The Instigator
MyDinosaurHands
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
YYW
Con (against)
Winning
15 Points

Psychological Egoism

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
YYW
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/30/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,508 times Debate No: 59749
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (5)

 

MyDinosaurHands

Pro

Definition:
"Psychological egoism is the thesis that we are always deep down motivated by what we perceive to be in our own self-interest."

I will be defending this thesis, and my opponent's objective should be to show that there are instances where a person acts with with purely altruistic motives.

First Round will be for Acceptance. Any questions, please ask in the comments before accepting. Any confusion that arises that could've been avoided with a simple question will be your fault, and the voters should show that.


YYW

Con

I want to clarify for PRO and Judges what CON's burden actually is in this debate.

The resolution is:

"Psychological egoism is the thesis that we are always deep down motivated by what we perceive to be in our own self-interest."

PRO's burden is to affirm, while CON's burden is to negate. That means that PRO must show that people are always motivated only out of self interest, while CON must show that people are NOT always motivated only by self interest. CON does not need to show that a person, or people, act with purely altruistic motives, though if that is the case, it would sufficiently negate the resolution.

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
MyDinosaurHands

Pro

Thanks for accepting YYW.

The reasoning behind saying 'Psychological Egoism is true' is very simple. Obviously, actions that appear outwardly selfish fall under Psychological Egoism. Actions that do not appear outwardly selfish, such as giving money to a charity, helping a friend prepare to give a speech, or spending time doing volunteer work around your community, are less obviously connected to Psychological Egoism. Yet, we can trace selfish motive if look deep enough.

You might give money or do volunteer work around your community, because you get a good feeling from doing something that you've been taught is good, and you know that if you didn't act in the way you were, you would feel guilty for omitting to help. You would help your friend prepare for a speech because you would feel uncomfortable if he bombed his speech, so you do your best to avoid that happening, so you can avoid feeling uncomfortable.

The same general concept can be applied to instances where there are things you don't feel like doing, but, conversely, you don't want to suffer the consequences of not doing that thing even more. For example, running. I'm a Cross Country runner, and on days where there is not practice, I don't always want to run, but I do, because I want to suffer the consequences of not running (i.e. feeling like crap at the next practice) even less than I want to suffer through a run.

At the end of it all, everything is traced back to either making ourselves feel good, or feel bad. This is only natural, as we are conscious, thinking creatures.

I could go on ranting, provide new examples and showing how they swing in my favor, but frankly that would be unnecessary, and a waste of everyone's time. I have shown the general principle behind Psychological Egoism, and shown how it applies even when it seems we are doing something unselfish. I assume the majority of the typing I do in this debate will be in the effort to refute the examples my opponent will bring forth that attempt to show a situation where Psychological Egoism is false.

Thanks for reading.
YYW

Con

Many thanks to PRO for this most interesting of resolutions. I'm going to clarify what Psychological egoism is and is not, and then make arguments for why the claim it posits does not hold.

INTRODUCTION:

"Psychological egoism is the thesis that we are always deep down motivated by what we perceive to be in our own self-interest." (1) That is to say, psychological egoists make the empirical claim that "each person has but one ultimate aim: her own welfare," as advancing our welfare is what makes some action self interested, and all actions that all people take are only to advance that end. (2) Psychological egoism is both a thesis about universal motivation for human behavior as much as it is an account of human action, and the debate about it "concerns the motivations that underlie all of our actions." (1) Psychological egoism is contrasted with psychological altruism, which is the view that "sometimes we can have ultimately altruistic motives." (1) So, both psychological egoism and altruism could be false, though only one may be true. While proving the theory of psychological altruism would disprove psychological egoism, psychological altruism need not be proven to render psychological egoism false. In this debate, as CON I do not have to prove psychological altruism to be true. I need only prevent PRO from showing that psychological egoism is true. And I argue that psychological egoism is not true for several reasons. Psychological egoism cannot be true because at least some human activity is done to ultimately advance the welfare of others, and there is insufficient evidence to warrant the claim that all human behavior is motivated purely out of self interest.

1. At least some human activity is done to ultimately advance the welfare of others.

Altruistic behavior is behavior that is disinterested and selfless insofar as it is done solely out of concern for the well-being of others. It is important at this point to note in passing that even if there are conceivable reasons why behavior that appears to be altruistic might advance some spurious self interest does not mean that, in fact, the behavior which appears to be altruistic is in fact not altruistic.

