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What Would You Do? Part 2

March 23, 2011

About a month ago, I posted regarding Hobbes’ claim that people are selfish and any good thing we do is out of that selfishness, rather than out of the goodness of our heart (See: post titled What Would You Do?).  Here is another video from the same show for the basis of my new argument.

For my last post I took the stance that we were not selfish in helping people like the girl above. Rather, I said that we did it because we thought that we had to. Many other people took the stance that there was, in fact, an underlying selfishness to our actions in these situations. Both of these stances seemed like they made sense.

At that point, our options were limited. It was either we were selfish or not, and if any of you were like me then you had a hard time forming an opinion. But there is now a new option that I support: pity. Rousseau said that in the state of nature, we all share the common feeling of pity for people in a bad situation. This makes much more sense to me. Sure, maybe people go selfishly out of their way to help people just to feel good about themselves, but I highly doubt that. Instead, I believe we feel sorry for people in situations like the girl who was being married against her will (above). Maybe that is why we tutor our friends in school: we feel sorry for them that they are having a rough time understanding certain things or maybe that is why we help girls who are being hit on when they obviously don’t want it (previous post) or maybe that is why we intervene in public situations like this ABC show. Maybe pity is the reason we help anybody with anything.

It’s funny how all these theorists build off each other. I was really having a hard time deciding why it is that we do help random strangers. It was nothing that I ever actually took time to think about until I heard Hobbes’ claim that we only do it cause we are selfish. Even then, I was still confused. Now, I’m glad that Rousseau has this view of pity, which I think is much more realistic.

Whether or not you agree with this point of pity, I think you have to agree that pity more often plays a role in our decision to help people than the role of our “selfishness”, but I’m only one opinion. I’ll leave it up to all of you.

One Comment
  1. Brian Fisher permalink
    March 23, 2011 2:35 PM

    I believe you are partially right in your critique. pity does in fact play a roll when deciding to help out others. however, it does not play a role in every single situation pertaining to helpful actions. i dont necessarily pity an individual who needs help to decide what to order at a restaurant. i think a main reason people decide to help others is because it makes them feel better. psychological resource indicates that an essential way to improve one’s stress is to help others. i think we can all agree that when we help out an individual in need, we do in fact feel better about ourselves. this evidence can in fact refute your response regarding helpful actions and selfishness. I dont not believe that people are naturally selfish. there are in fact selfish individuals, but it is by no means a universal trait.

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