The Instigator
Bix
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
17 Points

Altruism is really a form of egoism

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
RoyLatham
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/11/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 9,039 times Debate No: 12740
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (4)
Votes (4)

 

Bix

Pro

I argue that altruism is really a form of egoism.

Before I begin my argument I will first define the definitions of both egoism and altruism.

Altruism

1. Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.
2. Zoology Instinctive behavior that is detrimental to the individual but favors the survival or spread of that individual's genes, as by benefiting its relatives.

Egoism

a. The ethical doctrine that morality has its foundations in self-interest.
b. The ethical belief that self-interest is the just and proper motive for all human conduct.
2. Excessive preoccupation with one's own well-being and interests, usually accompanied by an inflated sense of self-importance.
3. Egotism; conceit. See Synonyms at conceit.

I believe that altruistic behavior is a manifestation of egoism in that the desire to help other people, especially in the case where such assistance is not requested of the person giving it, rests solely on that person's self perceived moral righteousness. The fact that this perception is entirely self-actualized suggests that the desire to help others is egoistic rather than altruistic.

Where self interest comes into play is that all people desire to be seen in a good moral light and one's desire to help others would best serve that self interest. Another example of altruism serving self interest is guilt associated with living a privileged life. The giving of time/money/resources to those less fortunate can help stem this guilt, again serving the self interest of the person.
RoyLatham

Con

This topic arises from time to time in philosophical musings, so it is well worth debating. I appreciate Pro raising the topic, and I hope our debate will be interesting to the readers.

1. Contradiction.

Pro stipulated that the entire definitions of "altruism" and "egoism" applied to this debate. Altruism is "Unselfish concern for the welfare of others" while egoism is "Excessive preoccupation with one's own well-being and interests." "Preoccupation" is defined as "when someone thinks or worries about something a lot, with the result that they do not pay attention to other things" http://www.ldoceonline.com... A person cannot be concerned with oneself to the exclusion of other things oneself while simultaneously being unselfishly concerned for others. Therefore, by definition altruism cannot be a form of egoism.

2. Counter-examples.

Care for infants and children does not rest solely upon a person's self-perceived moral righteousness. We know this is so because infants are cared for universally, independent of varying cultural perceptions of self-righteousness and also by people who have no care for the opinions of others. Other perceptions of "righteousness" are culture-dependent, so it is clearly very strong instinctive behavior. The zoology definition acknowledges the instinct in other species, and the reasons for an altruistic instinct in humans is the same. Infants could not survive if not cared for, and so the instinct is necessary for the survival of the species.

Pro claims that people behave altruistically wen they want "to be seen in a good moral light," but people also behave altruistically when there is no group watching. For example, if one person of a pair is injured on a hiking trip, te other person will go to get help. There are many accounts of such events, and people do not say they get help because they are worried about appearances, and no reason to suppose that they are. If it were as Pro supposes, then it would be revealed by injured companions who manage to survive without help, or by later confessions of the perpetrators.

If Pro denies this claim, I challenge him to assert that he would fail to care for infant if he was sure no one would know of his negligence.

3. Separate instincts.

Human are instinctively tribal. This fact is not controversial.

"Tribalism has a very adaptive effect in human evolution. Humans are social animals, and ill-equipped to live on their own. Tribalism and ethnocentrism help to keep individuals committed to the group, even when personal relations may fray. ... Socially, divisions between groups fosters specialized interactions with others, based on association: altruism (positive interactions with unrelated members) kin-selectivity (positive interactions with related members), and violence (negative interactions)." http://en.wikipedia.org...

There is also an individual instinct for self-preservation, expressed as egoism. Hence, altruism and egoism are forms of instinct. It is illogical to claim that if A is a subset of C and B is a subset of C, that A is a subset of C. For example, ducks and parakeets are forms of birds, but ducks are not a form of parakeets. "Altruism" and "egoism" are distinct.

The distinction of the instincts is observed in nature. For example, in nature sand goby (fish) eat their young http://www.livescience.com..., and Humboldt squid are naturally cannibalistic http://www.nwf.org....

Note that there is another definition of altruism that Pro did not reference. "The term 'altruism' may also refer to an ethical doctrine that claims that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. Used in this sense, it is the opposite of egoism." http://en.wikipedia.org... This also contradicts Pro's contention, but since he didn't reference it, it doesn't apply to the debate. The reason I mention it is to point out that affirming that altruism exists does not affirm or deny any claim about altruism as an ethical doctrine. Negating the resolution does not affirm altruism as a doctrine. This may be confusing as Pro did reference "egoism" as an ethical doctrine in his definition.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
Bix

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate.

I will now offer my counterarguments.

"A person cannot be concerned with oneself to the exclusion of other things oneself while simultaneously being unselfishly concerned for others. Therefore, by definition altruism cannot be a form of egoism."

The entire point of my argument is that altruism IS NOT unselfish concern for others. So by my argument it is entirely possible to be preoccupied with altruistic behaviors because I argue that they serve self interest.

"Care for infants and children does not rest solely upon a person's self-perceived moral righteousness. We know this is so because infants are cared for universally, independent of varying cultural perceptions of self-righteousness and also by people who have no care for the opinions of others."

"The zoology definition acknowledges the instinct in other species, and the reasons for an altruistic instinct in humans is the same. Infants could not survive if not cared for, and so the instinct is necessary for the survival of the species."

I never argued that altruistic behaviors did not rest solely upon the perception of self righteousness or that altruism was not instinctual or not necessary.

What I am arguing is that the current definition for the nature of altruism is false.

