Be Altruistic, Be Gandhian … or Be Happy

September 19, 2006 at 5:00 pm (Pointless Philosophy)

Altruism

Altruism is the practice of placing others before oneself. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and central to many religious traditions. In English, this idea was often described as the Golden rule of ethics. In Buddhism it is considered a fundamental property of human nature.

The word “altruism” was coined by Auguste Comte, the French founder of positivism, in order to describe the ethical doctrine he supported. He believed that individuals had a moral obligation to serve the interest of others or the “greater good” of humanity. Comte says, in his Catechisme Positiviste, that

“[the] social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service…. This [“to live for others”], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely.”

As the name of the ethical doctrine is “altruism,” doing what the ethical doctrine prescribes has also come to be referred to by the term “altruism” — serving others through placing their interests above one’s own

I strongly take sides with the Philosophers who support egoism. I would like to argue that altruism is a degree of lack of self-respect in individuals. Any individual or group or a society with a certain degree of self-respect will not believe that they are obligated to serve others more than themselves.

Religious philosophers in Hinduism will counter argue that altruism is directly linked to karma. Their arguments will be based on the fact that acts that you perform today add up to your karma calculations and will take effect either in the next cycle of when those karma takes effect, usually assumed to be in the next birth although “kaliyug” theories argue otherwise.

But I feel the foundation of altruism itself is stupid. It is like asking someone to shed and sacrifice the respect he has got for his life, for his soul, for himself and then go on and serve the other in respect to the supposed obligations he/she has towards everything else other than himself/herself.

If such fictitious obligations do exist then how could they supersede the commitments that one has to his/her own life.

Forget Buddha, forget Gandhi – the torch bearers of selflessness. Selflessness is not cool. To me, its not even a word. Better call it, “lack of self-respect”.

Be selfish, justify your existence.
Disclaimer: The argument is for/against the philosophies and not the philosophers themselves.

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6 Comments

  1. arun said,

    i 92% disagree with u , but after long comment in previous post…i dont have motive to type another 200 words.
    i will reserve this for a rainy day.

  2. Arun said,

    i am neither pro or against this concept… but altruism kind of looks weird ‘cos if you serve someone and that someone serves someone else… it goes on in a cycle… so what is the big deal… live life as it comes… it afterall doesnt matter as everyone are going to rest after a few decades!

  3. vanand said,

    Two questions,

    why do we have to follow this chain ? and why does the chain exist in the first place?

    Part of the answer to this is “karma” – which I believe in , not as a religious thing but as a practical thing – its more like, assuming life as a zero sum game – the sum total of sinners plus the sum total of altruists must be a fixed number all the time… or should it?

  4. Repost : Be Altruistic, Be Gandhian … or Be Happy « Made in Madras said,

    […] Be Altruistic, Be Gandhian … or Be Happy I strongly take sides with the Philosophers who support egoism. I would like to argue that altruism is a degree of lack of self-respect in individuals. Any individual or group or a society with a certain degree of self-respect will not believe that they are obligated to serve others more than themselves. […]

  5. pavitra said,

    Selflessness is Coool !! but it is difficult to be like that … because we are human beings and sometimes end up ignoring others ..but it is really a great feeling when u place others before oneself ..and it doest mean ” lack of self respect “

  6. vanand said,

    @Pavithra – “placing yourself before others” and “lack of self respect” is not mutually exclusive. My argument is that they are inversely propotional

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