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Altruistic behavior is impossible. (psychological egoism)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/28/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,054 times Debate No: 69068
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (71)
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Altruism: the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.

In order for an action to be truly altruistic the action must be committed with the intention to help someone else without considering the benefits for one self. If an action is committed that helped someone else but self interest is involved than that action is not altruistic.

Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly, from doing so. This is a descriptive rather than normative view, since it only makes claims about how things are, not how they ought to be. It is, however, related to several other normative forms of egoism, such as ethical egoism and rational egoism.

"Psychological egoism is a thesis about motivation, usually with a focus on the motivation of human (intentional) action. It is exemplified in the kinds of descriptions we sometimes give of people’s actions in terms of hidden, ulterior motives. A famous story involving Abraham Lincoln usefully illustrates this (see Rachels 2003, p. 69). Lincoln was allegedly arguing that we are all ultimately self-interested when he suddenly stopped to save a group of piglets from drowning. His interlocutor seized the moment, attempting to point out that Lincoln is a living counter-example to his own theory; Lincoln seemed to be concerned with something other than what he took to be his own well-being. But Lincoln reportedly replied: “I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, don’t you see?”"

In at least one ordinary use of the term, for someone to act altruistically depends on her being motivated solely by a concern for the welfare of another, without any ulterior motive to simply benefit herself. ordinarily we seem to only apply the term “altruism” to fairly atypical actions, such as those of great self-sacrifice or heroism. But the debate about psychological egoism concerns the motivations that underlie all of our actions.


I will start from your definition of psychological egoism: "Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest".

In my opinion, a person that commits suicide is not motivated by self-interest. People that choose such an unfortunate path, at least in great majority, are probably in desperate situations. In their minds, they probably have a reason to not continue living, but you can't say that they have an interest in dying. You can call it an action of "self-disinterest".

Therefore, people can do actions that are not motivated by self-interest. Ok, suicide can't be called altruistic, but
I believe that altruistic behavior is possible and it's manifestation is best visible when people choose to die for others. In your story Abraham Lincoln did the action for his peace of mind, but if you choose to die for someone you can't say you are doing it in order to have peace of mind - you are going to be dead.

Let's say a person falls through the ice of a frozen lake. Another person decides to jump and help. The other person is not a good swimmer and he is just an ordinary person with no special training. It is most probable that he would die in this attempt (hart attack in the cold water, drowning when the muscled become paralyzed etc.). So, the other person knowing that he is most probably going to drown also, should not have any conscience problems to not jump...rather he could just start screaming for help and hope that a better trained person could help. Still, he jumps. He doesn't know the other person, as far as he is concerned it might just be that the other person is a criminal of some sort. I don't see any self-interest in his actions and I think that his belief is solely that people should help each other and I see just the willing to self sacrifice for the benefit of another human being.
Debate Round No. 1


To start round 2 I would like to talk about self interest and how it goes along with psychological egoism.

Self interest: a concern for one's own advantage and well-being

In psychological egoism we tend to focus on primarily motivation. It is hard to really figure out what someone's motivation or intention is but in psychological egoism it does not matter what the result is, it only matters what the intent was. That means that people not in the right of mind can not benefit themselves at all while helping other people and still be motivated by self interest. Such as a case with someone with schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia can hear voices that can tell them to do things. Acting on these voices no matter what the result is, is believed to be an act of self interest as it pleases the voices which is oneself. So if the voices tell the person to kill herself and she acts on these voices she is acting in self interest even though the result is non beneficial.

A form of psychological egoism called psychological hedonism which is the view that all human action ultimately has the motivation to either experience pain or avoid pleasure. psychological hedonism also claims that altruistic behavior is impossible and all action is motivated by a self interest. It claims that people can also endure pain in order to achieve more pleasure in the future. And again, just because an action helps someone doesn't mean it is not motivated by self interest.

I don't know anyone that would jump into a freezing lake to save a random person while basically killing themselves, but if it were a family member or someone they knew I could make the argument that they couldn't deal with the pain of living if they hadn't tried to save them and therefore the action motivated by self interest. If someone is unhappy with life and does not want to continue living anymore then they are inducing pain in order to minimize the pain that they feel completely in life. ultimately with suicide they are taking a risk to minimize pain.

