Instigator
Points: 11

Human Motivations Are Never Selfless

Finished

The voting period has ended

After 2 votes the winner is ...
K_Michael
Debate details
Publication date
Last update
Category
Society
Time for argument
Three days
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
30,000
Points: 9
Description
Selfless: entirely concerned with things other than yourself and your own needs and wants.
Motivation: the desire to act and move toward a goal; a reason for action.
Round 1
Published:
My Theory of Motivation is thus:

1. The Carrot: Involves pleasure seeking. Can be anything from getting money, sex, and food to chasing a high.

2. The Stick: Involves displeasure avoidance. Loss of items or deprivation of feelings considered "good" included. Pain avoidance, etc.

3. Public Image: How others perceive you weighs heavily in the mind of most individuals. This will motivate you to do things in order to be popular or fit in, such as illegal behaviors (smoking, drinking, etc., underage) or even things considered "bad" and would normally be avoided.

4. Self Image: This is mostly morals, how you feel you should act. If you don't act according to your morals, then you generally feel guilt, and when you obey them, you generally feel good for having done so. Actions of sacrifice dictated by your morals are not selfless.

There are two popular theories that also support selfish action:

1. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

2. McClelland's Need Theory

It is Con's responsibility to come up with a better theory than any of these three that includes selfless behavior.

Published:
I think your fourth point ("Self-Image") is off the mark and is crafted in such way to support your argument.  The conscience, moral compass so to speak, is what guides behavior.  It's not necessarily about a person's "wants" or "needs" it's about understanding the difference about what one should do, or what one shouldn't do.  People don't necessarily follow their conscience (i.e. follow their morals)  because they "want to feel better" about themselves.   They do it because they understand the difference between "right" and "wrong".  People demonstrate this every day.

Guilt and joy, while they can be motivators, are purely symptoms of our brains reconciling what we know we should do vs what we did or didn't do.  

1.  The guy that steps in front of a bullet to save a young child, he's not doing it because he wants to feel the "joy" of it-- he's doing it because he knows it's the right thing to do.
2.  The mom who works 2 jobs to support her growing family isn't doing it because she "enjoys" the "joy" she feels, she's doing it because of the good it brings to her family.

You are making an assumption, that there is NOT a 5th element-- doing something simply because it benefits others. Rather, you imply as a truth that the reason folks do something "altruistic" is purely for selfish reasons, because they prefer the joy of knowing they did something good over the guilt of failing to act.  

Granted, when people do things that are altruistic they may often feel "joy" afterwards or during -- that is not to say though, and it would be wrong to say though, that that was the sole reason for them doing it.  

Parents (good parents) practice this all the time.  


Round 2
Published:
Ah.

I've neglected instinct. Maternal instinct, for instance, calls for the protection of children. We see animals do this all the time in nature.
Maternal instinct is not exclusive to mothers, that's merely a colloquialism. 

Humans, I believe, have a "pack instinct" to protect other people. This instinct isn't set in who it covers. Some people will risk their lives for their pets. Nazi's pack instinct didn't cover Jews or homosexuals. French instinct didn't always cover the English or Germans. 

People will subconsciously associate people as being in the same "pack" as them just by spending time with them, sometimes. This is somewhat correlated to Stockholm Syndrome. Sympathy is where you include people into your "pack" because you have shared characteristics. This is the principle behind Nationalism. Associating all your fellow countrymen as part of your pack jus because they are of the same nationality.

Stepping in front of a bullet is generally not a conscious decision, but a split-second reaction. A result of instinct, to protect.


People don't necessarily follow their conscience (i.e. follow their morals)  because they "want to feel better" about themselves.   They do it because they understand the difference between "right" and "wrong".  People demonstrate this every day.

