Understanding through Discussion


Welcome! You are not logged in. [ Login ]
EvC Forum active members: 84 (8943 total)
39 online now:
DrJones*, GDR, PaulK, ringo, Tangle (5 members, 34 visitors)
Newest Member: LaLa dawn
Upcoming Birthdays: DrJones*
Post Volume: Total: 864,068 Year: 19,104/19,786 Month: 1,524/1,705 Week: 330/446 Day: 69/59 Hour: 0/1


Thread  Details

Email This Thread
Newer Topic | Older Topic
  
Author Topic:   Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism
jmrozi1
Member (Idle past 4185 days)
Posts: 79
From: Maryland
Joined: 12-09-2005


Message 1 of 35 (318032)
06-05-2006 5:25 PM


Psychological Egoism is the theory that selfless actions do not exist, and Ethical Egoism is the theory that it is better to be motivated only by self-interest.

Does anyone actually believe this stuff? I've seen arguments for them, but neither I nor anyone I've talked to seems to find them very convincing.

Edited by jmrozi1, : Turned on notification


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Shh, posted 06-11-2006 7:36 AM jmrozi1 has responded

    
Admin
Director
Posts: 12631
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002


Message 2 of 35 (320435)
06-11-2006 7:00 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

    
Shh
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 35 (320442)
06-11-2006 7:36 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by jmrozi1
06-05-2006 5:25 PM


Does anyone actually believe this stuff? I've seen arguments for them, but neither I nor anyone I've talked to seems to find them very convincing.

Yeah, psychological egoism more or less corresponds with evolutionary psychology, as long as it's recognised to be very subtle, and certain considerations are taken into account (eg, how being a social animal affects what "selfless" is) it looks pretty convincing.

I'd remove the "only" from the Ethical Egoism definition, put in always some self interest instead, and again the same re-evaluation of "self-interested" within context is needed.

I don't think these are meant as theories of advice on how we should behave btw, just commentaries on aspects of how we do behave.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by jmrozi1, posted 06-05-2006 5:25 PM jmrozi1 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by jmrozi1, posted 06-11-2006 2:07 PM Shh has not yet responded

  
jmrozi1
Member (Idle past 4185 days)
Posts: 79
From: Maryland
Joined: 12-09-2005


Message 4 of 35 (320526)
06-11-2006 2:07 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Shh
06-11-2006 7:36 AM


Shh writes:
I don't think these are meant as theories of advice on how we should behave btw, just commentaries on aspects of how we do behave.

For the purpose of this debate, I will be referring to the wikipidea definitions:
Psychological egoism
Ethical Egoism

Here, psychological egoism is defined as how we live and ethical egoism is defined as how we ought to live. I'll leave ethical egoism alone for the moment and will post some of the arguments I've heard about psychological egoism later if no one beats me to the punch.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Shh, posted 06-11-2006 7:36 AM Shh has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by jmrozi1, posted 06-11-2006 6:02 PM jmrozi1 has not yet responded

    
jmrozi1
Member (Idle past 4185 days)
Posts: 79
From: Maryland
Joined: 12-09-2005


Message 5 of 35 (320601)
06-11-2006 6:02 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by jmrozi1
06-11-2006 2:07 PM


Here I'll explain a few arguments and why they don't make sense to me (my stories and logic are taken, many times word for word, from "The Elements of Moral Philosophy" by James Rachels):

The story of Raoul Wallenberg

quote:
Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish businessman who could have stayed safely at home, spent the closing days of World War II in Budapest. Wallenberg had volunteered to be sent there as part of Sweden's diplomatic mission after he heard reports about Hitler's "Final solution to the Jewish problem." Once there, he successfully pressured the Hungarian government to stop the deportations to the concentration camps. When the Hungarian government was replaced by a Nazi puppet regime, and the deportations resumed, Wallenberg issued "Swedish Protective Passes" to thousands of Jews, insisting that they all had connections with Sweden and were under the protection of this government. He helped many individuals find places to hide. When they were rounded up, Wallenberg would stand between them and the Nazis, telling the Germans that they would have to shoot him first. At the very end of the war, when everything was chaos and the other diplomats were fleeing, Wallenberg stayed behind. He is credited with saving as many as 120,000 lives. When the war was over, he disappeared, and for a long time no one knew what had happened to him. Now it is believed that he was killed, not by the Germans but by the Soviet occupation forces.

Argument: We do what we most want to do.
Raoul Wallenberg was actually doing what he wanted to do. If he went to Budapest, and no one coerced him, it shows that he wanted to go there more than he wanted to stay home. His action is dictated by his own desires, and therefore should not be praised for unselfishness.

