Saturday, January 8, 2011

294: Another Rationalist's error

Modern moral philosophers generally agree that altruism is important to morality, although they disagree about what it is, how to explain it, and what its scope should be.

The nineteenth-century French theorist Auguste Comte, who first coined the term altruism, claimed that the way to end social conflict is by training people to “live for others,” rather than themselves.

In a popular sense, altruism means something like noble self-sacrifice. A more minimal understanding, one that many philosophers favor, is an acknowledgment that the interests of others make claims on us and limit what we may do.

David Hume in the eighteenth century characterizes altruism in terms of particular benevolent dispositions, desires, or affections. According to this view, you help others because you love them.

Hume also thought that we possess the capacity to act from sympathy. When you see someone in distress, sympathy leads you to feel distress, which in turn motivates you to alleviate your distress by alleviating theirs.

By contrast, philosophers in the Kantian tradition conceive of altruism as a rational requirement on action. They claim there is no need to postulate a benevolent desire to explain altruism.

To mention a contemporary view, the Dutch leader of the "Intelligent Design" moment states: " For sociobiology and evolutionary ethics altruistic behavior is biologically perverse and pathological, because it is against the very nature of man. But in most cultures and important religions real artistic behavior is regarded as a high ideal."

While Hume was closer to the truth than Kant, who claims the primacy of rationality, the statement of the ID supporter is ultimate nonsense.

Darwin already described how our moral sense originates from social instincts which are important for the survival of the group. You see it with all species which have to rely on co-operation, like primates, elephants or wolves.

An other prominent ID - supporter said in an interview in 2006: "Jesus says: Love God above all and your fellowman like yourself. That is a moral duty, a law which is hard to understand or scientifically investigate with research methods of physical sciences. And yet there exists a sense of good and evil".

Again wrong. To possess the ability of empathy, empathize with others, is the basis of all moral behavior and evolution has embedded this in our brain.

It is reasonable to assume that during evolution the willingness to help each other has evolved from the care of siblings to the care of members of the group.

Thus loyalty to the own family and then to the own community has evolved into a moral duty. When this is all taken care of the loyalty will expand to a region, a nation. One day maybe to even global loyalty.

Another iD supporter claimed that "[..] humans are the only primates which think about moral standards." Again a mistake. Most of the time we do't think at all about our actions, but we act fast and instinctively moral based on our biological makeup.

Afterwards we come up with a story, a justification of our actions, while the real source of the actions are neural networks in our brain.

It is proven, that our brain is often ahead of our consciousness and that our justification of an action comes after the brain already has made the decisions and pushed the right buttons.

The amygdala is an early evolutionary part of the brain, specialized among other things in the emotion of fear. The experiment is thus: a test person sees a picture of a face for no more than 33 milliseconds.

Some faces show fear , others joy or indifference, but you can't see that in 33 milliseconds…. Yet, the sensory system is that fast and with every sighting of a face expressing fear, the amygdala shows extra activity, although the test person says "I didn't see any expression in the faces."

Another interesting phenomenon - and I will get back to that in the next lecture - are 'mirror-neurons". These are neurons for a certain functions, for instants grabbing something. They fire when you grab something….but they also fire when you only SEE somebody grabbing something.

We'll continue next Tuesday…..thank you.