Right and wrong are societal conceptions instilled into you as an infant, and aren't easily changed. For instance, 200 years ago it was "right" for a slave to serve his master without pay. In 1945, Germany, it was "right" to kill Jews. People "knew" that these things were right. But now the boundary of "right and wrong" has shifted. The only constant is that people are motivated to follow their moral "knowledge." 
People follow their moral beliefs because otherwise they, by way of dichotomy, abandon them. If they do not obey what their conception of morality dictates they do, then they admit that they are wrong. And humans do not like to admit that they are wrong, because the socially reprehensible slave owners and Nazis that we have risen above were wrong too.


You are making an assumption, that there is NOT a 5th element
Yes, I am. And you are making an assumption that there is one.
My four points necessarily contradict each other sometimes. Prove that there is an action that contradicts all four, and you have proven a fifth element. Otherwise, I can relegate motivation for that action to one of my four points.

Published:
I've given you the fifth element-- the fact that people do things all the time simply for the sake or benefit of someone else.  

You've listed 4 elements, but didn't necessarily "prove" them-- they are just statements that can either be agreed to or disagreed with.  You agree with them-- they support your theory.  I agree with them as well-- but I also add the 5th element and say those aren't the only 4 motivators.  

I think you nailed it-- stepping in front of a bullet may in fact be instinct....but does that preclude it being a selfless act?  I don't think it does.  

The point of your initial argument is that we don't do things (i.e. motivated) out of "selfless-ness" (benefiting the "other"), but rather out of "selfish-ness" (benefiting the self).  

The "stepping in front of a bullet" scenario may in fact be instinct, but I could argue it's a "self-less" instinct as much as you could argue it's "selfish" a one.  And even if you were to say it benefits the pack, I would counter and say "Exactly!  It benefits the group/pack as a whole, not necessarily the 'self', therefore it's not a selfish act.  And if it's not a selfish act, then that means it's a self-less act".  

Thanks for your explanation of "right" and "wrong".  However, it does not discount my argument that people do things out of what they perceive to be right / wrong, instead of how it benefits themself(selves), regardless of how "right/wrong" are determined.  If you believe your explanation discredits my argument, I'd like you to show how.

I believe the "stepping in front of a bullet" scenario contradicts your four points.  As a recent example, let's use the sad case of the Kendrick Castillo, the brave young man who tackled the assailant and helped stopped the Colorado shooting, but was killed in the process.  This is all conjecture mind you, but logically, some of these motivators just don't make sense in specific instances.  
 
   - Carrot - eh....I'm willing to guess he wasn't seeking pleasure when he tackled the guy
   - Stick - eh, i'm willing to guess he was doing it to avoid pain.  Sure you can argue he did it so he would avoid the pain of him being shot, but I could counter with maybe he was actually doing it so that others would avoid the pain, not necessarily him?
    - Public Self-Image - again, conjecture, but I doubt he was thinking "Hmmm, I'm going tackle this guy and save people because I want to be perceived as a hero.".  Sure, there are those who do it, but again, i would counter, there are those who do it and that thought doesn't even cross their mind.
    - Self-image - this is probably your strongest motivator (not mine), but i would argue it may not necessarily be the motivator.  Your argument is that people obey their morals because they want to feel good, not feel guilty.  Again, I would argue-- not necessarily so.  People may do things simply because it's the right thing to do-- not for the "joy" of feeling good about doing good.  Again, I find it hard to believe that this guy would risk/give his life for others because he wanted to "not feel guilty" but rather "feel good".  I believe he did simply because he knew it was wrong to kill others.  And I'm having a hard time following your logic that when we do the "right" or avoid the "wrong" we do so for selfish reasons....






Round 3
Published:
You've listed 4 elements, but didn't necessarily "prove" them-- they are just statements that can either be agreed to or disagreed with.
See, you have only made statements as well. You don't know what thoughts Kendrick Castillo was thinking when he tackled that man.
I would like to suggest that it may have been instinct. You have probably heard of the "Flight of Fight" response to threats. Most creatures will seek to get away from a threat or eliminate it. This fits his actions. Fight or Flight, by the way, is a self-preservation instinct.

stepping in front of a bullet may in fact be instinct....but does that preclude it being a selfless act?
Instinct is an unconscious act. It has no conscious motivation behind it at all, which means that it is neither selfish or selfless. I would call it arbitrary, but that would be inaccurate. For now, I'm going with "impulse action."


