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Thread: Does selfishness come always from fear?

  1. #1 Does selfishness come always from fear? 
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    For example, you kill for money? That's because you are selfish, therefore you are afraid of being poor. You kill for fun? You are selfish therefore you are afraid of being bored. You steal? Selfish and you are afraid of poverty again. You rape? Selfish because your pleasure is your priority therefore you are afraid of being bored again.
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    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    I suppose one could stretch the meaning of the words to make it seem that way, sure. However, it is IMO a stretch. They're different things, fear and selfishness, and I don't think one causes the other. I think it's a false choice you've presented, like asking "do Tuesdays always come from bananas."

    Selfishness is basically an unhealthy and exaggerated sense of self-protection, often coupled with a lack of empathy and/or compassion for others. Fear is an evolved motivator to protect ourselves, enhance our survival, and alter behavior in specific way. There is overlap in the two concepts, but I'm not seeing the causative relationship you're here suggesting.


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    inow has largely rejected your idea through the application of common sense and personal observation. I suggest - but cannot be assed to invest the time to confirm - that you would find a vast volume of literature on psychology, from virtually ever school of thought, that firmly establishes that your idea is mistaked. (Don't you just hate those run-on, paranthetic sentences that you have to think about to understand?)
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    Forum Bachelors Degree 15uliane's Avatar
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    What about selfishness out of personal gain. Spite?
    You can say that that isn't selfishness anymore, but as inow pointed out, "...one could stretch the meaning of the words to make it seem that way..."
    I can prove anything if the definitions are freely adjusted to suit the argument, and I can also disprove anything.
    The official definition is:
    Selfishness: devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/selfishness
    You can care only for oneself without fear- selfish just for personal gain, but not of fear of loss, or because you want to annoy someone.
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    thanks for your reply, but can anyone reading this forum make any practical example where you can be selfish without fear?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myuncle
    thanks for your reply, but can anyone reading this forum make any practical example where you can be selfish without fear?
    Where to begin?
    1. I am selfishly going to observe that you have the brains of a jackass, because it makes me feel marginally less frustrated than trying to convince you politely that you are wrong. This is selfish because in this action I demonstrate I don't give a flying wombat about your feelings, bu tonly about my own. (And there is certainly not an ounce of fear associated with any of that.)
    2. Yesterday I discouraged a colleague from their preference to eat out at a restaurant rather than in the hotel. No fear anywhere. I just didn't feel like walking a block to the restuarant and I wanted to eat an item I knew was on the hotel menu.
    3. Yesterday I briefly deviated from my planned teaching schedule to tell the class an amusing story because it is one that always get a great reaction, which makes me feel good, but doesn't really help them learn anything relevant.

    I could go on, and on, and on, and on, but frankly I don't want to, and I still can't detect anything akin to fear in my decision.


    And why have you posted virtually the same question again here:
    http://www.thescienceforum.com/viewt...074&highlight=

