The Instigator
sgt.peppers
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points
The Contender
beem0r
Con (against)
Winning
28 Points

Everything that anybody does is selfish.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/19/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,293 times Debate No: 6587
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (5)

 

sgt.peppers

Pro

The debate will begin in round 2.
beem0r

Con

Greetings. I can see where this is going, and I'm glad to say my opponent is mistaken.

I'll go ahead and define selfish - the three definitions from the two best dictionary sources.
Selfish:
1. concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure at the expense of consideration for others. [1]
2. concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others [2]
3. arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others [2]

Sources:
[1] http://www.askoxford.com...
[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Webster and Oxford are two of the most well-respected English dictionaries.

Dictionary.com gives similar definitions.

And in the spirit of fairness, I'll not go against what my opponent suggested in his opening round; I'll not make any arguments this round. And of course, as always, my opponent is free to argue against my definition - though I'm not sure what sources will provide a definition closer to what he likely means. In any case, I wish my opponent good luck - he'll surely need it.
Debate Round No. 1
sgt.peppers

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate and wish him the best of luck.

I'll start off by saying that I wish this to not be a semantics debate and just go with the overall meaning of selfishness in that it is to directly gain to oneself, whether mental or physical.


In order for pro to win this debate, I will have to prove that in every case, the person doing an action is doing it for the direct benefit of themselves, whether mentally or physically. The neg will have to prove that there is in fact some cases where a person is doing an act that doesn't benefit themselves.

I'm now going to go over my logic for this debate. The logic is that no matter what the action is, as I have stated, it is to directly benefit the person themselves. For this, I will be using real-life examples. Think about why people do nice things for one another. It doesn't physically benefit the person giving, but it is mentally gratifying to give them a gift. In other words, they are doing the action so that they themselves have given the gift, not necessarily that the person now has the item. Another example would be of physical or direct selfishness. This would be an action such as stealing, knowing that you gain the item you stole, with disregard for whoever has lost it.

Simply put, it is impossible to do an action that is not for ones personal gain, because if we didn't think it was, we wouldn't do the action.

With nothing else to say, I wish to expand and clarify my arguments in the further rounds.
beem0r

Con

===
DEFINITIONS
===
My opponent has seemingly rejected my definitions, instead opting for the definition: "Directly providing a gain for oneself."
Of course, he has pulled this definition ex rectum. In fact, if we look at ANY reputable dictionary source, we will find that the definition includes a disregard for others. Why? I'll tell you.
If the definition did not include disregard for others, then my opponent would almost be right*. We each have a set of values. This set of values is what we make decisions based off of. For instance, if I hold the door open for an old lady, it is because I valued making her life a bit easier at the expense of a short amount of my time - while I am 'giving up' that time, I'm not really - like it is with all actions, I'm simply spending that time to fulfill my own values. This is why the definition my opponent uses does not suffice for what selfishness really means, and that is why all reputable dictionary sources specify disregard for others as a requirement for selfishness.

*see "Argument using incorrect definition" for examples where even my opponent's incorrect definition does not work.

===
ARGUMENT USING CORRECT DEFINITION
===
I've already stated one example of a non-selfish action: myself holding a door open for an old lady. It is precisely _because_ I value making her life easier that I am holding that door open. There is no disregard for others - it is in fact a regard for others which drives me to do it.
Other examples include donating money to charities that help people, etc. I think we all get the point - any time a person acts with helping someone else in mind, that act is not selfish. This directly follows from the correct definition of selfish.

===
ARGUMENT USING INCORRECT DEFINITION
===
Even using my opponent's definition, not all things people do are selfish; only actions WILLFULLY done are. For example, if I bound your limbs, etc., to the point where you could not resist me, and I forced you to eat a ham sandwich, you would not be eating the ham sandwich out of selfishness.
If I shoot you in the torso, you are not going to bleed out of selfishness, you are going to bleed out of physical necessity.
After jumping, a person may not want to fall to the ground - yet they will do it anyway.
Falling into a coma, passing out, visiting sites with gross content as a result of fake links from 'friends,' running over a deer with a car, or other things that a person does not decide to do but does by chance or necessity anyway are all examples of acts that, even by my opponent's definition of selfish, are not done selfishly.

And thus, the resolution is negated for both the real and fake definitions of selfish.
Debate Round No. 2
sgt.peppers

Pro

My opponent states that I have completely left out the disregard for others, and while I did not specifically say this is where the disregard is, I would have hoped that my opponent would have read between the lines. To clarify though, in the example of giving a gift, the disregard comes in when you are valuing the fact that you gave them the gift, over the fact that they now have it. So you are leaving out of consideration that it would help them, but rather you are looking for the mental gratification of seeing them happy. That's the reason that we are sad when someone doesn't like the gift we give them, because we miss out on said gratification. My second example is pretty much self explanatory, so I will be going onto the next topic.