Published:
Not necessarily-- as I stated, "Fight or Flight" may not necessarily be a self-preservation tactic....the "flight" yes, but not the "fight"....People may 'fight' for another reason than preserving "the self" . 

And again, I stand by statement-- "instinct" does not automatically equate to "self-ish".  
Round 4
Published:
People may 'fight' for another reason than preserving "the self" . 
You are correct. For instance, I might fight someone to get a possession of mine back, especially if I had an emotional attachment. Fighting to protect people goes back to the pack instinct. self-preservation is not the only form of selfish action.

 "instinct" does not automatically equate to "self-ish".  
As I already said,

Instinct is an unconscious act or urge. It has no conscious motivation behind it at all, which means that it is neither selfish or selfless. 
My claim is "Human motivations are never selfless," which doesn't strictly mean all human motivations are selfish. That is a false dichotomy, also called the black and white fallacy

as I stated, "Fight or Flight" may not necessarily be a self-preservation tactic
We're back to the "you only claim this, you can't prove it" portion.


Published:
But now I think you are stretching the definition a bit, if you are making the claim that fighting to protect others is a selfish act? 

Also, Regardless of being conscious or not, or an urge, an instinct is still a motivation, correct?  

You say "instinct is an unconscious act or urge.  It has no conscious motivation, which means that it is neither selfish or selfless"

Perhaps it would be prudent now to insist on some definitions.

     How would you define "selfless"?
     How would you define "selfish"?  

Round 5
Published:
Let me make it clear that Kendrick Castillo did not tackle the shooter in defense of others as far as I can tell. The Fight or Flight response is a "physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival." [1] The point of his "fight" is that he wanted to eliminate the threat to his person, as I already stated.

Here are my definitions.
Selfless: entirely concerned with things other than yourself and your own needs and wants.
Selfish: entirely concerned with your needs, wants, and self.

 Regardless of being conscious or not, or an urge, an instinct is still a motivation, correct?
Yes, they are. But as I already made clear, conscious thought is required to make a motivation selfless or selfish, which is why I said instinct is neither. My definitions (which I've had since before you accepted the debate, look in the description, so I didn't change them to fit my argument) require a concern. Concern is conscious, not automatically felt like instincts are. 

My four points necessarily contradict each other sometimes. Prove that there is an action that contradicts all four, and you have proven a fifth element. Otherwise, I can relegate motivation for that action to one of my four points.
Add on unconscious instinct as a fifth motivator, and find me a single action that isn't motivated by one of these five. If it doesn't fit any of them, then it by definition has a selfless motivation.


Published:
Sorry not buying it.  I don't think "conscious thought" is a requirement for determining whether an action is selfish or selfless.  That may be YOUR definition, but again, i'm not buying it.  You said you made it clear-- actually no, you didn't.  You simply stated conscious motivation is required to deem an act selfish or selfless, and assume I agree with this premise.  I don't agree with it -- and repeating it again won't convince me either lol.  

Concern isn't necessarily "conscious".  Sure if you are using the word as somewhat synonymous with "aware" , then perhaps you can stretch it to that.  But you didn't say that in your initial description, only in your follow on argument(s).  Whereas I can counter and say no no no.....concern means "related to", which has no implication of "consciousness".  

Therefore, using my interpretation of "concern", If an action is related to the self, it is "selfish", whether or not the act-or is aware (conscious) of it or not.   Likewise, an action related to someone else is self-less, whether nor not the person is conscious of it or not.

With that being said, there is no 'middle ground"-- an action is either selfish or selfless.  

Therefore it follows that if an action is not related to the self, then it is not selfish, and by default must be selfless (there is no middle ground).  

