Tuesday, November 13, 2012

428: The Art Not to be an Egoist 3

Our basic thesis is that we all want to be good, live the good life, but yet we do bad things (now and then). And more specific we look for the Art Not to be an Egoist.

In the previous lecture we learnt that Plato implanted the belief in our culture, that there is something as The Good, which we only can see when we have true knowledge,

And most important for that is that we do not indulge in lust and pleasure, which are only short lived. We need to focus on real virtues.

Bill Gates possesses billions of dollars. Far to much to be able to spend in one lifetime. So, he has to decided to do good, create funds for good causes.

But how good is good? Suppose he helps one country. The result is that surrounding countries get jealous, feel threatened by the richer neighbor and therefor start a war.

Or he helps one relative with money. Result is a big quarrel among relatives in terms of "Why he and not us?" and so on. Can we do any good at all?

How do we measure the "goodness" of our actions. And even worse, what is good for me doesn't have to be good for you.

Like Plato noticed… being a warrior is good for Achilles, being a family man isn't, tho there is nothing bad in being a family man.

We have a problem here. There seems to be a difference between what is good for me and what is good as such. What then is the GOOD life morally?

The answer of Plato is that there is a hierarchy of virtues like honesty, friendship, loyalty and so on and at the top there is the virtue of knowing what is Good.

From our point of view it is a bit odd idea, such a scale of virtues. The idea that living according to these virtues, you life the good life.

Sophocles and Euripides, old men in the days of young Plato, demonstrated in their tragedies how virtues can collide.

Truthfulness is a good virtue, but does that mean that being morally good means telling the truth always and everywhere?

Time and again we get confused by conflicting virtues.
Deciding for one thing implies deciding against something else.

Giving money to help people in country A implies that you decide not to give money to country not-A with the same needs.

But do we have to evaluate our actions not only on what good they do but also what not-good they do? I guess we soon would go crazy.

In other words, there does not exists such a thing as an absolute Good which is embedded in the cosmic order as Plato believed.

Honesty may be a good thing, but making the right decision in a situation whether to honest or not is another thing.

Yet Plato's idea of the Absolute Good still lives on. It makes our life on big choice: only he who chooses for the Good will life a good and righteous life.

He who chooses for God and the Bible will live such a life, or he who chooses for Allah. A religious criminal is still more than a righteous acting pagan.

This belief in the RIGHT choice is still a well known phenomenon. The right choice is communism…no christianity…no islam……no humanism. In other word, ideological dictatorship. 

Then there is a choice. What is good for me doesn't need to be good for someone else. But doesn't that mean an absolute moral relativism?

Here we have to defend Plato a little. There can be no ethics without some kind of hierarchy of values from good to bad.

On the one hand people in Western Europe no longer believe in some cosmic moral order. On the other hand we yet need a solid standard which helps us to make moral judgements.

What can we learn from Plato's error of the idea of ​​the Good, is that there doesn't exist a good beyond people. No Good, then, if it is not from this world. 

Good is a relative thing. But that very peculiar thing about it is: it is  a relative thing with often absolute claim. And this paradox is inevitable. 

For if it is true that beyond the human life and society there  is no Good in the world, we yet often treat the Good necessarily as if it would be absolutely and objectively.

Thus morally we seem to have two choices: what is good for me and what is good as such? But does the "what is good for me"not always prevail? So, aren't we basically egoists?

The Discussion

[13:26] herman Bergson: Thank you ....
[13:26] herman Bergson: The floor is yours...
[13:26] Mick Nerido: First: do no harm, the doctors credo... helps us decide, I think.
[13:26] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman
[13:26] Merlin Saxondale: I have considered these issues myself, in the past, and for what its worth, my choice was 'Utilitarianism' which is the 'greatest good for the greatest number'.
[13:26] Beertje Beaumont: why should we be good?..what is the use of it?
[13:27] herman Bergson: Ok Merlin...
[13:27] herman Bergson: And Beertje....
[13:27] Merlin Saxondale: Yes Beertje that is a valid question
[13:27] herman Bergson: What would you do when I was bad to you....
[13:27] herman Bergson: feel happy?
[13:27] herman Bergson: kick my ass?
[13:27] Beertje Beaumont: yes!
[13:28] Beertje Beaumont: and that would feel good
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: Hi Connie
[13:28] herman Bergson: indeed...
[13:28] CONNIE Eichel: hi lizzy :)
[13:28] herman Bergson: Hi CONNIE :-)
[13:28] Vadaman: Hi!
[13:28] CONNIE Eichel whispers: hi all :)
[13:28] Beertje Beaumont: but it's not about what I feel..but what you feel when you want to be bad
[13:28] CONNIE Eichel: hi professor :)
[13:28] Merlin Saxondale: I am not much in favour of 'forgiveness' ... revenge woud be my way
[13:29] herman Bergson: well Merlin there we go...blood will flow..
[13:29] Vadaman: Hmmm. Does revenge make you feel better?
[13:29] Merlin Saxondale: yes
[13:29] herman Bergson: But maybe Beertjes remark is more fundamental...
[13:29] herman Bergson: why would we ever want to be good...
[13:29] herman Bergson: ok Beertje...
[13:30] Merlin Saxondale: My answer to Beertje is 'Enlightened self-interest'
[13:30] herman Bergson: good means the evaluation of our actions...
[13:30] Lizzy Pleides: in reality we have to use the fundamental virtues pragmatically
[13:30] Mick Nerido: Hell is paved with GOOD intentions...
[13:30] herman Bergson: yes Mick.....
[13:30] Vadaman: True
[13:30] herman Bergson: that is that paradox....what is good for me and what is GOOD
[13:31] Mick Nerido: We never know what is good until after the fact...
[13:31] herman Bergson: Good answer Merlin...Enlightened Self-interest
[13:31] herman Bergson: at least that....
[13:31] Merlin Saxondale: :)
[13:32] herman Bergson: OK..we are the only species able to give a REASON for our actions
[13:32] Merlin Saxondale: I agree that it is interesting to consider what exists outside of human life, e.g. animals.
[13:32] herman Bergson: that is the whole point of ethics actually...
[13:33] Mick Nerido: Not to kill is good...
[13:33] herman Bergson: Well MErlin..not that ability to give a reason for an action....
[13:33] herman Bergson: Well Merlin...study all debates on death penalty for instance
[13:33] Vadaman: Try not to be bad is already something for starters.
[13:34] herman Bergson: You mean newbies n SL should try not to be bad in SL Vadaman?:-))
[13:34] Merlin Saxondale: lol
[13:35] herman Bergson: That only hold a week
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[13:35] Vadaman: Haha. No, I mean in sl and rl.
[13:35] CONNIE Eichel: hehe
[13:35] Merlin Saxondale: "What is bad" is an equivalent problem
[13:35] herman Bergson: grins..
[13:36] Vadaman: Hmmm. What is bad for me can be good for others?
[13:36] herman Bergson: yes Vadaman...that is the problem...and the other way around...
[13:36] Mick Nerido: it's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good...
[13:37] herman Bergson: it seems there is a 'good' for me' and a 'good in general'
[13:37] herman Bergson: For instance....
[13:37] herman Bergson: in general..it is bad to kill...
[13:37] herman Bergson: but suppose...
[13:37] herman Bergson: that man...
[13:38] herman Bergson: if he runs free he will go to the authorities and you'll face a death sentence....
[13:38] Mick Nerido: If you fall and break a leg it is bad for you but good for me the DR. who fixes it
[13:38] herman Bergson: only option is to kill that man...
[13:38] herman Bergson: and beware...
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: it can be good to kill a tyrant
[13:38] llStopAnimation: Script trying to stop animations but agent not found
[13:39] herman Bergson: you get the death sentence because you pleaded for human rights and freedom of speech
[13:39] Merlin Saxondale: I dont think the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is stated quite that way. It says not to commit murder or something
[13:39] herman Bergson: Killing the tyrant is a typical greek tragedy issue...
[13:39] herman Bergson: ahh Merlin....
[13:40] Mick Nerido: Any means to a good end?
[13:40] herman Bergson: Nice remark!
[13:40] herman Bergson: But is murder not an evaluation of an action?
[13:40] Merlin Saxondale: ty I am trying to look it up now
[13:40] herman Bergson: and isn't that evaluation not determined by culture...or ideology?
[13:41] herman Bergson: so is killing a tyrant murder?
[13:41] herman Bergson: was killing Hitler murder?
[13:41] herman Bergson: or killing Stalin
[13:42] herman Bergson: people who were responseble of the death of millions of peole
[13:42] Merlin Saxondale: Wikipedia gives that commandment as "You shall not murder."
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: thank god we never had to decide that
[13:42] Beertje Beaumont: yes i think so...it still is murder at a person
[13:43] Beertje Beaumont: if we kill a tyrant we are as bad as the tyrant himself
[13:43] herman Bergson: here we are at a fundamental debate...
[13:43] Merlin Saxondale: of course you could always leave the dirty work of execution to someone else
[13:43] Vadaman: To some it would be. Also the tyrant has a mother, friends, children.
[13:43] herman Bergson: comparable to the debate on the justified war
[13:43] Mick Nerido: I agree Beertje
[13:43] herman Bergson: justified and unjustified murder
[13:44] herman Bergson: if you define the word murder only as the action of taking someones life
[13:44] Merlin Saxondale: in LAW, some acts of killing are not called murder
[13:44] Mick Nerido: Stopping the tyrant is best but not killing him
[13:44] Merlin Saxondale: Yes Mick, that is a possibility
[13:44] herman Bergson: that is what I mean Merlin...
[13:45] herman Bergson: Killing in selfdefence ...standard argument
[13:45] Merlin Saxondale: Killing in war is an example too
[13:45] herman Bergson: If I don;t kill him he will kill me
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: yes merlin
[13:46] herman Bergson: OK...
[13:46] Beertje Beaumont: does it feel good to kill a person even he wants to kill you?
[13:46] Merlin Saxondale: Probably not
[13:46] herman Bergson: so we conclude that there is no absolute virtue saying Thou shall not kill
[13:46] herman Bergson: Here we have the same point....
[13:46] Merlin Saxondale: There is a tradition that people have a tattoo teardrop under their eye if they have killed someone....
[13:46] Merlin Saxondale: I saw such a man recently on a bus
[13:47] herman Bergson: can also be machismo...:-)
[13:47] herman Bergson: or a way to impress people
[13:47] Merlin Saxondale: well this guy looked pretty sad to me
[13:48] Merlin Saxondale: He seemed to KNOW that I knew what it meant when I looked at him
[13:48] Mick Nerido: It is a goodness not to have to kill...
[13:48] Vadaman: I know one who has two. I am not sure if he is a killer. Let's not judge too fast.
[13:48] herman Bergson: Let me put it this way....
[13:48] herman Bergson: the quintessence here is..
[13:49] herman Bergson: that on the one hand we love to hold the rule Thou shall not kill...
[13:49] herman Bergson: we use it as a standard to evaluate our actions...
[13:49] herman Bergson: on the other hand we have the thou shall not kill unless....
[13:49] herman Bergson: that also applies to our actions...
[13:50] herman Bergson: For the moment....
[13:50] herman Bergson: let it be an unsolved problem...
[13:50] Beertje Beaumont: there is much more in good and bad except killing eachother
[13:50] herman Bergson: but it is a real moral problem we will deal with in next lectures
[13:51] Beertje Beaumont: it can be in little things
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje...
[13:51] herman Bergson: the killing issue is just an extreme example....
[13:52] herman Bergson: you re right that the worst things are in the little things people do rot eachother...
[13:52] herman Bergson: that is our daily life...
[13:52] Beertje Beaumont: yes and to deal with that can be very difficult
[13:52] herman Bergson: yes....
[13:52] Merlin Saxondale: well that might be true but only because of the number of instances
[13:53] herman Bergson: even can lead to suicide..like happened last week in th Netherlands...a boy of 20 years of age...
[13:53] Beertje Beaumont: yes..that;s what I meant
[13:53] herman Bergson: I guess you a refering to that Beertje?
[13:53] Beertje Beaumont: yes
[13:53] Merlin Saxondale: I was, yes
[13:54] Beertje Beaumont: i didn't know what 'pesten'is in english excuse me for that
[13:54] herman Bergson: The boy was bullied for a long time..
[13:54] Merlin Saxondale: Oh pesten? It sounds like pester, or harass
[13:54] herman Bergson: yes Merlin ..perfect...
[13:55] Beertje Beaumont:
[13:55] Merlin Saxondale: :)
[13:55] herman Bergson: Well...
[13:55] herman Bergson: for now...
[13:55] herman Bergson: you got enough to think about....
[13:55] herman Bergson: one the one hand the absolute 'Thou shall not..."
[13:56] herman Bergson: and on the other hand the unless...."
[13:56] Merlin Saxondale smiles
[13:56] herman Bergson: we seem to love and like both..and even need both for our morality
[13:56] Mick Nerido: Thanks professor...
[13:56] Beertje Beaumont: lol
[13:57] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation...:-)
[13:57] Beertje Beaumont: thank you Herman
[13:57] herman Bergson: See you on Tuesday again...and do your homework plz
[13:57] herman Bergson: THINK
[13:57] CONNIE Eichel: i will try to :)
[13:57] Vadaman: Thank you Herman.
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman, it was interesting again
[13:57] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:57] CONNIE Eichel: lovely class :)
[13:57] Beertje Beaumont: have a goodnight:)
[13:58] Merlin Saxondale: Bye
[13:58] CONNIE Eichel: bye bye all :)
[13:58] CONNIE Eichel: kisses :)
[13:58] herman Bergson: You leave me alone Merlin???
[13:58] Lizzy Pleides: Good night everybody
[13:58] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:59] herman Bergson: Bye Lizzy
[13:59] Vadaman: Dag Herman. Tot ziens. 

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