Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Exploiting Altruism of others

Rate this topic


ggdwill
 Share

Recommended Posts

I have been toying with a new policy regarding receiving things from people who are motivated by anything other than mutual trade or a benevolent feeling towards me personally. Specifically I am talking about people motivated by altruism in any form. The types of situations I encounter run the gambit. Apparently my co-workers believed their third grade teachers when they said that if you're going to bring candy, you have have to bring enough for the entire class because these people know that I'm on a tight budget and so they are constantly trying to buy me lunch. Also, I have distant relatives that give me things like Christmas and birth day presents since I suppose they view me as a member of their tribe and so I must be taken care of.

Whenever I accept these gifts, it is usually with a thin veneer of greatfulness. While this veneer provides enough cover to avoid akward encounters usually involving a chaotic discussion of my atypical ethical beliefs, it never has failed to make me feel guilty of hypocricy. In fact, even when this veneer has failed, the same people have continue to perform these ritual offerings despite my protests and, for reasons I will explain, I have accepted.

I have felt this guilt because I know that it is true that over time allocating resources based upon an altruistic ethic will result in a net loss to the extent that it is practiced. It is also true that by willingly acting as a repository for a practice that I know to be destructive, I am contributing to the degradation of someone who otherwise exists as a value to me.

However, despite this knowledge I am left wondering if it has been simply a fear of social dischord or the lingering presence of evidence to the contrary that has really guided my behavior. So in the interest of trying to establish if this sense of guilt is undeserved, and if so to extinguish it, I have chosen to present the following, conflicting theory for discussion since it has haunted me long enough:

By labeling my view of the people that do these kinds of things as "otherwise valuable" to me, I am not lending equal validity to the simultaneous fact that they are altruists to some degree. Their altruistic acts are not some kind of betrayal or diminishment of their self-interested interactions with me since it is their altruistic tendencies that exist and consume only a potential for complete self-interested interaction. I should view them as entire persons, including their faults as well as their virtues in my view of them.

Having said that, I think that it is appropriate - ie: rational and moral - to accept these gifts of charity should they come to me not because I support altruism per se, but because it is in my best interest to promote the most rational allocation of resources. Since I neither profess nor practice altruism, this means that by giving these things to me, they will be put to use in a proper, productive way by being consumed or traded instead of given away.

- Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Specifically I am talking about people motivated by altruism in any form. The types of situations I encounter run the gambit. Apparently my co-workers believed their third grade teachers when they said that if you're going to bring candy, you have have to bring enough for the entire class because these people know that I'm on a tight budget and so they are constantly trying to buy me lunch. Also, I have distant relatives that give me things like Christmas and birth day presents since I suppose they view me as a member of their tribe and so I must be taken care of.

Are you sure that these people are acting altruistically, and not that buying you lunch and presents is a value to them? Is it clearly a sacrifice for a co-worker to buy you lunch? They're not getting anything objective out of it-- for example, a more pleasant environment at work, that would make the deal profitable for them, according to their values?

I know I've bought co-workers lunch before, when they didn't have any money, and I wasn't being altruistic. Just because someone professes altruism doesn't mean that their actions are actually guided by altruism-- in fact, it's impossible to consistently act on altruism.

The point I'm trying to make is, as long as you're not asking people to make sacrifices for you, and as long as you're not implicitly entering into an agreement you don't want or don't intend to fulfill by accepting a favor with strings attached, why is it hypocritical to accept a gift from someone? Are you sure you're not attributing a malevolence to people because they are philosophically confused, when their motives may actually be benevolent, in as deep a sense as they understand?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sure that I'm not attributing a malevolence to them and and I am fully aware that they are simply philosophically confused. Like I said, I realize that these people are not consistent, devoted altruists - not only because, as you said, that would be impossible, but also because I trade values with them nearly every day.

I recognize that it is not categorically altruistic to buy me lunch. For instance, my first week on the job they bought me lunch twice and I gladly accepted - realizing that this was a way of welcoming me and making me feel comfortable. However, now that I've been there for awhile, I find it hard to believe that it's anything other than some sort of moral (probably religious) obligation they have to help me out and/or include me in their communal meal. Since they are aware that I cannot afford to eat restaurant food every day I suspect it is the latter because they are aware that I can afford to eat store-bought food. Yet they still offer to buy me lunch.

So your point about having me join them (since I don't when I go home to eat my food) is the only thing I am not sure about. I don't know why they can't simply eat without me when it's obvious that I don't mind being excluded. I suspect that since we don't know one another all that well yet, it would be improbable that I'm really that much of an enhancement to their dining experience or that they're trying to get to know me better. Besides, the few times I have eaten with them, they haven't paid all that much attention to me anyways.

With all of those facts in mind, I have no reason to believe that buying me lunch is anything but a sacrifice. While it is most likely only a small one, it is still clearly a sacrifice.

I have no problem whatsoever accepting gifts from people that I am confident understand and value me as an individual. These people don't qualify just yet.

- Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<<<"I have no problem whatsoever accepting gifts from people that I am confident understand and value me as an individual. These people don't qualify just yet.">>>

- Grant,

I am not addressing the problem you present. I read it with interest but I have my own little hangup about a usage which prompted me to reply in order to draw your attention to it. It is where in the sentence above you use the word "that" after the word "people." I may be mistaken and your usage may be acceptable.

I just happen to be sensitive to the issue and believe that it is proper grammatically to use the word "who or whom" when referring to a person and the word "that or which" when referring to a thing.

It distresses me to use the word "that" which to my way of thinking should be reserved for things when referring to human beings.

I apologize for the distraction. We live in a world where human beings rights to their own lives are not universally recognized as individuals and where they are sacrificed in one way or another which may explain my sensitivity to the issue.

Enjoy your lunch!

galt

Edited by galtgulch
Link to comment
Share on other sites

By willingly acting as a repository for a practice that I know to be destructive, I am contributing to the degradation of someone who otherwise exists as a value to me.
"Otherwise exists as a value" implies that these people (or their lunch?) can't be a value to you so long as they are "sacrificially" buying you lunch?? That seems highly questionable, and not just because you're assuming they're acting in a sacrificial manner.

Since I neither profess nor practice altruism, this means that by giving these things to me, they will be put to use in a proper, productive way by being consumed or traded instead of given away.
And what does your theory say these coworkers will do with their money if you refuse to accept it? You shouldn't take for granted that someone who is "altruistic" will not use a particular good as productively as someone else who is not altruistic.

Beyond that, I agree with Bold that your coworkers aren't necessarily altruistic in the first place. For one thing, you see yourself as a person possessing valuable qualities, and perhaps they see some indications of these qualities. For another thing, the "sacrifice" you are invoking is that surely these people could be doing something better with their money than applying it to a stranger - given that premise, how could you, as a non-altruist, ever justify giving to charity?

"I, as a non-altruist, will make better use of goods than an altruist, so my acceptance of an altruist's aid (and contribution to an altruist's degradation) is rational and moral" is IMO a very convoluted and superfluous premise. I'd simply ask whether accepting these free lunches benefit you, and base your decision on that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find it hard to believe that it's anything other than some sort of moral (probably religious) obligation they have to help me out and/or include me in their communal meal.
If this is a well-founded suspicion, I think the question you should focus on most is how you will decline their invitation to a prayer meeting. I know people that use the inclination to gratitude as an excuse to get you into their devil-worshipping sessions, so I hope you have cards printed up in advance that say "No".

You can engage in a trade with them: food for education. Presumably these people are not particularly familiar with egoistic views of obligation and rational value, so you could carefully and slowly present such ideas to them for them to consider -- thought for food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not believe "altruism" exists. The bumper sticker we see "Practice random kindess and senseless acts of beauty," boils down to "practice random senseless acts. This is not a logical or even human way to behave. Doing something for someone else is always based on your own value. If it makes YOU feel good to be able to help someone else, then go ahead. Rarely, if ever do people "act" for no reason, or a reason that does not give them some benefit be it emotional, physical or financial. Nor can we as inherently logical beings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

GaltGulch,

You're right, I should have used "whom" instead of "that". I didn't proofread my post. That's all there is to it. I guess you're trying to get established on this forum and so you're eager to participate, but I don't see why you would create some sort of philosophical underpinnings for why people use incorrect grammar. The idea that there is some sort of conspiracy to dehumanize people and strip them of their individual identities through the promotion of incorrect grammar is very bazzar.