Going onto what my opponent stated as "ARGUMENT USING CORRECT DEFINITION"
His example states that he values making her life easier, is why he is holding the door open. However, he doesn't state why he values making her life easier. Well, I'll tell you. It is for the mental gratification of knowing that he made someone's life easier. So he is not actually seeking to merely help someone out, he is looking for the mental gratification of knowing that he is helping someone out. So, the disregard comes in when you take into account that he doesn't actually care about making her life easier, that is just a side-effect of that mental gratification that he is truly seeking.

Finally, my opponents "ARGUMENT USING INCORRECT DEFINITION"
For the ham sandwich example, it is simple to disprove that by giving you another example. Say I hit you with a stick, the stick may have been the one making contact with you, but you don't yell out that stick hit me. You yell that I hit you. So in his case of forcing someone to eat a ham sandwich, the person eating the ham sandwich isn't the one doing the action, it is the person that is physically forcing them to eat a ham sandwich. By this example you are essentially making them an inanimate object, and it is impossible to say that the inanimate object is the one actually doing the action.
For his example of bleeding, that is an extreme example of selfishness. The body has no regard what-so-ever as to what it might be bleeding on and ruining, but is trying to clot the wound. Depending on how you look at it, the action of bleeding could also be selfish to the shooter because maybe the shooter has a phobia of blood, and yet you have no disregard for that, and you are ruining his carpet.
For his example of jumping, you have to look to the fact that, in his mind, it seemed that jumping would be more beneficial to himself then not jumping. You can't say that a person didn't want to fall, because if they didn't want to fall, they simply wouldn't have jumped.
Falling into a coma and passing out go together, and can be brought down together. Your body is being selfish here in the regard that it cares about repairing what damage may have been done, with no regard for anybody that may have missed you while you were out.
Visiting sites with gross content is proved as selfish because the fact that you are on a computer is offensive to some people's faith, and yet you have no regard as to their beliefs. You are also using up electricity, making the demand and the price higher with no regard for others who may be struggling to pay their electric bills.
The action of running over a deer with a car implies that you are in a car and driving it. Simply be driving a car, you are putting others lives at risk, which would be another example of disregard for others. The disregard comes in when no matter how safe of a driver you are, there's still the possibility of an accident, and yet you have no regard for whos life you could potentially injure by being in said car. Another way to disprove would be to point out that since he is in a car, he is polluting the environment, with little regard for people that may get diseases for that pollution.

I have disproved all of my opponents claims against my case, and thus the round will have to go to pro because I have proved all of my opponent's case as false. Thank you.
beem0r

Con

===
DEFINITION / "READING BETWEEN THE LINES"
===
My opponent claims that his definition didn't actually leave out disregard for others as a part of selfishness - he claims that I have simply failed to 'read between the lines' to see what he meant. Of course, I'm not sure which lines I was supposed to read between - my opponent dismissed my definitions as being mere semantics and instead opted to use "the overall meaning of selfishness in that it is to directly gain to oneself, whether mental or physical." Sorry, but not only is that definition completely wrong, but it does not imply a disregard for others, but rather it depends only on whether or not there is gain for oneself. To expect not only me to 'read between the lines,' but the audience as well, is a bit unrealistic. In any case, it seems we are now once again set on the definitions I provided in the first round: a selfish action is an action performed with regard for yourself, and with no regard for other people.

===
SEMANTICS
===
As much as my opponent claims to not want this to be a semantics debate, he sure is employing plenty of semantics. He has redefined the decision-making process as something that helps you decide what to do based on what you want to do. Fortunately, human decision-making happens on a much deeper level. To do what you want to do requires that you know what you want to do - decision making is how we decide what it is we want to do.

Ex1.
A man has a choice between going to school and staying home. On one hand, staying home would allow him to do other things, and would let him escape the boredom he is likely to face at school. On the other hand, going to school has long-term benefits to himself. His decision will depend on whether or not he values long term benefits for himself more than short term benefits for himself. In this case, either choice will be selfish, because both of his conflicting values are self-centered. For instance, if he went to school, we would say he did so because he values long term benefits for himself. It would, however, be shallow and meaningless to say he went to school 'because he wanted to.' In any case, what's important is that both statements are true - he went to school because he values long-term benefits for himself, and he went to school because he wanted to.

The decision-making in Ex1 is the man deciding between staying home and going to school - decision-making is a battle between various values. While both of the man's values were selfish in Ex1, that is not always the case. Utilitarians, for example, value making that stranger over in the corner happy as much as making themselves happy. Let's look at another example.

Ex2.
While on vacation, a man sees a homeless man on the side of the road begging for money. He as a choice to make - to give the homeless man some money, or to keep his money. Depending on his choice, there are many paths of reasoning he might take.
==
Keeping it:
1. I don't want to give away my money. [Value: his own wealth]
2. I don't think he's really homeless. [Nullifies the scenario]
3. He hasn't done anything to deserve my money. [Value: fairness]
Giving the Hobo 5 bucks:
4. He needs this more than I do. [Value: the homeless man's well-being]
5. I have everything I need, so I might as well help this guy get what he needs. [Value: same as above]
6. I'll be able to see him smile, and I just love seeing other people smile. [Value: his own smile-seeing]
7. People will think I'm generous if give him some cash. [Value: his own reputation]
==
In cases 1, 6, and 7, the act would be selfish, no doubt about it. Cases 2 and 3, while there is no regard for anyone else, there really isn't self-regard either, so it can't really be called selfish. And of course, cases 4 and 5 are the best examples of unselfish behavior. Due to having a regard for the homeless man, he is giving away some money. This is not selfish - in fact, it is regard for others that directly leads to this action - and a selfish action must be performed without regard for others.

