Why Selflessness is Immoral

September 5, 2008 at 8:26 pm 29 comments

Selflessness or altruism means putting the interests of others above yourself. Just as “selfishness” has negative connotations in society of self-interest at the expense of others, “altruism” is often thought of as kind or generous acts for others. This view is wrong. It is wrong because the originator of the term himself, Auguste Comte, meant it to mean precisely what it implies: acting for the sake of others with no thought to oneself.

It is this true original definition of altruism that I am using here, and I will use altruism and selflessness interchangeably.

Selflessness is irrational. It is irrational because it demands that the beneficiary of your actions be others. Does it suggest who these others should be? That is a decision an individual would make for himself based on his personal values. But, since altruism dictates that we should hold our interests or values in no regard when acting, altruism actually states that the personal value of the beneficiary be irrelevant to our action! By this “logic” not only would giving money to a drug-dealing rapist be just as moral as giving money to an orphanage, it would be more moral!

Why is that? It comes down to personal values. To suggest that some people are more worthy than others to benefit from acts of generosity implies that one has made a value judgment oneself in such matters based on a personal evaluation of worth. But acting in accordance with one’s personal values is a SELFISH act. Choosing to help your friend over a stranger is a selfish act. Choosing to save the life of your lover over the life of an enemy is a selfish act. Going to work and spending your hard-earned money on yourself and not giving it to every beggar in the street who asks is a selfish act. Conversely, giving help to an unknown over a friend would be selfless. Giving up the life of your lover so that a hated person could live would be a selfless act. Coming home from work and handing out £50 notes to people you see on the street would be a selfless act. Selfless means “otherness”; it means the defiance of personal values.

Clearly, this is not the sort of moral guide most altruists have in mind when they talk about “selflessness” (although many altruists do, such as the religious), yet that is exactly what their “morality” means, and if they disagree they don’t understand their own moral position.

A perfect example of this self-contradiction is in a recent post by the humanist Ebonmuse:

Instead, what brings happiness is participation – interaction with the world and exploration of all it has to offer, our relationships to friends and loved ones and a larger community, and selfless labor for the good of others.” (Bold mine)

Notice that our friends, our loved ones, our community, our happiness, our interaction are cited as positive things. Positive for whom? Beneficial for whom? For us! These are selfish values. They are a personal value to us, and we act on them because we derive benefit from them. Yet Ebonmuse also insists that our labour be totally unrelated to personal value! So which is it? Should our actions be selfish or selfless? You cannot have it both ways.

Proponents of “selfless morality” (a contradiction in terms) will fiercely disagree and claim that I am attacking a strawman or twisting their position. But clearly I am not: to use any personal values as a guide to making decisions is a selfish act. Selflessness requires the contradiction of personal values; it requires that one act for the sake of acting, for no personal benefit at all. And if you disagree that this is the correct course of action you should not call yourself an altruist or promote selflessness.

The belief that an act (or anything) is good or bad in itself is intrinsicism. However nothing can be good or bad in itself. “Good” or “bad” provoke the question: good or bad to whom? Which implies that someone or something can make a value judgment concerning the objective effect that something in reality will have in regard to their existence. There is only one thing in existence that can do this: consciousness. Moral value judgments arise because of a consciousness’ relation to reality. This is simply, and self-evidently because, for there to be “good” or “bad” – value or non-value, there must be a valuer.

This personal evaluation of what is beneficial or detrimental to a conscious being has to be performed by that conscious being. By identifying the type of being it is and its relationship to reality, a being can discover what is of value to its life and what is not; what is “good” for its life and what is “bad” – and this is what morality is: a code of values to guide actions. That is why true objective morality is not a duty, or set of rules passed on by authority, or a guidebook invented by man. It is something that can, that has to be, objectively discovered by humans; by each human.

For this reason, morality is a personal matter – it is a guide for each of us how to live our lives. It is not an ethereal magical phenomena that arises through social behaviour; it is not determined by social norm or majority whim or evolutionary instinct.

Since morality is a code of values to guide actions, it is necessary that these values be rationally discovered – otherwise they would not correspond to reality and would therefore be useless as a guide to any action. But selflessness would demand the contradiction of our values. It would demand of us sacrifice.