Nonetheless, I propose a standard for circumstantially evaluating the veracity of altruistic behavior: to the extent that the doing of some behavior that advances other's welfare subjects the performer of that behavior to risk, it is inferable that that behavior is altruistic. That is because exposure to risk comes both at one's imminent expense and likewise to the benefit of another. So, if someone exposes themselves to mortal risk, in service to others it is at least more probable than not that the particular behavior's motivation was genuinely altruistic.

I offer two specific examples of behavior consistent with that standard for altruism: doctors treating ebola patients in Africa and soldiers who jump on grenades to save the lives of their fellow soldiers:

Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are American health workers who treat patients infected with ebola in Africa. (3) Brantley and Writebol have been infected with the ebola virus. Ebola is a virus which kills approximately 90% of those infected with it, is highly contagious through close physical contact, there is no known treatment for ebola infection and health care workers are frequently infected with ebola while treating patients, due to the close contact that is required to treat patients. (4)

As health care workers, Brantley and Writebol knew the risks associated with treating ebola patients, and yet they still freely volunteered to treat ebola patients. To describe the degree of risk associated with treating ebola patients as anything less than mortal would be erroneous. Brantley and Writebol were offered no uniquely compelling financial incentives to perform this high risk work in Africa, as both were in Africa to treat ebola patients at the behest of American charity organizations. (3, 5) Likewise, as health care workers, Brantley and Writebol's sole purpose is to treat ebola patients to the extent that they are able despite their doing so despite the mortal the risk of their own welfare. It is inferable, then, that their going to Africa to treat ebola patients was altruistic.

"Falling on a grenade" as it is referred to in the military, likewise meets the standard for an altruistic act. "Falling on a grenade" or "jumping" on a grenade involves a single soldier deliberately using his body to shield others within the grenade's explosive range from that explosion. Though it is sometimes survivable, it is much more common that soldiers who fall on grenades do not survive the endeavor. Since this is almost universally fatal, falling on a grenade is considered to be an especially selfless act of individual sacrifice in wartime. (6)

At a White House ceremony in June, 2008, then President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor award to Romayne and Thomas McGinnis, the parents of the soldier, Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis of the Army. (7) Ross was 19 in Dec. 4, 2006, when a grenade was thrown into the Humvee he was riding in. In the remarks he made during the Medal of Honor award ceremony, President Bush described the choice that Private McGinnis had. Ross could have jumped out of the Humvee and saved himself, but he chose to drop into the hatch and cover the grenade with his own body to absorb the shrapnel. He was killed instantly. (7)

As President Bush described, "Four men are alive because this soldier embodied our Army values and gave his life." Pfc. McGinnes knew that jumping on that grenade would almost invariably cost him his life, and in making the choice to fall on that grenade, he valued the lives of those in the Humvee below deck more than his own. Such a choice that is imminently at the expense of another's general welfare cannot be said not to reflect genuine altruism, because in no sense was his self interest or his individual welfare advanced by making the choice to sacrifice his life for others.

2. There is insufficient evidence to warrant the claim that all human behavior is motivated purely out of self interest.

Upon an examination of the empirical evidence against psychological egoism, Daniel Bastion's research is "very bad news for psychological egoism." (2) Indeed, Bastion found that "increased empathy leads to increasing helping behavior" such that "empathy causes a non-instrumental desire to help." (2) Bastion compared the psychological egoist's various hypothesis to those of the psychological altruists.

While psychological egoists claimed that increased empathy might result in a feeling of unpleasantness that the desire to ameliorate would compel individuals to help others, Bastion found that giving high empathy individuals an easy way out did not reduce their desire to help. (2) Likewise, while psychological egoists claimed that subjects only were motivated to help as a means to escape punishment or social sanction from others which might be incurred by not helping, Bastion's findings rule this an impossibility because even when he told high empathy individuals that their particular work would be kept a secret, their desire to help was not reduced. (2)

Bastion showed that "the mood of high empathy subjects depended on whether they believed the help was needed... rather than on whether they helped." He reached this conclusion by telling high-empathy individuals that others had volunteered to do the help needed, meaning that their specific help was not necessary. But, this did not reduce the desire to help, which showed that the self punishment hypothesis is invalid. (2)