Hunterrose,

Yes, the idea that someone sacrificially buying me lunch cannot be a value to me does seem highly questionable. That's why I created this thread and posted a competing theory.

Also, I don't really think it matters what they would do with their money should I not allow them to buy me lunch. The fact is that they want to buy me lunch instead of sell me lunch or buy themselves dinner. The purpose of this thread is not to establish the altruism to self-interest ratio of particular people throughout my life. Rather, it is to establish the superior course of action when confronted with this type of behavior by weighing the pros and cons of accepting their gift against those of refusing it.

As for your analogy with giving to charity; what I am attempting to do here is to establish the proper course of action in a very specific context. I am not attempting to create a categorical, be all and end all answer to the issue of giving gifts. Of course there are many contexts in which it is perfectly rational - ie: self-interested - to give something to someone without expecting anything specific in return. I have already mentioned one in this thread. I mentioned that it was appropriate for my co-workers to buy me lunch during my first week as a way making me feel welcome.

Instead, what I am discussing is situations in which someone is fully aware that they are giving me something that I don't need and that they don't intend to derive any type of value - regardless of how broad or narrow it might be - as a result of giving it to me. I've pointed out that my co-workers are aware that I have food to eat even though it is not the same food they eat. I've also pointed out that when I have accepted, they have made no attempt to gain anything from me - dispelling the possibility that having lunch with me is a way of getting to know me (they have all but ignored me).

With this evidence in mind, it's quite obvious to me that instead of wanting to keep me from starving to death so that I can keep coming into work or better understanding my personality, what they are really doing when they offer is satisfying an unanalyzed sense of duty to include everyone in what they believe is a communal activity. I suppose that they assume that I wish to be included in this commune and so they feel obligated to offer. Eating lunch together has nothing to do with work and thus has no personal value to them aside from the pseudo-value of fulfilling a sense of duty.

DavidOdden,

I don't suspect that they are trying to lure me into their religious beliefs. I just think that it's their religious beliefs that creates that sense of obligation that I discussed above.

Your idea of trading food for thought is a good one. Once I have a better grasp on their appetite for ideas, I will decide if this will be something worth proposing.

AtlasShrug9,

Values are objective. Feeling good about something does not necessarily qualify it as good for you. In fact, it doesn't qualify it at all. An individual's emotional estimation of something has no bearing on how it will actually affect them. A given object or action will affect a given individual in a specific way regardless of how he feels about it. Simply the feeling itself tells you tells you nothing about the object. Your judgement of something being good or bad, if you are judging objectively, consists of only thoughts and is devoid of emotion. Good and bad describes a relationship between you and something else. In order to understand that relationship, you must first understand what the thing is as well as who you are - including your emotional tendencies. Of course it is possible and desirable to align your emotional reactions to your conciously held estimations of things, but this doesn't just magically happen.

- Grant

[edit]: Grammar <_<

Edited by ggdwill
Link to comment
Share on other sites

AtlasShrug9,

I just reread your post and finally understood the point you were making. I've heard it before so I apologize for not recognizing it sooner. Loosely, speaking you're correct. In a psychological or emotional sense noone really does anything for purely altruistic reasons. However, because altruism exists, it has a specific definition and that definition doesn't include anything about emotional benefit for good reason. Proper ethical codes have to assume full psychological health since their purpose is to guide actions and not necessarily thoughts. No matter how secretely self-interested someone might be, altruism is when someone performs a purely selfless act and there is no net gain. It matters not why someone behaves as altruistically just as, to use an extreme example, it matters not why someone committs murder; they have still behaved unethically.

