Altruism

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Bowser, Feb 25, 2018.

  1. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    I've heard that it was the foundation of some of the worst dictatorships in history. Is self sacrifice a bad or good thing in the long run? Is it better to be selfish? Is selfish desires better for society?
     
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Does altruism actually exist? Are not seemingly altruistic acts done for selfish reasons - whether to alleviate one's own guilt, to push one's own issues to the background, or some other such reason? Can it not be argued that even the willingness for self-sacrifice is due to the desire to alleviate a sense of guilt or sense of duty, not actually for the selfless reasons it might otherwise appear?
     
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  5. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    What does this mean?
    Altruism is the willingness of one person to give more to his fellow human beings than he expects from them. That's interpersonal and social, not political; it cannot support any kind of hierarchy. It cannot be the foundation of anything except good relations.
    Dictatorship is founded on men's willingness to set one above the others in castes, patriarchies, meritocracies, ranks, classes or gangs - to give and take orders. Such social organization leans heavily on competition rather than co-operation; it entails master-servant relationships, rather than fraternal ones.
    Obviously, the elites that rule nations have always believed so. Armies are made of young people who submit to the risk of death and injury, either by their own voluntary action or, far more likely, on an officer's command. The youngster enlist for love of country; the rulers recruit them only sometimes from the same motive. Children of all species survive because their parents are prepared to give up their own comfort and freedom , very often their own safety and sometimes their own lives. Christian churches survive on the myth of a man-god who was willing to suffer and die for the sins of strangers.
    But sacrifice and altruism are not synonyms.
    One may be altruistic with a minimum of discomfort or loss to oneself - or none at all: volunteers are the happiest people I know - and be ultimately rewarded by living in a safer, healthier, more amicable community.
    Sacrifice, on the other hand, always means the loss of something in order to gain something of greater value. The thing, animal or person being sacrificed does not benefit.
    Selfishness is simply a collective term for animal drives - not better or worse; it just is. The selfish desires of individuals must necessarily bring them into conflict.
    We make laws to limit the scope and expression of selfish desire, for the protection of other individuals, and the prevention of social strife. The more equitable and enforceable the laws, the better society functions.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
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  7. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Does intelligence actually exist? Does musical aptitude actually exist? Does curiosity exist? Does disappointment?
    Human beings are complex mechanisms, with a great variety of adaptations and potential, emotions and responses and abilities. They're social animals, with long-evolved instincts for co-operation and affection, as well as competition and aggression. Anything a person does can be explained, or dismissed, or presented in different lights, according to the interest of the beholder. All inter-actions and trans-actions among animals with a cerebral cortex are subject to interpretation from different perspectives.
     
  8. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    I have a friend that continually makes this argument. (His is stronger: that there is no such thing as an altruistic act)

    Just because I am pleased with the result of an act, or even gain some benefit from it, does not mean it was a selfish act.
     
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    It's a rhetorical trope that comes up from time to time; it is similar to the modern aphorism that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In my lifetime, feeding hungry people has been argued to be an act of taking away freedom. Then again, I look at the grocery store and prices the petit-bourgeoisie will pay for "government cheese" are insane.

    Meanwhile, we can also look at some ideas, like Donald Trump's food box pitch, that are intended to fail. The point of these is to demonize altruism, compassion, and other social pathos as inherently evil.

    • • •​

    I would not specifically contest either of the above, but there appears a rather significant question:

    Sarkus explores antisocial justifications for altruism. DaveC explores a more individually oriented justification.

    → What seems absent is the ostensible purpose of altruism, which is socialization and function as an evolutionary tool to the benefit of species. There is an argument that altruism at its best is selfish, because that's how it works out best; when everybody works and plays well together, then everybody is working and playing well together. That's it. That's the game. Think of it this way: If I can shoot someone for looking at me in a way I don't like, anyone can shoot me for the same stupid reason.

    → Priorities are as priorities will, and each to the beholder, to be certain; part of what makes this stand out to my perspective is that I have noticed this functional theme in some philosophical and political discourse, more and more in recent times. This is, of course, at least part my own changing perspective over time; it probably isn't as new as my increasing attention. Consider, please, a basic question that can seem quite confusing: Is this or that particular sympathy held by one toward another cooperative or competitive?

