Re: There is No Altruism

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Wed Mar 23 2005 - 13:55:51 MST

David -

I think it is straightforward to demonstrate that there is true
altruistic behavior, but not, as you're pointing out, true altruistic

Examples abound of people giving their time, their wealth, and even
their lives for others. There is clear evidence that this behavior can
be consciously motivated, but also exists deep within our evolved
programming. Some forms of altruistic behavior may be better described
as "enlightened self-interest" where a person acts in altruistic ways
out of a belief that this will help create a better world for all ,
including the actor, to live in. Some forms of altruistic behavior
arise from a deeper, unthinking emotional level, such as the parent who
runs into a burning house in a hopeless attempt to save a child.

In the long run, altruistic behavior, as a form of cooperation, provides
the kind of positive-sum benefits that enhance the survival of the
group, and indirectly benefit individuals.

Yes, the argument can be made that any altruistic behavior is motivated
at some level by self-interest. Does this diminish in any way the value
of altruism?

I would file this one along with the perennial debates on free-will,
qualia, and consciousness -- all based on arguments with insufficient

- Jef

David Massoglia wrote:

>It has been interesting to see the chats concerning the self-proclaimed
>altruism of Eleizer and the differing view proposed by Robert Ettinger
>(originator of the Cryonics Organization in Michigan).
>The purpose of this is to either debunk the self-proclaimed view of altruism
>or find a view that altruism really exists. I am clearly leaning to the
>view of Ettinger and that all claims of altruism relate to self-interest or
>self-values. If true, the claims of altruism would be stated as personal
>His view is basically that people are motivated by self-interest to feel
>good. He calls this view "me-first, feel-good". He basically states that no
>one does anything, ever, for altruistic purposes. The only sacrifice anyone
>chooses, ever, is that of one value or facet of his psyche in favor of
>another. Thus, your only motivation is to please yourself or avoid something
>worse. His book, Youniverse, is on the cryonics organization web page. The
>following is from page 89 of Youniverse relating to altruism as quoted:
>"The main point is the primacy of self-interest cannot be denied, claims of
>altruism are always language traps. To the extent the behavior is motivated
>(rather than accidental or a hard-wired habit pattern), no one "ever" makes
>a "sacrifice" for someone else or something else. The only sacrifice anyone
>chooses, ever, is that of one value or one facet of his psyche in favor of
>another, the momentarily dominate value or personality aspect. In other
>words, your only motivation is to please yourself - the currently dominant
>aspect of your psyche- or to avoid a worse alternative. There is no
>In other words: it is not possible to sacrifice oneself for another person
>or for a principle. It is only possible to set one value, or one presently
>perceived good, above another. In the extreme case ( I assume he means
>sacrificing your life for someone), you value your prospect of survival less
>than your desire for virtue or guilt avoidance."
>Thanks for any comments.
>David Massoglia

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