Everything we do is for our own benefit
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
25-03-2014, 01:44 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
Quote: I can even rationalise a selfish person sacrificing themselves in a situation where they would deem living as worse than personal death e.g. a Father who could have sacrificed his own life for his loved young daughter.

It is also quite reasonable that the father wants the daughter to live a full life and contribute value & happiness to the world whilst the father might be very old and already lived well - he simply values her more than himself and thinks it is logical & reasonable that she should continue to live instead of himself. He desires the happiness of another, and this is the causal link.
If she died and he lived he does not necessarily have to be guilty of anything "or deem living worse" as you say. There are many stoic & other philosophies which accept the loss of another as part of a natural process & not require copious amounts of grieving, guilt or negative emotions.
(The perception of loss & gains perceived is also influenced by conditioning, beliefs, values and other factors - they are subjective)

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


[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRhOs7rUrS5bRKvWS7clR7...gNs5ZwpVef]
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 03:45 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(25-03-2014 01:37 PM)Baruch Wrote:  By the way - you are not arguing for an amoral position but a moral system called ethical egoism - this is NOT a denial of ethics or morality. (hence your not an amoralist)
It is a positive assertion of a moral code - hence why it is useful to read the virtue of selfishness by Ayn Rand - you might like it.
I understand that you believe this to be my position.
However from my POV I require no moral judgements as to what is right or wrong, I have no moral obligations, I do not accept normative statements as having any binding value and I don't believe in free will (a.k.a. the ability to freely make choices between moral and immoral options).
When I explained my decision making process to you earlier in this thread your response was
Quote: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)
This isn't the first time I have had people point out to me that my thought process are not based on a moral structure.

(25-03-2014 01:37 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Also - we are using the word "belief" in different ways.
I do hold some beliefs (just not theistic or moral beliefs).
I do behave as if I am not just plugged into a VR machine or simply dreaming this life of mine.
I maintain this belief because I don't know how to discover the truth in this regard. I perceive if animals don't eat that they die. I don't know how to validate whether death means end of life or waking up from this VR and re-entering the real world. I am not willing to take the risk to go down the death route in order to find out.

What is important to this conversation is that I hold no moral beliefs which means I don't know the difference between good and bad (I have not eaten fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad).

One of the consequences of not knowing good from bad is that I don't know if humanism is good or bad. I do not assume that a starving person is bad and I do not imagine myself to have the moral obligation to feed the starving.

This is my starting position, and now I will attempt to show you how I reason that society functions without any moral truths.


