The Battle Between Altruism And Self-Interest

Submitted By johndoe3737
Words: 1169
Pages: 5

The Battle between Altruism and Self-Interest Altruism and self-interest are inherent motivations in humans and will continue to be till the end of dawn. Personally, whenever I hold the door open for someone it makes me feel good about myself because I was making life easier for someone else. However, at the same time thoughts drift across my mind that makes me think about why I held the door open. Was it because I really was trying to help out another person or was it because I was looking for the satisfaction from the thank you that I could receive from the individual. I would think about it for a minute then I would come to the rationalization that I was just being a nice person and trying to do the right thing. Call it altruistic or call it as me acting out of self-interest, either way it is the right thing to do and I cannot think about it in depth. This controversy between self-interest and altruism has gone through many people’s heads at some points, and both Jenner and Vonnegut had to deal with this topic of discussion within their own work. It is always nice to get a pat on the back and be recognized for accomplishments one has achieved over a lifetime, but at the end of the day what are our motives to do these charitable things and to help others? Edward Jenner was surrounded by medical practices his whole life and eventually went into a career of being a successful family doctor and surgeon. Any job in the medical field requires at least a little bit of altruism since you are actually in the profession of helping other people. Jenner did not just stick to practicing his professional job; he also started to gain an interest into the origins of smallpox. Jenner came up with the initial theory of, “The initial source of infection was a disease of horses, called “the grease”, which was transferred to cows by farm workers, transformed, and then manifested as cowpox “(Jenner). Although, later on he found out that cowpox did not come from “the grease” he continued to test his theories through trial and error, until he came up with what he thought to be immunization of smallpox. He did not need to take all this time and effort out of his life to pursue this global outbreak that was killing thirty percent of whoever obtained it. Jenner is the only one who could possibly know his true motives behind his hard work he put into the smallpox, but to me it is the combination of two things. First, the fact that he pretty much grew up in a hospital and was around medical practice his entire life and looked at smallpox as a challenging task that had stumped the whole medical community and he was going to be the first one to solve the problem. At first glance it seems like he is seeking glory for being the hero who solved the smallpox epidemic and acting in a very self-interested manner. However, after further analysis of the situation, I realized there was another motive pushing him to eliminate smallpox. Jenner had to be thinking of his children and the possibility of them contracting the smallpox virus. This must have given him thoughts of other kids around the world and how this virus could ruin not only their childhood but their lives. Even though, it might not be accurate, I’m sure this must of crossed Jenner’s mind once throughout all of his astonishing work toward the development of the vaccination of smallpox. What makes me think he did it mostly out of pure altruism and love for helping others is that he did not get to reap the full rewards of saving so many people since he died over a hundred years before the virus was totally wiped out. Also, I am sure he did not know that his work saved more lives than the work of any other man in history and perhaps no man will ever save more lives than him. So naturally, I would say Jenner acted mostly out of pure altruism and did all of his work for the better of our planet. Kurt Vonnegut also displays some altruism versus self-interest contrast in his writing, Cat’s…