The social psychology debate became our topic of interest in class today between altruism and egoism. Altruism is the performance of an act solely for the benefit of another, while egoism is an act done with the intent of a personal benefit.
Some people tried to surmise examples of altruism, but they were all reasoned to be egoismic. An example like Mother Theresa was mentioned. She received happiness from helping others, so her work, which was incredibly generous and pure hearted, was egoistic, because she received happiness from her glorious work.
Another woman in class thought that receiving a coupon from a friend was an altruistic act; the girl sitting right behind her said, “Maybe your friend didn’t like your haircut.” If the act was anonymous, however, that raises more thought.
An act like a charitable donation that is to remain anonymous. One could reason that, though the donor doesn’t want acknowledgment for the act, they could be wanting the betterment of an organization or field by donating the money to someone in that field. Hence, a reward for an egoistic act.
This whole subject was very cynical. I proposed in class that the only true act of altruism was martyrdom, or self sacrifice through death for a purpose other that one’s own. Sure, the intent of result is possible, but the martyr never receives the reward. One may argue that “Heaven” may be the ultimate goal by fulfilling this act. But, even if that belief is real, the plane where the reward lies is out of reach, so the act which removes the reward might be the only way to be altruistic.
For a Social Psychology class, the notion was quite metaphysical, but a fair few of my fellow students approached me after class and wanted to reason out the martyrdom conundrum.
What can we say? It’s hard to be kind with logic in the way, eh?