While Bastion's findings do not necessarily prove psychological altruism, they sharply cast doubt on psychological egoism's being true because they rule out psychological egoist's conventional objections to altruism's being a genuine, ultimate motivator of human behavior as well as indicating the extent to and conditions under which humans act altruistically. Thus, Bastion concludes that "empathy tends to induce in us ultimate desires for the wellbeing of someone other than ourselves." (1) And if this is true, "then psychological egoism is false" because, in Bastion's words, "altruistic concern for the welfare of others is within the human repertoire." (1)

SOURCES:

(1) http://www.iep.utm.edu...
(2) http://plato.stanford.edu...
(3) http://www.cbsnews.com...
(4) http://www.who.int...
(5) http://www.cbsnews.com...
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org...
(7) http://www.nytimes.com...
Debate Round No. 2
MyDinosaurHands

Pro

Thanks for the extremely well worded arguments YYW, a couple of your sentences caused my brain to hurt in a way that reminded me of reading Machiavelli or Nietzsche.

Anyways, I will be starting by refuting my opponent's points, and then provide a few of my own.


'ALTRUISTIC' ACTIVITY
"Altruistic behavior is behavior that is disinterested and selfless insofar as it is done solely out of concern for the well-being of others."
This is very important to note. When was the last time that you did something 'good' and didn't feel anything? It's impossible to separate the doing of good deeds and pleasing your own self.

At the end of the day, doing something 'good', makes you feel good, and so your motivation is the good feeling you get. If you could be motivated to do something 'good' that doesn't make you feel good, why has that never happened? Quite simply, because it can't happen.

Anyways, the ebola doctors.

My opponent uses the example of doctors who are treating an extremely contagious and fatal disease as proof that people can act without being motivated by feeling good. I don't think this proves that. Imagine you're one of those doctors. You are clearly very aware of the suffering of these people. You feel that you can play a part in making things better. Wouldn't that make you feel good, give you a sense of purpose in life? Again, I ask the readers, when was the last time you did a good deed without feeling good about it? All this example shows is that the doctors would feel A) Very fulfilled by taking this courageous path, and B) Very guilty if they chose to ignore the suffering they could help stop.

Next, we have the jump on a grenade example.

Well this falls under the same kind of line of thought as that I expressed with the doctors. If you're this soldier, you've had values of honor, brotherhood, and sacrifice etched into your mind as positive things. I've never been in combat, but I'm told the kind of bond one makes with people they've been under fire with is one of the strongest bonds in the world. There is a level of understanding and respect for each man that most of us will never know.

So the grenade is on the ground, and it threatens the lives of your buddies. Given the kind of mindset I just expressed, can't we see that a soldier would want to save his friends? The important word there is 'want'. He wants to jump on the grenade. He wants to die for a higher concept, that of brotherhood. What does the word 'want' imply? Wanting for something is to be lacking in satisfaction. To satisfy yourself, you must get what you want. This soldier wanted to satisfy his urge to save his friends, to meet the kind of qualities that he has been taught are good. So when we back out and look at the big picture, we can see that the soldier didn't act in a disinterested manner as my opponent would suggest, but rather he knew, whether consciously or subconsciously, that he would feel good about sacrificing himself for his friends.

SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS
"..Bastion found that "increased empathy leads to increasing helping behavior..""
I don't see why this is evidence against me. Increased empathy increases the good feelings you'd get from helping, and increases the guilt you'd feel by not helping.

"While psychological egoists claimed that increased empathy might result in a feeling of unpleasantness that the desire to ameliorate would compel individuals to help others, Bastion found that giving high empathy individuals an easy way out did not reduce their desire to help." If these are high empathy individuals, I would imagine that they would feel guilty taking the easy way out, if the 'easy way out' means giving them some kind of excuse for not helping. If it means telling them that they aren't actually needed, it is still reasonable to conclude that they would still get a sense of self-satisfaction out of helping, being such high empathy people that they are. I will defend this a little more as I go on.

