Everything we do is for our own benefit
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19-03-2014, 03:38 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
Stevil:

Its really not that complicated. Every action does not necessitate that the individual benefits. In another way of putting it personal gain is not necessary for action.

You firstly make the assumption that we all act completely as individual units - but humans are fundamentally social animals - even though there is a spectrum to this.
Eg there is a difference between a narcissistic psychopath only interested in personal gain and most people who act with a wide mixture of motives, some without personal gain.
This also has to do with the conception of how one defines one self. If someone defines themselves as completely separate entities then the world is defined as "Me" vs "everyone else". However the boundaries between people are often intertwined (because we are fundamentally social animals) and therefore there is the possibility of "WE gain". Taking this further whilst someone may benefit from an action - the benefit may be secondary and not the driving motive as discussed earlier.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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19-03-2014, 03:54 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(19-03-2014 03:22 PM)Baruch Wrote:  
Quote:I don't understand what the difference would be between conditioning and principle. If there is more to this principle e.g. rational reasoning then I'd be keen to hear what it is. What is the rational reason behind altruism?

One form of conditioning is thoughtless automatic habitual activity eg when you drive a car and don't need to activelly concentrate on changing the gears.
Another form of conditioning would be "classical conditioning" in the pavlovian sense (technically known as respondent conditioning) were there is an automatic physiological response to a stimulus eg showing someone lemons and they salivate.
Living by a set of principles is in line with some rational ideals or philosophy - this could be flexible, doesn't have to be dissociated logic but some sort of deliberation or reasons for action.
Yes, OK, that is what I consider conditioning to be, I agree with you.

And I also agree with your definition of principles.

But, I don't think it makes sense in the context of this discussion just to say "principles" and be done with it. The whole point of this thread is to try and strip down those principles and discover what the root cause is. What are those rational ideals or philosophy that are underpinning our actions and choices?

Self interest is an easy one to understand and discover as a root cause. I eat because I am hungry, I play because I am bored, I make allies because I am vulnerable, I don't murder because I don't want society to retaliate on me, I help an old lady cross the street because I want to influence society to be helpful in the hope that one day people will help me. I give a beggar money as it takes my empathy pains away.

I can easily understand and articulate self interest motivations. This falls under "principles" and can be rationalised.

I struggle to understand and cannot articulate non self interest motivations other than ones that (IMO) fall into the conditioning basket. e.g. I help the needy because it is good and I am a good person, I help others because as a humanist I believe it to be my duty.
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19-03-2014, 04:04 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(19-03-2014 03:38 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Stevil:

Its really not that complicated. Every action does not necessitate that the individual benefits. In another way of putting it personal gain is not necessary for action.
I know you assert these things, but I struggle to understand, accept or believe this as truth.

(19-03-2014 03:38 PM)Baruch Wrote:  You firstly make the assumption that we all act completely as individual units
No I don't make that assumption


(19-03-2014 03:38 PM)Baruch Wrote:  ... - but humans are fundamentally social animals
I also accept that humans are social animals and that we benefit from having foresight and being able to predict the consequences of our actions.

I accept that making decisions and taking action is difficult and that our actions can and often do have roll on consequences.
e.g. I lie, then people stop trusting me, since people don't trust me they don't confide in me or join in partnership with me, my lying can have detrimental impacts on my future prospects within society.
I murder people, society sees me as a danger, some people want revenge others want me removed from society in order to make society safe for them. My murdering makes my own life at risk, my freedom at risk, my ability to participate in society at risk.
When I consider taking action to my own personal benefit I must think about the consequences of my actions and how those consequences might be to my detriment.

(19-03-2014 03:38 PM)Baruch Wrote:  - even though there is a spectrum to this.
Eg there is a difference between a narcissistic psychopath only interested in personal gain and most people who act with a wide mixture of motives, some without personal gain.
I consider there to be a difference between a narcissistic psychopath and a person only interested in personal gain. These are two different things.
A person only interested in personal gain will not behave as a narcissistic psychopath because that will lead to isolation and jail time and that is not in a person's self interest.
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19-03-2014, 04:16 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
You can give a beggar because it takes your empathy pain away - fine.

