Craigslist Saves

December 15, 2011

Political Theory


Craigslist is a very useful tool. You can find an ad for just about anything on craigslist from roommates and apartments to used sports equipment and cars. The most useful item found on craigslist was actually a kidney.  It is possible to live with just one kidney. Humans are born with 2 so one can be donated with no significant changes in life style or standard of living. Selina Hodge a 28 year old resident of Miami desperately posted an ad on craigslist for a kidney.  She needed a kidney donated to live. Stephanie Grant a 23 year old resident of Miami responded and actually gave her spare kidney to Selina Hodge ultimately saving her life. The women went through transplant surgery on Tuesday, and are currently recovering in the hospital.

It warms my heart to know that every day heroes like Stephanie Grant are in this world. Donating a kidney to a random stranger is the most selfless act you can do. Stephanie Grant got nothing in return for her kidney. Stephanie donated it completely out of the kindness of her heart.  Stephanie acted completely altruistically towards Selina Hodge.

Some philosophers like Hobbes believe in psychological egoism. Psychological egoism is the philosophy that people act selfishly to foster their own self-interest or happiness.  An example of this would be donating money to a homeless man on the street. According to Hobbes you do this to feel better about yourself not because you want to help out the less fortunate man.  If you believe in the theory of psychological egoism then altruism the unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others does not actually exist.

Tocqueville is a French philosopher who believes in the theory of enlightened self-interest. Enlightened self-interest is the idea that people act to further the interest of others or groups they are a member of to further their own self-interest. This theory says that people will act altruistically because it benefits society or others which ultimately benefits themselves. Using the homeless man example again, you would donate to the homeless man because it furthers the interest of the homeless man. This ultimately benefits your own self-interest by solving the problem of the homeless man.

Does altruism actually exist? Or did Stephanie donate a kidney so that she would feel great about herself?

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About weimarj

student in poli sci 101 at michigan

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6 Comments on “Craigslist Saves”

  1. marydahm08 Says:

    I don’t think that it is as simple as this situation being either altruism or that she did it to feel great about herself. Morality is not as black and white as it seems. In my view, it was some combination of both. I think that humans do have an innate desire to alleviate suffering for each other and to help each other out, and I would like to think that it goes beyond the desire for karmic benefits. I truly believe that there is a part of us (independent of the biological inclination to help each other because it helps out the species as a whole) that tells us we should do something simply because it is the right thing to do so.

    Now maybe this was not the sole reason she donated the kidney. Maybe there was another part of her that did feel alleviated of some guilt. Maybe she knew that if she needed a kidney she would want someone to donate one to her. But I do believe that at least part of the reason for her action came from completely pure intentions.

  2. antuck Says:

    Technically, every act is done because we somehow feel it will increase our pleasure. This is called the pleasure principle. But that doesn’t mean every act is selfish. Selfishness, rather, should be defined as “putting one’s own interests before the welfare of others.” Whether or not the person takes pleasure in an act does not determine whether it was selfless or selfish. The fact that Stephanie took pleasure in saving someone’s life does not make her selfish; it makes her selfless.

    Selfless acts are the acts that put the welfare of others before the actor’s welfare. Taking pleasure in such acts, even when the actor’s own pleasure is the only motive, is the definition of selfless.

    I think a simple clarification of the terms neatly solves the problem.

  3. nozomigg Says:

    As other comments have mentioned, it could be just a simple combination of the both. Of course a person wouldn’t do something if they didn’t have any motivation to – so in this sense, she is acting on her own behalf. But the question is where her motivation is coming from. In this case, it seems to be coming from the fact that someone else’s life is being saved. The fact that she responded to a craigslist ad, vs joining a donor list, is, I think, even more of an indication that she was motivated by something other than her own interests.
    I don’t think she was doing this for the good of the community, like theories by Toqueville might suggest, because although there are never too many donors, there are certainly enough that this woman would have found a donor eventually. Stephanie obviously did not have any connection to kidney donating or prior motivation to donate – otherwise she would have. But she was just an average citizen browsing through a webpage, and even though there were probably many other donors who focus on kidney problems, she decided to step to the plate. This makes her act done in the good of the other person, motivated by her desire to save someone’s life.

  4. jps3520 Says:

    I think that this is a very interesting topic, as a matter of fact a friend and I were just talking about this subject the other day. There is and episode of Friends that goes through someone trying to be a true altruist, and it’s interesting. Obviously Hobbes and Tocqueville’s ideas could very well be right, there obviously good ideas.

    I want to examine the scenario that was stated at the beginning, the kidney donor. Hobbes says that she did it because this act made her feel better about herself and therefore it was for her all along. Tocqueville says that the lady was helping out society which would help her. To me, this act is altruistic. The kidney removal process could not have been that fun to go through, but she did it for a stranger regardless. So my question is this: does the good feelings she gets out of this outweigh the pain that she had to go to or did she have to will herself to do it? I think that’s something that needs to be looked for, and it’s different than a donation. If I donate $20 to charity it doesn’t really impact me very much and it helps them out so it’s a simple thing for me to do and I feel good about it. However, donating a kidney isn’t just like dropping a couple bills in a collection basket. So does the amount of self-satisfaction rise with the difficulty of the task or do people just do nice things? Obviously this isn’t something we can quantify, but if we could I would like to see the results.

  5. danielpienkowski Says:

    Truly, I think most acts of charity are done mainly as a result of altruism with a little bit of self-interest behind them, but I hardly think that this in and of itself is a bad thing. As per the kidney donation, I highly doubt that Stephanie went through with is because she wanted to “feel great about herself.” Whenever we do a good deed for someone I believe that we do get a little rewarding feeling as we feel good about ourselves and what we did, but I think the primary motivator for most people to do good isn’t purely to feel good about themselves but to know that they made a positive difference in other people’s lives. Throughout high school, I completed almost 200 hours of community service, and although I loved what I was doing and it made me happy knowing I was helping others, I think this was a result or byproduct of knowing that I was hopefully helping society as a whole.

    A few weeks ago a story came up in the news where EJ and Erin Henderson, two professional football players and brothers, donated $20,000 to their old high school to help them purchase an electronic scoreboard for their football field. The catch? They wanted the field renamed “Henderson Field” and their name put up on the scoreboard. Personally, this act irritated me when I first heard of it, as it seemed apparent that the Hendersons primary motivation for helping out a school in need wasn’t simply to just help them out because they needed it, but to get some glorification and recognition in return. Personally, I believe that anonymous donations are much more respectable, as the people behind them obviously don’t care about their own ego or crave recognition and praise, but instead give back because they feel like it’s the right thing to do.

  6. mpogoda3 Says:

    I think that it is more complicated than altruism or self-interest, as I think the two are intertwined. If someone were to just believe in self-interest, than the world would be a sad place. People would ONLY be doing stuff to make themselves feel better, and acts of unselfishness and kindness would be overlooked. While I do not know how the rest of the world feels about this, I have my own experiences to look at. When I commit an unselfish act, it is always out of the good of my heart. If I see a homeless man on the street and give him money, it is not because I need to feel good about myself, but rather about the deed of helping out. This is not to say that I do not feel good after the fact. What I mean is that when many people do nice things, they DO feel good after committing so, but this is not the reason that they do it in the first place. When people give charity to others, they understand that it is the right thing to do, not just a selfish act. Stephanie gave her kidney to help out another victim.

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