The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
9 Points

Humans are selfish by nature, and always do what is in their own best intrest.

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/9/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 945 times Debate No: 42011
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)




I would first like to apologize in advance to any readers or opponents for any faults I make regarding conduct in this debate as this is my very first, and I am not well educated in the customs of debate.
I thought this might be an interesting topic, just how selfish are people? I would argue that virtually every action we take as humans is primarily for self advancement. I propose that without fail, humans do what is in our own best interest.


I accept based on the resolution.
Debate Round No. 1


You accept? I thought the point is for you to reject my position?


My adversary has taken an impossible stance.

The first part of the resolution entails that

"Humans are selfish by nature"

That much we can all agree one, even in regards to evolution and adaption this is true. It is survival of the fittest and generally we are motivated to do what benefits us. The flaw with resolution is what follows this.

"and always do what is in their own best interest"

This is where Pros resolution falls apart. If there has even been or could be a situation in where someone does something that is not in their own best interest then the resolution is false. Needless to say there has been and always will be situations where people will do things that are not in their own best interest.

People die to protect each other all the time, people give money when they don't have it to charities, people give up their lives to go over seas to do charity work. Any of these situations can not be in someones best interest. Anytime someone gives money they do not have to help another person, this is a direct negation of the resolution.

For now I do not feel the need to bring up specific examples because there is countless examples to support this. The point is pros resolution can not hold true. People can and will do things that are not in their best interest, which conflicts with his resolution.
Debate Round No. 2


I will choose not to take offense to the fact that you felt no need to bring specific examples to disprove me. But I encourage you to broaden your mind, because although difficult, I do not see this as "an impossible stance".

Your assertion that sacrifice and charity "can not be in someone's best interest" is false. This shows a short sided and narrow view on "best interest". Yes, we do give to charity for our own best interest. I'll reference Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a psychological hierarchy that displays the motives of human beings, usually manifested in a pyramid. At the lower levels there is food, shelter, sex, employment, etc. I believe this is what you think of when you say "best interest". However I am alluding to the higher levels of the pyramid, where we see more evolved needs like morality. From this, we know that humans, once basic living functions are secured, have a need to satisfy themselves morally. Hence, we don't give to charity for the benefit of others, we do it because it makes us feel good about ourselves.

First off, " People die to protect each other all the time" is a huge exaggeration. There are roughly seven billion people on Earth, and they are not dying for each other all the time. It happens, but it is rare. As for when it does happen, I propose that these sacrifices are made with themselves in mind. Take a soldier who would jump in front of a bullet for his comrade, very noble, extremely admirable, but not entirely selfless. That soldier has been conditioned to believe that if he dies saving somebody else, he will be remembered as a hero. This follows Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the person willing to sacrifice their life is not just doing so to save the person, they are doing it to secure their legacy as a hero, to fulfill their need to be respected, so they do the respectable thing.

Why do people donate money they don't have and travel to volunteer and risk their lives to save others and all those other seemingly selfless sacrifices? Because they are following Maslow's hierarchy of needs, because they are fulfilling their need to do the right thing, because they are fulfilling their need to secure a legacy, to be respected by their peers, to be admired by society. These reasons are also endless, but to simplify, we do it to make us feel good.

I'm glad you acknowledge that evolutionarily we are selfish, but this is obvious. I encourage you to rethink our true motives though, you can see it every day. See a jerk of a guy help pick up a "nerd's" books when he dropped them, seems selfless? No, because he knew his crush was watching. This is an example where a seemingly selfless act is actually selfish. Now just imagine that same illusion but on a much grander, evolutionary, species-wide scale.

My point is that our selfish nature runs so much deeper than tangible items like money. Our nature is so much deeper that we have developed higher needs, needs that are more complex than others so they are often misunderstood. Misunderstood as selfless values, when in reality they are just as selfish as any others.


This is an impossible stance no matter how you look at it. When you say something is "always" one way, that is an impossible burden to fulfill.

I am picking up one main contention from you. That is that every action we commit is ultimately fueled by our own self interests.


