The Instigator
K_Michael_Tolman
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
MrMaestro
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Are human motivations purely selfish?

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 0 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/20/2019 Category: People
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,084 times Debate No: 120927
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (27)
Votes (0)

 

K_Michael_Tolman

Pro

I'm not totally for this view, But I'm curious to see what people think.
MrMaestro

Con

Yeah I agree. I actually lean closer to the other side of this argument, But I think I would enjoy debating it from either side.

This is one of those topics that could really go anywhere. Maybe we can consider the implications of free will vs deterministic philosophies, Maybe we get into the implications of evolutionary biology, Or maybe, We can just start simple.

I propose that human motivations are not always purely selfish, Because humans are capable of selfless acts of kindness.

Sometimes, On a really good day, Humans will do a good thing. And they won't do this good thing because it made them happy, Or because it brought them admiration, Or because of societal pressure, They do the good thing simply because it was a good thing to do. I think there is something to be said for human compassion.

Looking forward to your response!


Debate Round No. 1
K_Michael_Tolman

Pro

" Humans will do a good thing. And they won't do this good thing because it made them happy, Or because it brought them admiration, Or because of societal pressure, They do the good thing simply because it was a good thing to do. "

I think that an example would be well placed here.

So if someone did something "good, " however vague that is, Not for their own happiness, Or to get praise, Nor are they expected by society to do anything, You say that it is a selfless act.
First of all, Most people in this situation don't do the "good thing. "
Second, You've neglected an important aspect of choice factors. Similar to societal pressure, Your personal conscience or morals dictate your response in this situation.
The people who don't do the "good" thing either don't cover that in their morals or their conscience is weak enough that they don't feel bad about breaking it. They don't derive happiness from doing the "good" thing, So they don't do it.
Those people that do have the personal moral integrity to do the "good" thing are doing so because following their morals makes them happy. Even these seemingly selfless acts are ultimately self-serving.
MrMaestro

Con

Your original premise is that human motivations are PURELY selfish. This implies that all humans are always selfish, 100% of the time. Given this assumption, I think it's fair to say that if we find solid evidence of human behaviour that isn't selfish, Then I could claim victory.

BTW, You never want to leave yourself with the "sharp end" of a premise like this; it leaves you strategically vulnerable the rest of the match. Not trying to be preachy, Just a good debating tip.

----

My opponent has used the classic "there's always a possible explanation" argument. The problem with this argument is that it is susceptible to "Infinite Regress"[1].

Have you ever heard a two year old ask why a million times? Why did the good Samaritan do the selfless thing? Because he had a strong moral code. Well why did he have a strong moral code? Because it was in his brain. Why was it in his brain? Because his neurological atoms organized themselves that way. Why did the atoms organize themselves that way? Because particle physics. . . . And on and on it goes until we reach a point where the questions stop meaning anything. I could make up the most altruistic person that ever walked the earth, And there would always be another possible justification for their behaviour. This line of reasoning always descends into chaos.

In fact, You can break down any concept into nothingness using this strategy. Neither one of us can win the debate trapped inside the endless why loop (programming joke anyone), So I'll attempt to maneuver around it instead.

------
Argument 1

Let's construct a hypothetical situation where Bob must choose whether or not to do a good deed for Kelly. If he does this good deed they will both feel happier. If he does noting, Nothing changes. In this instance, Bob's selfish needs are perfectly aligned with his selfless needs; the selfless choice and the selfish choice are the same choice. In this instance, The concept of selfishness and selflessness no longer exist because they cancel out.

Proof: Let's say Bob does the good deed. You can't claim that the act is selfish without also claiming the act selfless. This creates an obvious paradox. Therefore, The act was neither selfish or selfless, And hence not all human behaviour is selfish.

