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The Selfishness of Selflessness

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posted on Apr, 2 2009 @ 06:03 PM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander

Yes. And not only him. In that sentence I should have said "western thought as described by modern academics." Because actually Plato's thinking was more in line with "Eastern thought" as well as many other we consider "Western" philosophers, (Spinoza comes to mind here as well.) I think Aristotle did more to define what we call commonly "Western thought" than any other philosopher. I was going to go into a short digression on the evils of Aristotle, but I dont want to start a needless philosopher war. Lol. I know you like him. I loathe what he did to the teachings of Plato, and I will just leave it at that.


No one needs to get into any sort of spit spat like that. One needs to take it all in and compare and contrast, analyze for cogency and soundness.
If you are doing that, you have no time for little emotional spit spats about what one likes or doesn't like as it adds nothing to the discourse.

Here's why: "I don't like this!" is not a logical analysis. There is no truth value to it beyond us knowing that it is true that Illusionsaregrander doesn't like this. Do ya sort of know what I am getting at.

I am saying that "liking it" or "not liking it" has nothing to do with it.




posted on Apr, 2 2009 @ 08:39 PM
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Originally posted by akalepos
On this discussion the "no solution" light keeps blinking, and that's ok.


Yea I know what you mean.


But I do think that acts that approach the paradigm ought to be included in the list of selfish acts when we stop trying to get it "perfectly".


We ought to? Why?



posted on Apr, 2 2009 @ 09:11 PM
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Originally posted by akalepos

Hey look. I was trying to be generous with the assumptions. I would advise not getting stuck in the mud about it.

It was yourself that sort of phrased selfish = bad... etc.


I am not sure how you got that, I wish you had quoted it, I do not remember trying to tie selfishness to "bad" at all, nor can I see why I would. I tend to strongly enjoy evolutionary biology, psychology etc, and the idea of "selfish=bad" is too simplistic as either a blanket statement or a working assumption as I see it. I suppose I may have somehow given that impression, but it was entirely unintentional.


Originally posted by akalepos
Ok so I was trying to make it easier that we wouldn't be constantly typing selfishness and selflessness over and over. So it isn't "mine" I was using it as "ours" but I think you know that.


Quite alright, it wasnt really "ours" though, and no, I did not know you had gotten the assumption I was trying to link the two terms to value statements. But I do now. I generally dont mind typing out the full word. It makes it easier for most people to follow the argument I think. I also try to avoid obscure words, and instead fill in the concept itself. A comment by Chomsky I heard once sums up my philosophy quite well. Chomsky was criticizing the habit of many academics to use large obscure words and jargon, as well as elaborate and twisting argumentation. He said that often they do so to conceal their own lack of understanding by intimidating or confusing their listener. He said that if you understand something well, you should be able to explain it relatively simply without the use of jargon. I think he is right. I try to make my argument as unadorned as I can, while still supporting it. It isnt always brief, as some point out, but I aim for clarity.


Originally posted by akalepos
You need to understand that many people do NOT subscribe to putnam. And their reason abound. His ideas never really took hold about this, or it would have been a requirement. Outside of JSTOR there is really nothing on the net that will really help you with this,


I think you mistake me here. You are the one who brought up Putnam, I assumed you brought him up for a reason. If you did not, then I dont understand what the point was. I was just trying to respond to what I assumed mattered to you in argument, and the reason I assumed that was, you brought it up. And as for what took hold and what did not, I should tell you right now that I am not a philosophical "fan boy." I really dont care what academia currently says about this or that. They have been wrong more times than I can count. I do my own thinking, my own reasoning, and I may pull in this or that as support or evidence, but my philosophical arguments are essentially my own.


Originally posted by akalepos
Again.. about the "them". there is a principle of generosity that philosophers are supposed to use to SUPPORT another's position. hehehe


I am sorry, I was unaware of this. Lol. No one told me while pursuing my degree that I was supposed to support other philosophers positions. In fact, most of my education in Greek philosophy consisted in my arguing strongly against my Professors own dissertation quite vehemently. I listen to their argument, and I respect it in the sense that I spend the amount of time needed to do my best to understand what they are saying, but if what they are saying seems to me vague or inaccurate, it was my training that you were to sort those issues out in the back and forth. There doesnt seem to be much point in "touchy feely" philosophy where we all just agree and sing cum bah yah. It seems to me that it is about arguing a position, and trying to clarify both your own position and that of those you might be debating an issue with. It neednt be a blood sport, but it certainly has been at some points. I am having a hard time thinking of a philosopher who was disposed to this kind of support, though I can easily think of many who spoke with some venom about adversarial positions.


Originally posted by akalepos
BUT aristotole was much more detailed and his only problem with the academy, I believe was the doctrine of forms. all else seems to be an enhancement. (so... footnote?) Only on a couple of occasions did he criticise Socrates/Plato. We could do a thing on that later.


That "detail" is why I say I loathe what he did to Plato's teachings. Plato's vagueness was deliberate. And it relates to what you say Wittgenstein said about language and its limits. It also relates to the argument we are having here in this thread. Plato made the same point about language and its limits much earlier on in the 7th Letter, and all of his works were testament to that understanding. He deliberately was not clear and detailed. Because clear and detailed does not reflect the truth of the things he was discussing. Aristotle took much of Plato's teaching and did with them what Plato himself would not. Wrote an exposition.

classics.mit.edu...


I did not, however, give a complete exposition, nor did Dionysios ask for one. For he professed to know many, and those the most important, points, and to have a sufficient hold of them through instruction given by others. I hear also that he has since written about what he heard from me, composing what professes to be his own handbook, very different, so he says, from the doctrines which he heard from me; but of its contents I know nothing; I know indeed that others have written on the same subjects; but who they are, is more than they know themselves. Thus much at least, I can say about all writers, past or future, who say they know the things to which I devote myself, whether by hearing the teaching of me or of others, or by their own discoveries-that according to my view it is not possible for them to have any real skill in the matter. There neither is nor ever will be a treatise of mine on the subject. For it does not admit of exposition like other branches of knowledge; but after much converse about the matter itself and a life lived together, suddenly a light, as it were, is kindled in one soul by a flame that leaps to it from another, and thereafter sustains itself. Yet this much I know-that if the things were written or put into words, it would be done best by me, and that, if they were written badly, I should be the person most pained. Again, if they had appeared to me to admit adequately of writing and exposition, what task in life could I have performed nobler than this, to write what is of great service to mankind and to bring the nature of things into the light for all to see? But I do not think it a good thing for men that there should be a disquisition, as it is called, on this topic-except for some few, who are able with a little teaching to find it out for themselves. As for the rest, it would fill some of them quite illogically with a mistaken feeling of contempt, and others with lofty and vain-glorious expectations, as though they had learnt something high and mighty.


Why I loathe his doing that is countless philosophy students are currently being taught Aristotle's view of Plato's work. Many philosophers dont quite get what Plato was doing, and they do prefer the crispness of Aristotle, and so they use his opinion of Plato's work and promote it as a fact. One comment I recall was "well he studied with him for nearly 20 years, and was no idiot, therefore we can rely on his understanding of Plato." I think that is an enormous mistake. And since Plato is such a foundational thinker, it did lasting harm to the whole field of philosophy. MOST "philosophers" prefer "crisp" solutions, even if they happen to be untruths. But philosophy is not about "the love of what is easy to understand" or "the love of what is convenient." It is the love of wisdom, and sometimes it is wisest to understand that you really cant know something in a concrete and certain way that can then be applied in all situations. Hence, what made Socrates wisest of all men, was that he alone knew he did not know. And hence why Plato himself wrote all those dialogs showing that the person who thought they "knew" something could be questioned into admitting they did not in fact know it.



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 01:11 AM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 


I would agree with chomsky. I was trying to simplify matters.

" Chomsky was criticizing the habit of many academics to use large obscure words and jargon, as well as elaborate and twisting argumentation. He said that often they do so to conceal their own lack of understanding by intimidating or confusing their listener. He said that if you understand something well, you should be able to explain it relatively simply without the use of jargon. I think he is right."

Yes, me too! But did you notice how Aristotellian his view is?

My point really is that I enjoy them all. It is entirely interesting to see the effect various philosophers have on different aspects in the investigation of "What there is."



[edit on 3-4-2009 by akalepos]



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 01:16 AM
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Originally posted by Welfhard

Originally posted by akalepos
On this discussion the "no solution" light keeps blinking, and that's ok.


Yea I know what you mean.


But I do think that acts that approach the paradigm ought to be included in the list of selfish acts when we stop trying to get it "perfectly".


We ought to? Why?


oops, I meant self less. The reason is so that we can at least we can identify those close acts with selflessness without having to be so strict as to say that there are absolutely no selfless acts. (even if that is true for you and I for example) It seems that the best of these are as close as humanly possible.



