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Author Topic: The Purpose of Charity  (Read 4958 times)

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Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #75 on: January 29, 2014, 11:56:49 AM »
It's not that I don't want to believe the other way (after all, who wishes to be a pessimist?), but it's just the way I look at life.

I do charity too; I participate in a tutoring program at my school, participate in a soup kitchen and go to a cat shelter every week. The time commitment is minimal and I have fun doing it and helping people. But I myself feel like, through doing this, I have some sort of ulterior motive. I am not doing this out of the goodness of my heart...but why am I doing it?

There's something in psychology that says that people tend to base their outside psychological observations on their own experiences with their own psyche, and that's what I suppose I am doing with myself.

Offline Moondazed

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #76 on: January 29, 2014, 12:00:57 PM »
Are you trying to suss out why you gain pleasure out of doing something that doesn't directly benefit you?

I'm a big fan of self-awareness, by the way. :)

Offline Valthazar

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #77 on: January 29, 2014, 12:01:27 PM »
I do charity too; I participate in a tutoring program at my school, participate in a soup kitchen and go to a cat shelter every week. The time commitment is minimal and I have fun doing it and helping people. But I myself feel like, through doing this, I have some sort of ulterior motive. I am not doing this out of the goodness of my heart...but why am I doing it?

It's normal to feel this way when you've only faced times that are good.  Once you face some really tragic and trying times in your life, and you receive gratitude and generosity from someone you never expected, your perspective will completely change.

Offline Moondazed

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #78 on: January 29, 2014, 12:15:51 PM »
It's normal to feel this way when you've only faced times that are good.  Once you face some really tragic and trying times in your life, and you receive gratitude and generosity from someone you never expected, your perspective will completely change.

I couldn't agree more!  I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but that's very true.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #79 on: January 29, 2014, 12:26:36 PM »
Sadly, most people do not change their beliefs despite proof that their beliefs are wrong. Case in point - my parents. They steadfastly insist that the United States was founded upon the christian religion. I have laid out all evidence to the contrary before them, discussed each point and show them time and time again that their belief is inaccurate. They will not give it up, and to this day still insist that this country was founded upon the christian religion.

And when you get into the actual belief system a person has? Yeah, chances of changing that is next to nil because you can never prove without a shadow of a doubt that their religion is wrong. Nor should you even try to since religion is something that is deeply personal and not open to others trying to dictate what to believe.

I believe it was the movie Dogma that said it best though. "It is better to have an idea than a belief. People die for beliefs, no one dies for an idea."
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 12:27:38 PM by Iniquitous Opheliac »

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #80 on: January 29, 2014, 12:40:42 PM »
Sadly, most people do not change their beliefs despite proof that their beliefs are wrong. Case in point - my parents. They steadfastly insist that the United States was founded upon the christian religion. I have laid out all evidence to the contrary before them, discussed each point and show them time and time again that their belief is inaccurate. They will not give it up, and to this day still insist that this country was founded upon the christian religion.

And when you get into the actual belief system a person has? Yeah, chances of changing that is next to nil because you can never prove without a shadow of a doubt that their religion is wrong. Nor should you even try to since religion is something that is deeply personal and not open to others trying to dictate what to believe.

I believe it was the movie Dogma that said it best though. "It is better to have an idea than a belief. People die for beliefs, no one dies for an idea."

The Christian religion debate piques my interest, although that is off topic.

In a large part of debating hypothetical situations and human nature as we are now, there is no way to say that something is "right" or "wrong". As of now, I accept Moondazed and ValthazarElite's point that, because I lack experience with more aspects of the situation, my opinion is not as fully developed as I would like, and thus, my arguments, as of now, are not the most solid. This is a long way from saying that I am wrong; I accept now that I do not see the full picture, but I still think the argument I once held completely still has merit.

People change their beliefs when they realize they aren't seeing everything, in my experience. But "wrong" has such negative connotations...in trying to convince someone, never tell them that they are "wrong".

Offline Moondazed

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #81 on: January 29, 2014, 12:41:30 PM »
I believe it was the movie Dogma that said it best though. "It is better to have an idea than a belief. People die for beliefs, no one dies for an idea."

