Altruism Is Bullshit

in anthropology •  2 years ago 


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My lazy google search on the term identifies altruism as

"disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others." "some may choose to work with vulnerable elderly people out of altruism".

When it comes to the rest of animal kingdom the only kind of altruism we can observe is reciprocal altruism and this is usually an adaptive behaviour that happens to favour one specific species. For example vampire bats feed the younglings of other bats instead of their own. The bat who doesn't follow the behaviour, has her own offspring starve to death. This is as far as reciprocal altruism goes in consistent group behaviour and very few species exhibit it. Humans do not exhibit such altruistic behaviour on a group level.

Altruism in humans is rather a social perception rather than something that can be clearly defined. Most people consider altruistic acts some actions that involve helping others. This false perception occurs because we choose to focus on the act rather than the process upon the act comes to be.

Everyone has emotions, feelings, existential baggage that come into play when something is played out. If for example you grew in an environment where cats were considered pets then you will feel good taking care of them. Same applies to rats in some temples in India. Contrary In the west we kill them or feel disgusted by them because of sanitary reasons. In other words, culture is key in regards to how we perceive something upon which we act altruistically.

When we help someone we feel good because a surge of hormones along neurotransmitters flood our brain, giving us a sense of satisfaction. This is an instinctual mechanism that is also reinforced from culture. We are build with a specific blueprint to act a certain way because it benefits us as much as it benefits the group. Sometimes the scales are tipped towards our person and some other times towards the group.

A lonely lady with limited human contact might find herself drawn towards other animals such as cats. In general, pets often serve as an emotional substitute in place of human bonding. Helping a specific species of dog or cat makes you an altruist as much as spraying mosquitos makes you a killer. We can surely argue about sentience in other species but we will end up in an endless argument that will revolve around our inability to actually be other species and perceive the world through their own physiology. In other words, our altruism, yet again, is a reflection of our own feelings.

Which brings us to perhaps the most dreaded word of english dictionary: Selfishness. We are all selfish, whether we like it or not. First and foremost reason is that we aim to preserve our own self and our genes. A mother will protect her young and put herself on the line not because of altruism but because of selfishness towards preserving a fresh copy of her DNA. A hero soldier will sacrifice himself for the group because survival instincts and cultural conditioning programmed him to do so. Every single act of altruism gives us rewards one way or another and while it might be strong for some it might no be for others. Judging someone on his sense of "altruism" is similar to judging someone for being depressed. We are all different and our reactions to the environment can vary greatly based on our physiology and upbringing.


The glorification of the term altruism is nothing more than the poor understanding about how the human species operates. We will help others only when we have our asses covered. If we find ourselves going the extra mile is because of some cultural upbringing or even religious belief that aims towards a specific behaviour. On a daily basis, when we strip away the outlier cultural impact, we see individual human beings acting for their own self interest and helping others when it benefits the whole group — including ourselves. This is why many proclaim that the world has gone "corrupt". We judge others based on specific situations without examining their whole history — yet we are ready to judge ourselves positively because we are aware of our own history. The perception of altruism is nothing more than the sum of ignorance about other people's histories — a cultural narrative that aims to enhance the way we interact with each other.













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There is no such thing as altruism. Its always nature vs nurture and on first sign of distress, the so-called "civilised society" creates its own food chain.

There is no such thing as altruism if you insist that 'feeling good' after doing good is somehow making it all selfish.

Interesting view, indeed.

I wonder how high feelings are traded on the market today.

The views are solely based on my perception. Altruism is a term which has long lost its meaning. Obviously doing good will create a good feeling. I put up my word which might seem like an interesting view, but actually it is a contextual view. Altruism is something that is not part of current context, seemingly on account of priorities. I have not seen (in my limited observation and timeline) incorporation of altruism on a massive scale. Ground reality is that there are no informal rules that govern interaction between common people, and so i put up the word food chain solely to account for survival in such environment.

