Thursday, May 9, 2013

473: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 38

Watch the following Youtube movie. It will take only 2:09 minutes. Pay special attention to the last scene with the 14 months old kid.

We have a natural inclination for cooperation and supporting each other. Those who mean that we are just selfish beings who go only after their own interests are wrong.

But if this inclination is in our genes, why do we, as adults, make such a limited use of it? There is a maybe somewhat disturbing answer to that question.

Take the next experiment; three groups of 20 months old children. When a child in group one showed cooperative behavior it received a reward, some little toy.

Those in group 2 were explicitly praised only. Group 3 didn't get any kind of reward for cooperative behavior.

The experiments were like the last one in the Youtube movie. What was the result? The children in group 2 and 3 retained their cooperative behavior through a series of tests.

However, the unconditional cooperative behavior of the children in group 1 was gone. They only helped , when there was a reward.

Similar experiments showed the same results. The message is unequivocal: a person, who is conditioned to do things in exchange for a material reward, has trouble doing the same things, when there is no reward in prospect.

It is clear that (altruistic) cooperation and material reward is not a natural relation, hard wired in our brain. 

Instead we are thus conditioned in our childhood, that this connexion is imprinted in our brain. If the connexion is there, it becomes an automatic reflex.

In other words: we are not egoists by nature, but by nurture. This leads to other conclusions, because our whole economic system is based on exchange of goods and rewards.

There is no other conclusion possible then to say that money changes our natural attitudes and thus also society.

Georg Simmel (1858 - 1918), a German sociologist, wrote "Philosophy des Geldes" (1900) [The Philosophy of Money]. His question was, what influence has money on us and our culture.

He wanted to understand the cultural and moral changes caused by the influence of money. A field of research now inhabited by behavioral economists.

While before,says Simmel, social differences, guilds, religion, traditions and the like determined the rules of the game, now (i.e. 1900) rules the calculating rationality of money. 

The quality of life is measured in money. The value which things have for us, we do no longer describe it in the use they have for us, but is expressed by its price, the bigger car, the expensive watch.

Like a juvenile criminal said: "I got addicted to money. It is like drugs. When you can earn (.ie. by stealing and street robbery hB.)  money so easily, it feels good. You want to do it again and again and again, until you can't live without it anymore."

The most stunning example of how money destroys morality was in the Dutch TV News last week.

There is some new product on the market: the e-shisha stick. Tastes like candy, but you "smoke" it like a cigaret. 

The issue was increasingly that it was popular among young children (10 - 13) and that it could contain carcinogenic substances.

Then you get the next interview with the representative of the wholesales company which distributes the product.

Interviewer: "Do you know what substances are in it?"
Representative: " I think, that it is less harmful than cigarets, but I can not imagine that it is healthy."
Interviewer: "Then, why do you sell it?"
Representative: "Yes…well…. why do you sell liquor, why do you sell candy?"

I think you can not find a better proof that money has its own rules which seem to transcend moral standards.

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

The Discussion

[13:39] herman Bergson: Thank you...^_^
[13:39] Debbie DJ: Debbie is speechless.
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman, Great lecture!
[13:39] Debbie DJ: thank you Herman
[13:39] Debbie DJ: so - were only in it for the money?
[13:39] herman Bergson: my pleasure
[13:40] Oceane: great class, herman, thank you so much
[13:40] seekerp: thank u herman
[13:40] seekerp: now il go to religion class
[13:40] seekerp: lol
[13:40] herman Bergson: I must say that I too found it all a but disturbing....
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: a really horrible example of this is the mexican drug wars, the drugs make people crazy and are dangerous stuff and also they murder each other in the masses for the money that they get from those drugs
[13:40] herman Bergson: But on the other hand also hopeful
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: as long they can make money from the drugs doesn't matter how many they kill or that gets ill bu the drugs
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: really sad story
[13:41] Debbie DJ: Lets hear the hopeful bit then?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well....
[13:42] herman Bergson: the positive part of the story is that our inclination to cooperate and support eachother is innate....
[13:42] Debbie DJ: only until it is corrupted by money.
[13:42] herman Bergson: We "disable" it to some extend by learning to work for material rewards...
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: material stuff seems to easily change this
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: we should be more aware of the real value of a thing and not of its monetary value
[13:43] herman Bergson: In the long term it means tht we have to revise our way of living together completely....
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: aaa true lizzy
[13:43] herman Bergson: the whole idea of economic is nuts....
[13:43] herman Bergson: indeed Lizzy...
[13:43] Debbie DJ: It also probably means that poor people have better ethics than paid workers?
[13:44] Debbie DJ: or at least better community spirit
[13:44] Lizzy Pleides: i noticed that many people are changing their minds about values when they are getting older
[13:44] Debbie DJ: Older people worry about their children future Lizzy...
[13:45] herman Bergson: If they are not caught in the web of material rewards..but only in an economy that only produces for what is needed, you might be right Debbie
[13:45] herman Bergson: In what sense Lizzy?
[13:45] Mouse Moorlord: bye
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: not so much counting money and not do greedy anymore
[13:45] herman Bergson: oh...maybe I can give you a real example....
[13:46] Debbie DJ: I see some of that in the poorer areas of South Africa. The people are cohesive and often supportive.
[13:46] herman Bergson: Exactly.....
[13:46] herman Bergson: Even in SL....
[13:46] herman Bergson: I am a scripter.....
[13:46] seekerp: thank u all
[13:46] herman Bergson: but if you ask me to write scripts offering me 5000L , I wouldn't accept it....
[13:47] herman Bergson: my value is that it has to be fun to write the script...
[13:47] herman Bergson: Like in RL...
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: we have to confess that money has its own rules
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes, u need motivation for it indeed not just money
[13:47] Debbie DJ: Good man herman. But sl is different to rl... the money is token for a start
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: aaa
[13:47] herman Bergson: I have a nice cant motivate me to find some additional work and income
[13:48] herman Bergson: Ok it is nice a few extra bucks now and then....
[13:48] Debbie DJ: sl is almost a nirvanah... we all come in here to play, like interactive television...
[13:49] herman Bergson: But in Rl it has to come from winning the lottery...not from having a job again ^_^
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:49] Debbie DJ: It is the stuff of "self actualisation"
[13:49] Lizzy Pleides: would you have acted similar 25 years ago herman?
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes it is interactive TV Debbie....
[13:49] herman Bergson: Good question Lizzy.....and that was your point too
[13:49] herman Bergson: The older you get values change...
[13:50] Lizzy Pleides: its probably a question of maturity
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yet I never have looked for new jobs then to get a better salary....I was content with being what I loved to be..a teacher
[13:51] herman Bergson: The pay was sufficient...
[13:52] Lizzy Pleides: did you work in free economy?
[13:52] herman Bergson: Never had the ambition to become a head of a department or even a whole Academy....:-)
[13:52] herman Bergson: what do you mean Lizzy?
[13:53] Lizzy Pleides: if you worked as an official?
[13:53] Lizzy Pleides: or in economy
[13:53] herman Bergson: It is the nice place to be
[13:54] herman Bergson: ahh...I don't know the tech words for US it is tenure..I believe...
[13:54] herman Bergson: I was an employe of a university....with a contract
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: yes may be
[13:54] herman Bergson: contract for indefinite time
[13:55] Debbie DJ: Nice job herman ;)
[13:55] Debbie DJ: Makes you more altruistic...
[13:55] herman Bergson: Yes it really was Debbie...
[13:55] herman Bergson: Never motivated by the money, but by my students....:-)
[13:56] Bejiita Imako:
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: thats the way to go
[13:56] herman Bergson: That you have a job and get paid you take for granted....It is the system
[13:57] Debbie DJ: I always worked for corporates - way different.
[13:57] herman Bergson: But what shocked me today was to learn what material reward can do to our true human nature
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: yes herman
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:57] Debbie DJ: Yes. The experiment with the 3 groups of babies... is there a video link?
[13:58] herman Bergson: so other words....there is a real flaw in our economic system.....
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: seems so
[13:58] Debbie DJ: Well, there sure is. And its driving us to over consumption.
[13:58] Lizzy Pleides: but we also know that children are extreme egoists too
[13:59] herman Bergson: I found the video by a search on Felix Warneken
[13:59] herman Bergson: maybe Michael Tomasello may bring you other stuff
[14:00] herman Bergson: they were researchers of the Max Planck Institute
[14:01] herman Bergson: Not by nature is seems Lizzy
[14:01] Oceane: sorry folks I have to leave now, please take care everybody
[14:01] herman Bergson: thnx for coming Oceane
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: bye Oceane
[14:02] Debbie DJ: Aha - found a group of videos...
[14:02] herman Bergson: yes Debbie....
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: oki
[14:02] Lizzy Pleides: they have a development until they are adult of course, thereƄs no contradiction
[14:02] herman Bergson: But take all pieces of the puzzle together so far.....
[14:02] Debbie DJ: cool. I like watching the background info...
[14:02] herman Bergson: We take life for granted as it is.....
[14:02] herman Bergson: but...
[14:03] herman Bergson: there are peaceful societies on this earth...people who never go to war or use extreme violence....
[14:03] herman Bergson: then you see that material reward is maybe the worst way of motivating people....
[14:04] herman Bergson: get that all understood in this money dominated world will take a century perhaps....
[14:04] Debbie DJ: Money has changed as well since 1900 - we now print it like there is no tomorrow...
[14:05] herman Bergson: But I think ..if the homo sapiens wants to survive, he has to discover the value of these observations and adapt to them
[14:06] Debbie DJ: I dont think its going to happen in time to save about half of the population :((
[14:06] herman Bergson: Just imagine Debbie....Simmel already saw what we now experience every money ruins morality...
[14:06] herman Bergson: and that was 100 years ago
[14:06] Debbie DJ: Sure he did, but he didn't change anything.
[14:07] herman Bergson: no...maybe not.....or maybe he did for he is still remembered for his words....
[14:08] Lizzy Pleides: maybe the people didn't understand him a 100 years ago
[14:08] herman Bergson: and these days more and more people begin to understand the absurdity of our economic system with its infinite growth dogma
[14:08] Debbie DJ: Unless you are a very rich person... then you get to make your own riles.
[14:09] herman Bergson: No Lizzy...for it was a period of great scientific and industrial growth...
[14:09] Debbie DJ: and you don't see the absurdity , just the mansion, and car.
[14:09] herman Bergson: yes Debbie...there is indeed one obstacle....
[14:10] herman Bergson: it is the rich people who are in control at the moment....
[14:10] herman Bergson: and like the juvenile criminal....
[14:10] herman Bergson: ...more more more became the drive
[14:10] Lizzy Pleides: was it different in the middle ages?
[14:10] Debbie DJ: and the rich people own the guns and means of oppression
[14:10] Bejiita Imako: money = power and also your personal value
[14:10] Bejiita Imako: thats crazy
[14:11] herman Bergson: I think it was Lizzy...
[14:11] Debbie DJ: I agree it was Herman.
[14:11] herman Bergson: Tho you were rich you still had to obey the rules of religion and tradition...
[14:11] herman Bergson: not the money rules....
[14:12] Debbie DJ: and the virus didn't stop at the castle gates...
[14:12] Lizzy Pleides: but there were serfs and slaves
[14:12] herman Bergson: But the fact that you represented the authority of god on this earth defined your power
[14:12] Lizzy Pleides: and people like Medici and Fuggers
[14:12] herman Bergson: Now it is the amount of money you control what defines your power
[14:12] Debbie DJ: Another trick played by the rich on the poor
[14:13] Debbie DJ: religion that is
[14:13] herman Bergson: true Debbie....
[14:13] Debbie DJ: Debbie rubs her temples, and shrugs off the negative mood....
[14:14] herman Bergson: religion has always been a means of controlling the masses
[14:14] Bejiita Imako: yes
[14:14] Debbie DJ: and now, it is all done by money.
[14:14] herman Bergson: I still feel positive Debbie :-)
[14:14] herman Bergson: but we wont live to see it....
[14:14] herman Bergson: it is a matter of centuries
[14:15] herman Bergson: like evolution is
[14:16] herman Bergson: Just realize that I am not the only person on this globe with these ideas and thaoughts...
[14:16] Debbie DJ: Im also optimistic for the survival of the planet, and some humans...
[14:16] herman Bergson: on the contrary...:-)
[14:16] herman Bergson: I just steal whatever I like and tell it you all :-)
[14:16] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[14:16] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[14:16] Bejiita Imako: hahaha
[14:16] Debbie DJ: thats a big confession ;)
[14:16] Debbie DJ: and you had me fooled....
[14:17] herman Bergson: No Debbie...there is one important personal addition....
[14:17] Debbie DJ: Will you edit that out before you blog it?
[14:17] herman Bergson: I may steal..ok....
[14:17] herman Bergson: but it is ME and MY MIND that chooses WHAT to steal :-)
[14:18] herman Bergson: not a word Debbie ^_^
[14:18] Debbie DJ: :)))) - Yes. and I do enjoy your mind....
[14:18] Debbie DJ: You cheer me up
[14:18] herman Bergson: I already got a mail from some Dwight Adams....
[14:18] herman Bergson: He said...
[14:19] herman Bergson: he....I was reading your lecture on Lady Cockburn and noticed that line so and so were literally copied from the Stanford Encyclopedia ^_^
[14:19] herman Bergson: while you didn't refer to that source...!!!
[14:19] Lizzy Pleides: ohh
[14:20] herman Bergson: He caught me in the act !!!!!
[14:20] Debbie DJ: oops. There is software to spot plagiarism at school these days...
[14:20] Lizzy Pleides: was he angry?
[14:20] herman Bergson: Well his job was to do so at some university in the US
[14:21] herman Bergson: no he was nice...appreciated my philosophical efforts....
[14:21] herman Bergson: He just said…mention your sources...academic decency...
[14:21] herman Bergson: and he was right on that
[14:21] Debbie DJ: Thats ok then - he was just showing off his new ability..
[14:21] Lizzy Pleides: we had some politicians in Germany with plagiats in their graduations
[14:21]  herman Bergson grins
[14:21] Debbie DJ: Ok friends, I must dash...
[14:22] herman Bergson: maybe it was that :-)
[14:22] Bejiita Imako:
[14:22] Lizzy Pleides: yes me too Debbie
[14:22] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[14:22] Bejiita Imako: wow time flies
[14:22] herman Bergson: no he wasn't….
[14:22] Debbie DJ: Lovely lecture tonight... and see you all on thursday?
[14:22] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[14:23] Bejiita Imako: cu next time
[14:23] Bejiita Imako:
[14:23] herman Bergson: He probably made a study of Lady Cockburn...if I spell her name right....and ran into my lecture of 2009
[14:23] Debbie DJ: byeeeee Herman, Bejita, Lizzy
[14:23] Lizzy Pleides: good night Herman, byee all
[14:23] herman Bergson: Bye Debbie...
[14:23] Debbie DJ: aaah ok ;)
[14:23] Bejiita Imako: night all

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