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Pain and Pleasure: Our basic driving forces?
Posted: 28 March 2008 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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All of reality, and all of human behavior, is Will To Power—and nothing else. (a tip of the hat to Mister Nietzsche….)

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Posted: 28 March 2008 09:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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goodthink - 21 March 2008 05:45 AM

Suicide is a selfish act. Often done because someone wants to rid themselves of discomfort. Perhaps the person feels this is the only way they can “survive” their discomfort, by self termination.

This opponent process gives more and more pleasure to the person attempting self-harm as they continue down the path of habituation, until one day, they don’t feel the pain any longer, do not fear death, and begin to crave it.

This has nothing to do with selfishness. Or being self-centered. It’s easy to think you’d act differently if you experienced similar problems. But being in constant unbearable pain, feeling hopeless, worthless and feeling you don’t belong anywhere, is something few if any of us would care to overcome, be able to imagine, or would be able to.

They crave it and act on that craving, yet it is not selfish?

They are thinking about themselves. They want to rid themselves of what you call their “constant unbearable pain, feelings of hopeless, feelings of worthlessness, etc…” They are not thinking about the people that will miss them or mourn them, they are thinking about themselves.

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Posted: 28 March 2008 09:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Kaizen - 20 March 2008 03:46 PM

[quote author=“morgantj” ]Suicide is a selfish act. Often done because someone wants to rid themselves of discomfort. Perhaps the person feels this is the only way they can “survive” their discomfort, by self termination.

I agree that it is a selfish act. In fact, based on the 1st post, I think all actions are selfish acts on some level. I don’t see why you feel the need to force the word “survive” into a concept that is in direct conflict with it’s definition.

I didn’t “feel” any need to “force” anything. I said exactly what I wanted to and how I wanted to. Haven’t you ever seen an oxymoron before?  - Pretty ugly, Alone together, Same difference, Random Order, etc…

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Posted: 29 March 2008 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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They crave it and act on that craving, yet it is not selfish?

They are thinking about themselves. They want to rid themselves of what you call their “constant unbearable pain, feelings of hopeless, feelings of worthlessness, etc…” They are not thinking about the people that will miss them or mourn them, they are thinking about themselves.

So someone with cancer who wants to die because the suffering is too much, they are selfish too and it’s a selfish act?

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Posted: 29 March 2008 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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goodthink - 29 March 2008 06:50 AM

They crave it and act on that craving, yet it is not selfish?

They are thinking about themselves. They want to rid themselves of what you call their “constant unbearable pain, feelings of hopeless, feelings of worthlessness, etc…” They are not thinking about the people that will miss them or mourn them, they are thinking about themselves.

So someone with cancer who wants to die because the suffering is too much, they are selfish too and it’s a selfish act?

yes.

Being selfish shouldn’t have the bad reputation that it does. People are just more selfish then they care to admit.

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Posted: 29 March 2008 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Good point. It’s actually a selfish act for the loved ones to want the terminal patient to be around, even though he or she is in unbearable pain. We would opt to euthanize a pet that was in terrible pain, why should we withhold such treatment from a human who wished it?

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Posted: 29 March 2008 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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dougsmith - 29 March 2008 08:47 AM

Good point. It’s actually a selfish act for the loved ones to want the terminal patient to be around, even though he or she is in unbearable pain. We would opt to euthanize a pet that was in terrible pain, why should we withhold such treatment from a human who wished it?

I agree with you that the loved ones are selfish in this sense as well.

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Posted: 29 March 2008 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Durkheim came up with an interesting axis of reasons for suicide.

Not all suicide can be thought of as selfish, for example suicide to preserve the honour of a family in some cultural contexts, or self-sacrifice in certain situations like war or disaster.

Theories of motivation based in pain and pleasure tend to end up defining pain and pleasure so broadly that they lose their explanatory value.  The same is true of just about any single reason that is given to explain all human behaviour, and more so for all life.

Regarding Nietzsche, he did not see behaviour as explainable in terms of will to power, but in terms of wills to power, such that you act according to whatever drive happens to have overcome and organized your other drives at some particular moment.

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Posted: 29 March 2008 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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rsonin - 29 March 2008 09:29 AM

Durkheim came up with an interesting axis of reasons for suicide.

Not all suicide can be thought of as selfish, for example suicide to preserve the honour of a family in some cultural contexts, or self-sacrifice in certain situations like war or disaster.

Theories of motivation based in pain and pleasure tend to end up defining pain and pleasure so broadly that they lose their explanatory value.  The same is true of just about any single reason that is given to explain all human behaviour, and more so for all life.

