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Selflessness
Posted: 28 August 2007 11:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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in the above mentioned chapter, trivers notes six “biological parameters affecting the possibility that reciprocal altruistic behavior will be selected for”:

1) length of lifetime
2) dispersal rate
3) degree of mutual dependence
4) parental care
5) dominance hierarchy
6) aid in combat

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Posted: 28 August 2007 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Occam - 26 August 2007 02:21 AM

  I think people who try to assign self-interest to all acts are just trying to make themselves feel superior by denigrating behavior of others that is helpful to someone.

Occam

I notice people doing this and I think it is always a great shame when they do, rather than simply focusing on the help which is being given.

But don’t you think to denigrate the behaviour of those who are helping, they must believe some acts truly are selfless? Or they couldn’t do it could they? 

So what I think is by accepting all acts are selfish, we remove the problem and also make it easier for people to behave in what people commonly call a non selfish way, as they do not need to feel guilty about their motives and can just feel good about themselves because their actions are having positive consequences, that are good for others.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 August 2007 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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StephenLawrence - 28 August 2007 11:17 AM
Occam - 26 August 2007 02:21 AM

  I think people who try to assign self-interest to all acts are just trying to make themselves feel superior by denigrating behavior of others that is helpful to someone.

Occam

I notice people doing this and I think it is always a great shame when they do, rather than simply focusing on the help which is being given.

But don’t you think to denigrate the behaviour of those who are helping, they must believe some acts truly are selfless? Or they couldn’t do it could they? 

So what I think is by accepting all acts are selfish, we remove the problem and also make it easier for people to behave in what people commonly call a non selfish way, as they do not need to feel guilty about their motives and can just feel good about themselves because their actions are having positive consequences, that are good for others.

Stephen

The discussion is not on judging other people, or trying to downsize other people to make ourselves feel better about our lack of “good” deeds. The discussion is simply on determining if ones acts can be completely selfless or not.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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clearly no one can act selflessly absolutely, because it requires a “self” (unless your some tiny organism carrying out cleaning symbiosis) in order to act. but thats making a semantical argument. lets be clear what we are talking about: can people commit acts that benefit others while not benefiting them and placing the costs squarely on themselves? answer: yes. we do it all the time.

as an Anarchist - and someone who reads alot of anarchist writings, biographies, etc - I see it alot in peoples movements, revolutionary tactics, etc. When Buenaventura Durruti and Francisco Ascaso robbed a bank to help finance an organization they were not part of (simply because they needed the help), that was selfless (especially, when the organization learned that not one peso was taken by Durruti and Ascaso). The risk was squarely on them and they had nothing to gain from it. The same could be said when they killed Cuban employers for brutally mistreating their workers.

or when factory workers in 19th century New England railed against the motto (Gain Wealth, Forget All But Self) being forced upon them by their employers we can see the sense of selflesness trying to be driven out of peoples heads!

in fact, huge amounts of popular movements are centered around the basic human behavior (reciprocal altruism) that we ought to care about everyone, even those who are not in our particualr social groupings. We should care about the widow down the street, the quality of education for the kids in inner-cities or those suffering in Botswana, Darfur, Baghdad, etc.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Morgantj,

[quote author=“morgantj” date=“1188340508]

The discussion is not on judging other people, or trying to downsize other people to make ourselves feel better about our lack of “good” deeds. The discussion is simply on determining if ones acts can be completely selfless or not.

I’m interested in the positive implications of accepting acts cannot be selfless, if true. Which is related. I’m interested not in terms of downsizing or judging others but in how this can help us be motivated to perform the type of acts called “selfless acts” when required.

But to stick to the aim you suggest, I’ll give the reason I think no acts can be selfless, it is because when we choose our course of action, we always pick the option that we prefer or want the most, or that gives us the most satisfaction, given the circumstances. Sometimes this may not at first sight appear to be true but I think when we look closer, it always is.

So if we take the case of decision which looks the best at the time but doubts surface almost immediately, if we don’t change course, then I think although sticking with the decision does not feel satisfying, in fact it feels very uncomfortable, the discomfort is preferable to doing a u turn and so does give us the most satisfaction.

Stephen

[ Edited: 28 August 2007 12:05 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 28 August 2007 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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StephenLawrence - 28 August 2007 12:03 PM

I’m interested in the positive implications of accepting acts cannot be selfless

Why do you only want to know the positive results of accepting acts cannot be selfless? If you see no positive implications then you will pass it off, even though it may be true?

StephenLawrence - 28 August 2007 12:03 PM

how this can help us be motivated to perform the type of acts called “selfless acts” when required.

is this the same as saying, “This possible truth does not motivate me, therefore, I shall not pursue it nor believe in it despite all supporting evidences.”

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Posted: 28 August 2007 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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In some situations, it is actually rather easy to forget yourself.  In these cases, it isn’t taht you are consciously trying to be selfless, it’s just thoughts regarding your own safety or whatever don’t actually cross your mind because you’re suddenly thinking about something else and lose any kind of multitasking ability.  It’s happened to me on a few rare occassions, and I’m not even a particularly good person and wouldn’t aspire too hard to be, so doubtless it has happened to any number of others.  I put it down to my own absent mindedness towards anything else when I’m problem solving.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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narwhol - 28 August 2007 02:07 PM

I’m not even a particularly good person…

LOL

what a way to make a point!!

