Altruism

kabbalah

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What do you think about the concept of altruism? Kabbalah states that it does not exist in this world, for example, if your give thousands of dollars to a charity, you do so to make yourself feel better. There is a barrier called Machsom which separates altruistic from egoistic, beyond Machsom is 100% altruism, below Machsom is 100% egoism. This world is below Machsom. I'm really interested in what people think about this. I was just talking with my father about this and he agrees that there is no true altruism in this world, although is skeptical of kabbalah's claim to be the method of developing altruism and revealing the spiritual world which is the only place of altruism. I talk about this with my friends too, and most agree that there is no altruism in this world. What do you think?
 

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kabbalah said:
What do you think about the concept of altruism? Kabbalah states that it does not exist in this world, for example, if your give thousands of dollars to a charity, you do so to make yourself feel better. There is a barrier called Machsom which separates altruistic from egoistic, beyond Machsom is 100% altruism, below Machsom is 100% egoism. This world is below Machsom. I'm really interested in what people think about this. I was just talking with my father about this and he agrees that there is no true altruism in this world, although is skeptical of kabbalah's claim to be the method of developing altruism and revealing the spiritual world which is the only place of altruism. I talk about this with my friends too, and most agree that there is no altruism in this world. What do you think?
Hi. I guess first we should first sort out what we mean by the word. Literally it's putting others before self and thought to be the antonym of egotism, which is putting self before others. In that context, I'd make several points:



- Altruism is certainly recognized in zoology; individuals of some species in some circumstances are hard-wired to self-sacrifice in the interests of group survival. (Other posters with more background in the subject may be able to offer us some good examples.) Do human beings have any hard-wiring along the same lines? I don't believe that's been established, but others may have something to contribute on that question.



- If we take altruism in its most restricted sense, i.e., as an automatic reflex preferring the welfare of any particular person over oneself, than it seems to me not a virtue at all, since it aims at no greater good. That is, there is no greater good served in choosing x over y, as opposed to y over x, all things being equal. This restricted sort of altruism can indeed be egotism in disguise. For example, one may have a belief in karma or some like notion and may believe that self-abnegation builds up spiritual points, as it were. On a crude psychological level, it can be simply manipulative and passive-aggressive.



- But other kinds of one-to-one altruism are quite different; for example, altruism that may rise between lovers or between mother and child. Here altruism isn't based on some reflex but on the genuine enlargement of boundaries. The two remain two but are in some essential way one and responding as one.



- For me this is the tricky part. I agree with those that suggest that altruism develops only in this way, by the expansion of boundaries, the enlargement of the circle: couple, family, people, world, etc. Now, an idealist might try to distil some pure essence of altruism out of all this, while a hard-nosed rationalist will say that again altruism is only egotism in disguise, that anything inside the circle is by definition not "other". I take the pragmatic view that this is just how human altruism is produced, and that within the circle there is still plurality, that the "other" still exists but exists differently and more intimately than the "other" outside the circle.



- It also follows of course that altruism within the group doesn't necessarily lead to altruism directed outside and in fact often leads to quite the opposite behaviour. But to my mind that doesn't discredit altruism as such. It only impels us to continually work to enlarge the circle. So the highest definition of altruism in this sense - and the definition of a saint - is not based on who makes the greatest sacrifice but on who finally creates and inhabits a circle "whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere".



- I'm not familiar with "Machsom" and all that it entails, but I don't think that whether one "feels good" or one "feels bad" is fundamental to the idea of altruism. Certainly, lots of people deceive themselves in that way, but again (as I said above) automatically suffering for another can be just as egotistical as automatically preferring one's own welfare. As well, from the above you might also guess that I don't personally subscribe to the kind of hard & fast or absolute line between egotism and altruism that you mentioned.

- But notice the egotism of this post & all my pontificating! Clearly, my altruism is only weakly developed. I can only hope to create some small good from such bad intent. Cheers.
 

Cerealkiller

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Not only do I not believe it is possible to be atlruisitc, I don't believe it would be desirable. I think the greatest good any person can aim at is their own good. To truly achieve your own good, however, you must be aware and interested in those around you, as they have a massive impact on your well-being. Therefore, it almost always in your own best interest to help others. I think altruism is just the demands of the weak given a name and ethical standing.
 

