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Leggo my Egoism

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Ron
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25 posted 09-16-2003 06:33 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
1) According to Egoism, how can concern for posterity be recommended as long term self-interest since it only comes after one's own life is through?

One's self-interest isn't simply a matter of survival, nor does self-interest concern itself only with the tangibles of life. Indeed, the most potentially valuable thing any person ever possesses is their own very intangible self-image. That self-image, in a very real way, defines the boundaries of one's life. A concern for posterity is nothing more than a reflection of that self-image. It is both how we see ourselves, and how we want to see ourselves.

That interweaving of self-image and posterity is perhaps the single most defining factor in something we often call the "innocence of youth." At eighteen, someone with a healthy self-image honestly feels ready to challenge and change the entire world in the name of posterity. For most, every year that passes seems to carve a small chunk out of our "innocence," seems to slice off a piece of our dreams. The day we stop believing we can change the world is the day we lose the power to change the world. How could it not be in our best self-interest to delay that day as long as possible?

Besides, enlightened self-interest isn't just about life and death. It's about the quality of one's life, and yes, it's also about the quality of one's death. It is very normal, very human self-interest that we should want a part of ourselves to survive our death. Whether that is a book that touches countless lives, or children who will also, in time, touch countless lives, we want to be remembered and loved. That's a normal desire, and self-interest is fueled by just such desires.

The maintenance of self-image, Stephen, is a cornerstone to understanding human motivations. I would guess that not one person in a hundred thousand would perform what you'd call an altruistic act without some acknowledgement of the act from others. They want their self-image bolstered by the affirmation of other people. That is NOT enlightened self-interest. It's just tit for tat, and most spend their entire life negotiating how much tit they can get for as little tat as possible.

How about that one person in a hundred thousand who is willing to perform an altruistic act in utter, complete secrecy? The only real difference lies in that individual's concept of self-image and their need for approval. Often, they believe secrecy is a vital part of the formula, that only in secrecy is true altruism possible. In short, their self-image depends on NOT taking credit for their action. More importantly, though, that individual already has a strong enough self-image to realize the only approval that matters is their own. They do it because it makes them feel good. There's nothing wrong with that, but it still is NOT necessarily enlightened self-interest. Empathy and Guilt are different seats on the same teeter-totter, and together form the complimentary side to doing something just to feel good. After all, doing something to avoid feeling bad is very little different.

Enlightened self-interest requires rational thought, not just an exchange of good feelings. Giving a hungry man on the streets of L.A. ten bucks might make me feel good about myself, but it rarely qualifies as rational. Chances are, the money won't be spent on food and the hungry man will remain hungry. On the other hand, ignoring the hungry man is neither rational nor in my best long-term self-interest. Hungry men tend to very easily become angry, desperate men, and a whole lot of desperate men have historically been known to change the course of world events. Any human being deprived of their basic needs is a threat to MY status quo. A failure to recognize that is not rational, and a failure to rectify that is not in my own self-interest. And protecting my status quo is really only one of many very self-centered reasons to feed the hungry.

Not incidentally, enlightened self-interest rarely requires or even WANTS to hide in the darkness of altruistic secrecy. I can't feed the world's poor. But I can feed a few hungry people and hope that my example will help feed a few more. Enlightened self-interest is fueled by rational thought, but paradoxically feeds on hope.

quote:
2) Is there a fundamental difference between "self forgetful" acts, and "selfish" acts if the motive is the same thing, other than a mere miscalculation of profit?

Absolutely.

We do not need to encourage people to be selfish, any more than we need to encourage gravity to hold us to the Earth. We do, however, very much need to encourage people to be rational. Self-interest defined in five-minute increments isn't rational self-interest.

quote:
3) Is love cheapened to find that it was only based upon self interest?

LOL. That's a whole other thread, Stephen. Maybe a whole book? There are too many different kinds of love, too many different shades of love, to give any all-encompassing answer. In large part, my answer could be inferred from this poem written nearly five years ago. But setting aside a definition of what you mean by love, I suspect I can still give a shorthand answer that isn't too far astray of what I believe.

Love is cheapened not by self-interest, but by which self-interest is dominant.

quote:
And Ron, I wonder, as a Christian, do you believe in a complete anthropocentric view of things? I have to ask how you reconcile the teaching of Jesus ...

... which just happens to include the only rule about enlightened self-interest anyone ever needs. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I don't believe that an attempt to better understand Man is at odds with a faith that God created Man. On the contrary, our own nature likely offers us the best insight into the nature of our Creator. If we paint human nature with a defective brush, in discordant and false colors, we cannot avoid doing the same to God.

quote:
A more fundamental question... WHY should "enlightened self seekers" be praised? Or WHY should "short term thinkers" be condemned?

In a nutshell, because most of the long-term goals of the rational, enlightened man can never be reached alone.

