Humans are primarily driven by self-interest



  • Affirmative.

    Biologically...for the sake of the species...it is in our best interest to place our own interests first. I believe this tendency originates with very basic survival instincts, and has extended into our higher brain functions as humans have evolved.

    At this point in our evolution, humans do make decisions that are in someone else's primary interest, however it is very selective, and evidence of a higher functioning brain. Virtually any other species on the planet will take actions that allow it to survive and thrive to allow the species to proliferate.



  • Affirmative

    But this is one of those trick questions right?

    Like Mr. Clinton said (sort of)

    It all depends on what "primarily" primarily means

    Say you were at Pork Chop Hill?

    What as your driver?



  • @Toker-V I might argue that as an axiom, we always act based on selfish interests throughout our lives. That said, our life experience changes what we value, what we need, and thus in later life we often need things that are consistent with interests beyond ourselves.



  • I think humans are too complex to say we always act in our self interest. There are a select few truly selfless individuals that put others interests above their own. There are also sadly a large number of individuals that are self destructive and/or self defeating that sabotage their self interests by their actions.



  • @Paul-Hail said in Humans are primarily driven by self-interest:

    There are a select few truly selfless individuals that put others interests above their own.

    Perhaps my perspective is overly pedantic, or I'm making distinctions that have no practical value... but I would frame any ostensibly altruistic behavior as still meeting a personal need. For example, a person who sacrifices their life to save another, they do so to get something they consider more valuable than their physical life- whether it is to leave a legacy and retain their identity as a person with certain values, and be posthumously appreciated (which might provide some immediate succor or redemption), or perhaps it might be to honor a person whom they feel has more to offer the world, or perhaps to honor an idea about how we are supposed to behave to make the world a better place.

    Maybe there is no practical importance for distinguishing whether you do something for reason XYZ despite the apparent personal cost, or whether you do it because it satisfies some personal physical/intellectual/emotional/spiritual need. Depending on how deep you like to examine things, the outward result might be sufficiently explanatory.

    I do think the distinctions are important because they give us greater insight to the human psyche, and build a higher resolution picture of what drives people, how we manipulate and are manipulated in causes small and large, and how we can make sense of sometimes seemingly senseless and contradictory behavior. I believe it is also the breadcrumb trail we can all follow to unravel why we sometimes do things that appear to not be in our own interest, and why it can be difficult to break habits that seem to not benefit us. The key is to look deeply into ways in which the habits ARE in our interest, how they give us something we want in the moment (or reaffirm a story we like to tell ourselves to hold on to pleasure or to block pain), despite some other part of ourselves that recognizes how the habit is not good for us in a bigger picture.



  • Switch!

    Debate kids must be prepared to argue either side of an issue. So, time to pretend all of y'all who weighed in above lost the coin toss and now must argue the opposite position. A good mental and mind opening exercise. Also makes you a lot better debater.

    Have fun expanding your perspectives. 🐕



  • First rule of economics, "people make decisions that maximize benefits to oneself."



  • Affirmative.

    Even our "selfless" actions are driven by a self serving desire, to feel better.

    Self-interest is also expanded to include your family, or your species.

    You could say, preserve the DNA is our interest. The closest to our own genome, the better.

    That's the only purpose of life, propagate the DNA. Clever, how it works. The longest successful run on Earth.



  • Sorry, Toby, I won't play your game. Following somebody's rules is not my strong point.



  • @Moosedrool

    Feel free not to. The thread is tagged "debate", however, and debates have rules. I was trying to provide the opportunity for a bit of a game here for those so inclined.

    Was hoping @jgill might pop in and enlighten us with a bit of game theory and "Prisoner's Dilemma" but alas, seems he has no love for RPU. Sigh... always nice to have a mathematician in the house.

    Going to call it good and give this round to @nutagain Good job. This is precisely the tact (albeit a bit more fleshed out) that won many a round during last season's Big Questions events.

    Tough to argue the Negative on this one but I've seen it win. Don't seem to have my judge's notes from those rounds though. The deck is a bit stacked against the Neg by the wording: Inclusion of "primarily" in the makes the resolution a bit fuzzy so you got to "win" by pinning it's definition down to something favorable to your argument. Also, similar w.r.t. defining "self-interest", as in modern times folks are aware of the behavioral ecology and sociobiological evolutionary aspects of altruism.



  • @toby said in Humans are primarily driven by self-interest:

    Please preface replies with the stance you intend to argue as "Affirmative" or "Negative".

    It is an interesting question, but to approach it as either "right" or "wrong" is to render the discussion meaningless.

    "Debate", in the sense of taking either an affirmative or negative side to whatever question is thrown up is a symptom of everything that is wrong with the world.

    Important issues, whether political or, as in this case, somewhat theoretical, do not have simple yes/no answers. And while it can be fun to shout "Hear! Hear!" or "Shame!" when someone takes "your side" or "their side", doing so only makes things worse.

    So why not throw up the subject -- in this case whether humans are primarily driven by self-interest -- as fodder for discussion, rather than as something that is either right or wrong?



  • @David-Harris Well... maybe some folks missed clicking on the link:

    https://www.speechanddebate.org/big-questions/

    Debate tournaments use the terms "Affirmative" and "Negative" to indicate which side of the resolution you are taking. Such should not be construed to imply "right" or "wrong". I agree with your statement w.r.t. framing as right or wrong. Leads to narrow mindedness. Short walk from there to shallow mindedness. Which then paves the road to divisiveness, hostility, and aggressive extremism. None of which are conducive to a functioning democracy.

    As noted, tournament debaters must be prepared to argue both sides because each round starts with a coin toss. Pretty mind opening exercise that I think we all would do well to practice a bit. I can attest it has helped me see aspects of things I'd not previously considered.

    Take it a step further, reach out to a local high school debate coach, and offer to judge. More challenging than one might initially think to be objective and some good mind food. Just stay away from "Policy" events cuz those kids talk at upwards of 300 words per minute and you pretty much need to have been there and done that to judge it.

    So, to clarify, @nutagain won the "round" because he presented a more well formed and supported argument not because he was right or wrong. I would have loved to have read him follow up with the Negative side of the coin.

    Note: Although I mentioned it elsewhere, I probably should have made it more clear at the start here that I "give back" to the local community by donating time as a judge at high school debate tournaments. I'd encourage folks to spectate one if your local public schools are open to it. Also had the opportunity to judge "Congress" event at the Nationals a few years back. Some damn impressive kids. Country would likely be a whole lot better off if we replaced the "grown ups" with these "kids". Not to mention a lot more functional. Seriously.



  • @toby said in Humans are primarily driven by self-interest:

    Was hoping @jgill might pop in and enlighten us with a bit of game theory

    I'm not familiar with modern game theory, which has been extended to decision analysis and beyond. When Von Neumann and others introduced the subject, it relied heavily on fixed-point theory, specifically Brouwer's Fixed-point Theorem, which states that certain sets, no matter how they are shifted about retain a point that is fixed. If a function shifts the points about, then, provided the function is "continuous", there is a point that remains in the same position.

    From Wiki: Take an ordinary map of a country, and suppose that that map is laid out on a table inside that country. There will always be a "You are Here" point on the map which represents that same point in the country.

    My own investigations have included extending a similar classical result, the Banach Fixed-point Theorem, which tells one how to actually find this point, to a more general setting.

    As for the assertion in the title, you are moving into the territory of the old "What is Mind" thread from ST. How are decisions formed? How much of decision-making originates in the subconscious?


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