Saturday, August 10, 2013

Can altruism pass an outsider test?

Some people might ask whether or not we have come to think a meaningful life has to do with doing things for other people because we have been brainwashed in our society to think that way. If we look at this from a perspective of an outsider, would we prefer a life concerned with others over a self-centered life? 

29 comments:

Dan Gillson said...

If we are considering the idea of altruism as an outsider, i.e., as someone who is self-centered, then I'd have to say that we end up choosing self-centeredness over altruism. Being an outsider vis-à-vis altruism means assessing our beliefs from the perspective of a self-centered person. Thus, he would prioritize the reasons for which we act in our benefit over the those which benefit others. Consequently, he would end up choosing to be self-centered, because it is to his benefit to do so.

im-skeptical said...

A strong case can be made that everything we do so for our own benefit, or perhaps for our offspring. We help others because it rewards us by making us feel good. We choose a religious lifestyle because we believe there will be the reward of eternal life in heaven. We choose to be honest because we believe it brings respect and admiration.

There appears to be an evolutionary basis in mankind for altruistic behavior. This behavior does not extend to members of a competitor or enemy social group, though. Group identity seems to be heavily influenced by social interactions.

Crude said...

A strong case can be made that everything we do so for our own benefit, or perhaps for our offspring.

Alright - make the case.

We help others because it rewards us by making us feel good.

Sometimes helping people sucks. Often, in fact.

We choose a religious lifestyle because we believe there will be the reward of eternal life in heaven.

Not exclusively, nope. Not even largely. Go ask many Christians if they think you can earn your way into heaven with good works. Go ask the hindus and the buddhists how they view this 'eternal life' concept.

We choose to be honest because we believe it brings respect and admiration.

You have a funny idea of the value of honesty. Further, 'honesty' does jack for bringing suspect and admiration. Being perceived as honest is another matter.

Two different things.

There appears to be an evolutionary basis in mankind for altruistic behavior.

The altruistic behavior you just said a strong case existed against because 'everything we do so for our own benefit or perhaps our offspring'?

Or have you gone and redefined altruistic behavior to mean 'doing something for your own benefit or the benefit of your offspring'?

Jim S. said...

Can belief in other minds pass the outsider test? Can belief in a physical world pass the outsider test? (An outsider in both cases would presumably be a solipsist.) I don't think they would.

Karl Grant said...

You have a funny idea of the value of honesty. Further, 'honesty' does jack for bringing suspect and admiration. Being perceived as honest is another matter.

Yeah, a lot of times being honest usually involves telling somebody something they don't want to hear; which usually doesn't do wonders for respect and admiration.

im-skeptical said...

Honesty is also part of altruism.

The examples I gave earlier were not intended to be exclusive. There may be a variety of motivations for people's behaviors. For people who value integrity, it makes them happy to know that they are not slimeballs. But I think whatever people do, they derive some kind of benefit from it. So ultimately, it comes down to what we believe is god for us.

im-skeptical said...

I meant to say 'good', not 'god'.

To clarify the issue of doing something because it makes us feel good vs as a product of evolution, (for those who don't understand simple things), consider sex. Why do we do it? Because it makes us feel good. Why does it make us feel good? Evolution. It helps us to pass on our genes. A similar mechanism may be true of altruistic behavior.

oozzielionel said...

The irony is that a self-centered life is counter productive. Others like you when you are concerned about their needs above your own. Part of your needs are to be liked by others. In order to liked by others, you need to set aside your own needs. If you reveal that you are only pretending to be concerned about the needs of others, others will not like you. They want you to be sincerely concerned about them. The rewarded behavior is to be sincerely concerned about the needs of others. The punished behavior is to live a self-centered life.

One alternative is the deceptively self-sacrificial life.

I see nothing in this issue that relates to evolutionary beneficial behavior. The cultural "brain washing" is the drive for humans to differentiate their behavior from animal behavior. One may interpret this as revulsion of evolutionary beginnings or the battle against a sin nature. Either way, on our best days we prefer a life concerned with others.

im-skeptical said...

There was a recent study (sorry, I don't have a link) involving computer simulations of populations with varying degrees of altruistic behavior. The study found that there was a positive correlation between altruistic behavior and how well the overall population fared in comparison to others. If this simulation reflects real populations, it has implications for evolutionary development of altruistic behavior.

Crude said...