===
ARGUMENT USING CORRECT DEFINITION
===

My opponent claims that while I might value making someone's life easier, I only value that because I will get mental gratification from it. Of course, this is completely backwards. Rather, I receive mental gratification from it _because_ I value it. I value it not because of mental gratification for myself, but because of whatever personal philosophy I have. If I "did not care about making her life easier," as my opponent suggests, then I would not be mentally gratified by it.

===
ARGUMENT USING INCORRECT DEFINITION
===
Note that my opponent has, since my last round, decided to agree with my definition. Luckily, all the arguments in this section work for the real definition as well.

Person A forcing person B to eat a ham sandwich
=
My opponent compares this to someone hitting someone else with a stick - he claims that person B isn't actually doing anything, he is just a passive agent. This is false. There are two actions in this scenario - forcing and eating. While person B is passive with regards to forcing, he is actively eating [albeit against his will]. Person A is forcing, person B is eating.

Bleeding
=
While it's true that bleeding is often advantageous, it is often not. For example, some people bleed to death - the only way to stop this is to stop the bleeding. Doing something that is definitely bad for you, like bleeding to death, is not selfish. Even so, physical processes do not have a regard for anyone - to have a regard for someone is to be concerned about them, which is only possible with a mind. Bleeding is not something the mind decides to do - bleeding is simply a natural consequence of the laws of physics.

Falling
=
My opponent claims that if a person did not want to fall, they would not have jumped. This is not necessarily true. It is possible for a person to think they can fly, for example.

Passing out / Falling into a coma
=
This is not selfish for the same reason bleeding is not selfish. A person's body does not have a regard for anything - it's simply a system of stuff following the laws of physics. Concern for someone requires a mind - something the body does not use when falling into a coma or passing out.

Visiting gross sites due to being tricked
=
My opponent attempts to completely dodge this. He claims that being on a computer is selfish because it is offensive to some people's beliefs. First off, that doesn't make any sense - to be unselfish, one does not have to have a regard for everyone else - only that you have regard for yourself while not having regard for ANYONE else. Second off, we're not talking about the act of being on a computer, we're talking about the act of visiting gross sites due to being tricked. These are separate acts - and while one requires the other, the selfishness of one does not imply the selfishness of the other. Visiting gross sites is done unwillingly, and thus there is no regard for yourself in doing it. There may be self-regard in clicking the link, too, but that [like being on a computer] is a separate act.

Hitting a deer with your car
=
My opponent attempts to use the same logic here as in the computer example. He says that driving in a car is inherently selfish. However, like in the above example, it is a separate act. We're talking about the specific act of hitting a deer with your car - running into a deer with your car is not selfish, even IF driving a car necessarily was.

And now, for my opponent's closing arguments. We'll be right back after this break.
Debate Round No. 3
sgt.peppers

Pro

sgt.peppers forfeited this round.
beem0r

Con

This is normally where I would go over the main issues of this debate, but that isn't exactly necessary since my opponent forfeited his final round. I thank my opponent for this dialogue, and I thank whoever has actually read the debate. And with that, I bid ye fare well.
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by sgt.peppers 8 years ago
sgt.peppers
Just out of curiosity, are you basing that off the debate, or personal opinion?
Posted by etyson 8 years ago
etyson
I think I'm siding with beem0r because people can be unselfish. Now I didn't say that they were always unselfish, but they could be. Some people just have to work harder than others.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Every debate ever done involves semantics.
Posted by Logical-Master 8 years ago
Logical-Master
I kinda find it dull when a debater or commenters accuses the other debater of "playing semantics", when the initial debater offers absolutely no means of clarification in his/her first round. :(
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
Bah, typos.
'if' -> 'is'
'world' -> 'word'
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
Semantics? Defining selfishness as anything that benefits oneself if semantics. Selfishness is about not caring about other people. That's not only how the world is normally used, it's how actual dictionaries have it. It's semantics to redefine the word specifically for your stance - which is what my opponent did.
Posted by Maya9 8 years ago
Maya9
Don't you just hate it when a good topic gets ruined by semantics?

By the way, I covered this topic some time ago.

http://www.debate.org...

As in so many of my debates, I should have won but didn't because far too many people here vote based purely on personal opinion and not the actual merit of the arguments.
Posted by Ardent 8 years ago
Ardent
That's the spirit!
Posted by sgt.peppers 8 years ago
sgt.peppers
I was thinking something like that, but I'm just using this as a practice debate about something I was thinking about for a while.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
Psychological egoism is circular - only until empirical evidence shows up will it have merit.
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studentathletechristian8
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