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A question about humanism
Posted: 18 February 2012 05:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]
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domokato - 23 November 2011 10:33 PM

. . . how, then, can we judge sociopaths’ behavior? Their emotions do not lead them to the same values as secular humanists, yet presumably they should be judged according to our ethics. If we are using our emotions to guide our ethics, then how can we condemn them for doing the same?

Humanism does not imply this kind of judgment. Our criminal laws exist to protect us from those who pose a danger to others. We are entitled to do that because the sociopath does violence to a universal ethic.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 18 February 2012 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]
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I am not a philosopher so I may be overly simplistic in this comparison, but I believe that Humanist identity inevitably flows from the golden rule “do unto other as you would have them do to you” as well as “as you sow so shall you reap”. Even as I am an atheist, I have always tried to live by those rules as they provide me with both emotional and logical satisfaction..
The first one is actually a selfish motive in the good sense. The second is in accordance with the universal constant of cause and effect. Combine these two and we have a basic understanding of our moral place in the scheme of things.

[ Edited: 18 February 2012 03:31 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 19 February 2012 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]
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Has anyone here read “Religion Is Not About God” by Loyal Rue, Rutgers University Press 2005. (I have started it because a UU friend said I “should.”) It talks about the golden rule and “selfish” altruism. ala Richard Dawkins.

Re: “if animals are conscious at least to some degree, don’t they deserve ethical consideration as well, in and of themselves? Humanism, then, seems not to be the best word to describe such a philosophy.” I don’t see the term humanism as precluding ethical consideration for all of the natural world.  Humanism places the locus of responsibility for that consideration within human reason, as distinct from an external source such as a deity.  Since, as humans, we can only be considering ethics between ourselves, it is our responsibility to consider our location as organisms within a greater ecosystem of living (and non-living) stuff.

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The Muddler (Diane)

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Posted: 19 February 2012 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]
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“Selfish altruism ala Dawkins”? What’s that? Dawkins has been saying repeatedly that “selfish” genes (which is obviously a mere metaphor here, as genes cannot really be selfish since they cannot think) succeeded at building altruistic minds. This doesn’t mean that those minds are altruistic for selfish reasons. But maybe that’s not what you meant…

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Posted: 19 February 2012 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]
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No, what I meant was more about considering altruism (the golden rule) as beneficial by virtue of being, in fact, selfish (and genetic evolution, while incapable of conscious behavior such as selfishness, is ultimately about the success of the genes which are most effective at being “selfish”)—did I just get even more convoluted?

It looks like the book is heading in the direction of the social behavior of groups, and that those groups which used religion were successful (for selfish, “altruistic” reasons).

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Posted: 19 February 2012 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]
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No, I haven’t read that book.  However, either the word and concept of altruism exists or they don’t.  I believe the argument that people do altruistic deeds are still really selfish because it makes them feel good is dumb.  I breathe because it makes me feel good, I perform all my other bodily functions because the actiion makes me feel better than if I had not.  The same goes for all my thoughts and actions.  Once we recognize that we can eliminate all courts and criminal laws because the person had to perform the action because it made him/her feel good.  Bah.  vampire

If that’s not the thrust of the argument, Diane, please accept my apology for going off topic.

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Posted: 19 February 2012 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]
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I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a society that had no laws on the premise that people will be naturally good! And I frequently argued against the kind of “feel good” behaviors people in church like to do—such as collecting coats to give away—as somehow making church socially important, especially when those same people weren’t willing to do the hard work of taking stands and speaking out about policies that cause people to be without winter coats in the first place. I think I’m with you on the bah! about “feel good” ideas.

I don’t think of altruism as doing something because it makes the doer “feel good.” I think of it as a concept to puzzle over why people (or other creatures) would ever do something that benefits someone else at risk to themselves—like a mother rabbit running away in full view of the fox, at risk of getting caught herself, but distracting the fox from the nest of babies, or the bystander going into a burning building to rescue someone else’s child. (Maybe no one thinks that they’ll actually be a victim when doing something like that, in which case there’s no altruism involved.) That kind of behavior does not occur because it feels good.  The puzzle is whether those behaviors exist evolutionarily by virtue of advancing the collective gene pool—because those who have behaved that way have had their genes passed on.

So, a book that puzzles over whether religion is not about god but about some social behavior(s) that have served to advance a particular gene pool intrigues me.

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Posted: 19 February 2012 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]
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The Muddler - 19 February 2012 09:08 AM

No, what I meant was more about considering altruism (the golden rule) as beneficial by virtue of being, in fact, selfish (and genetic evolution, while incapable of conscious behavior such as selfishness, is ultimately about the success of the genes which are most effective at being “selfish”)—did I just get even more convoluted?

It looks like the book is heading in the direction of the social behavior of groups, and that those groups which used religion were successful (for selfish, “altruistic” reasons).