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Hi, and Peace to All Here--

I guess in a forum like this, we can pretty much throw Webster's definitions out the window? Just wondering.

Anyway, "altruism", as I understand it so far, is either:

A) an unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others

or

B) behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species.

In either case, how do you know it does not exist?

InPeace,
InLove
 

Cerealkiller

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I don't know it doesn't exist. However, I don't see how any animal could ever take an action that did not benefit that animal. Even if the benefit is purely psychological, it is a benefit. I have never seen an example of actual altruism, despite the attempts of numerous classmates and co-workers to demonstrate its existence. It always comes back to the point that helping others helps the self as well.

I kind of go with Plato here when he said that all things aim at something, and, after a lengthy process to get to his point, that something is happiness. His basic argument is that happiness is the only thing we seek for its own sake, not so we can use it to aquire something else. I agree with Plato. Even when we help others, it is because we are seeking our own happiness, and thats ok.
 

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Evolutionary theory would say that all animals are aiming for something, but it isn't happiness, it's passing on one's genes to the next generation.

As such, altruism (as action that is self-sacrificing for the good of others) is common among social animals, including us. Scientists show that this is because those in one's family group (which was the original societal group in humans for much of our existence) share one's genes. So sacrificing oneself for say, one's sibling, still yields the chance of passing on one's genes. In fact, self-sacrifice for a full sibling (if that sibling goes on to have kids) is as good as having kids oneself, genetically speaking. As human society expanded into ever larger and more complex groups, our psychological understanding of the boundaries of the group changed, but our basic drive to help those in the group didn't. So now you have folks who are willing to sacrifice themselves for a nation, or a community, or whatever. Same motive, but misplaced because the social group changed from kin to non-kin. That's what the biological anthropologists and zoologists say, at any rate.

I think altruism exists in the sense of people who sacrifice themselves for the good of the group, but of course this generally also results in some kind of good for themselves in most religions- sainthood, or karmic points (as someone already pointed out), or going to heaven or being honored in your group or whatever. I think the question is not whether or not they get something out of the deal, but rather about motivations. I do believe there are people who are enlightened to such an extent that their motivations become completely non-egoistic, because they give up attachment to self. At that point, they do indeed see the "group" that is worth self-sacrifice as being everyone and everything, because the duality between self and other disintegrates.

Altruism, then, is more about motivations and intent in my opinion than about specific action. If one gives with an intent of receiving something in return, it is at best reciprocity, but it is not a free gift. True altruism stems from an intent that has no expectation or desire of a return of value.

As for the "threshold" phenomenon (100% altruistic or 100% egoistic), I both agree and disagree. I believe there is a process of becoming ever more altruistic, and we can become gradually less attached to self, but of course if you define altruism as entirely disregarding the self in intent, then there is a sort of threshold there. So one works toward altruism gradually in a continuum, but suddenly achieves complete altruism when one sheds attachment to self.
 

Cerealkiller

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Just for the sake of argument, the Platonic response to the statement about passing on one's genes would be; why do you want to pass on your genes? Of course Plato would claim that you want it because it creates a feeling of satisfaction, and/or fitting into nature, which in turn leads to happiness. Essentially, he would argue that any motive, when met, yields happiness, meaning all action aims at creating happiness.
 

InLove

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I do not remember all the details, but recently I saw a local news report about a young man who was driving along a deserted highway in the early morning hours. He witnessed a one-car accident ahead of him, and the car burst into flames. He did not know anyone in the vehicle, but he did not hesitate to save two people in that car--this at the loss of his own life. Somehow, I just don't see him having time to wrestle with himself about what "glory" his actions might bring him.

I could contribute other examples of what I perceive to be altruism, but the above is the one that came to mind first.

InPeace,
InLove
 

iBrian

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kabbalah said:
What do you think about the concept of altruism? Kabbalah states that it does not exist in this world, for example, if your give thousands of dollars to a charity, you do so to make yourself feel better.
In my opinion, the trouble with this argument is that it essentially follows a logic that declares humanity as entirely devoid of all motivation outside of the biological, and that the biological drives to satisfy social needs result in behaviours such as altruism.