Why do we do it? Because it makes us feel good. Why does it make us feel good? Evolution. It helps us to pass on our genes.

As with honesty, you have a very interesting, simplified view of sex, not to mention evolution and science generally. ;)

Crude said...

The irony is that a self-centered life is counter productive. Others like you when you are concerned about their needs above your own.

No, others like you when they think you're concerned about their needs. You don't need to actually be so.

Part of your needs are to be liked by others.

Nope. Certainly not always.

If you reveal that you are only pretending to be concerned about the needs of others, others will not like you.

Which is where deception comes in, when needed.

Here's something everyone needs to realize: there is a gap between perception and reality, particularly with human relations. You can be as good-natured and honest as you please, but if you're perceived (even mistakenly) as a bastard, then you shall be treated as one. You can be as bastardly as you like, but if you're perceived as a good-natured, caring person, that's how you'll be treated.

Perception matters. When it comes to social regard, it is the lion's share.

Karl Grant said...

The irony is that a self-centered life is counter productive.

Really? Tell that to old Joe Stalin, Mao Zedong and other Cults of Personality. I exploit you, still you love me

Part of your needs are to be liked by others. In order to liked by others, you need to set aside your own needs.

That statement does not make sense. If being liked by others is one of your needs than you are not putting aside your own needs to make others like you. Rather, you are prioritizing one of your need over your other needs for the moment.

Why do we do it? Because it makes us feel good. Why does it make us feel good? Evolution.

Well, the first obvious rebuttal to that is asking whither you have ever heard of a condom or the term contraception? Still makes a person feel good but removes passing of genes out of the equation, which seems counterproductive. Next obvious rebuttal is asking why are birthrates in Western Europe stagnating or declining for the last couple of decades despite the populace generally content? In fact, hedonists (people who are all about feeling good) tend to have less children then other groups of people.

jdhuey said...

@Karl,

Neither of your two rebuttals are really valid. In fact, they are not valid on many different levels.

To pick just one of those levels is that implicit in your rebuttal is the Naturalistic Fallacy: if something is Natural then it must be good. Having lots of children might be Natural but it is not necessarily a good survival strategy for an individual, for a society or for our species. Having lots of children may have been the preferred reproductive strategy at a time when most of those children would die before they could reproduce themselves but it is not necessarily a good one now.

Karl Grant said...

Jdhuey,

I am not the one arguing that because something is natural it is automatically good. That would be I'm Skeptical with his statements like: Why do we do it? Because it makes us feel good. Why does it make us feel good? Evolution. It helps us to pass on our genes.

I am the one arguing against the notion that just because something naturally feels good doesn't mean it actually is good or right. Why do you think I brought up contraceptives in response to a statement of sex feels good because of evolution so our species will contiune to multiply? But think you for pointing out that I'm Skeptical is using a logical fallacy here. He tends not to believe me, Crude, Bob, etc... when we tell him he is being illogical.

Of course, he might not believe you either since you have confused his ideological position and arguments with mine. Speaking of which, on what other ways are my two rebuttals not really valid? Considering how you have just reassigned me I'm Skeptical's ideological outlook, I am really curious to know.

jdhuey said...

Karl,

The Naturalistic Fallacy happens when an 'is' statement is interpreted as an 'aught' statement. I don't think that im-spetical was guilty of the fallacy in his use of the word 'good'. When he said "sex feels good" he was just referring to our internal feelings and that is an 'is' statement. When he said that those internal feelings were the result of Evolution that was also an 'is' statement. Im-skeptical made no 'aught' statement (either explicit or implied), hence there is no Naturalistic Fallacy.

Your rebuttals assume that he did make the fallacy and, since he didn't, the rebuttals are invalid.

Karl Grant said...

Jdhuey,

I don't think that im-spetical was guilty of the fallacy in his use of the word 'good'. When he said "sex feels good" he was just referring to our internal feelings and that is an 'is' statement. When he said that those internal feelings were the result of Evolution that was also an 'is' statement.

Well, that is a rather generaous interpertation (why I should accept it since you accused me of making an argument that was the complete opposite of what I did argue is another matter). Of course, it ignores the last part of his statment: It helps us to pass on our genes. A similar mechanism may be true of altruistic behavior. Or in other words: sex feels good, this is because of evolution, it is good because it helps us pass on our genes, there aught to be a similiar mechanism for altruism.

