Posted: August 29th, 2013
Altruism can be described as a state of being selfless towards helping others. Altruism from a normalperspective is quite usual; however, altruism may be attributed to many factors (Froh, Fives, Fuller, Jacofsky, Terjesen, &Yurkewicz, 2007). These give rise to the genuineness of altruism acts and hence, questions arise as to whether people behave selflessly. It is also questionable whether people help others out of real concern for their well-being or there are other motives. Helping others can be motivated by the need to feed ones ego in the sense that the act of helping elicits good feelings. This is egoism as it is specifically aimed at making an individual feel good about oneself due to the act. Empathy is described as the ability to understand another person’s difficulties and can be a reason for altruistic behavior (Reis, Maniaci, Caprariello, Eastwick, &Finkel, 2011). Helping others can also be attributed to the need of avoiding self-guilt because of avoiding to help others. Thus, it is implied that altruistic behavior takes place because one aims at helping oneself instead of helping the one in need. Current theories are based on egoism in that, people act towards helping themselves in the end.
Summary of Arguments
In the first argument, the psychologists argue that people at times help others for purely altruistic reasons. This is because they feel empathetic to other people. In the second argument, the psychologists argue that the main reasons for altruistic acts are not empathy but mainly due to their own personal gratification. In the argument, the main reason as to the cause of these altruistic acts is egoism. Whereas individuals help others with a view that they will eventually feel good about themselves or evade guilt, it is also good to appreciate that there are those who help because people need their help.
Evaluation of Argument 1
Altruism exists because empathy plays a significant role in helping those in need as it acts as a motivator to help the one in need. Thus, its aim is to help the one in need. This is according to the first argument. Egoistic behavior can also account for acts that seem to be altruistic in nature in the sense that they are mainly focused at reducing the guilt of oneself if such an action was not taken. Thus, if altruistic behavior might be viewed as only egoistic in nature then there is no clear link between empathetic emotions and the altruistic motivation to help others. Egoistic motivations can be defined as the motivations that lead to helping others while expecting something in return (Nier, 2002). For instance, there ate those who receive help from individuals in return for certain favors, especially in terms of money. Altruistic motivations can be described as motivations that lead to altruistic acts, with an aim of helping the one in need.
Three perspectives emerge from the differences between egoism and altruism, firstly helping behavior can be either egoistic or altruistic. Secondly, motivation to help others can be both altruistic and egoistic. Finally, altruistic behavior may give altruistic results; however, this may give rise to egoistic feelings in the sense that an individual gets a sense of satisfaction from such an act or he/she may do the same in order to avoid feelings of guilt (Reis, Maniaci, Caprariello, Eastwick & Finkel, 2011).
Motivation cannot be directly stated as egoistic or altruistic from one single reaction but from a series of reactions. Thus, an individual should be compelled by the need to help even if thoughts of avoiding the situation were existent. This is only if the motivation for feeling empathy was associated with altruistic nature. People are more likely to identify themselves with people who they feel they share an identity and thus they are able to feel more empathy than those they do not know. Empathy simply increases the egoistic urge to help others.
Evaluation of Argument 2
Challenges arise when it come to evaluating whether behavior should be used as a basis for concluding that motivation underlying it is egoistic or altruistic. Altruism suggests that the ease to escape from a situation plays a very important role in the determination of the helping role of individuals motivated by egoistic nature. On the contrary, high empathy and egoistic concerns are easily forgotten by the altruistic need to relieve the victim off his suffering, thus highly empathetic individuals help, regardless of whether they can remove themselves from the situations or not. In relation to selfless altruism perspectives, the high level of goodwill of people occurs due to their empathic states, which motivates them to help the victim with little regard for personal gains, or egoistic behavior that would reduce the level of help or aid (Nier, 2002).
However, this sadness may also be for the fact that they would like to reduce the sadness in themselves. In addition, empathy, sadness, and distress are all negative feelings, which are intertwined, but are all distinct in their role to helping. In the research by Bateson and Coke conducted in 1981 ( Nier, 2009), empathy is brought about by the increase of sadness caused by high empathy individuals witnessing others in need. That help is egoistic in nature with the aim of reducing stress temporarily. In order to test these claims, it would be fit to separate the individual’s feelings of sadness from the empathetic nature that is thought to bring sadness. This was clearly shown in the first experiment.
On the other hand, the second mood related test showed that individuals showed great sadness due to their situations. This would be erased if rewards such as money were presented to them and they would become less sad than their counterparts who had not received any rewards. These outcomes support the fact that the issue of rewards would erase the sad mood, but not the empathy of the subject individuals for those in need. This contrast proved that empathetic acts could also result in egoistic nature.
“Does true Altruism Exist?’’
Altruism exists in different individuals due to their very different personal attributes. Thus, the studies sought to explain the relationship between empathy and egoism. The first argument clearly showed that empathy exists in different individuals. The second argument shows that individuals help others for entirely selfish reasons, that their altruistic acts are often due to guilt and not the sense of being entirely sorry for another person’s situation. It would be easier to say that individuals help others for their own selfish reasons, thus altruism does not really exist. The main reason for this rationale is the fact that many people only help others for reasons other than being truly altruistic; they are avoiding either their own guilt or they just want to feel good about them.
Charitable nature has been at the very heart of inquiries. Both philosophical and psychological establish whether a charitable act is a nature in itself or is it an act that is carried out with expectations of reciprocation in whatever means. Thus, individuals depending on their personal nature carry out altruistic acts. Hence, it is nearly impossible to explain the cause of benevolence fully by any scientific means whatsoever.
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