Total Posts:153|Showing Posts:1-30|Last Page
Jump to topic:

The "self-interest" myth

sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
This is a line of argument which seems to appear quite often, and with varying degrees of radicalism. Since everything I do, is motivated by "my own" reasons for action - since it is "my" action - then it must always be somehow motivated by my own self-interest. Even actions which are commonly seen as altruistic, such as giving to charity, are given some explanation which relates inevitably back to my own "selfish" desires.

However, I think that this category of "self" or "selfish" is much more tenuous than it may appear, and that perhaps the only reason that it's possible to throw almost anything into it is not that it is somehow fundamental, but rather because it's so vague and generalized.

It also depends on conflating two separate concepts; what "motivates" me and who "is" motivated. If I am motivated to help someone else, then I am motivated "toward" them; the desire is like an arrow pointing from myself toward the other person. Sure, we can say that it's "my" interest because I am the one who wants to help the person, but this is really only a trick of grammar. It is not surprising whatsoever that it is my interest. Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

Then, the most problematic (and possibly controversial) aspect of all is the fact that the egoist assumes a strictly Cartesian view of a singular "Self" which is completely self-contained, defined and well-understood. I would hold that the above criticisms would work even barring this criticism, but such a view is far from undisputed within philosophy, and thus should not be taken as a given.

Thus, the egoist makes their gains only at the point of stretching language beyond its pragmatically viable use. Since their own use of terms like "selfish" are so far from the common understanding, and since adopting their own understanding means that self-interest is unilateral, I think that the vocabulary of egoist philosophy needs to be either updated or abandoned.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/6/2015 6:42:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

But they do. There is a word called "selflessness" that describes the opposite of what you're describing. The whole basis of "altruism" is based upon this "selflessness", and IMHO you gave a pretty good refutation of the concept of altruism.

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

But it is a selfish act, because you could have directed your vision elsewhere other than your hands, but you chose to look at them instead of something else. I suppose you can question whether or not the word "choice" has any meaning, because what caused you to look at your hands may have been determined by a slew of other outside stimuli.

Then, the most problematic (and possibly controversial) aspect of all is the fact that the egoist assumes a strictly Cartesian view of a singular "Self" which is completely self-contained, defined and well-understood. I would hold that the above criticisms would work even barring this criticism, but such a view is far from undisputed within philosophy, and thus should not be taken as a given.

Thus, the egoist makes their gains only at the point of stretching language beyond its pragmatically viable use. Since their own use of terms like "selfish" are so far from the common understanding, and since adopting their own understanding means that self-interest is unilateral, I think that the vocabulary of egoist philosophy needs to be either updated or abandoned.

Well, colloquial use of language is many times hardly reasonable. You can point to gigantic lists of idioms and expressions that are not only figuratively nonsense but in many cases literally nonsense too.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/6/2015 8:10:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/6/2015 6:42:30 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

But they do. There is a word called "selflessness" that describes the opposite of what you're describing. The whole basis of "altruism" is based upon this "selflessness", and IMHO you gave a pretty good refutation of the concept of altruism.

But this word is always used in what you might call its 'colloquial' sense; someone who used that word and considered it meaningful wouldn't consider the fact that someone gains a sense of warm fulfilment from giving charitably a disproof of the concept. So they aren't talking about such a wide sense of 'self' as the egoist is. This wider sense encompasses everything to the point of simply existing as somehow being a selfish act.

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

But it is a selfish act, because you could have directed your vision elsewhere other than your hands, but you chose to look at them instead of something else. I suppose you can question whether or not the word "choice" has any meaning, because what caused you to look at your hands may have been determined by a slew of other outside stimuli.

Are you saying that, if I choose something, then that makes the action selfish?

Then, the most problematic (and possibly controversial) aspect of all is the fact that the egoist assumes a strictly Cartesian view of a singular "Self" which is completely self-contained, defined and well-understood. I would hold that the above criticisms would work even barring this criticism, but such a view is far from undisputed within philosophy, and thus should not be taken as a given.

Thus, the egoist makes their gains only at the point of stretching language beyond its pragmatically viable use. Since their own use of terms like "selfish" are so far from the common understanding, and since adopting their own understanding means that self-interest is unilateral, I think that the vocabulary of egoist philosophy needs to be either updated or abandoned.

Well, colloquial use of language is many times hardly reasonable. You can point to gigantic lists of idioms and expressions that are not only figuratively nonsense but in many cases literally nonsense too.

I would say that the paradigm case of a misuse of language would be a definition which doesn't differentiate anything. Since the egoist's use of terms like "selfish" mean that phrases like "selfish action" or "selfish person" are no different than "action" or "person", they have reduced the concept to a null entity.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/6/2015 10:34:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
It seems like the op is showing the absurdity of altruism, since he admits that egoism is correct and that he merely just disagrees with their semantics.
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/6/2015 8:10:50 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 6:42:30 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

But they do. There is a word called "selflessness" that describes the opposite of what you're describing. The whole basis of "altruism" is based upon this "selflessness", and IMHO you gave a pretty good refutation of the concept of altruism.

But this word is always used in what you might call its 'colloquial' sense; someone who used that word and considered it meaningful wouldn't consider the fact that someone gains a sense of warm fulfilment from giving charitably a disproof of the concept. So they aren't talking about such a wide sense of 'self' as the egoist is. This wider sense encompasses everything to the point of simply existing as somehow being a selfish act.

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

But it is a selfish act, because you could have directed your vision elsewhere other than your hands, but you chose to look at them instead of something else. I suppose you can question whether or not the word "choice" has any meaning, because what caused you to look at your hands may have been determined by a slew of other outside stimuli.

Are you saying that, if I choose something, then that makes the action selfish?

Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

Then, the most problematic (and possibly controversial) aspect of all is the fact that the egoist assumes a strictly Cartesian view of a singular "Self" which is completely self-contained, defined and well-understood. I would hold that the above criticisms would work even barring this criticism, but such a view is far from undisputed within philosophy, and thus should not be taken as a given.

Thus, the egoist makes their gains only at the point of stretching language beyond its pragmatically viable use. Since their own use of terms like "selfish" are so far from the common understanding, and since adopting their own understanding means that self-interest is unilateral, I think that the vocabulary of egoist philosophy needs to be either updated or abandoned.

Well, colloquial use of language is many times hardly reasonable. You can point to gigantic lists of idioms and expressions that are not only figuratively nonsense but in many cases literally nonsense too.

I would say that the paradigm case of a misuse of language would be a definition which doesn't differentiate anything. Since the egoist's use of terms like "selfish" mean that phrases like "selfish action" or "selfish person" are no different than "action" or "person", they have reduced the concept to a null entity.
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/6/2015 11:18:55 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/6/2015 8:10:50 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 6:42:30 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

But they do. There is a word called "selflessness" that describes the opposite of what you're describing. The whole basis of "altruism" is based upon this "selflessness", and IMHO you gave a pretty good refutation of the concept of altruism.

But this word is always used in what you might call its 'colloquial' sense; someone who used that word and considered it meaningful wouldn't consider the fact that someone gains a sense of warm fulfilment from giving charitably a disproof of the concept. So they aren't talking about such a wide sense of 'self' as the egoist is. This wider sense encompasses everything to the point of simply existing as somehow being a selfish act.

I don't think I follow you on exactly what you consider to be the egoist's version of "self".

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

But it is a selfish act, because you could have directed your vision elsewhere other than your hands, but you chose to look at them instead of something else. I suppose you can question whether or not the word "choice" has any meaning, because what caused you to look at your hands may have been determined by a slew of other outside stimuli.

Are you saying that, if I choose something, then that makes the action selfish?

To the extent that choice is a valid concept, yes.

But, you may argue that choice is not a valid concept, that everything is pre-determined perhaps and that free will does not exist.

Then, the most problematic (and possibly controversial) aspect of all is the fact that the egoist assumes a strictly Cartesian view of a singular "Self" which is completely self-contained, defined and well-understood. I would hold that the above criticisms would work even barring this criticism, but such a view is far from undisputed within philosophy, and thus should not be taken as a given.

Thus, the egoist makes their gains only at the point of stretching language beyond its pragmatically viable use. Since their own use of terms like "selfish" are so far from the common understanding, and since adopting their own understanding means that self-interest is unilateral, I think that the vocabulary of egoist philosophy needs to be either updated or abandoned.

Well, colloquial use of language is many times hardly reasonable. You can point to gigantic lists of idioms and expressions that are not only figuratively nonsense but in many cases literally nonsense too.

I would say that the paradigm case of a misuse of language would be a definition which doesn't differentiate anything. Since the egoist's use of terms like "selfish" mean that phrases like "selfish action" or "selfish person" are no different than "action" or "person", they have reduced the concept to a null entity.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/7/2015 12:14:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/6/2015 10:34:16 PM, Wylted wrote:
It seems like the op is showing the absurdity of altruism, since he admits that egoism is correct and that he merely just disagrees with their semantics.

I'm basically arguing that it's unfalsifiable. Yeah, when someone argues against an unfalsifiable concept they are "admitting" that it applies to everything, but in my view this is not a positive trait in any theory. Altruism is only absurd from the perspective of the egoist paradigm which defines a selfish action essentially as 'any action which is an action.' This is not a useful definition since it makes the word meaningless and doesn't fit with common usage.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/7/2015 12:23:01 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/6/2015 11:18:55 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/6/2015 8:10:50 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 6:42:30 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

But they do. There is a word called "selflessness" that describes the opposite of what you're describing. The whole basis of "altruism" is based upon this "selflessness", and IMHO you gave a pretty good refutation of the concept of altruism.

But this word is always used in what you might call its 'colloquial' sense; someone who used that word and considered it meaningful wouldn't consider the fact that someone gains a sense of warm fulfilment from giving charitably a disproof of the concept. So they aren't talking about such a wide sense of 'self' as the egoist is. This wider sense encompasses everything to the point of simply existing as somehow being a selfish act.

I don't think I follow you on exactly what you consider to be the egoist's version of "self".