    That is probably against forum rules and is certainly rude. What are you afraid of?
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    I would selfishly like to sit here reading the science forum, but I have to go to work because I selfishly want to get a paycheck a couple of weeks from now. Yes, I do fear what would happen if I didn't get the paycheck. However, I don't see anything particularly sinister about it as you seem to do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    I would selfishly like to sit here reading the science forum, but I have to go to work because I selfishly want to get a paycheck a couple of weeks from now. Yes, I do fear what would happen if I didn't get the paycheck. However, I don't see anything particularly sinister about it as you seem to do.
    Why do you think it's selfish to get a paycheck? I think it's absolutely normal, I don't see any selfishness.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Freshman G3n3r4lch13f's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Where to begin?
    1. I am selfishly going to observe that you have the brains of a jackass, because it makes me feel marginally less frustrated than trying to convince you politely that you are wrong. This is selfish because in this action I demonstrate I don't give a flying wombat about your feelings, bu tonly about my own. (And there is certainly not an ounce of fear associated with any of that.)
    I would Disagree.
    First of all, I don't know why this guy 'has the brains of a jackass' because he's posing a reasonable question.
    As for your example, I would say that there is fear behind it.
    Its important to remember that 'fear' doesn't just refer to being afraid of big animals. I think this has more to do with fear in the sense of anxiety. Anxiety, if you check wikipedia, includes 'worry, uneasiness and dread', which I think all relate to the general concept of 'fear'.
    You say that you're going to selfishly observe that this guy is a jackass, to get around the problem of your increasing frustration. Frustration would be a negative outcome for you. You are 'fearful' of it. Obviously this is a small fear. A fear that you could deal with facing, but don't.
    Maybe the problem is deeper, though. Its possible that you want to be an asshole because you're afraid of letting people in to meet the real you. Maybe you have some sort of internal or external image to uphold, and you would be afraid to not appear an asshole. Or hell, maybe this idea goes against some foundation in your own beliefs, and you're 'afraid' to acknowledge something that disagrees with what you think.
    2. Yesterday I discouraged a colleague from their preference to eat out at a restaurant rather than in the hotel. No fear anywhere. I just didn't feel like walking a block to the restuarant and I wanted to eat an item I knew was on the hotel menu.
    You act in your own self interest. You are afraid of not getting your way, which may be a large fear. You are afraid of walking a block because you don't get enough exercise, which would be a very small fear.
    3. Yesterday I briefly deviated from my planned teaching schedule to tell the class an amusing story because it is one that always get a great reaction, which makes me feel good, but doesn't really help them learn anything relevant.
    Maybe because you're insecure about what your students think about you, and you want to make them like you. Maybe because you like talking about yourself to others because you think it validates you as a person. Maybe you have students who are potentially dangerous, and you want to be on their good side.
    I don't know the situations or you, so I cant reasonably determine the cause of your actions. But I would say in your psyche, there's fear triggering your selfish actions.
    The way I see it, selfishness is the conscious choosing of the least negative event. You try to avoid negative events normally, as not doing so would probably lead to death within 24 hours. But when contrasting self-interest with other people, selfishness becomes involved. I would say that this is also where the ego comes into the situation. The protection of the ego is tantamount to the protection of oneself. And so if one is concerned for their own well being, even in slight ways like stealing a candy bar, there is fear of the alternative negative outcome (not having delicious chocolate).

    The fairest example I could come up with for this idea is a scenario. You're on a game show. Someone random has been given a hundred million dollars. You are allowed to take all of it from them, or let the other person have all of it.
    If one choses to take the million dollars for themselves, I think this could be considered an act of selfishness.
    There is no negative personal outcome to not taking the money. There is a very large positive outcome if the money is taken.
    But the neutral option now becomes negative in relation to the huge positive outcome. One could either be set for the rest of their lives and live rather luxuriously, or could go back to their mundane existence of working everyday to pay the bills.
    If a person was completely satisfied and comfortable in their lives, they would more likely turn down the money than someone who is unsatisfied or poor.
    Now there is a clear negative outcome and a positive outcome. Either one can relinquish this opportunity, and loose it forever, or they can take it. Fear of the loss of the opportunity, and the ramifications of that, would dictate the selfishness.

    You could say that the person is simply focusing on the positive outcome. This is a valid point. But you know as well as anyone that contrast must exist. 'Good' doesn't have any meaning without 'bad'. The positive outcome has no meaning without the negative outcome. Selfishness has no meaning without fear.