Ironically, I suppose the central question that I'm trying to answer by creating this thread is if I'm better off suffering the psychological detriments (to myself [hypocricy] as well as to the giver [delusion]) resulting from me abetting altruistic acts and capitalizing on the existential benefits. Or should I avoid the existential detriment of me refusing them since if I do, they're likely to eventually go to another altruist anyways (not to mention further delusioning two people now instead of just one) . Once I find the answer, I should know which policy to adopt.

- Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, I don't really think it matters what they would do with their money should I not allow them to buy me lunch.
You say that, and yet
Or should I avoid the existential detriment of me refusing them since if I do, they're likely to eventually go to another altruist anyways
you're still using that premise as an argument for eating their lunch. If it truly doesn't matter, then it's neither a reason for or against accepting their charity - it should be discarded from your theory. OTOH if how they'd alternatively waste their money is a reason to accept their charity, then it does matter - and the premise should be questioned.

What I am discussing are situations in which someone is fully aware that they are giving me something ... and that they don't intend to derive any type of value as a result of giving it to me. I've pointed out that my co-workers are aware that I have food to eat even though it is not the same food they eat. I've also pointed out that when I have accepted, they have made no attempt to gain anything from me - dispelling the possibility that having lunch with me is a way of getting to know me (they have all but ignored me).
People can tell a lot of things about other people without explicit conversations. They know that you occasionally accept charity, that you do so with some apparent unease, (presumably) that you are not so extroverted that you take over the conversation at lunch and aren't making great efforts to ask their motivation for buying you lunch, etc. Depending on their MO, all of this knowledge can be of use and worth the price of a few sandwiches. And given that you are leaning toward continuing to accept their charity and lunchtime company, it's not exactly like they have to move quickly in getting to know you...

Ironically, similar evidence could "prove" that you are a moocher. You take their lunch even though you have your own and are gaining nothing (except their goods) from their company. I wouldn't think this proves you to be a moocher, anymore than I think you've evidenced your coworkers to be sacrificial.

What they are really doing when they offer is satisfying an unanalyzed sense of duty to include everyone in what they believe is a communal activity. I suppose that they assume that I wish to be included in this commune and so they feel obligated to offer. Eating lunch together has nothing to do with work and thus has no personal value to them aside from the pseudo-value of fulfilling a sense of duty.
Don't assume that it's done out of duty or obligation. In fact, test it. Next time they offer you lunch, confess to them that you actually do have some money to eat out, but you, being more intelligent than them, choose to use your money wisely. But if they wish to continue wasting their funds, you feel you are morally justified in obliging them. If these coworkers truly are sacrificial, the fact that you are suddenly condescending and crude will have no affect on their sacrifice, right? It's not like the fact that you would appear to be unworthy of friendship would matter to someone who is acting out of obligation.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rarely, if ever do people "act" for no reason, or a reason that does not give them some benefit be it emotional, physical or financial. Nor can we as inherently logical beings.

While this is somewhat true, it does not accurately describe altruism or demonstrate that it doesn't exist. Altruism occurs when someone sacrifices greater value for lesser value. It's not sufficient to say that some act has some reasoning to it, or that a person gains some benefit from it, for the act to not be altruistic. Also, your assumption seems to be that someone necessarily gains something emotional, even if they don't gain materially. People with a duty-bound mentality may be simply avoiding guilt rather than gaining happiness when they throw that dollar in that hat of the homeless man. Avoiding the negative is not the same as gaining the positive.

Edited by RationalBiker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hunterrose,

This whole business about me supposedly contradicting myself in regards to how they would otherwise spend their money is only because you conveniently omitted from your quote of me the following, qualifying sentence: "The fact is that they want to buy me lunch instead of sell me lunch or buy themselves dinner." While I [edit]could[edit] have been more precise and stipulated that should they not buy me lunch, this entire topic would be moot since there wouldn't be any altruism (or alleged altruism, if you like) to discuss. But since I said the sentence that you quoted in this thread, I figured that that would be rather obvious. Any confusion or disagreement we might have regarding this comes from a belief that you've attributed to me that someone can be "altruistic." I haven't used that word or stated that belief because, well, I don't believe it. Instead, I believe that certain specific actions can be motivated by altruism - even in an otherwise totally self-interested individual - and that those actions are being undertaken to assuage a fuzzy emotion rather than a concious desire. This is why that emotional urge, should I refuse to abbett it, will likely find relief in the stomach of another altruist playing the part of recipient. That should iron out any supposed contradiction between the use of my theory in my response to your previous post and my restatement of the theory itself.