If any action is always selfish, then the egoist's view of selfishness encompasses every living thing. No being ever goes beyond this thing called 'self' which motivates its every action. So, by describing something as "selfish" we're not really describing anything, more than we would be simply saying that it 'is something'.

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

But it is a selfish act, because you could have directed your vision elsewhere other than your hands, but you chose to look at them instead of something else. I suppose you can question whether or not the word "choice" has any meaning, because what caused you to look at your hands may have been determined by a slew of other outside stimuli.

Are you saying that, if I choose something, then that makes the action selfish?

To the extent that choice is a valid concept, yes.

But, you may argue that choice is not a valid concept, that everything is pre-determined perhaps and that free will does not exist.

I think, if I can only choose what I deem to be in my best self-interest, then that is already a pre-determined choice. My question would then be, how we could possibly come to a thesis like "all actions are determined by self-interest." How could we understand the concept when there is nothing which it differentiates? What information does the sentence hold when it is seemingly tautological since "selfish" is being used simply as a synonym for any chosen action? What test could we perform to see if it's universally correct?
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/7/2015 12:42:00 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.

Why debate a truism? The action is taken because of a selfish desire in every instance. The motivation is what's being argued. If the ethical egoist is stating a truism, than why do people argue that ethical egoism is wrong, instead of just accepting the truth? And why do they still claim to be altruistic and gain absolutely nothing from their behaviors?
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/7/2015 3:10:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/7/2015 12:23:01 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 11:18:55 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/6/2015 8:10:50 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 6:42:30 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

But they do. There is a word called "selflessness" that describes the opposite of what you're describing. The whole basis of "altruism" is based upon this "selflessness", and IMHO you gave a pretty good refutation of the concept of altruism.

But this word is always used in what you might call its 'colloquial' sense; someone who used that word and considered it meaningful wouldn't consider the fact that someone gains a sense of warm fulfilment from giving charitably a disproof of the concept. So they aren't talking about such a wide sense of 'self' as the egoist is. This wider sense encompasses everything to the point of simply existing as somehow being a selfish act.

I don't think I follow you on exactly what you consider to be the egoist's version of "self".

If any action is always selfish, then the egoist's view of selfishness encompasses every living thing. No being ever goes beyond this thing called 'self' which motivates its every action. So, by describing something as "selfish" we're not really describing anything, more than we would be simply saying that it 'is something'.

I'm still not sure what you consider to be the egoist's version of "self".

As it is, to describe something as "selfish" is important in laying a foundation of what constitutes "self"...otherwise you open the possibility of something like "altruism" to exist which, if inaccurate, would be a wild mischaracterization of human motivation, yes?

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

But it is a selfish act, because you could have directed your vision elsewhere other than your hands, but you chose to look at them instead of something else. I suppose you can question whether or not the word "choice" has any meaning, because what caused you to look at your hands may have been determined by a slew of other outside stimuli.

Are you saying that, if I choose something, then that makes the action selfish?

To the extent that choice is a valid concept, yes.

But, you may argue that choice is not a valid concept, that everything is pre-determined perhaps and that free will does not exist.

I think, if I can only choose what I deem to be in my best self-interest, then that is already a pre-determined choice. My question would then be, how we could possibly come to a thesis like "all actions are determined by self-interest."

I don't know who would make such an assertion. It assumes free will for one, which is already precluded in your statements by something like pre-determinism.

How could we understand the concept when there is nothing which it differentiates?

There's plenty to differentiate it. For example, things of which someone is not aware clearly would fall outside of any rubric of "self" we've discussed so far.

What information does the sentence hold when it is seemingly tautological since "selfish" is being used simply as a synonym for any chosen action?

It would hold as much information as any tautology. Tautologies are "useful" in that logic requires a base assumption, an "A" for "A=A", without which the logical process would be impossible.

What test could we perform to see if it's universally correct?

You cannot perform any test to determine "universal correctness", because you are not in possession of the standard of "universal correctness".
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 4:39:39 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/7/2015 12:42:00 PM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.

Why debate a truism? The action is taken because of a selfish desire in every instance. The motivation is what's being argued. If the ethical egoist is stating a truism, than why do people argue that ethical egoism is wrong, instead of just accepting the truth? And why do they still claim to be altruistic and gain absolutely nothing from their behaviors?

Here's Google's definition of selfish:

"lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Now, if we take a typical egoist example, that I help someone else because I want to, this would not be considered selfish under such a definition, which is the common definition. Egoism expands the definition to mean any action involving oneself at all, which obviously makes it so that all actions are "selfish". However what I'm saying is that this is a misuse of the word, and that going with the actual definition of selfishness, not all actions are selfish.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
treeless
Posts: 64
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 5:38:18 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 4:39:39 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:42:00 PM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.

Why debate a truism? The action is taken because of a selfish desire in every instance. The motivation is what's being argued. If the ethical egoist is stating a truism, than why do people argue that ethical egoism is wrong, instead of just accepting the truth? And why do they still claim to be altruistic and gain absolutely nothing from their behaviors?

