Sunday, March 31, 2013

464: The Art Not toBe an Egoist 29


Last night I watched the movie "The Fifth Element" (1997), starring Bruce Willis and again I was presented with the common misconception about human nature.

There was a dialog between the hero and the girl, who is going to help to save the world. She just had seen all kinds of war scenes on a screen, when she learnt words beginning with "W".

Then you get this dialog.....
Girl   : Man act so strange...
Hero : What do you mean?
Girl   : Everything you created is used to destroy...
Hero : yeah, we call it human nature

Up to now I have tried to show you that it isn't the case at all that human nature is intrinsicly destructive. On the contrary, in fact human nature is intrinsicly based on cooperation and the desire to be recognized and respected by the other.

The title of this project "The Art Not to Be an Egoist" refers to our drive to be good and our observation, that we do not always succeed in our goal.

The main reason for this is the limitations of our brain. On the on hand we love to believe that we have a Self, a MInd, in other words, some rock solid stable something, which makes us the person who we are.

Reality is, however, that such stable "something" does not exist and that the situation we are in is far more complex. Our brain is a constant turmoil of conflicting drives, emotions, ideas, expectations. 

And then it is an Art to find your way around within the perspective that our brain has evolved in the context of the group. The "fittests" were those who best interacted with their environment and the other members of the group.

We have a highly developed  capability of forming groups. It fits our needs, but also implies a danger. A group is a limited number of individuals, there are also "the others", those who are not a member of our group.

Can you image the scene …. a cosy and lively saloon. A piano is playing.Then the little folding doors swing open. Suddenly a deep silence. The piano stops playing and all faces turn slowly to the door: a stranger has entered.

We tend to stick to our group. In the innermost circle you find family, parents , brothers and sisters, ants and uncles. In the next circle you find close friends. In the third circle you find people you just know. And outside that you find the rest of the world.

Here we run into this mysterious wiring of our brain. How far extends our love,  sympathy, altruism, willingness to cooperate? Let me give you an example:

there is a train out of control. It runs at high speed to a railway exchange. You are standing next to the lever. There are two tracks. The train is heading for track one.

On track one are 5 railroad workers busy. On track two is only one at work. Nobody notices the oncoming train…..only you.

What would you do. Pull the lever and lead the train onto track two, or would you do nothing?

More than 300.000 people all over the world have answered this question and the result is always the same: 75% of the people would pull the lever and send the train onto track two, so that there is only one victim.

A rational calculation, you would say. A clear difference between one victim or five victims. 
Now we make the situation slightly different. 

On track one are the five workers busy and on track two is your only child at work. The train is coming on heading for track one. Would you pull the lever?

When asked - and I think you see it coming - nobody would pull the lever to send the train onto track one.

There is probably no clearer way to imagine the difference between a general rational morality and our subjective sense of personal morality.

Does this mean that we are unable to stick to one theory of ethics and that we measure with double standards, that we preach A and do B. Yet an egoist going for his own clan?