(a) you give money to someone for self satisfaction
(b) you help people out to make yourself feel better

All of these are probable and logical explanations as to why someone may commit an act that is not at first glance selfish. The issue with your stance is that if any action since the start of time was committed with the intent of going against that specific persons self interest, then the resolution that is presented is false. It is difficult to find an action that may be considered to be purely altruistic but it is possible.

The claim at hand is that every act is and always will be committed with someones best interest at mind.

Pro is essentially choosing to defend Egoism

Egoism - Egoism can be a descriptive or a normative position. Psychological egoism, the most famous descriptive position, claims that each person has but one ultimate aim: her own welfare[1]

There are also different types of this psychological, rational, and ethical egoism. All of this entails that every action or every choice we make ultimately is chosen because it benefits us.

There is a great deal of circular logic, or repetitive logic when someone address' this. They initial theory and the conclusion are the same thing.

(a) everyone desire satisfaction
(b) satisfaction of what
(c) Satisfaction of their desires
(d) Desire of what
(e) of their satisfaction

This cycle continues forever.

Gyges Ring Analogy

If you found a ring, that allowed you to commit any act or do anything you wanted would you do it?

Would you rape a woman because it brought you sexual pleasure? Would you kill someone because you do not want to see them again? Would you kill someone because you need their money? If you can say no, that is a counter argument in itself. There are acts one could commit that would be in ones self interest, but because of the harm it could bring to others that person may not commit the act.

"Egoism argues that not only ought one to pursue one’s own interests but, that caring for others is ethically rejected unless one assigns self-value to the action. This means that one’s emotions of compassion and empathy for those less well off than us or those incapable of providing some benefit to us, should be discouraged. Though this is not a logical objection, it
is perhaps an objection which arises from “common human feelings” which seem not only natural but also admirable to many. "[2]

In Closing

Egoism could be false and has a higher probability of being false than being true. If any action were ever truly altruistic then the resolution is false. That means as I stated earlier that if any action ever committed since the start of time was done in someones self interest, or without us assigning self value to the act then the resolution is also false. Take into account the gyges round analogy. That is the most rational way to look at egoism. If an action could ultimately benefit us, but we chose not to commit the action because it could harm another then we have in a way shot down the resolution as well. We have chosen not to commit an act and have did something that is not in our own best interest.

I have shown how egoism can be faulty due to circular logic, probability, and that assigning self value to every action can be faulty. The most logical conclusion to believe is that someone could possibly and has possibly committed an act that is not in their best interest. Ask yourself the same questions that I asked above and see for yourself

Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by philochristos 3 years ago
"Personally, I don't believe in an "impossible stance""

What about the stance that two statements that contradict each other can both be true at the same time and in the same sense?
Posted by Fishgroin 3 years ago
It's like: "Messi is a great footballer and always ensures Barcelona wins."
Messi doesn't always ensure Barcelona wins but that doesn't mean he's not a great, great soccer player.
Posted by JamesHowlett27 3 years ago
Thank you Ore_Ele
Posted by JamesHowlett27 3 years ago
Personally, I don't believe in an "impossible stance"
Posted by Ore_Ele 3 years ago
Just a tip. I would take out "always" as that will likely screw you over.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by donald.keller 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro immediately lost conduct for me when he wasted his R2 trying to make Con go first. If he wanted a response in R1, he should have said Con goes first, or gave his first argument. Spelling and Grammar were the same. As for sources, only Con gave any. Pro dealt in an absolute, and Con proved through out the debate that there are exceptions. It's hard to win when the other person has the first AND last say in a debate.
Vote Placed by philochristos 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I think Con is right in pointing out the difficulty for Pro to establish the resolution. Con gave some examples of acts that were at least prima facie not motivated by self-interest. Pro's response amounted merely to an assertion that those acts were motivated by self-interest, namely a desire to be respected or to feel good. At best, all Pro did was raise the possibility of self-interested motives in these acts, but Pro did nothing to show that in any case where somebody acts in these ways that their motivation is self-interested. Con rightly pointed out in the conclusion that Pro had not shown that every act of every person is always self-interested. Since the burden of proof was on Pro, and since Pro failed to prove the resolution, arguments go to Con.