I believe almost everything we do is for our own benefit. No actions, no matter how kind or good they may seem, are acts of selfishness. This is how humans operate. Period.
People who do good deeds, such as give to charity or volunteer, still do these deeds for selfish reasons. It makes them feel good or they desire the perception of being charitable by others. In the end all actions are actions based on ourselves. If giving didn’t feel good – then no one would do it.
Good deeds may also be done to aliviate guilt – which in the end benefits the giver. Good deeds are done because the benefit of doing said good deed out-weighs the costs of doing such deed (at least to the individual performing the act).
For example a starving person may share a portion of their food with another starving person because the guilt for not doing so is worse than the hunger pains or perhaps even the chance of death, thus to alieviate guilt the starving person shares his/her food. However, if they are near death the cost may be to high, thus the individual will not share their food.
Another example. A person gives $100 to charity. They give because the benefits of giving to charity outweigh (in their opinion) the costs of the $100 given to charity. Either they feel good for doing it or some other non-monetary benefit arrives as result of the giving. They do not give $200 because the $200 is worth more than the perceived benefits from giving it to charity – even though they could theoretically provide for twice as many people. All acts are a result of selfish behavior.
I am NOT saying, however, that this is a bad thing. So what if you feel good for giving to charity – good for you! Do it, giving is great – people need it. I am just saying that deeds are performed out of our own self-centered nature. There is no way around it, it is who we are as a species. Period.
Just don’t fee like such a saint next time you donate blood. In reality you did it for yourself, for your own reasons.
This is also why I believe the Free Market works, but I suppose we will get to that topic later.