Statesboro, GA, USA
Black Knight: "Well of course you cannot take the stance of one philosophy and translate it into your own. If you are unprepared to accept the basic tenet of a philosophy because it is untenable to your personal views, you'll naturally never be able to accept the philosophy."
I'm not trying to "translate" another philosophy into my own. Rather, I'm holding basic assumptions which I myself, and others have made for ages . . . namely, that there are human actions based upon selfishness, healthy self-interest, but also upon the interests of others. When someone comes along and denies the possibility of acting upon any motive other than self-interest, I am forced to examine the claim. When I go to examine the claim, I actually do let go (loosely) of my basic assumptions, because I must find out where the antithetical assumptions lead. When I have done so, I have found that the claims are internally incoherent. In other words, there are many points of dialectical tension that cannot be resolved in the egoist claim. I have mentioned some, and even asked some questions above which haven't yet been answered. If you really want to me to see it this way, then help me resolve the problems I have brought up.
"No, the better test is to go with the precept for a while and find out not whether it will fit within your existing philosophy, but more importantly, will your existing philosophy fit within the new one?"
I've actually done that, and I've gone a step beyond. I already know these two "philosophies" do not fit together at points. They are antithetical to each other. The next test is to find out which one fits best with reality, logic, and intuition. Which one is the more integrated view. I have tried above to show why I think egoism is internally incoherent. I'm ready to talk those if you wish.
"Are you afraid to test whether your need to reject self-interest as the root of all motives, is in fact due to the self-interest of believing yourself to be better and more ethical than that? Would it harm your self-identity to try accepting, even just to see from that vantage point, that you were essentially selfish? If so, there is your motive, and it is one of self-interest, and your very denial, may be the proof you seek. "
Nice try. So my denial is simply the proof you offer? You are asking me to accept a tenet of a philosophy without honestly believing it to be true. Then you are saying that my holding out might be a baser thing to do than just blindly accepting something.
Even if my motive for believing what I do could be shown to come from self interest, it does not follow that the belief that ALL actions come from self-interest is true. My example, is not a hard one for you to pin self-interest on. But I never said that things couldn't be done from the motive of self interest. What I reject is that self interest is the ONLY motive. Altruism presents you with a much more sticky problem than my actions here.
(however I think you may even have a problem with my own actions here, because I believe that I would be a much more self-centered person than I am, and less inclined to help others, if I adopted a philosophy such as egoism. Therefore the concern for others is somewhere present in my actions too.)
"Just over 2,000 years ago, a man was born to a virgin, was killed, and came back from the dead, only to leave again. He was a Jew, preached to Jews, based on their faith as Jews, but his followers reject Judaism. Is any of that anything but counter-intuitive?"
If you think it is counter-intuitive, read the story. Think about the radical message and claims and actions of Jesus. Was it surprising that a wedge occurred between Christianity and Judaism? Not counter intuitive to me. We could discuss that in another thread if you wish.
"However, what we are discussing is not counter-intuitive at all. People lie to themselves about their true motives all the time. Self-deception is in fact totally intuitive, and quite instinctive too. We all like to believe we are funnier, more intelligent, nicer, and all-around better than we truly are."
You're belaboring a point that we already agree on. Yes, people are often selfish. Yes, people are often hypocritical. Yes, people are often self deceptive. How does it follow then that EVERY action can be reduced to self interest? This is not a logical deduction.
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.
You may counter by saying that true self interest isn't really unethical, so these people are doing what is right by being good. They are doing right by themselves, you say. But then you have to explain the fundamental difference between someone who chooses to exercise their self interest in a "selfish" way, and someone who chooses to do so in a "selfless" way. Why do we chide one, and praise the other as unethical? This is simply a matter of choice, but the motive is exactly the same according to egoists. What makes this counter intuitive is the moral indignation we feel for someone who is selfish. What an irrational feeling, if the motive is the exact same thing as for someone who is kind.
"Uh-huh. You don't think that maybe forcing your subjective views and subjective judgements upon others by violence is inherently selfish?"
Are you trying again to box me in, by getting me to undertake the difficult task of justifying war? I hate war, so it's kind of hard for you to do.
My beliefs are simply this. Though Vioence may be wrong, I don't think defending someone else, is necessarily a move of self interest. Ever wanted to jump on the Bully at School for picking on the little guy? We usually DIDN'T jump on Butch because of self interest. To jump on Butch to defend Eugene can be done out of a motive of principle, and would usually get you pounded. But it can be based upon the conviction that it is unethical to pick on little guys for no good reason.
We could go on and on. But I do concede that very few wars have been fought from motives of ethcial priniciple.
There again ... You have your most formidable difficulty with examples of self sacrifical altruism, not with things like War. The most typically selfish acts of mankind present a kind of straw-man for you in this debate.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-15-2003 07:42 PM).]