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Debra Leslie
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Are We Selfish or Altruistic?

It's not hard to believe that most people seem to be in it for themselves - if you rely on the popular media alone. Even the philosopher behind much of the Republican party's philosophy considered selfishness a virtue (rational self-interest).

“Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.” (Ayn Rand)

But the truth, what science tells us, is the complete opposite. We are wired to be cooperative, generous and altruistic.

"But this worldview is clearly wrong. In real life, the push of selfishness is matched by the pull of empathy and altruism. This is not Hallmark card sentimentalism but scientific fact: As babies our neural connections are built by love and care. We have evolved to be really good at cooperation and empathy. We are strongly motivated to teach and help others."

Unfortunately our institutions, the media, and the "economic lens" through which we are brain-washed to see the world through, reinforces and trains our minds to perceive the opposite of what our brains were wired for - which is selflessness, compassion and altruism.

"By assuming that people are selfish, by prioritizing arrangements based on selfishness, we have encouraged selfish frames of mind. Maybe it’s time to upend classical economics and political science. Maybe it’s time to build institutions that harness people’s natural longing to do good."

#altruism #philosophy #kindness


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