The morality of altruism is the morality of sacrifice: the giving up of higher values for lower ones; surrendering what is of more value to you for what is of less or none. Just as giving up £100 for £5 is irrational, so is sacrificing your values to non-values. But the irrational cannot be the moral, since it is only moral values that can be a guide in our life. Therefore, selflessness and altruism are positively immoral – they require the irrational nonsensical valueless abandonment of our values for a non-existence supposedly intrinsic immanent “good”.

The sacrifice of values cannot result in happiness, since happiness is the lasting joy that arises from achieving our values. Our values guide our actions, and ultimately every action has a purpose, and our ultimate purpose is: life. There is only one alternative: death. And since selfishly pursuing one’s own values is the moral guide to achieve happiness, selflessness is ultimately the immoral guide to achieving suffering. Rational egoism holds life as the standard. Selflessness’s standard is death.

- Evanescent

(originally published on evanescent)

Entry filed under: evanescent. Tags: , , , , , .

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29 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ordover  |  September 5, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Whoa! Brilliant!

  • 2. Mark C.  |  September 5, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Brilliant? Not really. Staying alive, i.e. “life”, (one’s own) is only purposeful when one is conscious of it or is consciously trying to achieve it. It is, then, not true that “life” is our ultimate purpose, or even a purpose, at all times. Having life allows us to make our own purposes, but “staying alive” need not be one of them. It just so happens that some things done purposefully result in prolonging one’s life. Staying alive is more often a by-product than a goal/purpose which one is trying to achieve.

    I also think it’s funny that evanescent insists on using the original definition of “altruism” in his exposition when it is a fact that language changes over time. “Gay” no longer just means “happy”, there is a number zero, there is an empty set, etc. Ideas are generalized or made more specific over time, and there is nothing wrong with words accumulating extra denotations. Apparently (though I haven’t researched this), “atheism” was used in Greece to refer to the phenomenon of disbelief in their gods, not no gods at all.

    Anyway, I thought I’d just put some of my thoughts to webpage. I have no intention of discussing any of this further, as evanescent and I both know where such discussions lead. I’ll leave it to more articulate individuals, at this point in time, to criticize his piece.

  • 3. ordover  |  September 6, 2008 at 3:32 am

    I also think it’s funny that evanescent insists on using the original definition of “altruism” in his exposition when it is a fact that language changes over time.

    It’s a useful tool for reductionist logic.

  • 4. Stephen P  |  September 6, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Sorry, but this essay doesn’t impress me.

    Firstly, the argument seems to be based on a false dichotomy: actions are either entirely selfish or entirely selfless. For example:

    … altruism dictates that we should hold our interests or values in no regard when acting …

    Why? Actions that are either entirely selfish or entirely selfless are uncommon. Most of the time most of us consider both ourselves and the people around us. For me altruism refers to actions that are primarily or more immediately of benefit to others rather than to ourselves; it doesn’t have to mean that we ignore our own interests entirely. If you don’t want to use “altruism” to describe such actions, what word would you use?

    Should our actions be selfish or selfless? You cannot have it both ways.

    But I can, and I do.

    A second problem is also illustrated by the first quote above: the confusion between our interests and our values. It is perfectly possible to act in the interests of others, while still acting in accordance with ones own values. I would refer to such behaviour as altruism – again, if you don’t want to call it altruism, what do you call it?

    There seems to be a good idea in there somewhere struggling to get out, but it gets lost on the way.

  • 5. evanescent  |  September 6, 2008 at 8:17 am

    It is unfortunate that Stephen, despite the obvious intelligence behind his words, misses the point entirely:

    “It is perfectly possible to act in the interests of others, while still acting in accordance with ones own values.”

    I totally agree! It is indeed possible that the interests of men coincide and so they work together for mutual benefit. One is helping others, but also because it is in one’s interest to do so.

    “I would refer to such behaviour as altruism – again, if you don’t want to call it altruism, what do you call it?”

    Selfishness! Check your definitions! I state CLEARLY at the top of the article what I mean selflessness and altruism to mean, and the originator of the word August Comte meant exactly this when he coined it – so check what your words and philosophy actually mean.

    The article contains no false dichotomies. Again, I do explain this quite clearly: it is possible to act to help others of course. But, by a matter of simple logic: there can only be ONE PRIMARY beneficiary of our actions. You cannot have TWO primaries! So, should the primary beneficiary of our actions be ourselves, i.e.: our own values, or others? If you say others, the values of others must NECESSARILY always come before yours, no matter what the values or who the others are. Hence the examples I provide above. If you say that you should always be the primary beneficiary of your actions, your motives are always selfish, and you judge all decisions based on YOUR values first.

    I don’t see why anyone should disagree with this, especially atheists. The morality of christianity and religion is the morality of sacrifice, of surrender, of servitude, of altruism. To give and give until it hurts. Unfortunately this morality of sacrifice is still tacitly accepted in today’s society, despite the fact that hardly any individual in practical life actually lives by it.

    Everything else needing to be said is contained in the article. Here I have explained some of the misunderstandings in the comments.

    And thank you to those who did compliment the article.

  • 6. john t.  |  September 6, 2008 at 9:04 am

    evanescent………………Im curious, whats the purpose of your article?

  • 7. evanescent  |  September 6, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Strange question. This article is reproduced here by the owners of this blog, from my blog.

    The purpose of the article is to show that the source of morality is the life of a rational being, and the purpose of morality is to guide that being in its actions. As such, altruism is to be exposed as evil (the foundation of all religious morality) and selfishness identified as a virtue.

  • 8. john t.  |  September 6, 2008 at 9:18 am

    evanescent

    “As such, altruism is to be exposed as evil (the foundation of all religious morality) and selfishness identified as a virtue.”

    Is it really this black and white?

  • 9. evanescent  |  September 6, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Quite simply, yes. Ultimately, everything reduces to the facts of reality. Reality does not tolerate contradictions, and everything in existence is either black or white – either the earth orbits the sun or it doesn’t. Either god exists or he doesn’t. Either man evolved or he didn’t. Morality also reduces the facts (and demands) of reality. This doesn’t mean that it is always EASY to say what is right or wrong, good or bad, but it does mean that there is an answer if we look hard enough. Morality is a matter of black of white, because something either benefits your life or detracts from it (ultimately).

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where people hold values in a vacuum, a miss-mash of ideas and theories held without any foundation. That is why we’re constantly told that there are grey issues. But there aren’t. Grey is only a mix of black of white, which implies a sliding scale from one to the other, which implies that black and white exist, which further implies that a move in either direction is good or bad, but this presupposes that there is objective good and bad, which is exactly the point.

  • 10. john t.  |  September 6, 2008 at 10:05 am

    good/bad, black/white, happy/sad…………flip sides of the same coin. In fact you need both for one to actually exist. So they have to be in constant flux. Nerve impulses cant happen unless you have the combination of Negative and Positive ions. So in that case is the Negative ion bad? And the Positive ion Good? God can easily exist, it just depends on how you define God.

  • 11. Slapdash  |  September 6, 2008 at 10:10 am

    “Reality does not tolerate contradictions,”

    I don’t agree with this, especially when it comes to non-physical realities. All I have to do is think of my emotional state in the wake of a traumatic event: I’m angry, yet I’m sad. I hate the person, but at the same time I love the person. I’m embarrassed but also proud.

    We live emotional contradictions all the time, and reality seems to tolerate them just fine. :)

    To me, this article seems to strain the black-and-white mold a bit too much to make the point. I do think it’s entirely possible for people to hold both selfish and selfless purposes in doing ‘altruistic’ acts.

    I do appreciate the comment, however, about faith/Christianity emphasizing the selfless aspect. I lived that for far too long and in the process ignored ME and my wants and needs and interests. I have been burned a lot by attending to others’ interests and completely ignoring and sublimating my own. At the time I thought I was following a WWJD ethic. Now I think I was erasing myself.

  • 12. evanescent  |  September 6, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Yes, and I am Brad Pitt, if you redefine Brad Pitt. Come to think of it, anything is anything, if definitions and logic is ignored. Fortunately, we don’t live in that world. A=A, and to be a thing is to be a certain thing and nothing else. Existence is identity.