Here's Google's definition of selfish:

"lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Now, if we take a typical egoist example, that I help someone else because I want to, this would not be considered selfish under such a definition, which is the common definition. Egoism expands the definition to mean any action involving oneself at all, which obviously makes it so that all actions are "selfish". However what I'm saying is that this is a misuse of the word, and that going with the actual definition of selfishness, not all actions are selfish.

Some might dismiss your point as mere semantics, but I agree with you. Contextually speaking, it makes little sense to define selfishness as "any conscious human activity". Although, of course, we shouldn't dismiss the egoist definition either, which to be fair, has its own context to consider.
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 6:03:16 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 4:39:39 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:42:00 PM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.

Why debate a truism? The action is taken because of a selfish desire in every instance. The motivation is what's being argued. If the ethical egoist is stating a truism, than why do people argue that ethical egoism is wrong, instead of just accepting the truth? And why do they still claim to be altruistic and gain absolutely nothing from their behaviors?

Here's Google's definition of selfish:

"lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Now, if we take a typical egoist example, that I help someone else because I want to, this would not be considered selfish under such a definition, which is the common definition. Egoism expands the definition to mean any action involving oneself at all, which obviously makes it so that all actions are "selfish". However what I'm saying is that this is a misuse of the word, and that going with the actual definition of selfishness, not all actions are selfish.

Do you derive pleasure from helping others?
treeless
Posts: 64
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 8:31:30 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 6:03:16 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 4:39:39 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:42:00 PM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.

Why debate a truism? The action is taken because of a selfish desire in every instance. The motivation is what's being argued. If the ethical egoist is stating a truism, than why do people argue that ethical egoism is wrong, instead of just accepting the truth? And why do they still claim to be altruistic and gain absolutely nothing from their behaviors?

Here's Google's definition of selfish:

"lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Now, if we take a typical egoist example, that I help someone else because I want to, this would not be considered selfish under such a definition, which is the common definition. Egoism expands the definition to mean any action involving oneself at all, which obviously makes it so that all actions are "selfish". However what I'm saying is that this is a misuse of the word, and that going with the actual definition of selfishness, not all actions are selfish.

Do you derive pleasure from helping others?

I think the motivation is what matters in regards to the OP's point. If the primary objective is to help someone out of decency or "virtue", we can dismiss the secondary effect of deriving pleasure. Not to mention, the case of those like the Buddhist monks that burn themselves to merely make a point (like protesting persecution). I can't possibly think of such an action as selfish under the "common" context of the word.
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 8:58:03 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 8:31:30 AM, treeless wrote:
At 9/8/2015 6:03:16 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 4:39:39 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:42:00 PM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.

Why debate a truism? The action is taken because of a selfish desire in every instance. The motivation is what's being argued. If the ethical egoist is stating a truism, than why do people argue that ethical egoism is wrong, instead of just accepting the truth? And why do they still claim to be altruistic and gain absolutely nothing from their behaviors?

Here's Google's definition of selfish:

"lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Now, if we take a typical egoist example, that I help someone else because I want to, this would not be considered selfish under such a definition, which is the common definition. Egoism expands the definition to mean any action involving oneself at all, which obviously makes it so that all actions are "selfish". However what I'm saying is that this is a misuse of the word, and that going with the actual definition of selfishness, not all actions are selfish.

Do you derive pleasure from helping others?

I think the motivation is what matters in regards to the OP's point. If the primary objective is to help someone out of decency or "virtue", we can dismiss the secondary effect of deriving pleasure. Not to mention, the case of those like the Buddhist monks that burn themselves to merely make a point (like protesting persecution). I can't possibly think of such an action as selfish under the "common" context of the word.

I don't get where people derive the negative connotations with the word. It merely means, you gain something or think you gain something from an action.
treeless
Posts: 64
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 9:08:36 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I don't get where people derive the negative connotations with the word. It merely means, you gain something or think you gain something from an action.

It's not negative at all under the context you address it under. Mainly that if any act that is beneficial to the self is selfish, selfishness is not only natural but also rational.

What the negative connotation of selfishness comes from is precisely when you neglect other people's desire and needs and simply not care for them at all. This can be in the form of apathetic greed, lack of compassion for other's suffering or discomfort, and general hatred for anyone other than themselves. Of course, this may not be what you strictly mean, when you use the word "selfish", but it is a context to be considered when discussing and trying to define the meaning of "self-interest".
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 9:11:49 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 9:08:36 AM, treeless wrote:
I don't get where people derive the negative connotations with the word. It merely means, you gain something or think you gain something from an action.

It's not negative at all under the context you address it under. Mainly that if any act that is beneficial to the self is selfish, selfishness is not only natural but also rational.

What the negative connotation of selfishness comes from is precisely when you neglect other people's desire and needs and simply not care for them at all. This can be in the form of apathetic greed, lack of compassion for other's suffering or discomfort, and general hatred for anyone other than themselves. Of course, this may not be what you strictly mean, when you use the word "selfish", but it is a context to be considered when discussing and trying to define the meaning of "self-interest".

If people really get all that from the word selfish, I question their intelligence. People who are cruel and people who are kind, are selfish.
treeless
Posts: 64
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 10:07:06 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 9:11:49 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 9:08:36 AM, treeless wrote:
I don't get where people derive the negative connotations with the word. It merely means, you gain something or think you gain something from an action.