The Discussion

[13:25] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:25] herman Bergson: Ah Hope....did you miss a lot?
[13:26] BALDUR Joubert: 19.20 second phrase . the basis od scientific understanding 19.22 right too....and all you said afterwords i agree---but where and how does your concept of morality fit intothe picture
[13:26] BALDUR Joubert: smile you see i didn't miss a thing
[13:26] herman Bergson: basically…it is about the idea of altruism....
[13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): interesting that after all the philosophers thoughts down the ages now it comes down to neurons
[13:27] herman Bergson: is the human being like Hobbes said....a wolf for his fellowmen...or like Hume did....feeling sympathy for the other
[13:27] BALDUR Joubert: altruism.. a necessity for a society whioxch raise it s youngs for a long time
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma...that excites me the most....
[13:27] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): or so the neuro folks say
[13:27] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yes loo
[13:28] herman Bergson: To say it in a blunt way..Hume was right , Kant was wrong...
[13:28] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I am not convinced
[13:28] BALDUR Joubert: kant knew what he knew..
[13:28] herman Bergson: Most interesting is that the prefrontal lob of the brain is the latest evolutionary part of the brain...
[13:29] herman Bergson: But....
[13:29] herman Bergson: It is also our ability to be rational...
[13:29] Mick Nerido: Where does conciousness fit in here?
[13:29] herman Bergson: matters of altruism..other parts of the brain are active
[13:30] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the poking and proding of the celluar tissue still does not explain what initiates the unassisted poke
[13:30] herman Bergson: earlier evolutionary parts...
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: i think before anything was the fact that the brain could develop abstract thought which made it evolve
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: to say.. go beyond the survival aspects
[13:31] herman Bergson: A second...
[13:31] BALDUR Joubert: which are inborn
[13:31] herman Bergson: @MIck....
[13:31] herman Bergson: for the moment we leave out the discussion on consciousness....just a pragmatic choice
[13:31] herman Bergson: it will be discussed later in this course
[13:32] herman Bergson: You will be surprise dhat is innate in our brain Baldur.....
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: smile..
[13:32] herman Bergson: there was an experiment with 5 months old babies...
[13:32] herman Bergson: they were shown three pictures...
[13:32] herman Bergson: black and white....
[13:33] herman Bergson: picture one...a spider
[13:33] herman Bergson: picture two a spider but with all parts places wrongly
[13:33] herman Bergson: picture three a spider but all parts a bit random...
[13:34] herman Bergson: the amygdala of the babies fired at picture one.....
[13:34] herman Bergson: Well you might think...maybe they already had seen spiders or so...
[13:34] herman Bergson: thence test two
[13:34] herman Bergson: Picture one..a flower
[13:35] herman Bergson: picture two flowers but with parts displaced
[13:35] herman Bergson: picture three a flower with parts randomly places...
[13:35] herman Bergson: I made a wasn't the amygdala that fired....
[13:36] herman Bergson: it was the length of time the babies looked with interest at the pictures...sorry...
[13:36] herman Bergson: only the spider picture kept them looking for a significant longer period of time...
[13:36] herman Bergson: You might say....
[13:37] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): so their attention span was shorter on the irregular pictures?
[13:37] herman Bergson: ok...but we have no dangerous siders here...
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: friedrich I MADE experiments with new born babies.. around 1250.. to find out what humans are like.. and don't you trust all the experiments.. at least not all conclusions made.. experiments are made.. but knowledge of the brain is still inits baby shoes
[13:37] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): span
[13:37] herman Bergson: yes ..on all other pictures...
[13:37] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the inference is that they knew them to be false representations
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: knew ari?
[13:38] Ciska Riverstone: someone tested that with stuff the mothers of the babys could not know because it doesn't exist in their part of the world?
[13:38] herman Bergson: The explanation can be that the homo sapiens comes from Africa...where there are a lot of dangerous spiders...
[13:38] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): somehow?
[13:38] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): so it is ingrained in us to fear spiders?
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: WELL that i think is baloney
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well...the fear of spiders which is complete nonsense in Europe is still deeply embeded in our brain :-)
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i am not sure i think experiments with 5 month olds can be judged properly
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: so even if u havent seen a spider before u still know how one looks because its programmed in at birthh genetically?
[13:39] Ciska Riverstone: same me gemma