Now if the case of someone helping someone else out in a non life threatening way where the benefits are seemingly non existent a psychological egoist could make the argument that the person helping this person out could be trying to gain a sense of pride or attempting to increase their reputation. An example could be helping someone with their homework. The person has nothing to gain by helping someone complete their homework except a self sense of pride and not just that but the person he helped will now like and respect him more.



I will approach round 2 from 2 directions.

At first, I would like to point out that, in my opinion, choosing the least worse option doesn't make the choice good. If I have to choose between losing 100$ or loosing 200$, of course I would choose the 1st. But of course I don't like any of them. I am just choosing the one which is less worse, but I don't call it a decision out of self interest. I have been put in the position to make this choice, it's something I don't like, but I choose the one which is better for me. Self interest as per your definition is a concern for one's own advantage and well-being. There is no advantage in losing 100$ and it will not lead to my well-being. Yes choosing to loose 100$ instead of 200$ is a decision for better-being, but not for well being. Now when I choose to help someone by giving something in exchange, something that affects the way I live, for example I give a lung for a transplant to someone, that's altruism. You can't call it self-interest because that would imply that I have something to gain, while I only lose a lung. Yes, it can bring some moral satisfaction but it will bring a life-time of restriction, and in the long run there the moral satisfaction will erode. The same goes when giving your life for someone.

Now regarding your arguments:
- not all people that kill themselves are delusional. An old or a sick person can kill himself just because he believes he is a burden to others. So basically because he doesn't see any value in his remaining life. Again, I fail to see how this is self interest - the old/sick man stands nothing to gain, but only to lose out of both options
- I don't know if I know anyone that would jump into a freezing like for a complete stranger, but I know that are people that would risk their lives for people they don't know. I am sure that an old person seeing an unknown child falling through the ice of a freezing lake is more probable to jump. Is again about the value of life. I hope I would when I grow old. It's a decision based not on the old man's interest but on the benefit of life/humankind/others however you call it. It is more probable for an old man to jump after a young man than vice-verse because the old man has little value for his life and so it's more probable that he sees the child's life as more valuable. So he makes a decision that is not related to him or his interest but to saving the life which is more valuable.

For my last part, and this also concerns your 3rd argument, the one regarding helping someone in a non life threatening situation, I would like to prove 2 statements:
1. not all possible causes of an action are actual causes of an action
2. self-interest is just another cause

First one should be easy. My grandmother doesn't eat meat. There could be many possible reasons: she doesn't like it, she is on a diet, she has restrictions from the doctor, she doesn't believe in killing animals to eat them, her religion forbids it etc. But the truth is that she doesn't eat meat because she is old and she doesn't have teeth. There are many possible causes to the fact, but there is only one which is the actual cause.

The second one states that self interest is a cause like any other that motivates an action. For example if I help someone with his homework it may be for the self satisfaction that I get, it may be for the sense of pride, for the respect of others, but it can also be in order to help the guy out because he is my friend, it may be because I also want to teach him how to solve some problems so that he can solve them alone next, it may be that I am trying to help out the class by insuring that the overall average grade of the class is higher etc. If I donate money, it may be out of self interest, like I am trying to gain respect, or gain redemption from my sins, but another reason could also be pity - I pity the poor person cause he has nothing to eat. In all these situations self-interest is a component of the motivation and not the entire motivation. It's just a reason like any other reason.

Considering the 2 points above, one cannot state the everything is based on self interest. Yes, when someone does something good you can always claim that a possible cause could be self interest. There is no debate here. I can just for example assume that no matter the way in which the person helps the other, someone else promised him 1000 billion $. And then, I can see self interest in everything. But this is just a possible cause. It doesn't make it the actual cause.

It seems like you are arguing that self interest can always be seen as a possible cause of any person's actions, which is true, but the actual questions, the way I see it, is whether self interest is the actual cause of one's actions and here, of course, I disagree.
Debate Round No. 2


First let me start out by stating that I am not arguing that self interest is only a possible cause of any person's actions like you inquired but that it IS involved in EVERY single action. Not only that it is involved in every single action but that it is the only cause for every single action and to prove that such acts that you claim are altruistic are impossible. The reason that it seems like I am implying that it is only a possibility is because it is not possible to claim what the person actually wants from that action in hypothetical claims.

