Friday, March 1, 2013

458: The Art Not to be an Egoist 23

When we look in the mirror we want to see a happy and content face, independent of the question whether this mirror in de presidential suite in a Hilton Hotel or in our own bathroom.

This was my last sentence of the previous lecture and it leaves us with a serious question: what is a happy and content face, what does it mean to "feel good", or to use Aristotle's term, enjoy the "eudaimonia"?

That is hard to say. It is not some predetermined quality of human nature. And for knowing what it means you need more than only a sharp and enlightened rationality.

Aristotle is here apparently in the same position as Larry Flint, the editor of Hustler, when he was sued. He provoked the judge by asking:"Can you give me a definition of pornography?"

"No I can not", said the judge, "but I recognize it, when I see it". And isn't it not the same with the Good? You can not exactly define it, but you recognize it as such, when you see it.

So, no exact definition perhaps. And there is a second problem. With ethics it is the same as with someone watching a soccer game on TV, or a lover, or a math student.

To know how it is done,  by far doesn't mean, that you can play soccer, make love or solve the math problem. Only through experience we learn, what feels good in the long run and gives meaning to our life.

Through sometimes tedious learning and practicing we understand how we can keep our feelings and ratio in balance. We need both for a good life.

You certainly know the simplistic description of human nature as being split up in rationality and feeling. The eternal debate that you should be rational….no! you should primarily follow your feelings.

When we are smart, we teach ourselves to get our lust and emotions and our rational insights into harmony. And we teach ourselves to be fair to other people. 

A life without respectability is hardly possible. We want to find respect and recognition in ourselves and want to experience this from people around us. These are two sides of the same coin.

After our birth we do not enter this world with a complete blank, a tabula rasa. We are part of the biological system of the primates and have, so to speak, our "instincts".

But achieving a fulfilled and rewarding life, can only be the result of a long learning process by education and training. In terms of Aristotle is means that we have to learn and train our good features, our virtues.

Virtues like fairness, honesty, compassion, respect, peacefulness, responsability. Aristotle never came up with a specific list or order of importance.

He thought of human nature as being a unity, a whole, that could be trained and educated to become a virtuous person with a character-solid identity.

Here we run into a few problems. Aristotle hadn't the slightest idea that spraying some Oxyticin in the nose of people can change social behavior seriously, virtue or not. Or the Millgram experiments or the behavior of camp guards.

An other problem with this Aristotelian character-solid identity is, that we don't like it. Just think! How tempting is it to a thoroughly virtuous human being?

What is so convincing in it, that I want to become one? Besides that, how realistic is it? Which human being can say of himself that he is 100% good, 100% virtuous?

Ok…to prevent that this lecture becomes to long, I leave it this….an open end to be resolved next Tuesday.

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: Thank you
[13:23] Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T  * ::::::::::
[13:23] Debbie DJ: *•.¸MwAHh¸.•*
[13:23] Debbie DJ: - ill have to read the website
[13:23] Debbie DJ: darn...
[13:23] Gemma Allen: not sure about Aristotle all the time
[13:23] Andret Beck: Thank you prof ^^
[13:23] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:23] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:23] Vadaman: Thank you prof.
[13:24] Debbie DJ: thanks herman
[13:24] Bejiita Imako:
[13:24] herman Bergson: I guess the basic idea is very Greek....
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: seems so
[13:24] herman Bergson: The belief that you can be educated and educate yourself to become a virtuous person...
[13:25] Gemma Allen: or a warrior like spartans
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:25] Gemma Allen: the whole culture would shape you
[13:25] Debbie DJ: Virtuous is defined by the societal values in which you live.
[13:25] Fred123 Aiten: is there an agreed definition of virtuosity?
[13:25] herman Bergson: but as I said..Aristotle missed neurobiological and psychological knowledge we have today
[13:25] Gemma Allen: right
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: yes that was not known by then
[13:25] Debbie DJ: so evil is when these values are undermined by your actions
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: that could be a definition maybe
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: dont know
[13:26] Andret Beck: (but who say us that being virtuous is the right path?)
[13:26] Debbie DJ: I thought that out yesterday ;)
[13:26] herman Bergson: Well here is in fact the problem I want to address Tuesday
[13:27] Andret Beck: (I would like to ask this question to Nietzsche ^^)
[13:27] herman Bergson: Ok hold on.....
[13:27] Fred123 Aiten: If I become a cannibal living in the jungle with other cannibals does that make me virtuous?
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: when your evil you do everything to hurt others so the total opposite of a virtuous person
[13:27] herman Bergson: First to respond to Andret....
[13:27] herman Bergson: I would say that there is no right path at all....
[13:28] herman Bergson: The idea of a right path is some metaphysical assumption about human nature...
[13:28] herman Bergson: soI think...a debate about the right path misses the point....
[13:28] Merlin: Interesting view Herman
[13:28] herman Bergson: But then what?
[13:29] Merlin: I dont disagree but some would disagree strongly
[13:29] herman Bergson: To talk about the "right" path is to talk about the human being as a product of evolution
[13:29] Debbie DJ: evil is different in different cultures - a cannibal is not evil within his own society.
[13:29] Debbie DJ: "right" is like normal or average...
[13:30] Merlin: It is contrary to most religions isn't it?
[13:30] Fred123 Aiten: but does that make it ok to be a cannibal?
[13:30] herman Bergson: we are talking about the right path...not evil atm
[13:30] herman Bergson: stick to the subject plz
[13:30] Debbie DJ: I use the idea of evil to illuminate right ;)
[13:31] herman Bergson: the point is that what you would call the "right " path regarding to virtues for instance is just basic behavior of primates
[13:31] Gemma Allen: HMMM
[13:31] Debbie DJ: I dont agree.
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:31] herman Bergson: For instance....
[13:31] Debbie DJ: or rather, i am not convinced....
[13:32] herman Bergson: it has been shown that bonobo apes have a sense of least unfairness
[13:32] Debbie DJ: yes
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:32] Andret Beck: I also believe that animals, even wild ones, have a kind of "ethic"
[13:32] herman Bergson: what I mean being more complex in brain structure have equal ideas and far more developed....
[13:33] herman Bergson: which we now call ethics
[13:33] herman Bergson: No Andret I am sorry
[13:33] Andret Beck: look at them while playing (Huizinga), they just pretend to beat each other
[13:33] Debbie DJ: In our previous ethics lecture, I think you concluded that ethics related to the normal values for a society?
[13:34] herman Bergson: as far as we know animals are not able to reflect on their behavior and evaluate it in terms of good and bad...they just follow instinct and learnt behavior
[13:34] Fred123 Aiten: so a gang of bank robbers are ethical because in their society they are all the same?
[13:35] Debbie DJ: yes fred. not your ethics, but true to the norm of their ethics
[13:35] herman Bergson: to call them robbers is already a moral judgement Fred..?
[13:35] Fred123 Aiten: so ethical behaviours can be whatever you want it to be
[13:35] herman Bergson: There you have a point Fred....
[13:35] Debbie DJ: no - it is the norm for the society..
[13:35] Debbie DJ: yes
[13:36] Lizzy Pleides: maybe you are ethical when you follow your own principles and values
[13:36] herman Bergson: also a typical remark Lizzy
[13:36] Andret Beck: well, Herman, I see animals differently. I think that they are not "random beings" and that the word "instictual" has been too over used
[13:36] Merlin: Yes I like what Lizzy said
[13:36] Andret Beck: (this is just my point of view)
[13:37] herman Bergson: SO far we have reached a point in our investigation of human nature that seems to tellus that it all depends on what we want individually...
[13:37] Debbie DJ: the evil bit has to be contrasted here. I put it to you that unethical societal behaviour is called evil. like terrorists are eveil for those terrorized.
[13:37] herman Bergson: so ...every person his own set of standards ...
[13:37] herman Bergson: we all know that that is not the case in our world...
[13:38] Fred123 Aiten: so if I am part of the bank robbers gang and then hand the others over to the police, I am evil?
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes from the aristotelian point of is all about living a good live....fulfilled and rewarding....
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: seems logical
[13:38] herman Bergson: From the point of view of the bank robber yes I would say :-)
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: hmm tricky indeed fred
[13:39] Debbie DJ: i agree
[13:39] herman Bergson: but yet you still call them robbers fred....
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: in their ethics you are evil but i guess in the general ethics that is the true good ur good
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: the ethics that we all must try follow to make the world better
[13:39] Debbie DJ: yes... so looking at evil, makes me think that good is what is not evil
[13:40] herman Bergson: The idea of Aristotle was rather optimistic....
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: its tricky
[13:40] Debbie DJ: ie normal societal behaviour that feels good
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: and make all benefit on ot and be happy
[13:40] herman Bergson: he believed that eventually every human being wants to be a good human being....a virtuous human to live a life in harmony, in eudaimonia with his environment
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: that i guess is the general ethics standard
[13:41] herman Bergson: In real this doesn't seem to be the whole picture.....
[13:41] Fred123 Aiten: but we haven't defined what being a good human being means
[13:41] herman Bergson: there is also something in ethics called "you OUGHT to do this or that"
[13:42] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: its so tricky to try to define even if i d say i know the answer
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: very complex subject
[13:42] Debbie DJ: that is the bit added by governments or kings - to benefit their income ;)
[13:42] Gemma Allen: LOL
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: but basically a bit what i said there before
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: have to check a bit more on this
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: but i know how i want the world to be
[13:43] Debbie DJ: how?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well Debbie....they misused this idea of moral obligation, I would say
[13:43] Gemma Allen: the whole world??
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: no wars no greed no starvation and everyone is happy and nice to each other
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: sadly thats not gonna happen it seems
[13:44] herman Bergson: Well Bejiita...that is more or less the point...
[13:44] Debbie DJ: and can the Randian bankers ever deliver that Utopia, I ask humbly?
[13:44] herman Bergson: We all know it could be like that and YET we don't act according to that idea
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: very true
[13:44] Gemma Allen: never
[13:44] Debbie DJ: as individuals we do - as groups we don't
[13:44] herman Bergson: No Debbie....Ayn Rand is a cultural major disaster...
[13:45] herman Bergson: a narrow minded view on human nature
[13:45] Fred123 Aiten: I'm not sure that we do as individuals.
[13:45] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:45] Debbie DJ: - just baiting you Herman...
[13:45] herman Bergson: You caught a big fish Debbie ^_^
[13:45] herman Bergson: congrats :-))
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: one thing we need to do is stop blowing each other up with explosives and weapond as happens everywhere now
[13:45] Debbie DJ: Individuals to me seem to all strive to be happy
[13:46] herman Bergson: yes Debbie......and that will be our next question...
[13:46] Debbie DJ: but as groups - we blow each other up, and exploit each other.
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:46] Fred123 Aiten: happiness or wealth Debbie. Seems the latter to me is viewed as more important
[13:46] Andret Beck: well, I don't know whether we do so individuals or by group, you know, some times people act in a certain way only in order to communicate some thing to the group
[13:47] Gemma Allen: true
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:47] Andret Beck: so people act as individuals but only to communicate to the group
[13:47] Andret Beck: (for instance politicians ^^)
[13:47] Debbie DJ: Fred, we are under the mistaken illusion that wealth brings happiness.... despite the costs
[13:47] Fred123 Aiten: very true
[13:47] Debbie DJ: true andret
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:48] herman Bergson: Wealth doesn't bring happiness at all...
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: why have 100 million dollars if you cant buy stuff but just pile it up, and u cant buy friends
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: friends u get by being nice and social
[13:48] Gemma Allen: i would still like to try
[13:48] herman Bergson  grins
[[13:48] Lizzy Pleides: that i like happiness on the costs of your neighbor
[13:48] herman Bergson: me too Gemma :-))
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: aha
[13:48] Fred123 Aiten: I agree totally but wherever I look people are totally focussed on wealth
[13:48] Gemma Allen  GIGGLES!!
[13:48] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: its crazy
[13:49] Debbie DJ: And of course - gross consumption is consuming our planet, and us ;(
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: more money more MOOORE MOOOOOORE!
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: thats all they want
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: true as well
[13:49] herman Bergson: There is plenty of research that shows that the accumulation of wealth does not increase your feeling of happiness.
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: today they make stuff so it should break and we have to spend more money to buy new things while the toxic scrap heaps grow
[13:50] Debbie DJ: cool thing in sl is you can behave like a monk in rl and buy all this cheap virtual stuff to satisfy your cravings ;)
[13:50] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:50] herman Bergson: ok...when you give me a Mercedes I might feel happy about that.....but that feeling of happiness is not lasting...
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: hahahah yes
[13:50] Gemma Allen: and lots of freebies too
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: lol
[13:50] herman Bergson: after a month I just drive a big car
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: aha
[[13:51] herman Bergson: It seems that every person has some kind of happiness level....
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: i want mine to be as high as possible
[13:51] Bejiita Imako:
[13:51] herman Bergson: you may feel unhappy or overjoyed...but eventually your feelings return to that old level
[13:51] Debbie DJ: I still think we should immediately change to a 4 day working week, and spend more time seeing our friends
[13:52] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:52] Debbie DJ: bejita
[13:52] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:52] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:52] herman Bergson: I agree Debbie...:-)
[13:52] Gemma Allen: good idea
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:52] Fred123 Aiten: I like that idea Debbie
[13:52] Bejiita Imako:
[13:52] Debbie DJ: it will cut our consumption too....
[13:52] Vadaman: lol
[13:52] Fred123 Aiten: do we all have to take a cut in salary though?
[13:52] Qwark Allen: we are still in the 18th century idea of work
[13:52] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:52] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: maybe
[13:52] herman Bergson: It all boils down to just redistribution of resources of this planet
[13:52] Debbie DJ: yes herman
[13:52] Qwark Allen: work the most possible, till you have no more strengths
[13:53] herman Bergson: we still are not yet able to do that
[13:53] Qwark Allen: then no mood for friends
[13:53] Debbie DJ: especially when you look at fractional reserve currency, and quantitative easing...
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:53] Gemma Allen: another issue
[13:53] Andret Beck: (Enlightment, Industrialization, Exlpoiting, super machines etc. and we are still not able to reduce are working? T____T)
[13:54] Gemma Allen: have to go soon party today at the corner
[13:54] Gemma Allen: bring requests
[13:54] Bejiita Imako:
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: we have to feed many people who don't want to work
[13:54] herman Bergson: Like Clint Eastwood said "A man has to know his limitations" Andret :-)
[13:54] Gemma Allen: Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!!
[13:54] Gemma Allen: herman
[13:54] Qwark Allen: AAHH!!!
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.´ ¯¨.¸¸`** **´ ¸¸.¨¯` H E R MA N ´ ¯¨.¸¸`** **´ ¸¸.¨¯`
[13:54] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:54] Andret Beck: ahaha .... yeah, I agree Herman ^^
[13:55] Qwark Allen: was really interesting class as usual
[13:55] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman!
[13:55] Andret Beck: the solution is inside you
[13:55] herman Bergson: Gemma rings the bell....our time is up ^_^
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: to do what is expected in general like that i d have to be a super saiyan in rl to manage
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: but we are humans not saiyans
[13:55] Lizzy Pleides: this was a wonderful lecture again!
[13:55] herman Bergson: Thank you all for this good discussion again....
[13:55] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:55] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:55] Qwark Allen: *¨¨* *''*BEJIITA!!! *''* :*¨¨*
[13:55] herman Bergson: Class dismissed

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