Consider giving a beggar because he is hungry. - Thats the reason, he is hungry, I have some food and I want to feed him so he is no longer hungry. I dont have to be wallowing in empathy pain to do this. I dont have to have a heaven to do this, I dont have to have God's approval, I dont have to get thanks and get the queezy "oh what a wonderful righteous person I must be feeling" In fact prior to the reasoned action of wanting to feed a hungry person there might be uncertainly of how I would feel later - perhaps I regret it later, perhaps get queezy loving feelings or not feel all that much and just carry on the day with one extra person fed in the world.
Thats the point - you can do an action for its own sake - to feed a hungry person regardless if you get a reward.

This has nothing to do with "so why dont you feed every person who is hungry" - the fact is I had the resources on this occasion and opportunity and decided to feed a hungry person. - Thats it.

If you want to add an Occam razor heuristic - why complicate the issue by adding all sorts of selfish motivations which are not necessitated ???
Someone is hungry and I choose to feed them because of this reason. Doesn't mean it is not possible that there is some unconscious, unprovable, unfalsifiable motivation lurking somewhere - but the simple motivation is to help another human being.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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19-03-2014, 04:31 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
I don't have to resist the temptation to murder people just because I am afraid that other people will murder me.
I don't have to avoid stealing just because someone might steal my stuff or I might get caught.
This is a very crude "morality" (if it even can be considered morality)

I might believe a rational principle that stealing is wrong for society except in exceptional circumstances (a type of deontological hypothetical imperative in technical jargon) based on the best models for how society should flourish.
It doesn't mean that I personally will flourish - but as a whole a rational way to build a society.
This is no different to an engineer building a bridge based on the rationally best way to build it - not because the engineer fears losing their job if they mess up or basking in the light of a promotion if they succeed. The engineer can build a bridge because there is a correct way to build a bridge as per rational scientific principles.
It is an extra benefit if later there is personal pride for success or punishment for failure or simply no recognition whatsoever from others i.e imagine a case were is it an insignificant bridge and a standard salary taking away any large gain/loss, pleasure/pain motivations - the engineer builds the bridge because it is rational to follow certain mathematical scientific principles.
Likewise I can function is society with rational principles such as not stealing because this is best for society - even though I may not always personally gain.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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19-03-2014, 04:43 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(19-03-2014 04:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Consider giving a beggar because he is hungry. - Thats the reason, he is hungry
This seems superficial to me. It is looking at the begger's perspective "he is hungry" which is fine. But it seems to be ignoring my perspective, "why do I care whether he is hungry or not? Why do I want to take action in order to alleviate his hunger?"

I think it is a stretch to say that I do it because of him (I must factor into the equation somehow). I feel that there must be some underlying self motivation.
I walk past 10 hungry birds and I don't feed them but yet I visually see, smell and hear a beggar and I fed him.
Is it that I associate with a fellow human and have empathy and fed him? Is it that I value humanity more than other animals, more than my own possession of food?

If I were to rationalise it, maybe I decide it is better to give my resources to needy children rather than to an old man that doesn't want to work or cannot fill out the unemployment benefit papers. The opportunistic approach of giving to a beggar on the street strikes me to be more of a "buying off my emotive pains" than a rational altuistic action.

But I understand what you are saying. You accept that you are giving him food purely because he is hungry.
I think there is more to it, but I am not about to call you a liar, we simply disagree regarding whether there are underlying subconscious drivers which are contrary to our conscious thoughts. As you have mentioned
Quote:Doesn't mean it is not possible that there is some unconscious, unprovable, unfalsifiable motivation lurking somewhere

(19-03-2014 04:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  If you want to add an Occam razor heuristic
I don't accept Occam's razor as a valid tool to discover the truth.

Philosophy is about the "what ifs.." and "Why" and "Are things really as they seem".
It's about pondering such things.
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19-03-2014, 05:07 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
I think you answered this yourself just now according to my perspective.

Lets explore:
I walk past a beggar, smell him, see the putrid state and feel empathy and guilt however rationally decide that it is NOT a good idea to give him money for a rational consequentialist reason being he will spend it on more beer. However I can give the money to some children who are distant from myself whom I do not have empathic experiences because it is a rational way to build education and society and I have some surplus resources I don't need. I can throw the resources away, but its more rational to give it to some needy children.

You are trapped in that you think you need to explain a motive with another motive and then another motive as per infinite regress getting more unconscious and far fetched - anything less will be superficial. Why stop at self gain as a motivation ?
Lets play along. I feed the beggar to remove feelings of empathic guilt. Now I am relieved of empathic guilt I feel some pleasure & gain. Why do I want to feel pleasure, well because its a survival instinct, why do I want a survival instinct - well its because it takes away the fear of death, why do I fear death - well its because my motive is to pursue anything promoting vitality so that I can reproduce, why want to reproduce ? To escape the existential angst.....and I can carry on & on with never ending hypothetical motives....