    ↳ Let us presume, for sake of argument, that I disdain a particular belief as some manner of childish crutch comfort. Within this framework, I will assert and acknowledge envy of this comfort, not for the sake of comfort it offers, but because I also believe the childish believer uses that childish crutch as a bludgeon, and it turns out to be the bludgeon, the childish mean spirit to wield at others, is the object of desire. Is the envy, the sympathy, cooperative or competitive?​

    In politics, I harp on the "suicide pact"; this is not unrelated. I don't think either Sarkus or Dave are necessarily wrong; the apparently antisocial aspects are not without import; the dearth of some more affirmative and cooperative pathos, however, really, really stands out.
     
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  10. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    There is a problem with the concept of selfishness. Most people have the Calvinist notion drummed into them that desiring benefit of some kind is blameworthy, while "selflessness" is praiseworthy. At the same time, the capitalist ethos considers competition to be the greatest good in society, and the only way to achieve social status.
    The dog-eat-dog philosophy despises altruism, generosity, compassion and empathy from Monday to Friday; the Christian one demands pious admiration of self-sacrifice on Sunday. (Saturday is for hedonistic pleasure and conspicuous consumption. Pursue happiness hard enough and you can't remember half the stuff you should confess next morning.)
    In a competitive Christian society, the only way people can co-operate is under the command of some authority-figure, and all the simple favours people do for one another ever day in every situation are either ignore or categorized as tit-for-tat, while also being exhorted to love thy neighbour. Nothing you do can be without a profit-motive - so maybe good deeds are nothing more than payments on the afterlife.
    It's a miserable, mind-twisting contradiction.
    In real life, no "system" or philosophy is purely one thing or another, any more than a person can be one-dimensional. Most of our natural desires do not automatically lead to hostilities, or harm to another person: we also desire trust, friendship, fun, love, respect - a lot of sociable states and activities.
    Have you ever seen a group of people happier than the Mars Rover crew? People enjoy working together. If that's selfish, try taking the stigma off "self" and re-examine human nature.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    I should clarify the logic behind this.

    It is not a one-winner-only game.

    Altruism: Just because you're putting someone else first, does not mean you cannot still put yourself next in line.

    Selfishness: not about whether you derive benefit from your own actions (nothing wrong with that); it is about putting yourself first in line, and others second.
     
  12. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    But maybe when it becomes an ideology it becomes a danger, no longer a virtue and more a sin.
     
  13. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    All ideologies and dicta are dangerous, because: 1. They require interpretation, which puts the interpreter above the rank-and-file adherents. 2. Because they reduce complex issues to absurd simplicity and 3. They are considered perfect and complete when written, which leaves no room for adaptation to changing conditions.
    They're all hierarchical, rather than interactive.
    Mostly because, through those three characteristics, they encourage people to think in terms of antithetical pairs, like black or white, friend or foe, 'virtue' or 'sin' .
    What, then happens to such ordinary realities as purple, stranger and nature?

    A workable political system is based on principles that most of its members can support without psychological damage, that are flexible enough to adapt over time, elastic enough to accommodate the non-standard individual and inclusive enough to allow the full range and scale of human activities - organized, co-operative, competitive, solitary and eccentric. Not two, but many; not good or bad, but diverse.
     
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  14. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

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    Good pont... eg... if my wife was bein sent to hell an i was givin the option to take her place... i woud be altruistic an take her place in hell... cause i coudnt stand it knowin that i coud have saved her but didnt.!!!
     
  15. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    I think it's an idea that exists in most. We manage it within the realities of life, occasionally expressing it in small ways. I think when taken to an extreme, it can be detrimental and leave the individual open to exploitation. It's not a bad idea, and it plays a role.
     
  16. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    And survival of the species is about being close to the front of the line, not necessarily at the front of the line. One day you're an altruist; the next day you're a recipient of altruism.
     
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  17. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    It doesn't even need to be so cerebral and explicit as an idea, most of the time. It's an instinct.
    Not just occasionally - all the time. Whenever you pick up a piece of litter, open a door for an old lady, nudge a baby buggy up the steps, nod when the cashier asks "Would you like to add $2 for the childrens' hospital?", run after the guy who forgot his wallet, help push a neighbour's stalled car,, call 911 when a stranger collapses in the street.... all the time. That's what social animals just naturally do, without having to think about it. In bigger ways, when we do have to consider it, a very large number of us enlist in armies, major in social work or trauma counselling, collect donations for the food bank, hump sandbags during floods, give blood and bequeath organs, teach adults to read, search for stupid hikers, travel to earthquake sites and sometimes run into burning buildings.
    Imagine a world without volunteers!
    Sure. But greed, hate, suspicion and conceit are a whole lot easier to exploit.
     