"Likewise, while psychological egoists claimed that subjects only were motivated to help as a means to escape punishment or social sanction from others which might be incurred by not helping, Bastion's findings rule this an impossibility because even when he told high empathy individuals that their particular work would be kept a secret, their desire to help was not reduced." Two things about this one. First, these people still could've been concerned with what Bastion might think of them if they decided not to help. Secondly, the fact that the work would be secret would not diminish the urge to help if you're a high empathy person who gets satisfaction from being a part of the solution.

"He reached this conclusion by telling high-empathy individuals that others had volunteered to do the help needed, meaning that their specific help was not necessary. But, this did not reduce the desire to help, which showed that the self punishment hypothesis is invalid."
I may be restating myself here, but the fact that they need not have felt guilty not helping does not mean they wouldn't have wanted to help anyways. It may not be rational to feel good about doing good deeds that technically aren't necessary, but a high empathy person might be so emotionally invested that this logic does not affect the fact that they'd get good feeling from helping anyways.

They could've volunteered anyways so they wouldn't have felt useless. I think it's reasonable to assume that we've all done this at some point. Your help isn't necessary, but you want to have a sense of purpose, so you join in anyways.


DESIRE TO FULFILL DESIRE TO HELP
This is a point I wanted to add, and it's one that I was dancing around during my discussion of the soldier smothering the live grenade. My opponent is suggesting that there are some people out there, who, in some instances, have the motivation to act that is based on the want to help others, and not the want to make oneself feel better.

'I want to help these people.' Let's just say that's the statement of motivation from one of these people.
Notice it doesn't say, 'I want to feel good and I know helping these people will make me feel good.'

However, the fact that there is a self-generated want to help people shown in the first statement, shows that there is still a desire that YOU have that will make YOU feel good by having it accomplished. You will help the people because you want to, and acting in a manner that gets us what we want is selfish. Therefore, even if your want is to help people, the fact that you are acting to satisfy a want means you are acting in your interests, so even then, your act can be considered, at its deepest level, to be self-centered.

Thanks for reading.
YYW

Con

Thanks again to Dino for this debate, and all judges who read/vote on it. I'm going to refute his first round of argumentation, and then address his rebuttals to my case.

Rebuttals to PRO's case:

PRO argues that "we can trace selfish motive[s] if we look deep enough," because both actions that appear and do not appear to be outwardly selfish are all done for selfish reasons. He contends that giving money to charity or performing volunteer work is done because one wants to feel good or at least avoid feelings of guilt, and therefore, the motive for performing them is selfish. He offers other examples, but they fall for the same reason. PRO's arguments are entirely and necessarily speculative (with the exception of where he spoke about his own self interest). Second, he assumes that because a motive that could arguably be self interested proves that all acts performed are self interested.

In arguing that when people give money to charity or do volunteer work, donors and volunteers donate and volunteer to feel good or to avoid the pangs of guilt, he is speculating and therefore his claim is warrantless. Insofar as his claim is warrantless, it must be dismissed by the judge. This is because PRO's reasoning assumes that the mere existence of a conceivable self interested motive is 'the' motive for performing acts which appear to be altruistic. While it is possible that some acts which appear to be altruistic are done for selfish reasons, that does not mean that all altruistic acts are done for selfish reasons and because PRO cannot prove that latter claim, psychological egoism cannot be upheld. Likewise, PRO's example of cross country is not an altruistic act. An individual's motive for participating in an athletic event, for whatever reason, is insufficient ground psychological egoism's truth because it does not show that all human behavior is done for selfish reasons -as he claims.

Rebuttals to PRO's Rebuttals to My Case:

Feeling Good: PRO extends his unsubstantiated reasoning in rebutting my first contention. He claims, again, that the existence of something that would possibly advance an individual's self interest proves with certainty that all individuals do all things out of their own self interest. But, possibility is not certainty, nor is the possibility of something's being the case sufficient to show that it is the case. And likewise, even if people feel good after doing something good, that does not mean that the reason for their doing the good thing in question was to facilitate their uplifted spirits. PRO's post hoc logic just doesn't add up, because even if someone does feel good after they do something altruistic, once more, does not mean that that person's motive was only to feel good. Once more in arguing that the ebola doctors only treated ebola to "feel good" he is speculating and making a claim for which he has no evidence.

