Altruism and The Price Equation

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Altruism and The Price Equation

Post by shuzbot » June 6th, 2018, 4:30 am

Does altruism exist?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, The Price Equation:

I won't pretend that I understand it but there are consistent means of assessing altruism depending on how you define it.

Randian egoists seem to insist that you cannot have altruism and motivation cos it is impossible to act against your own interests and if - like Socrates - you appear to do so it's because it matches your priorities and delivers an emotional pay off.

I think this sublimation of pity and self-interest is overly simplistic. It conflates act of sympathy or honour. It suggests that you cannot have pure altruism unless it is accidental. I am undecided as to whether you can have pure altruism but I wouldn't claim it doesn't exist. I also believe that others as a priority regardless of any secondary self-interest is the correct definition of Altruism.

The thing that interests me is that animals are seen to lack reason. If only the selfish can be reasoning and humans are incapable of acting without reasoning then you need to be unreasoning, i.e. an animal, in order to be altruistic. This suggests that animals are capable of acting to a higher ethical standard than humans.

You might rightly question whether a dog is incapable of reasoning or just lack the language capabilities to clearly articulate that reasoning but take the example of a bee laying down life in order to defend its queen. Surely an insect would be as near to completely instinctual/intuitive as you can get. And yet we consider ourselves capable of higher ethics via self-examination.

If acting in selfish interests is antithetical to group society that lets us evolve society and therefore culture and education as part of that society then altruism is necessary and to some extent rational without us being aware of that rationality. This argument I believe disconnects motivation from rationality and ethics.

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