    TL;DR:Fear is the internal avoidance of bad things from the outside world. Selfishness is the exertion of oneself into the outside world, without concern for the outside world. The lack of concern for the outside world comes from fear of it. If one was not afraid of the outside world, they would feel more comfortable treating it nicely. Think of it like the relationship between Isreal and Iran. It's their mutual fear of each other that causes them to rather sharply dislike each other.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by G3n3r4lch13f
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Where to begin?
    1. I am selfishly going to observe that you have the brains of a jackass, because it makes me feel marginally less frustrated than trying to convince you politely that you are wrong. This is selfish because in this action I demonstrate I don't give a flying wombat about your feelings, bu tonly about my own. (And there is certainly not an ounce of fear associated with any of that.)
    I would Disagree.
    First of all, I don't know why this guy 'has the brains of a jackass' because he's posing a reasonable question.
    As for your example, I would say that there is fear behind it.
    Its important to remember that 'fear' doesn't just refer to being afraid of big animals. I think this has more to do with fear in the sense of anxiety. Anxiety, if you check wikipedia, includes 'worry, uneasiness and dread', which I think all relate to the general concept of 'fear'.
    You say that you're going to selfishly observe that this guy is a jackass, to get around the problem of your increasing frustration. Frustration would be a negative outcome for you. You are 'fearful' of it. Obviously this is a small fear. A fear that you could deal with facing, but don't.
    Maybe the problem is deeper, though. Its possible that you want to be an asshole because you're afraid of letting people in to meet the real you. Maybe you have some sort of internal or external image to uphold, and you would be afraid to not appear an asshole. Or hell, maybe this idea goes against some foundation in your own beliefs, and you're 'afraid' to acknowledge something that disagrees with what you think.
    2. Yesterday I discouraged a colleague from their preference to eat out at a restaurant rather than in the hotel. No fear anywhere. I just didn't feel like walking a block to the restuarant and I wanted to eat an item I knew was on the hotel menu.
    You act in your own self interest. You are afraid of not getting your way, which may be a large fear. You are afraid of walking a block because you don't get enough exercise, which would be a very small fear.
    3. Yesterday I briefly deviated from my planned teaching schedule to tell the class an amusing story because it is one that always get a great reaction, which makes me feel good, but doesn't really help them learn anything relevant.
    Maybe because you're insecure about what your students think about you, and you want to make them like you. Maybe because you like talking about yourself to others because you think it validates you as a person. Maybe you have students who are potentially dangerous, and you want to be on their good side.
    I don't know the situations or you, so I cant reasonably determine the cause of your actions. But I would say in your psyche, there's fear triggering your selfish actions.
    The way I see it, selfishness is the conscious choosing of the least negative event. You try to avoid negative events normally, as not doing so would probably lead to death within 24 hours. But when contrasting self-interest with other people, selfishness becomes involved. I would say that this is also where the ego comes into the situation. The protection of the ego is tantamount to the protection of oneself. And so if one is concerned for their own well being, even in slight ways like stealing a candy bar, there is fear of the alternative negative outcome (not having delicious chocolate).

    The fairest example I could come up with for this idea is a scenario. You're on a game show. Someone random has been given a hundred million dollars. You are allowed to take all of it from them, or let the other person have all of it.
    If one choses to take the million dollars for themselves, I think this could be considered an act of selfishness.
    There is no negative personal outcome to not taking the money. There is a very large positive outcome if the money is taken.
    But the neutral option now becomes negative in relation to the huge positive outcome. One could either be set for the rest of their lives and live rather luxuriously, or could go back to their mundane existence of working everyday to pay the bills.
    If a person was completely satisfied and comfortable in their lives, they would more likely turn down the money than someone who is unsatisfied or poor.
    Now there is a clear negative outcome and a positive outcome. Either one can relinquish this opportunity, and loose it forever, or they can take it. Fear of the loss of the opportunity, and the ramifications of that, would dictate the selfishness.

    You could say that the person is simply focusing on the positive outcome. This is a valid point. But you know as well as anyone that contrast must exist. 'Good' doesn't have any meaning without 'bad'. The positive outcome has no meaning without the negative outcome. Selfishness has no meaning without fear.