It's not negative at all under the context you address it under. Mainly that if any act that is beneficial to the self is selfish, selfishness is not only natural but also rational.

What the negative connotation of selfishness comes from is precisely when you neglect other people's desire and needs and simply not care for them at all. This can be in the form of apathetic greed, lack of compassion for other's suffering or discomfort, and general hatred for anyone other than themselves. Of course, this may not be what you strictly mean, when you use the word "selfish", but it is a context to be considered when discussing and trying to define the meaning of "self-interest".

If people really get all that from the word selfish, I question their intelligence. People who are cruel and people who are kind, are selfish.

I feel like you are being a bit defensive. People have always used the word selfish as a means to define excessive greed and any act that neglects others for one's own benefit. As the OP states, it kind of becomes meaningless to even use the word "selfish", if it merely implies "conscious human behavior". Like you say, under such a context, people both kind and cruel are selfish. It defeats the context of the word that is most commonly used, which is why it is largely viewed as having negative connotations.
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/8/2015 11:11:25 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 10:07:06 AM, treeless wrote:
At 9/8/2015 9:11:49 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 9:08:36 AM, treeless wrote:
I don't get where people derive the negative connotations with the word. It merely means, you gain something or think you gain something from an action.

It's not negative at all under the context you address it under. Mainly that if any act that is beneficial to the self is selfish, selfishness is not only natural but also rational.

What the negative connotation of selfishness comes from is precisely when you neglect other people's desire and needs and simply not care for them at all. This can be in the form of apathetic greed, lack of compassion for other's suffering or discomfort, and general hatred for anyone other than themselves. Of course, this may not be what you strictly mean, when you use the word "selfish", but it is a context to be considered when discussing and trying to define the meaning of "self-interest".

If people really get all that from the word selfish, I question their intelligence. People who are cruel and people who are kind, are selfish.

I feel like you are being a bit defensive. People have always used the word selfish as a means to define excessive greed and any act that neglects others for one's own benefit. As the OP states, it kind of becomes meaningless to even use the word "selfish", if it merely implies "conscious human behavior". Like you say, under such a context, people both kind and cruel are selfish. It defeats the context of the word that is most commonly used, which is why it is largely viewed as having negative connotations.

It's only used this way to disprove the existence of altruism. It's kind of a reactionary philosophy. It's meant to show that true altruism doesn't exist, and when you look at the definitions of altruism and selfishness, no middle possibility exists. You're either altruistic or selfish. Altruism doesn't exist so.....
Garbanza
Posts: 1,997
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 2:43:44 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
This is a line of argument which seems to appear quite often, and with varying degrees of radicalism. Since everything I do, is motivated by "my own" reasons for action - since it is "my" action - then it must always be somehow motivated by my own self-interest. Even actions which are commonly seen as altruistic, such as giving to charity, are given some explanation which relates inevitably back to my own "selfish" desires.

However, I think that this category of "self" or "selfish" is much more tenuous than it may appear, and that perhaps the only reason that it's possible to throw almost anything into it is not that it is somehow fundamental, but rather because it's so vague and generalized.

It also depends on conflating two separate concepts; what "motivates" me and who "is" motivated. If I am motivated to help someone else, then I am motivated "toward" them; the desire is like an arrow pointing from myself toward the other person. Sure, we can say that it's "my" interest because I am the one who wants to help the person, but this is really only a trick of grammar. It is not surprising whatsoever that it is my interest. Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

Then, the most problematic (and possibly controversial) aspect of all is the fact that the egoist assumes a strictly Cartesian view of a singular "Self" which is completely self-contained, defined and well-understood. I would hold that the above criticisms would work even barring this criticism, but such a view is far from undisputed within philosophy, and thus should not be taken as a given.

Thus, the egoist makes their gains only at the point of stretching language beyond its pragmatically viable use. Since their own use of terms like "selfish" are so far from the common understanding, and since adopting their own understanding means that self-interest is unilateral, I think that the vocabulary of egoist philosophy needs to be either updated or abandoned.

Yes! I think the problem is thinking of motivation as a legitimate thing - that motivation exists and leads to deliberate action, and that action is therefore evidence of motivation. Whereas, in fact, motivation is a theory that we have come up with to explain action, and maybe it's a bad theory. Kind of like utility theory in economics.
Garbanza
Posts: 1,997
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 2:50:46 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 11:11:25 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 10:07:06 AM, treeless wrote:
At 9/8/2015 9:11:49 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 9:08:36 AM, treeless wrote:
I don't get where people derive the negative connotations with the word. It merely means, you gain something or think you gain something from an action.

It's not negative at all under the context you address it under. Mainly that if any act that is beneficial to the self is selfish, selfishness is not only natural but also rational.

What the negative connotation of selfishness comes from is precisely when you neglect other people's desire and needs and simply not care for them at all. This can be in the form of apathetic greed, lack of compassion for other's suffering or discomfort, and general hatred for anyone other than themselves. Of course, this may not be what you strictly mean, when you use the word "selfish", but it is a context to be considered when discussing and trying to define the meaning of "self-interest".

