|What makes altruistic behavior so admirable?|
Joined: Nov 04, 2011
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Posted Nov 4, 2011 - 6:18 PM:
"Ohh -- the way self-interest can evolve into altruism is that a sibling or child has similar genes to you... and if you are genetically inclined to sacrifice yourself in order to save that sibling or child, the person you saved is more likely to carry on those altruistic genes.
If you look into the structure of ant colonies (especially the one detailed in the national geographic in my kid's orthodontic office) you will see that ants exhibit all four of these forces via gene-induced behavior "
I don't like that explanation .....kinda.
Because I don't think that is altruistic - if you hold the view that mate and child within the sphere of self.
I mean, in terms only of well being, your "sphere" is yourself, mate and child, and it is not altruistic until you reach outside that sphere.
Helping child is helping self.
Some parents would argue that in terms of importance it goes
So is it altruistic to go UP your list of things that are most important to yourself....no.
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Posted Nov 4, 2011 - 7:08 PM:
[quote=Rickrad]Let's solve this the a-priori way...
1) With only one person in the world, self-interest is the only force guiding decisions.
2) With just one more person, it's in that person's interest to call the first person
generous if they share and greedy if they don't -- so the 2nd force is Generosity
and now we have an argument about when self-interest is greedy.
3) With more people in the group, we have 3rd force, 'political ambition'
4) With more groups we have a 4th force, 'foreign ambition
(A) Each force is derivative of the previous forces
(B) These forces exist even without intelligence... e.g. they can exist at the gene-pool level
(although at the gene-pool level there's no argument about self-interest vs greed)
With this framework we can answer your question very simply
whether you believe in free will or not...
If you believe in free will: "It's in some people's self-interest to make altruism admirable"
If you don't: "Logic dictates that natural selection will yield altruism"
This is an interesting approach but I don't know if there is really a reason for why some people are altruistic or not. There might be various components at work but in the end we are still dealing with a rather abstract issue. Altruism in my opinion is always well intended but ends up causing more harm than good.
Its tough to understand another person's situation and all the wants and needs that come along with it. The only honest way to approach aiding someone else is to go into that situation with some semblance of self-interest in mind. It does seem though the nature does produce more altruistic types but the environment in which a person grows up is just as important to forming and shaping that disposition.
I think people have less control over their free will than they would be lead to think. I think in most people's mind definitions and terminologies tend to become distorted and twisted by the vain glorious ambitions of man's sensibilities. The question is what makes altruism not self-interested and why can't you say that possessing some level of self-interest could lead to a supposedly altruistic act. I think a lot of this is determined by relativistic value judgments others make in correspondence with a collective mentality in society.
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Posted Nov 4, 2011 - 7:59 PM:
@Ap0C552 -- When I mentioned the sacrifice for the sibling/child, I was describing how the altruism gene might come into existence and spread. Once it evolves and matures, the altruism gene might then cause people to care for and sacrifice for people beyond the immediate family.
@MrSkeptic -- thank you for the serious attack on my four forces! I would like more people to do so. Here's my response to each of your points.
1) Regarding self-interest as the primary force... self-interest is the meta of the forces you describe. I might have indigestion, and if I do, self-interest is what will guide my decision about what to do about it. I'm finding that precision with context is incredibly important and I need to improve how I convey that context.
2) Regarding generosity as the 2nd force... once again, I'm going to appeal to the meta-context confusion here. The examples you gave of manipulation, equality, etc, I'm going to say are approaches one might use to implement either the self-interest force or the generosity force. HOWEVER -- your attack makes me wonder if I could be more clear by using the terms "Self concern" and "Other concern" -- the other terms are loaded with lots of philosophical confusion. I chose to use generosity because some "other concern" is self-interested, and so that part drops out of the equation and you're left with 'Generosity' as the 2nd force.
3) Regarding 'political ambition' as the 3rd force -- I suspect the other forces you are thinking about again all fall under the 'category' of 'political' -- as in 'how do we all get along'. I think (but am not certain) that political issues develop when you have 3 or more people... before then it's a negotiation... still thinking about that one.
4) Regarding foreign ambition as the 4th force -- It took me a long time to discover this one... but after I unified self-interest and other-interest as perfect mirror images of each other, I started asking what the mirror image of 'political ambition' was. At the meta-level, a society is an individual... and so the self-interest and other-concern duplicate themselves, now at the society level. So if you think about 'society's self interest' as the meta of 'political ambition', and then you add even on other group and that group (the foreign group) is going to have their ambition.
Does that help?
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Posted Nov 5, 2011 - 6:02 AM:
I can admire altruism even when I am not the beneficiary, and there seems no more reason in principle to identify with the beneficiary than the altruist.
Your admiration doesn't stem from reason. Identification with the beneficiary stems from vicarious emotion, which is an automatic process.
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Posted Nov 5, 2011 - 6:17 AM:
Altruism is derived from from the age old idea of "Look out for number 1" If you are a person who looks out for only yourself primarily, you are a person who favor altruistic people....right?
Yes! My point exactly. This is why people find altruism admirable.
Selfish persons motives = helping myself
Altruistic persons motive =helping others
Are altruistic people really helping others or are helping themselves? For example, let say I see a woman drowning. She is about to die. In observing the woman, I feel vicarious emotion, immediately get anxious, and start having automatic thoughts which say, "help her." In order to quell my anxiety I jump into the water and save the woman. I am able to save her, but drown myself. After the event, everyone admires my bravery and they call my behavior altruistic. In reality, I was just doing what my mind told me to do and I was simply trying to reduce my own anxiety. The whole act was about self-interest, yet everyone thinks I sacrificed my life for woman.
This example makes me wonder if altruism is nothing more than a way to describe behavior in a glorious way. In other words, its a way to glorify ourselves.
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Posted Nov 7, 2011 - 9:19 PM:
I'm reading Peter Singer's "The Expanding Circle" right now and I think you would find it very interesting MrSketpic.
In response to your response to... my response... a few days ago. We were talking about Mother Teresa and whether or not her actions were altruistic since she probably benefited from them and gained happiness as a result of her esteem, fame, etc.
Singer brought up this dilemma in the book, here is a quote in which he basically modifies my definition which was the same as his to account for dilemmas like the one regarding Mother Teresa:
His original definition was "Altruistic behavior is behavior which benefits others at some cost to oneself"
he changes it to: "Behavior that benefits others at some cost to oneself and is motivated by the desire to benefit others."
I have a feeling that he will discuss his views on what makes altruistic behavior admirable later in the book, I just started it today. This is the first Singer book I've read and he seems like a relatively scientific and practical guy, similar to me, so I think he will try to justify a regard for altruism as somehow necessary at some point in human evolution.
Thus far he's justified why humans are altruistic in terms of how it can make sense to be selfless if you accept evolution to be true. Really good read thus far I think you would enjoy it if you haven't already read it.
On Nov 8, 2011 - 8:12 AM, MrSkeptic responded: I will have to check it out. Maybe he has given a Tedtalk on teh subject.
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Posted Nov 9, 2011 - 11:38 AM:
Many people consider altruism a virtue (a value that rises above other values). What makes altruistic behavior so admirable? People often tell stories about how Johny threw himself on a grenade in WWII or how Mother Teresa sacrificed her own personal desires to help the less fortunate. Is it the rarity of these behaviors that makes them so special?
I could tell you what makes altruistic behavior admirable, but you said you are not interested in “evolutionary gobbledygook”, so I won’t. Have fun with your speculations!
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