Wednesday, January 30, 2013

453: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 18

The  question today is: Is altruism in fact egoism in disguise and aren't we by nature touch and ruthless egoists?

The general meaning of the word 'egoism' is self-interest, seeking advantage in our actions. I guess, that in this general sense we all are egoists.

It can not be denied that consciously or unconsciously we get some benefits from our actions: relaxing ourselves, evading a quarrel, feel good, not making a bad impression….

You even could suppose that such a holy nun like Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 - 1997) with all her care for the poor, 

will have felt a reward for her actions in the form of  a feel good experience or the expectation of a nice place in Heaven.

That I want to experience some positive effects or benefits from my actions, you can not call bad. There is nothing wrong with cheering up yourself with such 'benefits' as a feel good moment or preventing a quarrel with your friend.

We only can be good to others, when we are good to ourselves. Even Jesus said "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Math. 19: 19)

Would this incentive to self-love or the feelings of Mother Teresa justify, that we call ourselves Egoists?

Not a single philosopher in our history, who assumed that man was basically good has opposed to the idea that you may expect some benefits from your actions.

The purely selfless altruism is  so utopian, that it is completely pointless to describe humanity against the background of this figment as selfish or egoistic.

When every altruistic action is basically motivated by some kind of self-interest, then the word egoism looses its meaning. 

When we all are egoists in this sense then it is an exciting observation equal to the observation that human beings have two legs.

Yet we don't like to be called egoists. Thence there must be a second meaning of this word: egoism then is a more straightforward preoccupation with the self at the expense of others and an excessive use  of "I".

Egoists in the sense of ruthless self-interest are people who never would accept to be treated like they treat others.

They don't see others as equals, use others for their personal gain only. Others are only means to personal advantage.

Ok, maybe we all recognize this  in some of our own actions, but real die-hard egoists are a rare species with no friends.

And this is the reason of the mistake a lot of bio-philosophers make. They assume that deep inside human nature rules this hardcore egoism.

According to them, some moment in evolution the homo sapiens discovered that cooperation was more effective than the lonesome cowboy strategy.

The basic idea is that men like mushrooms pop up above ground and suddenly discover that cooperating with each other eventually benefits the survival of his personal genes.

But we are organisms with plans and intentions and there are more intentions in life than only the survival of our genes.

We'd better say that the homo sapiens probably is motivated more by his fears, scruples, his vanity and sudden hunches than by his well calculated self-interest.

If the later were true then he is the most stupid Gen-egoist ever. While he is depleting natural resources, destroying valuable forests, creating a huge pollution of land and sea,all which endangers the survival of his genes, 

he is worried about the opinion of his boss, loves to be a couch potato watching TV, plays senseless computer games, spends many hours in SL, and so on….

I guess being a real hardcore egoist isn't that simple at all….., because egoism and altruism are both part of our nature.

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: Thank you .. ^_^
[13:23] Lizzy Pleides: thank you herman , that was great again!
[13:23] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:23] Ajatar (alpheratz): thank you herman
[13:23] herman Bergson: Main point is that both behavior patterns...selfish and altruistic are part of our nature
[13:23] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): you say an egoist has no friends..but I think he doens't care if he has a friend or not..
[13:24] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Well I was not quite sure what you meant by egoist so you have certainly clarified it now
[13:24] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): beware of confusion with egotist of course
[13:24] herman Bergson: That is the issue Beertje.....
[13:24] herman Bergson: ebcause we are basically social animals this hardcore egoism is almost anti social
[13:25] Lizzy Pleides: we probably have a natural egoism and a pathologic egoism which is antosocial
[13:25] herman Bergson: Egotism is the stronger word for it indeed Merlin
[13:25] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes..I know one in RL who behaves like an egoist..and he is a very anoying person with no friends at all
[13:25] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): There is man called David Starkey who is famously rude to (some) people
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): BUT....
[13:26] herman Bergson: A logical consequence of his behavior I would say Beertje
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): He has lots of money so he can afford to be
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I guess he still has friends
[13:26] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): friends who like his money
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): it helps
[13:26] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): not him as a person
[13:27] Lizzy Pleides: we know macho types who are very egoistic bust despite have many friends
[13:27] herman Bergson: There are various kinds of anti social behavior....
[13:27] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): but the point is, he gets by, and seems happy enough
[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): can an egoist really be happy?
[13:27] herman Bergson: You must make a difference between individual instances and geneal behavior
[13:28] herman Bergson: That is a complex question beertje....
[13:28] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): or has he a 'happy mask' on his face?
[13:28] herman Bergson: for who defines Happiness?
[13:28] herman Bergson: defines
[13:28] herman Bergson: Take empathy....
[13:28] Ciska Riverstone: i guess everyone does.. and redefines during life
[13:29] herman Bergson: people with little ability to empathy can be very happy while others call them cold and calculating
[13:29] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes true..but that is not egoism
[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): the are unable to feel empathy
[13:30] herman Bergson: such people think only of themselves...not bothered what others experience due to them
[13:30] herman Bergson: Lack of empathy seems to me a good quality for a hardcore egoist
[13:30] Ajatar (alpheratz): so they don't even suffer for the other people reactions as they don't care
[13:31] herman Bergson: no...
[13:31] herman Bergson: kind of autism in fact
[13:31] Ajatar (alpheratz): nods
[13:31] herman Bergson: But our basic question is about human nature....
[13:32] Ajatar (alpheratz): What if we see our social group - in which we live or we feel part of it - an extension of ourselves? I mean, we are part of it.
[13:32] herman Bergson: and in the 80s, but before that Hobbes of course too, these bio philosophers thought to have found THE explanation of human behavior....
[13:32] herman Bergson: selfish genes....
[13:32] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): oh no
[13:33] herman Bergson: But to reduce the homo sapiens to just one single drive is a mistake...
[13:33] herman Bergson: If you look at the construction of our brain then you learn that we are mainly driven by basic emotions like fear and joy
[13:34] herman Bergson: Like most animals do...
[13:34] Ajatar (alpheratz): we are animals
[13:34] herman Bergson: Besides that we do a lot of things that have no effect on our evolution of gen survival at all
[13:35] herman Bergson: We like to have a religion....
[13:35] herman Bergson: Ever seen a religious monkey.....needing religion for his survival for instance ? ^_^
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[13:36] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): genes are simple agents and can only push us in certain directions. They don't totally define us even if they would wish to
[13:36] Ajatar (alpheratz): I did see elephants caring for dead elephants
[13:36] herman Bergson: and even that direction is a mystery Merlin.....
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes Aja....animals have emotions....
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well at least we can dismiss egoism as our main motive in life....
[13:38] herman Bergson: the driving power...
[13:38] herman Bergson: In fact we are rather kind to each other and cooperative....
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: thank god we are
[13:39] herman Bergson: Brings us to the question.....WHY are we preferably lieke that.....what makes us tick?
[13:39] herman Bergson: Let's have a look at that question next Thursday :-)
[13:40] Ajatar (alpheratz): mmm religion have many meanings. From control of the society to other things. Ancient people had their mythic origin, telling that they where better than others. There was the survival of a group against other. Religion had a series of rules to make the society better in theory
[13:40] herman Bergson: Unless you still have an urgent question I thank you all for your participation again:-)
[13:40] herman Bergson: Indeed Aja....
[13:41] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Nobody is moving ;)
[13:41] Ajatar (alpheratz): :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Especially this WE and the OTHERS plays an important role.....also still today
[13:41] herman Bergson: It seems to be an important feeling for us...
[13:41] Ciska Riverstone: control
[13:42] herman Bergson: to feel WE...
[13:42] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Sings: We Shall not be moved lol
[13:42] herman Bergson: WHole nations have this WE feeling against the rest of the world for instance
[13:42] herman Bergson: Glue on the seats Merlin :-))
[13:42] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): hahaha
[13:42] Ajatar (alpheratz): I would like that this "we" could be extended to all the people in the world. Not you would say that it is selfish because we all we live in a more peaceful world and I think so :)
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone:
[13:43] Ajatar (alpheratz): * "Now" nor "not"
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Aja....this WE feeling is in fact pretty disrupting in our world
[13:43] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): I have to go...thank you Herman and have a goodnight
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone: bye beertje
[13:43] herman Bergson: ok Beertje take care
[13:43] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Bye Beertje
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): bye bye:)
[13:44] Lizzy Pleides: TC Beertje
[13:44] Ajatar (alpheratz): bye bye Beertje
[13:44] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I think I will go too. I will probably log out soon
[13:44] herman Bergson: We'll discuss this "WE" issue in another lecture mor extensively
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: bye Merlin
[13:45] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Bye everyone
[13:45] Ajatar (alpheratz): see you Merlin
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: me too, Tc and good night everybody!
[13:45] herman Bergson: Bye Merlin :-)
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: good night Lizzy
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone:
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: waves*
[13:45] herman Bergson: Bye Lizzy ^_^
[13:45] Ajatar (alpheratz): yes it is especially destructive when it becomes "we" against "them"
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: otherwise a we is a nice thing
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: ;)
[13:46] herman Bergson: just look at soccer supporters....
[13:46] Ajatar (alpheratz): yes, exactly
[13:46] Ajatar (alpheratz): or with parties
[13:46] herman Bergson: or religions....
[13:46] Ajatar (alpheratz): yeah
[13:46] herman Bergson: we and the pagans
[13:47] herman Bergson: it is an amazing phenomenon which you find though all levels in society
[13:47] Ajatar (alpheratz): and religion can be a good tool for that. We are with God. They are against us, so they are against God, maybe they are inspired by the devil
[13:47] herman Bergson: oh yes....
[13:47] Ajatar (alpheratz): so you can demonize others easily
[13:47] herman Bergson: But it begins already at an early ages....
[13:48] herman Bergson: boys against girls at primary school...
[13:48] Ajatar (alpheratz): hehe right
[13:49] herman Bergson: But animals have the same instinct....
[13:49] Ajatar (alpheratz): yes
[13:49] herman Bergson: But here is something interesting....
[13:49] herman Bergson: chimpanzees are really aggressive against others.....
[13:49] Ajatar (alpheratz): chimpanzee make "war" too
[13:49] herman Bergson: they easily murder and kill those who are not US
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes
[13:50] Ajatar (alpheratz): yes :)
[13:50] herman Bergson: Onthe other hand...the Bonobo is a very social monkey....
[13:50] Ajatar (alpheratz): true
[13:50] herman Bergson: even easily willing to share food with a stranger
[13:50] Ciska Riverstone:
[13:51] herman Bergson: Farnk de Waal did experiments.....
[13:51] Ajatar (alpheratz): to what monkey do you think we are more closer?
[13:51] Ajatar (alpheratz): hehe
[13:51] herman Bergson: one bonobo in a room with to transparent doors.....
[13:51] herman Bergson: behind one was a member of his group behind the other was a stranger....
[13:52] herman Bergson: When given food the bonobo perferred to open the door for the stranger....
[13:52] herman Bergson: probably was making new contacts more important to him
[13:52] Ajatar (alpheratz): so sweet
[13:52] Ajatar (alpheratz): we can empathize with other animals too
[13:53] herman Bergson: and I guess we are a mix of chimp and bonobo :-)
[13:53] Ajatar (alpheratz): I agree with that :)
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: very likely
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: have a good night there
[13:53] herman Bergson: You two too :-))
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: thanx

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