Falling on Grenades: Regarding the grenade example, PRO makes an interesting claim: "wanting to help friends" proves self interest. Essentially, PRO argues that to the extent that individuals want to help other people, they are acting selfish because they are satisfying their desires. He's begging the question, once more. But, the objection that a soldiers jumping on a grenade is to advance his own self interest, aside from being tautological, warrantless and speculative, conflates acting out of one's rational best interest with acting to fulfill one's desires because desiring death is diametrically opposed to the advancement of anyone's rational self interest. If the soldier was really acting out of his own self interest, he would have done something to preserve his own life: like jump out of the Humvee or push someone on top of the grenade. (2) Pfc. McGinnis could have just as easily saved himself or pushed someone else on top of the grenade, but he didn't. In that he didn't do that, his actions are demonstrably altruistic. The fact that McGinnes knew he would die means that he must have acted to advance something other than his own welfare, and that he could not have been acting in a way that is self regarding.

Science: PRO continues to conflate possibility and certainty, and employ post hoc reasoning to make his point. Once more, PRO offers nothing more than speculative reasons for why the volunteers in Bastion's experiments' continued to volunteer -but what he doesn't realize is that Basion's experiments rule out the self interested motives that psychological egoists conventionally cite as plausible explanations for their behavior. If they only wanted to avoid guilt, they would have quit when Bastion offered them an easy way out or when told that their help was not necessary because others would do it. If they wanted only to appear benevolent, they would have not performed the help when they were told that their work was going to be kept a secret. This is why, as SEP writes, Bastion's work is "very bad news" for psychological egoism; it rules out the psychological egoist's warrantless speculations as possibilities. (2)

What This Debate Comes Down To:

It is salient to note at this point that for my opponent to make his case, he has to do more than speculate. Rather, he must offer concrete evidence that the sole reason that all people do all things is for self regarding. He cannot lean on the possibility of self interest alone to ground his claim that presupposes certainty. He cannot conflate the satisfying desires and acting in self regarding ways. He cannot refute scientific evidence with mere speculation and no evidence. This is because psychological egoism makes a claim about all of human behavior which cannot be grounded without sufficient evidence. PRO has not offered sufficient evidence, and he has not shown the truth of psychological egoism's claim about human behavior.

I, on the other hand, have proven that at least some human activity is done ultimately to advance the welfare of others. If altruistic behavior is behavior which is both not self regarding and done to advance the wellbeing of others, then behavior which exposes to mortal risk or harm those who act to advance the welfare of others must be altruistic. This is because behavior which imperils one's life cannot be said to be self regarding in any meaningful sense. PRO did not refute my standard for evaluating the veracity of altruistic behavior, as such, so it stands. As such, if as a judge you are buying that it is at least more probable than not that the Brantley and Writebol (health care workers fighting ebola in Africa, who contracted ebola when they could have remained safely in the United States) and Pfc. McGinnis (a soldier who fell on a grenade to save the lives of four other men when he could have jumped out of the humvee or pushed someone else on the grenade to save his own life) acted at their own expense to advance others' welfare -and you should be because possibility is not certainty and speculation is not sufficient to show that something is the case- I am winning this debate. That is because I have shown that at least some human behavior is altruistically motivated. As such, psychological egoism is false and the resolution is therefore negated.

Once more, many thanks to PRO for this thought provoking debate, and I'll look forward to the next round.
Debate Round No. 3
MyDinosaurHands

Pro

Thanks YYW.

My opponent makes many good points, and I will be forced to concede much of what he says. My objections to his examples did nothing more than bring things to the middle ground of 'we can never know for sure'. Ditto for my objections to the scientific claims. However, there is one point that went mostly ignored by my opponent, and, after lots of deep thought over the past days, I believe this point proves Psychological Egoism to be true, however trivially so.