Refutation 1:This depends on the idea that people never voluntarily do anything except what they want to do.
There is a difference between what we want to do and what we ought to do. For example, someone may do something because she promised to do it, and thus feels obligated, even though she does not want to do it. It is sometimes suggested that in such cases we do the action because, after all, we want to keep our promises. However, that is not true. If I have promised to do something but I do not want to do it, then it is simply false to say that I want to keep my promise.

Refutation 2: Even if we were to concede, for the sake of argument, that we act on our strongest desires, the theory does not take hold
If Wallenberg went to Budapest because he wanted to, then he wanted to help other people, even at great risk to himself. However, this is precisely what makes him unselfish. What else could unselfishness be, if not wanting to help others, even at the cost to oneself? Remember that for a theory such as Psychological Egoism to have any meaning, it must not be irrefutable, meaning there must be some conceivable scenario or situation that could refute it.



Abraham Lincoln's argument
quote:
Mr. Lincoln once remarked to a fellow-passenger on an old-time mud coach that all men were prompted by selfishness in doing good. His fellow-passenger was antagonizing this position when they were passing over a corduroy bridge that spanned a slough. As they crossed this bridge they espied an old razor-backed sow on the bank making a terrible noise because her pigs had got into the slough and were in danger of drowning. As the old coach began to climb the hill, Mr. Lincoln called out, "Driver, can't you stop just a moment?" Then Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back, and lifted the little pigs out of the mud and water and placed them on the bank. When he returned, his companion remarked: "Now, Abe, where does selfishness come in on this little episode?" "Why, bless your soul, Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, don't you see?"

Argument: We do what makes us feel good.
So-called unselfish actions produce a sense of self-satisfaction in the person who does them. The real point in acting unselfishly is to produce this feeling.

Refutation: This argument falls is vulnerable to the same sorts of objections as the previous one.
Isn't the unselfish person precisely the one who does derive satisfaction from helping others, and the selfish person is the one who does not? Why would it make you feel good to contribute money to a homeless shelter, when you could spend it on yourself instead? The answer must be, at least in part, that you are the kind of person that you are the kind of person who cares about what happens to other people.



Infallibility
If a hypothesis purports to say something factual about the world, then there must be some imaginable conditions that could verity it and some that could conceivably refute it. Otherwise, it is meaningless.

An example of a refutation to the "We do what makes us feel good" rebuttal would be that good deeds make us feel good not because we care about other people, but because we can later flaunt our good nature. This would imply that if we were unable to boast our unselfish behavior, we would have no reason to be unselfish. Predictably, I don't believe this for many reasons, especially because of martyrs.

Edited by jmrozi1, : I was bound to make a spelling mistake somewhere with a post this big...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by jmrozi1, posted 06-11-2006 2:07 PM jmrozi1 has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by Shh, posted 06-12-2006 7:01 AM jmrozi1 has responded

    
Shh
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 35 (320702)
06-12-2006 7:01 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by jmrozi1
06-11-2006 6:02 PM


Hey again, I don't think you'll get much argument here, the Wiki definitions are too simplistic, I don't think anyone believes them.
If we look at a mother jumping in front of a train to save a child, then it's obviously not selfish. But if we look at the effects on, and within the society can we see any other reasonable choice?
(not to suggest the mother calculates it)
People with no altruism don't last very long in a social society, so altruism is a neccesity within our social structure, so how is it altruism?
Perhaps you should replace "strongest-desire" with "deepest" or "subconscious" desire?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by jmrozi1, posted 06-11-2006 6:02 PM jmrozi1 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by jmrozi1, posted 06-12-2006 1:41 PM Shh has not yet responded

  
jmrozi1
Member (Idle past 4185 days)
Posts: 79
From: Maryland
Joined: 12-09-2005


Message 7 of 35 (320817)
06-12-2006 1:41 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Shh
06-12-2006 7:01 AM


Shh writes:
People with no altruism don't last very long in a social society, so altruism is a neccesity within our social structure, so how is it altruism?

I'm certainly not going to argue that all seemingly altruistic acts are actually or purely altruistic. We have the ability to be tactful and logically reason that certain acts of altruism can benefit oneself. My only argument was that in the absence of these thoughts, that "feel-good" emotion we get on the inside is purely, or at least in part, an effect of the evolution of biological altruism. This is in contrast to the belief that this feeling is the result of the cold, logical rationalization of the unconscious mind.

It seems that with the exception of a few trivialities, we don't disagree with enough to hold a debate, so I'm considering letting this one go.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Shh, posted 06-12-2006 7:01 AM Shh has not yet responded

    
Stile
Member
Posts: 3849
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 8 of 35 (506238)
04-24-2009 8:28 AM


From the depths
Discussion moved to this thread from here:
Message 166

onifre writes:

Granny Magda writes:

And there's the rub. We can't really know what motivates us to act, not ultimately.

