Is there true charity in the world?

What is charity? What is compassion?
Is there in reality any form of giving that doesn’t have a reward attached to it and If so, Is it in reality a gift or a means of fulfilling an inner desire to be relevant in a world where there is so much need?
Do people that give for givings sake not benefit from the good feeling one gets from doing so and can that good feeling become so addictive that some become so selfless that they endanger their own future? If so, is the giving truly giving or the chasing of a euphoric feeling that they are addicted to.
Is this in any way akin to activism and If so, can activism become an addiction as well? Can the mere thought of injustice automatically create a knee jerk reaction, before the full picture is known and the person end up chasing in image of injustice instead of factual injustice?
Can people such as this be used by those with ulterior motives and in fact profit by them enlisting activists to a false cause?
If this is so, then how similar are these activists, who chase chase false issues to that of fervent Christians blindly following their faith?

Sorry, but the argument that people who perform an altruistic act are really doing it because it makes them feel good or superior is, in my opinion, quite dumb. We can judge consequences easily, actions relatively easily, but motivations are extremely difficult to judge. In fact, I’ve found that whenever anyone has attemped to define the motivations of others, they are really describing what’s inside themselves.
Skip trying to discern the motivations and look at the actions and consequences.
Occam

I don’t know what to call this example of voluntary sharing of food. In nature usually there is competition for food but my favorite primate, the Bonobo, seems to take a determined and motivated action to share its food from pure generosity without apparent other motive.
The entire NOVA clip is interesting and informative, but @ 8:40 is the example of the altruistic action by a Bonobo with a stranger.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/what-animals-thinking.html

Well I think it’s baked into the Christian religion at least to do good because you were told to do good to get to heaven. So no matter how they disguise that fact, it’s still basically selfish. What about non-believers? Sure you feel good about yourself when you give to others. Can’t help that, it seems to happen without trying. For myself, there have been times though that I’ve given charity even when my family has been at it’s lowest financially. It’s just our personal belief that even then, you have to give, because by comparison there’s always someone worse off. AND we believe that you should always give anonymously and never for tax benefit for example, otherwise, like religious folks, it seems selfish.

All organisms have as one of their basic drives, the motivation to continue the species. In most cases it also includes the desire for survival which goes along with personal benefit. However, species seem to break down into those who work to benefit only themselves, and those who work together to benefit their community (which usually benefits them more than would individual efforts. It appears that this behavior is coded into the species DNA. Humans are obviously a communal species so they work together for mutual benefit.
Most religions have built into them the concept of doing good for god, and for one’s own ultimate benefit. Unfortunately, this incorrect concept has been built into our social beliefs so strongly that people think helping others is always subtly selfish. I think this is completely wrong.
Occam