    TL;DR:Fear is the internal avoidance of bad things from the outside world. Selfishness is the exertion of oneself into the outside world, without concern for the outside world. The lack of concern for the outside world comes from fear of it. If one was not afraid of the outside world, they would feel more comfortable treating it nicely. Think of it like the relationship between Isreal and Iran. It's their mutual fear of each other that causes them to rather sharply dislike each other.
    Great post, I tried to debate with this forumite but there is no point, he's too rigid to listen, maybe he's got an untreated personality disorder, I feel sorry for his pupils and I will ignore him. "Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience." (this quote is a great example of self-defence rather than selfishness)
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  12. #11  
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    Ah. Finally a new tactic in the forums. Someone makes claims. Several people show the flaws in those claims, offer refutation, and ask questions. The same poster returns to suggest that those leveling criticisms are rigid, close minded, and somehow inferior.

    Nope. Never seen that before. Not once. How creative of you. Totally fresh with that approach. Ignore criticism, avoid questions, evade rebuttals, and instead attack the person making them. Shit. How very clever. I wish I'd thought of that.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by G3n3r4lch13f
    I would Disagree.
    First of all, I don't know why this guy 'has the brains of a jackass' because he's posing a reasonable question.
    I had hoped it would have been apparent that I was using rhetoric to make apoint. At that time I did not think MyUncle had the brains of a jackass. Indeed, I did not even say he had the brains of a jackass. I stated I was going to declare he had them as a simpler means of dealing with his posts than exploring them in detail. Why? Because in taking that action I could readily assert that no fear was involved.

    Now you say MyUncle asked a reasonable question, but if you examine the OP, especially in the light of his subsequent posts, he is not asking a question, but making an assertion. More than that he is making it very strongly and he will not countenance disgreement with this whether it take the form of direct rebuttal, or demonstration. To my way of thinking that rather suggests he may indeed have the brains of a jackass.

    Quote Originally Posted by G3n3r4lch13f
    As for your example, I would say that there is fear behind it.
    Its important to remember that 'fear' doesn't just refer to being afraid of big animals. I think this has more to do with fear in the sense of anxiety. Anxiety, if you check wikipedia, includes 'worry, uneasiness and dread', which I think all relate to the general concept of 'fear'.
    You say that you're going to selfishly observe that this guy is a jackass, to get around the problem of your increasing frustration. Frustration would be a negative outcome for you. You are 'fearful' of it. Obviously this is a small fear. A fear that you could deal with facing, but don't.
    Sorry, GeneralChief, you are taking meanings of meanings to make your point. I am not afraid of big animals. I am afraid of many other things. I recognise the fear factor when it occurs. I was most definitely not afraid of potential frustration. Frustration is a different and also undesirable feeling. I prefer to avoid frustration, not because I am afraid of i, but because I dislike it.

    Quote Originally Posted by G3n3r4lch13f
    Or hell, maybe this idea goes against some foundation in your own beliefs, and you're 'afraid' to acknowledge something that disagrees with what you think.
    It's much simpler than that. The guy is talking crap and he deserves to be called on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by G3n3r4lch13f
    2. Yesterday I discouraged a colleague from their preference to eat out at a restaurant rather than in the hotel. No fear anywhere. I just didn't feel like walking a block to the restuarant and I wanted to eat an item I knew was on the hotel menu.
    You act in your own self interest. You are afraid of not getting your way, which may be a large fear..
    I'm not afraid of getting my own way in a situation like that. If my colleague had mounted a strong objection it wouldn't have been a great inconvenience to me - hardly anything to be afriad of. I just preferred doing it my way. Will you tell me you don't prefer to doing some things your way? Are you seriously going to contend that in each case you were afraid? That's the hypothesis of MyUncle and it is contradicted by personal experience, personal observation, discussion with friends and realtives and a mountain of psychological literature going back more than half a century.

    Quote Originally Posted by G3n3r4lch13f
    1.Maybe because you're insecure about what your students think about you, and you want to make them like you.
    2.Maybe because you like talking about yourself to others because you think it validates you as a person.
    3.Maybe you have students who are potentially dangerous, and you want to be on their good side.
    4.But I would say in your psyche, there's fear triggering your selfish actions.
    1.No. They already like me. They enjoy the stories. They help create a positive and relaxed atmosphere in class. Those are the rationalisations for why I tell them. The underlying reason is that I enjoy story telling.
    2.Of course it does. We all do that. Nothing to do with fear (which is negative) but peer acceptance (which is positive).

