Tuesday, March 12, 2013

461: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 26

Edvard Westermarck (1862 -1939), a finnish philosopher and sociologist,  argues in his book  "The Origin and Development of Moral ideas" (1908) : 

Moral behavior is a biological phenomenon, a total of contradicting instincts, which can lead to totally different standards from society to society.

There is not such a thing as an absolute anchor point. There is no moral "Law" inside of us, no mandatory Maxim nor transcendental Golden Rule, which makes us to human beings.

Ethics don't need universal principles.. Anthropological research has never come up with a clear answer about the existence of universal ethical rules.

That every culture has indeed an idea of Good and Evil, doesn't tell us anything about what is regarded as good and evil. 

In one culture, it is good to show your true identity by not covering your face. In an other culture it is regarded as bad, when a woman exposes her face in public.

The situation may be like this: some jokes might make people laugh in all cultures, others aren't understood at all in other cultures.

In all cultures people say "I love you", but we all know that when people of different cultures, start a relation, we may face serious problems regarding this "I love you". 

Like "when you love me, we walk everywhere hand in hand" and "when you love me, you walk one meter behind me everywhere we go".

Why would this be different when we are dealing with moral concepts? In 1971 John Rawls published  his "A Theory of Justice", in which he in a Kantian way claimed that "most reasonable principles of justice are those everyone would accept and agree to from a fair position."

In fact I have the same critique here as with Kant. The more logical the argumentation becomes, the further away it moves from our psychological reality.

In 1982  Michael Sandel published a critique of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice in his first book, "Liberalism and the Limits of Justice".  

His basic point is, that a person is, who he is, because he lives in an environment, a context, in which he makes himself who he is by the permanent interaction with others.

As such, as a homo sapiens, as a member of humanity or as a rational being, he isn't obliged to anything. 

He can act as he likes. However, as a member of a group, community, society, he learns the difference between good and evil, and this shapes his self image and sense of self-esteem.

Thus, all our moral ideas don't emerge from under the "veil of ignorance" as Rawls  claims, but they emerge in a community.

Our standards and values don't come out of a vacuum, but are shaped by the context we live in. We can accept them, or fight them, but we stay "imprisoned" in our context.

If formulated this way, relativists score a few points. Different cultures, different rules of play. But Sandel and others yet formulate some general idea:

From the Aristotelian point of view, every human being in every culture, whatever culture it is, strives for a fulfilled and rewarding life.

And a fulfilled and rewarding life for all men is bound to the same condition: a positive self image and self-esteem.

The context may be different. A farmer in the Middle Ages would regard the absence of hunger and disease as a fulfilled life, and the hope, that God looks upon him with a smile, may be his positive self image.

A fulfilled life depends on how our needs are met, not only the physical but also the mental, like our need for love, beauty, truth, sense.

And many of these needs are related to others. They get met by us by being  a better lover, partner,friend, by willing to help others and so on.

Whether our needs are mainly egoistic or mainly altruistic, does not simply depend on human nature, but also on our context, the culture we live in.

In countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden we live in the most egoistic and solicitous culture. The ads, commerce expects the egoism of the individual.
And we expect the altruistic, solicitous attitude from the state.

