Raheel Lakhani

Educational Technologist,

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Would the habit and so the crux of 'selflessly' spending on others destroy if we start 'expecting' that it would bring happiness?

My dad recently became eternal. All his life he used to do this. I guess the compassion and selflessness which is attached with the act is what brings happiness. Though you expect nothing in return but it does pay off in form of better relations and therefore, the other person also goes out of the way to help u. Even God helps you through people or otherwise. That's my dad's magnificient life story :)

However, I am just concerned that when people would know causal effect of spending on others on your happiness then if we would start spending on others while expecting something in return, we would not be happy and also act selfish. Therefore, some variables are needed to be established. More than that, it is the act of giving which should provide us happiness and not the other things :)

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    Apr 26 2012: This draws upon the eternal question of whether altruism, in its purest form, actually exists in us.

    I don't think it does - and the reasons why, do not in any way devalue acts of giving:

    There has to be an expectation of something in return for a giving act. The question is whether that expectation is in the form of material goods or money - or whether it is an emotional reward. One is a business or bartering transaction, and the other is of an infinitely higher value, benefitting the giver and receiver in ways that cannot be measured in any tangible way.

    What looks like altruism, is still probably not, because something - however nebulous it may seem - has been received in return.

    In this way, emotional rewards are more likely to lead to happiness than monetary reward because everybody has emotional value to give and receive - but not necessarily money.
    • Apr 27 2012: This may be merely a semantic difference, but I believe it is not useful to define altruism as lacking any benefit to the person acting for others. It becomes a tautology as you define whatever motivated a person to act in a way that benefitted others as a personal benefit and thereby disqualify the act as altruistic because of that motivating personal benefit.

      Instead, I think it is more useful to consider it in terms of your emotional reward coming from helping others; if you do an act for the benefit of another and it triggers an emotional reward it is then altruistic whereas if you do it for some tangible personal gain e.g. money, reciprocity, etc. it is not altruistic. The other way of looking at it seems to define it right out of existence, which really does us no good in discussing the concept, and has the negative consequence of framing what would otherwise be an altruistic act in terms of "selfishness" rather than recognizing that the act is clearly not done for the same type of personal gain as we would expect from truely "selfish" acts.
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        Apr 27 2012: Hi William,

        Yes - good points. You are right that there is a definite danger in defining something like altruism right out of existence. I admit to being pedantic here about definitions.

        From my own point of view, I am put 'on my guard' when someone appears to perform what looks to be a selfless act, but in the sure knowledge that money or material payoff has taken place somewhere in the background. The genuineness of that act is then open to question.

        I wonder, therefore, if a sense of the greater good (the root of altruism) can truly exist in a business setting for instance? What if that same selfless act was performed on a purely voluntary basis, with no sign anywhere of payoff? Would we regard it differently?
  • Apr 26 2012: According to Daniel H. Pink, taking away the autonomy of the act *would* change the outcome.

    In his book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us", there are numerous examples related to money (as a hygiene factor, *not* as a motivator). There are also numerous examples where acts are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.

    I would expect that 'mandated self-less giving' would deteriorate to 'mandated giving' and be experienced as extortion.
  • Apr 26 2012: Your debate question is good for doing a self-exam.........why do want to give?........I ask myself that question always, and if the motive is not pure.......I have to re-examine why I want to give.

    The only way to really feel happiness is when we selflessly give of ourselves, our time, our resources.
    It comes naturally to the giving person........they give to strangers, and to those they feel need what they have.
    They give for no reason at all.

    Sometimes, they have to give anonimously.........in order to keep other's from realizing who the giver is, and for testing oneself that the motive is to help and not for self-glory.

    Very interesting thought provoking question..........I will try to follow what others say.

    Be Well
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    Apr 26 2012: If you give with some expectations for return it isn't giving anymore but business or trade.