[13:40] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): hmmm, I am an anomaly, slipers and snakes only are on my rational radar
[13:40] myxtc: were these girl babies or boy babies?
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: no..herman.. i made the experience with my little sister..
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: life rl
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: and could prove that'it's a wrong assumption
[13:40] herman Bergson: Basic idea is that there is a lot innate in our brain
[13:40] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well that is anecdotal at best 1 person
[13:40] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): are you a bully Baldur?
[13:41] Mick Nerido: So children who recognized spider had a survival advantage?
[13:41] herman Bergson: That would be the conclusion Mick
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: hmm interesting
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): interesting yes
[13:41] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): of course that makes Darwinian sense
[13:41] herman Bergson: Sure...
[13:41] Alexia Rodeyn: can you say they recognized spiders ?
[13:41] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): interesting
[13:41] Alexia Rodeyn: seems too much for a 5 months
[13:42] herman Bergson: No Alexia...they did not recognize spiders...that is a conscious act....
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and 5 month old infants are very varied in their progression
[13:42] herman Bergson: But recall what I said about the amygdala experiment....
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: if they have seen one before might be but if they never have seen one and still they can recognize a pic of it
[13:42] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): hmmm, something to think about for sure
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: INNATE.. yes but what is innate and what is learned?
[13:43] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): wel maybe it is instinctual yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: goes deeper....
[13:43] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I just love these jewels
[13:43] herman Bergson: in 33 miliseconds you are not able to see the expression on a face consciously....
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yet the brain reacts immediately...
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: innate would mean genetically based.. learned wouldemean culturally
[13:43] herman Bergson: when it is an expression of fear
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: also interesting
[13:44] herman Bergson: Well you see it all the time....
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: lets look at language
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: we all think of language as words
[13:44] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): might be on the same level as animals knowing not to eat poisoness plants
[13:44] herman Bergson: take a herd of wilderbeasts....
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: but if i dont see the expression myself and was consious of it how could i then react
[13:44] herman Bergson: One starts to run.....did he see danger?....all follow....
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: but facial expressions -body expressions-- arfenot controlled by the mind
[13:45] herman Bergson: they dont bring it into vote first
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: but its like reflexes i guess however a reflex generate a response wich that woudnt do
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: some might be genetical..some learned..
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita.....
[13:45] herman Bergson: Our brain is cheating on us all the time....
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: even if a part on my brain could react on it if im not consious of it i coundnt make my body react to it
[13:46] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the 33 milliseconds is like 'Danger Will Robinson'
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: smile..that's where mirror neurons play a role.. not just for us humans
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: and just would say " i didnt see any expressions at all"
[13:46] herman Bergson: Let me give you an example.....
[13:46] herman Bergson: Stereo....
[13:47] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): this ability has to be ancient
[13:47] herman Bergson: Stereo...
[13:47] Mick Nerido: So our kind of brain is an inevitable evolutionary adapation?
[13:47] BALDUR Joubert: like radar for bats?
[13:47] herman Bergson: You hear a sound move from the right box to the left speaker box
[13:47] BALDUR Joubert: sorry sonar
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: yes that i can very clearly hear if it does
[13:47] herman Bergson: what really happens is that there is a sound to the left and then to the right....
[13:48] herman Bergson: you would believe that you first hear the left speaker box and then the right....
[13:48] herman Bergson: But that isnt the case at all....
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:49] BALDUR Joubert: we're a lousy species compared to what we find in other animals-as far as senses are concerned
[13:49] herman Bergson: your brain filled in the tones between left and right as if you hear the sound move and your conscious then comes up wth the story you hear the sound move from left to right