Let's start with a clean slate. A child aged 3-4 with no brothers or sisters and very limited social interaction. Mum/Dad takes the child to Day Care center for the first time. The child, let's call her Alice, now belongs to a society of 3-4 year olds, governed by a few teachers.
- Scenario 1
Alice sees a toy that she finds exciting and grabs it. However the toy was part of a toy set that a boy called Brutus was playing with. Brutus immediately reaches out and tries to snatch the toy back. Alice resists and screams, Brutus punches Alice and Alice lets go of the toy. Alice has now learned something about society. Alice now knows that society may react to her actions, that her actions may result in her experiencing violent retaliation and thus pain. Alice also learns that she isn't the strongest most powerful kid in the block, that she must navigate society under this understanding. She cannot merely act out on her immediate impulses, she is forced to consider the consequences if she wants the best result for herself. The next time she sees an exciting toy that Brutus has near him, she either waits until Brutus is finished with it or she asks Brutus if she can play with him.
- Scenario 2
Alice sees an exciting toy next to Judas and grabs it. Judas tells Alice to give it back. Alice says "No!" and starts playing with the toy. Judas cries to the teacher, the teacher comes over to Alice and gets her to give the toy back to Judas.
Alice learns that this society has a set of enforced rules, that if she breaks the rules then there will be consequences. She learns in this instance that society has a rule regarding property. She spends many, many more years trying to discover and test the boundaries of those rules.
-Scenario 3
Mummy and Daddy have another baby which they name Abel. Whenever Alice hurts Able, Mum and Dad tell Alice off, call her naughty and put her in naughty corner. Alice is told that she must be a Good girl and that good girls don't hit, scratch or spit on their brothers.
Here Alice's parents are conditioning Alice into a moral belief system that moral truths exist, where some things are always Good and some things are always Bad (because Mummy and Daddy say so). Alice is being trained to want to be a Good girl because Good girls get lollies, and hugs and toys and get to ride on a horse or go to the beach. But Naughty girls get told off, and get to stand in boring old naughty corner, don't get any ice cream and don't get to have any fun.
- Scenario 4
It's almost Christmas time and Alice is asked if she has been a Good girl or a Bad girl. Alice is told that Santa is watching her all year long and will give presents only to Good girls.
Here Alice is being conditioned into believing in Good and to want to be a Good person. She is being taught that someone is always watching even when the parents aren't looking and that there are consequences of being good or bad.
- Scenario 5
Alice watches the Smurfs, she gets worried when Evil Gargamel hatches a cunning plan and tricks the smurfs but then she gets happy with the Good Smurfs win out at the end of the day. Alice likes the smurfs because they are Good. She doesn't like Gargamel because he is Bad. Alice is conditioned to want to be good like the smurfs and to oppose bad people like Gargamel who never win in the end.
As Alice grows up she watches many shows that reinforce the struggle of Good over Evil. She even buys into the idea that her country (USA?) is good and the Arabs/Chinese/Russians/Koreans are bad. That her country is justified in fighting against Evil.
- Scenario 6
Alice grows up and enters the real world, she has gone through her teens where she rebelled against her parent's authority and now accepts that she is an adult and does not accept a morality based on "Authority". However Alice believes she is a Good girl. She believes that it is Good to be nice to other people and Bad to cause suffering to others. She feels obliged to do Good things.
Alice hears a story from one of her colleagues about how their husband cheated on them. Alice thinks the husband is a bad man, he has wronged his wife and deserves to be punished. Alice does not like this bad husband. However at a later time Alice finds out that the husband had been miserable with the wife. That the wife hardly spends any time with the husband preferring her own friends to him and when she is at home she is either on the phone or internet chatting with her friends. That over time the lonely husband had fallen out of love with his wife. He had pleaded her to put more time into the relationship. But she had not listened. He eventually made other friends and found himself falling in love with a very nice lady. Alice changes her mind. The husband isn't a bad man, just a lonely man, he has fallen in love as is natural and had little reason to reject it. Alice realises that morality isn't black and white but instead shades of grey.
- Scenario 7
In talks with her Christian friends Alice realises that they consider abortion to be bad almost akin to murder. Alice understands that they hold human life to be sacred and that an unborn baby is a human life. Alice doesn't hold the same beliefs though. Alice considers it OK to have an abortion because the fetus has no consciousness, feels no pain and has no awareness of life or death. Alice considers it a good decision for a teenage girl to have an abortion and continue with an education before committing to a family.
Alice learns that "morality" is subjective, that what is true for one person may be false for another person.
- Scenario 8
As Alice grew up she had no exposure to gay people. She becomes attracted to the opposite sex and considered it weird and yucky to do sexual activities with girls. She considered SSA to be wrong. As she got older she learned to realise that people are different, and have different tastes to herself. She thought about it and realised that gay people are hurting no-one, but merely enjoying a loving consensual relationship.
Alice learns that "morality" isn't a truth that holds for an individual but instead it is a personal opinion which is liable to change.
- Scenario 9
The government holds a referendum on whether to make prostitution legal.
Alice is disgusted by the idea of women degrading themselves by selling their bodies to desperate men. However, realising that there is no moral truth, she considers her position just to be her personal opinion. She rationalises that it doesn't make sense for her to force her opinion onto other people. That if a woman wants to make money by prostitution and a man wants to pay for sex then how is it for Alice to tell them that they can't do it? Alice realises that the rules of society should not be based on personal opinions because each person's opinions differ.
- Scenario 10
Alice now contemplates the idea of morality. If morality is merely personal opinion then how can she know what other people should or shouldn't do? she has her opinion, but they have theirs. Aren't they best to decide for themselves what to do?
But then Alice thinks about Murder and Rape, Oh, these are always bad, maybe moral truths do exist but only on a limited set of actions.
Then she considers her Christian friends position that abortion is murder, that euthanasia is murder. Hmmm, even murder is complex.
Then Alice thinks more about the idea of morality.
If morality is personal opinion then how can I think that oughts and shoulds apply to other people? Without oughts and shoulds does this mean that my personal opinions aren't even a moral framework?
- Scenario 11
Now that Alice has rid herself of the concept of morality, how does she justify that she doesn't go around murdering and pillaging?
She realises that she can no longer use the excuse that murder and theft is bad or wrong. She comes to the understanding that she has been going about most of her life with her eyes closed. That she had merely been conditioned to lack the desire to murder and steal. So then she thinks about what would be reasons to murder or steal. Maybe someone has something that you want, so you steal it, maybe they try to stop you so you kill them. He, he, I am going to live my life to its fullest from now on Evil_monster.
Then she considers the consequences.
If I steal then others may try to stop me. I am not the strongest, maybe I'll get beaten up, maybe I'll go to prison. She rationalises that it is not in her best interests to do these things so she gives up on the idea. Now when she sees someone with something that she wants, she has her eyes wide open, she knows that she doesn't steal it because that approach is not in her best interests. This is a different reasoning to what she had before. Before she didn't steal because she believed theft to be Bad and she believed herself to be Good. She realises that those beliefs were irrational because there is no such thing as Good or Bad and that in the past her justifications were irrational and merely unthinking conditioning.

Alice thinks about what should be the driving force behind the laws of society. How do we decide whether the Christians get their way and outlaw abortion or do the atheists get their way and have abortion as legal?
It can't be based on morality because that degrades to mere personal opinion, which doesn't include the whole framework of morality.
She wonders about the dawn of civilisation when Ug joined together with others to decide on the laws of society.

Next to come is how Ug decides on the rules of society without basing them on moral beliefs.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 03:47 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(25-03-2014 01:44 PM)Baruch Wrote:  
Quote: I can even rationalise a selfish person sacrificing themselves in a situation where they would deem living as worse than personal death e.g. a Father who could have sacrificed his own life for his loved young daughter.

It is also quite reasonable that the father wants the daughter to live a full life and contribute value & happiness to the world
Why does he care about the world when he is gone?
There is no link.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 03:51 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(25-03-2014 01:44 PM)Baruch Wrote:  he simply values her more than himself and thinks it is logical & reasonable that she should continue to live instead of himself. He desires the happiness of another, and this is the causal link.
I don't see this as a causal link.
Why does he desire the happiness of another?
What is the cause of this desire? Is it because the happiness of the one he loves makes him happy?
It's an emotive response. I make you happy in order to make me happy. I am doing it for myself. If your happiness doesn't make me happy then I don't care if you are happy or not so i don't go to the effort of making you happy.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 05:16 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
Stevil - seems what you have done is just re-frame morality, not amorality.

Now it is moral 'good' to do what is in Alice's best interest and 'bad' to do what isn't in Alice's best interests.

If your really amoral who cares about Alice's interest's. Alice shouldn't care about her interests or another - none are better or worse, good or bad. (such judgmental concepts just don't exist - just hot air)
If Alice only cares about her interests because she is forced to because she is starving & must eat to satisfy hunger - then this is no different to conditioning. It is not different to the teacher saying she must do X,Y or Z or she will be punished.

Your also assuming people SHOULD act out of their own interests - not doing so being "just conditioning or wrong" i.e you are making acting out of ones own interest into a normative claim.
Either you are saying it is rational to find the most self interest possible (rational egoism) which is a normative claim or it is the right thing to do (ethical egoism, also a normative claim)

Your also making one other whopping humungous assumption - and that is we start with a blank slate [Tabula Rasa]. The general consensus in neuroscience/sociology/cognitive research is that we do not start with blank slate. This is crucial - because without this underpinning your entire case collapses.
(consider The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature - Steven Pinker)

Also without free will - none of this discussion makes any sense because self interest/selfishness/own benefit etc are then not a choice we make but totally conditioned and indistinguishable from altruism or any other 'moral' beliefs and conditioning. you can't eat your cake and have it too.
I personally despise the term "free will" and use the term "autonomous will" which has different connotations but that's a whole other blog & long discussion. This is partly because there is a clear difference between a reflex and a decision after deliberation & thought which simpler formulations of determinism cannot capture.

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


[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRhOs7rUrS5bRKvWS7clR7...gNs5ZwpVef]
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 05:20 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(25-03-2014 03:47 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(25-03-2014 01:44 PM)Baruch Wrote:  It is also quite reasonable that the father wants the daughter to live a full life and contribute value & happiness to the world
Why does he care about the world when he is gone?
There is no link.

That's exactly the point !
He is not doing it only for his self interest but for her interests and cannot care about it after he is gone.

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


[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRhOs7rUrS5bRKvWS7clR7...gNs5ZwpVef]
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 05:55 PM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(25-03-2014 05:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Stevil - seems what you have done is just re-frame morality, not amorality.
I think you are trying too hard to view my position as belonging to a moral framework.
What is important to note is that I do not believe in right/wrong/good/bad/evil
I do not believe in moral obligation or normative (oughts and shoulds)
Without these aspects my outlook cannot be considered a moral framework.
(25-03-2014 05:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Now it is moral 'good' to do what is in Alice's best interest and 'bad' to do what isn't in Alice's best interests.
I don't think that it is good to do what is in Alice's best interests. In fact if her best interests conflict with mine then I will act to the detriment of Alice's best interests and I will not deem my own actions to be good or bad but merely neutral. I make no such moral judgements.
(25-03-2014 05:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Your also assuming people SHOULD act out of their own interests - not doing so being "just conditioning or wrong" i.e you are making acting out of ones own interest into a normative claim.
No I am not making this assumption. I do not consider it wrong for Alice to behave detrimental to her own interests. If she gives her sandwich to a starving homeless person, I do not judge this to be wrong. I do not believe that Alice is under any obligation to act out of self interest. I might consider her reasoning to be irrational but I don't consider irrational reasoning to be wrong.
If Alice harms herself, then I have no moral opinion of it. I am under no moral obligation to prevent Alice from harming herself.
(25-03-2014 05:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Either you are saying it is rational to find the most self interest possible (rational egoism) which is a normative claim or it is the right thing to do (ethical egoism, also a normative claim)
I'm not sure how you equate my opinion of "rational actions" with an opinion on what others "ought/should do". This is conflation. In my opinion there is nothing wrong about behaving irrationally. I don't believe that people are under any obligation to do so.

(25-03-2014 05:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Your also making one other whopping humungous assumption - and that is we start with a blank slate [Tabula Rasa]. The general consensus in neuroscience/sociology/cognitive research is that we do not start with blank slate. This is crucial - because without this underpinning your entire case collapses.
Just as babies are born without belief in gods, babies are also born without beliefs in morality. Unless you believe in objective morality then you must agree with me on this.
Thus from the perspective of morality we are born with a clean slate.
(25-03-2014 05:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Also without free will - none of this discussion makes any sense because self interest/selfishness/own benefit etc are then not a choice we make but totally conditioned and indistinguishable from altruism or any other 'moral' beliefs and conditioning. you can't eat your cake and have it too.
The term "free will" is a very loose term.
Ultimately I suspect that we have absolutely no ability to make any choices what-so-ever. We are merely biochemical machines. The natural laws of the universe dictate all events that occur. We cannot circumvent any chemical reaction, any electron movement by merely willing it to happen. Our "free will" is merely an illusion.
However, in saying that, if we allow ourselves the luxury of indulging in analysis of the workings of the conceptual mind, then my position stands.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 06:04 PM (This post was last modified: 26-03-2014 01:17 PM by Stevil.)
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(25-03-2014 05:16 PM)Baruch Wrote:  Either you are saying it is rational to find the most self interest possible (rational egoism) which is a normative claim or it is the right thing to do (ethical egoism, also a normative claim)

I'm just researching rational egoism at the moment, thanks for pointing me in this direction.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_egoism
Quote:While psychological egoism is about motivation and ethical egoism is about morality, rational egoism is a view about rationality (where rationality may or may not be tied to morality)
For me it is not tied to morality, thus it does not make moral based normative claims.

