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Vexen Crabtree 2015

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Vexen Crabtree's Live Journal

Sociology, Theology, Anti-Religion and Exploration: Forcing Humanity Forwards


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Altruism is an Illusion

Apologies for repeating a boringly ongoing theme of psychology, but:

Altruism is an Illusion is my new page, the conclusion reads:

"
Biologists, sociologists, philosophers and above all, psychologists, have held to the "universal egoism" theory: that all apparent altruism is really selfishness in disguise. Most arguments for altruism are based on ignorance of the underlying reasons for behaving good towards others or are purely semantic in nature, not logical.

People behave altruistically for a number of selfish reasons. We are programmed genetically to behave in a way conducive to the sociability of the species: This unconscious species-instinct is the closest thing we have to true sellfless altruism. In nearly every other conscious sense, altruism is an illusion. We behave well because social good behaviour fires off pleasent neurochemicals in our brains (the pleasure reward), because consciously or unconsciously we want others to see us as a good person (the social reward) or to feel good about ourselves (for pride and self-esteem). All of these selfish reasons surpass the reason that the innocent think is behind their actions: The choice to selflessly help others. Altruism is image and illusion.
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Is it not possible to make an intellectual choice that some harm to oneself can be countered by benefit for others?

I have often seen a tautological argument against Altruism, ie if a person believes in altruistic behavior they feel good when doing it, thus it isn't altruism. Of course we have social behavior preprogrammed, but that does not mean that when an action is taken for the benefit of the group it is not altruistic. We are after all just chemicals, and cannot remove ourselves from the universe, and there is no humunculous devining our actions. So denying a theistic style altruism from an atheist standpoint seems spurious.

I agree with what you say about chemicals... from such an objective point of view its not really relevant to speak of "altriusm" or even "selfishness", it's just cause-and-effect and nothing else. But because the word "altruism" is given special status, I prefer to dismantle it and use words like "good-natured", "kind", etc, rather than "altruistic".

The tautology you point out is true, but I see that the fact that this tautology exists makes any objective idea of "altruism" to be false, the concept itself is flawed.

Using the words "altruistic" to describe animal behaviour can be appropriate but as long as remains detached from lofty ideas of absolute morality.

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