There can be no doubt that altruism, like egoism, is instinctively inherent in human nature. However, altruistic motives in themselves are too weak and unreliable a support ethics. Natural benevolence usually extends to family members and friends; personal inclinations and sympathy play a decisive role here. The essence of the moral law lies in its universal character, in the call to selfless love for one’s neighbor. Therefore, actions resulting from natural altruism cannot be morally fulfilling – they lack the ideal, timeless basis of the process. It is vital to explore if altruistic deeds are merely acts of self-sacrificing or if one needs to act rationally when committing acts of unselfishness.
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Rand is subjectively right when it comes to her understanding of rational and morally acceptable. A person should not be a slave to personal or collective goods, nor a slave to their own or someone else’s arbitrariness. It presumes that every individual is selfish in nature, and it is the most extraordinary endowment because it protects them from suffering. On the other hand, unreasonable risk enhances sorrow and is a primary cause of low self-esteem. For example, a guy may attempt to impress a girl he likes by buying her a car to demonstrate his affection. She accepts the gift; however, she acts cold-heartedly and ignores him. As a result, he is left alone with the suffering while trying to please her.
Typically, people who try to act morally acceptable to fit into society lack self-confidence and are scared of living their own lives because they prioritize other individuals’ values. Hence, by elevating the deed of helping others, genuine and benevolent altruistic behavior became an act of self-sacrificing. Consequently, many men today are unaware of how to conceptualize the display of acting good towards their loved ones.
Nonetheless, any action undertaken by a human can be considered an act of benefiting oneself rather than others. For example, it is more pleasant to spend money on things one likes rather than something they are indifferent about. Additionally, a person can act altruistically to receive rewards, and it is a regular phenomenon. When one works as a server, they have to be polite and responsive since one wants to get decent tips in the end. There is nothing wrong with such a situation since they do not contradict any moral laws.
Undoubtedly, one needs to have a rational approach regarding emergencies. For instance, when one witnesses a man struggling to crawl out of a burning house, one needs to assess the risks and put the value of one’s life higher. However, if a loved one is in that situation, they might be selfish enough to place the other’s life first and save them. On the other hand, particular individuals express overly self-abnegation in not life-threatening situations. They may have solid religious views and give the church 10% of their income when it is not even a death emergency.
In summary, altruism can be viewed from different perspectives as an expression of either egoism or self-sacrifice. There is a borderline between these two standpoints, and they are mingled due to a perverted perception of selflessness. The acts of self-abnegation and selfishness are confused due to poor awareness. Nevertheless, people tend to act in their interests unless they have low self-esteem and no respect for their values.
Rand, Ayn “The Ethics of Emergencies.” The Virtue of Selfishness, A New Concept of Egoism, 84-91. New York: Signet Books, 1961.
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