Moving on, I am impressed with your observation that should I be able to conclude that my co-workers are altruists when it comes to their lunching habits, I should be able to conversely prove that if I were to accept, I would be a moocher. However, I think a more serious consideration would be why this sudden bout of skepticism is warranted. Is it because this particular example is inadequate despite the fact that I have given quite alot of evidence to support my belief that these people are altruists when it comes to food? I am not prepared to say that the questions that you raise are not without merit. Since I do not know any of these people well enough yet to conclusively say that they are food socialists, nothing about this example should impact the deeper theoretical structure under discussion. You do agree that altruism exists don't you? As I said in earlier posts, while psychologically it may not, existentially it is alive and well in nearly every corner of our culture. Consider this: should someone mistakenly, as a result of inadequate attention, believe that by behaving benevolently toward another that they will ultimately derive a greater benefit and ends up just wasting his time. Does that qualify as altruism? Isn't that the mistaken rationale behind just about every major social program in this country? Or should I assume that 1/2 of the people in this country, who vote Democratic, are conciously evil?

Lastly, speaking from personal experience, your suggestion to test it can become ugly very quickly. It is my contention that actions motivated by altruism, since they hold an unwarranted position of moral superiority in our culture, are not customarily met with resistance. Should they be, the bearer of gifts - believing falsly that the only alternative to altruism is contravention - will passionately denounce your worthiness to recieve his gifts. Of course this flies in the face of his other belief, which you stated, that it is not anything except my need (eg: to be included) that makes me worthy. But this is to be expected since altruism, being an irrational notion, is, well, irrational.

Would my co-workers denounce me as a sociopath or would they do the Christian thing to do an give me their food anyways? I don't know. But as I've said, the purpose of this thread is not to guage the altruism to self-interest ratio of particular people I know. The existence of altruism as a concept and practice will not rise and fall based on the amount of time the people I know spend being altruists or being capitalists, much less their emotional makeups.

- Grant

Edited by ggdwill
Link to comment
Share on other sites

- Grant

"In a psychological or emotional sense noone really does anything for purely altruistic reasons."

Thanks for responding to my little grammatical issue. I do not think there is a conspiracy involved. I just believe that people are insensitive to the issue or were just not paying attention when the use of relative pronouns was taught as well as the distinction between living beings and inanimate objects.

Regarding whether there could possibly be a truly altruistic person I did once meet a woman who was so utterly imbued with the notion of being unselfish and so determined to be other oriented that she literally never allowed herself to think in terms of "what do I want?" She lived with her married sister's family and just filled her days with doing things for her family with no wishes or dreams or career plans of her own. Sad.

I did post a link to a video telephone called an Ojo created by WorldGate Communications www.wgate.com which is worth a look especially if you have a loved one who lives at a distance. WGAT stock closed at just $1.54 last Friday. I own a few shares because it has enormous upside potential, a few deals in the works with telecommunications companies, cables and telcos and VOIPS literally all over the world. Let me know if this sounds interesting.

galt

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just believe that people are insensitive to the issue or were just not paying attention when the use of relative pronouns was taught as well as the distinction between living beings and inanimate objects.
Since you raised this point again, I would like to explain the actual rule. The wh-forms are required for nonrestrictive relative clauses, using "who" for humans and "which" for non-humans (including plants and animals). With restrictive clauses, you have the option of using "that" as well (regardless of animacy). The option is grammatically free, but stylistically guided by questions such as parallelism and "texture" (non-repetitiveness), with a preference (but not a requirement) to use the wh-form in high written style. His use of "that" conforms to that rule; whereas if he had said "My mother, that taught me my values....", that would be a grammatical mistake.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This whole business about me supposedly contradicting myself in regards to how they would otherwise spend their money is only because you conveniently omitted from your quote of me the following, qualifying sentence: "The fact is that they want to buy me lunch instead of sell me lunch or buy themselves dinner."
I didn't mean you were contradicting your theory, rather that you were using an argument that "didn't matter" to help validate the theory. And I omitted the quote you refer to because (I think) earlier you said you had no problem accepting lunch from friends, people who you know value the person you are. Given this, I would think that an issue (in terms of the theory) is not that the coworkers (like friends) may buy you lunch, but that the coworkers (unlike friends) may be sacrificing for your sake in doing so.

You do agree that altruism exists don't you?
Rarely, but yes. In terms of the coworkers, I suppose they could be motivated by "altruism" if
  1. they are doing it without any intended gain whatsoever
  2. they are doing it for the sake of some heavenly gain
  3. there is something in their value system that they consciously realize would be a better use of their money

I think a is extremely, extremely rare, even among religionists. I suppose it could be b if lunchtime conversation seem to be restricted to Jesus-safe comments. The third seems problematic in proving, and actually seems to be an aspect of the first (and also rare.) There's a lot of b altruism (if it can be called altruism) but I think the other two are much rarer.

Would my co-workers denounce me as a sociopath or would they do the Christian thing to do an give me their food anyways? I don't know. But as I've said, the purpose of this thread is not to guage the altruism to self-interest ratio of particular people I know.
Beyond gauging a person's ratio, if you acted nutty and they stopped offering you lunch (don't try this at home :dough: ) then it's not likely that this particular situation qualifies as altruism, but is actually more along the lines of acceptable lunch-offering that friends do. I don't see how it could be a or c altruism if they stopped offering lunch, and if they were motivated by b altruism, they would have more reason to reach out to you the more surly you became. Edited by hunterrose
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't mean you were contradicting your theory, rather that you were using an argument that "didn't matter" to help validate the theory.

I fail to understand how this is any different from claiming that I have contradicted myself. If my theory was an attempt to describe reality (it was), and then I claimed that a certain fact relevant to this theory "didn't matter", I have basically claimed that theory is both true and false at the same time. Although I have already explained that this is not what occured, this is what you alleged.

Regarding the topic, in your break down of different types of altruism, what strikes me is that you seem to think that the existence of "altruism" seems to exist apart from the altruist. As I have pointed out in earlier posts, no one is motivated by altruism itself. As history has shown, even those who completely understand it are not motivated by it. Instead, the ethical beliefs that most people are motivated by, because they have not sufficiently analyzed and rejected them, result in altruism taking place. It does not matter whether the giver knows that he's behaving altruistically (which, in his mind, is called "as a Christian") or believes that he is helping himself (to get into heaven, perhaps) by helping me, the action is what it is and, overall, it helps no one.

Yes, by sitting and talking about something like philosophy and how to apply it I would improve the overall performance of the business, but these people cannot possibly know what value my extended presence in their lives during an hour long lunch break can be. Optimistically, I hope that they are attempting to get to know me better so that a more pleasant working environment can be cultivated. However, aside from the few akward times where I've "sneered" them and left to go home for lunch, our working environment is great. We communicate effectively and everyone is responsible for their work. So if they believe that by getting to know more of the details of my personal life (which, for the record, is not something I'm opposed to - it's just that I'm more financially and nutritionally concious than they are) will benefit them in the form a better working environment, they are mistaken - which still constitutes altruism.

- Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our working environment is great. We communicate effectively and everyone is responsible for their work. So if they believe that by getting to know more of the details of my personal life will benefit them in the form a better working environment, they are mistaken - which still constitutes altruism.
If getting to know a person often improves a great working environment but they do not realize that you are an exception, how can attempting to gain an improved working environment constitute altruism?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If getting to know a person often improves a great working environment but they do not realize that you are an exception, how can attempting to gain an improved working environment constitute altruism?

