All behaviour is egoistic, ...or not ?

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Wybo
 
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2008 05:20 am
Some philosophers try to make the case that all behaviour is egoistic. This standpoint is also known as universal egoism. The first problem with it is that it goes against our experience and intuitions; we see much philanthropic behaviour around us, and also commonly experience it as the motivation for our own actions. Their response to this is that we are fooling ourselves because - as they say - it is always possible to explain it away by pointing at immediate, deferred or imagined rewards.

But does this hold ? I would say no, as being able to explain something away in one direction does not exclude it being possible in other or any direction. And it is perfectly possible to explain many if not most actions in philanthropic terms too. Bona fide companies for example, do add value to society eventhough they seek a profit. And even most terrorists and tyrants such as Hitler did imagine improving the lot of the world with their actions and sacrifices. So at best we have tie here.

The second problem with universal egoism - and the reason why it often leads to heated debates - is that it is usually formulated in a way - "all behavior is egoistic" - that could be seen as wrong use of language. This because the usual meaning of egoism is defined as an opposite to other kinds of motivations, and not as a term suitable to describe mechanisms that are supposed to underlie all motivations. That is, there remains a difference between consciously misleading others under the pretence of philanthropy, and honest philanthropy. Thus even if universal egoism were 'true', we still would experience non-egoistic motivations at the psychological level.

And continuing from this, also the concept of self is ambiguous in universal egoism, especially as self-interest also includes imagined interests. That is a terrorist that hopes to receive a place in heaven for sacrificing his life is also considered to be egoistic, but his 'self' apparently extends beyond death, and thus beyond what we normally call one's self. This is important, because if we start accepting such 'extended selves' as 'egos' forming the center of egoism, then we can explain all forms of philanthropy with extended ego's spanning village communities, nations, ...or even the whole universe. So someone doing something for the good of man, is doing something ...well for the good of man.

And this - translating back to normal language - is the same as saying that true philanthropy does exist, and not all behaviour is egoistic.

---

If you want to discuss this more in-depth:

Logis Show - Behavior/Universal Egoism=Wybo_Wiersma_25 - LogiLogi.org - Thinking beyond paper, agility outliving chatter, quality in openness
 
charles brough
 
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2008 06:24 am
@Wybo,
Seems to me that if you get no other responses to this well-thought-out posts it will only be because no one, including myself, can think of anything to add or comment on.
You covered the thought very well!
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2008 07:59 am
@Wybo,
It is easy to argue that all behavior is egoistic, because an observer can claim that the doer of an action receives benefits for helping others and that is their motivation. Typically the next move is to claim that the doer benefits themselves by helping others even if the gratification is unknown to the actor. Honestly, this whole egoism/altruism divide can be explained with a balance between the two. Each action can be seen as somewhat egoist and somewhat altruistic to varying degrees.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2008 10:15 am
@Wybo,
It is always difficult to ascribe only one motive to an act, just as it is difficult to argue that someone performs an altruistic act from a "hidden" or "secret" or "subconscious" motive unkown to himself. Doesn't it seem that each of us often acts from a whole cluster of motives, some exceedingly personal and some ingrained into us by the society in which we live? And do we always carefully plan these acts using a "felicific calculus," or is this a special picture we sometimes paint as philosophers?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2008 11:02 am
@Wybo,
Wybo wrote:
Some philosophers try to make the case that all behaviour is egoistic. This standpoint is also known as universal egoism. The first problem with it is that it goes against our experience and intuitions; we see much philanthropic behaviour around us, and also commonly experience it as the motivation for our own actions. Their response to this is that we are fooling ourselves because - as they say - it is always possible to explain it away by pointing at immediate, deferred or imagined rewards.

But does this hold ? I would say no, as being able to explain something away in one direction does not exclude it being possible in other or any direction. And it is perfectly possible to explain many if not most actions in philanthropic terms too. Bona fide companies for example, do add value to society eventhough they seek a profit. And even most terrorists and tyrants such as Hitler did imagine improving the lot of the world with their actions and sacrifices. So at best we have tie here.

The second problem with universal egoism - and the reason why it often leads to heated debates - is that it is usually formulated in a way - "all behavior is egoistic" - that could be seen as wrong use of language. This because the usual meaning of egoism is defined as an opposite to other kinds of motivations, and not as a term suitable to describe mechanisms that are supposed to underlie all motivations. That is, there remains a difference between consciously misleading others under the pretence of philanthropy, and honest philanthropy. Thus even if universal egoism were 'true', we still would experience non-egoistic motivations at the psychological level.

And continuing from this, also the concept of self is ambiguous in universal egoism, especially as self-interest also includes imagined interests. That is a terrorist that hopes to receive a place in heaven for sacrificing his life is also considered to be egoistic, but his 'self' apparently extends beyond death, and thus beyond what we normally call one's self. This is important, because if we start accepting such 'extended selves' as 'egos' forming the center of egoism, then we can explain all forms of philanthropy with extended ego's spanning village communities, nations, ...or even the whole universe. So someone doing something for the good of man, is doing something ...well for the good of man.

And this - translating back to normal language - is the same as saying that true philanthropy does exist, and not all behaviour is egoistic.

---

If you want to discuss this more in-depth:

Logis Show - Behavior/Universal Egoism=Wybo_Wiersma_25 - LogiLogi.org - Thinking beyond paper, agility outliving chatter, quality in openness



Those who try to make a case for psychological egoism do so by:

1. Extending the meanings of words like "selfish", "egoistic" beyond their normal meanings, so that they can cover all behavior.
2. Failing to make important distinctions such as between "acting selfishly" and "acting self-interestedly" and, between doing an action and receiving some reward for doing that action, and doing an action with the purpose of receiving some reward for it.
 
alex717
 
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2008 04:57 pm
@Wybo,
Some acts are from pure compassion rather then gratification, I find that to be conclusive enough in my own mind.
 
sarek
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:31 am
@Wybo,
I'd like to think that at least some of my actions are not motivated by egoism.
But if you stretch the definition sufficiently and include evolutionary considerations you can consider almost anything an egoist action.
 
avatar6v7
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 01:17 pm
@sarek,
All actions are egotistic in the sense that all actions have an impact on the self- so as that is part of our equation, all actions are to some extent self-interested. However those actions that are in the interests of morality, and for the good of others- selfless acts- are in the interest of our moral self- I would call it the soul - but not neccersarily our material desires. To do good selflessly fulfills greater desires, but this is not selfishness, as selfishness is not a true pleasure.
 
alex717
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 01:31 pm
@Wybo,
"All actions are egotistic in the sense that all actions have an impact on the self-"

Incorrect. The self is separate, it has nothing to do with the ego. Unless the ego interacts by ones conscious intent.
 
avatar6v7
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 01:47 pm
@alex717,
alex717 wrote:
"All actions are egotistic in the sense that all actions have an impact on the self-"

Incorrect. The self is separate, it has nothing to do with the ego. Unless the ego interacts by ones conscious intent.

I ment the only vaguely egotistic interpretation I would be willing to accept. If you don't like it too bad.
 
alex717
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 02:10 pm
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:
I ment the only vaguely egotistic interpretation I would be willing to accept. If you don't like it too bad.


No need for attitude, we're all comfortable here.
 
jknilinux
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:10 pm
@Wybo,
I'm pretty sure all acts are, ultimately, in self-interest. Perhaps those that disagree with me can give an example of an act that was not in self-interest?
 
alex717
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:15 pm
@jknilinux,
Self-sacrifice, in order to save others. Which sure, it may be his self-interest to save them, but surely it is not in his 'self's' interest.
 
jknilinux
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:34 pm
@Wybo,
alex-

Who is better off, according to evolution? The one who sacrifices his life to save his offspring/genetic relatives or the one who lets them get eaten? It is not altruism- it's genetic narcissism.

So, by self, I mean "genetic" self.

Sorry, macabre example, I know.

Also, many times, but not always, altruistic self-sacrifice is done to make the self happy in another life.
 
alex717
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:43 pm
@jknilinux,
jknilinux wrote:
alex-

Who is better off, according to evolution? The one who sacrifices his life to save his offspring/genetic relatives or the one who lets them get eaten? It is not altruism- it's genetic narcissism.

So, by self, I mean "genetic" self.

Sorry, macabre example, I know.


I'm under the impression that human evolution is not proven. Therefore, that cannot prove my previous philosophical statement false. Lets work on philosophical grounds...

Further, to comment on...

"Also, many times, but not always, altruistic self-sacrifice is done to make the self happy in another life."

When i said "Which sure, it may be his self-interest to save them, but surely it is not in his 'self's' interest."

I did mean the physical self by 'self's'. So whether by choice or for egoistic purposes, it is still not, I would argue in the physical or genetic 'self's' interest. Under the prior grounds above (human evo not proven yada yada...)
 
jknilinux
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:47 pm
@Wybo,
Evolution requires only a few things:

1: we reproduce
2: we inherit our parents' characteristics
3: people die
4: certain people will be more likely to die than others

which premise do you disagree with?

Edit:
When these people do self-sacrifice for a reward after death, they believe the "self" after death is the same as their current "self", just like how in a few years I'll be the same self, even though probably half my body's atoms will be replaced and also just like how every instant I am a totally different person under extreme magnification, as electrons move etc...

This is because, by self, I do not refer to this body of electrons, protons, etc... Under that definition, I would cease to exist instantly, since my electrons just changed configurations. Instead, I believe self refers to our neural network, which encodes our personality etc... So, actually, yes, these people are still doing it for "physical" self-interest. Unless by physical you meant their current configuration of atoms, in which case please explain.
 
alex717
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:50 pm
@jknilinux,
jknilinux wrote:
Evolution requires only a few things:

1: we reproduce
2: we inherit our parents' characteristics
3: people die
4: certain people will be more likely to die than others

which premise do you disagree with?

Edit:


Aren't you forgetting the one your arguing about? Giving your life to save others is genetically programmed to further the species? I would disagree with that.
 
jknilinux
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 06:02 pm
@Wybo,
Evolution doesn't deal with organisms. It deals with genomes. If a genome is successful, it continues. So, where I said "people", I guess I should've put "genomes". Sorry.

So, how is a genome that tells people to protect their offspring less successful?
 
alex717
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 06:03 pm
@alex717,
"Edit:
When these people do self-sacrifice for a reward after death, they believe the "self" after death is the same as their current "self", just like how in a few years I'll be the same self, even though probably half my body's atoms will be replaced and also just like how every instant I am a totally different person under extreme magnification, as electrons move etc...

This is because, by self, I do not refer to this body of electrons, protons, etc... Under that definition, I would cease to exist instantly, since my electrons just changed configurations. Instead, I believe self refers to our neural network, which encodes our personality etc... So, actually, yes, these people are still doing it for "physical" self-interest. Unless by physical you meant their current configuration of atoms, in which case please explain."

Why must they believe that? And I wasn't referring to any reward.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 06:03 pm
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:
All actions are egotistic in the sense that all actions have an impact on the self- so as that is part of our equation, all actions are to some extent self-interested. .


So committing suicide is egotistic because it affect the person who commits suicide? Is it self-interested too?
 
 

 
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