The question posed is rather an easy one to answer and those who would suggest that humans are not naturally selfish are either misunderstanding the question or ignorant of evolution. Take a parent throwing themselves under a car to save their child, is that a selfless act? What about a firefighter who puts his life in danger every day to save lives or a soldier who mans a wall to keep an enemy at bay from harming those that the soldier has sworn to protect, are they acting selflessly?
Let us just separate emotion from this and understand how natural instinct works. Natural instinct, evolution and natural selection are processes whereby the strongest genetic material remains and whilst we might attribute the aforementioned acts as selfless etc, what we need to understand is that what drives us to do such things is not logic or reason, it is a natural instinct to protect the genetic material, to protect the species which in itself is a deeply ingrained selfishness.
Even the firefighter and the soldier, who consider the demands of the position before taking their respective post, their decision to take those risks is a decision based on saving lives, of not personal selfishness but protecting the selfish human species and ensuring it's survival.
Even arbitrary things are really done for ones self. Giving to charity makes you feel good: if it didn't, you wouldn't do it. People commit suicide either to prevent further pain, or because they believe they have a negative impact on those around them. Everything we do, even if done "for" other people, are really for ourselves.
If someone gave you the choice of 1 billion dollars or giving up all your money to help someone survive, chances are you would choose the billion dollars. Also if someone comes and says to give you your money, then you wouldn't give it to them and that is being selfish. You need to be selfish to survive
Selfishness springs from humankind's instinctive desire for self-preservation. One of the grand opportunities (and purposes) of life is to overcome instinct and become masters of self. The less selfish the person, the more evolved the mind and soul.
But alas the sordid reality of our existence is that we are, all of us, a little bit of everything. A confusing potpourri of rhyme and reason, sense and insensibility, peace and conflict. We are, by our very natures naturally selfish and self-less at the same time - and the attention we afford each of those propensities will often dictate our dominate personality trait.
One must be both, really to survive and thrive. Admirable is the person who knows when to protect self whilst being sensitive to the needs of the other.
If we don't help others, we are called "selfish," but if we help them, we are not. The reality, however, is that both the aforementioned scenarios depict our selfishness. For example, we don't help people for personal interests, similarly, we help people for personal interests, as we want to be happy or other related reasons. Clearly, in both cases, you do it because of yourself, whether helping or not.
There are certainly exceptions such as a mother protecting her child but for the most part people are selfish. For example if you were to offer a person a choice between getting a million dollars and letting two people get half a million dollars I believe that they would choose to receive a million dollars. An example of the belief that people aren't selfish is social communism, take from those who have and give it to those who don't, the problem with that is that people stopped trying, if a brain surgeon makes as much money as a fry cook than why should try and become a brain surgeon, you may argue that that is greed and not being selfish but I believe that they are the same after all if you're selfish then logically you'll want money to take care of yourself.
Even the most selfless person on Earth is selfish. We need to be selfish to survive. It is a natural instinct. If a caveman sees some food on the ground, they're not going to give it to another person. They are going to eat it. Self defense also counts as selfishness. If someone is attacking you, without selfishness, you wouldn't protect yourself.
I also believe that selfishness isn't limited to just one person. I think selfishness can be from a group of people. For instance, cavemen would proboably protect their family , because of group selfishness.
I would like to say no that humans are not naturally selfish, but they are so well known for causing more problems than good just because of their wants and not actual needs. People by nature are selfish, we build on the land of others, and of animals, we destroy trees and this earth, and even then we want more.
If humans weren't selfish, we would've stopped world hunger, and slaughter by now.
Most people don't care what happens to others, and support desertification, world hunger, pollution, deforestation, take part in murder, animal abuse especially, etc.
Also, if the internet can't even be a nice place because there will always be mean people, trolls, etc. to ruin it, what do you think that says about us?
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I believe a more accurate description is "Humans (or any other living organism) are programmed to ensure the survival of their genes." This could mean many things from the life of a progeny to individual life. The definition of selfish is "(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure." While the concept of survival may be a detriment to others for personal profit (i.E. Stealing food from another so you don't starve), it is not an inherently selfish act as the primary motivation is not for personal profit, but to avoid death.
It has long been thought that humans aswell as other animals have evolved to be naturally selfish, this is due to the fact that evolution required competition and the ruthlessness of natural selection.
Despite this i ought to disagree that we are just selfish by nature because of a critical fact: that humans could not have survived in nature without the charity and social reciprocity of a group.
The underlying theme of evolution is that the fittest or most able to survive will reproduce and pass on their genes. In order to both survive and, more importantly, reproduce individuals must - at some level - learn to cooperate with members of their own species. This is especially true of social species such as humans.