All organisms have as one of their basic drives, the motivation to continue the species. In most cases it also includes the desire for survival which goes along with personal benefit. However, species seem to break down into those who work to benefit only themselves, and those who work together to benefit their community (which usually benefits them more than would individual efforts. It appears that this behavior is coded into the species DNA. Humans are obviously a communal species so they work together for mutual benefit. Most religions have built into them the concept of doing good for god, and for one's own ultimate benefit. Unfortunately, this incorrect concept has been built into our social beliefs so strongly that people think helping others is always subtly selfish. I think this is completely wrong. Occam
I agree Occam. Nobody does anything for nothing. There is always a payoff of one kind or another. We also do things that may look like good deeds because we are genetically, psychologically, environmentally and experientially determined to do them--to save the species, for example. We may not know our actual motivation. We never do anything in a vaccuum. This disturbs some people who want to find real altruism, but, IMO, there is no such thing. We can live perfectly well without it, or we can pretend it exists. Lois
I agree Occam. Nobody does anything for nothing. There is always a payoff of one kind or another. We also do things that may look like good deeds because we are genetically, psychologically, environmentally and experientially determined to do them--to save te species, for example. We may not know our actual motivation. We never do anything in a vaccuum. This disturbs some people who want to find real altruism, but, IMO, there is no such thing. We can live perfectly well without it, or we can pretend it exists.
What would be an example where you don't know your actual motivation? Seems to me that I sometimes give money to organizations mainly motivated by the thought that I believe that this may be effective at reducing the amount of suffering that takes place. You're saying I've got my motivation wrong?
I agree Occam. Nobody does anything for nothing. There is always a payoff of one kind or another. We also do things that may look like good deeds because we are genetically, psychologically, environmentally and experientially determined to do them--to save te species, for example. We may not know our actual motivation. We never do anything in a vaccuum. This disturbs some people who want to find real altruism, but, IMO, there is no such thing. We can live perfectly well without it, or we can pretend it exists.
What would be an example where you don't know your actual motivation? Seems to me that I sometimes give money to organizations mainly motivated by the thought that I believe that this may be effective at reducing the amount of suffering that takes place. You're saying I've got my motivation wrong? You are rationalizing that the motivation is to help alleviate suffering, but the reality is the knowledge that you made a difference makes you feel good. Thus the decision to help is constructive and morally good and the pleasure you experience from that is a selfish motivation. But this kind of selfishness may be called a Virtue. It becomes more complicated when resources are exhausted and instead of sharing in the abundance, you are forced to compete for limited resources.
You are rationalizing that the motivation is to help alleviate suffering, but the reality is the knowledge that you made a difference makes you feel good.
I don't understand why these two propositions are supposed to be inconsistent with one another. Thus the decision to help is constructive and morally good and the pleasure you experience from that is a selfish motivation. But I'm not motivated by the thought "If I do this, I'll feel good afterwards." That may be true but it is not what's driving the behaviour. I'm motivated by the thought "If I do this, less suffering will take place."
You are rationalizing that the motivation is to help alleviate suffering, but the reality is the knowledge that you made a difference makes you feel good.
I don't understand why these two propositions are supposed to be inconsistent with one another. I am not claiming that. They are self consistent. Thus the decision to help is constructive and morally good and the pleasure you experience from that is a selfish motivation.
But I'm not motivated by the thought "If I do this, I'll feel good afterwards." That may be true but it is not what's driving the behaviour. I'm motivated by the thought "If I do this, less suffering will take place."
"If I do this , less suffering will take place ...........and that will make you (and me) happy..."! I believe it is a function of the mirror neural network, allowing us to feel and act empathically. By relieving your suffering, I relieve my empathic suffering. But occasionally we have to do that which makes us feel bad. An example is to "take an animal out of its misery" by killing it. This brings several emotional mirror responses in humans, but fundamentally it must be justified and reconciled by the individual.
I agree Occam. Nobody does anything for nothing. There is always a payoff of one kind or another. We also do things that may look like good deeds because we are genetically, psychologically, environmentally and experientially determined to do them--to save te species, for example. We may not know our actual motivation. We never do anything in a vaccuum. This disturbs some people who want to find real altruism, but, IMO, there is no such thing. We can live perfectly well without it, or we can pretend it exists.
What would be an example where you don't know your actual motivation? Seems to me that I sometimes give money to organizations mainly motivated by the thought that I believe that this may be effective at reducing the amount of suffering that takes place. You're saying I've got my motivation wrong? Anyone can come up with what they think is a good motivation for their acts. It probably is not the true one, though. In fact we don't usually know what our true motivations are. We like to come up with motivations that show us as selfless. But just doing something because we think it makes us look good or makes us feel good about ourselves means the motivation was not purely altruistic. It's human nature to put a good spin on everything we do. That doesn't mean our actions are not good or helpful, only that we probably were not solely motivated by some sense of selflessness. As far as saying your contribution was motivated by the belief that it would reduce the amount of suffering doesn't quite cut it, either. The possibility of reducing suffering makes you feel good, doesn't it? Where does that feeling come from? So much depends on your definition of altruism and your understanding of actual human motivations. Lois
