Stephen... here we go again...
'I wonder to myself, what would ever cause you to value the "good feeling" of helping another, over the good feeling of a full belly say if it was your last 5 bucks, and it came down to you having a meal or them having a meal?'
What causes me to value the good feeling of giving over the good feeling of eating? Two things. First of all, I have seen human suffering. I don't like to see it, so if I can help another out, I will. Secondly- It's not my last five bucks. I have more in the bank. Seriously, though, if I was down to five bucks, I'd probably give the bum a dollar instead of five. you can get a loaf of bread for a dollar... and I still fill my belly comfortably.
The difference between self-interest and selflessness is that the selfless person would starve himself in order to feed another. When you think of all the starving people in the world... doesn't make much sense to deny yourself all comfort in order to add little comfort to thw life of another, especially since if you're giving up your last five bucks... who's gonna feed you? Not I...
'And from the standpoint of making self-interest the highest consideration, in what sense are the pleasures of giving more desireable than the pleasures of self-indulgence and being stingy, and why?'
I hold generosity highly among my list of values, believe it or not. However, I don't call it selflessness, which I find a rather ugly concept. Rather, I acknowledge that giving to others fulfills a moral guideline I set for myself, thus bringing me pleasure; at the same time, it'll fill that guy's stomach. Mutual trade to mutual benefit.
'What happens when morality imposes a much more unpleasant option as the "right" thing to do?'
I weigh my options. If I will derive enough personal pleasure and fulfillment out of the action to make the unpleasantness of doing so worth my while, I do it. If not, I don't. Pretty simple.
'What keeps you from shirking moral responsiblity on the basis that the easier way is easiest, especially if it is all about yourself?'
I am tempted to question 'moral responsibility'- to whom? To a homeless guy I don't know? I didn't make him homeless... and I certainly didn't give him any mental/substance abuse problems he may have that keep him on the street...
Now... I'm partially playing devil's advocate here... in a purely theoretical sense, I don't feel the responsibility is mine... however... tie emotions in, maybe put my father's face and this man's body... and yeah, I feel like I'm doing something wrong if I don't help... even if I didn't cause the mess... because even though I didn't cause it, not helping just propogates the problem... on the other hand... I'm not sure that a five dollar handout which may just be spent on drugs or booze is really the right remedy for the situation, either...
'If you say that the unpleasant grumblings of conscience will be enough of a reason to avoid shirking a duty, I still would ask why the conscience should impose such a thing,'
That's not what I'm saying at all! I'm looking at the half-full glass... not the guilty conscience, but the realized moral... it's not a matter of avoiding feeling bad, but rather, one of feeling good... and if giving makes me feel good, I should do it... likewise, if walking on and getting that BigMac makes me feel good... I should do that. One should choose the greater of two goods... not the lesser of two evils.
'and why should we believe it, especially if, as you suggest, there is no true moral hierarchy of what is the better choice? The only hierarchy is what yields the most pleasure. '
The moral hierarchy here is personal pleasure, (that's the point) so long as it doesn't interfere with pre-existing laws. And so far as I know, there are no laws that require me to give my money away.
Let me pose this question- shouldn't the aim be to refocus the way people derive pleasure, rather than try to guilt them into doing something because the needy need it? Get people to view helping in this glass-half-full light, and it might just turn a chore into something pleasureable, and thus eagerly fulfilled.
'If that's the case then "self sacrifice" is merely a religious euphemism for self seeking.'
I don't speak form a platform of religion. I am not religious. It's apples and oranges- religion lauds self-sacrifice, while I don't... it's kind of hard to communicate when we speak two different languages here.
I didn't respond directly to everyhting you said, so if there's a point you feel I fail to address, please bring it to my attention. I'm too tired right now.
THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION
ALL OTHER WARS ARE SUBSUMED IN IT
-Diane Di Prima