As the intelligence of the species increased, individuals who did not learn to cooperate and engage in such activities as reciprocal grooming had reduced opportunities for reproduction and their genes were removed from the species. Those who displayed compassion and kindness had increased opportunities to reproduce and their genes became fixed in populations.
The evidence for altruism as a critical part of human nature isn’t limited to anthropology. Studies of 18-month-old toddlers show that they will almost always try to help an adult who is visibly struggling with a task, without being asked to do so: if the adult is reaching for something, the toddler will try to hand it to them, or if they see an adult drop something accidentally, they will pick it up.
Now people could object and say that it is still based on the selfish desire to survive, but i have to note that there is a big difference between selfishness which only focusses on oneself and cooporation which cares about the benefit of the whole group.
Human being is learned animal. As some people already said, people need to be selfish survival. But you can survival in man different ways, giving and helping others is another way of happiness. Many of the selfish behavior of human being are a way to protect themselves. Keep them away from harm. As a child, if you grow up in a sharing inclusive environment, and your parents taught you to love all and share happiness with others. You will mostly like be different than someone who grow up in a environment that full of violence and conflicts.
Human beings have an instinctive love for their children. We naturally prioritize their survival and well-being over our own as parents.
I personally think human beings are driven by genuine empathetic connections, otherwise known as love.
Modern society promotes mind over-identification through mental over-stimulation which causes people to live through their egos, which in turn cause them to view humanity as selfish to validify their way of life.
Okay say a little girl have food and a guy next to her needs that food to stay a live, he would take that food from her to stay alive which that would be known as selfish, but if you put it the other way around to where the guy have the food and gives it to the little girl it's not selfish. Thinking about it more its not that its selfish its just rude and there is a different between selfish and rude.
Again "selfish" is a bit of a subjective term and our understanding of what is selfish will vary from individual to individual, based on religious, political and social factors as well as expectation based on experience.
If selfishness equates to the pursuit of personal profit or gain to the detriment of others, then could one's actions still be deemed selfish if they are not aware of the consequences of their actions? Or does the lack of awareness for someone else's situation equate to selfishness? I'm not sure that the latter statement is true as quite often it is not possible to know the outcome of one's behaviour with a firm certainty - only an estimation based on our prior knowledge, which may or may not be correct, and personal experience. Whether we differentiate survival from "personal gain" is another topic in my view - particularly as some may argue only basic physiological requirements need to be met for the physical body to survive, whilst other needs have to be met for survival of humans in terms of both physical AND mental wellbeing.
But back to the original question in hand: I do not believe that humans are inherently selfish or selfless - what I will say is that I believe the choice to act in one's own interests vs. The interest of others (even if others means their immediate social group, rather than a group to which they do not belong) and that this choice exists within every human being with no dominant force that applies to all. Although most individuals will swing between varying levels of "selfishness" and "selflessness", the dominance of one will be based on external circumstances, examples of which might include matters of life and death, such as war and famine (the fight for food and physical survival), and political systems (such as the need to achieve status and a level of importance and "freedom" under capitalism).
There are of course numerous examples where humans have sacrificed their own personal gain for another human, animal or "the greater good", even if it means their own death. Many parents would say that they would give their life for their child based on this bond of unconditional love, yet a personal sacrifice isn't restricted to the parent/child relationship. If we are capable as humans of experiencing unconditional love, then I believe we are similarly capable of selflessness, and that one of our challenges as a human is to conquer this conflict, which is one of many.
In my view, installing and reinforcing a view that humans are inherently selfish is conducive to maintaining a largely capitalist economy system and helps prevent individuals from challenging our existing ways of living. This view helps justify the exploitation of others and keeps everyone ticking along in their materialistic existence.
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Nature, in atoms, and cells level is 100% cooperative! You are made of billions of cells working TOGETHER to make you alive, all living beings would not exist without cooperation. Nature in itself is cooperative, like... Copying vitally important DNR? Fixing it and giving corrected code to new born cell? Isn't that sharing? What about atoms? They change their state because of interactions with other atoms. They are sharing information. Universe itself is sharing at a fundamental level, and everything else is created based on that sharing.
People also are cooperative, love to share. Even billionaires that owns most of the planet wealth, they probably share it with someone, and share it BIG!!! What about cases when you do something for free and still get a "thanks" some money or even a phone number! They want to give something back, they give you their money/time/ anything else? I believe that we are selfish because of the environment we created. Sharing is fun and it makes you feel amazingly well!!
Their comes a time in our life where we have to make difficult decisions ,if this means in order of our survival,so we do it in order to avoid a worse fate as Human.We do this in order of what is right,or what better for other people.We are not naturally selfish,,but to do what is right.