Monday, April 22, 2013

469: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 34

The more I immerse myself in the subject of our project, the more questions come to me about the relation between all these insights and the traditional philosophical ethics.

While philosophers like Kant (1724 - 1804) try formulate to the basics of ethics in his Categorical Imperative, the social psychologists try to show us that ethics is not the product of our rationality.

Albert Bandura (born December 4, 1925, in Mundare, Alberta, Canada) is a psychologist who is the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University.

His idea was, that we do not only learn to behave because we are rewarded or punished for our behavior, but also by observing the behavior of others. He called it social cognition.

Social cognitive theory, used in psychology, education, and communication, posits that  people do not learn new behaviors solely by trying them and either succeeding or failing, but rather, the survival of humanity is dependent upon the replication of the actions of others. 

Depending on whether people are rewarded or punished for their behavior and the outcome of the behavior, that behavior may be modeled. Further, media provide models for a vast array of people in many different environmental settings.

For the most part, social cognitive theory remains the same for various cultures. Since the concepts of moral behavior did not vary much between cultures (as crimes like murder, theft, and unwarranted violence are illegal in virtually every society), there is not much room for people to have different views on what is morally right or wrong. 

The main reason that social cognitive theory applies to all nations is because it does not say what is moral and immoral; it simply states that we can acknowledge these two concepts. 

Our actions in real-life scenarios will be based on whether or not we believe the action to be moral and whether or not the reward for violating our morals is significant enough, and nothing else.

The technique we use for that is not applying the Kantian Categorical Imperative, but by using the "Categorical Comparative", which is a real part of human nature.

This term is self-invented, but does it mean? It means that we want to feel good. We want to say to ourselves, "I am a good person and not an asshole."

Thence we say to ourselves that we act morally right (most of the time). We don't do that by testing our behavior with the Categorical Imperative, but by comparing our behavior with that of others.

The most horrible example is that of the soldier who killed only children, while his comrades killed the mothers. And his reasoning was something like "I killed only these poor orphans, but look at them who killed the mothers!"

Or a more familiar example. A child got a D for his test and says to his parents…."Yes a D, but most of the class got E-s and F-s", which makes a D almost a intellectual victory.

What we see here is that "the comrades" and "the rest of the class" become the standard to decide whether something is right or wrong.

We define ourselves by comparing ourselves with others. When we can look down on them this is balm for our Ego. Looking up to others can be both, motivating and demotivating.

Two groups of girls were shown photos of a model. One group was told that the model happened to have the same birthday as them. Afterwards they were asked to describe their own  appearance.

The first group was much more negative about their appearance than the second group. The explanation was, that it was already enough to have just something in common with the other to say "she is beautiful, but I am too more or less" instead of"I am not so beautiful as that model", which can make the other a motivating example.

In moral situations we are easily inclined to emphasize, how bad the others are. When your brother says to you that he is more ethical than you are, so you should look up to him, I don't think you will do that without discussion.

Yet the philosophical question remains, whether morals show constant shifting baselines, or can there be universal rock solid moral standards.

Main Resources:
Richard David Precht, Die Kunst kein Egoist zu sein (2012)
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition

The Discussion

[13:25] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:25] herman Bergson: My apologies I messed up a little
[13:25] Gemma Allen: shifting baselines seems interesting ..
[13:25] Bejiita Imako:
[13:25] Gemma Allen: seems to fit sometimes
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:26] herman Bergson: But the main thought is that we don't learn moral behavior because of rational moral principles but by comparing behavior and imitation in fact
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes Gemma....
[13:26] Lizzy Pleides: for the term of the Categorical Comparative you should get the nobel prize
[13:27] Gemma AllenGemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:27] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:27] herman Bergson: When I look in the mirror I don't compare my face with that of 20 years ago....dis so 20 years ago :-)
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: hahahahah
[13:27] herman Bergson: Now I compare it only with the image of yesterday
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: (Throws to Herman a Nobel prize)
[13:27] herman Bergson: so I shift the baseline
[13:27] Bejiita Imako:
[13:28] herman Bergson: We see now a number of ways how we define our selves morally...
[13:28] herman Bergson: conformity to the group
[13:28] herman Bergson: shifting baselines
[13:28] herman Bergson: comparing behavior and boosting our by looking down on others
[13:28] Gemma Allen: teen years are such a problem this way
[13:29] Gemma Allen: everyone wants to be like their peers
[13:29] Lizzy Pleides: for intelligent people there is a big variety to define themselves a moral persons
[13:29] herman Bergson: there you see the adoration of idols
[13:29] herman Bergson: yes Lizzy.....and what you may is not a constant....
[13:30] Lizzy Pleides: true
[13:30] herman Bergson: just look at sexual behavior....
[13:30] herman Bergson: fi the ones you look up to behave in a certain way....why shouldn't you.....
[13:30] herman Bergson: tho years ago you might have detested it
[13:31] .: Beertje :.: same with cloth of famous brands
[13:31] herman Bergson: or clothing...
[13:31] herman Bergson: just recall what happened when the mini skirt arrived on the scene...
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes, just for the brand u pay 3 times as much if not more even if the fabric is same quality in both cases
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: thats a bit crazy
[13:32] Gemma Allen: well it is back
[13:32] herman Bergson: and look around now.....
[13:32] .: Beertje :.: yes Bejiita..but youngsters think they must have it
[13:32] herman Bergson: what is right and wrong in clothing?
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:32] Gemma Allen: of course
[13:32] herman Bergson: people look at each other....
[13:32] .: Beertje :.: they feel good when they wear those cloths
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: also lot of group pressure and such
[13:33] herman Bergson: if they see that other get away with it....well..then it must be right
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: and what is in and what is out
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: trends
[13:33] herman Bergson: I am beginning to think that we have two levels of ethics....
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: indeed but that other person might just be lucky he did get away for that time and the other will not be when he tries himself
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: a bit dangerous
[13:34] herman Bergson: one of our every day use....where baselines shift, where we compare.....where standards change all the time....
[13:34] herman Bergson: and one more basic......
[13:35] herman Bergson: where there are solid values...
[13:35] herman Bergson: like not murdering or stealing or using violence...
[13:35] herman Bergson: but changing the length of your skirt has little to do with such standards...
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: that i think should be obvious to all that u dont do things like that but apparently thats not how it is
[13:36] herman Bergson: so that issue can be liquid....
[13:36] herman Bergson: that is the point Bejiita...
[13:36] herman Bergson: take murder for instance....
[13:36] herman Bergson: the word is already judgmental....
[13:37] herman Bergson: so back to killing another human being.....
[13:37] herman Bergson: then the question becomes fundamental....
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: just now in the news i saw lot of theft cases and a gang that goes around asking for help by laying a paper with something on it over your mobile or wallet and ask if they can help them with this
[13:37] herman Bergson: like the discussion on the death penalty...
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: then the phone and wallet is gone and they leave
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: really nasty
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: and was cases all over my city where that had happened
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: also how they use al sorts of viruses to try to empty peoples bank accounts
[13:39] herman Bergson: I think ..the question about having the right to take the life of another is more fundamental than taking his cellphone :-)
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: also really terrible and gets worse and worse
[13:39] herman Bergson: Tho I am not sure anymore these days about that :-))
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: yes herman and its always the question who can decide about death and life
[13:39] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:39] herman Bergson: Indeed Lizzy....
[13:40] herman Bergson: Even when you have taken a life yourself by murdering someone...
[13:40] herman Bergson: is it completely arbitrary what right we have to our life or is it more than that
[13:41] Gemma Allen: well self preservation would be one right
[13:41] Gemma Allen: tho i would still find it hard or impossible to do
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes and you do not need to KILL someone to preserve yourself
[13:42] Gemma Allen: oh sometimes one does
[13:42] .: Beertje :.: brb
[13:42] Gemma Allen: if that person is threatening you with murder
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: Hi Rod
[13:42] Gemma Allen: rod
[13:42] herman Bergson: In situations of war it is used as an argument indeed Gemma...yes
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: Hi Lizzy
[13:43] Gemma Allen: of abuse
[13:43] Gemma Allen: or *
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: Hi Gemma
[13:44] herman Bergson: Complicated questions.....
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:44] herman Bergson: Fortunately we don't need to answer them...
[13:44] Gemma Allen: as usual
[13:44] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:44] herman Bergson: the meaning of this project is that you look for your own answers afterwards ^_^
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: we have to leave some problems to be solved by our followers
[13:45] herman Bergson: Well...if you ran out of questions or remarks...?
[13:45] Gemma Allen: LOL
[13:45] herman Bergson: May I thank you for your participation again ^_^
[[13:46] Gemma Allen: Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!!
[13:46] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ...
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman!
[13:46] Gemma Allen: see you next week
[13:46] Gemma Allen: Bye, Bye   
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: aaaa cu
[13:46] herman Bergson: Bye Gemma
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: TC Gemma
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: great as usual
[13:46] herman Bergson: thank you Bejiita
[13:48] herman Bergson: Hi Rodney :-)
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: Hi Herman
[13:48] Lizzy Pleides: good night everybody
[13:48] herman Bergson: Attending the end of class for years now ^_^
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: Goodnight Lizzy
[13:49] herman Bergson: I am sorry I still can't match with your time schedule Rodney ^_^

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