Amaroq wrote:I think that, to a point, a "more advanced form of selfishness", rational selfishness, is simply a requirement of survival of man qua man. Animals and even plants survive by basic selfishness, doing whatever it is they're programmed to do. More advanced animals have instincts to guide them, but those instincts pretty much reliably tell them what they need to do.
How can doing what something is programmed to do be thought of as selfishness? If an animal is acting on instinct for its survival, wouldn't that make it difficult to assign moral values of selfishness or selflessness to them? Take a lioness that kills a sick antelope, for instance. That lioness could be though of as selfess, since she's killing another animal to feed herself, or as selfless because she's killing the animal to feed her pack, or as selfless because she's doing the antelope a favor by getting rid of the weak ones that might reduce the possibility of survival of the entire herd of antelope (or even future generations due to natural selection). This of course assumes the lioness doesn't actually engage in rational thought, but acts purely on instinct. If an animal is acting on instinct, in the same way a computer follows instructions, I don't think any moral value of egoism or altruism can be applied since it's purely genetic, and an animal can't pick its genes.
As for more advanced animals primarily depending on instincts to realiably tell them what to, I have to significantly disagree. Even using the lioness example above isn't really valid because lion cubs need to be taught how to hunt. Many animals, especially primates, have to teach their young how to accomplish certain tasks. Now, even if this is just stimulus-response behavior such as Pavlov's dogs (such that it might not involve rational thought, but just rote practice), it's still not instinct. It's learned behavior.
Amaroq wrote:You think that our genetically gaining a will to live ensures that everyone has a will to live, but there really are people out there who commit suicide for whatever reasons. Who knows what tragically destructive philosophic views they implicitly held. This is why we need a good philosophy to guide our lives. Because man is the only animal that can choose to torture and destroy itself.
Yes, I mentioned that suicide was an exception for a predisposition to live, but most people have an inherent fear of death and a subconscious will to survive, which I would argue is genetically based. I would say that your last two sentences are true as long as there are three things: pleasure, pain, and emotion. It's my personal opinion that without those three things (emotion including things like happiness, sadness, etc), there would be no such thing as morality, since any application of "good" or "bad" to actions or things would be completely arbitrary. For example, pleasure and pain are both just biological responses to external or internal stimuli, and are really the same sort of thing. It's just that we, like most other animals, desire pleasure and try to avoid pain (usually).
Amaroq wrote:Humans and human society are much more complex than animals and animal social structures. You could argue that there are some animal social structures that are way more advanced than human social structures, but even in those cases, the animals are equipped to sufficiently deal with those via their instincts. Humans have rational minds, and they have to use those if they want to live the best lives they can.
Yes, but that's assuming we all agree on the meaning of the "best" life one can live. Most agree that people should be happy, should be productive members of society (either through rational self-interest or however else), and should avoid hurting others. When getting down to the details, however, one person's "best" life might not be another person's, and more importantly, many people don't have the ability to even take the path that will lead them to happiness. Many, many people try to do things to make themselves happy, and then end up far more unhappy because of their actions (not that I advocate government intervention or anything...I don't think they know better than the individuals themselves in the majority of, or even all, cases). Maybe it's just an issue of education, but that's for another thread. If more people knew how to get to the life they dream of, then more people would live the "best" life, as in best for them personally, as well as good enough for the rest of society.
Amaroq wrote:I was very purposeful in my wording of that last sentence. Those people who don't challenge themselves and relegate themselves to a life of mere survival aren't living the fullest lives they possibly can. Were they to challenge themselves, become more productive, etc, they could earn more for themselves as well as feel better about themselves. In many, many ways, a rationally selfish person will live better than a hedonistically "selfish" person.
This somewhat contradicts what I said in the last paragraph, but what if there are people that are happy living that way? Maybe they don't want to earn more for themselves, and maybe challenging themselves wouldn't make them feel better about themselves. Who are we to say they should live differently? Isn't it their choice? On the other hand, like I said above, maybe it's just an issue of education. I'm certainly not advocating forcing
others to live "fuller" lives...
Amaroq wrote:There are two barometers to tell you how good of a life you are living. The pleasure-pain response is a barometer that is possessed by pretty much the entirety of the animal kingdom, including humans. There is another one that pretty much only possessed by humans, however. Happiness and suffering. Happiness being joy and love of life, etc. Someone who is merely surviving is probably not feeling physical pain, but whether they are truly happy is debatable.
I completely disagree that animals don't feel happiness or sadness. Remember [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_of_despair"]Harlow's experiment[/url] with young monkeys? I'll bet they were rather unhappy. Everything else you said here I agree with, but it's my opinion higher animals certainly can feel happiness or sadness.
Amaroq wrote:I thought for a second that you were going to use evolution, genes, etc to assert that we evolved to be altruistic. (I've heard it before.) I assert that you can't make a solid case for altruism without giving it an egoistic foundation. Pure, 100% undiluted altruism is impossible. You'd have to sacrifice everything until you have nothing left. You'd sacrifice yourself to death. Even the most altruistic people have to take a breather and selfishly replenish themselves. If they didn't, how could they live?
I would agree that 100% undiluted altruism is impossible. However, the limited altruism we do
have is certainly an evolutionary result, since our social structures increase the probability of survival versus trying to completely survive on one's own with no interaction with any other humans. There are huge societal advantages to being honest and trustworthy. Helping others is advantageous, too, but not at the cost of one's own needs. I would say that both rational thought and (limited) altruism are evolutionary advantageous, since the social structures of humans and other animals have increased the possibility of survival dramatically.
Pfhorrest wrote:If the argument here is between Egoism and Altruism, then I think both positions are prime facie absurd, and I suspect the vast majority of people would agree.
Given your definition for capital Egoism and Altruism, I would agree.
However, I still think that the whole "relative" part of "relativity" messes this up. Relative to the observer on the train, isn't the racecar (as well as everything off the train, AKA the entire universe, I suppose) moving at half the speed of light, and the train standing still? So, if speed is relative, how can their clocks be moving faster than those on the train?
Say... say if you did have a situation where the entire universe is moving at the half the speed of light in one direction, and the train is standing still. Is that, then, not indistinguishable from the train moving at half the speed of light and the universe standing still?
TL;DR... My brain hurts.
Not trying to overturn special relativity here (I'm sure thousands of people have come up with this before and tried to do that), but wondering if anyone can explain to me how this doesn't overturn it.
I had this same problem years ago, and my physics professor explained that you have to look at intertial
reference frames to understand the difference...in other words, it's whichever one that accelerates from a rest state (relative to everything else). My question was about the space traveler paradox, where a spaceship leaves Earth at nearly the speed of light, travels a long way, and then comes back to Earth to find everyone older. I didn't understand why the people on Earth didn't experience time dilation relative to the spaceship, and the reason is that it's the spaceship
that accelerated relative to the Earth, then stopped, accelerated again, then stopped. So yeah, I didn't explain that very well, but I'm pretty sure the answer to your question has to do with inertial reference frames.
"Distrust your judgment the moment you can discern the shadow of a personal motive in it."
-- Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach