I Did a Good Thing But Only to Make Myself Feel Good
Alex the Younger
1585

I admire your thoughtfulness and your effort and I look forward to seeing how the journey proceeds. I do, however, take issue with a few points.

You seem to couch altruism and egoism as a battle for survival, as though to deny oneself food in favor of another is the chief field upon which these decisions play out. I’ll grant you those are plausible, extreme cases but throughout much of the world, and especially in the US, that is not remotely the norm.

Rather I would lay down the ethical challenge for all of us to start to choose someone else’s welfare before our own in non life-threatening situations. I’d argue that disrupting our norms of comfort and fear are the real sacred, personal cows in our lives and a much more appropriate place to judge humanity’s ethics.

I’d also suggest that both altruism and egoism can and do effectively embed pragmatism into how we carry them out. In a crowded, burning building, an altruist might very well see the benefit of being the first to the door to ensure it opens and to lead others to it. Similarly, and egoist might see the value in appearing heroic and make a calculated decision that taking a slight risk to put others first might benefit them tenfold in the end. Your manufactured examples don’t actually capture the complexity of humanity and therefore I found the moral of those stories two-dimensional.

Lastly, I am fascinated with your endeavor because humans aren’t altruistic out of purely self-serving reasons, although I don’t entirely disagree that we are often tempted to see and pursue the benefits that might be available to us. But it is when we truly sacrifice for one another that beautiful human moments arise.

Much of human morality and altruism is guided by a sense of something bigger than ourselves. When we are our best selves we tend to believe that we have a purpose, a mission, or a greater than normal obligation to our fellow person.

I will admit that I think humanity needs to believe in and pursue that ‘greater’… purpose, meaning, being, etc to inspire us to repeatable acts of love and kindness. So… I’ll watch with interest!

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