I dont buy it though. I find you to be a very decent person.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Don’t get me wrong, I’m alright, I’d say I’m slightly closer to Ghandi than Hitler, but then again I’m slightly closer to Nicholas Van Hoegstraden than to Mother Theresa.  You see it was the word “particularly” that I was mitigating.  I’m nice enough, but not perfectly so, and wouldn’t want to go to that extreme.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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If you are

narwhol - 28 August 2007 02:07 PM

thinking about something else

then you arn’t really absent minded are you?

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Morgantj,

morgantj - 28 August 2007 01:57 PM

is this the same as saying, “This possible truth does not motivate me, therefore, I shall not pursue it nor believe in it despite all supporting evidences.”

No, the possible truth does motivate me. In general I keep an open mind about what the possible truth is but over a very few issues I have made my mind up. This is one of them.

I’m unaware there is any supporting evidence. I’ve given my reason for my disbelief in the possibility of being unselfish, what evidence is there that I am wrong?

I think I’ve had experience of acting in a way that people would call unselfish towards people and have made sacrifices to do it but am quite certain that I’ve always done it because I wanted to.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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StephenLawrence - 28 August 2007 04:26 PM

I think I’ve had experience of acting in a way that people would call unselfish towards people and have made sacrifices to do it but am quite certain that I’ve always done it because I wanted to.

StephenLawrence - 28 August 2007 04:26 PM

because I wanted to.

I see, so you acted unselfish because you wanted to. Um, How is this not selfish?

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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morgantj - 28 August 2007 04:50 PM

I see, so you acted unselfish because you wanted to. Um, How is this not selfish?

Ah, now if acting because you want to is acting selfishly, then it follows almost analytically that you can’t act unselfishly. When one acts without duress one always acts the way one wants to act. (Unless one has palsy or some other illness).

That seems too strict a notion of selfishness ...

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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stephen,

i get the impression that you are setting the parameters of this to confirm what you already want to confirm.

you are expecting to have evidence of someone doing something for others with no regards to their own subjective mind in order to say people can act selflessly. of course, we will have some reason for doing it. generally, because we feel it is the right thing to do. why do we get pleasure from helping others in need? similarly, we could ask why certain birds find the smell of a decaying carcuses as sweet and welcoming. the answer probably lies in general behaviors that are genetically driven.

like I said earlier, thats just a semantical argument by redefining what we generally mean by selflessness.

the issue of how we operate as an organism (as an individual with a subjective mind) is not the issue because I think we are unanimous in that’s how we function.

so any form of selflessness is going to occur within those constraints. and a good example of that is reciprocal altruism. their are plenty of people who do things that cost them though benefit someone else.

Ive got an aunt who is nearly 50 and today she gave her husbands sick father a bath. Of course she could have gotten my uncle to do it, but she selflessly did it.

What did she gain from giving an 80-something year old man (who recently suffered a stroke) a bath? Nothing. He needed the bath and she selflessly gave him one even though someone else could have done it.

What do I gain by waiting to hold the door for the person behind me as I enter a building? Nothing. They could have opened the door themselves just as I did, but altruism apparently has a biological purpose in us!

What does my niece gain by allowing my daughter to hang on to her Barbie for a couple of weeks? Nothing. She just wanted to “share.” She did not ask for nor did she get anything in return.

Even the teaching of morality to our children takes on selflessness. One thing I have a problem with religion is that it reinforces some valid morals from the wrong perspective. You shouldnt do bad things because God will punish you; and you should do good things because God will reward you. The concept is dripping with egotism. Rather we should teach that being faithful to your spouse ought not be about a fear of God, but out of respect for your spouse; and doing volunteer work for shelters ought not be about pleasing God but genuinely helping out those in need. In other words, we should do the right thing not because of what we aim to gain, but because how it effects our relationships with others and the stable foundations of society that it helps build. I would be real skeptical on you believing that we do everything for selfish motives. Reflect on your life and see if you can come up with any memory, emotion, experience, dream or nightmare that was solely centered around yourself. I doubt you can do it because our entire lives are centered around the relationships we have with others. This is where selfless altruism comes in.

If you look around you, you will see plenty of examples where people act selflessly. Again, going back to Anarchism. Many have noted that Anarchism is as old as human existence - if not older - because it is what the famous Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, noted about other species in his book on Evolution at the turn of 20th Century, Mutual Aid. Scientific fields and terms like the golden rule, sociobiology, social evolution, reciprocal altruism, mutual aid and Anarchism all have a central theme in common: genuine concern for others.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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And my mind being absent is like a child being absent from school, my brain tends to stay inside my cranium, however my mind is different from my brain.  If I make my mind up, I come to a decision.  If I make my brain up, I either imagine it, or do its mascara for it.

Anyhow, I digress.  Your Niece maintains social bonds that are important to her by letting your daughter hang onto her Barbie, and your Aunt, “by selflessly giving him one” on her birthday, is possibly considering and anticipating that morbidity will one day affect her and setting an example to others that she can then hope to have reciprocated when and if the time comes.

I’m playing devil’s advocate here, I don’t actually think that humans always do everything solely for their own gain.

[ Edited: 28 August 2007 05:18 PM by narwhol ]
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