On the care of infants, I argue that the need to nurture and protect infants is based on the ego driven desire to produce a "carrier" for ones own beliefs, values and to some extent their own likeness so that this may survive the parent's mortality. All parents pass on their values and beliefs to their offspring and many also desire for their children to replicate these value systems. In essence, a child is an extension of the parents own ego and as a result a parent is not so much as caring for another human being, but a living extension of themselves.

"Pro claims that people behave altruistically wen they want "to be seen in a good moral light," but people also behave altruistically when there is no group watching.For example, if one person of a pair is injured on a hiking trip, te other person will go to get help. There are many accounts of such events, and people do not say they get help because they are worried about appearances, and no reason to suppose that they are."

The desire to be seen as morally righteous does not always require external validation. In this case, it may be that the self perception of moral righteousness warrants the altruistic behavior. However, there is also the possibility that the rescuer will receive praise upon his "good deed" which would bolter his ego and thus would be highly valued by the individual. In ether case, the desire to help the injured companion is ego based.

3. Separate instincts.

Again, I am not arguing that altruism does not exist, only that its current definition is false. This extends to the instinct argument. I argue that altruism is a form of self preservation, expressed as a desire to help others, or conversely, that helping others contributes to self preservation. The logic of this argument is sound.

I argue that all human social interactions are mutually beneficial. No human being will help another unless they can get something out of it for themselves. This proposal is supported by the nature of human social groups. Each specialized component of the group serves the others and they intern serve them and together they form a functioning group. For example, in a tribe, warriors serve the people by protecting them from other hostile tribes. In return the warriors are given money, a well fed and stocked with weapons. These services are provide by the tribal government, the farmers and metal workers respectively. This is proof that self interest is at the hard of altruism and indeed that altruism serves self interest/self preservation and is thus egoistic in nature.

The resolution stands.

Thank You.
RoyLatham

Con

Thanks to Pro for a vigorous debate.

The accepted science is that two separate instincts have developed to ensure the survival of the human species. I provided references establishing that fact. Altruism helps the species survive by providing for the care of infants and small children, and for the weaker and most needy individuals in human societies. Egoism helps the species survive by ensuring the individual strives to live and to seek security security in life.

Evidence for there being two instincts includes:

1. Examples of completely altruistic behavior in which the individual receives no benefit to himself or herself;

2. Parallels in other species, some of which exhibit altruistic behavior and others of which do not;

3. Introspection of people, which does not reveal that altruism was a cover for egoism.

Pro argues that altruism is really a form of egoism. I think that Pro's basic error is claiming that because there is some form of satisfaction in satisfying an instinct, that all instincts amount to egoism. Pro might as well have argued that there is really only altruism, because the individual's survival instinct only exists to perpetuate the species as a whole. Self-preservation only exists, in this way of thinking, to enable group preservation, so egoism is subordinate to altruism. However, the three arguments I presented similarly defeat the argument that there is only altruism. There are separate instincts, altruism and egoism, and they are necessarily distinct.

The gratification of satisfying instinct is not egoism, it is more general. Satisfying instinctual needs to preserve and care for oneself is egoism, and satisfying instinctual needs to care others in one's group is altruism.

Pro affirms that he "never argued that altruistic behaviors did not rest solely upon the perception of self righteousness or that altruism was not instinctual or not necessary." That doesn't respond to my point that there are two separate instincts, because some species are without altruism.

Pro argues that "The desire to be seen as morally righteous does not always require external validation." That means the concept of "morally righteous" does not derive from the group, but rather that individuals have an instinct that works independently. That instinct is called "altruism."

Pro says, "I argue that altruism is a form of self preservation, expressed as a desire to help others, or conversely, that helping others contributes to self preservation. The logic of this argument is sound." No, sacrificing oneself to help others does not preserve oneself, it preserves others. Preserving oneself is not preserving the person's family, community, or species. It is done for that goal, but clearly not to preserve oneself. Fire fighters who die attempting to help others are not preserving themselves, because they know they may perish. They put themselves knowingly at risk for the sake of the community.

Pro has the burden of proof in this debate. He provided no scientific opinion or studies to support his claim that here is really only one instinct, egoism, rather than two instincts, egoism and altruism. He offered no evidence countering my claim that behaviors in other species make it clear that there are two instincts.

Recognizing the existence of two human instincts makes no claim as to what social policy ought to be as a consequence. It only acknowledges the undeniable nature of humans.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by InquireTruth 6 years ago
InquireTruth
RFD:
Before: Con
After: Con
Conduct: Tie, nothing disrespectful
Spelling/Grammar: Pro, a few noticeable typos by Con (eg. repeated words, when spelled wen, etc.)
Convincing Arguments: Con, the arguments were clearly in Con's favor in that he rightly pointed out that Pro's reasoning could lead one to acknowledge that all acts of egotism are really a form of altruism.
Sources: Con, inasmuch as he actually had some.
Posted by MTGandP 6 years ago
MTGandP
RFD

Bix seemed to dig himself into a hole right from the start. He did have some pretty decent arguments, but RoyLatham did a more than effective job of demonstrating that altruism is not always driven by egoism.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
I usually don't like these short debates (2 rounds, 5000 words), but it seems to me this particular subject can be addressed adequately. Infinite voting periods are bad, because if you hang around the site for very long, you are likely to annoy a vote bomber who goes back and votes against you in every open debate. I think a month is better than two weeks, but that's a fine point.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 6 years ago
Cody_Franklin
8,000 characters. 72 hours of argument time. Infinite voting period. 3 rounds of debate. Then we'll talk.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by PARADIGM_L0ST 6 years ago
PARADIGM_L0ST
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Vote Placed by TheAtheistAllegiance 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by MTGandP 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by InquireTruth 6 years ago
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BixRoyLathamTied
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