On this line of reasoning, we could effectively place the addendum that the need to believe in divine and mystical teachings is also nothing more than a biological drive to satisfy social needs, thus there is no God.

Which is not a sensical conclusion.

I have no doubt you believe that there is no altruism, and can prove it, just as an atheist can declare that they do not believe in God, and can prove it.
 

human1111

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InLove said:
I do not remember all the details, but recently I saw a local news report about a young man who was driving along a deserted highway in the early morning hours. He witnessed a one-car accident ahead of him, and the car burst into flames. He did not know anyone in the vehicle, but he did not hesitate to save two people in that car--this at the loss of his own life. Somehow, I just don't see him having time to wrestle with himself about what "glory" his actions might bring him.

I could contribute other examples of what I perceive to be altruism, but the above is the one that came to mind first.

InPeace,
InLove
Actually I've read somewhere that even heroic actions are egoistical. I mean
when a person rescues someone it can be due to these consious or subconsious reasons for compensation/reward such as: fame, or recognition, or inability not to act (thus showing self weakness), karmic/religions reasons, not to look as a coward or a hesitant person, maybe even a romantic goal (to get a new friend), or to have something to brag about.

Again these reasons DO NOT have to be fully consious, some if all of them can be deep rooted in the subconsious due to previous environmental programming.

About animals. I would like to know specific examples of animal "altruism" since
I am 100% sure that animals function 100% egoistically. I mean altruism doesn't pass your genes in survival of the fittest and organizing into a pack is an egoistic "reflex" for egoistic purposes.

In my opinion, the trouble with this argument is that it essentially follows a logic that declares humanity as entirely devoid of all motivation outside of the biological, and that the biological drives to satisfy social needs result in behaviours such as altruism.
Not just biological egoism but social, spiritual, etc egoism as well. Only animals function mostly (if not completely) on biological level. Humans on other hand have more possibilities for egoism, and more possibilities of hidding it underneath "altruistic" looking actions.


comments?
 

path_of_one

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human1111 said:
About animals. I would like to know specific examples of animal "altruism" since
I am 100% sure that animals function 100% egoistically. I mean altruism doesn't pass your genes in survival of the fittest and organizing into a pack is an egoistic "reflex" for egoistic purposes.
What is your evidence for that?

First, altruism (putting another before oneself) certainly can pass your genes on, if that individual is in your biological family, as I stated before. That is a proven genetic fact. If you save your sibling, you are passing along your genes (because you share parentage) through your sibling's children. Your genetic makeup is not identical to your sibling, but the goal of passing on one's lineage's genetic material is accomplished. Because of this, certain animals have adapted altruistic behaviors. An excellent example of this is one bird from Australia (I'm currently blanking on its name) in which siblings stay to help raise other siblings rather than starting families of their own. In their particular situation, given territorial limitations and food/space requirements, such "altruistic" behavior is the best way for their own genes to be passed on.

Secondly, numerous animal behavior studies have shown that many mammals, including horses, dolphins, canines, cats, elephants, and of course other primates, show behaviors that put other before self. Just recently there was an article in our local news in which a mother cat saved all of her kittens from a burning building, nearly costing her her life. Logically, and naturally, at the rate cats can have kittens, it would have been less of a biological risk to only save herself, because she could have passed on her genes to many more kittens than the few she already had. And before you say that saving the kittens was purely instinctual, consider there are other cats that won't even nurse their kittens. Instinct combines with individuality.

Of course, this "altruistic" act makes perfect sense with Darwinian theory, but it still shows that animals do not function necessarily for themselves, but rather for their offspring. Dolphins have been noted to help others in their group who are ill or injured by bumping them up to breathe regularly, often at the possible expense of attracting predators or becoming ill and weakened themselves. And there are numerous stories of inter-species altruism in which horses or dogs save people from burning buildings and other traumas. Recently there was an article in one of my horse magazines about a horse that protected its owner from an escaped felon. There are also occasionally stories of animals that help people they don't even know, and it isn't always domesticates. Dolphins have been known to help people back to shore, for example.

