If You Want To Be Selfish, Do It Altruistically

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes once said that “every man is presumed to seek what is good for himself naturally, and what is just, . . . accidentally.”

This is what’s known as the “axiom of self interest,” which is the belief that self interest guides everything that we do in life.

However, if this idea is true, then how does it explain those who help and cooperate with one another?

Well if you look at all of the people who work for big companies, most likely they’re not cooperating with each other solely to help the other person succeed.

In the book “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect,” Matthew Lieberman, a social cognitive neuroscience professor at UCLA, says,

“The theory of ‘who we are’ suggests that we cooperate in order to ultimately achieve a better end for ourselves.”

In other words, acts of kindness and cooperation may appear to be altruistic, but it may just be selfishness in disguise.

For example, when you’re walking down the street and you see someone give a homeless person a few dollars, very rarely would you look at that person helping and think that she’s just helping the homeless person because it makes her feel good.

But this may be the case.

Look at the reason why people eat food. Most people love to eat food because it feels good.

The evolutionary motivation for eating food is survival, but our psychological motivation is pleasure.

The same applies to altruistic behavior.

A group of individuals will have a higher chance of surviving if they cooperate and help one another, but the psychological motivator that makes us selflessly help others may be the intrinsic pleasure we get when we do it.

If we help another person because it gives us intrinsic pleasure, is this selfish or not?

Truth is it doesn’t matter.

If you help someone because it makes you feel good, it doesn’t really matter to the person that you’ve helped.

It’s like the Dalai Lama said,

“If you would like to be selfish, you should do it in a very intelligent way. The stupid way to be selfish is the way we always have worked, seeking happiness for ourselves alone and in the process becoming more and more miserable. The intelligent way to be selfish is to work for the welfare of others” because doing so is intrinsically pleasurable.

If you want to find happiness, if you want to find success, it is best to act in a way that is altruistic. Whether it’s you being altruistic or selfishly altruistic, it doesn’t really make a difference.


18 thoughts on “If You Want To Be Selfish, Do It Altruistically

  1. This post explains my everyday fight. I believe that everyone is selfish… we are all humans, it’s our nature. But people usually try to look like saints. We always have a selfish reason for everything, really.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Whether it’s you being altruistic or selfishly altruistic, it doesn’t really make a difference.” It doesn’t make a difference to the one receiving the help but, in my opinion, it makes all the difference to the one giving. The difference is in the nature of feel-good factor/ intrinsic pleasure, if it is from pure compassion or if it’s from pride/ a sense of achievement. But all things said, you are right when you imply a good deed done is a good deed at the end of the day. Lovely post here, food for thought! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Swetha! Does this mean you’re back???? I agree with everything you said:) the point of the article which you understood is that a good dead is a good dead despite the motive. I agree though that altruistic motives will yield more joy than selfish altruistic motives though


      1. This post by you is so much like a mirror to my true, core nature. Though, I always felt if I’m going over the board or little in terms of helping people. This post made all the confusion and mess in mind clear. That’s why I said, this post was more like a sign to me that I’m going in the right direction of life.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Vincent “….In other words, acts of kindness and cooperation may appear to be altruistic, but it may just be selfishness in disguise. …” What can be said, this is the state of the world. Your post is 120% accurate, that is the way the cookie crumbles. As much as I want it to be another way that is the way it right now. But…

    There however are a few that are selfless and give without an expectation in return. I was told once I was tooo honest, I was like – “what ..”- to be honest is a good thing!! Well, when the world is upside down , one has to be guarded with honesty and selflessness.

    I don’t believe the true nature of us human soul is to be selfish. But, I agree it is the way of the world. But I quietly disagree – selfishness is not our true nature. Our true nature, is love, peace , purity, wisdom, selflessness, tolerant, independent but giving, rational, co-operatiive, humble and wise, kind, flexible and responsible….etc. We start of good but we lose the plot. The law of entropy – we lose the energy to be good, as we take birth after birth. The purity and all the goodness in us depletes like a battery and we then become selfish, fearful, all the negative stuff. Because our battery has hit a low point and we have no means to recharge it. Well there are self help books, yoga, meditation. Raja Yoga Meditation taught by the Brahma Kumaris – teaches how to empower, or repower the positive in us, our true qualities.

    Sorry – Vincent, you know me – Always on a different level. I recall my very first comment on one of hour post which was about tit for tat and I brought up Karma. But, hopefully you are use to my left field comments .

    Your post is great and states the facts of today world and there is no arguing that. But , my moto for myself is be the change you want to see in the world -(Gandhi), so i try my bit, and some times I succeed and sometimes I fail. I am not afraid to walk in the opposite direction of the crowd, as Gandhi said – I have quoted him accurately.

    my two cents worth. Love your post always – love how you make us think and provoke us to think.

    speak soon Bella

    Liked by 1 person

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