You are rationalizing that the motivation is to help alleviate suffering, but the reality is the knowledge that you made a difference makes you feel good.
I don't understand why these two propositions are supposed to be inconsistent with one another. Thus the decision to help is constructive and morally good and the pleasure you experience from that is a selfish motivation. But I'm not motivated by the thought "If I do this, I'll feel good afterwards." That may be true but it is not what's driving the behaviour. I'm motivated by the thought "If I do this, less suffering will take place." I don't think any of us can know what exactly is driving our behavior. There are milllions of factors controlling our decisions and we are unaware of most of them. But we're good at creating justifications, especially ones that make us look good to ourselves or others. Lois
Anyone can come up with what they think is a good motivation for their acts. It probably is not the true one, though. In fact we don't usually know what our true motivations are. We like to come up with motivations that show us as selfless. But just doing something because we think it makes us look good or makes us feel good about ourselves means the motivation was not purely altruistic. It's human nature to put a good spin on everything we do. That doesn't mean our actions are not good or helpful, only that we probably were not solely motivated by some sense of selflessness. As far as saying your contribution was motivated by the belief that it would reduce the amount of suffering doesn't quite cut it, either. The possibility of reducing suffering makes you feel good, doesn't it? Where does that feeling come from? So much depends on your definition of altruism and your understanding of actual human motivations.
Let me be sure I understand. You're saying that I've made a mistake about my true motivation, right? Does that mean that you are positing some kind of notion of an unconscious motivation? I dislike the idea of suffering taking place and I like the idea of less suffering taking place. I'd say this probably comes from my capacity for empathy which arises from the fact that I evolved as a social animal. I don't understand where you're coming from when you say that my report about what my motivation was doesn't "cut it". Are you trying to say that you're somehow in a better position to know what my motivation was? It seems to me you're not really being all that specific about what you think my "true" motivation was.
Anyone can come up with what they think is a good motivation for their acts. It probably is not the true one, though. In fact we don't usually know what our true motivations are. We like to come up with motivations that show us as selfless. But just doing something because we think it makes us look good or makes us feel good about ourselves means the motivation was not purely altruistic. It's human nature to put a good spin on everything we do. That doesn't mean our actions are not good or helpful, only that we probably were not solely motivated by some sense of selflessness. As far as saying your contribution was motivated by the belief that it would reduce the amount of suffering doesn't quite cut it, either. The possibility of reducing suffering makes you feel good, doesn't it? Where does that feeling come from? So much depends on your definition of altruism and your understanding of actual human motivations.
Let me be sure I understand. You're saying that I've made a mistake about my true motivation, right? Does that mean that you are positing some kind of notion of an unconscious motivation? I believe there is an entire scientific discipline that deals with this very question It is called Psychology. It is proper to ask ourselves what motivates our actions. Don't forget, in your example both rationalizations are beneficial in general. Both emotional priorities are served. But the actual circumstance may be different in several ways and then we may encounter conflicting emotional and moral priorities. IMO, ultimately I do what is good for me, it is a natural law for living things, it is the natural extension of "survival instinct" and allows for the evolution of species. But thought is a biochemical process and limited by its own physical abilities. We can be so easily fooled. Can we trust our own senses, interpretations and actions based our interpretations? The following may not seem related at first but it does illustrate the fundamental moral problem of deciding which is "good" and which is "bad". As Dr Bartlett says, "it is the greatest moral question ever facing mankind". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BMEImNf9M8
I dislike the idea of suffering taking place and I like the idea of less suffering taking place. I'd say this probably comes from my capacity for empathy which arises from the fact that I evolved as a social animal.
I totally agree. But it brings us to the question; what is "empathy"? wiki: the ability to physically and emotionally experience another's suffering. It is this ability to mirror the suffering in others which may compel us "help alleviate our shared suffering".
I don't understand where you're coming from when you say that my report about what my motivation was doesn't "cut it". Are you trying to say that you're somehow in a better position to know what my motivation was? It seems to me you're not really being all that specific about what you think my "true" motivation was.
Sorry, but the argument that people who perform an altruistic act are really doing it because it makes them feel good or superior is, in my opinion, quite dumb. We can judge consequences easily, actions relatively easily, but motivations are extremely difficult to judge. In fact, I've found that whenever anyone has attemped to define the motivations of others, they are really describing what's inside themselves. Skip trying to discern the motivations and look at the actions and consequences. Occam
Actually, it's not that difficult to judge it at all. They did some tests on it and, indeed, it showed that in the end people do it for selfish reasons. Not to feel superior but to stand out and send a signal to attract a mate. Nothing wrong with that, though. If you want me to tell you about the studies they had done on this, let me know.