Essorant
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26 posted 09-16-2003 02:43 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

If a group of  knights assay a quest as individuals bent  but with interests to protect and glory most of all their own person's honour individually in ends, then that vacates all thier knighthood, vacates all their honour and vacates the quest as well.  A knight shall serve his own honour and glory but must serve and protect even more  the honours and grace of others, gallantly-disposed.  If the knight has deviating interests he may not just on whim change change the traditional interests of knighthood so that they are all-accomodating to his own.  He may perhaps speak to his fellows, do deeds, and influence them who may share his interests.  But knighthood is knighthood by all knights that have been, are and will be, not just one knight.  
As well I think a priest must be given more to other peoples interests most of the time.  If a priests has a pulsing interest to have sex and he acts on that, he is simply no longer a priest.  Or if he if he decides he shall marry.  Or if he decides the habit of a priest ought to be poke-a-dotted?  Or that services should include showgirls?    I don't think so                    
We are not all decided to be so strict as those cases but we all may in our own daily "services" to life put peoples interests more in our own self-interests, and in return our own interests in other peoples interests--sharing of interests.
But then interests are one thing and sometimes toys compared to obligations and needs.   When a need calls we must put aside our toys and serve it.
We have responsibilities and need to do things for others and other things beyond our self-sphere because those deserve and need us, not just because we wish for or need them.


Let me enjoy the earth no less
Because the all-enacting Might
That fashioned forth its loveliness
Had other aims than my delight.
-Thomas Hardy



[This message has been edited by Essorant (09-16-2003 04:44 PM).]

Legion
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27 posted 09-16-2003 03:24 PM       View Profile for Legion   Email Legion   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Legion


Tit-for-tat has proved to be a pretty resilient evolutionary stable strategy – at least as far as game theory goes.
http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/tittat/story.htm
Black_Knight
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28 posted 09-20-2003 02:07 AM       View Profile for Black_Knight   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Black_Knight

quote:
Where I said Egoism is counter intuitive, is in the area of judgements we make.  We tend to praise people who give more and sacrifice more for others.  We tend to think well of those who are the humblest and kindest.  We tend to honor those who don't parade themselves.  But in actuality, these are the most hypocritical if Egoism is true.  Not only do these act in self interest, but they do so in a deceptive way.  They make it appear as if they are not.  Now which is the easiest to believe, that people actually can (by God's grace) forget themselves a bit, or that there is this master plot going on to only appear as if they are?  Very counter intuitive.


That is exactly my point, Stephen, because in cultures where people are derided and not praised for sacrificing themselves, where the humblest and kindest are downtrodden and thought fools, where those who attain honor are those seen to earn it, well, in such cultures you don't tend to see much altruism.  Cultural and social pressures teach altruism.  It is not for certain a natural state.

If self-sacrifice for ideals is so much better than looking after one's own, doesn't that raise some very awkward notions about the genuinely zealous people (by their cultural standards) who gave their lives to attack the World Trade Center, as the only way for them to actually strike back at America, a country they 'know' to be causing deaths and suffering in their homeland, and that must be discouraged somehow from causing millions more deaths?

It is very tricky territory, because one has to take perspectives into account.  But from their perspective, they are the altruistic heroes, fighting against the tyranny and unwarranted aggression of a hostile power so large, so well defended, so powerful, that no fighter or bomber plane could have even gotten close to their land.  To them, they were Han Solo and Luke Skywalker flying a ship against the Death Star of the evil Empire.

I always think that that is the saddest irony of all life and all history.  We do lie to ourselves, by refusing to see from any perspective but our own.  And so we make inhuman villains of all too human people.  We neglect that sane people rarely (if ever) truly regard themselves as evil, even for a moment.  By making demons and monsters of people, we fail to see that real people, ordinary people, human beings, were somehow able to excuse these acts, to rationalise and justify them somehow.  And so we never learn to address the things that pushed them that way. So another human being is bound to make the same justifications and rationalisations, knowing it can't lead the way of others, because they weren't human, they were monsters, so humans don't have to worry about falling into the same trap...

Right now, hundreds of good honest family-men, seeing their families downtrodden, shot, abused, starved, by a nation backed by America, or by sanctions backed by America, are being driven to hatred.  As they watch family members starve or die of sickness, children, wives, parents, they see all they live for taken away.  They have hatred and nothing to live for.  You can see it happening.  The birth of another thousand suicide bombers is happening every year.

These people are altruists by their view.  As you identified earlier, they will be viewed as heroes by their people.  Martyrs and saviours.  Does that make it so, or does that simply show us that human perceptions are all too limited, and that there is a very good reason why the Lord says vengeance and judgement are his alone.  Why there is an absolute edict: Thou shalt not kill.  There's no small print that says killing even Saddam hussain, or his children, is okay.

Is there real altruism in those actions, or is it really just arrogance that forces us to act somehow.  To impose our views and beliefs upon the world.  To make judgements we are not entitled to.

As for self-sacrifice ... well isn't suicide one of the most fundamentally selfish acts of all?  Far harder to live and make the sacrifice of others worthwhile.

You ask about altruistic acts and selfless acts ... by whose judgement.  I give away a lot, but I do it because it feels right to me.  It makes me feel good about myself, and helping the less fortunate stops me feeling guilty that maybe I don't deserve to not be one of them.  Show me an altruistic act, a selfless act that I can't say that of.

[This message has been edited by Black_Knight (09-20-2003 02:11 AM).]

Ron
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29 posted 09-20-2003 03:39 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Good points, indeed, Ammon. Even altruism is a subjective term.
Legion
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30 posted 09-20-2003 07:40 AM       View Profile for Legion   Email Legion   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Legion


I have to agree, good point indeed but isn’t there ground here for removing the reference of altruist behaviour entirely?

