Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Bowser, Feb 25, 2018.
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Consider that Ayn Rand's definition of reason and logic are not necessarily the same as yours - or Webster's for that matter.
I think it's self serving in one sense, such as giving a gift to a child. Their happiness is contagious.
And how is any win-win situation a problem, or sinful, or blameworthy?
Well, you can spoil your child rotten, for one.
You can - but you don't have to. Besides, the several spoiled [indulged, loved, petted, praised, given things that made them happy] children I have known grew up quite normal and productive; not rotten at all. Maybe that's another commonly held concept that needs to be re-examined.
However, if you worry about spoiling your own children, but still crave the contagion of happiness, give presents to children that nobody is spoiling. If you can't find one, ask UNICEF, or World Vision.
I think too much of a good thing and too much of a bad thing can perpetuate an expectation from life itself. Having Christmas every day of the year would be great for a time, but eventually it would become, well, trivial.
Who says you have to overdo anything? If you feel like giving, give. If you think you've given enough to one person, and still like giving, find someone who hasn't got enough and give to them. When you don't feel like giving anymore, stop.
Why are you making a problem where there isn't one?
We're exploring Altruism. I'm just giving it some thought, not creating a problem.
But there is nothing in the concept of altruism which would demand christmas every day, or spoiling your children.
It simply means: doing more for your fellow man - any other person - than you expect in return.
It means doing or giving freely - not going nuts with it.
Considered from a distance, the impulse toward altruism looks like a biological systems regulator or homeostatic governor. It has that appearance.
In any complex and homeostatic system one commonly finds signaling or triggering or maintenance behaviors that allow the system to correct trends or maintain sound cycles without approaching failure or suffering deficit. The CO2 trigger for breathing is a famous example - one breathes in response not to a shortage of oxygen, which would be damaging and a great risk to approach routinely, but in response to a small buildup of CO2 which occurs well in advance of oxygen deficit and does little or no damage itself.
That these triggerings and factors be cheap, auxiliary, and benign, have no direct role in the workings of the system, is important - they work much better that way, the system is much safer and more efficient if its signals and governing factors (that must be allowed to vary and fluctuate and only intermittently kick in) are not critical links in its actual operations. The more important and critical the function, the more likely its regulation and governing modules will be separate and isolated from its critical workings.
And so it is that we do not breathe in response to oxygen deficit, we do not play and exercise in response to a critical need for strength and coordination, we do not couple in response to an immediate need for progeny, and so forth. When the irrigation canal has been breached and the farmer needs village help with the right tools in the north fields, it's too late to learn how to talk.
So the impulse toward altruism, natural to normal human beings and rewarding to them, can be considered for its role in stabilizing, homeostatically, a larger state or system of which it is no intrinsic part. In this case, the consideration would be of whether a human society containing altruistic individuals would be of greater benefit to its individuals than one without, and then enough greater to cover the cost of the altruism, independently of any direct consequence of the altruistic acts themselves to the ones performing or receiving them.
Here, for consideration: http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment...-donates-100-millionth-book/story?id=53396596
Or as Andrew Carnegie is said to have put it: a man who dies rich has been a failure in life.
There has always been a tension between social hierarchy and a sense of oneness with life (or if we are particularly miserly, just our life ... namely "humans" .... or if we are even more miserly, just our race, creed or family).
Without social hierarchy or social contracts there is no way for people to meet their own needs (just imagine if you had to make your own clothes and grow your own food by yourself) and without some sort of collective empathy we would have been subject to a very reptillian introduction to this world (reptiles aren't famous in the animal kingdom for their doting parenthood skills).
So historically you see this boom/bust cycle around value revival movements. Like some group will be advocating some cause, and people will reciprocate with their sincerity with wealth and political favours .... and after some time, the practitioners take it for granted and get too caught up in the social hierarchy and the whole thing falls into hypocrisy ("power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely").
Just as an example, we see this with jesus washing the feet of beggars and forgiving the sins of the adulteress, yet a couple hundred years later christians are brutally killing each other in the name of the prince of peace. Or in the case of hinduism with an underlying philosophy of the oneness of all life yet the lower castes suffering so many injustices .... however the undisputed champion in this field of hypocrisy belongs to communism, where they secularized this "oneness of humanity" towards brutal ends (consider what Pol Pot achieved in a decade).
