Son Huynh


This conversation is closed.

Is it true that we do things mostly for our benefits?

I have stumbled across someone saying that "As human beings, everything we do is because of our own benefits. Even when we choose to help someone, we do it because the kind act brings us happiness."

To some extent it is true. What do you think about this point of view?

  • thumb
    Jul 20 2013: I said to myself, Son, he used the word "our"!

    YES!!! OUR benefits. If I help you, we are then both benefiting. It builds trust. Later on if I did it for only my benefit suddenly the trust bond is broken or slowly fades away depending on the severity. You either start all over or you never trust me again.
  • Aug 19 2013: Very true. I enjoy helping others and it makes me feel good. But there comes a time in life when you relize that you need to slow down and think more about you.If you don't care for yourself no one else will.
  • thumb
    Jul 28 2013: Humans are intrinsically altruistic beings. Children don't distinguish between colour, race, nationality or social standing until influenced by their culture as they age. Babies show empathy when exposed to the distress of other babies. In societies where choices are freely available to us, we choose to show kindness in many instances. Our reasons may or may not be selfish but we find satisfaction in reaching out to another human being, finding rapport as it were.
  • Jul 22 2013: Yes, people "do things"(I think you specifically mean help) mostly because they enioy it and it gives them some sort of satisfaction and I am not opposed to it when considering the alternative which is to not have any kind of satisfaction from the "good deed" that was done and to just mechanically help people.

    The satisfaction that people get is from the sense of seeing that the help that was given has reached the benefactor and has resulted in his "prosperity" (kinda exaggerated) but I hope you get my point.

    Helping people doesn't give any 'positive' emotion only if you're* dead inside.

    That's my view anyway.

    Of-course, my view is by no means involving the help offered to everyone everyday to do mundane process.

    *I am not personally addressing you but I am addressing the guy who shows no emotion when he offers to help someone
  • thumb
    Jul 22 2013: Son, There is certainly some truth in what was said. We do things because .... we can ... we want to .... we need to ... or it pleases us.

    The real reward for teachers / coaches is in watching student grow and develop in mind and body.

    As a matter of fact if I looks at the list and think of a event ... I can match it to can ... want ... need ... pleasing.

    It may be shallow but a case could be made for his point of view.

    However, the inverse is also true ... by some of these acts we can also bring joy to others ... so I contend that the argument is moot.

    Lets call it a win win.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • thumb
    Jul 20 2013: yes, but fortunately most of the things we do that benefit us also help others. If I pick up trash on my street, it helps me but it also helps everybody else.
    • thumb
      Jul 21 2013: Most trash is biodegradable. If you pick it up, how is this helping everyone else? To make the environment which is your environment look neat? I sometimes think, what has trash have to do with anything? What is so ugly about it to a certain extent of course? What if he/she doesn't mind the way trash looks in their yard? You are doing it for only your benefit not having to look at it and think waste. Would it make a difference if it was buried in their yard and you knew about it?
      • thumb
        Jul 21 2013: I'll have to think about it, Vince, most people do seem to agree that trash is ugly, don't they? Why do they think that way, do you know?
        • thumb
          Jul 21 2013: I don't have a clue why many people think the way they do. Maybe what they believe is education is not really education? Hard to tell these days. Profit? I I think many things can be recycled or used for something before it hits a trash can. Problem is that the market for it is nil. I think lol the cost to make the wrapper or bottle it comes in is sometimes more expensive than the product, In the future, 3D printer + plastic bottle= recycling the same piece of plastic many times. Why not do the recycling on site in our own homes on a smaller scale? Woops, there goes another J-O-B. 3 Liter Coke...50 cents! New term for BYOB. However, it will biodegrade in a yard (paper not too long) or go on top of a big pile that one day they will build houses on top of. The only difference is that you won't see it degrading.
        • thumb
          Jul 22 2013: Don't assume, greg dahlen, that you have to defend the positions of 'because it is neat' or 'because it is ugly' because you implied neither of those in your prior comment. There are plenty of reasons why you could have picked up the trash and where it would, at the same time, been beneficial to both you and your neighbor.
      • thumb
        Jul 22 2013: Time it takes for garbage to decompose, Vincent DeVillier....

        Tin can- 50 yrs.
        Aluminum Can- 450 years
        Plastic Beverage Bottles- 450 years
        Glass Bottle- 1 MILLION YEARS


        Biodegradable, yes. In our lifetime, or the next generations, or the generation after that, or the generation after that, or the generation of that.....
      • thumb
        Jul 22 2013: Source:

        "Trash Talkin’

        It is estimated in that California spends 1 Billion dollars annually on litter clean up

        7 Billion tons of debris enter the world oceans annually. Most of it is long lasting plastic.

        An estimated 100,000 sea mammals and turtles are killed by plastic litter every year.