Perhaps its really simple - I rationally decide it is a good idea to remove someones pain and decide to feed them - that's my motive. End of story.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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19-03-2014, 05:44 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(19-03-2014 05:07 PM)Baruch Wrote:  ...reason being he will spend it on more beer. However I can give the money to some children who are distant from myself whom I do not have empathic experiences because it is a rational way to build education and society and I have some surplus resources I don't need. I can throw the resources away, but its more rational to give it to some needy children.
Of course a person can give money away to some far off needy children that they have never met BECAUSE perhaps they have seen and Ad on TV, perhaps a documentary, perhaps some collecotrs came to their door and created empathy pains by informing them of the plight of these needy children...

(19-03-2014 05:07 PM)Baruch Wrote:  You are trapped in that you think you need to explain a motive with another motive and then another motive as per infinite regress getting more unconscious and far fetched
That's not true.
I am linking the motivations to the person taking the action.
This is not far fetched at all, to ask what motivates person X to take action A.

I think it is far fetched to say that Person X takes action A because Person Y will benefit from A.
My reasoning is that there is no causal link between "Person Y benefiting from A" and Person X. I insist that there must be a causal link for Person X to take action A.
This is not an infinite regress problem, nor is it far fetched.
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19-03-2014, 06:17 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(19-03-2014 04:31 PM)Baruch Wrote:  I don't have to resist the temptation to murder people just because I am afraid that other people will murder me.
I don't have to avoid stealing just because someone might steal my stuff or I might get caught.
This is a very crude "morality" (if it even can be considered morality)
As an amoralist I look for reasons that don't necessitate irrational moral beliefs.

(19-03-2014 04:31 PM)Baruch Wrote:  I might believe a rational principle that stealing is wrong for society
Given that there is no such thing as objective wrong I feel that it is irrational to believe that one can know what is wrong for society, thus irrational to act in accordance with that belief.

To me, it would be more rational to justify that I want to live in a society where I don't have to worry about my stuff being taken, thus I want laws against theft and I will also refrain from stealing as well.
This way I don't have to hold onto a belief that theft is wrong and don't have to have a moral obligation not to steal.

(19-03-2014 04:31 PM)Baruch Wrote:  This is no different to an engineer building a bridge based on the rationally best way to build it - not because the engineer fears losing their job if they mess up or basking in the light of a promotion if they succeed. The engineer can build a bridge because there is a correct way to build a bridge as per rational scientific principles.
I think it to be very rational to perform a decent job in order to get paid and develop a reputation as a competent worker with regards to future employment opportunities.
Personally if I were an engineer and wasn't going to get paid and wasn't going to develop up a reputation, then I wouldn't build the bridge even if I knew the correct way to build it.
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19-03-2014, 06:18 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(19-03-2014 05:44 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(19-03-2014 05:07 PM)Baruch Wrote:  ...reason being he will spend it on more beer. However I can give the money to some children who are distant from myself whom I do not have empathic experiences because it is a rational way to build education and society and I have some surplus resources I don't need. I can throw the resources away, but its more rational to give it to some needy children.
Of course a person can give money away to some far off needy children that they have never met BECAUSE perhaps they have seen and Ad on TV, perhaps a documentary, perhaps some collecotrs came to their door and created empathy pains by informing them of the plight of these needy children...

(19-03-2014 05:07 PM)Baruch Wrote:  You are trapped in that you think you need to explain a motive with another motive and then another motive as per infinite regress getting more unconscious and far fetched
That's not true.
I am linking the motivations to the person taking the action.
This is not far fetched at all, to ask what motivates person X to take action A.

I think it is far fetched to say that Person X takes action A because Person Y will benefit from A.
My reasoning is that there is no causal link between "Person Y benefiting from A" and Person X. I insist that there must be a causal link for Person X to take action A.
This is not an infinite regress problem, nor is it far fetched.

Fair enough.
You are looking for the causal link connecting person X taking action A so that person Y benefits.

I gave the example of building a bridge - person X has rational reasons for taking action A (eg structural engineering principles) to build bridge Y.

Person X has a rational reason A to feed person Y.
Person Y is hungry, person X has excess food so person X thinks it is rational to give person Y some food. Person Y benefits and person X does not necessitate any gain.

I can act independently of empathy for a rational reason.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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