Regarding Nietzsche, he did not see behaviour as explainable in terms of will to power, but in terms of wills to power, such that you act according to whatever drive happens to have overcome and organized your other drives at some particular moment.

Yes, pain and pleasure are not the only explanatory values, there are of-course other underlying selfish motives that are acted upon. As I’m sure there are for those that commit suicide to preserve the honour of a family or self-sacrifice in certain situations like war or disaster. I am sure you can figure out what they would be. I have not been convinced of true altruism yet.

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Posted: 29 March 2008 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I doubt there is any value that could not be rationalized into some kind of selfishness, or some kind of pain/pleasure, or for that matter some kind of ethics or religious dictate or whatever you want to rationalize it into.

I think if you take altruism to be putting someone else’s interests ahead of (or equal to) your own, that any other explanation does not negate the altruism.  That is, even if someone sacrifices himself in what could be explained as a selfish act, it does not really argue against the altruism of it, because that is, in at least one sense, what altruism is.

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Posted: 29 March 2008 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Well there are 3 maybe 4 models of suicidal behavoir in the last 100 years that say anything useful. I think Joiner’s is the best in explaining suicidally and has a lot of meta-analysis and research done into the matter in general. Honour suicides and ‘altruistic’ forms of suicidal behavoir are explained in various ways, but the definition of suicide is also of primary concern. What is suicide in general? and so on. Joiner’s book, “Why people die by suicide” is a great read if anyone is interested. Kay Jamieson also has a good book out on suicide.

Now I suppose in the broad sense you could say suicide IS selfish, in the sense that every individual and every gene acts in a selfish way. Suicide, however, is likely a byproduct of a series of genes that are in effect misfiring, or a culmination of processes that act to better the survival rates of the genes, as a whole, and is a selfish act on a genetic level.  many studies have shown people who attempt suicide receive better care afterward, and in many cases people who are depressed affect others so that others treat the depressed person poorly and have lower opinions of that person, cut themselves off from them and reinforce the perceived burdensomeness of that individual.

There are also studies that have shown the prevalence of certain genes is a predicator of suicidal behavoir. Suicides run in families, just like bipolar and schizophrenia. It’s a very broad subject, and one that needs more investigation.  It’s a leading cause of death for many groups of people, an epidemic really.

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Posted: 30 March 2008 12:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Are you trying to say that genes “act” and act in the interests of a “self”?

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Posted: 30 March 2008 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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rsonin - 30 March 2008 12:32 AM

Are you trying to say that genes “act” and act in the interests of a “self”?

As a figure of speech, yes. Selfish gene theory is, I believe the prevelent theory right now governing gene expression, selection, pooling and as a basis for gene co-operation and on the level of the individual.

Obviously genes don’t get up and set about an agenda with will or purpose. However, their existence and expression ‘acts upon themselves, other genes, and the individual.

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Posted: 31 March 2008 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Getting back tp the original question I disagree it is not pain and pleasure - however subjectively weighted - that isthe primary or only driving forces but rather our desires and aversions. In this case “driving force” means motivations - what else can it mean? -  and we are motivated to fulfill our desires (make them come true) and aversions (prevent them becoming true). For immediate gratification this might reduce mostly and loosely to “pain” and “pleasure” - but as the original poster noted they are somewhat subjective terms -  but not always and certainly not for our longer term interests and preferences, where we might specifically overcome our immediate needs, wants and appetites for a “greater ” goal. Generally we seek to fulfill the more and stronger of our desires - whether these are self-regarding or other-regarding or both - and we can change these weights by a prudential, and possibly a moral, evaluation of our desires.

[ Edited: 31 March 2008 03:24 AM by faithlessgod ]
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Posted: 31 March 2008 06:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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“Pain” and “pleasure” are usually defined fairly loosely, such that what is pleasurable is what we desire, and what we desire is that which we find pleasurable.  The same for aversions and pain.  That is, in most ethics pain an pleasure do not refer exclusively to bodily, sensual pleasure and pain, but to anything we might desire or fear, for example, to any “positive” or “negative” emotions, or to the things which produce them.  The only way you can desire something bad for yourself is if you are avoiding something worse (as you see it, in terms of your own values regarding pleasure and pain).

Other-regarding acts can be seen as pleasurable, then, though I don’t see that that necessarily diminishes their moral value, even if we seek pleasure in them, and even if we would not do them if there were no pleasure or desire involved.

goodthink - I think that there is some pretty rampant anthropomorhization there.

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