The Falsity of Altruism

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Aedes
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 01:14 pm
@boagie,
boagie;30017 wrote:
we can be sure that there is no action without the excerise of that intent through the will.
This is simply not correct, I'm afraid. If you put your hand on a hot stove and flinch and draw it away, that's simply not at all an act of intent or will. Why not? Because babies, animals, birds, and even insects will do the same exact thing. It's a neurologic reflex that actually bypasses the brain (go look up spinal reflexes).

Is the fact that your heart beats a matter of will? If so, then why is it that someone who is brain dead can have a beating heart?
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 01:31 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes,Smile

Well really, this type of focus only sidetracks the issue of conscious intent. I quite realize that digestion is not willed, but that is to be entirely off topic. The thing at issue is not the subconscious functions, but the conscious function of human behaviour.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 03:56 pm
@boagie,
boagie;30053 wrote:
The thing at issue is not the subconscious functions, but the conscious function of human behaviour.


Does not the subconscious have influence over the conscious?
 
Aedes
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:06 pm
@Ruthless Logic,
Boagie, now I'm convinced you haven't read a word I've written.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:13 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss wrote:
Does not the subconscious have influence over the conscious?


Pangloss,Smile

In the case of discussing the will or conscious intent, if the subconsious did effect the conscious, and it truely was subconscious, how would you know about it? Actually it should not surprize me after all the experience I have had with this topic, that people would really rather take the topic someplace else. Nothing personal Pangloss, but this topic is a truly unusual experience. Do you think that freight train really intended to go to Baltimore, it really did not have any choice but to follow the tracks--lol!! Please do not take offense Pangloss, this is not directed at you, it just the way of the world I guess.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:15 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Boagie, now I'm convinced you haven't read a word I've written.


Aedes,

Well in all fairness I shall back track, and see if I cannot come to another understanding of your position.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:18 pm
@boagie,
My message and theme drum the beginning has been that the fundamental nature of will is entirely irrelevant to an understanding of altruism.

boagie;30106 wrote:
Aedes,

Well in all fairness I shall back track, and see if I cannot come to another understanding of your position.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:25 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
My message and theme drum the beginning has been that the fundamental nature of will is entirely irrelevant to an understanding of altruism.


Aedes,Smile

My positon is that understanding the process does not deny altruism, so what is the protest about, an act/reaction is process, not magic. This individual give, what moved him within his own constitution to give, you want to make it sound unreasonable, it is unreasonble to do so. I could say that I know how a car works because I can watch it move on down the road, but that tells me nothing of how that motion comes into being, a motor, yes it has motor.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:28 pm
@boagie,
boagie;30105 wrote:
Pangloss,Smile
In the case of discussing the will or conscious intent, if the subconsious did effect the conscious, and it truely was subconscious, how would you know about it? Actually it should not surprize me after all the experience I have had with this topic, that people would really rather take the topic someplace else. Nothing personal Pangloss, but this topic is a truly unusual experience. Do you think that freight train really intended to go to Baltimore, it really did not have any choice but to follow the tracks--lol!! Please do not take offense Pangloss, this is not directed at you, it just the way of the world I guess.


Just because we don't "know" about the effect of the subconscious on the conscious doesn't make the effect any less meaningful. A willed-action is the result of conscious intent within the mind, but that conscious intent is a result of the whole of the mind's functions, unconscious and conscious.

I agree that we should get back to the topic. As I noted in an earlier post, sociobiologists has done work relating to the idea of altruism, and there is good evidence that what we call altruism is an evolved response. Why do people "feel good" when they perform an action that apparently helps another person without benefitting themselves? Or do they perform such an action purely because they seek the good feeling and the socially-favorable repute that comes from appearing altruistic (though they are, in fact, not altruistic)?
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:40 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss,Smile

Excellent, if we are to be satisfied with a superficial understanding, just what is immediately apparent, then magic might seem a reasonable answer. When someone gives in a charitable way, there are two people being served.
 
Ruthless Logic
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 04:52 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
I don't contest this point. I agree. What I don't agree with is the importance of mentioning it.

No, this conversation could just as easily be about evil or about something with no moral implications. Again, you have not put forth an argument about the morality or lack thereof of altruism, you're arguing that all actions are hedonistic.

And I'm willing to stipulate even that to you. I'm not arguing against that point.


My point is that downstream from this initial cerebral process that produces decisions and actions, we have ways of differentiating one kind of action from another. And given a scenario where someone can choose lots of personal benefit, but instead chooses less personal benefit with the intent of conferring that benefit on another person, THIS is where we would apply the category altruism.

In other words, under the umbrella of all our self-interested actions, there is a category of actions that fits our conception of altruism, whether or not that's ultimately true at a self-conscious level.

Now, someone else here mentioned that there is anthropological evidence that we have evolved to recognize and perform altruistic deeds, and this is demonstrated among other animals, too. One can clearly see how it might be advantageous to do so. So I think it is probably a false dichotomy to separate self-interest from altruism, because fundamentally it is in our best interest to live in a society in which altruistic acts are condoned.


In the above quote you said " And given a scenario where someone can choose lots of personal benefit, but instead chooses less personal benefit with the intent of conferring that benefit on another person".
YOU SEE this is where your idealistic propensities reveal themselves. The sequence of the actual empirically verifiable process (firing of synapses) reveals the HUMAN AXIOM that SELF-INTEREST is satisfied FIRST, which logically indicates that their to NO SUCH THING as someone choosing less benefit for themselves, because the ability to make the decision in the first place indicates MAXIMUM SELF-INTEREST CONSUMPTION, and YOU CANNOT UNCOUPLE THIS PROCESS.

