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Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

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Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby Scepcop » 02 Mar 2011, 23:12

Question:

Why is selflessness a virtue? Why is it a "good thing" to not care about your own needs? I don't get it. Why would having a philosphy that "Other people are more important than me" be a good thing? On what basis? Why is sacrificing yourself or devaluing your own life considered virtuous or even a "good thing"?

If one gave away everything he had and all his food and starved to death on the street, would that be a virtuous thing? At what point does selflessness become stupidity or suicide?

Here's another thought. Aren't most people hypocritical in that they will praise and admire those who are selfless and self-sacrificing, yet they themselves will not choose to be selfless or self-sacrificing?

I mean, why admire or praise something that you yourself would not want to become? lol. Funny and ironic isn't it?
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby Arouet » 03 Mar 2011, 01:24

Scepcop wrote:Question:

Why is selflessness a virtue? Why is it a "good thing" to not care about your own needs? I don't get it. Why would having a philosphy that "Other people are more important than me" be a good thing? On what basis? Why is sacrificing yourself or devaluing your own life considered virtuous or even a "good thing"?


Mankind is not self-sufficient. Most of us require other human beings to survive. In order to achieve our own private goals we have formed communities. It is a virtue to help other people in your community becuase it helps everyone, including yourself.

But it is a question of balance: it is probably not a virtue to ignore your own needs entirely in favour of others. Neither is it a virtue to not care about others at all. We should strive for balance. Helping ourselves, and other people.

Here's another thought. Aren't most people hypocritical in that they will praise and admire those who are selfless and self-sacrificing, yet they themselves will not choose to be selfless or self-sacrificing?


Not at all, one can praise and admire other people for holding qualities one doesn't have. What would be hypocrtical would be to berate others for not being selfless, if you yourself aren't being selfless.

I mean, why admire or praise something that you yourself would not want to become? lol. Funny and ironic isn't it?


Neither funny, nor ironic. I admire many people that I have no desire to emulate. Why not?
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby NinjaPuppy » 03 Mar 2011, 03:35

Scepcop wrote:Question:

Why is selflessness a virtue? Why is it a "good thing" to not care about your own needs? I don't get it. Why would having a philosphy that "Other people are more important than me" be a good thing? On what basis? Why is sacrificing yourself or devaluing your own life considered virtuous or even a "good thing"?

I'll go along with the statement "other people are more important than me" but only once I have met my own needs. Needs and wants are two completely different things and some people just don't know the difference. Humans require three basic needs- Food, shelter and clothing. Life is much more simple when you live within your means. That also includes what you give. If you don't have much $, you can always give your time. If you have extra cash you can certainly help someone less fortunate but deciding who will get your $ should be an important decision.

I usually find that helping someone returns the favor in other ways. However, if you're doing the right thing for the wrong reason, there is not much of a return.

I think that Arouet answered the rest of your questions quite eloquently, so I don't need to stick my $.02 in the mix.
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby Craig Browning » 03 Mar 2011, 06:24

Why is selflessness a virtue? Why is it a "good thing" to not care about your own needs? I don't get it. Why would having a philosphy that "Other people are more important than me" be a good thing? On what basis? Why is sacrificing yourself or devaluing your own life considered virtuous or even a "good thing"?

I think you have this a bit confused “Selflessness” means that you are gracious and giving; you do not hoard or covet that which is not yours. Selflessness is what most parents are supposed to be; eeking out a living in order to tend to the needs of their ungrateful off-spring that constantly expects them to cough up even “more” (an American child’s favorite flavor it would seem).


If one gave away everything he had and all his food and starved to death on the street, would that be a virtuous thing? At what point does selflessness become stupidity or suicide?

This is a ridiculous extreme that is typically (and wrongly) allied with certain religious groups that become fanatical about dire poverty and how it is a Saintly thing, etc. The only thing it is good for is keeping the Cult of choice wealthy and it’s leading ministers fat and rich. It’s an amazingly powerful ploy if you think about it; by keeping the masses hungry and “humble” they are more willing to meet to your demands. . . and tolerate them as well as excuse them. . . to a point. Somewhere in the scheme of things the masses will revolt, it’s simply a matter of survival.

Yes, Buddha intimated such a space existence, promoting the idea of begging as being “honorable” but I simply can’t buy that idea as a spiritual truth while I can understand it metaphorically to some extent – simply, to not be so dependent on carnal things – possessions, titles, and obtainments in that it makes you weak and co-dependent.

Here's another thought. Aren't most people hypocritical in that they will praise and admire those who are selfless and self-sacrificing, yet they themselves will not choose to be selfless or self-sacrificing?

Some of what you refer to is unspoken guilt; we “admire” those that have sacrificed it all so we don’t have to. It’s an adage that can be applied to martyrdom in all its forms, including the over-glorified idea of being a “Warrior” and “Patriot” . . . On one level we know the cruelty and horror these people face and by extending our admiration we are actually saying “Damn! I don’t think I could do that. . . I haven’t the DISCIPLINE” Which, if you think about it, is the message such icons are trying to convey – discipline in life.

To be truly selfless, is to be kind and good to EVERYONE including yourself and your family, neighbors, etc. We cannot help anyone if we don’t take care of our self and our own well-being first; you’d be a fool to think otherwise. Unfortunately, the world is filled with fools. . .
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby Scepcop » 05 Mar 2011, 19:58

Question for you all:

If you could run into a burning building to save someone's life, and there was a 50 percent chance that you'd die if you did, and a 50 percent chance that you'd make it out alive with the person rescued, would you do it?
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby NinjaPuppy » 05 Mar 2011, 20:52

Scepcop wrote:Question for you all:

If you could run into a burning building to save someone's life, and there was a 50 percent chance that you'd die if you did, and a 50 percent chance that you'd make it out alive with the person rescued, would you do it?

I highly doubt that I would, if I were presented with that scenario.
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby Arouet » 05 Mar 2011, 21:44

Those are terrible odds. Of course not. In any event, people who are not trained should in general NOT run into burning buildings to try and save people. More often than not you'll end up with two dead bodies, not two live ones.
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby Craig Browning » 06 Mar 2011, 08:25

Scepcop wrote:Question for you all:

If you could run into a burning building to save someone's life, and there was a 50 percent chance that you'd die if you did, and a 50 percent chance that you'd make it out alive with the person rescued, would you do it?


:? I fear the heat would melt the tires to my chair :lol:
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Re: Why is selflessness considered a virtue?

Postby caniswalensis » 06 Mar 2011, 08:43

Scepcop wrote:Question for you all:

If you could run into a burning building to save someone's life, and there was a 50 percent chance that you'd die if you did, and a 50 percent chance that you'd make it out alive with the person rescued, would you do it?


If I thought about the odds, no.

If I just thought about the fact that there was a person in trouble and I was in a postion to help, I would probably end up doing something crazy.
"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha
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