Can anybody do something without self interest at heart?

One of the many economic debates of Smiths free market systm is that no one can do something without self interest. Do you think that someone will do or has done something purly out of his/her nature that does not include self interest at heart. I will reveal my views as the topic grows. Be careful with this one… not as easy as you may think.

if i knew that africans would forever be leeching off of my charity work and there was no possible way that they would ever come around and be a completely harmonious contributor to the world, then i think i would think twice about donating a lot to help them smile.

however, im pretty sure that whatever harmonious contribution they end up making wont happen while im alive most likely. i can imagine that i can go over there and build neighborhoods and nothing good will happen to me as far as money is concerned. it feels good to help people, but there is no reason why unless you accept that helping people is good first. it doesnt feel good if you think they are going to stab you in the back, it only feels good if you consider them no less than unlucky versions of yourself.

would this smith fellow say that my anti-capitalist economic plan, one that utilizes the relatively unrewarded contributions of the members of the Bureau of Reasearch and Development, would he say that this idea is doomed to failure because all people are intrinsically lazy and if they have excess brainpower they will use it only to find betteer ways to masturbate?

does smith assume that the behavior of the rich today is indicative of the way human begins actually are? would he say that it is impossible, or unfeasible to find people to run the R&D Bureau who will use their brains instead of their hands? if YOU were on this bureau, and you would not be specifically rewarded for using your brain in an average way, only if you excelled beyond your fellow commitee members, would you stagnate?

if you were being paid a standard salary to sit around and think of ways to make the world better, and the world was already good, would you just give up and sit on your ass and do nothing? or would you join the normal, non-brained lazy people in their manual labor? your a very different person from me if you would.

I was going to see where this topic went as it can go in many directions… but my view is as such… I have not found one person who does not do something out of self interest… Even someone like Ghandi or say Martin Luther-King. As they wanted to make peoples lives better which would make them happy. No one would do something to make themselves unhappy. (See topic on happiness in Philosophy (brainiac one)).
To put it another way… If they didn’t want to make other people happy they never would have tried to make them happy in the first place.

Smith says the only Human chatactistic we can trust is self interest. Altough compasion and love is something admirable they do not remain constant in all humans.

My phylosphy on life is that making other people happy makes me happy. Therefore that is my self interest. (Altough this is my philosophy I do not see myself of any political stance)

So can anyone really have no self interest at heart???

(my first topic :unamused: )

I think there’s always a danger in labelling all actions as self interested as you tend to miss the point of the definition in the first place. It’s the intention behind the act, are they doing it for an immediate gain at the expense of others or are they doing it just because they want to help at the expense of themselves. The former is selfish, the latter is not selfish.

The problem with that idea is that someone can act selflessly to deliberately derive a long term gain, say someone who deliberately gives to charity in order to gain popularity, but wouldn’t have if there were no gain from it.

However there is a distinction there as the act is intentional and does not have a selfless attitude, in other circumstances they would not act selflesly.

To determine self-interest we must first determine what the self is.

didn’t we just do this whole discussion? “altruism is the best kind of selfishness”?

Dave dear, one’s nature constitutes one’s self interest at heart, the two are NOT mutually exclusive therefore, one cannot do something that is in one’s nature and not in their self interest or at their heart. Even when someone does something for another at the detriment of oneself, even then one is looking at the overall best interest at heart and therefore it is something in their own best interest at heart.

but…maybe sometimes you have to do it without self interest, that’s not what you wished

Hi Dave,

Difficult one to call really. A question that I would ask myself in certain situations …am I making other people happy or just perpetuating the problem ?

Example - Feeding the homeless might be a noble cause, but wouldn’t it be a better option to get them work and housing. Surely the best solution to any problem is one where the problem doesn’t exist anymore.

Well then we should just kill all the homeless. They literally would cease to exist. Hell, we could use their corpses to feed the hungry… two problems solved!

I should run for office… maybe in Germany, circa 33.

but hitler not only wanted to kill the homeless, he wanted to kill the (jewish) rich and steal their wealth to redistribute to the “workers” of germany



How do you defend your self when its necessary, without self interest. Thats the only good type of self interest.