I’ve been reading a lot lately. Most of the books have been on psychopathy (and the neuroscience of psychopathy, in particular), but I’ve also been reading books on how to be a better blogger and social media user. While these latter books are focused on businesses and corporations, their teachings extend to the up and coming blogger and writer as well. An interesting trend with these books is that they champion the use of altruism as a means for outreach. The authors of these books – such as The Tao of Twitter – argue that being selfless is the key to the hearts of others. The implication is clear, however. Do for others so that others will do for you. However, does not this violate the core definition of altruism? That actions are to be made solely for their own sake and without an expectation of personal gain as a result?
As I’ve written before regarding altruism, I believe the concept is inherently flawed. Short of throwing oneself on a grenade to save one’s comrades at the expense of their own life, I fail to see how the overwhelming majority of actions that are considered “altruistic” are truly such. Whether altruistic actions are born from hopes of quid pro quo behavior or even as a means of inflating one’s own sense of self, nearly all actions have a benefit to the one performing them – unless one is just self-destructive and performs only actions that harm themselves. So how can one be purely selfless with discourse? I don’t believe that it is possible.