I loved that movie!  My almost 13-year-old son and I were just discussing things like faith and belief yesterday, and why it's so hard to talk about things like religion in a constructive fashion.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #82 on: January 29, 2014, 12:50:03 PM »

.... But "wrong" has such negative connotations...in trying to convince someone, never tell them that they are "wrong".

Ah, but see, if you tell me that all of my charitable work and giving is done for selfish reasons then I will, without a doubt, tell you that your belief in my reasonings is wrong.

Which is a prime example of your belief being wrong. And I am not one to pussyfoot around. I am very direct and that means that I'm not going to couch my meaning behind pretty words. If you are wrong, I'll tell you that you are wrong. If you do not like hearing the word, then you need to examine why I am telling you that you are wrong.

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #83 on: January 29, 2014, 01:03:10 PM »
I never straight up said that your intentions for performing charity were completely selfish (if I did, I apologize; I don't remember it). I understand that most of charity is for benefiting other people, but is it not possible that there is self-interest embedded at the base of the reason that you perform charity? That was my argument. And as useful as introspection is in gaining opinions about the whole of the human race (e.g. I thought that others might have ulterior motives for being charitable because I felt like I have them), arguments and debate has, of course, proven it to be a miscalibrated instrument.

So I took your advice in attempting to see why you think I am wrong. From what you say here and from what I try to demonstrate above, it appears that my argument has been misinterpreted. This may be because you have misread it and chosen to focus on what appeals to you to argue against, or this may be because I worded my argument badly, which is partially proven by the fact that other people have seen what you see in my argument.

You think I am wrong. I may just be misguided, misguiding, or a combination of them both. There are ways to pad your argument to soften the blow and make your opponent more malleable to your suggestions; who knows? Maybe then, winning an argument and turning someone fully over to one opinion or the other is not out of the question.

Offline DreamingWriter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #84 on: January 30, 2014, 05:31:43 AM »
Humans at their most basic are animals, and as such anything that we do is tinged by some form of self-interest. It's the way any and all animals act. It's a driven instinct deep in the primitive part of our brain that will never go away. Now it doesn't have to be some complicated philosophical and thought out reason. It could simply be "When I give to others, I feel warm on the inside." Which is a case for a lot of people, it my seem selfless in the fact that you expect nothing in return from anyone else. But you still get satisfaction of self. As humans with higher brain functions, that is more than enough to be willing to do something. But it still is a form of self-interest. If you gave to charity and felt nothing from it, no warm fuzziness inside of your chest, no feeling of self-worth that you could help someone else in need, then no one would do it. 

Offline Valthazar

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #85 on: January 30, 2014, 06:50:01 AM »
Humans at their most basic are animals, and as such anything that we do is tinged by some form of self-interest. ... It could simply be "When I give to others, I feel warm on the inside." Which is a case for a lot of people, it my seem selfless in the fact that you expect nothing in return from anyone else. But you still get satisfaction of self.

Like Torterrable, I think you are looking at this issue from a very linear perspective.

There are a lot of people who work full-time, and have to take care of aging parents who are stroke victims or who suffer from dementia.  Their children take care of them out of sincere love, and are by no means obligated to.  What warm-fuzzy sense of happiness comes from bathing and wiping someone who isn't even aware of their own existence, let alone that the person taking care of them is their own son or daughter?  I personally know someone in this position, and it is an agonizing ordeal, but she does it because she is one of the most empathetic people I know.  I know she isn't doing this out of a desire for "satisfaction of self," but because she feels a moral responsibility to do so.

« Last Edit: January 30, 2014, 06:52:23 AM by ValthazarElite »

Offline DreamingWriter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #86 on: January 30, 2014, 06:56:55 AM »
And you are only looking at the example I listed rather than the base idea that was mentioned. I didn't say that it had to be some kind of warm fuzzy feeling, I only said that that was a common reason people help others, which is true. But every act of charity has it's own personal self-interest attached. Just because the example I used doesn't fit with every unique instance of charity, doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong. Let me take your example this time. Why does she do it? It may not be because she feels that she has to, or that she feels good from doing it. There is another reason that people do acts of charity that is easily as common as the previous reason I listed. Why does she not? I would have to assume that since she loves these people, if she ignored them and their problems, she would feel guilt, and feel bad with herself that she didn't help. She the self interest would be that she does it in order to lesson the feeling of guilt and the bad feelings that would go along with not doing it.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #87 on: January 30, 2014, 07:26:58 AM »
I certainly understand where you are coming from, but I am not sure if it is best to take such a broad interpretation of the term, "self-interest."  There's a reason that certain acts are described as being "selfless" in nature.

