I stumbled across this video the other day and I find it truly agreeable.
Just like what my friend and I were discussing the other day, I do believe that there is very little room for the existence of altruism. By definition, it is the unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others. Now, taking into account the concept of Causality, every act therefore corresponds to an effect. It is unacceptable to say that one is doing something “for no reason” or ” purely out of selflessness and righteousness”. By saying so, the person’s ability for reasoning becomes questionable (note Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum). Considering all these, I do believe that we do things not necessarily because it is what is considered as right (note that rightness is also subjective). It is quite evident that our actions can easily be traced back to personal interests.
For example, I would converse with a friend (cause) and in turn he shares his thoughts. Even though the situation seems quite indifferent, and I’m probably unable to realize it immediately, I was actually expecting to benefit from her thoughts (whether I agree to them or not) by starting the conversation in the first place.
By saying this, one can infer that we are all just acting based on our personal interests. However, I do believe that what matters most is how the act is reciprocated. For example, going back to the example I’ve given, I can share more of my thoughts to her (which also has the possibility of being beneficial for her) and do this in order to once again open up the possibility of her sharing more of her thoughts which I might also benefit from. Thus, it becomes a cycle of overlapping personal intentions. Some other examples are helping out a friend and in turn achieving happiness and self-fulfillment; and doing favors to achieve recognition and acceptance.
By saying so, altruism indeed seems to be simply another hypocrisy. However, what delineates the justification of all these actions are the means. I give something in return for what I have gained, and I gain something because I gave something in return for it. This reminds me once again of the Golden Rule “Do not do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.” Other factors like claiming that one is acting based on altruism or perhaps the benefits of the action on both the sender and receiver is unbalanced (e.g. exploitation) can affect the morality (which is also subjective) of an action.
Thus, I would infer that Altruism can only exist in a dimension devoid of the concept of Causality. In such a dimension, your actions won’t produce any effects so therefore, self-interest is cancelled. Thus, actions based purely on altruism will be possible.
Now, of course I won’t say that I wrote this down out of sheer altruism. I’m quite aware that I’m doing this in order to open up the possibility of benefiting and learning from your thoughts as well. Now, don’t you think by responding to this, you are also opening up possibilities of benefiting from me too?