When it comes to doing good deeds, I believe there is a difference between doing them for others and doing them for oneself, even if the ultimate outcome is the same.
From the perspective of “ends justify the means,” the motivation doesn’t really matter, as good deeds were done and that is a net good for society at large. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that if everyone were to perform more good deeds, society would be better. That said, are good deeds done with ulterior motives actually “good?”
I’m no philosopher, and I’m sure the question has been debated between multiple schools of thought, but from my armchair view, I would argue that good done from a selfish motivation is less valuable than that done from a selfless motivation. Whether this matters objectively, either in the aggregate or the long term, I don’t know, but for me the difference is important.
If a wealthy donor bequeaths a large sum of money to a public school district, I think most would view that as a charitable action. Would it be less charitable if the person did it in order to have a building named after them, and as such preserve or create a lasting a legacy? I would argue so.
Being charitable, which can express itself in far more ways than just monetary donations, should be an end unto itself. By its nature charity is the act of giving or helping without expectation of reward or recognition.
It’s doing the right thing even when there’s no one around, because the right thing is always the right thing.
Every day each of us encounters opportunities to be charitable – whether with a donation to a worthy cause, writing a “I’m thinking about you” note to a friend, or even taking care of those dishes your roommate swore they’d get yesterday – and ultimately by being charitable, by giving of our time and energy, we each do our part to make our world a better place, even if nobody specifically knows what you did.