Friday, March 9, 2012

Are people egoistic by nature?

Right now I'm home alone for a few hours, so I thought, what better way to spend some time than to blog about something that's been on my mind? ;)

Yesterday, a discussion started about people being egoistic by nature. There was this one guy who said that everyone is selfish, all the good things we do for others, we only do because it makes us feel good about ourselves. If we give money to charity, become an organ donor, help an old person cross the street - all of these are, according to him, egoistic acts.

But is that really true? Do we really only do nice things to make ourselves feel better?

I honestly don't think so. In my opinion there are two kinds of people:
1. Those who would die for another person. 
2. Those who would kill/let someone die in order to survive him/herself.

There are many moral dilemmas about this. Let me give you and example:
You and your family (in this scenario you have a teenage son) have been on a vacation to a country with extremely strict laws. At the airport, you are stopped by an officer and his dog. The dog shows a big interest in your sons luggage, which makes the officer open it, only to find a stash of marijuana. Now according to the law, this would lead to either your son spending the rest of his life in prison - or getting executed. The officer looks at you and asks whose bag it is. What do you say?
To my surprise, a lot of people said they would tell the officer the truth and say it belongs to the son, while they (on another moral dilemma) said they didn't want a terrorist to be tortured. I would never under any circumstances give my son away for life behind bars or death! I would say the stash was mine and sacrifice myself for my son. I don't get anything good out of it, so tell me now - how is that selfish?!

Back to the negative guy who thought all people are selfish by nature. Every single scenario we came up with, when people do something from someone else, like helping a friend with something, he kept telling us "doesn't that make you feel good?". - PERHAPS, BUT THAT'S NOT WHY WE DO IT!

Let's say your best friend has just moved into a new apartment and needs help painting the walls. It's not exactly a fun task, and you don't get anything out of it, but you do it anyway because it's your friend and he/she needs help. It doesn't make you feel good in anyway, it's just something you do because you are friends. Is that still selfish?

Also, even if it does make you feel better about yourself, what's so selfish about that? How is it egoistic to feel good about helping others? - It's not! More like the opposite! If we didn't want to do anything for anyone else, now that would be egoistic, but wanting to do it, and then feel good about it...?


Bommelfee said...

I understand what you are trying to say in this post, but I think the drug example you picked was not that great to show your point.
After all, if there was a situation like that, I guess I would not say anything like "this is mine", but instead not admit anything and tell my son to not admit anything either, then I'd try everything to save my child from prison or worse by turning to lawyers, the embassy and the press. (Am I the only one thinking of Bridget Jones right now?)
However, I would probably willingly have myself shot by terrorists if it could save my child's life, so I can very well relate to your statements.

And I totally agree that it's not true that people help each other out of selfishness. There are things that we do just because we feel that it is important to do them, even if they would have a negative effect on us.
Why would I explain directions to foreigners in the middle of the night, even though it means missing my train? For a "good feeling"? No, I can get that good feeling at night by eating a burger. I do it because it will help the others, and that's it.

Anonymous said...

De blir lyckligast som gör oegoistiska och självuppoffrande gärningar. Enligt undersökningar ger det större lycka än exempelvis pengar!