RE: virus: (un)selfishness

Wright, James 7929 (
Mon, 21 Apr 97 13:34:00 EDT

Robin wrote:
>Isn't there anyone else on the list who, like me, questions
>the meaningfulness of "ultimate motivation"? Where
>people say things like "every human action is ultimately
>selfish" do they think that is or ever will be testable?<

It may be meaningful; I actually suspect it is testable, and have tried
recently to disprove it. Perhaps I was wasting the effort.

>Now, for *practical* purposes, I think it makes sense to say that some
acts are >relatively selfish, and some relatively unselfish. For
instance, there's a
>difference between giving someone a present that you know they'll really
like, and >stealing something just because *you* want it. Sure, I know,
you can
>say that in the first case you're really doing it because you think that
later you'll >get something back from them, or even because you seek the
selfish pleasure of >seeing their face light up. But that level of
analysis is neither practical in
>terms of helping us with our relationships, not solid theory.<

Some even give gifts to those they will never know. Anonymous giving is
not unknown, even in the U.S. I expect a campaign of flood relief to
begin shortly.

>Now, sometimes we kid others and ourselves about our motives, and I'm
not >saying that we should ignore such concealment. But there's a big
>difference between this and the "selfishness" of wanting to see
someone's face >light up. The latter is selfish only on a particular
view of human nature,
>and I think that view is unhelpful because it conceals such

"Wise up, you're being taken for a fool!" is not hostile advice; it is
someone acting to help you (as they see it). "I'm not fooled, you're
acting in your own self-interest!" is wise when dealing with persons who
may attempt fraud. But to deny that anyone, ever, acts without resorting
in some way to their own self-interest is to deny oneself some of the
most pleasant interactions in existence; sort of like looking at a field
of daisies and seeing only the occasional ragweed, fire ant mounds,
bagworm caterpillars and etc.

>Ultimately, for me, nothing is *either* selfish *or* unselfish, because
the self is a >fiction. But let's face the fact that for practical
purposes the selfish/
>unselfish distinction is useful, and to say that selfishness is all
there is, is of no >benefit to anyone.<

If the self is an illusion, then acting selfishly is following an
illusion to remake reality poorly. When it is within my power, I would
remake reality to ignore selfishness, and kill the illusion.
(Climbing down off soapbox)