If all acts are based solely on reasons of self-interest and altruism is relegated to a subjective judgement of the results of those acts, dependant on your point of view. Why acknowledge altruism as anything more than an illusionary by-product based upon perspective?

Why do we worship at the false altar of altruism, raising such acts while denigrating and degrading acts of selfishness if self-interest is the root cause of both?

My own view is that there is another interest at work here – that of the group.
Midnitesun
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31 posted 09-20-2003 12:42 PM       View Profile for Midnitesun   Email Midnitesun   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Midnitesun

quote:
It's just tit for tat, and most spend their entire life negotiating how much tit they can get for as little tat as possible.


That is the most hilarious definition of self-interested behavior I've ever read. LOL. Thanks for the thread, it's a very interesting read.
And as we sit here debating/discussing the  semantics, most, if not all of the world's 'have not' population continues to dream/scheme about how to take what we have away from us, or at least, find ways to get their share.  Can anyone blame them for any using any available methods?
Ron
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32 posted 09-20-2003 01:16 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
My own view is that there is another interest at work here – that of the group.

Yea, but for someone named Legion, self-interest IS group-interest.

Not what you meant? Okay, then, stop teasing and tell us more.

quote:
Can anyone blame them for any using any available methods?

Yes, because "any available methods" will NOT always be in their best long-term self-interest. Too many are reacting emotionally, not rationally, and that is a far cry from enlightened self-interest.


Midnitesun
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33 posted 09-20-2003 01:41 PM       View Profile for Midnitesun   Email Midnitesun   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Midnitesun

Exactly, Ron. But many people don't live/act with anything remotely close to 'enlightened' self-interest. Perhaps if we all did think and act as enlightened beings, war would never be an option?
Legion
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34 posted 09-21-2003 06:07 AM       View Profile for Legion   Email Legion   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Legion

Ron,

I was hoping someone else would jump in at that point with a clearer explanation than I think I’m capable of.  

But I’ll give it a go.

Every individual in society is a member of three major sets or groups, the first has only one member – the individual – the second is a set dictated by kinship or relatedness and the third is society as a whole. The first two are easily recognised, the last one, the societal group, is not so easy it tends to splinter into all kinds of smaller sets. Country begets county and county begets town and town begets district..etc though this isn’t restricted to geographical location ideology, religious preference, hobbies even internet Forum membership all create sets to which individuals belong.

All individuals who belong to a group alter their natural tendency for self-interest to maintain the group – if you need evidence of this you only need to accept that the groups exist and that they can only exist as long as the interest of the individual members in the group is sustained. The very existence of groups attests to the fact that they are maintained by individual self-interest.

The interaction between the individual and the group creates seemingly altruistic behaviour but that behaviour can be traced back directly to an individuals selfish tendencies. At first this interaction seems to be a paradox, if an individual always acts out of self-interest why would he/she suddenly break that rule by acting in the groups interest? The answer is to see the argument as fundamentally circular – acting in the interest of the group is acting in the individuals self-interest because he/she is a member of the set that constitutes the group.

As in almost everything this is a simplified model, in reality evolutionary stable strategies of interactions between individuals and groups rarely runs to plan. Concentrating solely on self-interest is a short term but profitable strategy that can be successfully maintained by an individual in a societal model that contains sufficient numbers of people working for the good of the whole. There is also the possibility of an overloading of priorities from the individual to the sets he/she belongs to. In the model of sets the individual should never be self-destructive, the suicide bombers Ammon mentioned fall neatly into this category. Why would an individual driven by self-interest even contemplate an act that is diametrically opposite the fundamental rule of self-interest? I believe the answer is that the survival of the group becomes so important with regard to the survival of the individual that in some extreme cases it can seem that there is no viable alternative option. It’s another circular argument –  I must survive and the best chance of that is if the group survives but for that to happen I must sacrifice myself  but I must survive and the best....


[This message has been edited by Legion (09-21-2003 06:24 AM).]

Midnitesun
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35 posted 09-21-2003 10:35 AM       View Profile for Midnitesun   Email Midnitesun   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Midnitesun

quote:
All individuals who belong to a group alter their natural tendency for self-interest to maintain the group – if you need evidence of this you only need to accept that the groups exist and that they can only exist as long as the interest of the individual members in the group is sustained. The very existence of groups attests to the fact that they are maintained by individual self-interest

Yes, but this is where SELF-INTEREST concepts always get sticky. Think about the times when an individual behaves 'out-of-character', does something inconsistent with his/her normal pattern of action in order to remain a member of the group, clique, or social subset. Most people do whatever they need to do to stay in the dominant/popular group. It's usually more comfortable to do so, and re-enforces a survival instinct. Look at group dynamics in a school classroom or on the bus, for instance. I've seen many instances where a normally gentle, soft-spoken, kind, compassionate child will gang up on a weaker child, just to maintain his/her position in the 'power' group. Definitely a short-term self-interest approach, but SELF is still the operative word. A group becomes a new collective SELF. It's always bothered me that some don't see there is a different dynamic here. What I won't do as an individual, I might do as a 'groupie' (pun intended )
How do we separate out the maze of underlying motives and intent? I don't know. The group becomes a new complex SELF. That's what gangs and teams and nations really are....very complex extensions of SELF. Unfortunatley, there is also almost always a leader or group of leaders who represent the collective selves, and these individuals project their SELF on the rest of the group, and do not always act in the self-interest of the individuals, as happens in political institutions.
Stephanos
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36 posted 09-22-2003 10:30 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Ron: "The day we stop believing we can change the world is the day we lose the power to change the world. How could it not be in our best self-interest to delay that day as long as possible?"