        A sperm whale found dead on a North American beach was discovered to have starved to death because a plastic gallon bottle which it had swallowed had plugged its small intestine. The animal was full of plastic material ranging from other plastic bottles to 12m of nylon rope.

        10 Harmful Effects of Litter
        1.) Litter in the streets and parks can travel through storm drains to bays and oceans, where it harms wildlife
        2.) Litter cost money. Removing litter cost everyone who pays taxes.
        3.) Threat to Public Health. Attracts rats and other rodents and is a breeding ground for bacteria.
        4.) Litter can be a fire hazard.
        5.) Looks bad, and can effect the value of your home and business.
        6.) Can affect local economy, especially in tourist locations.
        7.) Litter breeds other litter. Sends out message that people don’t care.
        8.) Harm or kill wildlife.
        9.) Harms Waterways. Even animal leavings, leaves and grass affect wildlife.
        10.) It demoralizing and disgusting.
    • thumb
      Jul 22 2013: It's good of you to pick up the trash. You feel happy with yourself. Your neighbor might have seen you and been thankful or you might have set an example for a kid on his way home from school. It is an excellent example of what Kant's categorical imperative, specifically the first formulation: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law." Watered down for everyday usage, I would pick up the trash because then everyone would be bound to pick it up as they are bound by gravity to the earth.

      I myself take it for granted that would I do to benefit myself happens to benefit others in many situations. It really is quite fortunate that this relationship exists to the extent that it does.
      • thumb
        Jul 22 2013: although I've never seen anyone else follow my example. But Vince raised an excellent question, Daniel, why do we dislike trash? I suppose in some cases there's a possibility that someone could slip on it.
        • thumb
          Jul 22 2013: Although I'll use the terms trash and garbage, what we're really talking about is litter. It would be totally different for me to take something out of its package, look at the package and think of it as representative of litter, or really as even trash, at that point.

          We dislike trash, because was associate it with dirtiness and disease, which is a scientifically valid association. Human society has been using middens, or trash heaps, for dozens of centuries (they happen to be treasure troves for archeologists since they contain utensils, shells, broken pottery, etc.).

          Disgust is also one of the six basic and universal human emotions ( and disgust is the primary reaction you get from subjecting people to garbage. It also evokes a response from another of the six emotions, anger, since littering runs counter to people's values (such as protecting the environment) and is against the law (at local, state, and federal levels).

          There is also such a thing known as the broken window theory, "The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime." Source:

          So we dislike trash, because it is directly associated with anti-social behavior, while also being correlated to a rise in crime and drop in the value of our homes. Litter prohibits us from taking pride in our neighborhood, because like a broken window it signifies to others we don't care about our neighborhood.

          There is something to be said for the aesthetics as well. We appreciate symmetry, color-cordination, simplicity, complexity, naturalness. There're principles of design governing what appeals to us and litter clashes with them.
        • thumb
          Jul 22 2013: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, by the way. Just because you haven't seen anyone follow your example doesn't mean they haven't followed your example. The influence that some one has on me may not act upon for years until one day...

          And it doesn't mean litter is ALWAYS ugly. I drew a picture in grade school of a bluebonnet (a type of wildflower) growing up through a half-crushed Coca-Cola can someone threw out their car window. Litter may not have any innate qualities we dislike, but of all the qualities attributed to it, most are negative.
  • Jul 20 2013: To the full extent this is true, in prehistoric times humans needed to protect and care for themselves in order to survive, (due to climatic conditions and the very powerful animals they were up against). The humans who ended up helping each other were driven to do so as a result of having genes that released oxytocin (a neuro-chemicle that makes one happy) into their brains whenever they helped someone. The humans not born with this trait died out in the process of natural selection. Basically, Son Huynh, if humans could just help other humans without feeling good, they wouldn't have evolved to feel good whenever they helped another. And by the way, the reason prehistoric humans were never able to rationally determine that, in order to survive, they must help each other like modern humans would was because the rational part of the brain, the neocortex, hadn't existed yet and so the only ones who helped each other needed to have oxytocin released in their brain to want to engage in such prosaically behaviour.
    • thumb
      Jul 20 2013: "The humans not born with this trait died out in the process of natural selection."