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #88 on: January 30, 2014, 07:50:25 AM »
Honestly? I agree somewhat with DreamingWriter in that there does exist a benefit for the doer of charity besides simply "out of the goodness of the heart", and that the benefit is, indeed, not receiving guilt. I have parents. I love them. I am definitely going to take care of them when they grow old, because I really love them and they have taken care of me; I would love to say that this is my one true intention.

However, loathe as I am to admit it, I also would take care of them because if they didn't, I would feel guilty. There is a question, now, of which one of my urges comes first, the carrot or the stick?

Offline DreamingWriter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #89 on: January 30, 2014, 07:54:30 AM »
I certainly understand where you are coming from, but I am not sure if it is best to take such a broad interpretation of the term, "self-interest."  There's a reason that certain acts are described as being "selfless" in nature.

[Nods] I understand completely. That's another thing that being human allows us. The ability to form our own opinion. I understand that from where I'm coming from, just the lessoning of guilt could be considered selfless in nature to some, and to others it is a form of interest for ones self. It all depends on your view of life and the world around you, which is why we have these debates, and unless there is a true fact to the mater being discussed, then there will always be differing views of life because of experiences some have had that others have not.

Offline lilhobbit37

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #90 on: January 30, 2014, 09:05:20 AM »
Except you could easily put said parents in a nursing home or hire someone to take care of them and feel fre of guilt. But thinking of how they would feel in this position you choose to put their needs before your own.

How is that self serving or self interest?

If it was about you, you would go the route of having someone else do the hard work so you could feel good about taking care of them with out the sweat and dirt and struggle that goes along with taking the burden on for yourself.

Offline Kythia

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #91 on: January 30, 2014, 09:11:45 AM »
Nursing homes and care staff aren't free.  That could simply not be an option for some people

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #92 on: January 30, 2014, 09:24:18 AM »
Another point I would like to make clear, as I feel that I have not conveyed this emphatically enough:

I am not saying that the only intention in doing charity is self-interest. I am not saying that all charity stems from pure greed. I am trying to say that most charity (almost all) has some sort of self-interest at its basis, whether this may be self-improvement, avoiding of guilt, or expectation of a karmic retaliation. I'm not trying to say that self-interest is the sole or even the most important factor in charity, just that it is one, and that no charity is just pure charity.

I am also trying to say that the self-interest aspect of charity comes before or at least at the same time as the purely "good" aspect.

Offline Paladin101

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #93 on: January 30, 2014, 09:28:20 AM »
For people who claim that those who help others or do charity are driven at some level by a desire for self gratification, well I can firstly say there was a psychologist who agreed with you. I can't recall his name but one of his key philosophies was that all actions are at heart driven by a selfish need for self gratification.

I disagree.

I have lived a life where I had not. I have lived a life where I was abused. I have lived a life of a number of hard times, and rough, crooked roads.

I now live a life, where my simple goal is to ensure that the life of everyone I meet, is a little bit brighter, and a little bit happier for having known me. I do for others, I help those I am able to help, and if I see a person in need, I step in and do what I can. I'm not doing this because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, I'm doing it because until my stepfather met my mother, there was no one in my life willing to step up and help my family out of our situation. There was no one there for us when we were being terrorized. So I make certain, that if there is a situation where I can step up to help another, or even give a friendly smile to brighten their day, I do so. Why? Because I know what it feels like when no one takes the time to help you, and I know how horrid and entrapping that sensation can be. And I know how good it feels, when someone steps in and notices that you need help, even just the acknowledgement of your plight can make you feel better, and I can spare that kind of effort to make another feel better.