Your rebuttals assume that he did make the fallacy and, since he didn't, the rebuttals are invalid.

Oh really? Let's look back at my original statement on August 13, 4:09 am. Do I make any mention of a logical fallacy in it what-so-ever? The answer is no. The person who first said anything about a logical fallacy in this discussion is you. And I find it rather funny to note that you have gone from accusing me of committing a logical fallacy and saying my rebuttal is invalid because of said fallacy to saying my rebuttal rests on my opponent having made said logical fallacy and therefore my rebuttal is invalid.

jdhuey said...

Karl,

True, you didn't explicitly mention any logical fallacy, that's why I said that the fallacy was 'implicit'. Whether or not im-skeptical holds to that fallacy is something that im-skeptical will have to address – all that I’m saying is that the words im-skeptical used did not contain the fallacy.

To recap: the argument that the use of contraceptives invalidates the theory that we find sex enjoyable because that is a consequence of Evolution is valid if, and only if, we make the assumption that we ought to obey all the motivations, urges and instincts that Evolution has instilled in us. That assumption is an example of the Naturalistic Fallacy and, as such, the rebuttal is not valid. It is not particularly germane who is making the assumption.

jdhuey said...

After more consideration, I think I overstated the "if and only if" condition. The rebuttal would also be valid if the statement about enjoying sex somehow implied that we were incapable of using contraceptive, then the fact that we can and do use contraceptive would indeed rebut the original statement. But, neither assertion is implied by the statement that im-skeptical made. So the rebuttals still fail.

im-skeptical said...

"Well, the first obvious rebuttal to that is asking whither you have ever heard of a condom or the term contraception?"

Gee, you're right. Evolutionary processes don't work because people could use condoms. Why didn't I (and all those evolutionary scientists) think of that?

"I am the one arguing against the notion that just because something naturally feels good doesn't mean it actually is good or right."

I was making no such argument. I made no statement about goodness or what is right. I only made a statement about feeling good as a motivation for doing something, using sex as an example. One way evolution works to ensure the survival of our genes is by motivating us to do things that enhance that survivability.

Karl Grant said...

Jdhuey,

True, you didn't explicitly mention any logical fallacy, that's why I said that the fallacy was 'implicit'.

Correction, first you accused me of committing said fallacy and when I clarified about my original statement you switched track to saying my argument rests on I'm Skeptical making this logical fallacy. When I pointed I made no mention of a logical fallacy in my original rebuttal, then and only then, did you mention implicit.

Whether or not im-skeptical holds to that fallacy is something that im-skeptical will have to address

Gee, do you think he is actually gonna say something beyond Jdhuey hit the nail on the head or something to that effect after being pointed out what the alternative is?


To recap: the argument that the use of contraceptives invalidates the theory that we find sex enjoyable because that is a consequence of Evolution is valid if, and only if, we make the assumption that we ought to obey all the motivations, urges and instincts that Evolution has instilled in us.

The problem is that, and I have already said this once, is that I'm Skeptical did not say consequence of Evolution is valid if, and only if, we make the assumption that we ought to obey all the motivations, urges and instincts that Evolution has instilled in us. It is that he actually said It helps us to pass on our genes. A similar mechanism may be true of altruistic behavior.

But since we seem to have a failure to communicate let me spell it out for you: Nobody said a damn thing about a consequences of Evolution being valid if, and only if, we make the assumption that we ought to obey all the motivations. I'm Skeptical said he thinks evolution did something in this case, made sex pleasurable, to further the propagation of the species and that he thinks something similar happened in the case of altruism without providing any evidence to back up that assertion. I was mocking his, as Crude put it, very interesting, simplified view of sex, not to mention evolution and science generally. What I have tried to tell you in the last two postings, but you haven't taken the hint, is that the Naturalistic Fallacy has nothing to do with either I'm Skeptical's statement (where he is trying to extrapolate, piss poorly, that we do altruism because it feels good and that this is a product of evolution like feeling good about sex is) or my response to it.

Now what other ways are my rebuttals "not valid on many different levels?"

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

Gee, you're right. Evolutionary processes don't work because people could use condoms. Why didn't I (and all those evolutionary scientists) think of that?

Gee, your reading comprehension is about as good as always or maybe its your stellar wit. I never said evolutionary processes don't work because people could use condoms. I was mocking your simpleton view of evolutionary psychology.

I made no statement about goodness or what is right.

Like hell you didn't:

A strong case can be made that everything we do so for our own benefit, or perhaps for our offspring. We help others because it rewards us by making us feel good....

But I think whatever people do, they derive some kind of benefit from it. So ultimately, it comes down to what we believe is g(o)od for us.


Your entire position on this thread has been that we engage in altruistic behavior is because it feels good or we think it might benefit us. You don't think that we do it because we believe it is right or that we don't, on some subconscious level, know that it is right. You are rejecting the concept of right and wrong when it comes to altruism and replacing it with the concepts of pleasure and personal gain.

jdhuey said...

Karl,

Please note from my first post in this thread:

"To pick just one of those levels is that implicit in your rebuttal is the Naturalistic Fallacy..."

enuf said.

jdhuey said...

Karl,

It was never my intent to argue im-skeptical's argument for him - that would have been rude and I may have skated near that edge but I don't think that I ever went over it. All that I have been addressing are your rebuttals (although conceptually they are the same rebuttal) to that argument. I think perhaps you are reading far far too much into my words than is actually there.

Karl Grant said...

Jdheuy,

I stand corrected, you did say implicit in your first post though you did make it sound like I had committed the fallacy as opposed to accusing I'm Skeptical of committing it (you didn't say implicit in your rebuttal is you are accusing I'm Skeptical of making this fallacy, you just said implicit). But either way, it is a moot point because the Naturalistic Fallacy is not germane to this situation because neither his statement or mine hinged on consequences of Evolution being valid if, and only if, we make the assumption that we ought to obey all the motivations. So I might be reading a little too much into your words, which is easy to do on the Net, but you aren't paying attention to the gist of the discussion.

And no, not enuf said. You said my rebuttal was wrong on several levels, lets hear some more.

im-skeptical said...

"You are rejecting the concept of right and wrong when it comes to altruism and replacing it with the concepts of pleasure and personal gain."

No, I'm not. Speaking of reading comprehension, you are reading more into my statements than what I said. I spoke of motivations, and I explicitly said the ones I mentioned "were not intended to be exclusive". I did not reject concepts of right and wrong. I did not say anything about what is right or good, or what should be done. If you wish to argue against me, you should pay attention to what I am saying and argue against that.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

I spoke of motivations, and I explicitly said the ones I mentioned "were not intended to be exclusive".

Oh, I read that, just like I read the sentence that came after it: But I think whatever people do, they derive some kind of benefit from it. So ultimately, it comes down to what we believe is good for us. News flash, if you believe every person's actions and decisions ultimately boil down to a single principle, than yes you are being exclusive. Because if that is the case it doesn't matter what motivations people profess for their behavior, it is all window dressing for that principle. And I pay attention to what you are saying, it is just that you don't realize half-the-damn time the implications of what you do say.

im-skeptical said...

"And I pay attention to what you are saying, it is just that you don't realize half-the-damn time the implications of what you do say."

OK, now pay attention. You may be motivated to do what you think is "the right thing". And it may in fact be the right thing, or maybe not. But either way, you are motivated to do whatever you do. Are you with me so far? Now, what is your motivation? Does it make you happy to do the right thing? That's generally the way I feel. Or perhaps you do it because you want your soul to live in heaven. Whatever your reason is, that's what motivates you. You may convince yourself that you do it for no other reason than because it's good, and you get nothing from it, but that's not a motivation. The most pious person in the world expects his reward.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

You know, you just repeated what I said about your statements in slightly different verbage.

Or perhaps you do it because you want your soul to live in heaven. Whatever your reason is, that's what motivates you. You may convince yourself that you do it for no other reason than because it's good, and you get nothing from it, but that's not a motivation. The most pious person in the world expects his reward.


In other words, exactly like I just said. Everything boils down to personal gain and pleasure in your worldview. Concepts of justice, right and wrong, moral, immoral; all of it is just a facade to mask personal gain and pleasure. Rationalizations for greed and lust; differ in the details, but the basic underlying principle is still the same.

im-skeptical said...

"In other words, exactly like I just said. Everything boils down to personal gain and pleasure in your worldview. Concepts of justice, right and wrong, moral, immoral; all of it is just a facade to mask personal gain and pleasure. Rationalizations for greed and lust; differ in the details, but the basic underlying principle is still the same."

No, that's exactly what I didn't say. Forget it.