But, before that:

"..to the extent that the doing of some behavior that advances other's welfare subjects the performer of that behavior to risk, it is inferable that that behavior is altruistic. That is because exposure to risk comes both at one's imminent expense and likewise to the benefit of another. So, if someone exposes themselves to mortal risk, in service to others it is at least more probable than not that the particular behavior's motivation was genuinely altruistic."
Note that his standard doesn't even claim certainty, so we can't really trust as proof anymore than you could trust my objections to the scientific claims as proof for Psychological Egoism. Anyways, with this proposition of evaluating the altruistic nature or lack thereof of an action, my opponent is assuming that humans are always acting under rational thought. He is assuming that people can't value the good feelings that would come with doing something 'good' over the possible loss of their lives. This line of thought comes up again with his refutation of the soldier on the grenade:

"..conflates acting out of one's rational best interest with acting to fulfill one's desires because desiring death is diametrically opposed to the advancement of anyone's rational self interest."
He proposes that the jumping on of a grenade must be altruistic, because one cannot rationally say that taking the blast of a grenade is in your interests. I would contend that itself (we can rationally that years of extreme guilt would be worse than dying), but the fact is that the definition of Psychological Egoism says nothing about people acting in a way that is rationally perceived as their self-interest. Instead, it says that people act in a way that THEY perceive to be in their own interests. Their perception does not have to be one of a rational perspective, and since my opponent's standard is based on the idea that an action cannot be egoistic if the end result is not one that is rationally perceived as self-benefiting, his standard does not prove that altruistic actions exist anymore than I have so far been able to prove that egoistic actions are the only things that exist, which, I am about to change.

WHY I AM TRIVIALLY RIGHT
Why I am trivially right is seen at the end of my third round. I say:
"Therefore, even if your want is to help people, the fact that you are acting to satisfy a want means you are acting in your interests, so even then, your act can be considered, at its deepest level, to be self-centered."
If you imagine all the various motivations that play into taking an action as the layers of an onion that we've been peeling back, this is the very last layer. This statement is true for all things we do. Even if the urge to act has been generated from an altruistic source, or at least not an egoistic source, the fact is, the urge generates an egoistic urge to have the desire to see that thing happen fulfilled.

Some of you may be saying, 'Ok, you've proven that on one level there's a self-satisfying urge. But there's also an altruistic/not egoist urge too, so how are you right?' I am right because of the way we interpret what falls under Psychological Egoism. We have always tried to find the deepest layer of motivation, the 'ultimate', the last 'layer of the onion'.

For instance, let's say you like cats. There's a cat in the road, and it looks like it's going to be hit by a car. You know you will feel bad if that cat gets hit, so you go save it. Even though one of the 'upper layers' of motivation was that you like cats, the layer of motivation, the deeper one, that you would've felt guilt if you hadn't acted, is the one that we treat as what qualifies this action as an example of something that falls under Psychological Egoism.

Now let's look at the soldier. As has been shown, my opponent cannot prove an altruistic motive and I can't prove an egoistic motive. That question mark of a motive is, relatively speaking, in the same position as 'you like cats' in the last example. The fact that you have an urge to see your buddies saved, and you will act to satisfy this urge of yours, therein creating an egoistic motive for acting, is, relatively speaking, in the same position as the possible guilt in the above example. It is the deeper layer, the deepest layer in fact.

So, while there may be two motivations present, the fact that the 'deeper layer' is one related to self-interest, and given the fact that we take the deepest layer as the prover/refuter of an act's acceptability under Psychological Egoism, we can see that all actions are, at their deepest level, motivated by self-interest, and thus, Psychological Egoism is trivially true.


So that's all for me. One thing I would like to say, to those of you considering giving my opponent points for sources because he used 7, whereas I used none, keep in mind that the majority of his sources were unnecessary. We didn't really need proof that in 2008 a man's family took the Medal of Honor on his behalf for his act of jumping on a grenade. Nor did we need to know the names or specific circumstances surrounding the doctors in his Ebola example.

Thanks for reading!
YYW

Con

I'm going to just get right into it... lol

PRO is demonstrably wrong about what impact my arguments had. There is no "middle ground" where PRO tacitly accepted my standard for identifying altruistic behavior and offered nothing other than speculation. His logic is "There is a possibility of an obscure, self interested motive that, however demonstrably improbable, cannot be disproven. Therefore, we cannot know for sure." On the other hand, I have offered a standard to evaluate the examples of altruism I cited, evidence that those examples meet the standard which together make it not only plausible, but probable that the ebola workers and the soldier who fell on the grenade did so for altruistic reasons. So, in no meaningful sense are we "at middle ground." If you as a judge believe that the evidence for the ebola workers and Pfc. McGinnnes's is enough to make it at least more probable that they acted altruistically than not, then I am winning this debate on that point alone.

