Everything is selfish?
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18-04-2011, 01:21 AM
RE: Everything is selfish?
(17-04-2011 04:16 PM)SecularStudent Wrote:  But really, we've all experienced the good feeling we get from helping others, and we've all experienced the guilt that comes when we know we've either done something we shouldn't have or we don't do something that we should have. Based on previous experience, our brains (very quickly) decide on a course of action that will bring about the most beneficial outcome for ourselves. This is simply classical conditioning. We are not always aware of the fact that we are being conditioned by our past experiences, but that doesn't mean that we aren't acting based on them.

Not Disagreeing with anything you say, but conditioned behavior does not cover all of the examples that cdf50 mentioned. Giving your life to save someone for example. Doesn't take much to see that this is a behavior that can't be reinforced. Tongue
To explain my point I need to talk about conditional and unconditional reinforcements, and I'm going to assume that no one knows what I am talking about so as not to cause any misunderstandings. Also I must mention that this is one of the few subjects where all my literature is in Norwegian, so the technical terms are direct translations of the Norwegian word and might not be the correct English technical terms.
An unconditional reinforcer is something which all individuals with (mostly) the same genes will react to in the same way. If I slap you in the face, you will have a bad experience, and you are less likely to repeat whatever thing you did to make me slap you. If i give you food (or sex. these are normally the two most potent positive reinforcers) you are more likely to repeat whatever it was that made me feed you.
A conditional reinforcer is something that in it self does not make you more or less likely to repeat an action/behavior unless it leads you to believe that an unconditional reinforcer is coming. I am at a loss for a human example, so I will resort to using canines instead. The reason I know this stuff in the first place is because I have read a lot of books on dog behavior and training. If I meat a strang dog on the street and I say "hi there" the dog will probably not even react, or at best give me a puzzled glance. If i was to say "hi there" to my dog on the other hand, I would get quite the reaction. To my dog these words are part of a multi-layer conditional reinforcer. If she hears these words she knows I might ask here to do something. If she gets to do something for me she might get a "good girl". If she gets the "good girl" she knows that snacks are coming.
The snack (food) is an unconditional reinforcer, The phrase "good girl is a conditional reinforcer conditioned by the snack, and so on. The end result is that whatever she was doing at the moment i aid "hi there" will also be more likely to be repeated simply because it might have been what lead to the chain of events leading to the snack.
The explanation to what makes us do "good" things to our detriment lies in what makes an unconditional reinforcer a reinforcer in the first place, and now we are getting into genetics. The unconditional reinforcers of any individual are there because they make it statistically more probable for an individuals genes to propagate. This makes it easy to see why food and sex are so efficient. There are solid arguments for the evolutionary advantages of kin altruism, and I am sure most people on this forum know them already so i wont go in to them.

This is the reason for the kind of altruistic behavior that cdf50 describes as selfish. He is both right and wrong. These people are as altruistic as it gets, because they are vehicles for our selfish genes.

I want to rip off your superstitions and make passionate sense to you
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20-04-2011, 11:07 AM
RE: Everything is selfish?
Norseman - You articulated that much better than I did ^.^

"Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker." - Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula
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20-04-2011, 08:35 PM
RE: Everything is selfish?
Yea, i might bring the status back to live and strike the topic back up to try and drive it home that i think it's all subconscious. It'd help if i had other examples of really big decisions made subconsciously. SUGGESTIONS?

and that was a great read, norseman, thanks.
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