The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:21] herman Bergson: Yes Merlin...this example is a classic :-)
[13:21] .: Beertje :.: it would feel if I murdered my own son..nobody can ask me to do that
[[13:21] herman Bergson: no...
[13:22] herman Bergson: I think that there is no answer to this dilemma...
[13:22] Merlin: Well it's a different course and mostly different people here
[13:23] herman Bergson: what is shows is that a Kantian rational ethics doesn't tell the whole story about us
[13:23] Merlin: I should also repeat that in LAW you should do NOTHING
[13:23] herman Bergson: But do we all live with double standards....is THAT the reality of every day then?
[13:24] herman Bergson: There you have an interesting point Merlin....
[13:24] Merlin: TY :)
[13:24] herman Bergson: Let me add an example....
[13:24] herman Bergson: We all favor our own children above other children....
[13:25] herman Bergson: But suppose we would expect that the teacher in their class also should favor our children above others....
[13:25] herman Bergson: I think we would demand exactly the opposite...
[13:26] herman Bergson: that he treats all children as equal...
[13:26] Clerisse Beeswing: let our children fight for the teacher favoritism
[13:26] herman Bergson: That is a moral principle that transcends our primary impulse regarding group members
[13:27] herman Bergson: which in fact shows that we are able to accept moral principles that go further than the care for our own group....
[13:27] herman Bergson: And that is what you made me think of Merlin
[13:28] herman Bergson: To rule a community members accept rules....
[13:28] herman Bergson: even when it means that your children are not favored above other children....
[13:28] herman Bergson: Like you never should interfere with the trains and where they go
[13:29] herman Bergson: in that sense maybe you could say that in a moral sense best is to do nothing...
[13:29] herman Bergson: Is that what you had in Mind Merlin?
[13:30] Merlin: Hmm I am not sure about the moral side of it....
[13:30] Merlin: I was just saying what the law would expect
[13:30] herman Bergson: well doing nothing is a chosen action too
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: it's giving away responsibility to something abstract - like a law
[13:30] Merlin: Hmmm I don't think so in law
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes, but the law is exactly the example of rules transcending group favoritism....which we accept as a way to organize our community
[13:31] Merlin: Can you be guilty of manslaughter for turning away?
[13:31] Clerisse Beeswing: Well I have a situation like that
[13:31] Ciska Riverstone: you can merlin
[13:31] Clerisse Beeswing: I work in the medical field
[13:31] Toubinator Hermit: how long is the time i can think about it befor it is an chosen action ?
[13:32] Clerisse Beeswing: I am not trained to do cpr nor do I know it but should I do it
[13:32] Lizzy Pleides: some people also might be shocked and can't act
[13:32] Clerisse Beeswing: human nature makes me act
[13:32] herman Bergson: Listen to Clerisse plz
[13:32] herman Bergson: what is CPR, Clerisse?
[13:33] Merlin: Some police or firemen in UK declined to rescue somebody because they had not do a course on the use of ladders
[13:33] Melinda Nyn: that is horrific!
[13:33] Clerisse Beeswing: cpr is when you revive someone who can not breathe with mouth to mouth and heart palpatation
[13:33] Lizzy Pleides: cardio pulmonale rescue?
[13:33] herman Bergson: I see...
[13:34] Lizzy Pleides: or reanimation
[13:34] herman Bergson: kind of reanimation
[13:34] Melinda Nyn: but that is no longer accepted... only heart palpitation.... mouth to mouth is no longer done
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:34] Clerisse Beeswing: Yes your close Lizzy
[13:34] Merlin: anyway for the record that dilemma is called the Trolley Problem
[13:34] Merlin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem
[[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes it is Merlin, thank you
[13:34] herman Bergson: Lot of literature about that too :-)
[13:35] Merlin: I have been frantically trying to find it ;)
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: checking
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: did you want to continue your story Clerisse?
[13:35] herman Bergson: Well We have a similar problem here Clerisse...
[13:36] Clerisse Beeswing: Well at a hospital where I work I could not use it cause I do not know how
[13:36] Clerisse Beeswing: but on the outside if someone was to instruct me on the phone or next to me I would
[13:36] Merlin: There is a difference between breaking workplace rules and breaking the law
[13:36] herman Bergson: employees at care centers for old people are asked to distribute medication, tho they are not qualified for it...
[13:37] Clerisse Beeswing: Yes I very upset about that story
[13:37] herman Bergson: such things are law, I think Merlin
[13:37] Melinda Nyn: that is so true...
[[13:37] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[13:37] Clerisse Beeswing: if your a nurse your should be able to give cpr or if you have the knowledge you should be able to give it
