Greed

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housby
 
Reply Thu 7 Jan, 2010 07:31 am
Greed, generally, seems to be the desire for more than is necessary in anything, be it money, food, land and possesions or even time and emotion. It is born out of that which we call selfishness. The question is are we "guilty" of greed or is it something inate in us all to differing degrees? Far back in time, before civilisation and culture, when the human race was in it's infancy, greed or selfishness was an assett, essential even. Is it possible that all our modern thinking and our desire to do that which is "right" by those less fortunate has been unable to erradicate that which lives inside us all?
I have started this not out of any real knowledge of this subject but as someone who would like to know other people's views. I have struggled with this one for quite some time and have had difficulty coming up with any answers that don't "excuse" the greedy and self-serving. We can be as humanitarian as we want to be but in the end are we all programmed to look after ourselves and those we love?
N.B: I want this to be a general discussion of the subject if possible so I would like it if we didn't give exceptions to the rule, i.e. the person who lays down their life for another or does without for others. The reason for this is that these really are exceptions and don't follow the "normal" pattern of life. If anyone wants to do this please try to make it strictly within the context of the discussion.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Thu 7 Jan, 2010 08:51 am
@housby,
housby;118098 wrote:
Greed, generally, seems to be the desire for more than is necessary in anything, be it money, food, land and possesions or even time and emotion. It is born out of that which we call selfishness. The question is are we "guilty" of greed or is it something inate in us all to differing degrees? Far back in time, before civilisation and culture, when the human race was in it's infancy, greed or selfishness was an assett, essential even. Is it possible that all our modern thinking and our desire to do that which is "right" by those less fortunate has been unable to erradicate that which lives inside us all?
I have started this not out of any real knowledge of this subject but as someone who would like to know other people's views. I have struggled with this one for quite some time and have had difficulty coming up with any answers that don't "excuse" the greedy and self-serving. We can be as humanitarian as we want to be but in the end are we all programmed to look after ourselves and those we love?
N.B: I want this to be a general discussion of the subject if possible so I would like it if we didn't give exceptions to the rule, i.e. the person who lays down their life for another or does without for others. The reason for this is that these really are exceptions and don't follow the "normal" pattern of life. If anyone wants to do this please try to make it strictly within the context of the discussion.


Cooperation, altruism, and empathy were essential to modern societies as well. They needed to work together to survive. If you were completely self serving you wouldn't have many friends and people would look down on you.

We are programmed to look after ourself, and then our loved ones, our close family, extended family, community etc in lessening degree. People in africa don't really make the cut for most people.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 7 Jan, 2010 08:57 am
@housby,
housby;118098 wrote:
Greed, generally, seems to be the desire for more than is necessary in anything, be it money, food, land and possesions or even time and emotion. It is born out of that which we call selfishness. The question is are we "guilty" of greed or is it something inate in us all to differing degrees? Far back in time, before civilisation and culture, when the human race was in it's infancy, greed or selfishness was an assett, essential even. Is it possible that all our modern thinking and our desire to do that which is "right" by those less fortunate has been unable to erradicate that which lives inside us all?
I have started this not out of any real knowledge of this subject but as someone who would like to know other people's views. I have struggled with this one for quite some time and have had difficulty coming up with any answers that don't "excuse" the greedy and self-serving. We can be as humanitarian as we want to be but in the end are we all programmed to look after ourselves and those we love?
N.B: I want this to be a general discussion of the subject if possible so I would like it if we didn't give exceptions to the rule, i.e. the person who lays down their life for another or does without for others. The reason for this is that these really are exceptions and don't follow the "normal" pattern of life. If anyone wants to do this please try to make it strictly within the context of the discussion.


I don't believe that greediness as you define it, wanting more than is necessary, need be selfishness. Suppose I like to sleep more than is necessary for me, that is not selfishness unless I am depriving someone else of something to which he is entitled. Or suppose my wife bakes a big pie for me (she is on a diet and won't eat the pie) and suppose I eat the whole pie in one sitting. That is, I suppose greediness, but is that selfishness? Of course not. That pie was only for me. And, of course, not only can you be greedy without being selfish, you can be selfish without being greedy. Two people may be starving, and I take the only slice of bread, and do not share it with my companion. Is that selfish? Yes. Is it greedy? Not at all. That one slice of bread is not even enough for me. So I did not take more than would satisfy my needs. So greediness and selfishness are quite different.