In order to win that point, PRO must prove with certainty that neither Pfc. McGinness who sacrificed his life to save four other people and the two ebola workers that put their lives in mortal danger for the welfare of others did not act with altruism in order for ethical egoism to be true. That is because it's not enough for PRO to try to jump inside Pfc. McGinness's mind and speculate on what he might have thought before he made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the lives of others at his own expense. And, even if he did think about being guilty, if being dead is worse than living with guilt (and it is) then Pfc. McGinness still put others before himself, therefore he acted altruistically, therefore psychological egoism is false.

PRO has the higher burden here, because of the nature of his claim, whereas I do not. This is because ethical egoism makes a claim about how all humans act. I, on the other hand, need only to show that it is improbable, given some examples, that all people act in self regarding ways. Said another way, my sole responsibility is to show that some people act to advance others welfare before their own wellbeing. So, PRO's claiming that my standard doesn't "claim certainty" both does not hurt my case, nor does it advance his, for the simple reason that it is not my responsibility to show beyond all possible doubt that they acted altruistically. PRO, on the other hand, must prove beyond all doubt that they didn't. He has not, therefore I have won that point as well.

PRO can claim to be "trivially right" but the nature of his claim requires that he "be right beyond doubt." Psychological egoism posits a claim about human nature that categorically precludes even the possibility of altruism, and that kind of claim requires more than just speculation and tautological reasoning -but that's all PRO's offered. When he's not begging the question, he's speculating, and vice versa. In the last round I noted that in order for PRO to prove his claim, he has to do more than speculate. While he must offer concrete evidence that the sole reason that all people do all things is for self regarding, I only have to prevent him from proving that. He cannot lean on the possibility of self interest alone to ground his claim that presupposes certainty. He cannot conflate the satisfying desires and acting in self regarding ways. He cannot refute scientific evidence with mere speculation and no evidence. This is because psychological egoism makes a claim about all of human behavior which cannot be grounded without sufficient evidence. PRO has not offered sufficient evidence, and he has not shown the truth of psychological egoism's claim about human behavior.

Once more:

I, on the other hand, have proven that at least some human activity is done ultimately to advance the welfare of others. If altruistic behavior is behavior which is both not self regarding and done to advance the wellbeing of others, then behavior which exposes to mortal risk or harm those who act to advance the welfare of others must be altruistic. This is because behavior which imperils one's life cannot be said to be self regarding in any meaningful sense. PRO did not refute my standard for evaluating the veracity of altruistic behavior, as such, so it stands. As such, if as a judge you are buying that it is at least more probable than not that the Brantley and Writebol (health care workers fighting ebola in Africa, who contracted ebola when they could have remained safely in the United States) and Pfc. McGinnis (a soldier who fell on a grenade to save the lives of four other men when he could have jumped out of the humvee or pushed someone else on the grenade to save his own life) acted at their own expense to advance others' welfare -and you should be because possibility is not certainty and speculation is not sufficient to show that something is the case- I am winning this debate. That is because I have shown that at least some human behavior is altruistically motivated. As such, psychological egoism is false and the resolution is therefore negated.
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by YYW 2 years ago
YYW
Thanks to all who have voted!
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
RFD:

Fundamentally, the debate comes down to an argument made by Pro in the final round, as the remainder of his arguments get tremendous and effective response from Con. As such, what I have left to consider is the prospect that all actions stem from a want to do something beneficial for oneself. The concern here is that I don't think it's effectively proven. I could take Con's argument regarding speculation, as Pro is merely positing that this is at the root of every decision. I could look to Con's examples, each of which, within his uncontested framework, are solidly altruistic. The best I can do for Pro here is state that in a majority of instances, self-interest is at the core of decision, but even if I'm granting him that, I think there's a need to establish, with solid certainty, that that is true in all decisionmaking. Speculation and assumption can only take Pro's arguments so far, especially with Con's examples play such a huge role in the debate. Hence, I vote Con.
Posted by Ajabi 2 years ago
Ajabi
I'll vote on this.
Posted by phantom 2 years ago
phantom
I'll vote on this latter.
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 2 years ago
MyDinosaurHands
Well I definitely learned somethings this past week or so.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
RFD 1/2:

An interesting debate on the notion of egoism. Both sides, I think, did an excellent job. In the end, I thought Pro's side was hampered by unsupported supposition and a strange view of the terms under consideration. As such, I'm awarding arguments to Con. All else seemed equal enough for the proverbial government work, though I was a bit on the fence in regards to sourcing since Con actually provided some, which was reliable and supported his contentions.