If people really get all that from the word selfish, I question their intelligence. People who are cruel and people who are kind, are selfish.

I feel like you are being a bit defensive. People have always used the word selfish as a means to define excessive greed and any act that neglects others for one's own benefit. As the OP states, it kind of becomes meaningless to even use the word "selfish", if it merely implies "conscious human behavior". Like you say, under such a context, people both kind and cruel are selfish. It defeats the context of the word that is most commonly used, which is why it is largely viewed as having negative connotations.

It's only used this way to disprove the existence of altruism. It's kind of a reactionary philosophy. It's meant to show that true altruism doesn't exist, and when you look at the definitions of altruism and selfishness, no middle possibility exists. You're either altruistic or selfish. Altruism doesn't exist so.....

It doesn't really make sense, though. For example, if you consider a flock of birds and one bird sounds the warning at the sight of a predator thereby drawing attention to itself and putting itself at risk but saving the flock. That's altruistic behavior. You could come up with a theory about the bird's subjective state, and how that subjective state links to the action, but who cares? Of course the bird's subjective state is part of its mechanism of action, and in this case the action is altruistic.
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 7:26:25 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/7/2015 3:10:42 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:23:01 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 11:18:55 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/6/2015 8:10:50 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 6:42:30 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/4/2015 7:13:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
Nobody genuinely believes that, in this radically expanded sense of "self-interest", their interest is not "their own", so the egoist here fights against an imaginary opponent.

But they do. There is a word called "selflessness" that describes the opposite of what you're describing. The whole basis of "altruism" is based upon this "selflessness", and IMHO you gave a pretty good refutation of the concept of altruism.

But this word is always used in what you might call its 'colloquial' sense; someone who used that word and considered it meaningful wouldn't consider the fact that someone gains a sense of warm fulfilment from giving charitably a disproof of the concept. So they aren't talking about such a wide sense of 'self' as the egoist is. This wider sense encompasses everything to the point of simply existing as somehow being a selfish act.

I don't think I follow you on exactly what you consider to be the egoist's version of "self".

If any action is always selfish, then the egoist's view of selfishness encompasses every living thing. No being ever goes beyond this thing called 'self' which motivates its every action. So, by describing something as "selfish" we're not really describing anything, more than we would be simply saying that it 'is something'.

I'm still not sure what you consider to be the egoist's version of "self".

As it is, to describe something as "selfish" is important in laying a foundation of what constitutes "self"...otherwise you open the possibility of something like "altruism" to exist which, if inaccurate, would be a wild mischaracterization of human motivation, yes?

If you could provide such a definition, I would be impressed. As it stands, I don't think that egoists have actually gone to the lengths required to produce a coherent definition. They only define their concepts as distinguished from those they disagree with. Same with "materialism". I see myself only as inferring the nature of what egoists are talking about from their arguments.

So, what sense could self-interest have? I think it must be reduced to a much more specific meaning, if it is to retain any usefulness as a concept at all. It should refer to only those interests which are directed "toward" oneself as a distinct person, not to all those interests which are "in my interest" in the egoist's expanded sense. But this meaning still would encompass many things not involved within the common usage of the word "selfish". If I look at my hands, this is a self-directed action, but not many would describe this simple act as necessarily selfish.

But it is a selfish act, because you could have directed your vision elsewhere other than your hands, but you chose to look at them instead of something else. I suppose you can question whether or not the word "choice" has any meaning, because what caused you to look at your hands may have been determined by a slew of other outside stimuli.

Are you saying that, if I choose something, then that makes the action selfish?

To the extent that choice is a valid concept, yes.

But, you may argue that choice is not a valid concept, that everything is pre-determined perhaps and that free will does not exist.

I think, if I can only choose what I deem to be in my best self-interest, then that is already a pre-determined choice. My question would then be, how we could possibly come to a thesis like "all actions are determined by self-interest."

I don't know who would make such an assertion. It assumes free will for one, which is already precluded in your statements by something like pre-determinism.

I don't think the semantics of the word "choice" necessarily need to be a stumbling block here. Actually, I think determinism would fall under a very similar criticism to the one I'm making here about egoism. But regardless, we could rephrase the thesis to something like, "All actions are determined by self-interest." Now, how could this be arrived at? My position would be that even if this were possible to establish, the nature of the complex concepts involved means that it would not be arrived at by some simple analytic correlation like "All bachelors are unmarried." The only way egoists make it seem like such a basic operation is by vastly simplifying the notion of "selfish" to mean "human action" when really they are two very different terms with different meanings.

How could we understand the concept when there is nothing which it differentiates?

There's plenty to differentiate it. For example, things of which someone is not aware clearly would fall outside of any rubric of "self" we've discussed so far.

The term "selfish" applies to actions, thoughts, etc, not to inanimate objects or events. So the differentiation involved here is between "Action" and "Selfish action" for instance. Things I'm not aware of aren't involved in my actions, so this would mean there's still nothing in the egoist concept of "Selfish" that is any different from "Action". So "Selfish action" would remain a redundant phrase.

What information does the sentence hold when it is seemingly tautological since "selfish" is being used simply as a synonym for any chosen action?

It would hold as much information as any tautology. Tautologies are "useful" in that logic requires a base assumption, an "A" for "A=A", without which the logical process would be impossible.

But this tautology is not obvious; it's just what's being disputed. There is disagreement over whether the two terms of the tautology are actually identical, so some demonstration is needed, at least, right? I mean, I can look at "A" and then at "A" and see the correlation, but "Selfish" and "Existence" or "Action" seem very different. So the conclusion can't just be assumed in advance.

What test could we perform to see if it's universally correct?

You cannot perform any test to determine "universal correctness", because you are not in possession of the standard of "universal correctness".

So on what basis does the egoist make such universal claims as "Humans are always selfishly motivated"?
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 7:32:41 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 5:38:18 AM, treeless wrote:
Some might dismiss your point as mere semantics, but I agree with you. Contextually speaking, it makes little sense to define selfishness as "any conscious human activity". Although, of course, we shouldn't dismiss the egoist definition either, which to be fair, has its own context to consider.

Well I'm glad someone seems to get where I'm coming from, anyway. lol.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
sdavio
Posts: 1,800
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 7:34:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Egoist: "It's impossible to be altruistic, therefore it's immoral to be altruistic."

??
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 3:09:01 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/9/2015 2:50:46 AM, Garbanza wrote:
At 9/8/2015 11:11:25 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 10:07:06 AM, treeless wrote:
At 9/8/2015 9:11:49 AM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/8/2015 9:08:36 AM, treeless wrote:
I don't get where people derive the negative connotations with the word. It merely means, you gain something or think you gain something from an action.

It's not negative at all under the context you address it under. Mainly that if any act that is beneficial to the self is selfish, selfishness is not only natural but also rational.

What the negative connotation of selfishness comes from is precisely when you neglect other people's desire and needs and simply not care for them at all. This can be in the form of apathetic greed, lack of compassion for other's suffering or discomfort, and general hatred for anyone other than themselves. Of course, this may not be what you strictly mean, when you use the word "selfish", but it is a context to be considered when discussing and trying to define the meaning of "self-interest".

If people really get all that from the word selfish, I question their intelligence. People who are cruel and people who are kind, are selfish.

I feel like you are being a bit defensive. People have always used the word selfish as a means to define excessive greed and any act that neglects others for one's own benefit. As the OP states, it kind of becomes meaningless to even use the word "selfish", if it merely implies "conscious human behavior". Like you say, under such a context, people both kind and cruel are selfish. It defeats the context of the word that is most commonly used, which is why it is largely viewed as having negative connotations.

It's only used this way to disprove the existence of altruism. It's kind of a reactionary philosophy. It's meant to show that true altruism doesn't exist, and when you look at the definitions of altruism and selfishness, no middle possibility exists. You're either altruistic or selfish. Altruism doesn't exist so.....

It doesn't really make sense, though. For example, if you consider a flock of birds and one bird sounds the warning at the sight of a predator thereby drawing attention to itself and putting itself at risk but saving the flock. That's altruistic behavior. You could come up with a theory about the bird's subjective state, and how that subjective state links to the action, but who cares? Of course the bird's subjective state is part of its mechanism of action, and in this case the action is altruistic.

Perhaps, but the self interest might be tied to the group. For example, it may make the bird feel good to warn the flock, or he may feel a sense of honor. It can't technically be altruistic if he gains anything from it, even if he dies for obtaining that sense of heroism, or whatever.

Some people have suggested changing the meaning of altruistic, because the working definition seems to be something unobtainable and therefore makes the word meaningless.

I can't completely relate with the bird though, if I can at all. I wouldn't be surprised if animals or insects are completely capable of altruism.
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 5:10:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/9/2015 7:34:33 AM, sdavio wrote:
Egoist: "It's impossible to be altruistic, therefore it's immoral to be altruistic."

??

The idea is that it's immoral to lie.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 5:12:25 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/8/2015 4:39:39 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:42:00 PM, Wylted wrote:
At 9/7/2015 12:34:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/6/2015 10:36:10 PM, Wylted wrote:
Yes, it is only your hangup about the word selfish being a negative thing that makes you disagree, but there is nothing inherently bad about selfishness. Especially when you agree that it quite literally explains every single action you take.

I can invent hundreds of concepts that 'explain' every action just as much as the egoist's conception of selfishness does. Let's say mine is called "dobsapbudaoib." It is defined as being something which no action is not. Now I challenge you to find one action which is not dobsapbudaoib.

This is my point: if it applies to every action, then it doesn't explain anything about the action - it's unilateral. Therefore, saying "all actions are selfish" would mean nothing else than that they are actions. The egoist rigs the game by defining the concept as omnipresent before the debate begins.

Why debate a truism? The action is taken because of a selfish desire in every instance. The motivation is what's being argued. If the ethical egoist is stating a truism, than why do people argue that ethical egoism is wrong, instead of just accepting the truth? And why do they still claim to be altruistic and gain absolutely nothing from their behaviors?

Here's Google's definition of selfish:

"lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Now, if we take a typical egoist example, that I help someone else because I want to, this would not be considered selfish under such a definition, which is the common definition.

It would though, because helping others rewards the helper with "pleasure".
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 5:44:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/9/2015 7:26:25 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 9/7/2015 3:10:42 PM, wrichcirw wrote:

I think, if I can only choose what I deem to be in my best self-interest, then that is already a pre-determined choice. My question would then be, how we could possibly come to a thesis like "all actions are determined by self-interest."

I don't know who would make such an assertion. It assumes free will for one, which is already precluded in your statements by something like pre-determinism.

I don't think the semantics of the word "choice" necessarily need to be a stumbling block here. Actually, I think determinism would fall under a very similar criticism to the one I'm making here about egoism. But regardless, we could rephrase the thesis to something like, "All actions are determined by self-interest." Now, how could this be arrived at? My position would be that even if this were possible to establish, the nature of the complex concepts involved means that it would not be arrived at by some simple analytic correlation like "All bachelors are unmarried." The only way egoists make it seem like such a basic operation is by vastly simplifying the notion of "selfish" to mean "human action" when really they are two very different terms with different meanings.

The question mainly is "what motivates human action"? Is it purely "selfish" motives like how you've defined selfishness elsewhere, or is it something else? From what I can tell, the way you are framing egoism is that the egoist would say there is indeed nothing else...because how can there be anything else?

If you're motivated to help others, that motivation comes from the "self". If you do good deeds to get into heaven, that's also self-motivation.

How could we understand the concept when there is nothing which it differentiates?

There's plenty to differentiate it. For example, things of which someone is not aware clearly would fall outside of any rubric of "self" we've discussed so far.

The term "selfish" applies to actions, thoughts, etc, not to inanimate objects or events.

My point is that if you're reading a book, there must first be a book to read, without which your concept of self, i.e. "I'm reading a book" would no longer be a true statement. Therefore, the presence of inanimate objects and how we interact with them is key to a sound definition of "self".

So the differentiation involved here is between "Action" and "Selfish action" for instance. Things I'm not aware of aren't involved in my actions, so this would mean there's still nothing in the egoist concept of "Selfish" that is any different from "Action". So "Selfish action" would remain a redundant phrase.

"Selfish action" is not a redundant phrase because people question if there can be other types of action besides selfish action.

Symbolically:

X: "all human actions are selfish"
Y: "the phrase 'selfish actions' is redundant"

Larry assert X => Y
Bob assert nX => nY
Therefore, it's relevant to discuss X, because there is disagreement as to whether or not that base assumption is true.

What information does the sentence hold when it is seemingly tautological since "selfish" is being used simply as a synonym for any chosen action?

It would hold as much information as any tautology. Tautologies are "useful" in that logic requires a base assumption, an "A" for "A=A", without which the logical process would be impossible.

But this tautology is not obvious; it's just what's being disputed. There is disagreement over whether the two terms of the tautology are actually identical, so some demonstration is needed, at least, right? I mean, I can look at "A" and then at "A" and see the correlation, but "Selfish" and "Existence" or "Action" seem very different. So the conclusion can't just be assumed in advance.

1) No one said that any tautology is obvious. Is "reality" "obvious" to you? Is it obvious to you what "A" should be when it comes to positing a fundamental assumption of reality? The thing is though, once you assume such a thing as "A", then it becomes obvious that that thing is itself, hence tautological reasoning.

2) I believe the confusion stemming from the rest of your statement was resolved earlier by clarifying on the definition of "selfish":

At 9/9/2015 5:12:25 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/8/2015 4:39:39 AM, sdavio wrote:
[...]
Here's Google's definition of selfish:

"lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Now, if we take a typical egoist example, that I help someone else because I want to, this would not be considered selfish under such a definition, which is the common definition.

It would though, because helping others rewards the helper with "pleasure".

What test could we perform to see if it's universally correct?

You cannot perform any test to determine "universal correctness", because you are not in possession of the standard of "universal correctness".

So on what basis does the egoist make such universal claims as "Humans are always selfishly motivated"?

That's a loaded statement, because to assume a distinct entity as "human" would assume that that entity also has a concept of "self" attached to it.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
9/9/2015 5:46:28 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/9/2015 5:44:44 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/9/2015 7:26:25 AM, sdavio wrote:

My point is that if you're reading a book, there must first be a book to read, without which your concept of self, i.e. "I'm reading a book" would no longer be a true statement. Therefore, the presence of inanimate objects and how we interact with them is key to a sound definition of "self".

So the differentiation involved here is between "Action" and "Selfish action" for instance. Things I'm not aware of aren't involved in my actions, so this would mean there's still nothing in the egoist concept of "Selfish" that is any different from "Action". So "Selfish action" would remain a redundant phrase.

"Selfish action" is not a redundant phrase because people question if there can be other types of action besides selfish action.

Symbolically:

X: "all human actions are selfish"
Y: "the phrase 'selfish actions' is redundant"

Larry assert X => Y
Bob assert nX => nY
Therefore, it's relevant to discuss X, because there is disagreement as to whether or not that base assumption is true.

format correction
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?