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Altruism Possible?
Posted: 29 October 2006 04:06 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A psychological hedonist sounds right to me. Everything we do consciously we do because its our conscious trying to make us do what will make us feel better/tranquil, either now or down the road. We can still have compassion i believe with the capacity we have for empathy.

So my real question is, what a mother who only senses danger for her child? Or what if a mother only uses her mother instincts to lets say, hold a kid back before they hit another car? That is don’t unconsciously, and it being unconscious means that she can’t have feelings attached to it, so the empathy wouldn’t be a tool here.

Now, is it do to the biological memes dawkins talks about. A mechanism evolution uses to help the species survive? Still would that be altruistic, because then it still wants the species to survive…

I’m beginning to get beyond my knowledge now. Anyone here know what their talking about or comments?

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Posted: 30 October 2006 12:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Well, what you’re asking is actually amenable to scientific investigation—although it might seem like the sort of thing you could sit down and figure out by thinking, actually many of these ‘deep seated’ psychological mechanisms function below the level of awareness.

Take the parents’ instinct to preserve their child’s welfare: this often is the opposite of hedonistic. Many parents live through countless sleepless nights, forego having fun or spending too much, in order to focus on the child. This sort of reaction is biologically based, of course.

This isn’t the same as unconsciously holding a child back—it’s a conscious choice of child over hedonism ...

So I don’t think that in general people are psychological hedonists. Partly, yes, of course. But it’s a good deal more complex than that.

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Posted: 01 November 2006 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The theory is nonsense as Doug shows : we have other motives than pleasure to motivate us . And egoistic ethics are not so hot.I go for mutual altruism . Ayn Rand does not have the last word on ethics! Her defintion of altruism falls flat . Thomas   Flynn uses her definition . Too bad. Altruism is just helping others, even at on es own expence but is no form of slavery . Egotists’ rights do come into confict,so the heart of her ethics is false.We set up society in an egalitarian way to help all. Altruism makes for civil society wereas egotism favors the dog eat dog. I call Social Darwinism Spencer -Randism . Their view of the underprivilege das parasites is harmful ,eventhough they allow for charity. I came to atheism because of her and appreciate her call for rationalism[ Too bad as Michael Shermer shows her hypocrital,that she did not show rationality in trying to get her followers to believe as she on most everytihing! We extend altruism to all humanity with our evolved moral sense. Altruism is a good topic indeed.

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 20 November 2006 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Doug , do you find mutual altruism an oxymoron? It is each scratching the back of each other.

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 20 November 2006 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“skeptic griggsy”]Doug , do you find mutual altruism an oxymoron? It is each scratching the back of each other.

Reciprocal altruism ” is the name used by Robert Trivers for the sort of altruism that:

(1) Is between individuals who are not necessarily genetically related,

and

(2) Has a clear mechanism for evolution. (Trivers used mathematical game theoretic models like the “ iterated prisoner’s dilemma ”).

The key notion in “reciprocal altruism” is precisely the notion that you are in relatively close contact with others, so that you know that if you scratch my back I will be around tomorrow to scratch your back.

Vampire bats have been shown to be reciprocally altruistic, in that they share blood with their mates who have gone hungry.

There is even reciprocal altruism between species: as when plants reward bees with nectar in exchange for bees’ pollination. Or when aphids give honeydew to ants in exchange for protection from predation. There are many of these so-called “ symbiotic ” relations in nature.

The other key element to reciprocal altruism is that there often evolves in more complex organisms a mechanism for punishing free-riders. E.g., vampire bats will not share blood with stingy mates. They learn which bats are generous and who only want a ‘free ride’, and punish the latter.

This is probably the root of much—if not all—of human morality. It is probably no coincidence that the most evolutionarily successful strategy in the “iterated prisoner’s dilemma” above is the so-called “ tit for tat ” strategy of cooperating when the other cooperates and ‘defecting’ when the other defects. This strategy models the age-old ethics of “an eye for an eye”.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m not sure “mutual altruism” is really altruism.  Rather, it seems to be enlightened self-interest.