That's right.  But caring for the well-being of one's posterity cannot be equated with "power to change the world".  Caring for one's posterity is usually seen as a traditional moral precept, and as obligatory.  You can talk about how it helps our self image, and how it lends to more peace and happiness for the individual ... and I will agree.  But that is no more than saying that to adhere to moral principles is to be more happy ... a subjective judgement call.  Your problem doesn't arise with someone like myself who agrees with your statement that in the final analysis, (the life to come being taken into consideration also), to care for others is better for the individual.  Your problem comes with those who firmly disagree with you, and all in the name of self-interest.  From egoism, you have nothing obligatory to recommend any virtue ... not even the "rationality" you speak of.  Many have prospered themselves by being cruel and hard and lording over others.  Your response surely is that these suffer a lessened self image.  But if each individual is an end unto himself ... then each man determines the value of the self image he creates.

My point I guess, is that your talk about changing the world doesn't really cut to the issue.  Infamy can equally be thought of as "changing the world", and can also be relished by those who seek it.  Power trips can be intoxicating even exhilarating to those who ride the wave.  Have you forgotten that Nietzsche was fundamentally an egoist?  He would likely say that your attempt to project an "enlightened", or "rational" aspect upon self interest, is nothing more than sneaking inferior traditional morality in, under a different name.  And, though I reject his conclusions about how to live and about what is inferior, I would agree with his general observations of self interest, if we insist that it be the arbiter of all actions.  The problem is, from the stand point of self interest alone, you have little compelling to say to the likes of Nietzsche.


" . . . ignoring the hungry man is neither rational nor in my best long-term self-interest. Hungry men tend to very easily become angry, desperate men, and a whole lot of desperate men have historically been known to change the course of world events. Any human being deprived of their basic needs is a threat to MY status quo. A failure to recognize that is not rational,"


Rationality takes truth into consideration.  If it is TRUE that I am an end unto myself, then the estimation that sheer power may prevent the back-lash of the poor oppressed, can only be shown to be irrational if I CANNOT hold them at bay to my satisfaction during the years of my life.  Rationality is dependent upon variables for it's answers.  If there is no interest other than self at work, then there can be nothing absolute to base actions upon.  It's a marble-count in the end.    Your seeming suggestion that being nice always obviously benefits self, and that being a dirty rat always obviously harms self, is a highly debateable one in the realm of reason.  The fact that many intelligent men have taken both extremes, tells me this whole question is not an intellectual one, but a moral one.  I think that if there are more selves than just you, who also have feelings and interests, then it is irrational that self interest should be the sole principle of action.  If self interest, however, is allowed to be the sole motive for all of life, then it is irrational to call someone else's choices unenlightened .... since they are an end unto themselves, and are the arbiters of what their "interests" are.  How can you say someone didn't act in their best self interest, if they themselves determine their interests?  In fact if self interest is YOUR only motive, you really have no say in their self interest do you?  How can you, except when it is relative to your own?  This makes it quite impossible to judge anyone's actions as irrational.


"Self-interest defined in five-minute increments isn't rational self-interest."

No, but selfishness has yielded dainties much more lasting than 5 minues.  Consider the Roman Emperors who made people worship them as gods.  Your statement is itself only rational if selfish ideologies are always obviously and quickly counter productive to self interest.  Your mention of five-minute gratification is only a minimilization which is not a true picture of reality.  Many have been able to procure personal prosperity at least during THEIR lifetimes.


"Love is cheapened not by self-interest, but by which self-interest is dominant."

If the master "self interest" is fundamentally the same except for a miscalculation of returns involved, then I don't see how love is not degenerated.  Mind you, I do believe self interest is always involved with love ... but cannot be the sole principle.  Marriages, for example, that gravitate toward self interest alone, usually end up in divorce and separation.


"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Is your interpretation of this ... to do unto others so that they will do the same unto you?

I see another principle here ...  Recognize that there are other "selves" by considering your own.  Then your own self, as a point of reference, may allow you to grow beyond it.


"I don't believe that an attempt to better understand Man is at odds with a faith that God created Man. On the contrary, our own nature likely offers us the best insight into the nature of our Creator."


I am not objecting to "better understanding man".  But if man's self interest is the sole moving force, then "serving God" is a euphemism for serving self.  God becomes a tool to gratify self.  You would say that serving God is best serving self, and I would agree (looking at things ultimately).  But that's not exactly the same thing as saying my self interest is the foundation of all action.


Stephen: "A more fundamental question... WHY should "enlightened self seekers" be praised? Or WHY should "short term thinkers" be condemned?"

Ron: "In a nutshell, because most of the long-term goals of the rational, enlightened man can never be reached alone."