You made a very good argument and It will be hard for me to challenge your theory but I will make an attempt starting with your first argument that is easily refutable.

As I stated earlier in psychological hedonism, Which still refutes altruism, all human action is motivated by the idea of avoiding pain and gaining pleasure. The idea of minimizing the damage done by losing the least amount of money is still motivated by self interest and also has no altruism involved.

As I also discussed, just because someone seems to be committing an act of altruism does not mean that they don't have self interest in mind. A person can consider the pain and pleasure involved and decide which one outweighs itself and is the decision they want to choose. it is not possible for someone to predict the amount of pain and doesn't mean that just because the person regrets the decision they made doesn't mean they weren't acting in self interest.

- You just me make my argument for me by saying that the old man put a value on his life and therefore was weighing the decision on whether he should kill himself. he ultimately made the decision in this hypothetical scenario because he wanted to kill himself meaning it was motivated by self interest. He couldn't live with the pain of being a burden to others and so he minimized the pain he had to live with by ending his life.
- Again in this scenario value is being place on life before a decision is being made. I will let you figure out what I would have said would be the reason for him committed an action. All that I will say is that all action is based on motivation. he committed this action considering the possible outcomes and made a decision being motivated by self interest.

1. Not all possible causes of an actions are causes but they are factors in the deciding action.
2. You are correct that self interest is just another cause. My argument is that it is the only possible cause.

This scenario can not be used. She can not eat meat because she has no teeth. That means that even if you don't consider the other factors such as her religion the decision of not eating meat remains the same. Because she can't eat meat.

The decision of not eating meat is not even a decision because another possible outcome is not possible. If someone holds a gun to your head and tells you to eat kale and you don't like kale you are going to eat it anyway because you have to. It is not really a decision. Likewise if someone holds a gun to your head and tells you to eat ice cream the factor that you really like ice cream does not matter as it is not really a decision to be made. You have to eat the ice cream or you will die. Acts of altruism have to be actual decisions made.

Considering your argument involving the homework, just saying you help him out because he is your friend does not prove how it would cause someone to be motivated purely altruistic behavior. Claiming that there is behavior out there that exists with altruism is like claiming that there is actions without a real reason. How can you claim someone like that in a world where almost everything is explained by reason.

Teach him so you don't have to help him out next time. That is not self interest? Improving the overall class grade is self interest because you are in that class and it makes you look better even if it has the alternating affect of making other people look better. That doesn't mean that was your intention and motivated by self interest.

Gaining respect, being redeemed for your sins, and pity are all motivated by self interest. Pity is caused by a reaction in your brain that can cause guilt. Guilt is a form of pain that people want to avoid. Any action that is committed to avoid the pain of guilt is done in self interest.

Psychological egoism is a hard thing to argue as it is just human nature to want to assume that there is some reason that people do nice things. It is hard for humans to accept the disorder or meaninglessness involved in this world. As humans we want to find reason in everything quickly and automatically and therefore we assume things. We don't want to accept that everyone is out for themselves because as humans we need to trust people. I'm not arguing on what you should do or who you should trust I am only arguing on how I see that things are.

Next round I will keep my rebuttal short and introduce a new argument. Good luck.



I will keep my reply shorter this time.

For every single action done by a human being in this world, just as I explained, you can use your imagination to pretend that there is a self interested reason behind it. I can't argue here, you can always do it. It's just a matter of imagination. The problem is that it has no connection to reality. That is what your are doing in attacking my homework argument - you are just imagining reasons behind one's actions. You said: "Improving the overall class grade is self interest because you are in that class and it makes you look better even if it has the alternating affect of making other people look better". That's an assumption that was not in my argument. You just imagined a relationship between improving the overall class image and my image. Which is wrong. Maybe I am just trying to help my colleagues achieve success. Because I am good person.

The theme of the debate is "altruistic behavior is impossible" which means, by your own definitions,"the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others". It has nothing to do to your perception about a person's reasons, the questions that is under debate is if people can act altruistic - that is execute an action, for whatever reason or reasons they might have, but not out of self interest.