The Discussion

[13:23] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:24] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman!
[13:24] Debbie DJ: Great lecture Herman
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: yes nice
[[13:24] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks...the floor is yours
[13:24] Oceane: great lecture Herman :)
[13:24] Debbie DJ: By doing such a good job, you must get a lot of self esteem ?
[13:25] herman Bergson  smiles
[[13:25] herman Bergson: In fact you are right debbie....
[13:25] herman Bergson: To tell you the truth...
[13:25] herman Bergson: I graduated in philosophy in 1978
[13:25] Jarapanda Snook: So, we are conditioned by our environment...
[13:25] herman Bergson: then I lectures on it for 10 years....
[13:26] Oceane: so what was your thesis about then?
[13:26] Oceane: your graduation work?
[13:26] herman Bergson: in 1986 I switched to teaching computer classes....leaving my love behind so to speak
[[13:26] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:26] herman Bergson: My thesis was about the Mind - Body problem...
[13:26] Oceane: as in Heidegger?
[13:27] Oceane: Sein and Zeit, Time and Being?
[13:27] Jarapanda Snook: ... and our ethical stance is driven by the environment we grow up in
[13:27] herman Bergson: in 2007 I thought...reading books is dull...always been a teacher... so I started the Philosophy Class in SL
[13:27] herman Bergson: true Jara
[13:27] .: Beertje :.: sorry I'm late
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: hi Beertja
[13:27] Debbie DJ: If this is all so simple, how do we get so confused in the world? As groups we often make decisions which badly effect others, or are contrary to our long term interests?
[13:27] Oceane: hello Beertje?
[13:27] Debbie DJ: Hi Beertje?
[13:27] .: Beertje :.: hi:)
[13:27] Oceane: :)
[13:27] Oceane: nice to see you :)
[13:28] herman Bergson: Hypothetically.....
[13:28] herman Bergson: what I said was that ethics function within a cultural context....
[13:28] herman Bergson: of course based on our biological make up...
[13:28] Jarapanda Snook: so it's nature and nurture
[13:28] Oceane: how do you mean it.. like the way you explained in this class tonight?
[13:29] Debbie DJ: yes... a local culture has a stronger influence I guess...
[13:29] herman Bergson: theoretically you could infer then that this whole planet had only one culture....
[13:29] herman Bergson: all ethical standards would be universal
[13:29] Oceane: well that would be pretty boring wouldn't it... ;)
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:29] Jarapanda Snook: should ethics transend cultural barriers?
[13:30] herman Bergson: It does'nt Jara....
[13:30] Debbie DJ: Some should definitely Jarapanda...
[13:30] Debbie DJ: Like murder is a nono.
[13:30] herman Bergson: even Human rights are a product of Western culture...
[13:30] Oceane: what does transcend means? I don´t know the word in this context?
[13:30] herman Bergson: not adopted by other cultures
[13:30] Oceane: thank you herman
[13:31] Jarapanda Snook: well, where does murder and judicial killing or by the military differentiate?
[13:31] herman Bergson: it means that it would be above and independent of a specific culture Oceane
[13:31] Debbie DJ: transcend means "rise above"
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:31] OceaneOceane nods
[13:31] herman Bergson: Take murder.....
[13:31] herman Bergson: in our opinion murder is not allowed....
[13:32] Oceane: unless in warfare lol
[13:32] herman Bergson: but in other cultures you may kill your neighbor when he looked at your wife
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: can murder ever be right? id say no
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: thats a sick culture then
[13:32] herman Bergson: then it is not murder but revenge
[13:32] Oceane: agrees to Bejita.. there is only one exception Bejita
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: same with these religious fanatics blowing everyone u
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: up
[13:32] Jarapanda Snook: who says so? If you go back 1000 years then slaughter was commonplace - in the days of the Vikings for example - in those times it was regarded as a rite of passage
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: really sad
[13:33] Oceane: if somebody is threatening your life you can try to kill him or at least hit him subconsciously
[13:33] Debbie DJ: The only thing we ever have is life, and taking another life is just stupid, and self defeating.
[13:33] herman Bergson: that is what I mean....
[13:33] Oceane: agrees to Debbie
[13:33] herman Bergson: killing an other person is not always labeled morally as murder
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: hmm ok
[13:33] Jarapanda Snook: so it is in the context of the culture that defines ethics...
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: so tricky this
[13:34] Oceane: but in fact it is herman you take a life.. its murder.. at least to my standards of morality
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes it is how a specific culture values a human life
[13:34] Jarapanda Snook: and different times and cultures will define what is ethically right or wrong...
[13:34] Oceane: no thats how members of peace movements view life for instance herman+
[13:34] Jarapanda Snook: so how can ethics be universal?
[13:35] Debbie DJ: OK, so that is why groups of people attack other groups of people - cultural dissimilarities?
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is what I said in this lecture Jara...the answer is "no"
[13:35] herman Bergson: Due to differences in culture
[13:35] Debbie DJ: I agree there are probably no universal ethics... but some are near universal....
[13:35] Oceane: #I don´t know Debbie.. I think most of it its their big Ego which has grown to big instead of being modest
[13:35] Jarapanda Snook: its deeper than that Debbie - it goes back to primordial times , when we had to fight to survive
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie...often a reason
[13:36] Oceane: yes Jarapanda in former times you had only four ways...
[13:36] Jarapanda Snook: so it is instinctive in us to protect our own, and this often means against those who are different
[13:36] herman Bergson: that is only a partial explanation Jara...
[13:37] Debbie DJ: I think we are past the old times.... our sheer numbers mark us as successful. But we are not able to fight against the gods of money and oil ;)
[13:37] Jarapanda Snook: please elaborate Herman...
[13:37] herman Bergson: due to cultural development we are not that primordial anymore
[13:37] herman Bergson: As is said in a previous lecture....
[13:37] Oceane: Debbie are we really past the old times? In former times people fought for water nd land, has that really changed soo much?
[13:37] herman Bergson: it is the battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex in the brain here
[13:38] Oceane:
[13:38] Jarapanda Snook: however sophisticated we become we are not much changed from the cave men
[13:38] herman Bergson: I tend to disagree here Jara:-)
[13:38] Oceane: civilization is a very thin cover Jara ;)
[13:38] Jarapanda Snook: and we have their instincts
[13:38] Debbie DJ: Oveana. Nope. just the scale, and our inability to curb our self destruction through excess.
[13:38] herman Bergson: To give you an example
[13:39] herman Bergson: the caveman just killed his disabled child
[13:39] herman Bergson: we don't do that anymore
[13:39] Oceane:
[13:39] herman Bergson: so we made at least some progress
[13:39] Jarapanda Snook: absolutely - and we would expect that in a modern society...
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:40] .: Beertje :.: we kill our disabled child before it's born these days....
[13:40] herman Bergson: Let me give you an other example....
[13:40] Jarapanda Snook: but inside us we still have that bit of xenophobia
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: yes Beertje
[13:40] herman Bergson: for us is the integrity of our body a moral value...
[13:40] herman Bergson: nobody has the right to do you physical harm
[13:41] Oceane: well lol
[13:41] Debbie DJ: except the military :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: yet....when you happen to live under the Sharia...everyone there agrees that your hand should be cult of when you have stolen
[13:41] Oceane: definetely right Debbie- except the military :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Military and war is an extra chapter Debbie
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: but sharia is no moral what i can see its just barbarism all through
[13:41] Oceane: I would love to hear a lesson about it Herman :)
[13:42] Debbie DJ: and if you live anywhere with oil, expect to be bombed into submission by the first world...
[13:42] herman Bergson: Ok ...next one will be about the question why we YET make war
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: brain washed fundamentalists doing as much harm to others as they can for power
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: thats sharia to me
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: giving war and misery as result
[13:42] Oceane: smiles, thank you Herman :)
[13:42] Jarapanda Snook: The military is deputized by society to do it's dirty work...
[13:42] herman Bergson: No Bejiita....
[13:43] herman Bergson: in your statement you are judgmental about another culture from tyou own perspective
[13:43] Oceane: I can´t attend unfortunately to your next lesson because I am hosting a poetry event but can I have your chat log off it?
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: i would not wanna live in a place where there was sharia laws
[13:43] Debbie DJ: I never deputized the military.... and will not. Especially not the agressors.
[13:43] herman Bergson: no no,,,me neither...nor do I approve it...
[13:43] Jarapanda Snook: but it would be hopeless if we had no military... because someone else surely would be able to exert their power over us
[13:44] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes Jara...but in a world like ours is today it is more complicated....
[13:44] Debbie DJ: fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity!
[13:44] Jarapanda Snook: lol Debbie
[13:44] OceaneOceane experienced military when you are on a demonstration for peace and they come with throwing water thrower in tanks on you.. and you have to rescue little children
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: hahaha sort of
[13:45] herman Bergson: Economic force and power or cyber power are even stronger than blunt military force is some occasions
[13:45] Debbie DJ: fighting for peace is an oxymoron, technically.
[13:45] Jarapanda Snook: and will be the battlefield in any future conflicts Herman
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:45] Oceane: what is an oxymoron?
[13:45] herman Bergson: a rare word :-)
[13:45] Oceane: grins but the meaning?
[13:45] Debbie DJ: two words that conflict in the same sentence...
[13:45] herman Bergson: kind of contradictio in terminis
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: a paradox
[13:46] Debbie DJ: like a paradox
[13:46] Jarapanda Snook: an oxymoron is an expression which defies itself
[13:46] herman Bergson: nicer...paradox
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: exactly
[13:46] Debbie DJ: Military Intelligence - for example ;)
[13:46] herman Bergson: Oh..just one remark of our progress with respect to the caveman ...
[13:46] Oceane: well you have to fight for your right of telling other your opinion .... thats the way I experienced it when we were marching against nuclear power plants
[13:46] Jarapanda Snook: lol Debbie - although Intel has a different meaning there
[13:47] herman Bergson: in stead of invading a country we take economical measures against it...like against Iran for instance
[13:47] herman Bergson: nice one Debbie :-)
[13:47] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:47] Oceane: well nobody knows what the Iran is doing, are they working on nuclear missiles.. will this be a threat to the western world...?
[13:47] Bejiita Imako:
[13:48] Debbie DJ: If they are, can you blame them?
[13:48] Oceane: can you please explain it Debbie?
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: a bit worried about north korea though, that guy seems so insane he if anyone could start a nuclear war for sure and destroy the entire world
[13:48] herman Bergson: Depends on the motives Debbie....
[13:49] herman Bergson: If they are anti semitic I have a problem with it and can blame them
[13:49] Debbie DJ: If Iran is making nuclear weapons, can you blame them? after america invaded iraq, and afgahnistan?
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: and he have nuclear bombs already
[13:49] herman Bergson: because I value equality
[13:49] Oceane: nods to Bejiita, I've seen an interview about him, but can you trust our medias?
[13:49] Debbie DJ: Yes. There are still thousands of nukes armed and ready. MAD has not gone away...
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: also look at how he threats his people, cutting them of from the world and let them starve to death while he blows nuclear weapons
[13:49] herman Bergson: I would say 'No' Oceane :-)
[13:50] Oceane: smiles to herman
[13:50] Oceane: :)
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well...I think we have saved the world again today :-)
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: scary story
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: how so
[13:51] Debbie DJ: You have indeed Prof Herman...
[13:51] Oceane: smiles ..
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: hope
[13:51] Oceane: great tuition Herman, tzthank you so much I learned alot in here
[13:51] herman Bergson: When I post our discussion in the blog it might enlighten some people on this earth...whoo knows :-)
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:51] Debbie DJ: Another day and we move closer to fixing the world , and revolution...
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: we better do!
[13:51] Bejiita Imako:
[13:51] herman Bergson: Ok..Last remark for Jara...
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: we´ll do our best
[13:52] Jarapanda Snook: When I grew up we has a constant threat of nuclear war - I think it has reduced significantly now. North Korea may way start something up against SK, but the major powers are more likely to squash it than proliferate it nowadays
[13:52] herman Bergson: Indeed Jara.....
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: hmm hope so indeed
[13:53] herman Bergson: As I child I was instructed to go and sit under the stairs when the bomb would fall :-)
[13:53] Debbie DJ: Jara - there are thousands of nukes still deployed!
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: nuclear weapons is a nightmare
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: shudders
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: horrible stuff
[13:54] herman Bergson: I guess we'd better end our discussion here ^_^
[13:54] Oceane: smiles
[13:54] Bejiita Imako:
[13:54] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:54] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation again...
[13:54] Jarapanda Snook: I think that Herman and I are of a different generation, and that it really is much less of a threat now - I remember the Cuban Missile crisis!
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: aaa the cuba crisis yes
[13:54] Jarapanda Snook: Thanks, Herman
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: then was really close
[13:54] herman Bergson: I watched in on TV jara..I am 63 in RL
[13:54] Oceane: thanks _Herman :)
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: was something like wargames
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: dont remember the exact story
[13:55] Debbie DJ: http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/nukestatus.html
[13:55] Jarapanda Snook: only they were about to press the button... it was a while before the populus knew that
[13:55] herman Bergson: yes was scary..... Kennedy and chroetsjev..
[13:55] Oceane: Would anybody mind if I do a chat log for my learning purposes and give this to my Mentor as part of my studies?
[13:55] Debbie DJ: This link, like many others, shows how real nuclear war still is. we just ignore it these days.
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: yes thank god they didn't
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: then we would not be here today and the planed all dead maybe
[13:56] Jarapanda Snook: go ahead Oceane
[13:56] Oceane: thank you Jara :)
[13:56] Jarapanda Snook: Herman puts all this on his weblog anyway
[13:56] herman Bergson: That is ok Oceana...
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: neetd to check it up
[13:56] Debbie DJ: there are more than 17000 nukes deployed according to this page.
[13:56] herman Bergson: the discussion is also posted on our weblog of the philosophy class
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: aaaa wow i see its a terribly lot
[13:56] Oceane: ah okay so we can chat log any discussion here?
[13:57] herman Bergson: Not here in Wainscot Bejiita.....
[13:57] herman Bergson: so...
[13:57] herman Bergson: Thank you all
[13:57] herman Bergson: and Class dismissed ^_^
[13:57] Jarapanda Snook: Thanks Herman
[13:57] .: Beertje :.: thank you Herman
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: hehehe no hopefully far from here
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:57] Oceane: smiles and waves goodbye :)
[13:57] Debbie DJ: thanks herman - stimulating as usual ;)

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