Wednesday, November 11, 2009

(017d Ann Ryan and Self-interest)

[This is a lecture from the project 25+ Women Philosophers, which was not copied from the former blog]

Two soldiers escaped from the enemy camp. And in the process they succeeded in getting hold on top secret documents. If this information could reach their HQ it would absolutely save thousands of lives, might even end the war.

Half way their struggle through the desert they ran out of water. But they kept on going.The information had to reach HQ, all those lives at stake. Almost exhausted they stumbled on a bottle of water. Whoever left it there, it was the needed water.

It absolutely was enough for one man to survive and get to HQ to deliver the top secret information. Sharing the water would keep them both alive to die both halfway in the desert.

They sat down and opened their backpacks...there was a book. Ayn Rand on ethics. There should be the answer. It was...basic moral rule: self-interest. They looked at eachother, the bottle of water and the lifes saving information.

Reason is the quintessence....ok what kind of tool is it and in what way will it help our heroic soldiers, who know that only one can survive and save so many lives?

Here we touch the quintessence of philosophy. We never get the anwser, We only get the next question. But ok...let's quote Ayn Rand in this critical situation.

"Just as man cannot survive by any random means, but must discover and practice the principles which his survival requires, so man’s self-interest cannot be determined by blind desires or random whims,

but must be discovered and achieved by the guidance of rational principles. This is why the Objectivist ethics is a morality of rational self-interest—or of rational selfishness." (The Virtue of Selfishness “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness, xiv; pb x.

The soldiers wondered. How to apply rational selfishness in this situation? And how would they know, if their choice would be rational? And does it mean that when they apply rational self-interest, they also can be sure that they do the right thing? They looked at eachother.........

Did they both die in the desert...did the info reach HQ ???

This idea that man is basically a selfish individual is not new at all. Thomas Hobbes (1588 -1679) is the first major philosopher, apart from Machiavelli, to present a completely individualistic picture of human nature. Even so individualistic that we still know the famous expression "homo homini lupus" which means "man is a wolf to his fellowman".

Only the fear of a war of everyone against everyone leads to the adoption of a regard for others from purely self-interested motives. Thus altruism is either a disguise or a substitute for self-seeking.

Since Hobbes this debate has continued through the ages. The difficulty with this debate is that it is close to psychology. On the one hand is chosen for a very specific description of the nature of man and on the otherhand one uses concepts like 'self-interest', "altruism", "benevolence", "sympathy" which lead to philosophical questions, when you try to elucidate them.

We have to face many questions. For instance, if self-interest would lead us to obey the rules of justice and if we had no natural regard for the public interest, how do the rules come into existence and what forsters our respect for them?

The crucial fact is, that did we have no respect for the rules of justice, there would be no stability of property. Indeed, the institution of proberty could not and would not exist. Hume therefore saw next to self-interest "a tendency to public good, and to the promoting of peace, harmony and order in society". In other words, the psychological picture of human nature is modified to find better explanation for human morality.

What I want to make clear is that the quintessence of philosophy is to question things and not to offer a doctrine, that should read like a rule-book for life. And this has become of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. It has become a philosophy of life as a kind of ideology and not somuch a systematic method of constant questioning one's postition.

What is to my interest depends upon who I am and what I want. The question "Is justice more profitable than unjustice?" will be answered differently depending on whether it is answered by a just man or an unjust man. For what the just man wants is not what the unjust man wants.

Thus, there is no single spring of action or a single set of aims and goals entitled "Self-interest", which is the same in every man. "Self-interest" is not in fact the name of a motive at all. A man who acts from self-interest is a man who allows himself to act from certain motives in a given type of situation.

In other words, 'Self-interest" is another word for acting from certain motives and to study morality we thus have to study these motives. We still have no definite answer on the question what drives the human being, what his motives are. Are they universal, individual or contexual? We are still working on it.

The Discussion

[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: but if we want to work on the study of motives.. we have to refer to other scientific knowledge,, and not limit it to the limited approach of mind/body/etc..
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: still thinking about what they will do
[13:23] ChatNoir Talon: Well the answer to the Information reaching the HQ is obvious
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: to say.. philosophy based on historically developped thought..
[13:24] ChatNoir Talon: The information DID reach the HQ. and one of the soldiers made it.. otherwise we wouldn't know of the story :-)
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: not necessarily
[13:24] herman Bergson: I agree Hope
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: chat.. they found the two dead.. with the bottle still full..
[13:24] herman Bergson: very clever ChatNoir ^_^
[13:24] ChatNoir Talon: :)
[13:24] ChatNoir Talon: Ahhh Touché
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: The soldier who will continue on to HQ is a rational Darwinism answer, the stongest will save the others and the weakest will be left to die.
[13:25] ChatNoir Talon: I like that Ari
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: but is that not altruistic?
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: whcih means trhey had rational elements to qualify a weaker or a stronger sri..
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: ari
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: and so, we are still faced with his self-interest
[13:25] herman Bergson: What I wanted to point out is that I had no idea how to apply self-interest in this situation
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: and it's aparrent success
[13:26] ChatNoir Talon: Right.. is too ambiguous a term
[13:26] Alarice Beaumont: welll...self interest is to!
[13:26] herman Bergson: Butt hat is a problem with a lot of Rand's writings....
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: why not play that famous game: herman has a baloon and the earth will collapse: now he can take 3 more.. give the arguments why it should be you..
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:26] ChatNoir Talon: It sounds like self-preservation.. but its hardly the same thing
[13:26] herman Bergson: the easy use of concepts and the lack of conceptual analysis
[13:27] herman Bergson: The more I read the more nervous I became
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: i do not think ayn rand would have an answer to this problem that would make sense to us
[13:27] herman Bergson: What she writes is clever and it read easily
[13:27] Hokon Cazalet: to me it seems to have a contradiction, both should take the bottle for themselves (be selfish), yet both cant live (ethical egoism seems to return us back to the war of all against all)
[13:27] Samuel Okelly: maybe one soldier was christian who decided to forego his own biological self interest in order to save the many in the sure knowledge that our biological state is a gateway and not "an end"
[13:27] hope63 Shepherd: that's what make me nervous too.. too easy to apply for too many..
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Ms Rand was much too unforgiving with opponents of her theories, but like all philosohers, she had jewels and she had garbage
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: yes very !
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes true Aristotle
[[13:28] ChatNoir Talon: "One man's garbage is another man's dinner"
[13:28] Anne Charles: Ms Rand's Objectivism might work in a world where everyone
has a three-digit IQ with no mental aberrations and the
manual work is done by robots, but that world doesn't exist,
does it? Only in a work of fiction are her ideas workable.
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Christians are not more altruistic thank no Christians
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: her confidence in her mind was almost insane if you ask me
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: much as i liked her works
[13:29] ChatNoir Talon: Yes, I don't like her too much :-(
[13:29] Samuel Okelly: they are when compared to rand, ari ;-)
[13:29] hope63 Shepherd: she tried to link self-interest to responsibility.. but i didn't find out how that would work..
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: Oh, I like her, but she would not be my friend, I think
[13:29] Mickorod Renard: too right Sam
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: well maybe after a few glasses of wine...
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: I would argue that Christians as well as any other tribal religion is just as self-concerned as anyone else
[13:30] ChatNoir Talon: She's like the anti-ChatNoir
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:30] Samuel Okelly: tribal????
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: yelling..:)
[13:31] Mickorod Renard: I agree Ari,,but christians are not afraid of self sacrifice
[13:31] ChatNoir Talon: I agree, Ari. Atheist can be just as selfish as christians... I guess it depends on the situation and their compromise to their faith
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: We like to think we are altruistic, but in all things there is a reward for the self
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: very true
[13:31] Hokon Cazalet: their faith doesnt matter in this case, rand advocates that we ought to be selfish, not just want it
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: camus: la chute...
[13:31] ChatNoir Talon: But the big difference is Motive. If you do it for the reward or for the other
[13:31] herman Bergson: This is a concern in philosophical discourse since Hobbes
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: I think she advocates that it is not wrong to be selfish
[13:32] Hokon Cazalet: she says its good to be selfish
[13:32] herman Bergson: The empiricist side has more difficulty finding answers than the rationalist side
[13:32] Samuel Okelly: the arrogance of atheism lends itself perfectly to the nonsense which is randism
[13:32] Mickorod Renard: sometimes selfish doesnt cause others harm..
[13:32] ChatNoir Talon: But it hardly does the others any good
[13:32] Mickorod Renard: note sometimes
[13:32] herman Bergson: I think we need to stop for a moment...
[13:33] ChatNoir Talon: Halt!
[13:33] Anne Charles: Ms Rand held that compassion for the feeble, the flawed, the
suffering and the guilty is a cover for hatred of the
strong, the able, the virtuous, the successful, the
confident and the happy. Can this woman really be
considered rational? Or even human?
[13:33] herman Bergson: For the word 'selfish' is so easily used
[13:33] herman Bergson: do we really know we all use the same meaning?
[13:33] Mickorod Renard: yes Herman
[13:33] ChatNoir Talon: Let's define it, please (and I agree Anne.. she can come off as 'inhuman' in some contexts)
[13:33] herman Bergson: I think we should return to Hope's first remark..
[13:34] Hokon Cazalet: when i say selfish i mean something different than how my sister uses it, so thats a good point
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: Of course the survival of the most fit is naturally rational
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: lets face it.. selfish is -as ari would say-- an archaic .. or a a priori,hokon?
[13:34] herman Bergson: For understanding the human condition we need to look at other sciences too....
[13:34] herman Bergson: There are for instance examples of animals sacrificing themselves for the group
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: yes hope I think we are hard wire to survive
[13:35] ChatNoir Talon: Lemmings! ^^
[13:35] hope63 Shepherd: chat.. tis lemming story in the disney film
[13:35] herman Bergson: Even an ant species...
[13:35] hope63 Shepherd: was made up..
[13:35] Mickorod Renard: even vines will Herman
[13:35] herman Bergson: they seal their nest every night to survive...
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, yes, but thes are not rational beings
[13:36] ChatNoir Talon: Those spider mothers wo become their children first meal
[13:36] herman Bergson: so a small group stays outside and close the entrances of the nest
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: ari.. that is a rational rationality linked to man:) but nothing is contradicting rationality in nature..
[13:37] herman Bergson: No Aristotle....but is rationality the primary property of human kind?
[13:37] ChatNoir Talon: As rational being, I propose, we can see that ourselves are no more important in any important way than any other one. Can we say that our culture is better than any other? Can we say our life is worth more than any other? I don't believe so
[13:37] herman Bergson: Right ChatNoir
[13:37] ChatNoir Talon: Thus I can't rationally save my life first more than anyone elses
[13:37] Mickorod Renard: ayn rand would have to be described as a rational individual,,not human
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: You raise a good question Herman
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: what did you believe chat.. and what can we know?
[13:38] herman Bergson: Just one observation....
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: It is like the question of god, does he exists merely because you can not disprove his existance
[13:38] herman Bergson: we do a lot with our rationality...but how much of our conduct is controled by other drives?
[13:39] Samuel Okelly: pandering to reductionist views and adopting them as "a given" highlights the inadequacy of a simple dualistic A or B option and forces us to reconsider the common rejection of platonic form
[13:39] Mickorod Renard: or does he not exist just cos we cant?
[13:39] Hokon Cazalet: i think Hume said "reason is and ought to be a slave to the passions"
[13:39] Laila Schuman: Can we say that our culture is better than any other? Can we say our life is worth more than any other? I don't believe so........ can we? i say that people do it every day...all day long... in arrogance
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: she did not preach against benelovence, but argued that altruism did not exist
[13:40] ChatNoir Talon: Exactly, Laila.
[13:40] Mickorod Renard: compassion is also a human trait
[13:40] herman Bergson: After all these centuries of philosophy ..we made some progress, but we are still at the beginning
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: herman.. people are starting to tell me what they believe.. how can we know and what..?
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, Herman, each question sought creates more
[13:41] ChatNoir Talon: That's philosophy for ya
[13:41] herman Bergson: Because of all I have lectured about now and all the questions we discussed I have come to a conclusion
[13:42] Hokon Cazalet: well, we ask for a reason to things, yet we then need a reason for those justifications, and so on
[13:42] herman Bergson: I concluded that the mind is a recursive system....
[13:42] herman Bergson: when you look at the index of the book of life and you look for mind you will read
[13:42] herman Bergson: Mind....See mind
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: lol
[13:42] Mickorod Renard: curse as in curse?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Hokon...
[13:43] ChatNoir Talon: hehe
[13:43] herman Bergson: As I said earlier...we constantly are biting in our own tail
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: have we become the dog chasing its tail for so long that our spines are bent in a fixed circle?
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle.....that is my impression at the moment
[13:44] herman Bergson: and I try to understand it
[13:44] Mickorod Renard: philosophy has and is the mother
[13:45] ChatNoir Talon: So it's a) Ask ourselves why are we chasing the tail or B) Run around
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: if we could just look off to the side and break out of our revolving path
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: welll not much has changed since we started all this over a year ago
[13:45] herman Bergson: True Gemma...
[13:45] herman Bergson: Some has changed.....our ideas have become more diverse
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: well,. i think more about those questions then I did before
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: that may be true
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: so .. i still don't talk much more lol
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: and our understanding of diferent idea's
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: we have been exposed to many thoughts
[13:46] ChatNoir Talon: I think philosophy's not about getting the deep answers of life. But it makes us think better :-)
[13:46] Samuel Okelly: we are a driven ppl
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: but we come back to the questions over and over
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: I think change comes slowly, and it is those jewels for each individulas thought that makes the progress
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: instead of simplifying our lifes by what we learn.. you complicated it
[13:47] herman Bergson: that was my point today ChatNoir
[13:47] ChatNoir Talon: ^^ Nicely done, sir
[13:47] Mickorod Renard: well some of us think we have made progress
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes Hope...hopelessly complicated it gets...hmmmmm
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: one hopes, Mick
[13:47] Mickorod Renard: just not in the same direction as you Ari
[13:47] Alarice Beaumont: well..the more one knows.. the moe one questions..
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: :)))
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: there are many paths
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: but isnt my direction the right one?
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: grin
[13:48] herman Bergson: Seeing the many ideas and possibilities makes life definitely more colorful
[13:48] ChatNoir Talon: Lol
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: I agree Herman
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: we all bend and affect each others path as we share ourselves with each other
[13:49] herman Bergson: So I think we have only one option....
[13:49] Samuel Okelly: hearing the views of others helps us to challenge what we believe or cement our beliefs more solidly
[13:49] herman Bergson: We have to continue our quest
[13:49] Mickorod Renard: do another year?
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed
[13:49] Mickorod Renard: yeaaa
[13:49] ChatNoir Talon: It's a neverending quest.. that's the fun of it :-)
[13:49] herman Bergson: there are still a number of women philosophers to come
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: you who isn't spoiled yet with 1 year of class hokon.. what do you think..
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: Did we include Jesus as a philosopher?
[13:50] Hokon Cazalet: hehe
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:50] ChatNoir Talon: So maybe the dog just chases its tail because its exerciting and it fun :P
[13:50] Hokon Cazalet: my cats go after their tails for fun
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: well, he certainly was that, Mick
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: I think my dog is insane
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: that's hard training for rl hokon..
[13:51] ChatNoir Talon: Why would Jesus work as a carpenter when he could make a fortune as a baker?
[13:51] Mickorod Renard: my dog is a selfish control freak
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: or with a mcdonalds..
[13:51] Hokon Cazalet: yummy
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: oh god
[13:51] Alarice Beaumont: ,-)
[13:51] ChatNoir Talon giggles
[13:51] herman Bergson: Well I think that when we begin to think of MacDonnalds it is time to end our discussion ^_^
[13:52] Mickorod Renard: banker not baker?
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: yep !
[13:52] Hokon Cazalet: time for food =)
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: thanks Herman
[13:52] ChatNoir Talon: No, baker
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: exactly
[13:52] ChatNoir Talon: Thank you Herman!
[13:52] hope63 Shepherd: lol..
[13:52] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your interest and participation today :-)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments:

Post a Comment