Is it *really* possible to do a COMPLETELY altrustic act?
I'm asking if one can do something good and yield *absolutely*, positively NO benefit - no "warm fuzzies", no "earned" place in Heaven (yes, I understand the whole "it's grace, not earned" thing.
Ahhh! Even better - or playing with fire, perhaps. Did even Jesus (for Christians) or any analogous or real (for too many other faiths to list) saviour not make the greatest sacrifice - if He in fact knew he'd be sitting at God's side after the crucifixion?
Does one have to expect - or even GET - NO benefit for an act to be completely selfless? Does any reward diminish the good deed's worth?
Well, what if you were to push a complete stranger out of the way of a speeding truck and did it as a guttural reaction (rather then thinking "hey I will be a hero if I save this persons life)...I think that is pretty authentic, especially if you run risk of being injured yourself in the process. I think things like this probably happen all the time.
Instinctive/visceral goodness! Maybeeeee....... Just when I thought I'd covered all the bases. Actually - I find your answer reassuring - at least for now. As the incurable hairsplitter and anal to the core (ewww!! no pun intended!), I may find a way to mitigate even the impulsive selflessness. In no rush, though!
In general even when we do "altruistic" things we feel good about it. We gain that sense of happiness for having helped someone else. Would we still carry out an action if that did not occur? I honestly don't know. But I think it's kind of a beautiful thing that doing good makes us feel good, thus encouraging us to do it more. Probably splitting hairs but that's my two cents.
People who truly care about the well-being and happiness of others (or at least the "other" for whom the altruistic act is done) do completely altruistic things all the time. They don't, need, or expect anything in return - plain and simple. All they want to do is make someone a little happier, make his day/life a little better, etc. With the only "reward" being the satisfaction/happiness of seeing the other person/people better off/happier, I don't think that diminishes the "worth" of the deed. (In fact, people who just naturally live their lives their way wouldn't even use the word "worth" with respect to doing something for someone else out of altruism.)
There's a difference between doing something for someone because you want to, for example, just make him/her happy; and doing something for someone because your real aim is to get the sense of joy/satisfaction that can come with doing something for someone else. Maybe only the "do-er" really knows whether his motives are purely altruistic or not, but there is a very big difference.
No. I didn't accept or understand this until a wonderful theology professor made the point. Now I understand that a "completely altruistic act" is an act of perfection, of which we are incapable as mere mortals. However, just as we are called to pursue perfection that we cannot full attain elsewhere in life, the pursuit of the purely altruistic act is a worthwhile endeavor. Few will go wrong in seeking a purer state of selflessness. By understanding that we are incapable of completely altruistic acts, we retain an absolutely essential humility.
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