Now, what you propose is that self interest is embedded in every reason. So whatever reason one has, what you mean to say is that the reason is always self interested. But again, an old man that chooses to save a child's life instead of his, just because it puts a higher value on the child's life is not self interest. For him, for the old man, maybe dying is not really what he had in plan - maybe he has nephews or family or a dog or a cruise ship waiting for him or a new drug that he is about to produce out of an unknown plant that he discovered and that new drug will end all human disease for ever and will grant people the possibility to live hundreds of years (you see, I have imagination also) and will also make him the richest man alive. But he makes a choice for the benefit of others (the parents of the child) and not for his own.

Actually, I believe you have quite a cynical perspective of the world. People just doing good things not because they have to, but because they want to, most of them exhibit altruistic behavior.

You say "It is hard for humans to accept the disorder or meaninglessness involved in this world.". Actually I believe that most humans are blind. There is order and meaning in the world, but they don't see it. And most of them, instead of searching they just choose to accept that there isn't any and behave accordingly - that is everyone for himself.

As a last note, I will say that this being a debate, in my opinion you should be using it as an opportunity to embrace new perspectives and not to just re-enforce your own. When you say "Psychological egoism is a hard thing to argue as it is just human nature" or "How can you claim someone like that in a world where almost everything is explained by reason." it seems you are not giving any chance to any other argument. I am not saying I am right, that is why we are debating, I am just saying that it seems you are too convinced of your own arguments to even consider mine or someone else's. But I do have to admit you are making a good case.

P.S.1: when a person holds a gun to your head and tells you to eat ice scream you do have a choice. You can choose to die.

P.S.2: "How can you claim someone like that in a world where almost everything is explained by reason.". You are correct, almost everything is explained by reason. How about the rest, that isn't explained by reason?
Debate Round No. 3


I would like to talk about burden of proof. As this was my first debate I never stated who the burden of proof is placed on so we do share it. But who should it really be placed on? It is hard to decide who the burden of proof is on as it is a weird topic to deal with. Altruism can be a hard word to clearly define or explain what it really is. I think that I can prove that the burden of proof is yours.

If I tell my younger sister that she has cooties she will immediately reply that she doesn't. That burden of proof is on me as I made the claim without and reason or evidence that there are such things as cooties. I made the claim first and so the burden of proof is always on me right? No. Just because someone makes the first claim does not mean the burden of proof is on them. Lets use the same situation but I make 2 claims this time. I say she has cooties and that I am better than she is and I have no cooties. Who is the burden of proof on for the second claim?

Before modern science it was completely logical to console in a religion for belief in a world and life that had no explanation. Nobody could contest the logic of religion as there was no evidence to prove another way for being here on earth and alive. It is really mind blowing what life is when you think about it. But the point is that people make basic assumptions off the observations they make. An extremely famous assumption was that the earth is flat. If someone today tried to tell me that I would laugh at them but 500 years ago I could not blame someone for using that as there understanding with there lack of information.

Now with that point made, altruism, quite simply, Is a label that is placed on something that we can not quite understand. And I can not blame people as they have a lack of understanding. In all of your arguing you have not explained or shown or proved what altruism is or how it is backed up by reason. Your only argument is that they just simply 'want' to help someone out without any logical reason. Or just simply because I am a good person. Now let me ask if you are up to the challenge of explaining what that means using reason and logic.

When you claim that someone 'wants' to do something just to help someone you are making the claim that someone 'wants'. It is such a simple word with a simple definition that is usually basically understood before we even start school.

Want: have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for.

If you believe that we have free will or you don't, logic would clearly explain that you can't commit an action without wanting to do something. (Or being forced to do something which is irrelevant as we are talking about the choices we make and our intentions.) So basically you cannot do something without wanting something. and you can not want something done without wanting something in the outcome i.e. personal gain, Pleasure, or avoidance of pain.

With that being said I have placed a logical reason behind every action without using a label such as altruism that only signifies a lack of understanding. The burden of proof is seemingly pushed on to you and I am curious as to what your reply will be to attempt to push the burden of proof back onto my self if it is even possible.

Moving past using simply just logic, Psychological egoism can be explained neurologically.

