I've read many discussions on altruism on the internet. Many people argue that somehow it is always in a person's self-interest, or when in another species then it's in their DNA to propagate the self-interest of their group. I don't agree with this, at least with humans, as regards all people. While a very small minority of people I have known have displayed true altruism, there are exceptions.
Altruism should be rewarded almost regardless of the motivation, but many people don't need any reward at all. That is what I call "true altruism" -- when no reward is desired.
Thus far, I have confidence in this only with humans. It is difficult to try to imagine the mindsets of other species. It is much easier to focus here on homo sapiens altruism since it is more difficult to understand and imagine the thinking and experiences of other species. Nonetheless, I find altruism in all species to be fascinating and well worth analysis.
There are countless instances where DNA drives altruism in other species, such as one member of the pack being a lookout for predators while other members feed, with the lookout sacrificing their opportunity to feed, but it's for the propagation of the DNA of the tribe. Ants and worker bees are likewise.
However, there are instances of animals even helping a member of another species. Maybe it is sometimes just the social instinct of compassion or befriending. Some other species are curious, about things which have nothing to do with survival and reproduction, so I don't think humans are unique, I think we are just an extreme example.
As I note elsewhere, "feelings" and "emotions" are just instincts, and can drive curiosity, too, to some extent. I certainly feel good in learning and discovery mode. It probably has a lot to do with our species spreading around the planet, adapting to new environments, and inventing things to promote ourselves and our tribes.
However, at least as humans, our curious and analytical brain can lead to reason which can override feelings / instinct.
Unfortunately, it can also lead to "rationalizations" seemingly without limit, so there is also the issue of "objectivity" instead of "subjectivity". Rationalizations are a combination of emotion and some form of flawed logic which is believed with emotional conviction driven by self-interest.
Nevertheless, humans have clearly done a lot of things against their self interest, like commit suicide, become a hermit, shun sexual reproduction, and other things. Many monks have done this. Why? What is the mechanism in each case? Is it truly objective?
For protecting life on Earth, such altruistic behavior can be simply based on a cold, objective analysis for the greater good.
Sure, some people may do it out of a feeling of compassion for all forms of life (as I admittedly have, and saw it in my daughter from her earliest years), or for money (fund raising for a job in environmental protection), or ego (high status in society), or anger at others (such as displaced aggression) ... but those are emotions.
Many people may do so from just a cold reason, without emotion playing a significant role, and may actually think and behave counter to emotion and self-interest.
When people say "that feels right" then I would like to ask "but is it right"? Feelings are often not reliable as something to follow.
Objectively, we understand that we are part of a Universe, life on Earth has been evolving for billions of years, and for the first time we have a species on Earth -- homo sapiens -- with the power to destroy everything, in our generation. We have a responsibility to life on Earth.
The main drive is the emotional desires for excess consumption, ego, and so on.
Countering these goes contrary to our own feelings for our own benefits, and contrary to the desires of the vast majority of people around us. It requires reason overriding many emotions / instincts.
There is often a price to pay in time, effort, money, and/or opportunity loss. At times, people may even put themselves at risk or even sacrifice their lives for a greater purpose.
It requires going against the grain, not following the hoards, and often being ostracized from being a member of some groups and groupthinks.
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