The person with the highest IQ, Marilyn Vos Savant,
has a column in the Washington Post magazine Parade
called "Ask Marilyn." A recent question was if she
agreed that "the purpose of life is to undertake
a selfish endeavor to make oneself happy." She
concludes that the only argument supporting
that (Randian) view is based on a fallacy:
Washington Post PARADE, 7/30/00, page 11
By Marilyn Vos Savant
QUESTION: Humans have long questioned the purpose
of their existence. However, I believe the answer
to this supposed eternal dilemma is relatively
simplistic: The purpose of life is to undertake
a selfish endeavor to make oneself happy. Anything
and everything an individual does--in the long
term--is solely for this purpose. Would you agree?
MARILYN: ... you seem to be answering the question,
"Toward what goal do all humans aim?" In defense
of your answer, you could argue that even apparently
altruistic behavior is still undertaken to give
oneself pleasure. As an example, consider the case
of Mother Teresa: You could suggest that relieving
the suffering of India's poorest people made Mother
Teresa happy herself, and that's why she undertook
to do so. In short, you could argue that any chosen
behavior, just by the fact that it is chosen,
indicates a selfish endeavor. But this is based on
a logical fallacy called petitio principii (better
known as "begging the question"), a circular argument
in which the conclusion also appears as an assumption.
I can't find any other defense of your answer, so I
can't agree with it.
IAN: It seems to follow from Savant's answer that
the goal toward which all humans aim is NOT selfish
endeavor to make oneself happy. Where's the evidence?
What people act with intent not to satisfy themselves?
Even someone marching along at gunpoint follows orders
because it satisfies them not to be shot for resistance.
Even someone killing themselves has concluded that death
would be more satisfactory of them than life, it's even
said by some that suicide is selfish. People engage in
charitable behavior because it satisfies them and they
earn social rewards for noble action. Even a masochist
who acts to hurt himself finds satisfaction in such.
If I and three others are starving to death in the
arctic and I kill myself so the others can eat me,
I did so because it satisfied me to help them.
If no human action is selfless, how is Savant right?
If self-satisfaction is not the goal toward which all
humans aim, then what is the goal of all human action?
It seems to me that what Savant claims to be a logical
fallacy is in fact an inherent truism of human action.
If it isn't a truism, then please identify an action
and/or goal of a self that is truly 100% selfless.
Seems to me that identifying such is impossible.
GODDARD'S JOURNAL: http://www.erols.com/igoddard/journal.htm
Asking the "wrong questions," challenging the Official Story
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