There is something I don't understand in your main question. You ask whether if greed is innate whether we are guilty of it. You are implying that greed is wrong. And, I suppose it is. Although why, if I ate the whole pie at one sitting, that would be wrong, I don't quite see. But suppose that all greed is wrong, as you suggest. And suppose it is innate, as you ask. Why should that make it less wrong, as you suggest. Cannot innate characteristics be immoral? Suppose I were innately a murderer. Would not that be immoral?
 
housby
 
Reply Thu 7 Jan, 2010 10:09 am
@housby,
I would just like to point out that I am not making a stance on this subject. Far from it, it is an open question and as such I am totally open to the views of others. I do not imply that greed is wrong, in fact it can be an assett as I state in my opener. I do agree that there is a difference between greed and wanting more but the two are often connected aren't they? Incidentally I used the word guilty in inverted commas to indicate a usage by others not necesarilly my view. Lack of time right now means I have to be brief but please feel free to reply.
By the way, Kenneth, we meet again but I think we may agree more on this issue.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 7 Jan, 2010 10:22 am
@housby,
housby;118150 wrote:
I would just like to point out that I am not making a stance on this subject. Far from it, it is an open question and as such I am totally open to the views of others. I do not imply that greed is wrong, in fact it can be an assett as I state in my opener. I do agree that there is a difference between greed and wanting more but the two are often connected aren't they? Incidentally I used the word guilty in inverted commas to indicate a usage by others not necesarilly my view. Lack of time right now means I have to be brief but please feel free to reply.
By the way, Kenneth, we meet again but I think we may agree more on this issue.


Of course, something can be both wrong and an asset. Something can be bad intrinsically, but be good extrinsically in terms of its consequences. For example, having my tooth extracted is quite bad. Painful. But it is also good, because my mouth will be healthier as a result, and the pain will be gone. "Being connected" is blessedly vague, and "often" makes it still more vague. I can hardly disagree that greed and selfishness (isn't that what you meant to say) are often connected. Of course, greed is wanting more than you should have.

Yes. But accuracy is, as always, most important.
 
housby
 
Reply Thu 7 Jan, 2010 09:13 pm
@kennethamy,
Kenneth,
We agree on accuracy. However I am not quite sure what the rest of your argument is about. I am not posing the question, "What is good or bad", we all have differing opinions on that. I am simply asking the question as to whether "greed" is an inherent thing in us all. I am posing this question in "ignorance" not as a stance in any way. I am not, in this particular thread, stating what I believe, I am simply seeking views on a subject that has troubled me for a long time.
Greed and selfishness are connected I think but can be mutually exclusive as well. They are both dynamic and both drive the world forward (without some of both the world would be a very sterile and static place) but at some point do they not become self-serving and damaging? We are (at least most of us) selfish in some way but is there a point at which we have to say, "Hold on, what about the other guy?"
Again, this is not my view, it is simply a question.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 09:24 am
@housby,
housby;118406 wrote:
Kenneth,
We agree on accuracy. However I am not quite sure what the rest of your argument is about. I am not posing the question, "What is good or bad", we all have differing opinions on that. I am simply asking the question as to whether "greed" is an inherent thing in us all. I am posing this question in "ignorance" not as a stance in any way. I am not, in this particular thread, stating what I believe, I am simply seeking views on a subject that has troubled me for a long time.
Greed and selfishness are connected I think but can be mutually exclusive as well. They are both dynamic and both drive the world forward (without some of both the world would be a very sterile and static place) but at some point do they not become self-serving and damaging? We are (at least most of us) selfish in some way but is there a point at which we have to say, "Hold on, what about the other guy?"
Again, this is not my view, it is simply a question.


I'm confused as to whether or not your question is about greed or selfishness, because as Kennethamy said, even though they are compatible they are two different things. I'll just address the innateness of both greed and selfishness. I think that certain levels of selfishness are innate in humans and all animals for that matter. An agent's ultimate goal, though not always a conscious goal, is the preservation of themselves or their offspring. Acts of altruism are most common in less stressed environments while acts of egoism are more common in highly stressed environments. However, even in less stressed environments self-gratification seems to be the ruling drive. This leads me to believe that selfishness is more innate than selflessness.

Greed, defined as the desire to have more than what is necessary, may be innate at some level. It's easy to connect the drive of greed to the goal of power, and I believe that power is a central motivator in human behavior. Of course not all acts of greed are for the purpose of power, like overeating for example. However many examples of greed can be connected to the will to power, such as the desire for material possessions that give an agent a higher status and security. I personally don't see a problem with greed in this context alone. Greed only becomes a problem for me when it becomes a rapacious desire that has no rationality to balance it out. Greed with no rationality can be detrimental to the well being of the agent and to the liberty of other individuals.
 
manored
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 12:17 pm
@housby,
I think greed is a natural aspect of humans and a good thing, but in excess it leads us to steal from the society, what is detrimental.

An analogy: Suppose both you and your neighboard have dams. Building a dam taller than necessary is a probally a good thing, but stealing stones from your neighboars dam in order to make yours taller is not.
 