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well...were does it leave us from a moral point of view?
[13:38] Ciska Riverstone: thats definitely not a supportive act Merlin ;)
[13:38] Merlin: hahaha
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: everybody should have the knowledge
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:38] herman Bergson: I did not respond to your remark Toubi, because it leads to quite a different issues
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: if u work with a think its the workplaces responsibility to educate in everything u may use or situation u might encounter
[13:40] Clerisse Beeswing: I think moral issues and law to play in a lot of what we do
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: while doing your work
[13:40] herman Bergson: I think that our situation is like this......
[13:40] herman Bergson: on the one hand we have our everyday ethics....
[13:40] herman Bergson: which means you favor your children and little things like that...
[13:41] herman Bergson: on the other hand....to organize a much larger group....a town a country...the world population....
[13:41] Clerisse Beeswing: I do not have kids or want them but yes I favor all kids and everything else
[13:41] herman Bergson: there we lack our feelings of sympathy and love.....
[13:42] herman Bergson: I mean we can not love all individuals on this planet......
[13:42] herman Bergson: but we can love the idea of loving them and act accordingly....
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: Hi Louna
[13:42] Oceane: hi louna  :)
[13:42] louna: smiles and waves around silently
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: hi Louna
[13:42] herman Bergson: thus creating Human rights, or Amnesty International and the like
[13:43] louna: hello everyone ! smiles
[13:43] herman Bergson: then to get back to the previous lecture....
[13:43] herman Bergson: it is all restricted by culture, that is different cultures at the moment
[13:44] herman Bergson: Well..I'll give you time to think about all this :-))
[13:44] Bejiita Imako:
[13:45] .: Beertje :.: we have a lot to think about again
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: doesn't this conflict between the 2 morals lead to in honesty often?
[13:45] Clerisse Beeswing: but don't us humans do that weight the good and bad stuff
[13:45] herman Bergson: could be the case indeed Lizzy....
[13:46] herman Bergson: if you let your subjective standards prevail over generally accepted standards
[13:46] Merlin: Honesty puzzles me a bit because for example there is not much about it in Christianity
[13:47] herman Bergson: You don't need to Merlin...you always can confess your sins ^_^
[13:47] Merlin: hahaha
[13:47] Clerisse Beeswing: lol
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:48] herman Bergson: One final organizational remark....
[13:48] Guestboook van tipjar stand: Lizzy Pleides donated L$100. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:48] herman Bergson: Next class will be om APRIL SECOND - 2 April....
[13:48] herman Bergson: so you all get a week off ^_^
[13:48] Ciska Riverstone: on pre-easter holiday?
[13:48] SteveZodi: hehe
[13:48] Clerisse Beeswing: Nice another break for you professor
[13:49] herman Bergson: In the meantime I am also thinking about the subject of a new project
[13:49] herman Bergson: maybe you can help me with that
[13:49] herman Bergson: for now I have two options....
[13:49] herman Bergson: one is: The origins of Evil
[13:49] Ciska Riverstone: nida r├╝mlin - practical philosophy in politics? ;)
[13:49] Oceane: grins
[13:50] herman Bergson: the second is: Not -western philosophy....
[13:50] herman Bergson: So China and India mainly
[13:50] Lizzy Pleides: both interesting
[13:50] .: Beertje :.: do both Herman..one after the other
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes Lizzy...that is always the problem ^_^
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: aaa they seems both very interesting
[13:50] herman Bergson: Oh I certainly will Beertje....
[13:51] .: Beertje :.: problem solved then:)
[13:51] herman Bergson: My question is more...which one first:-))
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: the first one is a good thing to have after this subject and then we can take the other one
[13:51] Lizzy Pleides: i prefere the second at first
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yes I tend to that too Lizzy....
[13:51] SteveZodi: I admit that non-western philosophy could be very interesting, we probably can pounder both weight and see interesting good in both sides..
[13:51] herman Bergson: Just to do something completely different for a while
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: aaa works for me
[13:52] Clerisse Beeswing: right shake our brains up
[13:52] Lizzy Pleides: we are so good, we can talk about the evil later ^^
[13:52] herman Bergson: Welll Steve...it certainly will be comparative philosophy...
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: heheheh
[13:52] Ciska Riverstone: hahaha lizzy
[13:52] Bejiita Imako:
[13:52] .: Beertje :.: lol Lizzy
[13:52] herman Bergson: a comparison between Western and non Western philosophy
[13:52] SteveZodi: yes, exactly thats why i find it appealing
[13:52] .: Beertje :.: sounds very interesting