Offline Moondazed

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #94 on: January 30, 2014, 09:28:52 AM »
Previously in this thread you stated that you believed that all charity comes from self-interest, so it's understandable to make the assumption that this last post wasn't what you were trying to say. :)

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #95 on: January 30, 2014, 09:42:00 AM »
If I said "comes from self-interest", I might have worded a bit strongly. Again, I emphasize that I hope to convey my belief that (I loathe absolutes) all of charity has an origin in some sort of self interest. I am now trying to emphasize my (perhaps new, after being convinced; not quite sure) belief that there is "goodness" in the urge to help others and make them happy, but with this, there is ALSO self-interest.

Offline Moondazed

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #96 on: January 30, 2014, 09:43:26 AM »
You could have a bright future as a philosopher :)

Offline Valthazar

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Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #97 on: January 30, 2014, 09:57:05 AM »
Torterrable, I think we acknowledge your perspective, the disagreement is with regard to how broadly you are using the term 'self-interest.'

Offline Iniquitous

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #98 on: January 30, 2014, 09:59:35 AM »
Hm. Going to try and make a post before my morning coffee. Let’s hope this makes sense.

Let’s begin with this idea that all charity is done with a ‘self interest’. I can certainly see how this idea is believed. I do not understand it because I think it is a very callous belief that can be used as an excuse to not help others ….but I can see how some people believe it.

I do not do what I do out of a sense of obligation, moral or otherwise (donation of my very limited free time and money to soup kitchens, shelters, musical events set up for the purpose of raising money for the homeless, etc), nor do I  do what I do because it gives me warm, fuzzy feelings or relieves feelings of guilt (giving my very limited free time up to take care of my grandmother when my mother or one of my aunts cannot).

Donation of money has me fretting over my own budget (not a warm and fuzzy feeling there). Donation of time means less time for what I, as a human, need - less sleep, less relaxation time to unwind and mentally prepare myself for the next week of work (definitely not warm and fuzzy feelings there nor a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment when I am done). Donation of goods is a combination of both above - I spend money to buy clothes and food for donations as well as give time to make the trips not only to purchase but the trips to donate. Where I live there is no shelters, I have to go an hour north to turn in the donations at the shelter there. The closest church with a food bank is thirty minutes. That’s not only a lot of time on the road, that’s a lot of gas - which is money as well.

So - if I do not do this for the gratitude, the recognition, the sense of personal accomplishment, the absolution of guilt, the warm and fuzzy feelings or the sense of responsibility then why do I do it? What am I getting out of this that keeps me doing it? What ‘self interest’ is, as you two seem to think, driving me?

I certainly get no monetary value. I can tell you that the feelings I get when I go to the shelter downtown are more akin to fear for my personal safety/personal property than happy happy joy joy - the area is crime ridden and dangerous. It is a well known fact that the cops don’t even like to go into that area unless they absolutely have to. I give up sleep (it should be mentioned that I, on the whole, dearly love my sleep. About as much as I love my coffee) that I need - this tends to leave me feeling grouchy, not happy happy joy joy. I give up time for relaxing and mentally recuperating - this, without a doubt, leaves me temperamental, if not downright bristly when it comes to having to deal with stressful situations *also known as IO is being a bitch right now, tread softly or risk life and limb* Not warm and fuzzy there.

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #99 on: January 30, 2014, 10:05:39 AM »
Thank you Moondazed! I...er...try. I'm somewhat flustered now.

ValthazarElite, thank you for acknowledging my perspective. Now, in an attempt to clarify my argument, I will define self-interest from my point of view. For me, self-interest is, vaguely, the controlled urge to feel good. When I say that there is self-interest in charity, I mean that, in performing charitable deeds, we expect some sort of goodness to return to us from it, such as a lessening of guilt or merely that warm feeling you get from being charitable.

Iniquitous Opheliac, in order to avoid incurring your wrath, I will retreat in a timely fashion from your current argument. For one thing, I have yet to think on it. I will return to your topic later. I do have one question, though; what do you think is driving you? After all, you do seem to be mercilessly punishing yourself by doing these charitable acts. Why do you think that you do them?