    I'll stop right there. I suddenly occurs to me that you should read up about Hertzberg's motivators/demotivators and Maslow's heirarchy. Maslow is an essentially positive view of the human psyche. Hertzberg is mecahnical and negative. You are coming across as Hertxbergian. Read up on both, then tell me your reaction.

    I tried to debate with this forumite but there is no point
    You made no effort to debate at all. You made an assertion. You were offended when two or three people disagreed with your assertion. You then flunked out entirely when presented with a counter argument. It appears - amateur psychology warning - that you are motivated a lot by fear and so assume everyone else must be in the same boat.

    We aren't.
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    This thread sure belongs in Philosophy, where there is no end to argument.

    Yeah Selfishness does come from fear, and an infinity of other motives
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    Like I said on another one of your "_____ comes from fear" posts, avoid generalizations.
    For some people selfishness may come from fear but for others it can come from other sources. A more correct statement could be "selfishness sometimes come from fear".
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    Quote Originally Posted by 15uliane
    Like I said on another one of your "_____ comes from fear" posts, avoid generalizations.
    For some people selfishness may come from fear but for others it can come from other sources. A more correct statement could be "selfishness sometimes come from fear".
    As I already asked, can you make any practical example where you can be selfish without fear?
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    I decree that selflessness always comes from fear. Fear of rejection, fear of burning in hell or not going to heaven. My logic is flawless. I will listen to no counter argument and deny any examples put forth of selflessness without fear. (/sarcanism off)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    I decree that selflessness always comes from fear. Fear of rejection, fear of burning in hell or not going to heaven. My logic is flawless. I will listen to no counter argument and deny any examples put forth of selflessness without fear. (/sarcanism off)
    Well, that's a very selfish thing to say. I bet you were scared when you said it to.[/facetiousness]
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myuncle
    As I already asked, can you make any practical example where you can be selfish without fear?
    You have been given multiple examples by multiple posters. you have been directed to the literature on the subject of motiviation. If you are still to dumb to accept any of this then go get a brain transplant.
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  20. #19  
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    One could argue that the opposite of selfishness (altruism) does not exist. That every act always comes back to something the actor profits from.

    i see a homeless person, i give him money, i feel good about myself giving him money.

    A mother feeds a child, the child stays healthy, the mother doesn't have to live without the child or with the pain of losing it.

    as with all things it's not as black and white as portrayed here, yet if this is the case then the omission of altruism in itself constitutes grounds for selfishness without it needing any other reason to be.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teb
    One could argue that the opposite of selfishness (altruism) does not exist. That every act always comes back to something the actor profits from.

    i see a homeless person, i give him money, i feel good about myself giving him money.

    A mother feeds a child, the child stays healthy, the mother doesn't have to live without the child or with the pain of losing it.

    as with all things it's not as black and white as portrayed here, yet if this is the case then the omission of altruism in itself constitutes grounds for selfishness without it needing any other reason to be.
    It might be that everything we do is selfish, and altruism is just a word, and idea, I hope we all agree that when we talk about altruism we mean something opposed to selfishness, something that you do even if it's not convenient for you, when you sacrifice yourself even if you don't like it. For example if you sacrifice your life for others or you give up lots of money you feel rewarded mentally, but at the same time you are doing something not convenient for you materialistically. So being altruist it's nothing but a positive selfishness, that's why when I say selfishness I mean only the bad kind, "greed" in other words, I am not talking about the positive kind, the self-defence or self-respect. We have to love ourselves otherwise we can't even help the others.
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    I suppose you could twist most things to have fear as the root of a selfish action. However, looking at it realistically, does one overeat because of fear? I do not believe so, they do it for the pleasure. They do it not because of fear, but also just because they see themselves as being more important, their desires more important.
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