    The notion that bad must exist in order for good to be meaningful is essentially true, but trivial. We live in a world where failure is possible, where death is possible. That is precisely why we need a code of values to guide our actions – and that is the purpose of morality. It is because we CAN die that we must seek those values that support our life as rational beings (the type of beings we are).

    If you want to be able to define anything to mean anything, what you seek isn’t answers or truth, but escapism – avoiding the mental burden of having to judge or condemn anything. Sure “god” might be a glass jar in which case it exists, but that doesn’t change the fact that if “god” means an immortal supernatural being, it doesn’t exist.

    Can square circles exist? No – because A=A, and contradictions don’t obtain in reality.

  • 13. evanescent  |  September 6, 2008 at 10:17 am

    By the way, if anyone attempts to deny that reality does not tolerate contradictions (usually by some equivocating worldplay), they automatically contradict themselves. Why?

    By even attempting to challenge this axiom, they enter an argument which presupposes a correct or incorrect outcome, which presupposes that we can objectively identify fact. But this is only possible if reality does not tolerate contradictions.

    If reality tolerate contradictions, then we’re both right, everyone’s right, the moon is made of cheese and Nelson Mandela is President of the USA; I am British and also Chinese, and my argument is the best argument every made in the world and also the worst. Knowledge is impossible. Nihilism reigns. This is the only outcome for those who deny reality – that A is A.

  • 14. john t.  |  September 6, 2008 at 10:22 am

    The thing is, you only know a fraction of what reality is. In Fact your reality is constantly in flux also. Your moral determination is based only on how you see your reality, so when your reality changes so do your morals. So in essence they have no real conviction behind them, as they are open to change as you see fit.

  • 15. evanescent  |  September 6, 2008 at 10:27 am

    On the contrary, whatever reality is, we know that is does not tolerate contradictions. The fact that we don’t know every aspect of reality is irrelevant. Omniscience is not a valid epistemological foundation – in fact only a theist would argue differently. We can identify the type of being a man is and therefore the values necessary for his existence. Since man’s nature does not change and reality does not change, morality does not change.

    You smuggle the notion of subjectivism into your statement, but morals are not derived from whim or emotion, they are identified by man’s need in relation to reality. Since we can know both (denying this too leads to a contradiction) we can know right and wrong.

  • 16. john t.  |  September 6, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Evanescent
    “Since man’s nature does not change and reality does not change, morality does not change.”

    I dont know about you but ive seen the nature of numerous people change, depending on how their so called reality is going. And as far as reality, that in my view is constantly changing as we begin to understand more about the Universe, to say other wise is at best delusional on your part. By the way Emotion plays a large part in your moral makeup, at least in the world I live in. Tell me somethng, Americans dropping the Bomb on Hiroshima and the Hijackers hitting the WTC. Which one is morally wrong?

  • 17. ScottL  |  September 6, 2008 at 11:36 am

    In the little bit I have just read, this article seems based on the philosophy of people like Ayn Rand.

    If we stick to this definition of altruism, or selflessness, as such, then I do understand your point. And, thus, your concrete definition has left no wiggle room. But, even though you argue you have not done such, I believe you are setting up a straw man. First of all, we must reasonably admit that this concept (selflessness, or more recently referred to as altruism) didn’t start with a man living and writing in the first half of the 19th century. The teaching (though maybe not termed altruism) is found in ancient writings far preceding that of Comte’s. Yes, the Bible as one, but also Aristotle, eastern religions, and other such writings.

    Secondly, your arguments stand colored by your own worldview if you decide to unswervingly stick to this definition. At least in this article, I believe to label selflessness as ‘immoral’ is to immediately color the statement without reference to the fact that others might define such a concept differently than you. It’s similar to the statement that ‘religion causes people to do evil things’, when someone only has in mind suicide bombers of the crusades. That statement is colored because one has failed to look at the reality that both non-religious people have done just as heinous acts and religious people have actually tried to live life without partaking in such acts. We have to consider the wider body of knowledge.