You say: 'I have not seen (in my limited observation and timeline) incorporation of altruism on a massive scale.'
Now it sounds like you say that there is altruism, only not on a massive scale?
I am confused...

I have my point of view, which is not necessarily to be agreed upon by others. There is a difference between an atheist and agnostic pertaining to belief in existence of god. Analogous to agnostic belief, i belief that existence of altruism is unknown to me. So, i do not belief in it, but i am not telling others not to believe in it.

Adoption of altruism is highlighted only in media primarily by UN and through Peace initiatives of Noble prize winners. I was very clear and used the word context in illustrating its application. The word limited timeline is because i have not seen the world from its inception and is limited by my age. Similarly, the word limited observation accounts for limited places i have lived till now. Evidence based reasoning implies that sample size in which altruism is practised is small enough to represent total population. Since, if i have not seen the evidence, than i would infer that it does not exist. I am unable to correlate relationship between altruism and unfortunate events such as mass genocide and ethnic cleansing at same time. I do not have evidence to support its adoption on mass (which is for whole population), since there are plenty of evidences that contradict its existence rather than supporting its presence.

Fair enough. This makes more sense than: 'there is no such thing as altruism.' as you stated above. Thank you for the clarification!

I want to clarify that the phrase There is no such thing as altruism is my point of view and its unknown existence in the context does not make me to believe in it. I stand by, what i initially posted since posts are representing my point of view (unless hacked !!).

Of course, i am not challenging belief of others (as i put above with the difference between an atheist and agnostic). Simply put, i do not believe in it although i am not challenging its existence.

If things exist, can their existence be challenged?
Does it matter if you believe in them, will that make them nonexistent if you don't believe in them?

The effect of saying I don't believe in altruism although I am not challenging its existence is contradictory, as nothing is more challenging to something's existence than presuming it to be a matter of faith to begin with, regardless of what your claim to the faith is or how much you can attest to the faith, in other words you cannot challenge it's existence any more than saying I do not believe in it..

I think what you want to say is that you don't believe it exists on a global scale, which is fair.

Well, I guess you know I pretty strongly disagree with you on this matter. While you make the point, and it is true, that for acts for which we receive no earthly benefit besides feeling good about what we did, we still get the endorphin rush, I reckon that qualifies as altruism. It's as selfish as much as making a penny on a trade of $1000 is selfishness.

You define self interest so broadly that there is no possibility of any act conceivably being possible to view as altruism.

The problem is, you are so dead set on proving there is no altruism that you see selfish causes that are far more egregious than actually exist. Many of the amplifications on your theory that only selfishness exists I know to be incorrect, because I exemplify their opposite.

"We will help others only when we have our asses covered."

I recently almost got an eviction notice because I gave someone a place to stay for 10 days or so, without any monetary compensation, or compensation of any kind, even of housework. I did it because they were on a tough road.

They did little but eat and sleep for 10 days, and I glad I did it (got my endorphin rush), because they clearly needed some good food and rest. I got my landlady and neighbors calmed down, and it all seems like it'll work out for the best.

That's all the reward I need, and rather than only doing so when I had my ass covered, I put my neck on the chopping block to do it.

So, what you say may be usually true, but it isn't absolutely true.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I suffer from compulsive altruism. I feel compelled to help others. I know I'm not gaining anything from it except the slightest reduction in guilt. But even then I admit that this isn't complete, disinterested selflessness.

Upvote my post then. I have compulsive receiver of altruism.

I am also addicted to altruism, but it is not good for me, so I am trying to be more selfish. Trying to help the group or tribe is only harming me. I think many people are finding nowadays that altruism leads nowhere except exploitation, so they are becoming selfish in response. This can explain the explosive growth of the MGTOW and WGTOW movements.

One needs to keep in mind that it is individuals that need help, not agreements between people, which is what groups are.

Also, maintain boundaries, and you will be harder to exploit.