Furthermore, there are numerous case studies of animals showing behaviors that indicate emotional response to other animals' suffering at an expense to the self, sometimes resulting in death. I've seen case studies of primates, horses, dogs, and elephants that literally died from grief. Sometimes it was a female losing offspring, but other times it was just long-time companions. One animal of the pair died, and the other refused to go on and survive. They just give up the will to live and stop eating, stop being in the group, and wait until exhaustion, starvation, and/or predators end their lives. There is a lot more to animal behavior than we give them credit for. I am not arguing that animals are just like humans, but rather that it is a narrow view to think that they act 100% egoistically and like biological machines.

You're certainly entitled to your opinions, but I should point out that many animal behavior scientists, anthropologists, primatologists, and biologists disagree with you and have research to back them up. Humans are not so different from animals as we like to presume, and animals are a great deal more social and emotional than we give them credit for.
 

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Of course, the concept above of acting "egoistically" to fulfill a basic need means you can write all altruistic acts off as "making yourself feel good/better about yourself". Once you start taking internal motivations into it (real or imagined), you can write off all actions as selfish.
 

human1111

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path_of_one said:
What is your evidence for that?

numerous animal behavior studies have shown that many mammals, including horses, dolphins, canines, cats, elephants, and of course other primates, show behaviors that put other before self.
You're certainly entitled to your opinions, but I should point out that many animal behavior scientists, anthropologists, primatologists, and biologists disagree with you and have research to back them up. Humans are not so different from animals as we like to presume, and animals are a great deal more social and emotional than we give them credit for.
Quick comment: I've also have said that so called altruistic facts may simply be reflex of some sort, as animals do not have the reasoning capacity that we do. In fact there is big debate about animals, are they automatons or have limited consiousness. If humans appear to be completely egoistic, I'd guess animals would even more likely be that way.

After all heroic acts maybe self serving acts in disguise, even if it leads to death. I mean we all know that certain kind of fanatical people would blow themselves up to get a higher number of virgins in heaven.

But for all I know, I could be wrong. Great post btw.
 

Quahom1

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kabbalah said:
What do you think about the concept of altruism? Kabbalah states that it does not exist in this world, for example, if your give thousands of dollars to a charity, you do so to make yourself feel better. There is a barrier called Machsom which separates altruistic from egoistic, beyond Machsom is 100% altruism, below Machsom is 100% egoism. This world is below Machsom. I'm really interested in what people think about this. I was just talking with my father about this and he agrees that there is no true altruism in this world, although is skeptical of kabbalah's claim to be the method of developing altruism and revealing the spiritual world which is the only place of altruism. I talk about this with my friends too, and most agree that there is no altruism in this world. What do you think?
There are those who do things for others, yet receive no personal reward for those acts, unless you consider feeling "relief" from concern over another's welfare to be some sort of reward. I find nothing selfish or self serving from becoming concerned for another. In fact it seems to go against the very selfish nature of man.

Do you consider wanting others to succeed, to be a selfish thought? Yes there is the satisfaction when they do succeed, but is the reward for observing one succeed a selfish one, in other words, does the altruist pat self on the back for the success of another, or take joy in the fact that the other simply succeeded?

Why do we cheer for the underdog when the underdog overcomes? Are we putting ourselves in their place, or are we just pleased to see them succeed?

All the world loves a winner, and adores they who refuse to give up regardless of the obstacles before them. We want them to win for their own sake. If by some chance we have the means to help them, then so be it. Alturists do not take inventory and declare "yep, they succeeded because of my contribution to their success". In fact I submit the true altruist does not even consider what impact (if any since that would be presumptuous and arrogant), they might have had.

I think there is a side of man that is altruistic for it's own sake, because mankind has become their business.

my two cents.

v/r

Q
 

InLove

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Q, we speak the truth in slightly different ways (and, of course, that is only our humble opinions, or 2 or 5 cents). But for what it is worth: Hear, hear!

