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Money as Wealth

Karen, this same misconception arises in inquiries into “self-interest.” I got into such a discussion with my students in class a few days ago. I told them that all volitional action is self-interest motivated; that we act for the purpose of being better off after we act than if we hadn’t acted at all. I added that there is no such motivation as “altruism” (i.e., sacrificing a higher value in order to promote a lesser one); that giving your money away to a charity or jumping into a river to save a stranger are self-interested acts. We might not know what ends the actor was trying to promote, but he or she had some purpose which, at the time of acting, was valuable to them to accomplish. This is but a playing out of the subjective nature of all values. To those who believe in “objective” values (i.e., their own as some universal standards) “altruism” comes down to the proposition that, “since I wouldn’t have valued such an end, those who do must be engaged in an altruistic act.”

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3:26 pm on October 1, 2006