I pointed out that by getting to know me they are not improving their work environment. The fact is that even if they feel like it would help, it won't - and it might even take away from the working environment since, from what I know of them personally, many of our interests, opinions, and values clash.

Thus, as I have said, simply believing that something will benefit oneself does not wipe out that fact that when practiced, it constitues self-sacrifice.

- Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please correct me if I'm wrong. You are saying that getting to know you cannot succeed in a goal of improving their work environment, therefore their actions are self-sacrificial? But that doesn't make sense.

Playing the lottery isn't self-sacrificial (even if I don't win) because within the full context of my knowledge, there was an existential possibility that the numbers I picked could win.

Buying lunch for someone in order to improve my work environment isn't self-sacrificial (even if doesn't succeed with this particular person) because within the full context of my knowledge, there was an existential possibility that the person I invited could result in success.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hunterrose,

Yes, there is a chance that you could win the lottery. However, there is also an equally real, and overwhelmingly greater possibility that you will not win. This is what makes the lottery irrational in the context of the average person's life. While it may not be a waste for Bill Gates to buy a ticket, to most people the value of $1.00 weighed against the infintessimle possibility that they could win the lottery makes playing a virtually blatant act of irrationalism. Regardless of how much they fixate on the possibility that they could win, the fact is that the most likely will not.

Analogously, while yes, it is possible that by getting to know me better, the working environment would be greatly improved since I do bring alot to the table. I possess a unique perspective on alot of things as well as a relatively rare ability to integrate the details of a situation into not only the big picture of the "bottom line", but into the much bigger picture of the business' impact upon the psychological and spiritual lives of those who work for it. However, they could not have know this on my 6th or 7th day on the job regardless of how much they fixated on the possibility (which, I can tell you just from observing them, was not the case). So it must have been something else (ie: religious beliefs that preach a responsibilty to share with others) that motivated their offer.

- Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I notice that you did not say whether playing the lottery constitutes altruism. Does it?

If it does not, what's the difference between buying lottery tickets and buying lunch?

If it does (because of a small chance of success and/or it matters what they would otherwise do with their money?)... does pursuing anything with a small chance of success also constitute altruism?

I do bring alot to the table... However, they could not have know this on my 6th or 7th day on the job... So it must have been something else (ie: religious beliefs that preach a responsibilty to share with others) that motivated their offer.
They could know that there was a small chance.

And remember, you're not presenting evidence that they are religious, rather saying that there is no evidence that they are acting out of non-religious motivations...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aside from the fact that the government runs the lottery in order to fund entitlement programs, playing it does not constitute altruism. The difference between buying a lottery ticket and buying lunch is that, regardless of how minute the chance of winning may be, at least when playing the lottery you know what you will receive when and if you do win. When it comes to my co-workers buying me lunch however, they have no idea of the jackpot sitting right across the table from them. Even if I waved it in front of their faces, they still would just think I was anti-social and, when it comes to how material wealth should be distributed, odd. The only difference would be that instead of it being sensed subtley, it would be made one of their explicit opinions.

But all of that aside, like I've said, the specific circumstances of my workplace and the contents of my co-worker's minds does not answer the deeper question that I created this thread for. Altruism is any action done for the purpose of fulfilling anything other than one's own actual self-interest. Literally, altruism is "other-ism". This does not limit the "other" to simply other people. It may be for the sake of some irrational idea. That the most common irrational idea that people sacrifice for happens to be personified into a diety matters not. So even if while paying hommage to that irrational idea, they are expecting something in return, what is ultimately fueling it is a sense of altruistic obligation to, for example, Christian principles.

Lastly, in defining altruism, the issue of chance should play no part. It could be reasonably demonstrated that in some aspects of life, with the proper minimum of knowledge (eg: what the possible outcome will be) it is in one's interest to take a risk. On the other hand, it can be shown, if not believed, that - as is true in the vast majority of chance taking activities - taking chances is not in one's interest. Now I'm not saying that to imply that you should never talk to anyone or never go on a date, but if you do, you should generally know what to expect if you succeed, and if your expectations are realistic.

- Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...