Look it, let me provide a different view for you. The less personal benefit scenario that you used above is simply false, while I can certainly measure the empirical evidence of giving $8000 out of a $10,000 windfall to charity, the giver, while having less money, STILL ACHIEVED MAXIMUM SELF-INTEREST, because that is what he or she decided, and you cannot uncouple that process with idealistic interjections of merit.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 05:59 pm
@boagie,
My message and theme drum the beginning has been that the fundamental nature of will is entirely irrelevant to an understanding of altruism.

boagie;30106 wrote:
Aedes,

Well in all fairness I shall back track, and see if I cannot come to another understanding of your position.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 06:21 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
My message and theme drum the beginning has been that the fundamental nature of will is entirely irrelevant to an understanding of altruism.


Aedes,Smile

If the above is it in a nutshell, then we disagee, is it the pragmatism of the act which you think reveals all? What do you say to the statement that when one gives in a charitable way, two people are being served---------it just doesn't matter? Someone may give because they fear lightening bolts from heaven, is your position then, that it matters not the motive, the process, it matters only the result?
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2008 11:00 pm
@boagie,
Say Boagie, am I on the right track at all here?

And also, Reciprocal altruism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia .
 
boagie
 
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2008 04:17 am
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401 wrote:
Say Boagie, am I on the right track at all here?

And also, Reciprocal altruism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia .



Holiday,Smile

Wonderful, right on the money Hoilday. Aedes idea that knowing the process that brings this action into being is irrelavent to understanding altruism, or knowing what it is, is a bit like saying in reguards other human behaviours that the understanding of the psychology of it is not important. People have some strange denials around this issue of the virtue of altruism. I am not sure I understand the psychology of this, that might be a new topic of discussion itself. Great stuff Holiday thanks for the link.
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2008 06:11 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
My message and theme drum the beginning has been that the fundamental nature of will is entirely irrelevant to an understanding of altruism.


This needs to be qualified.

It is the obsession with the nature of action as an extension of will that is causing Boagie's position on this. Yes, all purposeful action is a matter of the will (this is tautologically true), and the will inherently represents a person's own values (again this is tautologically true), so all purposeful action is inherently an affirmation of the actors wants.

However, understanding this is what allows us to differentiate between altruism and self-interest. While no one can act according to someone else's will (to the extent that no one else can operate another's muscles), his or her own will can be altruistic.

If we have someone acting according to a will that sacrifices his or herself for the benefit of another, we have an altruistic action.
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2008 06:29 am
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401 wrote:
Say Boagie, am I on the right track at all here?

And also, Reciprocal altruism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia .


Note that this is not morally relevant altruism, it is merely natural biological altruism. It is altruistic because it is self-sacrifice, but it is not intentional so it cannot be judged morally, and that is generally what we are dealing with here.

If there is intent based in some expectation of reciprocation then the action is no longer altruistic.
 
boagie
 
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2008 07:10 am
@Mr Fight the Power,
Mr Fight the Power,Smile

You have nicely frame this for us. Yes indeed if there is expectation of reciporcation then the action is not altruistic. That makes the altruistic act a good deal more rare than many people would like to have it. For even in a gift of charity, given to a fellow member of a shared society, there just might be that intimation of self-interest through the mutual security of a common safety net in the form of society. At any rate altruism is an evaluation of a function/action, and every function must have its process, understanding is a functional process also, how can the nature of anything be known, without the process of the understanding. I simply do not understand how anyone could say it not necessary to the topic at hand.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2008 07:19 am
@boagie,
boagie;30125 wrote:
is it the pragmatism of the act which you think reveals all?
Boagie, are you inventing my words? Go back and re-read this post of mine:

http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum/lounge/general-discussion/2525-falsity-altruism-6.html#post30004

Quote:
What do you say to the statement that when one gives in a charitable way, two people are being served
When one gives in a charitable manner, it may be that no one is served, that one person is served, that the other is served, or that both are served. Just depends on the scenario. The interesting part is the rationale -- and if you're going to dump out all rationale as latent hedonism, then you're dismissing the fact that people may indeed have different rationales motivating their action -- or guiding their choice to give versus not give.

Quote:
Someone may give because they fear lightening bolts from heaven, is your position then, that it matters not the motive, the process, it matters only the result?
I never said that, come on Boagie, if I have to keep accusing you of not reading my posts then why do I bother???

As for Ruthless' continued assertion that my discussion is motivated by moral idealism, I'd ask him to point out where I say anything about the merits or demerits of altruism in this discussion. I happen to be a huge fan of Nietzsche's argument against altruism, which is found in Genealogy of Morals, specifically because I agree with Nietzsche that there is no transcendent good that justifies altruism. While I am indeed in favor of altruistic acts, I think that comes from our social nature and has nothing to do with absolute good or evil.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2008 08:18 am
@Mr Fight the Power,
Mr. Fight the Power;30193 wrote:

If we have someone acting according to a will that sacrifices his or herself for the benefit of another, we have an altruistic action.


Or we have a person who is acting on the desire to preserve/build his own "honor" in the eyes of others, which would not be a selfless action. A "coward" who would run from the situation and avoid self-sacrifice has simply decided that his physical health is more important than his honor/social repute. But both options involve acting on self-interest. A person who "does good" also benefits psychologically, and this is proven (increases dopamine levels or something). Altruism involves selfless action, and for someone to be truly selfless, they would need to be performing the will without any benefit, including feeling good or elevating their mood.
 
 

 
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