[13:53] herman Bergson: Ok... then the next project...not sure when this one will end...but it is close
[13:53] herman Bergson: will be Non-Western Philosophy...
[13:53] SteveZodi: you will send notice i guess?
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: sounds really interesting
[13:53] herman Bergson: Of course the group will be informed Steve
[13:54] Merlin: I sort-of hoped this was a BDSM-free zone
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: but i can only be here at 9 april :-(
[13:54] herman Bergson: Ahh....
[13:54] herman Bergson: Don't worry Lizzy
[13:54] Clerisse Beeswing: Going to miss you Lizzy
[13:54] herman Bergson: You mean the kneeling lady Merlin?
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: are you going on holiday Lzzy?
[13:55] Merlin: I have discussed that with another lady here
[13:55] Merlin: Yes
[13:55] Lizzy Pleides: yes
[13:55] Merlin: It is about acting appropriate to the place you are in
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: nice
[13:55] herman Bergson: Yes....indeed...
[13:55] herman Bergson: I made new chairs
[13:55] SteveZodi: smiles
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: :)¨
[13:56] herman Bergson: On the other hand....I have also allowed animals and strange creatures to attend the class
[13:56] Saw-Whet Owl (Shoulder)Saw-Whet Owl (Shoulder) spies a grasshopper flying by and decides to investigate.
[13:56] herman Bergson: Gemma and Qwark have been big birs for a while for instance..some years ago
[13:56] Merlin: I noticed
[13:56] herman Bergson: But I agree with you that animals should shut up..:-)
[13:57] Merlin: lol
[13:57] Ciska Riverstone: ok ok - i'm quiet ;)
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: lol ciska
[13:57] herman Bergson: Cause me extra work when editing the discussion ^_^
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:57] Ciska Riverstone: ;)
[13:57] Merlin: Yes I wondered if that owl would be in the blog
[13:57] herman Bergson: unless their contribution is to the discussion of course
[13:57] herman Bergson: No it wont Merlin
[13:58] Merlin: Well if my comment about it is still in, it wont make sense
[13:58] .: Beertje :.: what about the smell......
[13:58] herman Bergson: I'll remove your well pointed comment Merlin :-)
[13:58] Ciska Riverstone: well ok - thank you herman - i need to run - have a great day or evening everyone
[13:59] Merlin: ty :)
[13:59] herman Bergson: or I could leave one line of the owl in :-)
[13:59] Merlin: yes, hahahaha
[13:59] Bejiita Imako:
[13:59] SteveZodi: thank yo lizzy, its nice of you
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: this was nice as usual
[13:59] Bejiita Imako:
[13:59] herman Bergson: With regard to the way Iouna wants to attend the class I have no objection....
[14:00] herman Bergson: What is important is the quality and fairness in your participation....
[14:00] SteveZodi: thank you prof herman
[[14:00] herman Bergson: Whether you look like a crow or a kneeling lady or have yellow hair
[14:00] Bejiita Imako: ah
[14:00] Bejiita Imako: hehehe¨
[14:00] Saw-Whet Owl (Shoulder)Saw-Whet Owl (Shoulder) spies a grasshopper flying by and decides to investigate.
[14:00] louna: smiles to Sir Herman "thank you for that class Sir"
[14:00] Bejiita Imako:
[14:00] bergfrau Apfelbaum: very interesting Lecture!.... applause* herman & class!
[14:01] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[14:01] Merlin: Pah
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[14:01] herman Bergson: You are welcome Iouna
[14:01] Oceane: excellent class, herman :)
[14:01] Merlin: Part-time subbies, role players
[14:01] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye all :-) see you on 2. april
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: yes :)¨
[14:01] herman Bergson: In a way it is fun when people like to come here as they like....
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: ok cu all
[14:01] SteveZodi: thank you prof, it was nice, I will surely attend soon again, its interesting :)
[14:01] bergfrau Apfelbaum: LOS GEHTS!
[14:01] bergfrau Apfelbaum: #°*** BABA ***°#
[14:02] louna: thank you Lizzy "smiles"
[14:02] herman Bergson: as long as it does not interfere with the proceedings of the class...
[14:02] Merlin: Me too. Bye everyone
[14:02] herman Bergson: SO.,,,thank you all...
[14:02] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[14:02] Clerisse Beeswing: Thank you professor
[14:02] herman Bergson: See you again April 2
[14:03] Clerisse Beeswing: Great class
[14:03] SteveZodi: smiles and stands up Bows to th teacher , have a good day
[14:03] Clerisse Beeswing: See you in April I hope
[14:03] Toubinator Hermit: thank you
[14:03] .: Beertje :.: fijne vakantie Herman
[14:03] Oceane: thank you, herman :)
[14:03] herman Bergson: you are welcome Steve
[14:03] louna: raises
[14:03] .: Beertje :.: have a goodnight everyone
[14:04] SteveZodi: goodnight
[14:04] herman Bergson: Bye Beertje :-)
[14:04] Lizzy Pleides: night everybody
[14:04] SteveZodi: night lizzy
[14:04] herman Bergson: night Lizzy ^_^
[14:06] Oceane: so louna how did you like it ? ;)
[14:06] herman Bergson: If you still have any questions...plz..go ahead

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