    Also, I think it reasonable to state that many would believe one can be selfless while still respecting their own personal values. This is where we must consider other definitions outside of our own. Sticking with your definition, selflessness is ‘immoral’. But there is more to consider. For example, many a Christians argue that ‘religion is bad’ because in their mindset, religion is all about legalistic laws with no reference to relationship and grace. But others would use the word ‘religion’ in defining the spiritual life and our calling to walk out the commands of the God we say we believe in. In one sense, I agree that ‘being religious’ is bad. But from the other perspective, I would understand a Puritans heart when they say they desire to be religious. We have to consider that our own point of view might not be the only point of view. That’s why agnostic and atheists have not taken kindly to religious fundamentalists. They don’t like to consider things outside their own colored lens.

    Thus, you have to consider that not all 6.8 billion people operate under the definition you have provided through Comte. Though maybe not consciously stating it as such, most people operate out of the understanding that it is acceptable to uphold one’s own moral values while at the same time looking to serve others. The greatest example, at least from the Christian standpoint, is that of Christ on the cross. Whether or not you believe in the relevancy of the act, at least within the narrative of the Bible it was the most selfless act ever considered in that Christ was willing to serve humanity by giving himself up on the cross so that the sin problem would be dealt with and humanity could be reconciled back to the one who created them. But, all the while, Christ was also holding close to his own values such as only doing what that Father had sent him for, knowing he was actually providing the ultimate and only way back to the Father, etc, etc.

    But I also think that, in considering the definition of selflessness, it is reasonable to take into account that, while we humbly serve and act for the benefit of others, there is nothing wrong if benefit actually does return to the one selflessly serving (whether this ‘benefit’ is seen as staying true to one’s own values or the ‘benefit’ is that of being praised by others, though the latter is not our goal in serving). For consider, most times, the benefit returned upon the server is not always controlled by the one providing the service. But, of course, we recognize that as we serve others, we are willing to do so, even if we do not receive any benefit in return. And the actual, overall purpose in serving is not done to receive benefit and recognition, but for the blessing of others.

    A great example would be Mother Teresa. She was passionate about serving others at her own great expense, far outweighing her own personal benefit, while staying true to her beliefs and values. But she could never have known, nor probably desired, the recognition she received later in life, and even now after her death.

    In all, we can all unswervingly stick to our own definitions in regards to life. That is something that even you have valued in this article. But, if we are not willing to consider that others understand certain words and concepts to translate in other ways, then we are only coloring the argument with unwillingness to dialogue (hear the other sides). And I believe this leads down the slippery slop of creating a straw man that is easily knocked down.

  • 18. karen  |  September 6, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    This sounds like Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. It’s a bankrupt, immoral world view that I totally repudiate, as an atheist and a responsible human being.

  • 19. sequiturblog  |  September 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    ScottL said:
    “In the little bit I have just read, this article seems based on the philosophy of people like Ayn Rand.”

    ScottL clearly did not read this article.

  • 20. sequiturblog  |  September 6, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    ScottL and Karen,

    I have read the bulk of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and it is starkly different to what Evanescent is talking about here.

    You could summarize Rand’s philosophy by saying that she holds selfishness as a personal virtue.

    Evanescent is saying that simultaneously calling yourself selfless and altruistic is a contradiction in terms, because the practice of altruism requires one to hold up his moral ideal above others, which is a selfish act.

    Rand does not say this…

    ScottL, you should really read Evanescent’s article. It’s quite good.

  • 21. ordover  |  September 6, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    To build off of comment #20, Rand, through her philosophy, encourages the act of selfishness. She sees selfishness has her moral code, and suggests others adopt it.

    Evanescent isn’t espousing anything. He isn’t saying “selflessness is immoral, therefore go out and be selfish.” He’s merely using reductionist logic to break down the term “altruism” without imposing any creed.

  • 22. becky  |  September 6, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    did you know that altruism is a defense mechanism as well?

    becky

  • 23. LeoPardus  |  September 6, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Like Karen I thought of Ayn Rand when I started. In the end though this just falls under the heading of “reductio ad absurdum”. As such it advances nothing.

  • 24. Hugo  |  September 6, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I’m with LeoPardus and karen on this one.

    There’s something interesting to human altruism (*my* use of the word, I don’t care if it is the “wrong” use): it may be experienced as altruism, but looking at it from a big-picture, it does become “selfish”.