Neither can many of the goals of short-term thinkers be reached alone.  Robbers often have a common purse.  Armies need to be big to ravage nations.  I think you missed what I was asking.  Assuming outcomes and results to be individually judged, and mostly by the individuals who choose their courses of action, how can "selfish" men be rightly condemned, and "enlightened" men be praised?  The only fundamental difference (according to egoism) is the number of gamepieces left on the floor.  My point is that there can be no moral distinction if self interest is the king.  For one to act cruelly, or kindly, becomes merely a utilitarian choice to reach the most profit.  But a man who judges that wielding a heavy hand is the way to the most profits ... how can we ethically condemn him?  Or a man who is kind merely to get the most out of the bargain ... how can we ethically claim his deeds to be virtuous?  They are reduced to the same basic principle ... even if you wanted to arbitrarily call one mistaken.  


Stephen    

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-22-2003 10:42 AM).]

Stephanos
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37 posted 09-22-2003 10:49 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Legion "... If all acts are based solely on reasons of self-interest and altruism is relegated to a subjective judgement of the results of those acts, dependant on your point of view"


You want to remove the idea of altruism based on this?  But apply the same standard to your evaluation of "rational" versus "irrational" self interest.  Yours is surely based upon "a subjective judgment of the results of those acts, dependent on your point of view".

And you forget, that there are many who deem "Don't be selfish", and "Be altruistic" to be universal moral principles, not merely subjective judgements.  You may disagree.  

But even so, you can't even begin to say that a "self interest" with every individual being an end unto himself, provides a base for more than subjective judgement.  Each microcosmic individual being "an end" wholly relegates this philosophy to the subjective.  It's chained there, by it's own terms.  

Stephen.


  

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-22-2003 10:51 AM).]

Legion
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38 posted 09-22-2003 01:34 PM       View Profile for Legion   Email Legion   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Legion


Stephen,

That quote may have lost it’s original intent due to your choice concerning the point at which you eviscerated it.

I was questioning whether self-interest short or long term was viable when judged in isolation from other possible interests (the group), the clue was contained in the bit you failed to quote:

quote:
Why acknowledge altruism as anything more than an illusionary by-product based upon perspective?

Why do we worship at the false altar of altruism, raising such acts while denigrating and degrading acts of selfishness if self-interest is the root cause of both?

My own view is that there is another interest at work here – that of the group.

Essorant
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39 posted 09-22-2003 02:55 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

"Self Interest" is often just greedy self-appetite in disguise.  If we go for what fills our selfish appetites and delights most this world will be a hedonistic wasteland of filth and spilth.  Interests are not reliable; they are but things to help move us, but should not govern us.  REASON and NEEDS I believe should govern us.  Instinct after it is understood and educated well by reason will spring more safely for needs and bettering than self-interests that just want to do delight to the self and too often results in decadence.  With reason we may bridle ourselves so that we serve needs better. If we judge things how they serve reason and need more we will be safer. There may always be room for self-interest (self-appetite) but it should be bridled because we are present to and attend the needs of all.  That is just my observation.


[This message has been edited by Essorant (09-22-2003 03:59 PM).]

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40 posted 09-22-2003 03:45 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Craig, you raise some good points, which are probably worth considering in their own light and for different reasons, but I honestly think set theory and group dynamics is at best a needless complication, and at worst a smokescreen. It just isn't a necessary consideration for predicting human behavior. I believe a social group is important to an individual only so long it is perceived to fulfill self-interest and will NEVER supersede the interests of the individual.

Case in point? Convince those suicide bombers they will lose all respect and spend an eternity burning in hell, and I suspect they'll see their sacrifice in a somewhat different light.

Kacy, I think what you are describing in terms of mob behavior goes back to what I was talking about earlier regarding self-image. Our survival is NOT always or even usually our first priority. The people you describe, not satisfied with their own self-image, are willing to adopt the image of the group. In one sense, separating motives and intent is actually simplified, not made more difficult, because the group-image is typically more easily decipherable than any individual's self-image. Whether this is sufficient depends on whether you want to change the behavior of the group, which is easy, or of the individual, which is much harder.

Stephen, I'm not even sure where to begin. You are doggedly retaining multiple issues that are either mistaken or just plain irrelevant, and without addressing those, any reference to your conclusions is beyond any possible reach. Let's see if I can hit a few highlights?

Caring for one's posterity is usually seen as a traditional moral precept .. I know. And we both know that perceptions, especially of the usual kind, are often wrong.

From egoism, you have nothing obligatory to recommend any virtue ... not even the "rationality" you speak of. This sounds strikingly close to your usual argument against Naturalism, and in my opinion, is mistaken in both instances. God didn't tell me that 2 + 2 = 4, but rather gave me the tools to discover that truth for myself (and, even, to discover when it might no longer hold true). I can safely recommend 2 + 2 = 4 as a virtue based on nothing more than the reality that IT WORKS. With one important exception not relevant to this discussion, every single truth in the Bible is both discoverable and empirical. We don't need the Bible to teach morality, because God already created a whole Universe that teaches that lesson.

Many have prospered themselves by being cruel and hard and lording over others. You keep saying that, Stephen, but I ain't buying it. I doubt you could offer even an isolated example, but even if you could, it would still fall under my Russian Roulette analogy. No matter how lucky you are, sooner or later the chamber is going be loaded.

The problem is, from the stand point of self interest alone, you have little compelling to say to the likes of Nietzsche. I think I have the most compelling argument of all, Stephen. Unlike Nietzsche, I didn't die insane and catatonic at the age of forty-five. Let him beat that one.

If there is no interest other than self at work, then there can be nothing absolute to base actions upon. Underlying many of your points, Stephen, including this one, is the biggest single fallacy I think you need to escape. Rational, long-term self-interest does NOT exist in a vacuum. On the contrary, it ties each of us to every single man, woman, and child on the planet. I cannot meet my most important goals unless I am willing to help you meet yours.

Going back to an earlier point, Love is best defined by the commingling of self-interest. Two people who use each other to fulfill their separate short-term goals can, indeed, cheapen love, and in my opinion, only suffer and never benefit. Instead, imagine a situation where nothing gives you more pleasure than to give her pleasure? And vice versa? Now take that beyond the merely sensual level, to a place where your self-interest depends on her self-interest, her self-interest depends on yours, and the result will be a lasting love that satisfies and benefits both.

Extend that thought, now, to include everyone in the whole world. THAT is enlightened self-interest.

Sound hokey? Maybe, but the basic conclusions aren't rocket science. Any time a person in this world suffers, their reaction and the reactions of those around them, will place my long-term self-interest at risk. Contention and rivalry between people is always based on short-term goals. The moral implications are unnecessary, if not irrelevant, because the pragmatic reality is inescapable.


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41 posted 09-22-2003 04:09 PM       View Profile for Legion   Email Legion   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Legion


But Ron, how do you get from this:

I believe a social group is important to an individual only so long it is perceived to fulfill self-interest and will NEVER supersede the interests of the individual.

To this:

Rational, long-term self-interest does NOT exist in a vacuum. On the contrary, it ties each of us to every single man, woman, and child on the planet. I cannot meet my most important goals unless I am willing to help you meet yours.

Without looking at group dynamics and set theory, and just to season the pot we may as well add a pinch of game theory and human heirachical tendency while we're there? They may at least define the “is” and shed a little light on the “could be”.

(Maybe).
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They're certainly not unrelated. The first passage you cite concentrates on conflicting interests, i.e., short-term interests, while the second supposes the intertwining of long-term interests. Whether you're talking a small social group or all of society, the enlightened individual will never willingly accept something not in their best self-interest. NOR should they. Sacrifice is either in your self-interest, in which case it's not sacrifice, or someone is taking something away from you against your will.

The problem with game theory, I think, is that it's very nature is a statistical one. That's cool, but being ultimately selfish, I'm more interested in the individual.

Both game theory and evolution concentrate on the success of the organism. That can help me to better understand society, but it tells me very little about my next door neighbor. I'm guessing my neighbor isn't an "average" man, based solely on the fact I've yet to meet one.

The human hierarchical tendency, if I understand your meanings, CAN potentially tell us more about the individual. Where we place ourselves and, in particular, who we choose as group leaders, is a reflection of our self-image. This is so true it has almost become a cliché in fiction. Would Han Solo be the same sympathetic character if he didn't hang with the good guys?

The danger, however, is that our self-image is a lie we tell ourselves in far too many instances, often revealing what we "think" we should want, rather than what we really want. While our actions can also be a lie, I think they are rarely (if ever) as convincing when taken as a pattern. What we do, over time, reveals who we are by shedding light on what we want.


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43 posted 09-22-2003 06:46 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

"Why do we worship at the false altar of altruism, raising such acts while denigrating and degrading acts of selfishness if self-interest is the root cause of both?

My own view is that there is another interest at work here – that of the group.
"

So is this a concession?  Are you admitting the possibility of an interest beyond self being in the mix?  If so, you are right, I rashly took your point out of context.  My whole point was aimed at an ideology which minimizes all motives to self interst alone.


Stephen.

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44 posted 09-22-2003 07:24 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

"All individuals who belong to a group alter their natural tendency for self-interest to maintain the group – if you need evidence of this you only need to accept that the groups exist and that they can only exist as long as the interest of the individual members in the group is sustained. The very existence of groups attests to the fact that they are maintained by individual self-interest."


What exactly do you mean by "alter"?  Do you mean to begin to act upon motives other than self interest, or do you mean simply to form a more socially acceptable self interest in order to protect your own interests?

Does the fact that groups are maintained by meeting the needs of other "selves", suggest that all motives must come from self interest?  This same observation can be used to argue the other side as well.  The fact that groups can only be maintained by recognizing interests of others, to my mind shows that motives must be built on more than just self interest.  The reductionism is what I am not seeing as rational.  IF there are other selves, how can it be rationally suggested that self-interest is the only motive from which we act?  It seems the very existence of other "selves" would automatically bring in the possibility of someone acting upon another's interest.


A lot of this is semantics.  But I think mainly egoism is a psychological reductionism.  It's an assertion that all motives come only one way.  Dividing actions into "rational" and "irrational" self interest does not take into account the moral responsibility we have toward others.  All it does is present a pragmatic assertion that to be nice yields more goodies.  If this world history is not evidence of the uncertainty of that premise, then I don't know what is.  This is where Ron and I get lock-horned.  He can not prove that the life of a Nietzsche is irrational, any more than I can prove that some men are quite satisfied with results of selfishness.  There are always varying examples which can be interpreted differently.  And such evidential claims will never win the argument between us, but neither can it win the argument between rational and irrational self interest it seems.  


Stephen.
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45 posted 09-23-2003 08:25 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

"Stephen, I'm not even sure where to begin. You are doggedly retaining multiple issues that are either mistaken or just plain irrelevant, and without addressing those, any reference to your conclusions is beyond any possible reach."


Ron ... Let me say something.  I think it is self evident from the sheer fact of the debate, that we both consider each other's points often as "mistaken or just plain irrelevant".  Why belabor that totally obvious point?  Regardless of our antithesis, I still think I can learn a few things from you.    


"Caring for one's posterity is usually seen as a traditional moral precept .. I know. And we both know that perceptions, especially of the usual kind, are often wrong."

And we both know that "often wrong", doesn't mean always wrong.  Sometimes ideas have staying power because they are right too.  I still assert that the moral directive of caring for the interests of others can't be upheld by egoism.  If you base everything on statistical averages and tell people that gambling is unwise because you usually lose, you still have nothing to say to the jackpot winner who surprises everyone.  Your averages mean nothing to him.  Alternately, If you are going to try and present a more ambitious argument for the universal unprofitableness of shady selfish behavior, then you have a formidable if not impossible task before you.  


"I can safely recommend 2 + 2 = 4 as a virtue based on nothing more than the reality that IT WORKS"  

I would say that math works because it is true, not the other way around.  But are you suggesting that the results of moral/ immoral behavior are as immediately obvious as the laws of mathematics?  How come then when I argue about universal moral law, you turn the tables and argue the other direction?  It's then that you say that morality is more like poetry than math.       May I use your own method on you?  What WORKS is not the same for everyone if self is King and arbitrarily decides what goals are worked toward.


"We don't need the Bible to teach morality, because God already created a whole Universe that teaches that lesson."

From one Christian to another, may I ask an extremely naive question ... Why did God put so many moral teachings in the Bible then?  He doesn't seem to agree with you that a fallen corrupted creation was enough to communicate his moral truth.  Think about the horrific suggestions of social Darwinism.  That's more like what nature, on her own, will yield.  Looking at evolutionary theory (not that I accept it uncritically) reveals that what you claim to be so evident, was not the principle at work in nature.    


" I think I have the most compelling argument of all, Stephen. Unlike Nietzsche, I didn't die insane and catatonic at the age of forty-five"

People who feel differently than Nietzsche die insane too right?  Many feel that his insanity was brought about by Syphillis.  Gee ... some would reason that he only needed more "protection".  A failed battle does not give compelling reason to abandon the war.  And the war is fought to this very day.  


"Underlying many of your points, Stephen, including this one, is the biggest single fallacy I think you need to escape. Rational, long-term self-interest does NOT exist in a vacuum. On the contrary, it ties each of us to every single man, woman, and child on the planet. I cannot meet my most important goals unless I am willing to help you meet yours."


But egoism says that it ties me to every single man, woman, and child for MY benefit alone.  And in reality, it only ties me to those whom I choose to have contact with, if I am crafty enough.  Money and power can shift people around like sand.  If I have the resources, I don't have to be connected really, in my experiences, to the oppressed.  You may say the man is a fool who thinks so, and I would emphatically agree.  But from my standpoint, he is a fool even if he achieves his wishes.  From your philosophic position, I don't see how you could offer reproof if he mostly beats the odds until he dies.    


And not everyone sees the moral connectedness of every person like you do.  It is not self evident.  Nor is it more "rational".  Rationality depends on goals and outcomes.  Philosophers never have solved the dialectical tension between atomism and monism ... between particulars and universals.  If someone wants to focus on the particular of their self to the exclusion of others, then you cannot with sheer reason prove this to be untenable.  It is not rationality versus irrationality at all.  It is preferential in nature ... that is unless you can support moral "oughtness".  And egoism just can't do it.  


"Now take that beyond the merely sensual level, to a place where your self-interest depends on her self-interest, her self-interest depends on yours, and the result will be a lasting love that satisfies and benefits both.

Extend that thought, now, to include everyone in the whole world. THAT is enlightened self-interest.
"

Ron, I can buy into "enlightened self interest".  I think it is in one's self interest to consider the interests of others.  Most of your premise is absolutely right ... it's the conclusion that the monad of self-interest is humanity's sole motivation that is not proven by your premise.  I am a mutualist regarding these things, and what you described as "commingling of self interest" describes mutualism quite well.  Commingling means, I do not act from self interest alone.  There is the possibility of mixture.


Stephen  

  

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-23-2003 08:37 AM).]

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46 posted 09-24-2003 12:18 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Black Knight: "in cultures where people are derided and not praised for sacrificing themselves, where the humblest and kindest are downtrodden and thought fools, where those who attain honor are those seen to earn it, well, in such cultures you don't tend to see much altruism.  Cultural and social pressures teach altruism.  It is not for certain a natural state.

This is exactly what I am trying to communicate to Ron.  The rational/ irrational distinction of "self interest" is an artificial one if self interest is the sole motive of action.  Societies and individuals are determining for themselves what is in their best interest.  This distinction can be based on little more than sheer results ... certainly not principles ... so it is necessarily descriptive, not prescriptive as objectivists try to make it.  Remember it is the Objectivist who would also condemn the felling of the Twin Towers ... and call it "short term" or "unenlightened" self interest.