InPeace,
InLove
 

Cerealkiller

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Just a thought here. People often talk about giving their life as the greatest possible sacrifice. However, if you really consider it, choosing to die for another can be seen as a very selfish act. If someone were to take a man and his wife and tell them one of them would die and the other would live, choosing death would possibly be the more pleasant option. Consider, if he lets his wife die, she moves on to whatever occurs after death. The man is left to mourn her, to feel bad for letting her die, and all those other unpleasant situations. If he chooses to die, his suffering simply ends. death is not always a bad thing compared to the potential for a life of suffering over the loss of a loved one. Hence, grieving to death, risking your life for your children or other loved one, aren't truly altruistic. Death may be better than the shame of not trying.
 

Quahom1

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InLove said:
Q, we speak the truth in slightly different ways (and, of course, that is only our humble opinions, or 2 or 5 cents). But for what it is worth: Hear, hear!

InPeace,
InLove
Greater Love hath no man, than he who would lay his life down for another...

Clearly we are meant to live our full lives here on Earth. But one who would lay that life down for the sake of another is not selfish in any way shape or form. To cut short one's own life to prolong another's...even the Bible considers that non selfish.

Fear of death is strong...we want to live (as we know life). No, I think there are altruists out there in the most perfect sense. I think history proves it.

v/r

Q
 

Quahom1

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Cerealkiller said:
Just a thought here. People often talk about giving their life as the greatest possible sacrifice. However, if you really consider it, choosing to die for another can be seen as a very selfish act. If someone were to take a man and his wife and tell them one of them would die and the other would live, choosing death would possibly be the more pleasant option. Consider, if he lets his wife die, she moves on to whatever occurs after death. The man is left to mourn her, to feel bad for letting her die, and all those other unpleasant situations. If he chooses to die, his suffering simply ends. death is not always a bad thing compared to the potential for a life of suffering over the loss of a loved one. Hence, grieving to death, risking your life for your children or other loved one, aren't truly altruistic. Death may be better than the shame of not trying.
Or before he dies, he greives for what he will never have, then has to suffer the ignoble act of being murdered as well. No, your concept doesn't fly.

That is why alturism is. One knows what is about to be lost on all fronts (all counts). There is no reward...only loss. Comfort may or may not be in the end.

v/r

Q
 

kabbalah

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If you examine any act in this world that you would consider altruism thoroughly, you can conclude that it is actually not altruistic in the slightest bit. A kid saving someone from a burning car? His environment has taught him to try to have a "conscience" and he will feel shame if he doesn't try to save someones life. He has little time to think, but his mind quickly calculates the profitability of either action, risk my life and feel good about myself, or don't risk my life and feel an enormous sense of shame. Any act of charity is done to benefit the giver. Yes the feeling of helping someone is the sole motive for any act of charity. If I help the poor, I feel good. I don't do it for anyone but myself.

Animals are nowhere near altruistic, you say that they do things because they want to preserve their genes or help their young ones survive, this is a biological instinct that was implanted in them, they have no free choice in the matter whatsoever. They follow their will to receive pleasure by fullfilling genetically predetermined laws.

To anyone who thinks that there is altruism in this world, I challenge you to perform one act of altruism without thinking about yourself at all. Try to do just one thing with no calculation of feeling good about yourself. You'll find it is not possible.

Altruism does exist however. God is 100% altruistic and created us to be 100% egoistic. It is possible to become altruistic only if God gives us a second nature: the will to bestow. Kabbalists who acheive this have written books telling us that once one acheives this second nature, they are able to sense the spiritual world, which is pure altruism, but only to the degree that God has corrected their egoism. They leave books to teach us how we can too reach altruism.
 

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All talk of God aside, i can say that i have done things that were altruistic. when i give to someone who needs help i don't think of myself, although having thought the same way as you i often reflect on how it makes me feel after doing something. it's a conflict for me. does feeling good after doing good make the act selfish. but i do not think that it does. maybe it's some small reward for putting others over ourselves. i know that in times of danger, when i've had to react in the moment to save lives these thoughts of what would be profitable did not enter my head. not consciously at least. instict took over completely. and i have risked my own life to save the lives of people i did not even know. how the instinct to do this became instilled in me is less relevant to this discussion than the actual act itself. my thoughts anyway.
 
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