I believe altruism embodies the concept of helping others without any liklihood of personal benefit.

An example I’ve given is that I was walking through a Kmart parking lot and saw a roofing nail in the driving area.  I picked it up then stuck the nail in the dirt of a planter that had a tree in it.  Probably I saved someone from getting a flat tire, but that person has no idea that anyone helped, and there’s no way I can get a reward (other than getting to stroke my own ego).  Of course, I hope that others would do similar things and possibly I’ll be the recipient of their action. 

It seems that all acts, no matter how selfless, can be shown to have their roots in some selfish motives so altruism may not be a two valued thing, one is or one is not, but rather a spectrum along which the amount and immediacy of gain varies.

Occam

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Posted: 20 November 2006 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]I’m not sure “mutual altruism” is really altruism.  Rather, it seems to be enlightened self-interest.

I believe altruism embodies the concept of helping others without any liklihood of personal benefit.

An example I’ve given is that I was walking through a Kmart parking lot and saw a roofing nail in the driving area.  I picked it up then stuck the nail in the dirt of a planter that had a tree in it.  Probably I saved someone from getting a flat tire, but that person has no idea that anyone helped, and there’s no way I can get a reward (other than getting to stroke my own ego).  Of course, I hope that others would do similar things and possibly I’ll be the recipient of their action. 

It seems that all acts, no matter how selfless, can be shown to have their roots in some selfish motives so altruism may not be a two valued thing, one is or one is not, but rather a spectrum along which the amount and immediacy of gain varies.

Occam

I like when Dawkins uses the analogy of ‘sexual desire’ to help us understand the origin of altruism:

Natural selection, in ancestral times when we lived in small and stable bands like baboons, programmed into our brains altruistic urges, alongside sexual urges, hunger urges, xenophobic urges and so on. An intelligent couple can read their Darwin and know that the ultimate reason for their sexual urges is procreation. They know that the woman cannot conceive because she is on the pill. Yet they find that their sexual desire is in no way diminished by the knowledge. Sexual desire is sexual desire and its force, in an individual’s psychology, is independent of the ultimate Darwinian pressure that drove it. It is a strong urge which exists independently of its rationale.

I am suggesting that the same is true of the urge to kindness, to altruism, to generosity, to empathy, to pity. In ancestral times, we had the opportunity to be altruistic only towards close kin and potential reciprocators. Nowadays that restriction is no longer there, but the rule of thumb persists.

(Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, pg. 221)

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Posted: 21 November 2006 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dawkins drives me buggy.  He’s quite brilliant, and I usually agree with his conclusions, but the premisses he makes are weird - almost theological smile  .  I suggest that the basic genetic drive humans, especially males, have, rather than procreation and altruism, is to have orgasms.  Since copulation is an effective way of doing that, it makes sense that the male protects his mate - a source of pleasure, that is, self-interest, not altruism.

Occam

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Posted: 21 November 2006 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]I suggest that the basic genetic drive humans, especially males, have, rather than procreation and altruism, is to have orgasms.  Since copulation is an effective way of doing that, it makes sense that the male protects his mate - a source of pleasure, that is, self-interest, not altruism.

Hmmm ...

Well, there’s more that a man finds in a woman than sexual pleasure, after all. So it can’t just be that.

Kin-directed altruism can be explained quite simply: each parent protects the other so that they can work together to bring up children who contain and will distribute their genes. That is also why parents will sacrifice themselves for their children: it’s a “gene’s eye view” of the situation.

But of course, the “gene’s eye view” and the person’s view are two very different things. Just to start with, our genes regulate brain chemistry and hormones which give us emotions, and we follow the emotions. We love, hate, feel jealousy, etc. And sometimes we can overcome our emotions and decide not to follow what would be best for our genes. That’s what we do when we use contraception, for example.

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Posted: 21 November 2006 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]Dawkins drives me buggy.  He’s quite brilliant, and I usually agree with his conclusions, but the premisses he makes are weird - almost theological smile  .  I suggest that the basic genetic drive humans, especially males, have, rather than procreation and altruism, is to have orgasms.  Since copulation is an effective way of doing that, it makes sense that the male protects his mate - a source of pleasure, that is, self-interest, not altruism.

Occam

:shock: Occam, I think you completely misunderstood this.

First:

I suggest that the basic genetic drive humans, especially males, have, rather than procreation and altruism, is to have orgasms.

Sure. But why? There is a reason why males want to have orgasm: because it leads to procreation!

Since copulation is an effective way of doing that, it makes sense that the male protects his mate - a source of pleasure, that is, self-interest, not altruism.

Dawkins is not saying that we are altruistic because we have ‘sexual desire.’ He’s merely comparing the evolution of sexual desire to the evolution of altruism. In other words, we enjoy sex because sex leads to reproduction. We behave altruistically because it helps us to survive. Now, we can have sex knowing that it won’t lead to a pregnancy and still enjoy it (because that’s how it had been programmed within us.) The same with behaving altruistically towards people in the Kmart parking you’ll probably never meet. Part of your brain “still thinks” that the Kmart parking is ‘your’ village from millions of years ago and the lucky person who won’t get the flat tire is your second cousin.

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Posted: 21 November 2006 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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George is right on the proper interpretation of Dawkins’s (Dennett’s, Trivers’s, Pinker’s, etc.) view. I would only modify slightly to say, “We behave altruistically now because in our ancestral environment behaving altruistically helped our ancestors to survive and procreate.”

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Posted: 21 November 2006 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I just thought of something else: If one day, we were to discover a different way of how to procreate (as opposed to sex), we might, through mutation and adaptation, stop enjoying sex. My only hope is to be long gone by then. LOL

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Posted: 21 November 2006 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”] I would only modify slightly to say, “We behave altruistically now because in our ancestral environment behaving altruistically helped our ancestors to survive and procreate.”

Thanks, Doug.

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Posted: 21 November 2006 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]
Sure. But why? There is a reason why males want to have orgasm: because it leads to procreation!

Hmmm.  Is this what they mean by teleology?  rolleyes

I don’t believe I misunderstood.  It’s just that we physical scientists tend to have much stricter rules against the intemperate use of the “because” in describing phenomena. 

As I said, I agree with Dawkins’ conclusions because they fit the world as we can observe it.  What drives me buggy is his explaining human behavior by the fairytale of specific genes that cause the actions.  Quite possibly he’s right, but there’s no clear evidence YET that this is the case. 

Occam

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Posted: 21 November 2006 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]I don’t believe I misunderstood.  It’s just that we physical scientists tend to have much stricter rules against the intemperate use of the “because” in describing phenomena. 

... as you should. Teleology is a weird thing; the only really legitimate uses of teleological language are either (1) due to human intention at the time of construction (a door handle is there in order to open the door),

or (2) due to biological selection pressures. That’s why we say the eye is there in order to see, or the kidney in order to filter impurities from the blood, etc.

The main issue is to ask what the thing did that caused its replication in the ancestral environment. In the case of sexual desire, clearly it has a reason for existing; if we did not feel it, we would not have reproduced ourselves.

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Posted: 21 November 2006 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”] That’s why we say the eye is there in order to see, or the kidney in order to filter impurities from the blood, etc.

The main issue is to ask what the thing did that caused its replication in the ancestral environment. In the case of sexual desire, clearly it has a reason for existing; if we did not feel it, we would not have reproduced ourselves.

I certainly agree that stating it as you did is much more succinct, however, I believe it introduces a subtle misconception of (dare I say it) “intelligent design.”  Not that it was done by an outside force, but almost as if it were done by the animal that “needed” the function.

The first animal that happened to have some cells that responded to light had an advantage so was more successful in procreating.  Each mutation that was more effective gave that animal an advantage, and gradually the sight organ became more complex and efficient.  That’s not nearly as nice and short as saying “in order to” but it’s far more accurate.

And that’s precisely the sort of thing that bugs me about some biological and social scientists such as Dawkin.  “In order to” is easy to say, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s dead wrong, no matter how subtly and microscopically wrong it is. :evil:

Occam

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