Lost1 phil
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 12:30 pm
@housby,
Our very survival depends on our being selfish does it not? The bottomline is everything we do is for selfish reasons or perhaps I should say a single reason -- we do it for ourselves.

You must first consider that I believe the only true altruistic act is one that takes place without thought of likely result.

Even Mother Teresa did what she did because of how it make her feel about herself and life in general. Her reason for living was to help others was it not? Infact, it can be said that she was extremely greedy about this. She lived and breathed to help others and damned be those who told her she was obsessive in her giving, right?

Balance in all things.

Are we all selfish -- without a doubt. Therein lies the answer. Acceptence that we are all going to strive for that which works for ourselves is a given. Does that make all the results of being selfish to our liking, especially over the long term, no.

Nothing in life is always all good nor is it all bad. No matter how one chooses to define good/bad.

Greed -- the price is not what most of us are willing to pay, yet there are exceptions that are willing to pay everything they have available.

Power can actually have as much value when the choose is not to use said power.

Lost1
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 01:41 pm
@Lost1 phil,
True! We are all selfish; so why are we then so often disappointed with selfish behouviour done by others?

---------- Post added 02-13-2010 at 02:46 PM ----------

Jebediah;118118 wrote:
Cooperation


We are programmed to look after ourself, and then our loved ones, our close family, extended family, community etc in lessening degree. People in africa don't really make the cut for most people.
Surprised

What means 'not making the cut'? I have a rough idea, but I am not sure if it means something else in American English.:Glasses:
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 03:21 pm
@housby,
Imo there are many aspects of greed and most of them are answerd in psycology.

- being cynical
- being psycotic
- lack of empathy
- group think
- being naive

- cleptomaniac

(more suble reasons)
- revenge
- punishment
- jealousy

...etc
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 03:41 pm
@housby,
housby;118098 wrote:
Greed, generally, seems to be the desire for more than is necessary in anything, be it money, food, land and possesions or even time and emotion. It is born out of that which we call selfishness. The question is are we "guilty" of greed or is it something inate in us all to differing degrees? Far back in time, before civilisation and culture, when the human race was in it's infancy, greed or selfishness was an assett, essential even. Is it possible that all our modern thinking and our desire to do that which is "right" by those less fortunate has been unable to erradicate that which lives inside us all?

I'm going to focus on money in my response. Money not only buys us sensual pleasures and security, but status. Also, money can be saved and invested for one's children and grandchildren. Money is also power.

Money offers us most of what humans need, including the power to give all this to others. Money can't buy love, but it probably helps more than certain romantics would like to admit. Does love lead fortune, or else fortune love?

America is rich because it founded itself on greed, selfishness, pride. As you say, these have good things for the species. I think the problem occurs when the poor accumulate. Also, a nation with no inner cohesion is like a football team without a coach. China is going to surpass America eventually, I think. If they do, I suspect it has something to do with a Chinese-identified leadership, who take pride in their nation. I'm no expert, so forgive me if I'm wrong. But it seems like the American ideology is no longer nationalistic. Our corporations aren't "ours" anymore. To export industry. To dodge taxes that would make education more available. To resist investments in infrastructure and new forms of energy. Is this short term greed sacrificing the long term success of the group at large? This may be the down-side of a culturally (and racially?) heterogeneous society. Ethnocentrism can be good.

Welfare is another example. We hear conservatives gripe about welfare culture. They have a point. But is there real objection just the tax burden? One way to feed the hungry is to create jobs. The U.S. doesn't have much of a safety net. Does this increase greed, by making poverty more dangerous? Is greed related to an attitude that sees strangers as dangerous? Sometimes they are dangerous. This is related to need and greed.

I see greed as a compound concept. One man's greed is another man's prudence. I'm somewhere in the middle. I would like to live in a safe productive educated society with relatively homogeneous values.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 04:36 pm
@Pepijn Sweep,
Pepijn Sweep;127934 wrote:
True! We are all selfish; so why are we then so often disappointed with selfish behouviour done by others?


Because it doesn't benefit the person who condemns selfishness.
 
manored
 
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 12:12 pm
@Pepijn Sweep,
Pepijn Sweep;127934 wrote:
True! We are all selfish; so why are we then so often disappointed with selfish behouviour done by others?
We always see others better than ourselves, specially then its about bad things =)

But it may also be that what you want benefits many while what the other wants benefits few.