" By making demons and monsters of people, we fail to see that real people, ordinary people, human beings, were somehow able to excuse these acts, to rationalise and justify them somehow.  And so we never learn to address the things that pushed them that way. So another human being is bound to make the same justifications and rationalisations, knowing it can't lead the way of others, because they weren't human, they were monsters, so humans don't have to worry about falling into the same trap... "

I totally agree.  Just because I believe in right and wrong as absolutes doesn't mean that I'm not critical of my own actions, or the actions of the nation/ community I live in.  When in this post have I even hinted at trying to defend any of America's aggressive acts?  I merely stated the possiblity (not the frequency) of aggression coming from more than self interest ... theoretically speaking.  And that was said simply to take your darkest example of human behavior, and show that even there, more than self interest is possible.  I was going there, to the worst case scenario, for the sake of argument.  I agree that War is generally despicable.  And I haven't tried to defend any particular examples of it ... have I?



"As for self-sacrifice ... well isn't suicide one of the most fundamentally selfish acts of all?  Far harder to live and make the sacrifice of others worthwhile."

Are you equating self sacrifice with suicide?   These are two totally different things.  Just think of how they are different for a moment.  Otherwise, I agree.  Suicide is extremely selfish.  And neither is self sacrifice limited to death.



" I give away a lot, but I do it because it feels right to me.  It makes me feel good about myself, and helping the less fortunate stops me feeling guilty that maybe I don't deserve to not be one of them.  Show me an altruistic act, a selfless act that I can't say that of."

My position has never been for pure altruism ... it doesn't exist.  Self is always in the mix, because you are forever yourself.  But does that mean self interest is the absolute reduction of all your choices?  Is your own self interest the monad from which every motive must come with no possibility of mixture?  Pure egoism doesn't exist any more than pure altruism.

It's not a bad thing to give away things with the benefit in mind that it will make you feel better.  But I would ask you is this the sole reason?  Don't you give things away with any real concern for the welfare of the person you are giving to?  If not, then you shouldn't feel better ... because there is absolutely nothing meritorious in what you do.  Don't misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that it is without merit to care about yourself.  There is merit in caring for yourself too.  But if you do things in pretense, just for your own feelings, you are decieving yourself.  A dream or hallucination would serve the same purpose ... or perhaps a drug that merely produces the feeling.  I guess, I really don't believe you when you say that you do it only to feel better.  My argument would be that there is some genuine consideration of another's interest which in turn makes you feel better.  


Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-24-2003 12:34 AM).]

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47 posted 09-30-2003 10:25 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

http://seanchoi.freeyellow.com/ethical_egoism.html

http://www.hazlitt.org/e-texts/morality/ch13.html


I found these two articles about egoism.  One is better written than the other.  But they were both interesting and thought provoking.


Stephen.
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48 posted 02-17-2005 09:11 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

I'm bumping this 'cause I consider it interesting and pretty relevant to the times.

(I wanted to be able to find it more easily later as well.)

And because I am kind of tired right now, forgive me if there was someone who addressed this already in the thread--but when Ron challenged Stephanos:

" I categorically state that every single human act in all of history is and always has been motivated by self-interest. All you have to do to prove that premise wrong is produce just ONE instance that is clearly, unequivocally not attributable to self-interest.

I don't think you can do it."

I thought of something I had seen on, (sighing now) yes, Oprah. (Laugh if you wanna, I can't hear you.)

But among other guests on the Oprah show that day, there was a woman who had thrown herself over a small boy being attacked by vicious pitbull dogs. She took the brunt of the attack herself, thereby sparing him further injury and possibly even saving his life.

I'm not sure where heroics fits into all of this, as it doesn't quite seem to be enlightened self-interest, as in some moments of heroism there is the adrenaline rush and place of "no thought". (Forgive my lack of clarity on that, er, speaking of no thought.)

But I'd be interested to hear what everyone thinks about that, Ron most especially, as I for the most part agree with all you've said, but true heroics threw a wrench in the mechanism for me.

(I'll go nap. When I come back, I hope to read more thoroughly, and a nice analogy with those itty bitty words would be convenient too.)

thanks in advance?



OH. And? On the flip side of heroics, how does passive aggressive behaviors fit into this? Is that simply a more polite method of war?


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49 posted 02-17-2005 04:44 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Thanks Karen,

I've been trying to get someone to answer that one for quite some time.  If you recall, I answered Ron's challenge.  He didn't answer me back.  Extreme heroism does put egoism to the test.  Because Egoism doesn't claim to be something that is applied to some things and not to others.  It is a philosophical presupposition about our motives, period.  Namely it claims that they ALL center around self consideration.  But so many things we believe and know, show that to be counter-intuitive.  Even our Language!  If you talk to a true egoist, they will squirm when you use words like "selfish".  But we all know what selfishness is, without the input of Ayn Rand.      


The point I've been trying to make is that self interest is never absent, but that doesn't mean that it is the ONLY motive of all actions.  This less extreme view allows for actions of predominate self-interest.   But it also makes extreme heroism possible, and any action in between these two extremes.  Egoism, being much more narrowly defined, is an "All or nothing" philosophical statement.  My view ... I gues you would call it "mutualism" or something like that ... is more moderate and allows for the variety and mixture of motives within us.  This is after all what we see in the real world?


An Egoist might say Heroism is rare, and therefore hardly relevant.  But that's not the point.  The Martyr is only brought up to show that egoism's universal claim doesn't make sense in light of such actions.  It's just practically impossible to explain a purely altruistic act, in purely egoistic terms.  I'll be waiting with you on this one, to see what is said.


Stephen.  
 
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