Commentary  I sing the song of myself

Re: “Others are not tools of the self” | Commentary | October 21

I read Agbayani’s article in reference to Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity with considerable interest because I took it to support my own thinking: that the greatest moral good is to value others. I’m a philosopher; I think about this a lot. Interestingly, the New York Times published an excerpt of SuperFreakonomics entitled, “Unbelievable stories about apathy and altruism” on October 20. The article concludes that people are primarily altruistic when they are given some sort of incentive to benefit themselves. If you apply this to modern relationships: people want someone to love them and they’ll do whatever they can to get it. Boil this down, and the world seems like a grim place where everyone uses everyone else to validate themselves; any altruism today is nothing less than self-serving and self-validating, much as Agbayani suggests. In fact, I consider myself a particularly narcissistic and egotistical person (“Of course I’m an egoist. Where do you get if you aren’t?” said Winston Churchill). However, the reason that I am self-obsessed with validating myself is that if I love myself, then I do not require other people to validate me. In that respect, the reason I am altruistic is not because it makes me feel better about myself – I feel damn fine about myself on a regular basis – note the narcissism – but because I feel that it is morally right to do so. Apply this to relationships: I don’t seek any validation from my partner and simply try and make said partner’s world a better place! I give love without expecting anything in return and I am able to do this because I love myself. People today need to spend more time feeling good about themselves, and if that necessitates some silly pilgrimage of self-discovery, then so be it!

Spencer Malthouse
U3 Philosophy