Thursday, March 7, 2013

459: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 24

Last night I watched the "The Mist". Maybe you know this movie made in 2007 and based on a novel of Stephen King.

A group of people gets trapped in a supermarket, besieged by horrible giant insects. There in a few minutes the whole debate on human nature comes passing by.

There is a religious fanatic, who scares the hell out of the people by claiming that this is the proof of God's wrath because of the wickedness of the sinful human being.

Then there is the man, who says "Look around! Take away the rules and men become animals, beasts!" In tears a young woman, the teacher in the village, exclaims: "No, that  can't be true. Man is good!"

In no time we got them all in line: man as sinner, man as beast and man as a good individual. Would the real man please stand up?!

We have arrived at an historical moment in the debate on human nature. I call it historical because evolutionary, psychological and neurobiological insights begin to reveal the facts, which show to be so closely related yo old philosophical insights.

It appears to me that man has known all ins and outs about human nature from the beginning of thinking, that is from the moment that he left magical and religious explanations of reality behind.

That is what Aristotle did. He tried to understand nature as it was in itself. No magic, yet some metaphysical assumptions, especially his belief in the TELOS of things.

"Telos" means goal, so his philosophy was teleological. All that exists has an intrinsic goal. The seed is potentially a tree and its actuality is being that tree eventually.

This is all very simplified but the basic idea is that when a human being is born it potentially can become a virtues person, which is the actuality of man.

It means, that intrinsically a human being in fact is driven, wants to become the real actuality of adulthood, which is being a person in eudaimonia, in balance with himself and his environment.

But there comes the religious fanatic…yelling "but we are all sinners!" And yes indeed we do not want to be an Egoist and yet it seems to be an Art not to be one.

How so? What is missing in this picture? Isn't Aristotle's idea  too individualistic. Maybe my moral behavior emerges from the desire to be good.

But what about a person, who just doesn't want to be good? Where are the moral rules? And where are the mandatory and reasonable standards  for all?

It was Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804), who intended to mend this weak spot in Aristotle's philosophy. Kant is known for his theory that there is a single moral obligation, which he called the "Categorical Imperative", 

and is derived from the concept of duty. Kant defines the demands of the moral law as "categorical imperatives". Categorical imperatives are principles that are intrinsically valid;

they are good in and of themselves; they must be obeyed in all, and by all, situations and circumstances if our behavior is to observe the moral law. 

He believed that the moral law is a principle of reason itself, and is not based on contingent facts about the world. Accordingly, he believed that moral obligation applies only to rational agents.

Thus the complex machinery of our brain and the way it works, our human nature, was reduced to reason. Kant's theory was logical, but not very psychological, but yet it dominated ethics for the past two centuries at least.

Today however, in Western culture individual hedonism plays a part again and related to that our observation that we also are members of a society.

Thence we face the two sides of a coin with respect to human nature: the Aristotelian side and the Kantian side. Individual ethics and universal moral laws.

Is there something common to all human beings , that makes it possible for us not to be an Egoist?

The Discussion

[13:27] Debbie DJ: love
[13:27] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: we want love yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: Not a bad observation Debbie....but..... (as always)
[13:28] StevenHow: not all ppl
[13:28] Debbie DJ: love transcends some times in our lives
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you herman
[13:28] Debbie DJ: yes.. thanks herman.
[13:28] StevenHow: :)
[13:28] Debbie DJ: so in this postulate, evil is the disobeying of the kantian imperatives?
[13:29] herman Bergson: Your remark is a hint for the subject of the next lecture Debbie....
[13:29] Debbie DJ: shhh
[13:29] herman Bergson: is there something like a universal ethics?
[13:29] Debbie DJ: The ten commandments are so for christians... and are not a bad set of rules...
[13:29] Merlin: Well earlier I thought an answer to one question was THE LAW
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: hmm i would think there should be one but
[13:29] herman Bergson: What I find so interesting of Aristotle and kant....
[13:30] Merlin: Universal rules for society or something like that
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: more complicated then it sounds i guess
[13:30] StevenHow: there is common ground for sure but universal not so sure
[13:30] herman Bergson: Aristotle refers mainly to the limbic system of the brain
[13:30] herman Bergson: while Kant only relies on the prefrontal lobe
[13:31] Lizzy Pleides: but they didn't know about the functions
[13:31] herman Bergson: that what I mean by referring to contemporary scientific findings about the human being..
[13:31] herman Bergson: No Lizzy....they didn't and that makes is so amazing....
[13:31] StevenHow: ops have to go herman sorry :( RL
[13:32] herman Bergson: ok Steven :-)
[13:32] Merlin: bye
[13:32] herman Bergson: Take care
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: bye Steven
[13:32] Vadaman: Bye Steven.
[13:32] Debbie DJ: bye steven
[13:32] StevenHow: thanks though and you :) bye guys
[13:32] Merlin: hehe I guess he's a married man
[13:32] herman Bergson: If you take the history of philosophy as the dairy of the thinking individual
[13:33] herman Bergson: then you read in it that we already understood from the beginning about human nature
[13:33] Vadaman: Please don't laugh about married men Merlin. (lol)
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:33] herman Bergson grins
[13:33] Merlin: lol
[13:33] Bejiita Imako:
[13:33] herman Bergson: funny species merlin I agree :-)
[13:34] Debbie DJ: Theres a set of ethical and moral rules - marriage ;)
[13:34] herman Bergson: oh my ,yes Debbie....
[13:34] herman Bergson: Well even that is interesting.....
[13:34] herman Bergson: when you look at different cultures and the phenomenon of marriage
[13:35] herman Bergson: and the set of moral rules that come with it
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:35] Debbie DJ: What is interesting is that it takes the form of a social contract, with community witnesses
[13:35] herman Bergson: animals just mate once in a season....humans do it differently :-)
[13:36] Lizzy Pleides: not all animals
[13:36] Debbie DJ: Yes. We also take a long time to raise our children
[13:36] Merlin: There are some who pair for life but Im sure you all know
[13:36] herman Bergson: which are the lucky ones Lizzy :-)
[13:36] Merlin: Swans might be an example
[13:36] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[13:36] herman Bergson: YEs there are Merlin....
[13:36] herman Bergson: Pelicans too
[13:37] Lizzy Pleides: penguins are faithful
[13:37] MerlinMerlin nods
[13:37] Bejiita Imako:
[13:37] herman Bergson: Incredible Lizzy...when you see those huge colonies of penguins :-))
[13:37] Lizzy Pleides: true
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: what i dont get is how they can see the difference, all pengiuns look the same and so does most other animals of the same race
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: no unique faces like we have
[13:38] herman Bergson: But to get back the the main issue..the philosophical understanding of human nature
[13:38] Debbie DJ: you didn't look close enough Bej
[13:39] herman Bergson: many philosophical ideas are correlated with the working of the brain areas
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: all bulldogs look the same to me ect
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: maybe some differences but a person i can see on distance who it is
[13:39] herman Bergson: That Bejiita is a very amazing fact....
[13:40] Debbie DJ: Try doing that in a foreign country, where the people look different...
[13:40] herman Bergson: and believe me...penguins can do the same :-)
[13:40] herman Bergson: But believe me...I was in Japan once....for a few weeks....
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: hmm there are some main characteristics but if i know a person no matter of asian or whatever i can see " there u are!"
[13:40] herman Bergson: and all the faces looked almost the same tome....
[13:41] Merlin: Yes that is a common thing
[13:41] Merlin: Or maybe less so in the modern world
[13:41] herman Bergson: But let's get back to our main subject here....
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: my best friend is adopted from thailand for ex and even if we would be down there i would recognize him no prob
[13:42] herman Bergson: the fact that through history philosophers showed an understanding of human nature, where we now also have amore scientific one which confirms their insight 
[13:42] herman Bergson: That is what I see in the Aristotelian and Kantian views
[13:42] Debbie DJ: yay... the old guys were actually pretty smart...
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:42] MerlinMerlin smiles
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie...when you think of Aristotle 2000 years ago...
[13:43] .: Beertje :.: maybe over 2000 years they say Debbie was pretty smart..
[13:43] herman Bergson: So our next question there hope for us.....
[13:44] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: lol
[13:44] herman Bergson: Oh I say already today that she is Beertje ^_^
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: that i hope
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: hope
[13:44] Bejiita Imako:
[13:44] Merlin: Well you probably know my views on that
[13:45] Merlin: I dont want to depress everybody
[13:45] .: Beertje :.: yes..but I mean..over 2000 years the world is complete different..what we think here and now..did the people 2000 years ago the same
[13:45] herman Bergson: Do we go under in complete individualism or does our being a social animal save the world?
[13:45] .: Beertje :.: i think our social animal HAS to save the world
[13:46] Debbie DJ: Good question... but I kind of feel depressed about the likely answer ;(
[13:46] Debbie DJ: like merlin!
[13:46] Merlin: The big problem is that the consequences follow many years later
[13:46] Merlin: and they will become irreversible
[13:46] herman Bergson: The remark of Beertje implies that there seems to be some need for this world to exist
[13:47] Merlin: There is no such need
[13:47] Merlin: But I think that is what you will say too Herman
[13:47] herman Bergson: Are we a coincidence of are we more on this world or is this a senseless remark
[13:47] Debbie DJ: senseless sentence???
[13:48] herman Bergson: I would say....
[13:48] herman Bergson: we ARE.....
[13:48] herman Bergson: and whatever you think about it....
[13:48] herman Bergson: we have to deal with it :-))
[13:48] Debbie DJ: If we are all about hedonism, and feeling good, we need to learn to party better, at lower cost...
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: maybee that
[13:49] Debbie DJ: like we do i sl ;))))
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:49] Bejiita Imako:
[13:49] Debbie DJ: hey - sl could save the world!
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita....
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: always some fun in here
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: hahaha
[13:50] herman Bergson: ok then...on to the next there a universal ethics...?
[13:50] herman Bergson: Thank you all again for your participation
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: sounds like an interesting subject
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: have been thinking about it a lot recently myself
[13:51] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
[13:51] Lizzy Pleides: thanks to YOU Herman
[13:51] Bejiita Imako:
[13:51] Merlin: Hang on, is this a whole new topic or a continuation of this one about Egoism?
[13:52] Debbie DJ: Thanks Herman, and the rest of you philosophers ;)
[13:52] herman Bergson: it still is a continuation of the same topic Merlin
[13:52] Merlin: Yes ok ty
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: yes i guess it is
[13:52] Vadaman: Thanks Herman.
[13:52] herman Bergson: No if there would be a new topic....
[13:52] Merlin: yes?
[13:52] herman Bergson: I am thinking about the existence of Evil....
[13:53] herman Bergson: The question "Why is there evil in this world?"
[13:53] Lizzy Pleides: i have to go off unfortunately, good night everybody
[13:53] Merlin: Good night Lizzy
[13:53] Debbie DJ: I will be here for that series.....
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: cu lizzy
[13:53] .: Beertje :.: only good would be boring....
[13:53] herman Bergson: Which already seems to imply that we didnt master the art not to be an Egoist ^_^
[13:53] Debbie DJ: bye Liz
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: hmm good question indeed
[13:54] herman Bergson: You have a point there Beertje!
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: is egoism evil? well a form of evil maybe, since u dont care about others
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: dont know
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: tricky
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: and what is evil really?
[13:54] herman Bergson: indeed Bejiita

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