Pepijn Sweep;127934 wrote:

What means 'not making the cut'? I have a rough idea, but I am not sure if it means something else in American English.:Glasses:
I think the "cut" is the point where you stop caring about people. He means that more selfish people only care for those really close to thenselves, while more generous people may even be able to care for people in other continents.
 
reasoning logic
 
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 02:31 pm
@manored,
Greed does seem to be gray to most people but to me it seems to be a divider, which can depress many in a society while lifting others up. It does seem to be natural in all animals at some point in time but with humans and our capacity to be productive I do believe that it has lead us to self destruct our own well being... Some people will benifit from it but the majority would probably prosper psychologicaly and finacialy 10+ fold if society as a whole would have started 2 thousand years ago to work together rather than to start wars over land and religion. Many people have died and many buildings have been destroyed and so forth. I could go on and on about how many jobs that would not be required if everyone worked together rather than in competition.... Those jobs that are not needed could be replaced with productive jobs that create products that many people would like to buy. The up's and down's in the economy would not exist as bad as they have. It would probably be a less fluctuating economy with people not taking advantage of the balance fluctuation of the markets. but by no means a perfect utopia.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 02:58 pm
@housby,
housby;118098 wrote:
...The question is are we "guilty" of greed or is it something inate in us all to differing degrees?


Well, as you mentioned, I believe that the behavioral seeds of greed (as you described it) are likely to be found in our species' developmental history. Stocking up and hoarding led to a feeling of "being more secure" - whether it involved clothes/skins, food, weapons, water or other resources. But there are many motives, needs and desires behind what we perceive to be greed and one should be careful here: When we see what looks like greed, remember that's all it is - what you see to be greed. We can't know that person's motives or how they see it. This isn't relativism - it's prudence. Yes, it might well be - but as our labeling IS a form judgmentalism, its in our best interests to proceed thoughtfully.

housby;118098 wrote:
Is it possible that all our modern thinking and our desire to do that which is "right" by those less fortunate has been unable to erradicate that which lives inside us all?


Yes, I think you're absolutely right. No amount of social consciousness will ever eradicate what we see as greedy. It might be borne of an honest desire to "be safe" financially or the worst form of destructive avarice; regardless, it'll always be with us for as long as thought-process diversity exists (which, will be for as long as we exist).

housby;118098 wrote:
I have struggled with this one for quite some time and have had difficulty coming up with any answers that don't "excuse" the greedy and self-serving.


I know what you mean; me too. I'd suggest not looking for excuses - truth be told. You can't know what another's feeling, thinking or even behaving unless you are them. So careful on the judgments there. [INDENT] But even when you see the worst of selfish greed, know that it has to be viewed in its context. Every culture/every civilization has had folks that were greedy; hell, many extol and elevate what we're calling "greed" to be "the entrepreneurial spirit" or even a form of "freedom" that if we're lucky enough, hard-working and talented enough, that we too can have "all that" (as perhaps a form of financial/hardship emancipation).

Lastly, consider it's antithesis: If we could, what would be necessary to eliminate greed? Would we make laws? Forceably redistribute money and resources? Lynch those we perceive to be greedy? The idea here is as we condemn a behavior, we must also look at what would be necessary to eradicate it. If those solutions (that antithesis) are impractical or worse than the behavior then where does that place the "problem" on our Things-to-Do list?
[/INDENT]I believe the ownis of what we're calling 'greed' (in the modern world) to be a condition stemming from insecurity, a need to 'achieve' or a over-identification between the things I have and my own self worth. Confuse the two, and you'll forever be bolsering your holdings in an effort to attain more self-esteem. As you accumulate more, those "zings" of excitement for having more may feel good, but they don't change ones' own self-image; so they look for more, the cycle repeats.

I also believe that - for whatever reason - there are those disposed to feel more compassion (either innately, or more likely through personal experiences). This can cull the tendency towards greed. Unfortunately, the very experiences we'd need to learn/feel compassion, tend to make most sour, rather than empathetic.

It's a good subject, and an important one.

Thanks
 
manored
 
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 04:19 pm
@reasoning logic,
reasoning logic;128211 wrote:
Greed does seem to be gray to most people but to me it seems to be a divider, which can depress many in a society while lifting others up. It does seem to be natural in all animals at some point in time but with humans and our capacity to be productive I do believe that it has lead us to self destruct our own well being... Some people will benifit from it but the majority would probably prosper psychologicaly and finacialy 10+ fold if society as a whole would have started 2 thousand years ago to work together rather than to start wars over land and religion. Many people have died and many buildings have been destroyed and so forth. I could go on and on about how many jobs that would not be required if everyone worked together rather than in competition.... Those jobs that are not needed could be replaced with productive jobs that create products that many people would like to buy. The up's and down's in the economy would not exist as bad as they have. It would probably be a less fluctuating economy with people not taking advantage of the balance fluctuation of the markets. but by no means a perfect utopia.
Indeed life would be better if everyone had their greed in a "good point" of the scale, but, sadly, that is not the case.
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 04:26 pm
@Khethil,
I tried looking Greed up in a dictionairy. It says it's an uword meaning in Dutch grabbing more is good for U. Hebzucht. :eek:
 
 

 
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