So its not so much that altruism requires a healthy dose of selfishness to function, but rather it is required that there is a healthy balance between social hierarchy and a place within that hierarchy for leading examples of people who establish that sense of oneness with life.
As far as social hierarchy goes, the upper end tends to work better when there is a clear distinction between the executive, judicial and legislative arms of government. When too many people are wearing too many hats, it tends to pave the way for degradation. Historically persons may apear who had the capacity to wear all such hats simultaneously however it is unrealistic to expect a successive continued lineage of such empowered personalities. Historically it is also not uncommon to see people who function at the top end of society in the role of advisors adopting austere lifestyles somewhat aloof from the acquisition of power etc ( I am thinking of the priestly estate or the brahmanas ... of course history illustrates that they, for the most part, adopted "many hats" and fell on their own swords).
As far as a sense of unity or oneness or quality of life goes, secularism is crippled at the onset in defining the notion of everyone being equal, much less establishing a plan of action to navigate the boom/bust cycle.
The subject of transcendence (the subject that establishes how we are all equal .... many may disagree of course but in the meantime, apply whatever material tests you want and everyone will continue to provide different material results that fly in the face of the notion of us all being equal).
The subject of transcendence of course belongs squarely in the realm of religious/spiritual disciplines .... but many are struggling with historical issues of hypocrisy or have been poorly represented ... both of which tend to land them in the same boat: an inability to be philosophically coherent and/or socially relevant.
So, in short, unless and until we see a re-emergence of spiritual leadership (ie a successful crossover between social hierarchy and capable proponents of the oneness of life), altruism (or indeed, any sort of "ism") will simply meet the boom/bust cycle according to the criteria of the economic needs of an industrial civilization (fasten your seatbelt).
Would this be true altruism, though? You admit yourself that you "couldnt stand it..." which suggests that such an act would be to alleviate your own feelings etc.
Self preservation seems like an inborn instinct which can be altered via training (brain washing?)
It is not clear to me that sacrificing oneself for a relative or close personal friend is a choice one would make in the absence of social pressure.
Perhaps I would sacrifice myself for a son or daughter, especially if I were only a few years from death myself.
Feeling pressured by social forces would be part of the biological reality and nature of the species. The internal experience of such motives can be inferred only indirectly - when crows mob hawks, for example, what the crow feels as its motive is unknown.
A desire to perform altruistic acts is apparently built into normally nurtured and normally developed human beings. Even small children take pleasure in helping strangers, stray animals, etc. It's often the case that the less benefit predictable the greater the pleasure - it's often more fun to help children than adults, for example.
It would seem that helping others is self-serving. Perhaps the guy on the corner deserves a pat on the back?
That logic reduces to an absurd conjecture:
That: being so troubled over someone else's pain, you literally step into their shoes to spare them and take that pain on yourself - is somehow a selfish act.
In the sense that one enjoys the natural, built-in reward - the dopamine surge or whatever. But the term seems misplaced.
I'm not sure the term "self-serving" applies to helping others because one enjoys helping others.
For consideration: in any human attribute there is a range: In comparing people who more enjoy helping others and therefore put more time and effort into helping others, with those who less enjoy it and therefore put less time and effort into such endeavors, are we to conclude that the former are more "self-serving"?
That only those who do not enjoy helping others are capable of "true" altruism?
Note that in biology the term is used without reference to internal motivation or psychological reward.
Eradicating suffering seems to be a preoccupation for many. It gives them purpose and, if they succeed, gratification. There is reward in helping others. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Feeling good because others feel good is of mutual benefit.
How is it not a selfish act? If your motivation is purely self-driven (being the alleviation of your troubles) then is this not the definition of a selfish act? It has the appearance of altruism, but is it not the motivation here that would suggest otherwise?
But to be clear: I'm not necessarily advocating the view I'm giving - really just exploring it. I'm not entirely sure what to think of altruism, whether it exists or not, and if it exists whether it is determined by motivation or outcome. Just offering up some alternative views to see what comes out.
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