    If a mountain biker meets another with a flat, he’d typically give him his spare tube, and expect nothing in return. He’d rather ask the recipient to “pay it forward”. The result is a better society, the result and aim is arguably “selfish” from a big-picture perspective, and that’s how human cooperation could evolve. But the individual’s actions are not directly beneficial to the individual, and is experienced as a selfless act, despite it’s ultimate “selfish” benefits. Contributing to wikipedia, to open source, etc etc…

    Is it necessary to recognise the “big picture selfishness” of a moral and subjectively/experientially “selfless” act in order for it to be “moral”? Of course not, since my question reduces to “moral acts are moral”, heh.

    But that’s the easier question. Bigger sacrifices (a mother giving up a life for a child, or a revolutionary for a cause) can just as easily be considered “selfish” as long as you define the question right. Jesus dying in a protest of Roman oppression could also ultimately be considered selfish, as he selfishly died for the values he held dear? (Um, yea, here I’m with the liberal Bible scholars in not paying too much attention to the substitutionary atonement for sins idea that seems to rule Christianity these days.)

    But I’m being overly verbose here, as all I’m really talking about is semantics. Viva selfless self-sacrifice in selfish pursuit of greater ideals for human cooperation and compassion.

  • 25. silentj  |  September 6, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I think some of you have basically said this, but the first argument is a reduction of signs to a mathematical pattern, or rather a logical pattern, that doesn’t operate the same in real life. Basically, the argument is the simple “even selfless acts are selfish” but run through Zeno. The argument becomes a rhetorical/logical game more than any serious thesis on morality or altruism.

    “Morality,” “Love,” and “Altruism” aren’t tangible things like rocks or glass jars, things which can be seen, measured, etc. In fact, I don’t think people even really think of them as abstract “things” so much as ways to describe how we behave, feel, or act. To say that morality has to have an individual’s best or interest or the group’s best interest in mind is simply a world view. At best, we have a general consensus about these terms, and that’s about it. Even politically, “morality” means so many different things.

    The world and life are not black and white, even if the argument of whether they are black and white can be reduced to an A or B response. Not to be nasty, but this article seems to be the kind of pretentious coffee shop argument that philosophy undergrads have in between discussing which is the best Pavement record.

  • 26. peter  |  September 7, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    i think that this reaches the heart of why Jesus’ teachings are ridiculous. we are supposed to “love your enemies”. isnt this counterintuitive? arent we supposed to “love our neighbors and hate our enemies”?

    maybe this is why Jesus makes no sense to many. yet, i find that in this i agree. i do believe that we are to love those who are most despicable. this stems from the love that i believe God shows to us. i am often God’s enemy, yet He continues to love me.

    peter

  • 27. The de-Convert  |  September 7, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Peter,

    Re: your post

    Check this out: Teachings of Jesus on love.

    Paul

  • 28. titus2woman  |  September 8, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Doesn’t the Bible tell us (in James?) to esteem all others as better than ourselves? I don’t recall any conditions there…. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  • 29. Trevor  |  March 8, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Hey! A discussion that ended nearly 5 years ago. Well, let me jump in there.

    “[S]ince altruism dictates that we should hold our interests or values in no regard when acting, altruism actually states that the personal value of the beneficiary be irrelevant to our action!”

    Most certainly not. Moral judgment is a necessary means for achieving an altruistic ends. Does anyone believe handing money over to a drug-dealer is going to be in anyone’s best interests? You assume receiving money is necessarily a benefit. For a destructive person (to oneself or to others), receiving a wad of cash is a detriment. To determine whether an act of charity will be effective requires careful formation of conscience. Only then can you act in accord with your values, not for some self-serving purpose of making yourself feel good or getting a ego boost out of imposing your will on others, but because you genuinely believe it is in the best interests of others.

    And, yes, the ideal is to act in others’ best interest without discriminating based on their relationship to you. But we are of limited means and pragmatism dictates we help those near us. I’ll be able to serve soup at the local soup kitchen far more effectively than flying myself around the world to serve the starving. So I give my labor locally and I give my money (after careful research) to institutions that, through the power of “economy of scale”, can make more effective use of the money.

    In sum, pragmatic altruism requires a decision matrix carefully constructed from your education and life experiences. And that whole thing about achieving true happiness, I think the real irony is that the only true happiness comes from not fretting about obtaining it. Namely: be selfless! Peeeaaace! :)

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