"Neuropsychological studies have linked mirror neurons to humans experiencing empathy. Mirror neurons are activated both when a human (or animal) performs an action and when they observe another human (or animal) performs the same action. Researchers have found that the more these mirror neurons fire the more human subjects report empathy. From a neurological perspective, scientists argue that when a human empathizes with another, the brain operates as if the human is actually participating in the actions of the other person. Thus, when performing [seemingly] altruistic actions motivated by empathy, humans experience someone else's pleasure of being helped. Therefore, in performing [apparent] acts of altruism, people act in their own self interests even at a neurological level."

I apologize for only copying and pasting but it would have took a while to put in my own words anyway and the argument is still the same but not mine. I don't completely agree with this argument or better to say I don't necessarily take my facts from it but I made this argument because it is none the less true. I theorize that we don't do bad things because of fear of persecution not just legally but socially and it has led to us trying to gain small satisfaction through empathy. Analyzing the statistics of rising levels of depression in the U.S support my theory although they may not be directly related I think it is a strong argument.

I have run out of characters but this still supports altruism being impossible. Good luck in your argument.


I will start with the end as it is easier. :)
You have presented an argument related to some neurological explanation of Psychological egoism. However, you are misleading our audience, if any (ok, it's true, you are suppose to do that in a debate, but so am I suppose to discredit your arguments :) ). You have quoted the wikipedia page about Psychological egoism which of course supports the Psychological egoism theory, but it does not do it objectively. If you take a look at the respective passage of wikipedia, you will see that the only claim for which they use a reference is that "as empathy increases our inclination to act altruistically increases" - note 25. The rest have no reference. Moreover, if you click on mirror neurons and you go to the wikipedia page about the mirror neurons you find the following info: "In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.[6]". As you see this information has a reference to a certain bibliography. So mirror neurons are involved within:

premotor cortex - on wikipedia it is indicated as having a role not fully understood in moving and understanding moving;
the supplementary motor area - seems to play a role with the direct control of movement;
the primary somatosensory cortex - is the location of the primary somatosensory cortex, the main sensory receptive area for the sense of touch;
the inferior parietal cortex - the parietal lobe integrates sensory information among various modalities.

None of these have any relationship with empathy - they have to do with our senses and our movement. I am not contesting that maybe some new research sustains your affirmation, however, what you used as an argument is not justified and is misleading. But it actually doesn't make to much of a difference - I will move now to the first part of your argument which is more interesting.

I will not comment on your affirmation referring to the burden of proof. I tend not to see debates so deterministic: I don't see a debate as a way to impose my point of view or as a way to convince my opponent of anything, I see them as an opportunity to learn. Sometimes from a debate, or even a simple a discussion, even if you don't believe what the other says, so the info that you actually get from the other person is of no importance to you in itself, you still get the valuable info that other people see things different from you. Understanding that other have different views, makes you understand how little you might know, it makes you question your beliefs and thus raise above your preconceptions in a tentative of embracing a larger, more comprehensive view of the world. Or to put it otherwise, it makes you wiser. That's why I am debating, for wisdom, and not to be right. So I will not even discuss who has the burden of proof (unless you propose a new debate specifically on this topic).

But I will take your challenge to talk about altruism (I am not using the word "explain" on purpose). Again I have to point out that you have not given me any chance: you have asked me to explain what altruism "means using reason and logic" but in the very next paragraph you are explaining why I won't be able to do it. :). But that won't stop me either.

In all your argument, and actually the previous one also, you are making an assumption which is wrong in my opinion: the fact that everything has to be logical and rational. I will not debate this much, as it is not the purpose of this debate, but I do believe that there is a superior level of knowledge, a level of knowledge and wisdom that defies the common logic. Of course, such a system cannot be explained using is above logic. It is the kind of wisdom and view of the world that maybe the shamans, the shaolins, Dalai Lama and others had only in a very small part, and that actually Saints had in a larger part. It is the kind of wisdom that made martyrs in religion. It is the kind of wisdom that made Saints act differently and still correct in identical situations. In this level of wisdom, the determinism specific to our logic differs or sometimes is missing. I don't know much about this level of wisdom as I am far from it, but I believe in it...and this wisdom, this view of life, this different logic explains who people can be good for no apparent reason. I think the best way to call this superior level of perception is "love" and probably Saint Paul is the best to read in this regards. I will stop arguing on this now, as we are getting further away from our topic.

