Kenju asked in a comment to yesterday’s post, “A good deed is not lessened by an ulterior motive, is it?”
Well, is it?
Mother Theresa was known for her selflessness. One could argue that she lived her life of poverty and service to others out of the hope and belief that she was accumulating a reward in heaven. Thus even she had an ulterior motive.
I don’t know.
In today’s world we are usually taught to seek out the “win-win” situation where both parties gain in an exchange. That’s what our capitalistic society teaches us.
For example, my company pays me money (something I want) in exchange for my willingness to perform “Human Resources” services. We both give something we’re willing to give in exchange for something we want.
The failure of the communist model has been ascribed to its tenet of “From each according to his ability, and to each according to his need.” What’s wrong with that? Well, if I want something, it doesn’t matter how hard I work for it. I won’t get it until “society” perceives that I have a need for it.
So to get what I want, I have to be needy. And even THAT depends on someone else’s perception of what I need. I may think I need a new central heating system, but someone else may perceive that I just need an extra couple of blankets to wrap up in.
But to get back to Kenju’s question, I think a good deed may be lessened in the eyes of those who view it by their perception of the motive of the deed-doer. Human nature seems to dictate that we do things that provide us with the greatest benefit. Thus some feel that the thief who steals to eat is less despicable that the thief who steals to sell the stolen item.
Motives matter. So I think the answer to her question is, “yes it does.”
What do you think? (A shameless attempt to entice you to make a comment. Is my motive selfish — more hits on my hit counter — or is it selfless in trying to get you to examine your own perceptions and be a better person for it?)
(I’ll never tell!)