  18. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Still the number of poor would seem to hugely outnumber the altruists.

    Alex
     
  19. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    Very possibly: Ideology, at least in frameworks most familiar to me, implies some manner of identity assertion; accordingly, we might juxtapose ideology or identity, to the one, with praxis, to the other. It is, of course, more complicated than that, as praxis and identity can become recursive influences; Crowley's "double death-pang"↱ comes to mind, but that's probably a poetic convenience because the HIMOG↱ ("But thyself Ex-tinguish") comes to mind, as does someting about onions↱ ("Nor did he mean what he said"); insofar as Perdurabo can give insight into juvenilia of earlier tantrums against divinity, he is actually describing a helical sensation, an eternal kiss of sorts.

    Identity subordinates praxis subordinates resolution subordinates identity.

    Altruism as praxis is, in this context, the goal; escaping the bonds of identity politic, the cause and effect cycles of ideology—achieving the extinguishment of Self within assertion and resolution—will pose the greatest challenge to accomplishing truly altruistic resolutions.

    It is, for instance, why Jesus said the bit about the left and right hands (Mt. 6.3↱).

    Consider, for instance, your juxtaposition in the context of danger, virtue and sin. Vice is the behavioral juxtaposition, but rather quite abstract. Sin, however, couples with virtue in a specialized context. The specialized juxtaposition is a resolution of praxis shaped by identity or ideology.
    ____________________

    Notes:

    Crowley, Alesiter. Aceldama: A Place to Bury Strangers In. 1898. Hermetic.com. 26 February 2018. http://bit.ly/2vFmGuV

    Perdurabo, Fr. "Onion Peelings". The Book of Lies. 1913. BibliotecaPleyades.net. 26 February 2018. http://bit.ly/2pWgPxe

    —————. "The HIMOG". The Book of Lies. 1912. BibliotecaPleyades.net. 26 February 2018. http://bit.ly/2sbb4Q7

    Weigle, Luther, et al. The Bible: Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1971. University of Michigan. 26 February 2018. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/r/rsv/
     
  20. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    Well, thanks for some new terms to explore. As always, you are an interesting fellow to try following. My thought in the OP was that we can give too much of ourselves in an effort to serve the greater good, and thus end up serving a greater evil. An example would be the surrender of the German soul for the sake of a greater Germany. Or possibly communism might also serve as a good example: altruism on the surface, millions of dead as a result. You might use American patriotism as an example too.

    On a micro level, when I give the guy on the corner a dollar, I always question the virtue of doing so. Did I just buy him food or just another fix?
     
  21. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    The German Soul? That's two nebulous concepts making a third big question.
    But, never mind. All soldiers are required to sacrifice themselves for their nation's sovereignty, or glory, or pride or expansion - that's the job description. And yet the evil which results is the greatest bad thing known to mankind: war. Without compliant troops, the world's elites could never perpetrate this most heinous crime.

    I wish you didn't do that! If a can were labelled "caviar" contained rat poison, would you be this eager to spread it on your cracker?
    There is no altruism in the regimes that have called themselves 'communist' (more likely 'socialist', which was also false). The very first thing they do is kill and imprison the sincere communists who helped them gain power.
    All patriotism, and all religion, sure. Leaders, for noble or ignoble motives equally, can always tap into the tribal instinct.
    Oddly, though, they can't quite suffocate individual altruism. Even hard-conditioned soldiers insist of taking shrapnel to save a comrade, sharing their rations with native children, sparing the lives of captured enemy soldiers and other random acts of common decency.

    Either way, if you gave him ten minutes' respite from his misery, it's a dollar well spent. Unless you take fraternal responsibility for him, calculating the long-term effect of your single tiny act is beyond your mandate.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  22. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    It's not about wealth. Most of the poor perform a hundred generous, compassionate, decent acts every day. So do many of the not-poor and few of the rich. Watching out for one another's safety, and doing favours doesn't redistribute wealth or change the politico-economic structure of a society.
    Altruism doesn't change the system, because greed, hate, suspicion and conceit are so much easier to exploit. Evil always wins - but good slows it down a little.
    Let evil talk you into believing that good is also evil, and the victory will be complete that much faster.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  23. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    I see it as not my place to judge.
    He needs money; I have money. I give without strings attached.

    Except for the ones who have a "story" to tell. (I used my last money to take a bus here now I can't get home.) Them I judge.
     

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