We are not discussing why people are altruistic, we are discussing if they can be, and I think I have done my share of sustaining this. You still have to answer a questions from my previous argument, P.S.2, and you actually seem to be diverging with your arguments from the point that we are trying to make.
Debate Round No. 4


I must try to be brief. There really is no proof for anything so all of my statements are therefore just assumptions based on logic. But they are assumptions backed up by a lot of evidence. Some of them will be bold. Criticize if you wish.

Your question P.S.2: There is nothing that can not be explained by logic. The only limit of logic is information. Either logic is perfect or it's completely useless. Either it's God or logic, take your pick. If you can find a single flaw in either, you're wholly justified in throwing the whole thing away as pure rubbish. If there is a god it would be illogical which would mean that god created logic as a perception and therefore it is just a lie. No more real than schizophrenia or a hallucination. There are no observable flaws in logic yet. There are also no flaws in a god existing based off of the fact that there is no evidence.

What kind of a claim is a claim with no evidence?

Different logic? That is not logic at all it is belief. Just because it is belief does not make it wrong it just makes it illogical and it doesn't 'explain' anything. You contradicted yourself by using 'explain' and 'no apparent reason' in the same sentence.

If good is done for no apparent reason is it really good?

To claim that Shamans, Shaolins, Dalai Lama, or Saints are anything more than humans or that they understand anymore than a human can is not only illogical but irrational without any proof.

Love cannot be explained logically and therefore does not really exist. It is only a perception created by humans to explain the social relationship between 2 people which is only meant to reproduce. In cases where people don't have sex (which is rare but just in case you refute) it can be explained as a mutually beneficial social agreement.

It seems that your argument is against only the proof of if empathy is related to mirror neurons. There is no absolute proof for anything and it is something we don't completely understand as the study of psychology has only started a little more than a hundred years ago. It is hard to argue against the strong evidence presented. I copied and pasted the mirror neurons wikipedia empathy section that has sites if you look.

"people who are more empathic according to self-report questionnaires have stronger activations both in the mirror system for hand actions and the mirror system for emotions, providing more direct support for the idea that the mirror system is linked to empathy. Some researchers observed that the human mirror system does not passively respond to the observation of actions but is influenced by the mindset of the observer. Researchers observed the link of the mirror neurons during empathetic engagement in patient care."

As for your opinion on the burden of proof that is fair enough for me. It does not change the fact I think the burden of proof is on the one who argues that altruism exists without any evidence or logical explanation on what it really is.

I debate so that I can read the arguments against my opinions so I can try to convince my self I am wrong while at the same time try to convince my self I am right. I do this in hopes of making my self wiser like you. I also do it to make my self a better logical thinker because I think that everything can be explained by logic. But I do do it to be right. I want to know the answer and ultimately to get to the answer I can accept that I can be wrong. I don't think I am wrong because you have said nothing to show even the slightest amount of evidence that I could be wrong. Your only arguments are belief in the possibility that there could be some higher power that explains everything. I'm sorry and I don't mean to criticize but I don't understand how you can even call this a debate when your arguments are based on belief and a lack of understanding rather than at least attempting to give meaning to things using logic. It seems like you are just unwilling to accept my explanation based on what you have perceived and grown up thinking your whole life rather than because you think my explanation is illogical or irrational. I don't mean to impose my opinion or degrade yours. I am only expressing my opinion. How you choose to view it is your choice.

With all that being said I conclude and wish you luck.
I hope that you answer my questions and that I have answered your questions to your satisfaction. Even though this is the last round If you have any questions I can answer them through message and we could continue the discussion if you wish.



You seem eager to learn but you seem too anchored in your logical view of the world. Logic, as I said, is deterministic. Given inputs will only lead to the same output using logic...otherwise our logic system will be inconsistent. Therefore if we are to debate any subject whatsoever, the weather outside, the taste of tomatoes, whatever, we both use the same logic. and I think we have both proved we can make logical reasoning (it's not that difficult actually). Actually if one of us would be misusing logical reasoning, this would not be a debate, it would be teaching.