Even the most cynical asshole can be exploited, by using their selfishness against them. 'The Sting' starring Paul Newman showed exactly how this can be done. Being good to folks doesn't make you an easy target, as long as you never lend what you can't part with, and maintain good sense.

You do. You feel good. Consider hormones and neurotransmitters like drugs and your act as payment.

I did a quick Google Search for the next thing I'm opening my big ignorant mouth about

The selfish bastard only did that to feel good afterwards! What a egomaniac! :)

This world is shit, there is nothing good outside being involved in schemes and making money, and life is constant torment and a realists admits that. No, I'm single.

In a state of fear, selfishness is the Modus operandi. The more the fear is faced and overcome, the more we are capable of looking out for others. Obviously someone who is feverishly trying to survive in a oh so scary world will not be able to care about others.
You seem to believe that everybody is in such a state of fear. You are wrong. I weep for you.

You make some great points. I would also add that when it comes to politicians and celebrities, their interest in certain causes is completely selfish. They are doing it to garner admiration and publicity to help themselves in their careers.

There is also the fact that welfare has become a cottage industry in the US and the wealthy people that own or invest in companies that provide goods and services to the "poor" (aka people that don't work) are making massive profits by siphoning the money out of working people's pockets into their own under the guise of "Helping people".

A good deal of that money also flows into the pockets of these politicians via campaign donations (aka legalized kick backs).

The wealthy and famous people in the US run in the same circles, attend the same parties, and their kids attend the same schools. They know each others. It's like a private club where they get together and make believe they are the saviors of the world and great people. The rest of us, including the people they claim they love and need to take money from us to "help", are not fit to mingle with them in their minds.

I cannot disagree with you regarding politics. I reckon that what a politician says is the exact opposite of what they're doing. Very few times have I been wrong about that.

"... the "poor" (aka people that don't work)"

Ahem, this is bullshit. I'm poor, not because I don't work. All kinds of reasons, which I'm not gonna air here, but the most relevant reason is that I don't need much, so pass on what I don't need. My kids already inherited such wealth as I had once, and I ain't gonna take any with me when I shuffle off this mortal coil. What the hell do I need more than what it takes to keep me fed, clean, and online for?

I work plenty. It's not lack of work that makes me poor, and I know plenty of other folks that work full-time jobs and are below the poverty line.

Perhaps you've never tried to raise a family on minimum wage. It isn't easy, and not everyone has the capacity to pull phat banc. Also, some folks get screwed outta money.

FYI, I have been an accredited investor, so I can pull phat banc. I just no longer care to.

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The alternative to altruism is 'rational egoism', also called objectivism, which is the philosophy Ayn Rand preached, in my posts you can see daily phrases of her, in case you are interested.. upvoted & resteemed!

Maybe it's just common decency that should be the order of the day.. no motive... just because its the right thing to do. Nice post.

Good of you to define some very nebulous terms as strictly determined universal psychological factors in your terms. We don't need no steenking dictionaries, or textbooks, or previous philosophic explorations.
So, selfishness is written code, but altruism isn't?
Or vice versa?
Or the click-bait of labeling something "bullshit" just might be ...."bullshit"?

Yeap based on the biological and dictionary definition. You can argue otherwise

Great post @kyriacos.... Thank you for share.
Best.gif

Altruism has never existed apart from a false perception people have of human action. I don't see how being self-interested or what has mis-categorized as "selfishness", is not self-evident.

The glorification of the term altruism is nothing more than the poor understanding about how the human species operates. We will help others only when we have our asses covered. If we find ourselves going the extra mile is because of some cultural upbringing or even religious belief that aims towards a specific behaviour.

I otherwise agree with your post but I'd say that the glorification of the term altruism is part of that cultural upbringing that motivates us towards the specific behaviors that our cultures consider altruistic. In other words, it is useful bullshit that motivates constructive behavior.