The Instigator
AnotherUniverse
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
philochristos
Con (against)
Winning
5 Points

Individuals act only on behalf of their own well being

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
philochristos
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/16/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 639 times Debate No: 52711
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)

 

AnotherUniverse

Pro

Acting in one"s self-interest is acting in a way that satisfies our personal desires. Individuals are selfish in nature, so even if they seem to be selfless, for example donating to charity, they will in actuality be acting only to better their social standing or feel good about themselves. Even if they do not realize this, their subconscious does. In this way, there is no such thing as a truly selfless act.
philochristos

Con

I recently did this same debate with another person, but he didn't really grapple with my arguments, so I figured I might as well do it again.

I don't think Pro will be able to show that all of our actions are self-interested. Pro may be able to point out the benefits of acting in the interest of other people (e.g. it makes you feel good or look good), but Pro will not be able to show that that's what motivated the action. I suspect Pro will simply assume it and assert it, but will not be able to demonstrate it.

All I have to do is give one example of an act that is motivated primarily by the interest of others rather than self, and that will be sufficient to refute Pro's point of view.

Here it is: A man buys a life insurance policy that pays his family after he is dead.

The man gets no benefit from the policy since it doesn't pay out until he's dead. In fact, he has to pay for it, so it's actually a negative benefit to him.

Now, Pro may object and say that he gets a psychological pay-off. Maybe he feels good about himself. Or maybe he's comforted in the knowledge that his family will be taken care of when he's gone. But that confuses the result of getting the policy with the motivation behind getting the policy.

Here is a thought experiment to show that whatever psychological benefits the man may get from buying the policy, those benefits are not what motivated the choice. Rather, the choice was motivated solely by the man's concern for his family. He was not acting in self-interest; rather, he was acting in other-interest.
Since the only possible benefit the man could get from the policy is psychological, let's imagine that there's a pill he could take that would give him those exact same psychological benefits, except that the pill wouldn't cost him a dime. So now he has a choice between two options:

A. Pay for a life insurance policy, and recieve all the associated warm fuzzy feelings.

B. Take a pill for free, and receive all the exact same warm fuzzy feelings.

Clearly, B would be in the man's best interest since he would be getting the same psychological pay-off, but he'd save money. Yet any of us, if we were in the same situation, would choose A. That proves that it isn't the psychological pay-off that motivates our behavior. Rather, it's a concern for the well-being of our families that motivates our behavior. We don't get the policy so we can feel good about ourselves or be comforted. We get the policy so our families will be taken care of when we die.

That disproves Pro's point of view.

Debate Round No. 1
AnotherUniverse

Pro

First, to disprove the neg's argument
While I understand what you are getting at, notice that I defined one's well being or self interest as a way that satisfies personal desires. Lets use your example. The man was buying life insurance to protect his family members in case of his death. You say I can't find the motivation, but there are two scenarios for this. a) he was being forced to pay for the life insurance, in which case it would still be in his own self interest because it is assumed something bad will happen if he doesn't, hence the forced. b) he wants to help his family members. Because self interest is defined as a way that satisfies ones own personal desires, he is in a sense satisfying his own desires because he wants to help. Therefore, even in your situation he is acting on his own well being by satisfying his want.
Now to develop my own
While many may argue that following morals will cause many selfless actions, there is a way to disprove this as well. I believe that no one is born with a sense of morality, it is taught, which is why it is subjective and varies from culture to culture. Therefore, people are only moral to save themselves from the punishment they expect will occur if they aren't moral. For example, a religious set of morals: if you are good then you will get sent to a good afterlife (just one example out of many). So therefore, the reason that one who follows this religious code would be moral would be only so that they don't have to suffer when they die.
To the Neg- thank you for providing a thought provoking argument
philochristos

Con

Unless one subscribes to libertarian freedom, it is trivially true that we always act out of some desire. The mistake pro is making is in equating desire with self-interest. Desires are directed toward other things--sometimes toward our own interests, and sometimes toward other people's interests. Egoism is not simply the view that people do what they want. It is the view, as the resolution says, that "individuals act only on behalf of their own well-being." If anybody is motivated to act on behalf of somebody else's well-being, then the resolution is false.

While it's true that the man in the thought experiment chooses the life insurance policy becaus he wants to, his desire is directed toward the well-being of his family, not himself. Granted, his desire is satisfied in the process, but psychological satisfaction is not the goal; the goal is to provide for his family.

Pro offers one argument in favour of her view--that when people act morally, they only do so to avoid punishment. Even if that were true, it would not be sufficient to establish the resolution. After all, morality is not a factor in all of our decisions.

But besides that, her premise that moral acts are performed to avoid punishment is false. Many people believe in morality but do not believe they will be punished for violating it. They do what's right simply because it's right. People do their duty because its their obligation. Some people subscribe to a subjectivist notion of morality and behave according to their own personal values, so they obviously don't anticipate being punished.

Debate Round No. 2
AnotherUniverse

Pro

AnotherUniverse forfeited this round.
philochristos

Con

Nothing to see. Nothing to see. My opponent has bailed.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by GregVCross 2 years ago
GregVCross
A rational desire is an attempt at a rational expectation of the self-interested rewards of an action. That is the issue I had I think. I really wanted to argue for rational egoism but I was trying to pass it off as psychological egoism accidentally. I think psychological egoism is true, even if it must be somewhat more strictly defined than is common, but I think the case for psychological egoism is much weaker than the case for rational egoism. But, I could be wrong.
Posted by GregVCross 2 years ago
GregVCross
Where in the debate?
Posted by johnlubba 2 years ago
johnlubba
Excellent response from Con. I'm interested to see what Pro has for the last round.
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 2 years ago
MyDinosaurHands
Well Con has lessened my confidence in the Pro position for this idea. Though I still lean towards Pro.
Posted by philochristos 2 years ago
philochristos
I already did in the debate.
Posted by GregVCross 2 years ago
GregVCross
Could you describe how I failed to grapple with your arguments? Here or in a pm?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by johnlubba 2 years ago
johnlubba
AnotherUniversephilochristosTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The life insurance policy argument was a great rebuttal and Pro couldn't respond to it, and I doubt it can generate a valid response either. It is clearly an action that is to benefit others and has absolutely no benefit to somebody who is dead. Although maybe just living with the thought that your loved ones will benefit after you are dead. could be comforting. But excellent response from Con.
Vote Placed by MyDinosaurHands 2 years ago
MyDinosaurHands
AnotherUniversephilochristosTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF