Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#46  Postby Leonid » June 5th, 2012, 4:06 pm

"Thus, causing harm or witness harm caused to other people, even Nazis or terrorists, does cause us instinctive emotional distress...Causing suffering to anyone or witnessing suffering like eating very bitter food is something that we have been evolutionarily programmed to find emotionally unpleasant."

What evidence you have to substantiate such a claim? Millions of Germans witnessed and committed genocide without any emotional distress and millions of Muslims celebrated 9/11. I wouldn't feel any distress watching execution of Mohammed Atta. Moral intuitivism eliminates morality as a code of values accepted by choice. If you know right from wrong by instinct, there is no need for any moral choice, no room for mind and volition, no need for ethics, no place for moral responsibility. Fortunately, this is simply wrong. Emotions are not instincts, they are automatic value-judgments that stem from the previously consciously integrated and internalized premises. In other words in order to have any emotions, one first has to have at least implicit morality. Test of the medicine is a percept, but unlike animals, man operates not on perceptual but on on conceptual level. That why you have to force animals and small children to drink this bitter liquid-they don't understand that it is good for them. The adult who does understand , will take it, he also could take a chemotherapy or heart transplant. Does it mean he's unselfish? I don't think so. He is profoundly selfish person who acts in his utmost rational self-interest. Self-interested unselfish behavior is simply contradiction in terms.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?



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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#47  Postby Ecurb » June 6th, 2012, 2:40 pm

Altruism is "the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others ( opposed to egoism)."

Not only are humans altruistic by nature, but so are all female mammals, and most birds, and many other animals. If female mammals of any species did not share scarce resources with others (their offspring), often to their own detriment, the species would not survive. Only by twisting the normal meanings of words can we say carrying and nursing young constitutes "self-interest" (although,of course, we loathe and revile mothers who don't care for their young -- but that is culturally determined behavior).
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#48  Postby Leonid » June 8th, 2012, 1:44 pm

Ecurb wrote:Altruism is "the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others ( opposed to egoism)."

Not only are humans altruistic by nature, but so are all female mammals, and most birds, and many other animals. If female mammals of any species did not share scarce resources with others (their offspring), often to their own detriment, the species would not survive. Only by twisting the normal meanings of words can we say carrying and nursing young constitutes "self-interest" (although,of course, we loathe and revile mothers who don't care for their young -- but that is culturally determined behavior).


Do you really think that you can construct any ethical system using instinctive behavior of female mammals and birds? if so you still have to learn the difference between man and beast.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#49  Postby Ecurb » June 8th, 2012, 1:49 pm

Do you think you can conduct an ethical system ignoring instinctive behavior? If so, you still have to learn that man is an animal. (Besides, I was just pointing out that altruism is universal among both humans and other mammals. Why would you think this constitutes "constructing any ethical system"?)
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#50  Postby Leonid » June 8th, 2012, 3:13 pm

Ecurb wrote:Do you think you can conduct an ethical system ignoring instinctive behavior? If so, you still have to learn that man is an animal. (Besides, I was just pointing out that altruism is universal among both humans and other mammals. Why would you think this constitutes "constructing any ethical system"?)


Man is very special animal. He doesn't use instincts to guide his actions, but volition and mind. Morality is a code of values accepted by choice. If man were guided by instincts, he wouldn't need any morality. Altruism is not an instinct but dominant philosophy of our age. This is an evil philosophy which is incompatible with the man's nature as a rational being and which is responsible for the sore state of affairs of our society. It has to be replaced with morality based on the principles of rational egoism.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#51  Postby Ecurb » June 8th, 2012, 3:18 pm

Altruism not only doesn't "have to be replaced" by anything, but if it were to be replaced, the species would soon become extinct, as I was kind enough to point out to you earlier. Can you dispute that altruism is essential to the continuation of not only our species, but all mammalian species?

You appear to be using "volition" to guide your actions, but not "mind".
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#52  Postby Leonid » June 8th, 2012, 3:34 pm

Ecurb wrote:Altruism not only doesn't "have to be replaced" by anything, but if it were to be replaced, the species would soon become extinct, as I was kind enough to point out to you earlier. Can you dispute that altruism is essential to the continuation of not only our species, but all mammalian species?

You appear to be using "volition" to guide your actions, but not "mind".


You effectively deny that man is a volitional, rational and self-sufficient being. Although it is true, that altruism has some significance in the evolutionary process, ( not very big), it doesn't apply to man. Man is not part of this process anymore, since man doesn't need to adjust himself to environment, as animals do. He adjusts environment to himself by using his mind. Altruism is in essence an assault on man's volition and mind, It is a notion that man has to live for and trough others, to abdicate his independence. Such a philosophy, if practiced in full, without doubts would cause an extinction of man as a rational being.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#53  Postby Ecurb » June 8th, 2012, 4:48 pm

I don't deny that man is volitional. But he is not "self-sufficient". And, in the case of Ayn Rand, he is not rational.

It is true that man "adjusts environment to himself by using his mind," but only if he has telekinetic powers. I think the "extinction of man as a rational being" is nigh. Run for your lives!
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#54  Postby Leonid » June 8th, 2012, 5:12 pm

Ecurb wrote:I don't deny that man is volitional. But he is not "self-sufficient". And, in the case of Ayn Rand, he is not rational.

It is true that man "adjusts environment to himself by using his mind," but only if he has telekinetic powers. I think the "extinction of man as a rational being" is nigh. Run for your lives!


Are you living in the bush or in the house? And if you live in the house, is it naturally given to you or you have to adjust nature in order to build it? And how do you build it-by using telekinesis or your mind, your hands and your tools? Or maybe you build it by instinct like bird's nest or anthill? And if man is not self-sufficient, what he needs volition for? It would mean that he has to live through the others. But according to you they all also not self-sufficient helpless creatures. How, then man exists on the earth?
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#55  Postby Ecurb » June 8th, 2012, 5:22 pm

Now you're catching on! I paid builders to make my house. They used their hands and tools (not their MINDS). If I were self-sufficient, I would have built the house myself. But I'm not, and neither is (almost) anybody else in this modern world. I didn't grow my own food, make my own house, or build my own car. I am not an island, entire to myself (as John Donne might say, were he participating in this thread, which he probably wouldn't be, even if he were alive).
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#56  Postby Leonid » June 8th, 2012, 5:38 pm

First you confuse the separation of labor with dependence. Second if you have to pay to the builders you have to create something in exchange-unless you collect money from the trees. Creation presupposes the use of mind and self-sufficiency. Third if the builders were using only their hands and tools without to apply their mind, i wouldn't pay a cent for such a house, let alone live in it-unless they build it using an unerring inherent knowledge, that is-an instinct, as ants and birds do. But is such a case the design of your house wouldn't change for the millions of years, not to mention that you'd never be able to by any car.
Last edited by Leonid on June 8th, 2012, 5:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#57  Postby Ecurb » June 8th, 2012, 5:43 pm

I take it you never met my builders. I understand, Leonid. Just kidding around. Carry on, old chap.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#58  Postby Prof » June 11th, 2012, 3:55 am

Leonid wrote:...Self-interested unselfish behavior is simply contradiction in terms.


Is there a possible obfuscation here?

I draw a distinction - and believe it is useful to do so - between "self-interest" and "selfishness." People often do act out of self-interest, as you say. However, in many, many cases (according to the best insights of Ethics) if they do something unselfish it IS in their best self-interest.

It might help clarify the matter if you read the brief Chapters 9 and 10 on this topic, in ETHICS; A College Course. Here is link to it: - http://tinyurl.com/24cs9y7 See pp. 47 ff.

Then we can discuss it.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#59  Postby Leonid » June 12th, 2012, 12:24 pm

If by selfishness you mean mindless whim worship than you're right. But often this is not a meaning of the word.

": concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others" (Merriam-Webster dictionary).

When I mean the word I mean rational egoism.
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Re: Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?

Post Number:#60  Postby Scott » June 12th, 2012, 1:09 pm

Either way, that's not what we mean by self-interest. By 'being self-interested' we mean to say that one simply isn't literally selfless, which I argued in the OP is non-sense anyway. So, Leonid, when you say, "Self-interested unselfish behavior is simply [a] contradiction in terms," you are defining these terms differently than I. Using your definition, it appears the statement Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness? is a clear yes, since you are defining 'selfishness' as merely 'self-interest' as opposed to (what I believe is) it's by far more common definition. By what I believe are the far more common definitions:

Everyone is acting out self-interest, and nobody is selfless. This is because -- I argue -- everybody tries to get what they want to happen to happen. In other words, I argue that it's nonsense to say someone wants what he/she doesn't want.

Many people are kind, charitable, compassionate, courteous, and generous not just because they think it is "morally right/good" whatever that would mean and not because they think it is religiously commanded but because most people -- i.e. everyone who isn't a literal psychopath/sociopath -- has empathy which often leads to sympathy which is the self-interested source of kind, charitable, compassionate, courteous, and generous intentions and behavior. This is what I believe by a large margin is what is meant by unselfishness, which does exist and is in this more common definition different than literal selflessness since it is among other things a facet of self-interest.

In the more common definition, selfishness refers not merely to people who are self-interested, particularly since even unselfish people are self-interested as shown in the paragraph above. Rather, selfishness refers specifically to people who are the opposite of kind, charitable, compassionate, courteous, and generous. It isn't as absolute as the concept of psychopathy, which refers to an absence of empathy all-together, and it doesn't necessarily require sadism, which is one with empathy but who oddly takes pleasure in other people's pain and displeasure in their happiness rather than vice versa, which is very parallel to masochism in that way of twisting the reception of pain and pleasure versus happiness and unhappiness. Rather selfish people might simply be those who fall anywhere on the spectrum between complete psychopathy/sadism and the kindest most empathetic person in the world that is significantly below the average distance from the former. That means it's relative, like being short or being tall or being dark-skinned or having long hair. In other words, in the common definition, a 'selfish person' is a person who is significantly more unkind, uncharitable, greedy, discourteous, and/or miserly than the average person -- particularly when we are theoretically measuring by one's intentions regardless of believed morality and religion since we might still consider a person selfish if he gives to charity only because he believes it will buy him a ticket to heaven or believe it is "morally good" whatever that means but would be a stingy mean miser who wouldn't save a child drowning because he doesn't want his shoes to get wet if only he didn't think it was against his religion or "moral code". In this more common definition of selfish, selfishness is clearly not compatible with kindness by definition. However, I believe self-proclaimed pro-selfishness philosophers like Rand and maybe you Leonid are not using 'selfishness' in the common definition, but rather are using it to just mean the broader idea of self-interest which is compatible with kindness.

So to reiterate. In what I believe are by far the common definitions: All people are inherently self-interested. Some people are unselfish, and some people are selfish. And selfishness is not compatible with kindness. Of course, the line between selfish (unkind, greedy, etc.) and unselfish (kind, charitable) is relative to some average or benchmark much like the line between short/tall, tan/pale, skinny/fat, ugly/beautiful, long-haired/short-haired. However, in contrast, what pro-selfishness philosophers call 'selfishness' is compatible with kindness.

A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, and though they each seem to use a term in odd way, it seems what self-proclaimed pro-"selfishness" philosophers idiosyncratically call "selfishness" is compatible with what self-proclaimed pro-"selflessness" philosophers idiosyncratically call "selflessness" in that everyone is self-interested but not all are greedy/miserly/unsympathetic and that self-interest is compatible with kindness/charitablity/sympathy. Rand and Comte don't disagree! :mrgreen:
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