Altruism: What Is Pursuing Self-Interest? Essay

Whenever you do something, you are motivated by your strongest desire. Whenever you are motivated by your strongest desire, you are pursing your self-interest. Therefore, whenever you do something, you are pursuing your self-interest. (Shafer-Landau, 94). This argument has everything to do with a psychological egoism view, which is the view in which the only thing that motivates human beings is their own self-interest. Compared to the altruism view, which is that the direct desire to benefit others for their own sake without any ulterior motives.

In this Argument it is basically stating that everything someone does is for ones self interest. There are plenty of arguments against psychological egoism, which I will point out though this paper, but despite those arguments after reading this paper those opposing points will have you beg the question. After reading on this argument you will question all the actions you’ve done in your life, for other people. When you went out on an errand for your parents were you really helping them? When you helped take notes for a sick classmate, was it really to just help a buddy out?

Was dealing with the annoying cousin really just a nice thing to do, or was it out of some sort of self-interest? Throughout this paper we will be seeing an explanation how anything we do in our daily life can be shown to be self-interest. It will also be showing you some objectives which challenge one of this premises. Then finally, the paper will exhibit the main purpose of this whole discussion to sum everything up. All of our ultimate desires are egoistic, plain and simple. If you do something, anything, you are only thinking of yourself, no matter how small of a thing it is.

For example your mother tell you to go get something downstairs even though you don’t want to do it. You do it anyway not for her but for yourself. Its one of those special cases called strictly conscientious actions, when vou do something out of duty for ones self benefit. One, you go down stairs so your mom doesn’t start nagging at you. Two, you do it so she may leave you alone in peace. For this reasons is why you really do it. Not to get her what she needs. You are also unconsciously thinking if you help her maybe you will get some sort of reward after.

Due to this kind of thinking this argument isn’t the most attractive argument because most people don’t wanna think of themselves as selfish, but we are. We as humans are very selfish its just in our nature to survive. Even before as caveman, we were fighting and providing for ourselves and our families. And sure you may be saying, “ohh but you just said our families, that isn’t selfish if we are thinking of our families”. Wrong we are still selfish, even when trying to provide for our own family. Due to the fact that we are doing it to keep our own blood line alive.

All our thoughts and actions are made by our selfish attempt to sustain a happy life. Which is probably one of our biggest desires in life is to live a joyful life. To do that we must survive and do whatever it takes to do that even when we don’t want to. So from that we can concluded that premise 1 is true because whenever we do something we do it out of duty, which becomes our strongest desire. Then there is premise 2, which is probably the hardest to support because of peoples opposing arguments. That doesn’t mean its false, it just means that its a challenge that we will be facing when analyzing those points that have an altruism view.

When desiring something it usually entails that you have a strong feeling of something, something in which you may want. And wouldn’t you think that if you wanted something then you are doing it for your own self-interest? Thats why you would presume that premise 2 is also true. Which then just makes the conclusion that doing something by our strongest desire is pursuing self-interest. Which makes this a sound argument, an argument that is valid, with the premises and conclusion to be true. Of course however in every argument there are two sides. There is always people that have different views and opinions.

In there are people opposed to this view as stated before they are people that have the altruism view, thinking that we do things just for the desire to benefit other without any selfinterest. Some examples that may be against our argument maybe that helping a stranger that dropped all his or her books in the hallway is a sign of being unselfish because they are helping someone and will get nothing in return. Well sure they may not get anything physical in return but they will get that satisfaction of being a good person. They have unconscious selfinterest we were talking about before.

Shafer-Landau tells it best “All human actions are aimed at avoiding some personal loss or gaining some personal benefits, either in the short run or in the long term (92). In that example above the person picking up the books sure isn’t automatically thinking it but we are thought from a young age that doing good things will later on lead to good things for you. As a child did you ever get a treat for helping your parents out with chores. You did something good and later you were rewarded. So your brain subconsciously knows is telling you to do good things like it was when you were a child.

Its like the whole idea of karma. Helping someone out can bring good karma to you later. Humans want to believe that they are unselfish people because they have generosity and kindness. In reality yes we can be generous and kind but for what reason? Not for others but for ourselves because we do whatever we need to, to fulfill that strongest desire to make ourselves happy. Even if it makes us happy to give money away to less fortunate people. Yes we are helping them, but we are doing it for the soul reason to be a better person. But why do we need to be a better person?

Are we not if we don’t? Then comes in the thoughts of you being a better person because everything in this world is a competition. Everyone has to compare themselves to others. With that we all just do good things to one up everyone else. We want to be on top, for our own selfishness. There is no need for you to think its a bad thing. Being selfish isn’t something humans are proud of being because it sounds like a bad trait but everyone else it. Its perfectly normal to have selfish desires or interest. Even if you don’t think it is selfish, it probably is.

After looking at all the factors anything someone does, is basically out of there own self-interest. Even if they don’t realize it themselves, it is. We looked at our premise and explained how they were true and gave examples why. When then gave some opposing examples to then see the other side of things. Looking though the eyes of someone with an altruism view on life. We determined through that through the opposing arguments that our argument was still valid, and they we are all selfish no matter what we do. We can’t help it, we do things to better our own life even if we don’t believe its for ourselves, it most likely is.

It is nature and shouldn’t be looked at as something bad. Sure there are those people that cross the line when it comes to being selfish that only do things for self-interest. But we are all like that they are just more blunt then others are about it. A finally example, that shows the two different levels for the same self interest thing. Your mom asks you to clean the living room, a very open egoist will be like sure can I go to the movies if i do. Where as someone else may just do it, thinking they are doing it just to be nice and generous.

When in reality they are unconsciously thinking that if they do it that they will get reward by being able to go out later. Everyone has a different way of pursing their self-interest, but they are all motived by that strong desire of getting something. So yes, we are all self interested, in fulfilling our strongest desire. Whether its for some peace and quiet from a parents nagging, to be a better person, or even to have a simple life. We all do those things we don’t want to do or even those things we extremely want to do to help others, all for our own selfish desire.