      How sure are you about this?
      • Jul 22 2013: I heard this in a Nat Geo documentary. Basically, it was about why the Neanderthals died out and one of the theories discussed was that they died out because they were not driven to cooperate as much as other humans were, and so they could not distribute food adequately and thus died out.
    • thumb
      Jul 20 2013: Wow thank you for your information. That is a lot to take it. Is it real though?
      • Jul 22 2013: I first heard the theory on a Nat Geo documentary a long time, so I don't have any articles. Here is something confirming that the neocortex (which literally means new cortex) is important in critical thinking. Also, I made a mistake, the neocortex did exist back then, but the scientists said it was not as developed as it is now, I mis-wrote.
  • thumb
    Jul 20 2013: Yes.

    The question is do you see the others as an extension of yourself?
  • thumb
    Aug 17 2013: In some way its true but in this materialistic world we relate happiness with money, luxury and pleasure. Happiness is intangible moreover in this particular case your happiness is derived out of helping someone else. So rather than saying it as benefits for ourselves we can name it symbiosis where both are getting benifited.
    As long as happiness is coming by helping others and is coming not at the cost of someone's suffering it is justified and accepted by GOD also.
  • Aug 9 2013: I would agree with Putri. Self-help does not necessarily meet the definition of selfishness. It all depends on your purpose. One would argue that to help someone else to only benefit yourself would be advantageous because if we are at our best we will be better prepared to again help others be at their best.
  • Aug 5 2013: Yes. This doesn't necessarily mean we are selfish all the time. It's just as a matter of what we can live with. I think ultimately the decision to choose between being selfish or selfless is also determined by which one we can live with.
  • Aug 1 2013: Yes. And to say otherwise is to engage in latent rationalization in order placate ourselves into feeling better about our selfish, minor existence...
  • Jul 30 2013: Yes it is true , but the difference is, some look for there benefits were other also benefits. Others only look for there benefit even at the loss or total loss to others. These kind of people's benefits are very short lived & One keeps on closing one door after another on himself . The one who cares for others keeps on opening new doors for himself time & every time.
  • thumb
    Jul 22 2013: What's in a person's best interest short-term may not be in their best interests long-term. Nor do people always know, although they think they might, what their best interests really are. Also, there is a huge difference between what benefits us and what brings us happiness, although they may often be the same thing.

    Perhaps the 'someone saying that' did not mean it in the literal sense. Not everything we do is to our own benefit. We wouldn't accidently stub our toes or hit our heads, spill our drinks or crash our bikes. It clearly wasn't to our benefit if he we did so.

    And yes, we might help someone because 'the kind act brings us happiness' but that doesn't mean it always brings us happiness. I might hold the door for someone and they might walk by without eye contact or a word of thanks, and then I might have a resentment against that person. Not everyone doing court-ordered community service finds happiness doing so, but it is to their benefit (because they don't go to jail and therefore, yes, its something they chose even though they were court-ordered).
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Jul 22 2013: Building on what John S. wrote, we INTEND to 'do things mostly for our benefits' as you phrased it Son Hunyh. the problem is we don't usually look closely at whether it is actually beneficial or not.

      I think some would argue that dying in combat was to the person's benefit in the sense that it validated their value system in which they would if necessary lay down their life for someone else. It wasn't to his personal, corporeal benefit, but it benefited the values he had and the ideology he was defending (assuming his side won).
  • thumb
    Jul 21 2013: YES
    • thumb
      Jul 22 2013: Can you elaborate?
      • thumb
        Jul 22 2013: Thanks for your interest.
        Well the elaboration is there in main post with which I didn't find anything to disagree.
        However , lets take the example of Maslow's Need Hierarchy theory of Human Motivation.
        Even if we do something good for others well being , seems we only do if that fulfills our need of Love , Belonging / Esteem / Self Actualization.....
        So seems whatever we do we have our own reason behind it which is; to pamper one or the other need of our own self.
        • thumb
          Jul 22 2013: You know, in all honesty, I'm glad you put it that way. I've spent a lot of time (too much time) thinking about this topic this evening and how to explain what I believe. But part of me can agree that the actions of person might lead to self-actualization. I have been making the supposition that it doesn't always benefit or make them happy in the context of the present moment, and did not allow for the possibility than in the long-term, far-removed from the present moment and present place, in a karmic sense, it might be benefiting them and leading to happiness.

          But even if we do things for our benefit or our happiness, does that imply it's the only reason or even the primary reason we do these things?
      • thumb
        Jul 22 2013: Thanks Daniel .....
        Understand your point.