Pro's major argument rested on suppositions from him--a sort of 'this could be the reason', that Con rightly pointed out Pro hadn't supported.

Pro tried to argue that all of our actions arise because we choose them--and attempts to twist the meaning of 'self-interest' to mean that "anything you want to happen" is necessarily 'self-interested'. Con's meaning is to be preferred here, where altruism is that which is done for the benefit of others without any 'payoff'. Yes, Pro is trivially right to say that we do the things we want to do, or we wouldn't do them. But that's not Egoism and, as Con noted, there's no rational grounds of self-advancement in giving up one's life for another.

Pro's attempts to claim that supporting values should be seen as "egoistic" or "self-interested" negate the very concepts he's trying to rebut--not in a "he's shown them to be false" way, but in a "rendering the terms meaningless to discuss" way--and as such, I have to choose Con's use of the terms, where he says that "Altruistic behavior is behavior that is disinterested and selfless insofar as it is done solely out of concern for the well-being of others" Pro would have us believe that our desire to do the action out of concern for the well-being of others is inherently egoistic or selfish, because we're doing what we want for the reasons we want.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
RFD 2/2:

To Pro, I'd ask: How is the idea, if we looked at it in the lens you're wanting to look at it, meaningful? How is it anything but (as Con notes) a tautology (which would be abusive and something I'd dock you for, if I accepted it, which I don't since I see Con's use as preferable)? As you're using it, you say that "we do the things we want to do, because we want to do them". That seems absurd and worthless as an observation on the human condition--how else could it be but that we act in accordance with our desires *in some fashion*, or we wouldn't do them, since we have to will all of our actions?

How could altruism have meaning?

I don't mean "have meaning" in the sense of value, but in the sense of actual *meaning*, i.e. the meaning of the word? Since fundamentally to act we have to choose, of course we choose what we want to choose because we're doing the choosing, and otherwise it wouldn't be a choice!

Con's use of terms seems both more in keeping with the intent of the concept, and with the question of value for the concept.

Fundamentally, Con hits at the heart of things, though, even more so than this question of "is making a choice inherently egoistic" when he says that " even if there are conceivable reasons why behavior that appears to be altruistic might advance some spurious self interest does not mean that, in fact, the behavior which appears to be altruistic is in fact not altruistic". Pro had the BoP here to show us the truth of the motion, and though he appealed the experience of voters, and to the notion of his "trivial" support that we do things we choose to do because we choose to do them, he never really presented evidence of his position.

As always, happy to clarify this RFD.
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 2 years ago
MyDinosaurHands
Mmk.
Posted by YYW 2 years ago
YYW
I'll respond to this tomorrow or the next day.
Posted by 9spaceking 2 years ago
9spaceking
interesting debate...prediction? Con will win.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 2 years ago
9spaceking
MyDinosaurHandsYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: pro does not show that an action of egoism necessitates innately being egotistic. Just not enough.
Vote Placed by bsh1 2 years ago
bsh1
MyDinosaurHandsYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's case is riddled with post hoc reasoning, and it cannot be shown that just because action X could possibly be egoistic, that it necessarily is egoistic. Thus, it is nearly impossible for him to uphold his burden of showing that psychological egoism is true. As Con posits, "That is because it's not enough for PRO to try to jump inside Pfc. McGinness's mind and speculate on what he might have thought before he made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the lives of others at his own expense. " Thus, I must default Con. Interesting debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
MyDinosaurHandsYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 2 years ago
iamanatheistandthisiswhy
MyDinosaurHandsYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a great debate to read and I have to side with YYW on this one as arguments by Con were more convincing. Pro made a strong case fro self egoisim but needed to destroy Cons cases presented. There were definitely loopholes in some of the arguments presented by Con but Pro did not attack them and break them yet instead stayed with the arguments presented in the opening statement. Further, while this is a philosophy debate the fact that Con could show that there is circumstantial evidence to prove the counter argument really damaged Pros chances of winning. Nice debate all round.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
MyDinosaurHandsYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.