Quote:Her book The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) explains the concept of rational egoism in depth.
I think I will read this book next. Although my own position is different from Ayn's. She combines ethical and rational egoism into her own philosophy.

http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=zMgp2...sm&f=false
Quote:(b1) In amoralism, this consequence of the skeptical argument refers to the tendancy of the skeptics to be "amoral," because they decide to "drop morality altogether", since they believe that "we are never justified in believing that moral claims are true" and that "we never know that any moral claim is true"
Quote:(b2) In rational egoism, this consequence of the "skeptical" argument refers to the decision to "maximize...one's self-interest," since one now denies the existence of morality
Personally I would re-write (b1) slightly.
Instead of <since they believe that "we are never justified in believing that moral claims are true" and that "we never know that any moral claim is true">
I would say <since they "lack a belief that moral claims are true" and thus consider that "I can't know for sure that any moral claim is true">

With regards to (b2) I disagree that my decision is to maximise my self-interest. I think rationally it is sufficient to seek self-interest, I don't think there is any need to maximise it as the cost of calculating which option provides the maximum benefit may be prohibitive and also is subjective e.g. is one bird in the hand worth two birds in the bush? There is a risk that if I go after the two in the bush then I will end up with none.

Edit: Now that I have had a bit more time to think about it, I'd say that my amoralism is a consequence of my atheism and that rational egoism is a consequence of my amoralism.
So they all go hand in hand for me.
To be honest I'd never considered the "rational" aspect of my philosophy until this conversation with you, but it does seem to fit quite well (yet another hat that I can wear).
I'm a bit surprised that there is a label for it, but it seems that there may be a label for every philosophical position. What I do think though is that we need to be careful about trying to fit people into boxes. Labels can have value for trying to quickly get the gist of a person but it doesn't mean a person perfectly fits within that box. For example it seems a person can be a rational egoist and an ethical egoist hence they can have a moral belief system, but I don't belong to the ethical egoist box.
With regards to rational egoism, it isn't a significant part of who I am. I don't go around making judgements as to whether a person is behaving rationally or not. How can I, I can't know what reasoning is going on inside their heads. I certainly don't despair if I myself act irrationally. So its more of a by the by thing rather than anything of significance. Since I don't find it of much significance I am not out to maximise my own self interests, so I don't entirely fit in the box, but I do expect that I make decisions based on whether I at least get some benefit or not.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-03-2014, 06:37 PM (This post was last modified: 25-03-2014 06:58 PM by Stevil.)
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(25-03-2014 05:20 PM)Baruch Wrote:  
(25-03-2014 03:47 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Why does he care about the world when he is gone?
There is no link.

That's exactly the point !
He is not doing it only for his self interest but for her interests and cannot care about it after he is gone.
Then I would consider his action/reasoning as irrational.

If he did it because he would have found his own life unbearable if he didn't do it, then in my opinion it would be rational for him to self sacrifice.

There is a fate worse than death and that is living an unbearable life.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
29-03-2014, 03:09 AM
RE: Everything we do is for our own benefit
(16-03-2014 04:03 PM)Magoo Wrote:  I found this idea on a random website last year, and I actually found myself agreeing with it. Let me explain.

We all strive to be happy. We play a game, we are happy. We have money, we are happy. We eat chocolate, we are happy. Whatever it is that you enjoy, you will do. But even if you are doing work, for the benefit of someone else, you are still only serving yourself.

Say you are walking down the street, and you give money to a homeless person. You are a good person right? You care for others? Well, not really. After you gave away that money, now you feel happy inside. You feel great because you helped someone. Although it seems like you are caring, the reality is you are serving yourself because you are making yourself happy by doing so.

Another example. A friend asks for a massive favour from you. You really really don't want to do it, but yet you do it anyway because you are their friend. You may not have enjoyed doing it, you may have helped your friend, but in fact the only reason you did it is because it made you feel happy by helping hour friend.

I know this probably sounds confusing, and I am writing this as I think of it. However, this argument really got my thinking about why I care for other people and do things for them. Try to think about how you really feel when you are do something for someone else.
Right. equity theory can help explain most behavioral patterns but in some cases, the illusion of altruism is quite strong.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: