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The Real Nature of Self-Interest

charleslb
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11/25/2010 11:55:43 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
There are those at this site (free-marketeers, libertarians, et al) who intellectually relish the stance that self-interest is it, as far as human motivations go, that every conceivable reason that humans get up off their duffs and do anything whatsoever is ultimately that good ole self-interest hardwired into us by evolution. My position is that this is cynical and philosophically shallow bunk and I'd like to share a few thoughts on the subject.

Spoiler: ethical and psychological egoists who believe that all human behavior is actuated by self-interest in some way, shape, or form practice a facile and often convoluted reductionism that runs something like this, "If someone does something apparently unselfish and for the benefit of another he/she's really only doing it for the good feeling it gives him about himself". My fundamental contention here is that egoists simply don't take this reductionism far or deep enough because if they did they might refute their own cynicism!

Of course egoists don't ask why doing unselfish good deeds should give us a good feeling about ourselves. Or if they do ask this question their answer is that we have such moral sensibilities because societies needed to invent morality. That morality is just a made-up by-product of religious fictions designed to promote social cohesion conducive to survival, etc., and that due to indoctrination with such self-serving morality we feel good when we do "nice" things.

But does our reasoning have to stop here, can't we keep it going and ask why morality and spiritual values were the answers hit upon by primitive and close-to-nature people when they attempted to find a basis for community and social order? Why not a more prosaically practical solution, or a simplistically logical one, à la the Vulcans on Star Trek? Why invent lofty ethics? Could it be that there was a deeper truth and value than mere survival that they were sensing and trying to get at? Is what meets the eye always as far as we should go in our exploration of the world and our own nature? Want an example of what I'm talking about?

Before Isaac Newton enlightened us about the real reason "What goes up comes down", people thought that objects tossed in the air fell back to Earth simply because it was the natural thing for them to do. The belief was that everything has its natural place on the ground so naturally objects don't stay up in mid air.

Then Newton came along and figured out that there's actually a force that pulls things down to the ground. All of a sudden educated people came to terms with the fact that there was more to gravity than the visible tendency of objects to return to their "natural place".

Perhaps self-interest is the same sort of proposition, perhaps it's just the empirically observable face of a deeper force and impetus. Mundane-minded scientists and science of course only see the external behavior, the instinct of animals for self-preservation, the instinct of humans to be self-serving in a myriad of ways. But to less humdrum and cynical intellects the selfishness touted by believers in scientism and capitalism is a manifestation of the gravity of life's potential, the pull of everything in Creation to actualize its full portion of reality's beauty, goodness, and truth.

That is, our seemingly selfish drive to seek our own best interests, to be prone to looking out for number one, to struggle to enhance our own experience of life is really just this more fundamental drive belonging to all life and inherent in all existence to enhance itself, to optimize itself, to max out its experience, excellences, and best nature.

Certainly this fundamental will to self-realization of all reality can express itself in a narrow, personal way, it can make individuals with a limited, egoistic sense of identity narcissistically self-interested, but it can also reveal itself in nobly transpersonal, prosocial ways as well.

The drive to strive for our highest potential, our highest moral, spiritual, humanly and cosmically creative potential, can take us beyond ego, can help us to transcend self and selfishness. Our selfishness then is really just the outer aspect of our innate longing to outgrow our egoistic smallness, yep, I'm actually saying that our seemingly petty self-interest is merely the tip of the cosmic iceberg of reality's self-expressive nature, contrary to appearances self-interest not just our ego's obsession with expressing its own neediness and greediness.

In short, self-interest and greed are a part of a bigger world-picture and nature that makes us social and self-sacrificing creatures and not just sordid little egos on two feet. Self-interest is not the ultimate motivation for all behavior, it's the guise of our desire for self-transcendence. Of course many of us get ethically and spiritually stunted by focusing the yen for self-transcendence on our ego, which tends to make us crassly selfish. But in many other people the result of our instinctive aspiration for our personal and transpersonal welfare and growth is largeness of character not meanness of spirit, a generous not a stingy nature, and a wisdom about life's meaningfulness rather than the materialists shallow philosophy. But of course all of this is quite incomprehensible to dyed-in-the-wool materialists.

(And yes, despite my avatar I'm not actually a card-carrying Marxist, just a selective fan of certain ideas of Marx, so there's noting inconsistent about my anti-materialism.)
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
annhasle
Posts: 6,657
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11/25/2010 12:34:12 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/25/2010 12:28:54 PM, innomen wrote:
"Beware of long arguments and long beards." - Thomas Jefferson. You got em both.

Lol WIN.
I'm not back. This idiot just upset me which made me stop lurking.
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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11/25/2010 12:42:48 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
I am a Pacifistic, Communistic, Anarchist because of my selfishness. There is nothing wrong with selfishness. Libertarians are just confused about what their self-interest actually is.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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11/25/2010 1:48:42 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
I'm about to take a three-hour road trip to see my cousins, but there are two things I would like to say before I go:

1. I've responded to all of your arguments in the other threads (society is mentally ill, free market purists), yet all you do is create new threads with equally ridiculous diatribes.

2. You've avoided the question at least 4 times now, so I'll ask it again. I'm going to hound you until the day you die if I have to--you're going to answer.

Without appealing to my self-interest, why should I care about my fellow man?
innomen
Posts: 10,052
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11/25/2010 1:52:34 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/25/2010 1:48:42 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I'm about to take a three-hour road trip to see my cousins, but there are two things I would like to say before I go:

1. I've responded to all of your arguments in the other threads (society is mentally ill, free market purists), yet all you do is create new threads with equally ridiculous diatribes.

2. You've avoided the question at least 4 times now, so I'll ask it again. I'm going to hound you until the day you die if I have to--you're going to answer.

Without appealing to my self-interest, why should I care about my fellow man?

And Cody, I'm counting on you to be the one to actually read this drivel, interpret, and respond, because no one else would ever bother.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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11/25/2010 1:58:17 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/25/2010 11:55:43 AM, charleslb wrote:
There are those at this site (free-marketeers, libertarians, et al) who intellectually relish the stance that self-interest is it, as far as human motivations go, that every conceivable reason that humans get up off their duffs and do anything whatsoever is ultimately that good ole self-interest hardwired into us by evolution. My position is that this is cynical and philosophically shallow bunk and I'd like to share a few thoughts on the subject.

Spoiler: ethical and psychological egoists who believe that all human behavior is actuated by self-interest in some way, shape, or form practice a facile and often convoluted reductionism that runs something like this, "If someone does something apparently unselfish and for the benefit of another he/she's really only doing it for the good feeling it gives him about himself". My fundamental contention here is that egoists simply don't take this reductionism far or deep enough because if they did they might refute their own cynicism!

1. It could be because everything you could possibly reduce selfishness to is itself circularly reducible to self-interest.

2. Egoists aren't cynical. We're realists, because we recognize the fact that nobody does something that they absolutely don't want to do. They may have reservations about it, and they may be reluctant, but those are cases in which, despite the costs, the underlying reasons for which a person performs an action net some more valuable benefit.

Of course egoists don't ask why doing unselfish good deeds should give us a good feeling about ourselves. Or if they do ask this question their answer is that we have such moral sensibilities because societies needed to invent morality. That morality is just a made-up by-product of religious fictions designed to promote social cohesion conducive to survival, etc., and that due to indoctrination with such self-serving morality we feel good when we do "nice" things.

1. Socialization certainly does play a part in it. I guess you've never studied psychology.

2. It is expedient for societies to develop their own general ethical frameworks. They can disagree on details, but the big picture is usually all the same. For example: the prohibition on murder is--more or less--agreed upon by everyone.

But does our reasoning have to stop here, can't we keep it going and ask why morality and spiritual values were the answers hit upon by primitive and close-to-nature people when they attempted to find a basis for community and social order? Why not a more prosaically practical solution, or a simplistically logical one, à la the Vulcans on Star Trek?

1. Humankind didn't start out with the massive bank of knowledge that it currently possesses. Our span of existence has been a constant voyage of discovery. The problem is that, in the absence of knowledge, people are often willing to believe anything. Religion offered an answer where none previously existed. To primitive, unlearned minds, it was an epistemic panacea.

2. Also, the people in power were very religiously involved, even before Christianity (with the who's who of pagan Gods). If religion is gone, that removes a lot of the justification for rulers holding nigh absolute power.

Why invent lofty ethics? Could it be that there was a deeper truth and value than mere survival that they were sensing and trying to get at? Is what meets the eye always as far as we should go in our exploration of the world and our own nature? Want an example of what I'm talking about?

Mystic garbage. Apparently, since all religions developed naturally, they must ALL be on to something. Nice work.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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11/26/2010 12:03:58 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/25/2010 11:55:43 AM, charleslb wrote:
Before Isaac Newton enlightened us about the real reason "What goes up comes down", people thought that objects tossed in the air fell back to Earth simply because it was the natural thing for them to do. The belief was that everything has its natural place on the ground so naturally objects don't stay up in mid air.

Then Newton came along and figured out that there's actually a force that pulls things down to the ground. All of a sudden educated people came to terms with the fact that there was more to gravity than the visible tendency of objects to return to their "natural place".

1. If you're going to praise the values and morality of "primitive and close-to-nature people", pointing out the ridiculous amount of ignorance upon which their perspective of this world was based is probably one of the worst methods of which I could conceive.

2. Because of the rabid geocentrism spread by the Catholic Church, people not only believed that only objects close to Earth would come back down, but also that God was using his divine powers to prevent everything else from crashing to Earth. The reason that we discount that "transcendent truth" today is because we have clear scientific evidence which removes any need for divine intervention. The God-of-the-Gaps theory, in effect, is what you're preaching. Accept science when it's convenient--as with the Newton example--and reject it when it's not--as with this "deeper truth" nonsense you're trying to push on us.

Perhaps self-interest is the same sort of proposition, perhaps it's just the empirically observable face of a deeper force and impetus.

Or, perhaps, self-interest is the deeper force and impetus.

Mundane-minded scientists and science of course only see the external behavior, the instinct of animals for self-preservation, the instinct of humans to be self-serving in a myriad of ways. But to less humdrum and cynical intellects the selfishness touted by believers in scientism and capitalism is a manifestation of the gravity of life's potential, the pull of everything in Creation to actualize its full portion of reality's beauty, goodness, and truth.

1. You can't just assume that we're all creationists.

2. Science, actually, sees more than pure externality. That's why scientists don't just look at rocks and say "it must be made of hard stuff". They can break it down, analyze the minerals, calculate mineral ratios, etc. Similarly, that's why we have things like the many branches of physics and psychology. I actually have a friend who, for one of his majors, is doing psych. I've learned far more about the mechanics of the mind from him than I ever would from your "deeper meaning". Heck, people like that are the ones obsessed with externality. Instead of trying to break down and explain the mechanics of a rainbow, it's just accepted as a miracle of creation without a second thought. Whose system of belief is shallow and superficial, again?

That is, our seemingly selfish drive to seek our own best interests, to be prone to looking out for number one, to struggle to enhance our own experience of life is really just this more fundamental drive belonging to all life and inherent in all existence to enhance itself, to optimize itself, to max out its experience, excellences, and best nature.

More or less, I guess. Those are all extremely selfish interests, though.

Certainly this fundamental will to self-realization of all reality can express itself in a narrow, personal way, it can make individuals with a limited, egoistic sense of identity narcissistically self-interested, but it can also reveal itself in nobly transpersonal, prosocial ways as well.

1. All people who are self-interested are narcissistic? Huh. Had I been asked to name the most narcissistic member on this site, I think you would actually be higher on the list than FREEDO.

2. How is being unselfish "noble"? By what standard of evaluation (hint: if it boils down to your own personal tastes, you may as well save your breath and concede)?

3. So, hold on: it's noble for people to sacrifice themselves for others, and for those others to collect the sacrificial offerings, but it's ignoble for someone to survive by the product of his own effort without having to sacrifice himself to others or others to himself? You've got a very strange sense of morality.

The drive to strive for our highest potential, our highest moral, spiritual, humanly and cosmically creative potential, can take us beyond ego, can help us to transcend self and selfishness. Our selfishness then is really just the outer aspect of our innate longing to outgrow our egoistic smallness, yep, I'm actually saying that our seemingly petty self-interest is merely the tip of the cosmic iceberg of reality's self-expressive nature, contrary to appearances self-interest not just our ego's obsession with expressing its own neediness and greediness.

1. So, our selfish desire to achieve helps us get past selfishness? I'm seeing an interesting paradox in what you're saying.

2. Why is self-sacrifice (which other people, somehow, are justified in selfishly benefiting from) your moral ideal?

3. So, what you're saying now is that we're the product of a conscious universe who wants us to seek some indefinable thing or other beyond our own flourishing survival, despite the fact that, as living beings, we're effectively equipped for nothing but that?

In short, self-interest and greed are a part of a bigger world-picture and nature that makes us social and self-sacrificing creatures and not just sordid little egos on two feet. Self-interest is not the ultimate motivation for all behavior, it's the guise of our desire for self-transcendence.

Evidence?

Of course many of us get ethically and spiritually stunted by focusing the yen for self-transcendence on our ego, which tends to make us crassly selfish. But in many other people the result of our instinctive aspiration for our personal and transpersonal welfare and growth is largeness of character not meanness of spirit, a generous not a stingy nature, and a wisdom about life's meaningfulness rather than the materialists shallow philosophy. But of course all of this is quite incomprehensible to dyed-in-the-wool materialists.

1. Life isn't inherently meaningful. Nothing is.

2. What's the value in "transpersonal growth" if I'm perfectly satisfied with my selfish life? I mean, why would I even seek to transcend myself (whatever that means) if I don't stand to gain from it in some way or other?

3. Give me some evidence of this "instinctive aspiration".
Ragnar_Rahl
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11/26/2010 12:20:46 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
Spoiler: ethical and psychological egoists who believe that all human behavior is actuated by self-interest in some way, shape, or form
Spoiler, those are two different groups and only one of those believes that.

Self interest should be the only motive, but evasion, guilt, and other inconsistencies and surrenders to baser instincts do show up.

Of course egoists don't ask why doing unselfish good deeds should give us a good feeling about ourselves.
It shouldn't, which is why whenever I get such a feeling I tell it to shut the hell up, and get a much better feeling, smugness, as my reward.

societies needed
Societies don't have needs.

Why not a more prosaically practical solution
To be practical one must first know what one wants to practice.

Certainly this fundamental will to self-realization of all reality
This what?
I don't want to self-realize the reality of meth addiction, don't know about you. I like to be selective about what realities I self-realize.

gravity of life's potential, the pull of everything in Creation to actualize its full portion of reality's beauty, goodness, and truth.
Suicide exists and so does laziness, facepalm.

The drive to strive for our highest potential, our highest moral, spiritual, humanly and cosmically creative potential, can take us beyond ego, can help us to transcend self and selfishness.
What's to transcend? What's to be better? What even defines better in the absence of self?

Tl;dr, you're mixing mystic buzzwords, not forming an argument.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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11/26/2010 12:30:54 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/25/2010 1:52:34 PM, innomen wrote:
At 11/25/2010 1:48:42 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I'm about to take a three-hour road trip to see my cousins, but there are two things I would like to say before I go:

1. I've responded to all of your arguments in the other threads (society is mentally ill, free market purists), yet all you do is create new threads with equally ridiculous diatribes.

2. You've avoided the question at least 4 times now, so I'll ask it again. I'm going to hound you until the day you die if I have to--you're going to answer.

Without appealing to my self-interest, why should I care about my fellow man?

And Cody, I'm counting on you to be the one to actually read this drivel, interpret, and respond, because no one else would ever bother.

If you ever want me to tag you in at any point, just let me know. I think the best part is how he abandons old threads and creates entirely new ones. He complains at us for not hitting his arguments, then runs away to rally his army of words around a new flagpole whenever his arguments are actually assaulted head-on.
innomen
Posts: 10,052
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11/26/2010 11:12:27 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 12:30:54 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 11/25/2010 1:52:34 PM, innomen wrote:
At 11/25/2010 1:48:42 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I'm about to take a three-hour road trip to see my cousins, but there are two things I would like to say before I go:

1. I've responded to all of your arguments in the other threads (society is mentally ill, free market purists), yet all you do is create new threads with equally ridiculous diatribes.

2. You've avoided the question at least 4 times now, so I'll ask it again. I'm going to hound you until the day you die if I have to--you're going to answer.

Without appealing to my self-interest, why should I care about my fellow man?

And Cody, I'm counting on you to be the one to actually read this drivel, interpret, and respond, because no one else would ever bother.

If you ever want me to tag you in at any point, just let me know. I think the best part is how he abandons old threads and creates entirely new ones. He complains at us for not hitting his arguments, then runs away to rally his army of words around a new flagpole whenever his arguments are actually assaulted head-on.

Thanks. Honestly, aside from the content, and that he doesn't engage in honest discourse - you don't see any problems in his writing style?
charleslb
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11/26/2010 3:48:30 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 11:12:27 AM, innomen wrote:

Honestly, aside from the content, and that he doesn't engage in honest discourse - you don't see any problems in his writing style?

Just the sort of petty ad hominem comment I'd expect from a libertarian. You don't like what I say so you attack the way I say it too boot, quite impressive of you. I find it interesting that libertarians tend to make such spiteful observations, interesting and quite significant of their psychology. I refer you to my posts about the mentality of libertarians and conservatives, and my debate on the psychology of liberalism vs. conservatism. But then I suppose you wouldn't be able to tolerate my wordy, irrational, and mediocre writing.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
LaissezFaire
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11/26/2010 4:02:56 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 3:48:30 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 11/26/2010 11:12:27 AM, innomen wrote:

Honestly, aside from the content, and that he doesn't engage in honest discourse - you don't see any problems in his writing style?

Just the sort of petty ad hominem comment I'd expect from a libertarian. You don't like what I say so you attack the way I say it too boot, quite impressive of you. I find it interesting that libertarians tend to make such spiteful observations, interesting and quite significant of their psychology. I refer you to my posts about the mentality of libertarians and conservatives, and my debate on the psychology of liberalism vs. conservatism. But then I suppose you wouldn't be able to tolerate my wordy, irrational, and mediocre writing.

Skipping past Cody's 3 posts that were in response to your argument, Ragnar's response to your argument, and then responding to something innomen said, to Cody, not you, instead? Classy.
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charleslb
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11/26/2010 4:33:04 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
A reply to cody_franklin, part 1

It could be because everything you could possibly reduce selfishness to is itself circularly reducible to self-interest.

Yes, circularly! If you lock yourself into an inferential loop, reading self-interest into every human action and then inferring self-interest from the self-interested motives you a priori read into the action in the first place, well, of course your belief that self-interest is the only motivation operating within us will always be confirmed. If you lock yourself into such a loop your reasoning will get kind of loopy, in a sense. To you it probably just feels consistent, but to those looking at it from the outside, from outside of your perspective, it just looks self-confirming. Alas, the way the thinking of egoists, materialists, socio-biologists, et al goes around in circles to hold on to the dogma that self-interest is the only real motivation is not empirical, cogent, or even all that intelligent.

The circularity of your thinking regarding self-interest also raises for me what I'll call Karl Popper's question, namely, is your self-interest theory so airtight that it's no longer falsifiable? If so then it ceases to be a scientific theory even though it professes to be one, and it becomes more like what I called it above, a philosophical dogma. The way you and certain others here circularly hew to the concept of self-interest certainly leads me to suspect that it's an entirely unfalsifiable tenet in your worldview, and therefore every bit as unscientific as you regard my views to be. Welcome to the club of people with supposedly unscientific ideas!

Egoists aren't cynical. We're realists, because we recognize the fact that nobody does something that they absolutely don't want to do. They may have reservations about it, and they may be reluctant, but those are cases in which, despite the costs, the underlying reasons for which a person performs an action net some more valuable benefit.

Egoist are realists rather than cynical are they? This presumes that egoists are right and that reality is what they take it to be. This is kind of along the lines of the fallacy of assuming the conclusion, but then you're someone who admits to circular reasoning so maybe being guilty of a fallacy here and there doesn't distress you that much.

Also, perhaps you should look up the definition of the word cynical, because the Oxford Dictionary of English actually defines cynical as: "Believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest", and Webster's defines the word thusly: "based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest". Therefore my use of the word can't really be challenged by someone of your point of view. After all, the only difference between what you would self-servingly prefer to call a "realist" and what I would term a "cynic" is spin, you wish to put a neutral or positive spin on it, and I feel it's more honest to apply a negative spin.

Socialization certainly does play a part in it. I guess you've never studied psychology.

Sure, socialization plays a part in making us walk the walk and talk the talk of ethically good boys and girls, but you're really just begging the question here. Admittedly, socialization tells us much about why people have the ideas about right & wrong that they operate out of, but the question remains, why do societies arrive at the choice to socialize their members with these ethical ideas that promote unselfishness?

If the pragmatic object of ancient peoples was to motivate members of the tribe or larger social group to identify with, care about, and work for the interests of the group because by doing so they would serve and achieve their own best interests, well, why not come up with crudely straightforward reasons for pulling together as a society? Why didn't early people simply reason in Tarzan-like language: "Me help group, me get benefit from being a part of group", why make up loftier ideas about why it's an ethically good thing to be an unselfish citizen? Certainly the humans who built the pyramids and who spun out brilliantly elaborate systems of mythology had enough intelligence to reason like this!

Does deceiving ourselves and believing that we're operating out of ethical motives when we're really just operating out of self-interest make for a more effective if roundabout way of getting people to act in the interest of the group and of themselves? But if we're all such naturally and profoundly and inescapably selfish creatures shouldn't straight self-interest be effective enough, what's with the tendency of culture's to dress up self-interest with religion and ethics?

It is expedient for societies to develop their own general ethical frameworks. They can disagree on details, but the big picture is usually all the same. For example: the prohibition on murder is--more or less--agreed upon by everyone.

Again, how is it that it's necessary for people and their societies to expedite and encourage prosocial conduct with "general ethical frameworks", if self-interest is really the only sensibility that evolution has endowed us with then why do societies need to use religious and moral belief systems to appeal to our sense of right & wrong? And why is our sense of right & wrong, why is the "big picture" of morality "usually all the same", why do we usually find that a prohibition of behaviors such as murder is "more or less agreed upon by everyone"? If our ethical ideas are all just made-up covers for self-interested conduct, well, wouldn't there be more leeway for variation? Why is there such a global consensus on basic morality? Is it simply that self-interest functions the same way wherever you go, therefore it dictates the same fictitious morality, or are human beings tapping into something deeper and more universal than purely imaginary ethics? Is there any hard and decisive scientific proof for either outlook? Isn't your position just as ideological as you accuse mine of being?

Humankind didn't start out with the massive bank of knowledge that it currently possesses. Our span of existence has been a constant voyage of discovery. The problem is that, in the absence of knowledge, people are often willing to believe anything. Religion offered an answer where none previously existed. To primitive, unlearned minds, it was an epistemic panacea.

But if we're naturally, purely, and crudely self-interested animals how much intellectual sophistication do we need to acquire in our species' "voyage of discovery" before we can figure out that the real reason to live and work together in social groups is that together we can secure our selfish interests better than we can individually? Again, why can't even simple people reason in a Tarzan-like fashion that: "Me help group, me get benefit from being a part of group"? Why do we need the answers that religion offers to ethical questions, why do these questions even pop up in our selfish brains? Did evolution just hardwire us to play mind games with ourselves so as to trick ourselves into doing what's in our self-interest? This still leaves us with the question, why ethics, why is it that ethics are what provides emotional incentive to do what's good for the social unit and for oneself? Why is it that practicing ethics makes us feel right and good, that it gives us an ego boost? Is this all just a big lie programmed into our selfish genes, or is our sense that doing good should make us feel good about ourselves grounded in something more ontologically fundamental?
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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11/26/2010 4:33:35 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
A reply to cody_franklin, part 2

Also, the people in power were very religiously involved, even before Christianity (with the who's who of pagan Gods). If religion is gone, that removes a lot of the justification for rulers holding nigh absolute power.

Sure, I think that even intelligent and honest religionists can and frequently do admit that religion has often been exploited by those at the top of a society's power structure for its usefulness in keeping the masses pacified and obedient, but it's also simplistically cynical to think that this is all that there is to religions. And, in case you're not interested enough in religion to be well-read on the subject, religion has also been known to be a force for anti-establishment and socially revolutionary movements. That is, it's a historically verifiable fact that religion does not just function as a tool of oppressors, it can also be a sword of justice. But I'm sure that you can reduce this to merely the self-interest of revolutionaries who use religion to seek to rise to power. Yeah, that ole Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, they we're really power-hungry types bent on forcing themselves on their societies with the help of their spiritual philosophies. NOT!

Mystic garbage. Apparently, since all religions developed naturally, they must ALL be on to something. Nice work.

This is how you're inclined to dismissively diss the spiritual angle of my viewpoint, but in the same unkind vein I could easily characterize your views as scientistic and egoistic twaddle, but then we just come down to the level of name-calling and exchanging put-downs.

If you're going to praise the values and morality of "primitive and close-to-nature people", pointing out the ridiculous amount of ignorance upon which their perspective of this world was based is probably one of the worst methods of which I could conceive.

I was pointing out that if our nature, and the nature of nature in general is so gosh-darn, flamingly selfish then "primitive" people who are close to nature might be more in touch with this fact and might be able to function more effectively out of their selfishness without concocting supposedly groundless systems of ethics.

Even crude people who are entirely self-interested do do this after all. In the criminal underworld, for example, you find gangs in which members and shot-callers recognize, out of their self-interest, that some degree of discipline and order is needed for the gang to operate as a mutually profitable enterprise, therefore they institute straightforward rules that are enforced by self-interest and brutal punishments. These gangs proffer no mythological or loftily moral rationales for their rules, members simply understand that such rules are necessary to ensure the continued existence and profitability of their gang. For example, in gangs there is stigma without religion, being a "rat" is severely stigmatized because it puts members at risk of being prosecuted, but gangsters don't believe that God-in-Heaven has commanded "Thou shalt not rat out your crime partner". The code of conduct of crooks is entirely self-interest-based, and many crooks are not the most progressive people in the world, if they could make the brilliant discovery that self-interest is all we need as a foundation for a society, why is it that more "decent" people often think in terms of morality?

Because of the rabid geocentrism spread by the Catholic Church, people not only believed that only objects close to Earth would come back down, but also that God was using his divine powers to prevent everything else from crashing to Earth. The reason that we discount that "transcendent truth" today is because we have clear scientific evidence which removes any need for divine intervention. The God-of-the-Gaps theory, in effect, is what you're preaching. Accept science when it's convenient--as with the Newton example--and reject it when it's not--as with this "deeper truth" nonsense you're trying to push on us.

The idea of "natural place" was not exclusively Catholic or Western, it was the supposedly commonsensical theory of all peoples before Newton put forward the idea of a force called gravity.

The reason that we discount transcendental truth today is we live in an age not just of science but of scientism, i.e., a materialistic outlook dressed in the trappings of science. As the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out, science is not an entirely objective intellectual enterprise, it grounds itself in beliefs about the nature of reality, which constitute a "paradigm". The gounding beliefs and paradigm of science today are materialistic, hence all of the work of garden-variety scientific researchers goes in the direction of supporting materialistic ideas, such as the idea that self-interest is the sole motivation actuating us.

Furthermore, I'm not preaching any "God-of-the-Gaps" theory, more a sacredness-of-the-depths-of-reality-that-materialistic-science-refuses-to-look-at stance.

Or, perhaps, self-interest is the deeper force and impetus.

Then why is there so much behavior that can only be viewed as self-interested if one rationalizes it as such, are humans just pathetically mixed up creatures, is that what our self-interested tendencies do to us, turn us into confused and hypocritical fools who go about spouting ethics and religion while we're really pursuing personal gain? What a lovely view of humanity.

You can't just assume that we're all creationists.

Please don't assume that all religionists are creationists either. Creationists are intellectually pathetic adherents of a stupidly strict-constructionist reading of a Biblical creation myth, not all people with a spiritual worldview share their flat-earther mentality. And not all religionists even believe in the supernatural creator deity of the creationists for that matter!

Science, actually, sees more than pure externality. That's why scientists don't just look at rocks and say "it must be made of hard stuff". They can break it down, analyze the minerals, calculate mineral ratios, etc. Similarly, that's why we have things like the many branches of physics and psychology. I actually have a friend who, for one of his majors, is doing psych. I've learned far more about the mechanics of the mind from him than I ever would from your "deeper meaning". Heck, people like that are the ones obsessed with externality. Instead of trying to break down and explain the mechanics of a rainbow, it's just accepted as a miracle of creation without a second thought. Whose system of belief is shallow and superficial, again?

Science sees and investigates beneath the external nature of matter, but not beneath the external material nature of nature, that's the problem with science, and what makes it superficial as far as being the foundation for a worldview goes.

Then, referring to the creative and compassionate impulses inherent in reality, you assert that:
Those are all extremely selfish interests, though.

There's nothing selfish about the instinct of life to optimize itself and the best possibilities and values intrinsic in itself, because this fundamental instinct exists at a level deeper than selves. Ultimately, and I think that this is something that even scientific materialists might agree with, ultimately reality does not consist of selves or persons, and the drive to enhance life is an ultimate one, it comes from the ultimate nature of reality and therefore is not just a product of our selfish egos.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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11/26/2010 4:34:01 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
A reply to cody_franklin, part 3

All people who are self-interested are narcissistic? Huh. Had I been asked to name the most narcissistic member on this site, I think you would actually be higher on the list than FREEDO.

Self-interest and self-concern taken to an extreme certainly deserve to be morally censured as narcissism. Back to the dictionary, Webster's defines narcissism as egoism, and it defines egoism as: "a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action". So what's the problem with the word narcissism? If the shoe fits!

How is being unselfish "noble"? By what standard of evaluation (hint: if it boils down to your own personal tastes, you may as well save your breath and concede)?

Being unselfish is "noble" because it enables us to realize those higher and deeper-in-the-nature-of-reality values that you disbelieve in. Since I won't convince you of the existence of any higher-than-self-interest values I won't waste my breath trying. This is not a cop-out, it's recognizing a closed mind when I'm dealing with one.

So, hold on: it's noble for people to sacrifice themselves for others, and for those others to collect the sacrificial offerings, but it's ignoble for someone to survive by the product of his own effort without having to sacrifice himself to others or others to himself? You've got a very strange sense of morality.

I never said that people should sacrifice themselves for others gratuitously, pointlessly, and just for the heck of it.

So, our selfish desire to achieve helps us get past selfishness? I'm seeing an interesting paradox in what you're saying.

It's not paradoxical, it's one thing leading to another. When I studied a style of wushu my instructor had a sage sign up on the wall that said something to the effect that people begin martial arts training for various reasons but it can still morph into a mental and spiritual discipline for them. In the same vein I'm saying that selfishness can lead beyond selfishness to the pursuit and expression of transpersonal interests.

Why is self-sacrifice (which other people, somehow, are justified in selfishly benefiting from) your moral ideal?

Because it takes us beyond a small and petty concept of identity and helps us realize the beautiful values intrinsic in the nature of existence.

So, what you're saying now is that we're the product of a conscious universe who wants us to seek some indefinable thing or other beyond our own flourishing survival, despite the fact that, as living beings, we're effectively equipped for nothing but that?

Yes, I know, to the materialist the idea that reality is not just dumb and blind matter in motion is so absurd as to be beneath intellectual contempt, but remember that scientific materialists have really never proven their case for their ontological weltanschauung either. And lately, with string theory, it seems that physics may actually be approaching a paradigm shift in which it will refute materialism by showing that the ultimate nature of matter is energy rather than solid substance. Sure, this will be a natural, physical energy, not some sort of ethereal energy, but it will mean that physical reality does NOT boil down to gross matter, that the doctrinaire materialists were fundamentally wrong. And it will be fine by me if science proves that the ultimate nature of being is a natural as opposed to a supernatural energy, because for me spirituality has never been about believing in the supernatural, my spirituality has always been of the all-natural variety.

And where did I say that we're supposed to be seeking something beyond our own flourishing? In my view our raison d'etre in the universe is merely to realize our own finite, human portion of reality's infinite potential, if we achieve optimal human flourishing that's quite good enough.

In short, self-interest and greed are a part of a bigger world-picture and nature that makes us social and self-sacrificing creatures and not just sordid little egos on two feet. Self-interest is not the ultimate motivation for all behavior, it's the guise of our desire for self-transcendence.

Evidence?

Here you're asking for evidence that "self-interest and greed are a part of a bigger world-picture". Okay, what's your complete and conclusive evidence that the self-interest that we can observe motivating people is the whole story? It's certainly not the only behavior we can observe, we can also see people behaving unselfishly all around us, but then your tack is to convolutedly rationalize that all this unselfish behavior is really quite selfish in an indirect or pseudopsychological sense.

Life isn't inherently meaningful. Nothing is.

In the worldview of a materialist this is of course true, but as you would predictably say to me, where's the evidence? The apparent randomness of the universe perhaps? What about all the apparent order and interdependence in the midst of the chaos? (And no, I'm not an adherent of "intelligent design" theory, order, meaning, and values don't require the supernatural deity of the intelligent design crowd, order can derive from the fundamental nature of reality itself, and from a God who's of, not above & before, the creative process of existence). And what about the meaning that an artist finds in sculpting a statue, or a mother finds in raising a family, are the artist and the mother not indications of the nature of life too?

What's the value in "transpersonal growth" if I'm perfectly satisfied with my selfish life? I mean, why would I even seek to transcend myself (whatever that means) if I don't stand to gain from it in some way or other?

The crude gangster for whom "the good life" is nothing more than partying, snorting coke, flashing his ill-gotten cash, the adrenalin rush of pulling a crime, the macho ego-boost of intimidating other men, etc. may be content with such a life, but this doesn't change the fact that there's much more to what life can be that he's poignantly missing out on, it doesn't change the fact that his life is still impoverished.

And not knowing that you're missing out on something may mean that you're not bothered or pained by its absence in your life, but it doesn't mean that you're not deprived by its absence. For example, a person raised in slavery, who's been well-indoctrinated to accept his lot, and who has never experienced any cruelty at the hands of a relatively benevolent master may not ache for freedom and may not realize what he's missing, but being a slave is still an inherent injury, no matter how satisfied he is with his existence a happy slave is still missing out on a degree of dignity and freedom that is every human's right and necessary for an ideal human life. Like the comfortable slave, a materialistic egoist may find his condition agreeable, but it's still a pathetically one-dimensional, spiritually barren condition indeed.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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11/26/2010 4:34:30 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
A reply to cody_franklin, part 4 (conclusion)

Give me some evidence of this "instinctive aspiration".

Evidence that human beings have an "instinctive aspirtation" to be more than their petty egos, to actualize transpersonal values is to be found in everything from the biographies of saints to the works of great artists, and minor ones too, for that matter.

Now then, as for what you consider to be a stumper of a $64 praxeological question, "Without appealing to my self-interest, why should I care about my fellow man?", I'll give a couple of brief answers that you'll reflexively balk at and facilely rationalize away. Firstly, you should care about your fellow man, regardless of whether it's in your pragmatic interest to do so, because all life is sacred, because your fellow man is the embodiment of the sanctity and values intrinsic in reality. How can anyone assert such an exalted notion? Where's the evidence? Well, the notion and its evidence can both be found in the minds and hearts of lovely and loving human beings, who are themselves part and parcel of nature after all. Human beings distill, express, and are conscious of values that reside in the nature that our human nature at its best glorifies. You also find caring and cooperation elsewhere in nature, which I know you'll promptly reduce to selfishness, but I've already covered how intellectually lame that is. What's more, you also see the evidence of the inherent creativeness of reality, that the fundamental values of existence are creativity and growth, not just self-preservation and self-interest.

Secondly, people should and frequently do care about others even when their egos stand to gain no benefit because at some empathic, emotional, intuitive level we're not trapped in our egos and their neediness; at this sublime, transpersonal level of awareness we realize that we're a part of life's bigger picture and we put life and its transpersonal interests ahead of our own. Which is all empty talk to someone of the materialistic and egoistic persuasion, but not to those with a richer philosophy of life. So there are a couple of answers for you, I'm sure they're quite unsatisfactory in your estimation, go figure!
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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11/26/2010 4:42:45 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 4:02:56 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:

Skipping past Cody's 3 posts that were in response to your argument, Ragnar's response to your argument, and then responding to something innomen said, to Cody, not you, instead? Classy.

Firstly, I was in the process of responding to cody's detailed replies when I noticed and replied to innomen's remarks, and now my detailed response to cody is posted, making rubbish of your insulting observation.

Secondly, innomen was speaking to someone else, but he was speaking about me, therefore I replied.

Now that you've made your lame personal comments would you like to actually respond to some of the content of my original post, or my replies to cody perhaps?
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Cody_Franklin
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11/26/2010 5:18:16 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 4:33:04 PM, charleslb wrote:
A reply to cody_franklin, part 1

It could be because everything you could possibly reduce selfishness to is itself circularly reducible to self-interest.

Yes, circularly! If you lock yourself into an inferential loop, reading self-interest into every human action and then inferring self-interest from the self-interested motives you a priori read into the action in the first place, well, of course your belief that self-interest is the only motivation operating within us will always be confirmed. If you lock yourself into such a loop your reasoning will get kind of loopy, in a sense. To you it probably just feels consistent, but to those looking at it from the outside, from outside of your perspective, it just looks self-confirming. Alas, the way the thinking of egoists, materialists, socio-biologists, et al goes around in circles to hold on to the dogma that self-interest is the only real motivation is not empirical, cogent, or even all that intelligent.

The circle only exists if you try to reduce self-interest to some sort of "deeper" motivation. The reason for this is that self-interest is the ultimate end of the chain. Even your "beings seeking transcendent fulfillment" argument is an example of a selfish pursuit.

The circularity of your thinking regarding self-interest also raises for me what I'll call Karl Popper's question, namely, is your self-interest theory so airtight that it's no longer falsifiable? If so then it ceases to be a scientific theory even though it professes to be one, and it becomes more like what I called it above, a philosophical dogma. The way you and certain others here circularly hew to the concept of self-interest certainly leads me to suspect that it's an entirely unfalsifiable tenet in your worldview, and therefore every bit as unscientific as you regard my views to be. Welcome to the club of people with supposedly unscientific ideas!

1. Of course it's falsifiable--you just haven't provided any reason to believe that selfishness isn't the end of the chain. No evidence, no legitimate logical argument (other than your strange, unwarranted conjecture about self-transcendence).

2. You misunderstand what I mean by "circular". I don't mean that our reasoning is circular. I mean that, every time you try to reduce self-interest to some other secret motive, you end up back at self-interest because the supposedly unselfish motive you reveal isn't unselfish at all.

Egoists aren't cynical. We're realists, because we recognize the fact that nobody does something that they absolutely don't want to do. They may have reservations about it, and they may be reluctant, but those are cases in which, despite the costs, the underlying reasons for which a person performs an action net some more valuable benefit.

Egoist are realists rather than cynical are they? This presumes that egoists are right and that reality is what they take it to be. This is kind of along the lines of the fallacy of assuming the conclusion, but then you're someone who admits to circular reasoning so maybe being guilty of a fallacy here and there doesn't distress you that much.

1. I didn't admit to circular reasoning. You misunderstood me and then jumped to conclusions based on that misunderstanding.

2. Yes, it presumes that egoists are right. Why would I assume that the position I agree with--and that has managed to turn and absorb all of your arguments about unselfishness--is incorrect?

Also, perhaps you should look up the definition of the word cynical, because the Oxford Dictionary of English actually defines cynical as: "Believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest", and Webster's defines the word thusly: "based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest". Therefore my use of the word can't really be challenged by someone of your point of view. After all, the only difference between what you would self-servingly prefer to call a "realist" and what I would term a "cynic" is spin, you wish to put a neutral or positive spin on it, and I feel it's more honest to apply a negative spin.

1. You use "self-servingly" like it's a bad thing. :P

2. Your use of most words is pretty difficult to discern, since you don't really define your meaning, you mix buzzwords, and you usually use words in very strange ways. For example, going to the basic dictionary.com, we find:

cynical
1.
like or characteristic of a cynic; distrusting or disparaging the motives of others.
2.
showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, esp. by actions that exploit the scruples of others.
3.
bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.

Even going to Webster's, I find that your meaning of the word is all the way down at the bottom of the list at 2B. I assumed you knew what the most common use of the word was intended to mean, and would define your terms if you were using the word in a method contrary to the usual. Of course, as you yourself stated, you feel more honest using the negative spin--something which could easily have been avoided by using another word. I assume, again, that you chose that specific word because of its effectiveness in your smear campaign against libertarians/capitalists/egoists/whoever.
Cody_Franklin
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11/26/2010 5:46:24 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 4:33:04 PM, charleslb wrote:
Socialization certainly does play a part in it. I guess you've never studied psychology.

Sure, socialization plays a part in making us walk the walk and talk the talk of ethically good boys and girls, but you're really just begging the question here. Admittedly, socialization tells us much about why people have the ideas about right & wrong that they operate out of, but the question remains, why do societies arrive at the choice to socialize their members with these ethical ideas that promote unselfishness?

1. The people who run societies are usually concerned with maximizing the efficiency of social frameworks, which forces them to look at society as an aggregate sum of statistics. In managing one sort of behavior or another, rulers come to take the function of regulators, rather than disciplinarians. Generally speaking, it's easier for rulers to promote unselfishness because it has a positive effect on some statistic or other. This, of course, assumes honesty on the part of rulers. Realistically, a society based on self-sacrifice means that there is someone receiving the sacrifices. In many cases, the rulers are the beneficiaries.

2. Religion has been preaching unselfishness for centuries. It was a powerful socializer back then because everyone had to believe the church, not only because they had no other source of knowledge to turn to, but also because their lives depended on it, given that heresy was usually punishable by death. And, you know what they say: old habits die hard.

3. The ethics of unselfishness aren't the only socializers. There are plenty of social factions suggesting that people should be living for themselves, rather than sacrificing themselves for someone else's benefit.

If the pragmatic object of ancient peoples was to motivate members of the tribe or larger social group to identify with, care about, and work for the interests of the group because by doing so they would serve and achieve their own best interests, well, why not come up with crudely straightforward reasons for pulling together as a society? Why didn't early people simply reason in Tarzan-like language: "Me help group, me get benefit from being a part of group", why make up loftier ideas about why it's an ethically good thing to be an unselfish citizen? Certainly the humans who built the pyramids and who spun out brilliantly elaborate systems of mythology had enough intelligence to reason like this!

1. Usually, sacrificing oneself for the group, when taken to extreme lengths, as it often is in collectivist societies, doesn't result in a net benefit to the individual. Had tribal leaders promised temporal greatness to individuals, they probably would have revolted upon being so disappointed.

2. Again, religion. You promise someone that they'll get infinite pleasure and glory in the afterlife, they'll do practically anything for you in this life.

3. The people who built the pyramids used slaves, just FYI. They didn't really need to preach ethics in that situation, since whips and executions were already doing a fine job.

Does deceiving ourselves and believing that we're operating out of ethical motives when we're really just operating out of self-interest make for a more effective if roundabout way of getting people to act in the interest of the group and of themselves? But if we're all such naturally and profoundly and inescapably selfish creatures shouldn't straight self-interest be effective enough, what's with the tendency of culture's to dress up self-interest with religion and ethics?

1. You're presupposing that self-interest can't be an ethical motive.

2. The people in power benefit more from a blindly unselfish population than one which is rationally selfish. Who do you think it's easier to maintain control over? Someone you must constantly punish by whip, or someone who brings the whip to you, claiming he deserves punishment?

It is expedient for societies to develop their own general ethical frameworks. They can disagree on details, but the big picture is usually all the same. For example: the prohibition on murder is--more or less--agreed upon by everyone.

Again, how is it that it's necessary for people and their societies to expedite and encourage prosocial conduct with "general ethical frameworks", if self-interest is really the only sensibility that evolution has endowed us with then why do societies need to use religious and moral belief systems to appeal to our sense of right & wrong? And why is our sense of right & wrong, why is the "big picture" of morality "usually all the same", why do we usually find that a prohibition of behaviors such as murder is "more or less agreed upon by everyone"? If our ethical ideas are all just made-up covers for self-interested conduct, well, wouldn't there be more leeway for variation? Why is there such a global consensus on basic morality? Is it simply that self-interest functions the same way wherever you go, therefore it dictates the same fictitious morality, or are human beings tapping into something deeper and more universal than purely imaginary ethics? Is there any hard and decisive scientific proof for either outlook? Isn't your position just as ideological as you accuse mine of being?

1. It isn't "necessary" for societies to develop prosocial frameworks. It's expedient. Note the distinction.

2. "Our" sense of right and wrong doesn't exist. People do have differing ethical beliefs, even if they share a few fundamentals.

3. Caring about the well-being of other people isn't necessarily unselfish. Loving your girlfriend is selfish. Loving your family is selfish. Giving money to a homeless person is selfish. Even being an organ donor posthumously is selfish while one is still living.

4. Prohibitions on murder, theft, slavery, etc. are all in our self-interest. No individual wants to be murdered or stolen from. Collectively, then, people agreed that those things ought to be banned. The codification of general principles, then, is basically just the striking of a line between competing interests--in this case, we might say the interests of the murderer and the interests of a would-be victim.

5. I wouldn't necessarily say that there's a global consensus on basic morality. Governments murder people all the time--look at China's human rights record, for example.

6. Your argument doesn't make any sense. There are a few generally agreed-upon moral principles across the world; therefore, people are tapping into something "deeper" than themselves? Non sequitur if ever there was one.

7. My position actually has plenty of scientific backing. Observability is a big part of mine, for example, whereas yours is conjectural garbage.
Cody_Franklin
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11/26/2010 5:56:18 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 4:33:04 PM, charleslb wrote:
Humankind didn't start out with the massive bank of knowledge that it currently possesses. Our span of existence has been a constant voyage of discovery. The problem is that, in the absence of knowledge, people are often willing to believe anything. Religion offered an answer where none previously existed. To primitive, unlearned minds, it was an epistemic panacea.

But if we're naturally, purely, and crudely self-interested animals how much intellectual sophistication do we need to acquire in our species' "voyage of discovery" before we can figure out that the real reason to live and work together in social groups is that together we can secure our selfish interests better than we can individually?

Probably because religion promises an infinite reward for blind belief. Science promises a quantifiable, therefore finite reward for hard work and study. Falling into religious dogma is easier than being a scientists, especially when we believe that our interests will be infinitely well-served through religious belief.

Again, why can't even simple people reason in a Tarzan-like fashion that: "Me help group, me get benefit from being a part of group"?

Maybe some do.

Why do we need the answers that religion offers to ethical questions, why do these questions even pop up in our selfish brains? Did evolution just hardwire us to play mind games with ourselves so as to trick ourselves into doing what's in our self-interest? This still leaves us with the question, why ethics, why is it that ethics are what provides emotional incentive to do what's good for the social unit and for oneself? Why is it that practicing ethics makes us feel right and good, that it gives us an ego boost? Is this all just a big lie programmed into our selfish genes, or is our sense that doing good should make us feel good about ourselves grounded in something more ontologically fundamental?

1. We don't need religion and altruistic ethics. That's the point that I'm trying to make to you.

2. Ethics has nothing to do with emotions. Keep in mind, though, that I'm a moral nihilist; however, if ethics were legitimate, we could only rightly say that its purpose is happiness. The standard, on the other hand, would be rational action.

3. If people want to maximize achievement and self-importance, being able to add "moral superiority" to your list of personal greatness would probably be a great ego boost. See: holier-than-thou Christians

4. You keep asking leading questions. "Or is our sense... grounded in something more ontologically fundamental?" <-- No. Every time you ask that loaded question, my answer will be the same. No. We have no reason to believe that's true, and no evidence to substantiate it.
SuperRobotWars
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11/26/2010 6:00:07 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
http://www.debate.org...
. . .
Minister Of Trolling
: At 12/6/2011 2:21:41 PM, badger wrote:
: ugly people should beat beautiful people ugly. simple! you'd be killing two birds with the one stone... women like violent men and you're making yourself more attractive, relatively. i met a blonde dude who was prettier than me not so long ago. he's not so pretty now! ha!
:
: ...and well, he wasn't really prettier than me. he just had nice hair.
Cody_Franklin
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11/26/2010 6:18:57 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 4:33:35 PM, charleslb wrote:
A reply to cody_franklin, part 2

Also, the people in power were very religiously involved, even before Christianity (with the who's who of pagan Gods). If religion is gone, that removes a lot of the justification for rulers holding nigh absolute power.

Sure, I think that even intelligent and honest religionists can and frequently do admit that religion has often been exploited by those at the top of a society's power structure for its usefulness in keeping the masses pacified and obedient, but it's also simplistically cynical to think that this is all that there is to religions. And, in case you're not interested enough in religion to be well-read on the subject, religion has also been known to be a force for anti-establishment and socially revolutionary movements. That is, it's a historically verifiable fact that religion does not just function as a tool of oppressors, it can also be a sword of justice. But I'm sure that you can reduce this to merely the self-interest of revolutionaries who use religion to seek to rise to power. Yeah, that ole Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, they we're really power-hungry types bent on forcing themselves on their societies with the help of their spiritual philosophies. NOT!

1. I don't doubt that there are some people who honestly believe religious dogma. The ones who legitimately follow their religions are probably as close to unselfish as you're going to get. They give up most of this world's selfish pursuits out of a belief that the "next world" will offer them infinite satisfaction and happiness.

2. Of course it's in the self-interest of revolutionaries to do what they do. Not necessarily as a means to gain power, but for some personal motivation. I won't guess as to what each revolutionary has in mind, specifically, since I'm sure they differ between men, but I can perhaps speculate on the generals:

a. Moral superiority/righteousness

b. The respect and adoration of fellow men

c. The existential pleasure of "making a difference" or the feeling of "nobility"

d. The satisfaction of seeing their huge-scale project going through to fruition

e. The warm, fuzzy feeling that some get from helping others

I'm not going to claim that I can see the thoughts of every revolutionary; I will, however, claim that their motivations were quite selfish.

Mystic garbage. Apparently, since all religions developed naturally, they must ALL be on to something. Nice work.

This is how you're inclined to dismissively diss the spiritual angle of my viewpoint, but in the same unkind vein I could easily characterize your views as scientistic and egoistic twaddle, but then we just come down to the level of name-calling and exchanging put-downs.

1. You've actually done plenty of name-calling and put-downing already. You usually accomplish most of it during your initial monologues at the beginning of each of your threads.

2. I don't take "scientistic" or "egoistic" as insulting or demeaning to my position. Actually, the mere fact that I'm on the side of science--which deals with observable reality, facts, and logic--is probably more helpful to my position than your spiritualism--which deals mysticism, faith, and the supernatural.

3. In justifying your own maturity, you forgot to respond to my argument--that the
"natural development" of religion in many cultures doesn't logically to "there must be something deeper to their beliefs". I mean, gender roles develop naturally in societies, as well, but if you've ever taken a regimen of gender studies classes, you'll know quite well that there's nothing ontologically sacred under the surface.

If you're going to praise the values and morality of "primitive and close-to-nature people", pointing out the ridiculous amount of ignorance upon which their perspective of this world was based is probably one of the worst methods of which I could conceive.

I was pointing out that if our nature, and the nature of nature in general is so gosh-darn, flamingly selfish then "primitive" people who are close to nature might be more in touch with this fact and might be able to function more effectively out of their selfishness without concocting supposedly groundless systems of ethics.

1. Why do you think that there was so much more violent back then--that there were so many more wars back then? They were selfish without having the proper knowledge to know exactly what was in their rational self-interest. The clear conflict of interest led the dominant classes--the civil authority and the clergy--to tighten their moral grip on the population.

2. Ethics and politics are both just ways of organizing society. The reason that unselfish ethics seemed so peaceful was because people were no longer allowed to act selfishly--even if their actions were pursuant to their rational self-interest.

Even crude people who are entirely self-interested do do this after all. In the criminal underworld, for example, you find gangs in which members and shot-callers recognize, out of their self-interest, that some degree of discipline and order is needed for the gang to operate as a mutually profitable enterprise, therefore they institute straightforward rules that are enforced by self-interest and brutal punishments. These gangs proffer no mythological or loftily moral rationales for their rules, members simply understand that such rules are necessary to ensure the continued existence and profitability of their gang. For example, in gangs there is stigma without religion, being a "rat" is severely stigmatized because it puts members at risk of being prosecuted, but gangsters don't believe that God-in-Heaven has commanded "Thou shalt not rat out your crime partner". The code of conduct of crooks is entirely self-interest-based, and many crooks are not the most progressive people in the world, if they could make the brilliant discovery that self-interest is all we need as a foundation for a society, why is it that more "decent" people often think in terms of morality?

1. What makes other people more "decent"?

2. Morality doesn't necessarily have to be "don't be selfish".

3. The positive emotional reinforcement from other like-minded people (or that one gives oneself) is, ironically, a huge impetus for trying to practice the morality of unselfishness.
Cody_Franklin
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11/26/2010 6:42:43 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 4:33:35 PM, charleslb wrote:
Because of the rabid geocentrism spread by the Catholic Church, people not only believed that only objects close to Earth would come back down, but also that God was using his divine powers to prevent everything else from crashing to Earth. The reason that we discount that "transcendent truth" today is because we have clear scientific evidence which removes any need for divine intervention. The God-of-the-Gaps theory, in effect, is what you're preaching. Accept science when it's convenient--as with the Newton example--and reject it when it's not--as with this "deeper truth" nonsense you're trying to push on us.

The idea of "natural place" was not exclusively Catholic or Western, it was the supposedly commonsensical theory of all peoples before Newton put forward the idea of a force called gravity.

The reason that we discount transcendental truth today is we live in an age not just of science but of scientism, i.e., a materialistic outlook dressed in the trappings of science. As the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out, science is not an entirely objective intellectual enterprise, it grounds itself in beliefs about the nature of reality, which constitute a "paradigm". The gounding beliefs and paradigm of science today are materialistic, hence all of the work of garden-variety scientific researchers goes in the direction of supporting materialistic ideas, such as the idea that self-interest is the sole motivation actuating us.

1. All propositions require verification. "Transcendental truth" has no verification--no justification--no warrant at all. It assumes a higher purpose or design in the universe than what actually exists. Science can actually provide answers. It can explain the mechanics. It's verifiable, falsifiable, and reliable.

2. If you really want to reference Kuhn, you're going to run into problems: namely that, taken to its relativistic end, we may as well not even be having this discussion, since we can't be sure that anything is objectively correct (despite the overwhelming evidence in favor of the scientific method). Interestingly, though, the criteria that Kuhn lists as necessary for theory choice--accurate, fruitful, simple, etc.--are themselves presupposing the legitimacy of scientific empiricism.

3. The alleged "lack of objectivity" is why peer review exists.

4. Without referencing scientific/materialistic/empirical grounds, why should we believe that there is some transcendental, mystical truth out there waiting to be discovered?

Furthermore, I'm not preaching any "God-of-the-Gaps" theory, more a sacredness-of-the-depths-of-reality-that-materialistic-science-refuses-to-look-at stance.

1. You're assuming that there is a sacredness out there that exists in the first place which scientists refuse to look at. You can't possibly prove such a proposition.

2. Such a sacredness, to exist, has to be engineered that way by a creator. Things don't just pop up with intrinsic value. You've got an interesting task ahead of you if this is the line of argument you want to take.

Or, perhaps, self-interest is the deeper force and impetus.

Then why is there so much behavior that can only be viewed as self-interested if one rationalizes it as such, are humans just pathetically mixed up creatures, is that what our self-interested tendencies do to us, turn us into confused and hypocritical fools who go about spouting ethics and religion while we're really pursuing personal gain? What a lovely view of humanity.

1. The whole thing about how pathetic, mixed-up, and hypocritical we are might very well be true.

2. I think it's interesting that, when you reveal a "deeper meaning" behind self-interest, it's reduction; yet, when I prove that your reduction only leads back to self-interest, it's rationalization.

You can't just assume that we're all creationists.

Please don't assume that all religionists are creationists either. Creationists are intellectually pathetic adherents of a stupidly strict-constructionist reading of a Biblical creation myth, not all people with a spiritual worldview share their flat-earther mentality. And not all religionists even believe in the supernatural creator deity of the creationists for that matter!

You specifically referenced "Creation" with a capital C. How am I supposed to think that you aren't a creationist?

Science, actually, sees more than pure externality. That's why scientists don't just look at rocks and say "it must be made of hard stuff". They can break it down, analyze the minerals, calculate mineral ratios, etc. Similarly, that's why we have things like the many branches of physics and psychology. I actually have a friend who, for one of his majors, is doing psych. I've learned far more about the mechanics of the mind from him than I ever would from your "deeper meaning". Heck, people like that are the ones obsessed with externality. Instead of trying to break down and explain the mechanics of a rainbow, it's just accepted as a miracle of creation without a second thought. Whose system of belief is shallow and superficial, again?

Science sees and investigates beneath the external nature of matter, but not beneath the external material nature of nature, that's the problem with science, and what makes it superficial as far as being the foundation for a worldview goes.

You're assuming that there's some transcending something below the surface. Why?
Cody_Franklin
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11/26/2010 6:49:45 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 4:33:35 PM, charleslb wrote:
Then, referring to the creative and compassionate impulses inherent in reality, you assert that:
Those are all extremely selfish interests, though.

I hope, when you say "reality", you mean individuals. Reality, meaning the universe/existence in general/the cosmos/whatever, isn't conscious, isn't creative, and isn't compassionate. It does not--and cannot--care about anything.

There's nothing selfish about the instinct of life to optimize itself and the best possibilities and values intrinsic in itself, because this fundamental instinct exists at a level deeper than selves. Ultimately, and I think that this is something that even scientific materialists might agree with, ultimately reality does not consist of selves or persons, and the drive to enhance life is an ultimate one, it comes from the ultimate nature of reality and therefore is not just a product of our selfish egos.

1. There's no such thing as intrinsic value.

2. "Life" as a whole has no instincts. Only individuals can have instincts, and, even then, instincts =/= values.

3. You're assuming a "higher purpose" where none exists.
charleslb
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11/26/2010 7:44:26 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 5:46:24 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:

The people who run societies are usually concerned with maximizing the efficiency of social frameworks, which forces them to look at society as an aggregate sum of statistics. In managing one sort of behavior or another, rulers come to take the function of regulators, rather than disciplinarians. Generally speaking, it's easier for rulers to promote unselfishness because it has a positive effect on some statistic or other. This, of course, assumes honesty on the part of rulers. Realistically, a society based on self-sacrifice means that there is someone receiving the sacrifices. In many cases, the rulers are the beneficiaries.

But if humans are so profoundly and completely selfish what is this susceptibility to unselfish motives that cunning and unscrupulous rulers can pander to and exploit to get us to be good little peons? That is, why is it that for kings and other dictators unselfishness sells, why do we the people, if our nature is at bottom so darn unaltruistic, buy the mythology and morality they market to us? Are we so dumb that we aren't in touch with our deep-down selfishness and can be tricked into being unselfish, or is there perhaps also an unselfish side to our nature?

Religion has been preaching unselfishness for centuries...

So, religion and morality are nothing but tools to manipulate the masses? I'm as far to the left as one can go and therefore certainly concerned about the way the ruling classes of societies have historically abused religion as a form of social control, but I beg to assert that there's a wee bit more to religion. Your thinking here certainly aligns your views on self-interest with the cynical mind-set you disavow.

The ethics of unselfishness aren't the only socializers. There are plenty of social factions suggesting that people should be living for themselves, rather than sacrificing themselves for someone else's benefit.

Yeah, like the Vikings who believe in living for their own selfish interests to the hilt, to the hilt of a sword shoved into their victims that is. Or the Hell's Angels, or the Church of Satan, or the capitalist elite that visits untold misery on the masses of the planet in the pursuit of their selfish interests, or their free-marketeer apologists, etc. Yeah, nice folks you philosophically keep company with.

Usually, sacrificing oneself for the group, when taken to extreme lengths, as it often is in collectivist societies, doesn't result in a net benefit to the individual.

There you go again, practicing your hackneyed reductionism to boil everything down to selfishness. How do you know what's in the hearts of people sacrificing for the common welfare in a collectivist group, do you know for a fact that the compassion they often feel is just an illusion, do you know for a fact that said compassion isn't a real factor in their prosocial behavior? Or does your cynical dismissal of this possibility simply feel more realistic to you? Aren't you doing what you accuse me of, going with a point of view merely because it feels right to you.

Again, religion. You promise someone that they'll get infinite pleasure and glory in the afterlife, they'll do practically anything for you in this life.

Again, a trite anti-religious knock. Sure religion sometimes appeals to people's selfish desire to secure their place in Heaven, to get their slice of pie in the sky when the die, I can admit this, can you admit that there's more to religion and the motives it promotes?

The people who built the pyramids used slaves, just FYI. They didn't really need to preach ethics in that situation, since whips and executions were already doing a fine job.

It's irrelevant that the worker bees who built the pyramids were way down in the power structure of ancient Egypt (by the way, it's a passé belief that they were actually slaves), my reason for citing the pyramid builders was to point out that there were smart people in antiquity, people smart and self-aware enough to devise social systems openly and successfully based on self-interest if that's really all there is to our nature.

You're presupposing that self-interest can't be an ethical motive.

If it leads to ethically desirable, prosocial results it can be, but it's not the only or the most enlightened of ethical motives, because it doesn't take people out of petty egoism to the realization of more sublime and subliming values.

The people in power benefit more from a blindly unselfish population than one which is rationally selfish.

If we're all so perfectly selfish how do we ever come together in societies where we can be controlled by manipulating monarchs and politicians? Why didn't we remain in a state of dog-eat-dog anarchy? Yes, yes, I can hear you shouting that people form societies because that's in their interest too, but still, shouldn't societies of contentiously selfish people remain barbarically divided with no one ever able to gain enough social control over the masses, not even with religion, to create the kinds of large-scale social systems that have existed. Doesn't the existence of such societies tell us that there's more to our nature than just egoistic individualism?

It isn't "necessary" for societies to develop prosocial frameworks. It's expedient. Note the distinction.

Show me a society, other than cruel ones such as street gangs, that maintain themselves, that maintain social cohesion without "prosocial frameworks"?

"Our" sense of right and wrong doesn't exist. People do have differing ethical beliefs, even if they share a few fundamentals.

No right and wrong hmm? So, if my self-interest dictates it would it be okay for me to murder you for your wallet? But as you say, permitting this would be bad for society and would harm everyone's interests, therefore it must be prohibited, right? But by your thinking here murder is not really bad, we just have to maintain the fiction that it is, hmm? Your point of view leads to such lovely coldblooded attitudes.

Caring about the well-being of other people isn't necessarily unselfish. Loving your girlfriend is selfish. Loving your family is selfish. Giving money to a homeless person is selfish. Even being an organ donor posthumously is selfish while one is still living.

Talk about coldblooded rationalization, do you come clean with your girlfriend and tell her up front that you'll never love her in the conventional unselfish sense, because you're someone who's awake to his selfish nature and who entertains nothing but selfish motives and feelings? Yeah tell your girl that your apparent love for her is roundabout selfishness, an illusion dissembling your intentness on getting your own needs met, and see how that works out for you! Yes, this isn't much of an argument but the results would be entertaining.

I wouldn't necessarily say that there's a global consensus on basic morality. Governments murder people all the time--look at China's human rights record, for example.

You're contradicting yourself here, you did say that some ethics are practically universal, I quote: "It is expedient for societies to develop their own general ethical frameworks. They can disagree on details, but the big picture is usually all the same. For example: the prohibition on murder is--more or less--agreed upon by everyone."

Your argument doesn't make any sense. There are a few generally agreed-upon moral principles across the world;

Again you contradict yourself, "but the big picture is usually all the same". Which is it, make up your mind.

Then you assert that my argument is:
conjectural garbage.

Your argument seems to be full of this too, yours is just a more "tough-minded", cynical, and scientistic kind of conjectural garbage, but it's conjectural and garbage nonetheless.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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11/26/2010 8:07:34 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 5:18:16 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:

It could be because everything you could possibly reduce selfishness to is itself circularly reducible to self-interest.

The truth is circular therefore my argument ought to be circular, sounds like more circularity to me.


The circle only exists if you try to reduce self-interest to some sort of "deeper" motivation. The reason for this is that self-interest is the ultimate end of the chain. Even your "beings seeking transcendent fulfillment" argument is an example of a selfish pursuit.

So I'm forcing circularity on you by being obstinately resistant to your belief that self-interest is the sole motivation behind all human behavior? And again, you're assuming the conclusion that self-interest is the ultimate end of your logical chain, therefore it conveniently becomes legitimate for you to keep going on circularly without proving why this isn't bad reasoning.

Of course it's falsifiable--you just haven't provided any reason to believe that selfishness isn't the end of the chain. No evidence, no legitimate logical argument (other than your strange, unwarranted conjecture about self-transcendence).

The burden is on you, the one advocating a theory, to demonstrate its falsifiability, not on it the theory's critic. So it sounds as though you're saying that if I can't come up with a way to show your view is falsifiable then it isn't, but that would also disqualify your theory from the status of being scientific !

2. You misunderstand what I mean by "circular". I don't mean that our reasoning is circular.

Yeah, yeah, I just drag you kicking and screaming against your will into circularity, why, because there's no better way you can defend your stance and prove that selfishness is the only reason for one to do anything?

I didn't admit to circular reasoning. You misunderstood me and then jumped to conclusions based on that misunderstanding.

Right, you first let slip that your argument is circular then blame me for jumping on that admission and willfully misunderstanding you.

Yes, it presumes that egoists are right. Why would I assume that the position I agree with--and that has managed to turn and absorb all of your arguments about unselfishness--is incorrect?

So you admit here that you started from a presumption without establishing why that presumption is correct. When I do such a thing it's an intellectual and forensic sin, but it's okay for you to just speak as though your position is right because of course you wouldn't take a position if you didn't think it was right. Yeah, your reasoning is so much more cogent than mine. NOT!

You use "self-servingly" like it's a bad thing.

Yes, my whole thesis is that being self-serving is not the virtue you hold it to be.

Your use of most words is pretty difficult to discern, since you don't really define your meaning, you mix buzzwords, and you usually use words in very strange ways. For example, going to the basic dictionary.com, we find:

cynical
1.
like or characteristic of a cynic; distrusting or disparaging the motives of others.
2.
showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, esp. by actions that exploit the scruples of others.
3.
bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.

Even going to Webster's, I find that your meaning of the word is all the way down at the bottom of the list at 2B. I assumed you knew what the most common use of the word was intended to mean, and would define your terms if you were using the word in a method contrary to the usual. Of course, as you yourself stated, you feel more honest using the negative spin--something which could easily have been avoided by using another word. I assume, again, that you chose that specific word because of its effectiveness in your smear campaign against libertarians/capitalists/egoists/whoever.

My use of words is clear enough unless you're suffering from an ideological block. And getting nitpicky, which can get your intellect bogged down in semantics, doesn't help either.

All of the definitions of "cynical" actually apply when characterizing your viewpoint on self-interest. Let's take them one by one shall we.

1. "Distrusting or disparaging the motives of others", well, you do distrust and disparage the professed moral reasons for social and seemingly unselfish behaviors. You disbelieve entirely that such motives are moral and anything other than disguised self-interest, and you disparage moral motives as fictitious or fraudulent.

2. "showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, esp. by actions that exploit the scruples of others." Although I have no knowledge that you personally exploit the scruples of others you do have an ideologically-based contempt for the very idea of morality. You think that morality is a big lie told by people to themselves to justify their conduct, and told by rulers to their subjects to manipulate them (rulers do do this of course, as a socialist I'm keenly cognizant of that fact, but there's more to morality than just being an "opiate of the people"), this is inherently contemptuous.

3. "bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, and pessimistic", perhaps you, personally, aren't bitter, although you do kind of politely sneer at the concept of objective morality. You're certainly distrustful of any purportedly objective morality, and contemptuous as I just pointed out above. You're not pessimistic because you think being self-interested is a positive thing, but to those of us who don't agree the idea that self-interest is all there is to human motivation is dismally pessimistic.

So, on all counts there's a case to be made that your egoism is cynical.

BTW, I think this reply should have come before the last one that I posted, but I suppose that the order doesn't matter if readers just take the points dealt with individually and one at a time.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Reasoning
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11/26/2010 8:34:58 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Firstly, psychological and ethical egoism are two completely different positions about two completely different subjects and never the twain shall meet. Plenty of men hold one position but not the other, myself included.

Psychological egoism is a descriptive position that all men act, and only can act, in what they consider to be their self-interest, as broadly conceived as possible. Properly understood, this is a tautology and therefore necessarily true. Unless you'd like to start arguing about the law of identity, you have no quarrel with this position. This position I accept.

Ethical egoism is a different position entirely, as, rather than being a description of reality, it makes a claim about morality, or the reality of morality, I suppose, about what one ought to do. It conceives of self-interest in a more narrow fashion than psychological egoism, otherwise one would always be acing morally by definition. This position I reject as I do all spooks in the head.
"What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative?" - Joseph Sobran
charleslb
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11/26/2010 8:51:22 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/26/2010 8:34:58 PM, Reasoning wrote:
Firstly, psychological and ethical egoism are two completely different positions about two completely different subjects and never the twain shall meet. Plenty of men hold one position but not the other, myself included.

Psychological egoism is a descriptive position that all men act, and only can act, in what they consider to be their self-interest, as broadly conceived as possible. Properly understood, this is a tautology and therefore necessarily true. Unless you'd like to start arguing about the law of identity, you have no quarrel with this position. This position I accept.

Ethical egoism is a different position entirely, as, rather than being a description of reality, it makes a claim about morality, or the reality of morality, I suppose, about what one ought to do. It conceives of self-interest in a more narrow fashion than psychological egoism, otherwise one would always be acing morally by definition. This position I reject as I do all spooks in the head.

I'm aware of the distinction in the definitions of the terms ethical egoism and psychological egoism, no argument there. But the two positions aren't mutually exclusive by any means and it's frequently the case that folks who could be called egoists, i.e., people who overemphasize the importance of self-interest, don't make such a hairsplittingly fine distinction in their thinking at all, that's why I feel it's okay to lump the two terms together sometimes. Those who believe that the only motives at work within us are selfish ones often deny the reality of morality on this basis, and unless we're being exacting in our terminology it's unnecessary to always go into detail about how the two words aren't 100% interchangeable, but those who just wish to find fault and pick nits will frequently zero in on semantic weaknesses rather than take on the more challenging intellectual endeavor of refuting an argument they disagree with.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.