Your’re confusing some terms it seems Diane; Altruism and the golden rule are two different things - and not necessarily related.  All behavior is driven by self interest to some extent, helping others is often in your interest, as well as the interests of the people being helped.  In that sense, the genes that were most “co-opertive” were the genes that the survivors passed down, simply because individuals with the “non co-opertive genes” died in higher numbers. That’s altruism essentially.

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Posted: 19 February 2012 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]
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Sorry Mid Atlantic, but quoting you:

All behavior is driven by self interest to some extent

I have to say again, hogwash.  See my pre-response in my post above.

Occam

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Posted: 19 February 2012 08:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]
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Occam. - 19 February 2012 02:28 PM

No, I haven’t read that book.  However, either the word and concept of altruism exists or they don’t.  I believe the argument that people do altruistic deeds are still really selfish because it makes them feel good is dumb.  I breathe because it makes me feel good, I perform all my other bodily functions because the actiion makes me feel better than if I had not.  The same goes for all my thoughts and actions.  Once we recognize that we can eliminate all courts and criminal laws because the person had to perform the action because it made him/her feel good.  Bah.  vampire

If that’s not the thrust of the argument, Diane, please accept my apology for going off topic.

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I don’t understand.

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Posted: 19 February 2012 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]
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What I was saying is:  I don’t think all altruistic behavior is driven by self-interest.  The argument that it is, seems circular.  First, we say the basic motivation of all living things is self-interest.  Second, we choose some behavior to examine.  Third, we say “nah, it’s driven by self-interest”.  Since that was the initial premise it can’t really also lead to itself as a conclusion.

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Posted: 19 February 2012 11:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]
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Occam. - 19 February 2012 08:41 PM

What I was saying is:  I don’t think all altruistic behavior is driven by self-interest.  The argument that it is, seems circular.  First, we say the basic motivation of all living things is self-interest.  Second, we choose some behavior to examine.  Third, we say “nah, it’s driven by self-interest”.  Since that was the initial premise it can’t really also lead to itself as a conclusion.

Occam

IMO, Altruism is an ambiguous term and can be applied in different situations.

It is altruistic to volunteer for cleaning the beaches and wildlife from oilspills. One gives freely of their time and effort, without any direct benefit. However if someone treasures nature and believes that it is worth saving, then it becomes a selfish (in the best sense) activity.
A parent will altruisticly give their own life to save their child. The inherent motive to protect one’s offspring is a selfish motive, practiced by may animals. It may well be a hardwired survival function. Etc.

Norwegian eco-philosopher Arne Naess argues that environmental action based upon altruism — or service of the other — stems from a shrunken “egoic” concept of the self. Self-actualization will result, he argues, in the recovery of an “ecological self”, in which actions formerly seen as altruistic are in reality a form of enlightened self-interest.

However, when altruism (servitude) becomes compulsive or is demanded by inculcation and is not related to a secondary self interest, it may well be selfdestructive and harmful to one’s own self interest.

Altruism (also called the ethic of altruism, moralistic altruism, and ethical altruism) is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. Auguste Comte’s version of altruism calls for living for the sake of others.

I like Arne Naess’ concept of self-actualization better… smile

[ Edited: 19 February 2012 11:14 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 20 February 2012 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]
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Short on time until next weekend.

Re: “golden rule” and “altruism”—wouldn’t be the first time I’ve confused terms, but I think what I would want to suggest is that the golden rule is a social convention (nearly universal across cultures and religions) that puts a previously unconscious behavior (altruism) into words and makes it a principle.  I’ll think about this more.

I don’t think of altruism as something that makes people “feel good,” rather as a behavior that’s almost counter to human nature yet evolutionarily successful.

Am I hearing a dismissal of the validity of the concept of altruism?  (I don’t think altruism has been “proven” as a theory about either human behavior or evolution.)

Loved this weekend’s conversation! (Haven’t figured out the smiley faces—you’ll have to imagine one here.)

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Posted: 23 February 2012 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]
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The Muddler - 20 February 2012 05:14 AM

...Loved this weekend’s conversation! (Haven’t figured out the smiley faces—you’ll have to imagine one here. ) )

Or here smile  Muddler, begin by placing your cursor where you want it to go… Got that? Then click on the Blue Smiles ... Then select the one you want…  cool smile  Cool, eh? Now I will see what happens if I type coolsmile, with a colon at each end… as cool smile  Maybe I’ll get 2. Yep!

[ Edited: 23 February 2012 01:12 PM by RevLGKing ]
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Posted: 23 February 2012 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]
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I like this quotation as a description of humanists:

“As empiricists, we find and follow the evidence.  As monists, we reunite humanity back together into one, body and brain permanently together again.  As naturalists, we look to this world to learn, discover, and also for solutions to our problems.  As humans we see humanity as it really is, one species, one of the Great Apes, united on a single planet.  When humanity suffers, so do we.  When humanity succeeds, so do we.” 

If that is what a humanist is, I don’t mind being called one.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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