---
Argument 2

If all of Bob's choices are predetermined (by his biology or environment or whatever else), Then Bob has never truly made a choice. I would argue that selfishness necessarily involves making a choice. If all of Bob's actions were pre-programmed like a machine, Then you could argue that bob Never did anything selfish, Or anything selfless, Because Bob lacked the ability to make a choice in the first place.

Again, Bob's deeds where neither selfish or selfless, Therefore not all human behaviour is selfish.
---

By the way I had to get very baked to come up with this. It sounds clever to me now but it might just be crap lol. Let me know.

Your move!

[1]http://www. Informationphilosopher. Com/knowledge/infinite_regress. Htmlh

Debate Round No. 2
K_Michael_Tolman

Pro

Argument 1

You could have a possible selfless interpretation of Bob's actions, But you can't prove that his actions are selfless. If the same situation were to occur, Except it would inconvenience no one (and so not upset Bob's morals), But would benefit him equally to before, He would make that choice as a selfish reason. Just because the original situation benefits Kelly doesn't mean that her happiness is considered in his motivations, So there is no real selfless act. Even if he does consider how it affects her, That is under the rule of his morals, Which he derives further pleasure in following. So all "selfless acts" are actually just under the dication of self-pleasing moral considerations.

Argument 2.

I'm going to ignore this. Your argument can't be that neither of our arguments really exist due to choice being an illusion.
MrMaestro

Con

Argument 1

My opponent: "You can't prove that his actions are selfless. "

I agree. I specifically proved that his actions were neither selfish or selfless.

I only need to prove that Bob is capable of performing one single non-selfish act. - which I've accomplished.

One non-selfish act, Would mean that human motivation is no longer PURELY selfish.

Therefore, The premise is broken.

--You went on to explain that bob might be selfish some other times, But that is irrelevent. You need to defend your premise.


Argument 2

My opponent: "I'm going to ignore this. Your argument can't be that neither of our arguments really exist due to choice being an illusion. "

Well that's a bummer.




Debate Round No. 3
K_Michael_Tolman

Pro

Argument 1 is useless to you.
Bob does the thing that helps Kelly not because it helps Kelly, Only because it helps himself. See, A situation can have different motivations. I might wear khaki pants because all of my other pants are dirty. I might also wear khakis because they match my shirt. Or maybe all of my pants are khakis. I might have even been dared to wear khakis by a friend. But if you saw me wearing khakis, You wouldn't be able to tell WHY I was wearing khakis. My motivations cannot be determined by my actions. It is my belief that most people in Bob's situation never consider Kelly at all, And those who do are serving their morals in order to satisfy their pride. In other words, Their motivations are purely selfish.
MrMaestro

Con

You've made an excellent point. I think that Argument 1 proves that the act was not selfish, But it doesn't speak to the motivation behind that act.

You've also stated that I can't argue predetermination or the "choice is an illusion" argument, So I expect you won't use these arguments either.

Argument 3:

What about instances of self sacrifice? A soldier jumping onto a grenade to save his comrades? A friend pushing you out of the way of a moving car, Only to be hit themselves? A monk setting himself on fire to make a political statement for the betterment of his people?

How are the motivations for these acts selfish? No one would value momentary happiness over there own life. Some good deeds are done not because they make the person good, They're done simply because they are good.

You could argue that their morals or eithics made them do it, Buuut then we're back to predetermination - see argument 2.
Debate Round No. 4
K_Michael_Tolman

Pro

Some good deeds are done not because they make the person good, They're done simply because they are good.
Once again, Self-gratification through moral adherence. Obviously, I can't know exactly what everyone is thinking, So I can't do predetermination. In some cases, They don't even consciously think about it at all.
Wait. Are instinctive actions just a result of subconscious thinking, Or are they actually written in our genes?
Do instinctive actions count as motivated? Leave your thoughts in the comments! (wanted to say that to feel like a Youtuber. )

Oh, And I'm going to put out a definition for selfish just for everything to be clear.
Grammarly's: Holding one"s self-interest as the standard for decision making.
So, Athias, Self-interested is the same as selfish. There is a negative connotation on the word selfish that is showing to be a problem in this debate.
MrMaestro

Con

Good call on the definition. We probably should have defined that in R1 haha.

"
Once again, Self-gratification through moral adherence. "

I would argue that setting yourself on fire or jumping on a live grenade are not motivated by self-gratification.

"Do instinctive actions count as motivated? "

I would argue that there are cases of planned self-sacrifice, (the monk setting himself on fire), And therefore, Are not a result of instinct. I still don't see how that could be considered selfish.

---
Summary of my arguments

Argument 1: It can be shown that some actions are neither selfish, Or selfless, Although that doesn't speak to the motivation behind the action.

Argument 2: If choice is an illusion (predetermination), Then you cannot lable an action as selfish, Because there was no choice involved.

Argument 3: Acts of (planned) self-sacrifice are not selfish, They serve the betterment of the people at the expense of the martyr.

---

I believe that humans are generally selfish. I don't believe that 100% of human actions are selfish. If you think that I've demontrated this, Please vote Pro.

Thanks all for reading, And thank you to Michael for a fantastic topic choice.
Debate Round No. 5
27 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by K_Michael_Tolman 3 years ago
K_Michael_Tolman
I will do that.
Posted by MrMaestro 3 years ago
MrMaestro
Weren't*
Posted by MrMaestro 3 years ago
MrMaestro
Thank you Michael! Half the time these debates feel like I'm in a chatfight with a Youtube troll. You were It's refreshing to meet someone that was clever without being snarky. That's a rare quality around here. Feel free to challenge me to another debate sometime!
Posted by K_Michael_Tolman 3 years ago
K_Michael_Tolman
Thank you for debating with me. This is honestly my favorite debate that I've done.
Posted by K_Michael_Tolman 3 years ago
K_Michael_Tolman
No. The intention is independent of action and is stuck firmly in the past once you've taken the action That means that anything that happens as a result of the action, Such as regretting it, Has no effect on your previous intention. So if it was conceived selfishly, It stays selfish, No matter who it benefits.
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
WrickItRalph
You totally missed the point on the after the fact argument. I said that situation was specifically removed because it as selfish, You're telling me what I already said.
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
WrickItRalph
Don't know how you drew that conclusion. Regret at every turn means they regretted it the whole time. That's fundamentally different from regretting it after the fact. The intention of the person committing the act is what matters here. You can only measure that intension in the present moment.
Posted by K_Michael_Tolman 3 years ago
K_Michael_Tolman
@WrickItRalph
Your argument contradicts yourself. "examples where one was only upset after the fact" and "but regret it at every turn. " are the same situation. Even if your action immediately made you regret it, Not later, You didn't regret it in the moment of decision, Where MOTIVATIONS actually matter, So in both cases, Your decision goes awry and you regret it.

You were disappointed that your expectations weren't met. You had a selfish motivation for doing it, But your expectations were subverted, So the action didn't serve you. This doesn't mean that it wasn't selfish, Just that things didn't go as planned. Something is selfish if it is done with the INTENT of serving your own self. Even if the plan fails and it doesn't benefit you in any way, Your INTENT was to be gratified or derived pleasure in some way, For instance receiving a thank you after giving a person a five-dollar bill or satisfying your morals in saving someone's life.
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
WrickItRalph
Random thought. I would consider helping somebody and regretting it afterwards as selfless. If you're upset about it, You probably didn't gain anything. We'd have to exclude examples where one was only upset after the fact i. E. Gave someone five bucks, They didn't say thank you and my mood changes. It would have to be something different like if someone is in trouble and you help them out of empathy but regret it at every turn. Even if you felt good after the fact. It would be clear that your motivations weren't selfish.

Thoughts?
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
WrickItRalph
@Athias. I begrudgingly agree with you. Good point.
No votes have been placed for this debate.

By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.