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 01:21 AM
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reply to post by akalepos
 


OH, you mean we ought to for the sake of this conversation and others of the same nature?

EDIT for spelling. [Somehow I managed to spell "conversation" as "disconnection". Wacky!]

[edit on 3-4-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 02:01 AM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 



You know what?

I sat here and worked on a really good response, hitdelete to take care of some spelling and the whole thing went away. Anyone else experience that?


frustrating



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 02:05 AM
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reply to post by Welfhard
 


yeah probably.

We all need to be able to discuss things within reason at levels that everyone can understand.

This sort of stuff with the unsatisfactory answer, is onl for the curious and intellectually honest mind, which I seem to see that you have.

For you and I, getting to the truth of a matter: the real facts, may be important yet uninteresting to MOm, our cousin, the guy at the store...
know what I mean?

They get along just fine without knowing the truth of matters.

we'd like to "fix em" but we really can't.

gad... I'm getting tired and typing stupidly, time to quit for the night.

I had a really good post for Illusion, but goofed it.

hehehe...



[edit on 3-4-2009 by akalepos]



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 02:16 AM
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reply to post by akalepos
 


For you and I, getting to the truth of a matter: the real facts, may be important yet uninteresting to MOm, our cousin, the guy at the store...
know what I mean?


Yep definitely. I'm so renown for my ability to summon up the most obscure, remote yet interesting facts that my mates occasionally ask me for one for something to talk about (interestingly they also call me "quote man", and not for my sunny disposition
). Great at parties.



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 08:56 AM
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Edit; i should have finished reading the thread as much of what i said about empathy and the resulting need for cooperation ( Which is perhaps somewhat like the Chicken vs egg argument) were brought up not very many posts later.


Originally posted by Welfhard
Eh, I'm gunna agree in general with what you're saying, but I think you're missing out a very important grey area in between.


I think i will agree fully with Pexx ( as i have in the past) and ask you a few questions about these so called 'grey areas'.


As I've said, I pretty much see every act of will as selfish,


It's called projection, if your selfish your far more likely to believe others to be so as well. Basically, as i remember, this boils down to having some problems with empathy ( don't understand how others feels or what motivates them) and thus becoming more selfish to that degree; what after all would be the point of interacting with others if you don't understand how they are likely to respond?


the difference is the way it effects others, that it makes more logical sense to do things that are beneficial for lots of people than just yourself.


Presuming that what is good for the group is good for the individual. This is what social creatures and their social structures is all about in recognizing that we are not infallible and need the support and or cooperation of others. Some may argue that altruism is 'selfish' but since 'selfish' is normally defined as being 'bad' for both the individual and group perhaps we should rather call it self interested behaviour which makes perfect sense.


There is an internal balance in each person between competition and cooperation, which I see as the two sides of the one selfish coin.


There in my opinion really isn't. Human beings are fundamentally cooperative creatures that formed ever more cooperative social structures to exploit that seemingly basic foundation. There is competition but normally set within very narrow socially and structurally acceptable ways that will yield the greatest reward for the group.


Some people are just more skewed to the competitive side (selfish) and others to the cooperative side (altruistic).


And this is in my opinion the most interesting statement. 'Some' people have indeed become more skewed to the 'competitive side' ( presuming this competition to be mostly harmless as it historically has been) but this does not cover or involve the changing economic systems that are both massively rewarding socially devastating selfishness and protecting such individuals, trough centralized law&order, from the very societies that could otherwise have made short work of such unsociable ( and thus inhuman) behaviour.

The problem is thus systemic and would probably be resolved by not protecting such individuals or, more specifically offering incentives for rejecting what should come far more naturally to human beings. I believe that this is why capitalism and economic systems based on accumulation is inherently against human interests; it's no surprise that the vast majority of people on earth are finding absolutely no benefit by what is currently espoused as capitalism.

Stellar


Can't remember the last time i edited a post four times; sad stuff.

[edit on 3-4-2009 by StellarX]



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 11:10 AM
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reply to post by Welfhard
 


Welfhard,
If you're that kind of guy, with that sort of "picky" mind, and I use that term loosely, then if you can afford it, you should try to get into a philosophy program down there. (Australia?) There are some very fine phlosophers down there, if what I have heard is true.
I think, I am not sure, but the main thing with those guys lately is Bio Ethics, a wide open field.

I would also like to add, that with most things that we think we "know" something about, we end up at this sort of dissatisfying, non edifying answer. If you can get comfortable with that, then you have the right temperament for it.

