, it feels good because the helper decided it would be good to do so. If helping people did not feel good for that person then they would not have the brain stimulation to motivate helping people, and they would not be a "good person".

As with most things I think there's a mixture of nature vs nurture in regards to this. If a person is naturally inclined towards social interaction, they're more likely to mimic the "altruistic" behaviour of those around them, and be praised for it, and ultimately develop into a "good person". If a person is less inclined towards social interaction, "altruistic" behaviour may develop for other reasons. Maybe they're berated when they don't help, so they start helping to ensure that they are not berated. They develop a fear of displeasing people and can then be considered a "good person".

I don't know where I'm heading anymore, so I'll leave it at this.

🦄

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Ashy OP wrote (edited )

cool stuff, i can vibe with that

🦄

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lettuceLeafer wrote

Humans aren't naturally selfish and that's a bad thing

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Ashy OP wrote

um, how?

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lettuceLeafer wrote

I guess I could give some theory but the reality is I'm like the most selfish person on the planet and that results in me albiet very dedicated to uplifting other people.

Also I find when people give altruistic reasons for doing something I find it often condescending and degrading to the person being helped. Altruism almost always creates a hierarchy of nice person over the person being helped.

While doing the same action from a position if greed equalizes the relationship. While degrading the entire notion that said mutual aid could come from a place of care for moral purity.

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RadicalConstructivist wrote

Altruism almost always creates a hierarchy of nice person over the person being helped.

This doesn't seem very different from what you were praising. They're doing this out of selfishness - their motivation is to elevate themselves, to gain some form of social capital. I don't see what it's got to do with "altruism", whatever that means exactly, no matter what they may say or think they're doing. It's peak capitalist mindset; they see people in a vulnerable situation and think "how can I profit off of this?" - coming from a place of selfishness while convincing themselves they are "helping".

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lettuceLeafer wrote

their motivation is to elevate themselves, to gain some form of social capital

I didn't say that. Selfishness works to negate the benefit of social capital. You gain no or far l as social capital if you openly broadcast how you are doing it because you are the greediest person on the planet.

I was more going along the lines of the benefit being a world where people have more resources to be independent of the state and capitalism. Quite a few other things. Tho personally I try to correct people when they try to put a good / generous person native on me. I'm still not super successful in negating social capital gains. Tho the easiest way for it to be negated if everyone else was greedy like me and refected the concept of helping other people because they have social capital.

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Echoes wrote

Even if it were true (it's not), it wouldn't matter, like, at all in terms of the viability of socialism or anything like that

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Quicksilver wrote

On the arguement specifically, if you believe that, well...I dunno, it doesn't change much if your right or wrong. Whether people acting "good" is a selfish or selfless act, they are still acting "good", so the arguement to me seems rather pointless (except, like, if you really care about someone's intentions over the consequence of said intentions, but you'd really only care about that on an individual level, and not on the whole of humanity).

Now, do I think that? Not really. I mean, as social animals, we have a self interest in surviving and thriving, biologically and socially, so I'm sure their are mechanisms that are in place that nudge us towards altruism for the sake of surviving. But I wouldn't pass moral judgment on that with the term selfish.

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