        What I feel (it's purely my feeling) even if we do something in what you called as "KARMIC" sense we do it with desire getting some return for the good "KARMA". I am not talking about exceptions , which can be feeling is around the trend shown by majority of us

        My another feeling is that Heaven & Hell of major religions are also built around that.....the religion that does not have the concept of Heaven or Hell , it talks about NIRVANA...

        That being said....I expect even if we become empathetic or compassionate for our own reason...let's do that more and more to turn the planet into a better one....
        Have a good day :)
        • thumb
          Jul 22 2013: Good point about the religions. Judaism doesn't have the concept of 'hell' although Christians do.

          It also reminded me of the saying, "Do good for good is good to do; spurn bribe of heaven and threat of hell." That's always been one of my many mottos. Nice discussing with you.
      • W T

        • 0
        Jul 22 2013: "Judaism doesn't have the concept of hell although Christians do"

        Well, not all Christians believe in a concept of hell.
        Some actually believe what the Bible teaches.
        That at death, humans stop living.

        Do you think that the concept of a fiery hell motivates people to be 'good'?
        • thumb
          Jul 22 2013: I know there are plenty of people who have said that hell (fiery or frozen or whatever) motivates them. I don't have any other way of knowing if it motivates them to be good unless they tell me it does.

          I do not believe in hell or heaven in any religious sense. In the context of the motto, heaven and hell figuratively represent doing things just because there is something in it for me and doing something just to avoid the consequences, respectively.

          I did not know that some Christians don't believe in hell. Which ones?

          I also thought that at death, humans stop living, but that according to the Bible they would be resurrected on Judgement Day and join Christ who has, according to them, already ascending to heaven.

          I'm not Christian, so please, forgive any incorrect statements I might make. I do know that there are multiple versions of the Bible depending upon what faith you are and what translation you are using, what books were included and what books were excluded. My point is that I hope that doesn't lead us to confuse one another.

          And when you say "Some actually believe what the Bible teaches" you might be overlooking the fact that people vary greatly in what they think the Bible teaches and no one has any way of knowing which ones are actually believing in it and which ones only think they are. I respect other people enough to allow for the possibility it doesn't matter if they are right or wrong, they're entitled to their own beliefs and I hope that those beliefs serve them well.
      • W T

        • 0
        Jul 22 2013: [edited spelling]

        I agree with you that it is important to respect individual beliefs. We are all entitled to our own beliefs, and I like you feel that if it serves the person well, then that is fine.

        There are many sites which have, as they say, "put out the fires of hell".
        You can google for information on the words.

        As for Christians who do not preach a fiery hell, and believe that death is the opposite of life, and that it is a state of rest, you can read about it here:

  • thumb
    Jul 21 2013: I believe this is true for the most part. As a species we work together for not our own benefits but for altruistic reasons as well. We rely on consequentialism and humanism. If something won't turn out well for us, we typically won't do it, nor if it turns out for someone else. This is different however online and afar because they aren't physically there so we do not take them into account when striving for a beneficial approach. When physically alone, things are for your own goodwill.
    • thumb
      Jul 22 2013: I'm not so sure that "if something won't turn out well for us, we typically don't do it."

      After all, what about smoking, fast-food diets, gambling, alcoholism, drug addictions, and many other behaviors that people typically engage that are scientifically proven not to turn out well for us?

      Your point about physical distance was very interesting. I would add to 'when physically alone' 'when nameless, faceless, or otherwise of unknown, untraceable identity.' Follow me? Your example of being online made me think about how people act so different being in cars or even pushing shopping carts. Isn't it a little unsettling how people being at even the slightest remove causes them to so much more self-centered?
  • W T

    • 0
    Jul 20 2013: No, it is not true.

    Yes, it is true.

    For what selfish motivation are you asking this question?

    or, if you prefer......

    For what selfless motivation are you asking this question?
    • thumb
      Jul 22 2013: And are we talking about what is to our benefit or what brings happiness? Because they aren't always the same thing.
  • Jul 20 2013: In reality,sometimes we have to do sth for benefits.But not all.From my experience,I seldom remember whom I helped...I think sometimes help others is one part of dairy life,at least I think being humanbeing we should do so.
    So helping in handy,hurting in avoiding.
  • thumb
    Jul 20 2013: Altruism is real, but rare.
  • thumb
    Jul 20 2013: .

    It is driven by our instincts.
    Instincts are our ancestors' successful experiences formed 10,000 years ago.

    However, it can not be applied in invalid scope,
    such as today's conditions different from 10,000 years ago.