Examples of such actions including the giving of one's life for someone else.  These can, and often are, selfless actions.  

Now, regarding Kendrick Castillo, perhaps you are right.  Perhaps he did it to save his own life.  But there are numerous instances of people risking/giving their lives for others every day (cops, fireman, etc).  They do it not because their own life is in danger, but because others lives are in danger.  
Added:
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Instigator
#2
Added:
There's no true altruism is an interesting but non-falsifiable hypothesis. I ultimately take the side that it's without significance if good people do good because they enjoy it.
#1
#2
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
This was actually a really interesting debate. I would say that both sides did very well here in framing the outline of their argument.
For me, this boils down to whether con can find a specific example of a selfless act performed by humans.
The example he chooses is someone taking a bullet for a child. (There are a variety of related sub items con touches upon). Con points out that the individual likely isn’t thinking about what they will gain, but the other individual benefit.
The definition pro gives (albeit late) for selfless is:
“Selfless: entirely concerned with things other than yourself and your own needs and wants.”
From here, the back and forth is about automatic reactions and whether they constitute a motivation - whether they are selfless or arbitrary. I don’t necessarily think that an reaction like diving in front of a child is necessarily unconscious or thoughtless - but this doesn’t really play out in the debate so I won’t consider it.
The conspicuously missing definition in this debate is “motivation”, and the back and forth between pro and con really all stems to the difference between their interpretation of motivations.
If “motivation” is either conscious, or means the direct reason for performing an action, then this goes to con.
If I am to accept motivation as more of an inherent or indirect cause for why the action is considered then I would chose Pro.
For example - jumping in front of a bullet as con points out is not some for joy, or motivated by direct benefit - but the instinct likely has some degree of inherent indirect conferred benefit. IE: the reason that the instinct exists is to assist long term survival.
For me, what this boils down to is some very basic interpretations that con gave me, and that covered in the definitions.
Con spelt or that there is no direct benefit conferred for dying for a child. The scenario seems pretty clear cut - sacrifice yourself for someone else. This appears on its face altruistic and inherently selfless. That pushes me towards con.
The definition provided by pro is that selfless is a where your not concerning yourself with your own benefit. This seems more in line with what Con is arguing - that an instinctual behaviour isn’t focused on the self - and can be considered selfless.
On top of this, without much in the way of detailed discussion on what motivation mean, I feel the implicit definition pro seems to use is a bit too tenuous for me to accept.
For these three reasons, I am pushed over to cons side, and will award him arguments.
Very interesting debate though guys.
#1
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
Sources to Pro. Con uses 0 and doesn't even back anything he says up with anything other than his own extensions on the matter. Pro uses links to psychology websites and academic '.edu' websites in a very efficient way relative to Con in order to back up the notion that there exist two valid theories of human motivations. The Needs theory is more important to this debate as it backs up Pro's idea that continues for the other Rounds that even when we fight immediate impulse that seems selfish, we are being selfish for the long-term benefit of how we feel about ourselves and our self-image in the eyes of others as a means of power etc.
Con does nothing but ask Pro questions and then expand on Pro's answers... What I mean is, Con is literally helping Pro to make his (Pro's) case better, for the entire debate, even helping Pro by insisting that human instincts are not selfish.
I know what Con was trying to do, it was the only interesting way to fight this debate as Con. Con was trying to do the inverse of what most 'Con'-sides do here. Most Con debaters argue that instinctive, impulsive and brutal needs/wants are selfish while the extension of our need to feel good and better than evil scum isn't itself selfish. Con in this debate instead tries to reverse the burden of proof and explore how/why anything is selfish in the first place. Pro does the reverse to Con, asking how anything is selfless and Con could have gone into Buddhist and Taoist philosophy to explore the concept of a person consciously removing the 'ego' despite still being alive and present mentally but doesn't explore that at all.
Con was basically hosting a talk show where Pro was the interviewee and Pro performed adequately indeed.