When Socrates says: I can know nothing! This is what he means.

Its not that we can't know anything, its just that most of our concepts and ideas fall flat where the rubber meets the road.

This touches on the differences between: Knowing How and Knowing That
I know how to frame a room, tie my shoes, etc.. (practical knowledge)
I know that 'philosophy' is a 10 letter word. (knowledge itself)
I know that (NOT) a selfless act is one that is devoid of all selfishness.

For an exercise about knowledge, I can suggest Theaetetus in the Platonic dialogs, where Socrates keeps asking: But what is knowledge itself?



[edit on 3-4-2009 by akalepos]

[edit on 3-4-2009 by akalepos]



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 03:34 PM
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Originally posted by StellarX


It's called projection, if your selfish your far more likely to believe others to be so as well.


I disagree that Welfhard is projecting his own selfishness outward on this issue. I think we are using the term selfish, and selfless much more broadly in this argument than people do in common discourse. The average person would consider it selfless to give your lunch money to someone on the street and do without that day. We are taking into consideration things like whether the "selfless" individual is actually expecting some reward. Did they get a good feeling from the act? Do they believe they will be rewarded in heaven or by "karma?" Was someone watching them and they now look good or noble in that persons eyes? Stuff like that. Commonly, we dont consider people who do things superficially selfless "selfish" but then we dont commonly go very deeply into that question.


Originally posted by StellarX
Presuming that what is good for the group is good for the individual. This is what social creatures and their social structures is all about in recognizing that we are not infallible and need the support and or cooperation of others. Some may argue that altruism is 'selfish' but since 'selfish' is normally defined as being 'bad' for both the individual and group perhaps we should rather call it self interested behaviour which makes perfect sense.


We actually are not "all" about that, it isnt all about the good of the group. It is in large, "what is best for me" and the fact that we are social of necessity means that "what is best for me" often is the same thing as "what promotes the competitive edge of my group."


Originally posted by StellarX
Some may argue that altruism is 'selfish' but since 'selfish' is normally defined as being 'bad' for both the individual and group perhaps we should rather call it self interested behaviour which makes perfect sense.


I dont think selfishness is commonly considered to be bad for the individual and the group. I think it is most commonly considered putting ones own interests ahead of the interests of all others. I think selfishness is commonly considered to be "good" for the individual, and "bad" for others. I think a lot of what we have been arguing here is that that is just too artificially simplistic.


Originally posted by StellarX
There in my opinion really isn't. Human beings are fundamentally cooperative creatures that formed ever more cooperative social structures to exploit that seemingly basic foundation. There is competition but normally set within very narrow socially and structurally acceptable ways that will yield the greatest reward for the group.


How are our economies set up to benefit the group at the expense of the individual? If you look at human interaction, you dont see fundamentally cooperative creatures, you see creatures that are also trying to walk a line between getting as much benefit as they can, while giving up the very least they can. Look how unwilling people are to consume less in order to "buy American" or buy less crap from WalMart to support local business and higher local wages, etc. If you look at our actual behavior, we often act against our collective interests for short term personal gain.


Originally posted by StellarX
And this is in my opinion the most interesting statement. 'Some' people have indeed become more skewed to the 'competitive side' ( presuming this competition to be mostly harmless as it historically has been) but this does not cover or involve the changing economic systems that are both massively rewarding socially devastating selfishness and protecting such individuals, trough centralized law&order, from the very societies that could otherwise have made short work of such unsociable ( and thus inhuman) behaviour.


I find it interesting as well that we tolerate "sociopaths" in our leadership. It doesnt make good sense at first glance. That it would be in our best interests to tolerate people who behave in hyper selfish ways and then make them our leaders. But we do, and we have done for a long time. I theorize that this is because a group lead by altruists would be lunch for a group lead by sociopaths. I think it is in our selfish interests when competing with other groups to have the most selfish, and ruthless people lead. I think in the past it has provided survival benefit. It becomes less adaptive when your sociopaths begin colluding with the other groups sociopaths against all the people collectively, but when the sociopaths are at odds, it benefits you to own a few.



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 06:50 PM
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reply to post by akalepos
 


Welfhard,
If you're that kind of guy, with that sort of "picky" mind, and I use that term loosely, then if you can afford it, you should try to get into a philosophy program down there. (Australia?) There are some very fine phlosophers down there, if what I have heard is true.
I think, I am not sure, but the main thing with those guys lately is Bio Ethics, a wide open field.


I'm at Uni in New Zealand (Oz?! Damn close guess mate). I've often thought about doing philosophy because I'm often philosophising but I'm not sure I'd like it. I've noticed that when you philosophise to much, you end up wasting a lot of time and rarely produce nothing - although I like to throw people some challenging philosophies just to get them stuck with a challenge; I'll admit I indulge in a bit of shadenfruede.

I guess I'm trying to say I'm a hobbyist philosopher, but I don't want to make it the centre of my universe. I'm majoring in Psych, but I'm also doing German to give me an excuse to travel and see places stepped in history. Plus German just sounds cool.

But breaking down the human condition to find meaning is less fun for me than learning stuff for the sake of learning stuff.

[edit on 3-4-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 07:44 PM
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reply to post by Welfhard
 


Trust me on this Brother:

Anyone can read philosophy and try to learn it on their own.
Very few, if any can get it that way.

A good guide is what we all need, because we frequently get things wrong about what the philosophers say.

So If you get into a program with some right minded and hearted people (non narcissitic about it) your world will burst right open, and it is a great joy.

Some people get stuck in programs with the other people I mentioned, and the poor folks get cheated and confused. Picking the right department is KEY.

If you have any world class guys down there in NZ, then check out to see if their egos are full of it, if NOT then get in there quick.

You will love it.

You will become a pickle from a cucumber never being able to return to being a cucumber...

get ready to die and be reborn! That's about all I can say about it.

Gotta go. see ya later, you too Illusion!



[edit on 3-4-2009 by akalepos]

[edit on 3-4-2009 by akalepos]



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 09:16 PM
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reply to post by akalepos
 


You will become a pickle from a cucumber never being able to return to being a cucumber...


Lol and the cucumbers will say "look at that cucumber pretending to be a pickle. What a poser."
Not that I tend to care. Although it rather hurts when a friend says it.



posted on Apr, 3 2009 @ 09:36 PM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander
I disagree that Welfhard is projecting his own selfishness outward on this issue. I think we are using the term selfish, and selfless much more broadly in this argument than people do in common discourse. The average person would consider it selfless to give your lunch money to someone on the street and do without that day. We are taking into consideration things like whether the "selfless" individual is actually expecting some reward. Did they get a good feeling from the act? Do they believe they will be rewarded in heaven or by "karma?" Was someone watching them and they now look good or noble in that persons eyes? Stuff like that. Commonly, we dont consider people who do things superficially selfless "selfish" but then we dont commonly go very deeply into that question.


Indeed. Commonly, motive is not often factored in when looking at a so-called "selfless" act, because motive really is important.

But then again, maybe I am projecting (it would partly explain my misanthropy). The ideas expressed in the OP were formed under my own rational for my own motives for doing "good" things for people.

But I also know that most people don't think about their motives or their actions, but just act when they're motivated, how they're motivated(which is really bizarre, but true). Considering that, logically people who don't think should be the most selfish of all BUT they still do it and feel good about it. My understanding of the development of the psyche in childhood tells me we get conditioned to feel good for charitable actions, which I then conclude must be an evolutionary-psychological-sociological-anthropological development, which makes sense.

I could do a jigg to that.

[edit on 3-4-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Apr, 4 2009 @ 12:47 AM
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reply to post by Welfhard
 


Well, as Socrates might put it, once the corruption in the soul has been punished by philosophy, which never harms but enhances the soul, and produces wellness in the soul (mind) as medicine produces wellness in the body, you aren't going to care about the detractors because their ignorance will be so apparent to you. From the position you achieve you will better be fit to act mercifully and charitably in those circumstances.



posted on Apr, 4 2009 @ 02:30 AM
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reply to post by akalepos
 


Yes well the issue I have is that I need a particular few of my friends, and no amount of rationalising will change that.



posted on Apr, 5 2009 @ 01:22 AM
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The good deed...ah! For me it is the hope the person spreads this to someone else. Often we focus too much on what horrible atrocities that happen with mankind. I would rather we get past that and find a way to treat every person as a brother/sister. Just with the hope that mankind spreads the joy and improves upon itself.



posted on Apr, 5 2009 @ 09:23 PM
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reply to post by Welfhard
 



When I got sober, some 20+ years ago, I had to give up some certain friends. Studying philosophy made me do some of the same but for different reasons, but I still have the same main corps of friends that I always had, and of course family.

I have never had to throw the baby out with the wash.


[edit on 5-4-2009 by akalepos]



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