All actions require a force. That’s true in physics. And it’s true when talking about the actions of an organism. A plat grows towards light because the light triggers the release of chemical that make it grow in that direction. An animal moves to a watering hole because thirst drives it there. By the same token humans give to others because some force motivates them. It’s impossible for any organism to perform any action without some stimulus or motivation.
The question is simply how we want to define true charity. Is it charity if you do it to avoid eternal damnation. Is it charity if you do it to avoid public embarrassment. Is it charity if you do it because it makes you feel good? I think it is. There will always be a motivating force, but of all the things that can motivate one human to help another the idea that someone would help another and ask nothing in return but the warm feeling he gets inside seems worthy of the term charity to me.

Let me be sure I understand. You're saying that I've made a mistake about my true motivation, right? Does that mean that you are positing some kind of notion of an unconscious motivation?
I believe there is an entire scientific discipline that deals with this very question It is called Psychology. There was one occasion when I studied first-year psychology, in my undergraduate years. Could I please ask, what are your reasons for thinking that I'm mistaken in thinking that my action was motivated by a desire to reduce suffering? And what are your conjectures about what the real motivation is?
It is proper to ask ourselves what motivates our actions. Don't forget, in your example both rationalizations are beneficial in general.
Which two rationalizations are these? And what exactly is the evidence that they are indeed rationalizations?
IMO, ultimately I do what is good for me, it is a natural law for living things, it is the natural extension of "survival instinct" and allows for the evolution of species.
Obviously given that I'm a product of many millions of years of natural selection you'd expect me to be disposed to behave in a way that's well-calculated to enhance my prospects for passing on my genes. The statement that I do what is good for me requires more examination. For one thing, you'd want to be clear about exactly how we evaulate which outcomes are good for me. Let's try this thought-experiment. Suppose someone gave me a choice between two futures. In the first future I will correctly believe that I have prevented some suffering and experience a mild "inner glow". In the second future I will falsely believe that I have prevented a much larger amount of suffering and experience a much more intense "inner glow". (And I will forget that I was presented with this choice.) I claim that I'd go with the first one, because I'm more concerned about actually preventing suffering than just stimulating the release of dopamine in my nervous system.
But thought is a biochemical process and limited by its own physical abilities. We can be so easily fooled. Can we trust our own senses, interpretations and actions based our interpretations?
More often than not we can trust our senses, and we can also get a pretty good idea of the circumstances under which we can't. You're trying to put forward a claim that I'm mistaken about my true motivation, right? So offer reasons why I should believe you. What are the reasons why I am most likely mistaken about my true motivation, and what are your conjectures about what my true motivation is?
The following may not seem related at first but it does illustrate the fundamental moral problem of deciding which is "good" and which is "bad".
It illustrates how you need to consider far-future consequences of your actions as well as near-future ones, sure.
Rupert,
Write4U - 08 November 2013 06:20 PM But thought is a biochemical process and limited by its own physical abilities. We can be so easily fooled. Can we trust our own senses, interpretations and actions based our interpretations?
More often than not we can trust our senses, and we can also get a pretty good idea of the circumstances under which we can’t. You’re trying to put forward a claim that I’m mistaken about my true motivation, right? So offer reasons why I should believe you. What are the reasons why I am most likely mistaken about my true motivation, and what are your conjectures about what my true motivation is?
I am doing no such thing. I was making observations in the course of the general discussion. At no time did I say you were wrong. I was trying to expand the parameter of the simple example you gave, which could be argued from both viewpoints that the action is virtuous in itself and at the same time the outcome is positive by resulting in less suffering. In your example both motivations are positive and motivationally satisfying.
Write4U - 08 November 2013 06:20 PM The following may not seem related at first but it does illustrate the fundamental moral problem of deciding which is “good" and which is “bad".
It illustrates how you need to consider far-future consequences of your actions as well as near-future ones, sure.
And then we come to the famous train switch dilemma. And the question of forced morals (such as in scripture) and the question why some can find pleasure by inflicting suffering (sadism), which would be the other end of the spectrum. Apparently the brain allows for a wide range of motivations, some which are much deeper than a spontaneous decision to "ease suffering", by sticking a dollar bill in a box. I guess I am trying to stress the limitations of mechanistic biochemical functions in the brain, rather than a spiritual insight which motivates our thinking. There are plenty experiments which can fool the brain in all sensory processing. Optical and auditory illusions, tactile and neurological feelings. http://www.diffen.com/difference/Ethics_vs_Morals

My main motivation in bringing up the example was to get clearer about why Lois thinks we can often be mistaken about our true motivations. It sounds as though you agree I’ve probably got reasonably good insight into what my true motivations are.

You are rationalizing that the motivation is to help alleviate suffering, but the reality is the knowledge that you made a difference makes you feel good.
I don't understand why these two propositions are supposed to be inconsistent with one another. Thus the decision to help is constructive and morally good and the pleasure you experience from that is a selfish motivation. But I'm not motivated by the thought "If I do this, I'll feel good afterwards." That may be true but it is not what's driving the behaviour. I'm motivated by the thought "If I do this, less suffering will take place." A hard determinist would say you can't know what your actual motivation is. It's lost in a sea of determining factors that brought you to the point of doing what you have decided will help. You can't know exactly which factor(s) brought you to that decision. What is good about what you do when you contribute is your conscious intention to do good, but you can't be sure where that intention springs from and I'm not sure you can take credit for it. No doubt your conscious motivations are pure, but there are unknown motivations you are unaware of. I admit it is a difficult concept to understand. Lois