[13:49] Mick Nerido: Yes but we build machines to extend our senses
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: i think it have something to do with even if sound moves very fast the brain can detect which ear recieved it firt
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: because even if i hear a sound equally strong in both ears I can still hear where it comes from
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: left or right
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: smile..not toextend.. in a way tocheat on our senses which cheat on us lol
[13:50] herman Bergson: the basic fact is that consiousness cooks up stories which are only explanations afterwards....
[13:50] herman Bergson: We will get to that issue later...
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: said we talk about that later
[13:51] herman Bergson: Neurobiologists even claim that free will is a delusion...
[13:51] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): 'covering our tracks' LOL
[13:51] herman Bergson: When you decide to raise your arm...the brain already has pushed all the buttons before you can say "I gonna raise my arm"
[13:51] Mick Nerido: Biocenterism claimes reality is only real to an observer
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: maybe not a delusion..but has to be defined in a new way..and not on the basis of the ancients
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): these neurobiologist are a peculiar lot :)
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I suspect they will be in charge someday
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes aristotle,they are....
[13:52] herman Bergson: We will see a lot more of them :-)
[13:53] BALDUR Joubert: ari.,.when they have to face the physics they have to rethink again
[13:53] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): knowledge is power, power is dangerous
[13:53] Mick Nerido: The brain is a frontier yet
[13:53] herman Bergson: no..power isn't dangerous at all Aristotle...
[13:54] herman Bergson: The use of power can be dangerous
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: just need to use it right
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: as we are talking about molecules..and in physics they search for belowt he moleculesneurobiologists are working with
[13:54] Mick Nerido: Who decides right?
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes Mick...that is the goal of this be at that frontier
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: its like a chainsaw or knife and such, if u use it right its not dangerous
[13:54] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): LOL, so far who has been able to resist corruption?
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: u just need how to use it right
[13:54] Ciska Riverstone: good question mick
[13:55] Mick Nerido: I think right actions change with what is needed
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: ari..mankind has only a couple of years in worldhistory. so corruption can't be eliminated that quickly
[13:56] BALDUR Joubert: which is nothing else than profit for one's self..or a group
[13:56] herman Bergson: OK...I guess we have got the picture....
[13:56] herman Bergson: overwhelming problems to solve and questions to answer :-)
[13:56] Mick Nerido: This SL reality is a new frontier also
[13:57] herman Bergson: We'll discuss that later Mick ^_^
[13:57] Mick Nerido: Thnx for a good lecture thanks
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:57] herman Bergson: I think that we 'll cool down a bit for the moment and move on to the next lecture on Tuesday dealing with mirror-neurons
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: oki
[13:58] bergfrau Apfelbaum: i must go! see tuesday! thanks, all classes brains :-)
[13:58] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation....
[13:58] herman Bergson: class dismissed
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: interesting start ㋡
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: look forward for more
[13:58] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:58] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): Thanks Professor, intrigueing as always
[13:58] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:58] Alarice Beaumont: interesting subjects....
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:58] Alarice Beaumont: thanks a lot Herman :-)
[13:58] Alexia Rodeyn: thank you herman, very interesting
[13:58] Ciska Riverstone: interesting ja
[13:58] Beertje (beertje.beaumont): Thank you Herman:)
[13:58] herman Bergson: thank you.....
[13:58] Mick Nerido: Thanks
[13:59] BALDUR Joubert: thank you herman.. smile..
[13:59] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): good bye everyone
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: cu soon again ㋡
[13:59] Ciska Riverstone: bye everyone
[13:59] Alarice Beaumont: is class again next tuesday Herman?
[13:59] Alexia Rodeyn: bye all
[13:59] Alarice Beaumont: bye Alexia
[13:59] herman Bergson: Sure Alarice....
[14:00] Alarice Beaumont: oh great
[14:00] Alarice Beaumont: hope to see you then
[14:00] Mick Nerido: Very interesting
[14:00] herman Bergson: I am glad you enjoyed it Mick
[14:00] Beertje (beertje.beaumont): have a goodnight
[14:00] Mick Nerido: I'll be back again
[14:01] herman Bergson: Look who comes in on time...Rodney!!!!..Happy New Year ^_^
[14:01] herman Bergson: You are always welcome Mick
[14:02] Rodney Handrick: Happy New Year to you as well Herman

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