So we could only debate the inputs. The inputs can only be definitions of axioms. Definitions should be easy to agree on, they are just the way we name things. Axioms are beliefs. So, basically, if there is anything to debate in any debate, unless again one of the arguers is purely illogical, is beliefs.

Moreover, you have stated "There is nothing that can not be explained by logic.". Take mathematics which purely logical and G"del's 1st theorem of incompleteness: "Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. ". It basically says that any arithmetic like axiomatic system either contradicts itself or has unanswered questions. So there are things that can't be explained by logic and reasoning. Logic is an imperfect system.

You have asked for an explanation of altruism. And not just any explanation, but one that conforms to your sense of logic. I can't give you that. I tried to explain to you that if you are looking for logical reasons for this, I think you should be using a different kind of logic, a different kind of perception. Just to make an analogy, imagine a logical system with 3 values of truth and not just 2 as we use (the true and false one). Maybe there is a more comprehensive system with 3 or 4 or more values. Or maybe one. I only told you that to give you a bit of an idea of what I mean, but as I said it is something unexplainable in logical terms and it is something I don't know either. Yes, it's true, it is a belief, I just believe in this system. And my belief is not based on logic, it couldn't be...logic is restricted to itself. This superior system is relies on facts. You can see it at work in people actually being altruistic, in the actions of Saints, in the actions of other wise people of other cultures which have come to a certain understanding of the world. It is something related to actual reality and not just words. As I said you are fabricating theories to bring down the world to your level of understanding, while you should be the one trying to raise yourself to the point where you can actually understand the facts. But again, I repeat myself, you have challenged me for an explanation and I gave you the best I could.

It is true, I can't explain altruism by logic. Just as I can't explain love. I can't accept your definition of love and I find it sad that you believe it as such. But maybe it's just that you are younger - and I am not being condescend but people do change in life and there are certain things that only time and age teaches you and you can't get them otherwise.

But the thing is I don't have to explain it by logic. You have asked if altruism is possible and I showed it to you. I gave examples. I constructed a theory in which people take decision against their self interest. You are "seeing" them but you don't believe them because they make no logic to you. So you just choose to imagine that there is some logic beneath their behavior that we just don't know but it's there. This is a belief also, just like the belief in God. It's just a different god: you are setting the human reasoning as your god. And it's the wrong one if you ask me.

That's it from me. I'd be more than glad to discuss this and others by messages without being restricted to 5 arguments limited in characters and to a certain topic. Good luck to you too!
Debate Round No. 5
71 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by footballchris561 3 years ago
No harm no foul. I can understand how you feel. It can be hard to hold back.
Posted by UndeniableReality 3 years ago
Haha yeah, and I'm sorry for being rather harsh sometimes. It's too easy to let frustration get the better of you on the interwebz.

I don't hold back much on my RFDs. I don't even really try to be polite.
Posted by footballchris561 3 years ago
haha hey we agreed on something. I'm also glad we talked. I learned a lot from it even though I got defensive. So far it seems like people didn't think I did a very good job (even the guy that voted for me) but would be glad to hear your input and I don't expect you to hold back.
Posted by UndeniableReality 3 years ago
I think that is correct for most definitions of 'determinism'. But yes, that makes perfect sense to me. I'm glad we talked.

I haven't read through the debate yet, but if I have time soon, I'll take a look at your actual argument. I don't think we ever got to talking about that itself haha.
Posted by footballchris561 3 years ago
Yeah an idea like determinism I suppose if I am correct that assuming determinism is not a scientific idea and that it is not falsifiable.
Posted by UndeniableReality 3 years ago
Then I suppose it is not pseudoscience, at least when you are presenting it. What do you consider it then? A philosophical idea?
Posted by footballchris561 3 years ago
I don't present it as a scientific theory or hypothesis. You have helped me better understand that and I don't intend to present this scientifically even though some people might try.


You're right the conduct was a little off and the topic did start to split later on in the debate but in our defense for both of us it was our first debate on this site.

As for the BOP even though it goes in my favor I don't necessarily think the debate should be decided on that one factor. If you did not agree with my statement then it should not just be true to you simply because it wasn't argued.

As for your next statement it was stated in the debate that we were arguing about the intention not the result. The result of the action does not matter to what we were discussing the debate only what the persons intent is. "the overall factual impact of a choice" was not what we were debating about and therefore not important. How you interpret that is up to you.

I definitely should have made a lot of things in this debate more clear and tried to keep things more structured. I have learned a lot from my first debate and really appreciate the input.
Posted by TheJuniorVarsityNovice 3 years ago
Lets get the easy stuff out of the way first which doesnt require much thinking:

CONDUCT:I had to give conduct to con because in round 2 pro got really dismissive and later pro became insulting to con, the debate area isnt a place for people to give their harsh opinions of each other its to talk about the question at hand. Furthermore I think con should have explained what Exactly he wanted to debate in the beginning and tried harder to dismiss some of cons misconceptions about pro's point of view....BOTH of you got off topic towards the end without finishing the previous arguments and Both of you guys need to put in structure into your debate.

BOP: Pro simply has to win because he gave reasons why the BOP should be on con, I didnt even buy the arguments really but had to accept them bc con said nothing, at the very least just say "i disagree" so we arent forced to agree.

This debate SHOULD have ultimately come down to what the word altruism really means and refers to. the only thing given was a quick definition of it but none of the words within that definition were defined, so i had to go and look up the definition of selfless. I interpreted the definition of the res to be the practice of having concern for the need, wants and wishes of someone else over your own. Now here is the really cool and tricky part which I struggled to understand. Does altruism refer to the concern for another person over yourself IN REALITY, or in YOUR MIND? if the answer is IN YOUR MIND, then NOTHING can be altruistic because in your mind all that matters is how you feel and what will make you happiest. For example

"I dont want my mom to be killed"
Why not*
"Because then she would be dead"
So what*
"If my mom died, I would be devestated and I would be so very sad that life itself would be meaningless"
Why does it matter if life is meaningless*
"because LIFE NEEDS HAPPINESS to be worth living or experiencing"
"because that's just how it is"

So, and altruistic
Posted by TheJuniorVarsityNovice 3 years ago
TheJuniorVarsityNovice either a statement which declares a person has chosen to do something for someone over their own personal EVOLUTIONARY gain or its is a statement reflecting that a person has done an action which doesn't feel beneficial in their head IN ANY WAY, which is impossible, simply because all actions are based on the principle that we make the best decision for our Feelings whether the real life implications agree they are or not.

Which interpretation is correct is what should have been debated. some may say that evolutionary/physical gain makes the most sense to use it as a word rather than the technical type of definition the other provides; whereas some say that the definition clearly talks about your Concern with things which is in the realm of the mind and is thus always selfishly centered because of the way we are wired, as opposed to talking about the overall factual impact of a choice which is not directly implied in the definition, thanks hopefully you guys see what im saying I tried hard to explain it so everyone could get it.
Posted by UndeniableReality 3 years ago
If it is being presented as a scientific theory or hypothesis but it is non-falsifiable, then it is pseudoscience by definition.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by TheJuniorVarsityNovice 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I have a well thought out opinion of this debate in the comments but the entire things comes down to the fact that con didnt argue against pro's Burder of Proof argument
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments, CON's case was unconvincing from the beginning.
Vote Placed by FaustianJustice 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I think the lynch pin of my RFD came from the Con example of the eldery that would be willing to sacrafice themselves for family/youth. This point didn't really get refuted, as should the person perish, there is no 'after effects' that get described for behaving in a manner that betters others. It would be hard for a dead individual's neurons to placate their ego in an attempt to rescue some one, or congratulate themselves for removing themselves of the burden to their family.
Vote Placed by Beagle_hugs 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The proposition is that altruistic behavior is impossible, but all that the Pro established is that it is often possible to explain behavior as arising from self-interest. As con points out, that doesn't prove that altruism is impossible. Con should have pointed out that Pro's argument was completely circular or a "no true Scottsman" argument, but in any case Pro never responded effectively to Con's critique. Pro also misconstrued neurology which doesn't prove that all actions are self-interested, but is rather more like Con's argument that the facts of the matter aren't necessarily dictated by mundane logic. If science shows that altruism and self-interest intersect, this simply shows that the mutual logical exclusion is counter-factual, not that one or the other does not exist. Con's answer that helping is all about interest in avoiding guilt is weak, because it simply illustrates that a value other than self interest is fundamental enough to determine what is self-interested.