I would disagree with that, but only if we seperate the micro from the macro. Like with quantum mechanics. How does what is happening at quantum scales affect macro scales? Likewise, how does what your neurons are doing, since they do it as repetition and not as a conscious act, affect how the actual act, at the macro level, is viewed to be?

Well put, I think this is what I was trying to touch on, but couldn't vocalize it as such.

Perhaps this is something that requires stricter levels of definition. "Selfish" may be too general of a word to identify what it is we're trying to talk about.

In any event, I think we should continue the discussion here (if anyone is so inclined) so as to not pull the previous thread off-topic.

Heh heh... pulled this puppy out from under almost 3 years of cyber-dust and e-junk... that's gotta be close to some sort of record :)

Edited by Stile, : Adding totally selfish gloating about necro-ing this thread


Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Stile, posted 04-24-2009 8:39 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply

    
Stile
Member
Posts: 3849
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 9 of 35 (506241)
04-24-2009 8:39 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Stile
04-24-2009 8:28 AM


Re: From the depths
Onifre's point about the difference between micro/macro (subconscious/consious) levels of thought go directly to what I was attempting to point out in the first place.

A selfish act is selfish because one is consiously motivated to better one's own personal situation.

The existence of subconscious motivations for benefits along the lines of "inner feelings" may be irrelevent.

1. If we know that we may get inner feelings, yet acknowledge that we're deciding to do the action for other reasons... regardless of those impending inner feelings... wouldn't the action still be selfless?
-Here I'm trying to say that the mere existence of beneficial results does not necessarily make an action selfishly motivated.

2. If we don't know that we'll be getting inner-feelings of pleasure for a certain moral action, then wouldn't this still be a selfless act? How can we act "to get good inner-feelings" if we don't even know that those inner-feelings are a possibility? This seems to strictly remove any selfishness right off the bat.

Of course, if we actually are consciously (even slightly) hoping for some good inner-feelings... then I agree that the action is selfish in some degree.
(Anything occuring at the sub-conscious level would seem, to me, to fall into the "not knowing about it" category, which is then strictly non-selfish)

I just think it's possible to not consiously hope for such inner-feelings, even in a vanishingly small amount.

Perhaps I'm being naive?

Is it possible for a subconsious and selfish motivation to exist? Or is that an oxymoron?

Edited by Stile, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Stile, posted 04-24-2009 8:28 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Blue Jay, posted 04-24-2009 11:02 AM Stile has responded

    
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 989 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 10 of 35 (506244)
04-24-2009 11:02 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Stile
04-24-2009 8:39 AM


Re: From the depths
Hi, Stile.

It's been a little while.

Stile writes:

If we don't know that we'll be getting inner-feelings of pleasure for a certain moral action, then wouldn't this still be a selfless act? How can we act "to get good inner-feelings" if we don't even know that those inner-feelings are a possibility? This seems to strictly remove any selfishness right off the bat.

I agree. Evolutionary "selfishness" and biblical "selfishness" are obviously different things, defined by the scale at which they occur.

The real question, I think, is, "If the individual 'self' arises as an emergent property of a complex of interacting, 'selfish' chemicals, can the motivations of the 'self' be considered independent of the motivations of the 'selfish genes'?"

I tend to think they can be. So, I would agree with you that 'selfishness,' as defined by the Bible, must be a conscious process.

But, I would be interested in hearing any opposing views on the subject.

-----

Just a quick tag for origins: perhaps we could consider the point at which 'life' began to be the point when an emergent, unified 'self' arose out of networks of co-occurring 'selfish' chemicals? Of course, pinpointing the first thing to meet that definition would still be dicey, because there would no doubt be a gradient involved.


-Bluejay/Mantis/Thylacosmilus

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Stile, posted 04-24-2009 8:39 AM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by Stile, posted 04-24-2009 11:25 AM Blue Jay has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 3849
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 11 of 35 (506249)
04-24-2009 11:25 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Blue Jay
04-24-2009 11:02 AM


A selfish tongue in a selfless cheek
Bluejay writes:

If the individual 'self' arises as an emergent property of a complex of interacting, 'selfish' chemicals, can the motivations of the 'self' be considered independent of the motivations of the 'selfish genes'?

A very good phrasing of the question, and with my current pretty-much-zero knowledge about the situation I shall jump on my chair and scream "yes!" But, I'm in the mood for an education if you feel so inclined :)

I have never read "The Selfish Gene" by... that guy who wrote it... and I am not a biologist or anything like that by trade (I'm an electrical design engineer).

Can you explain to me what is basically meant by "selfish genes/chemicals"? Is it just giving a catchy label to something that doesn't really have anything to do with "being selfish"? Or is there more to it? Why was the label 'selfish' chosen to describe such things?

I suppose my definition of selfish is what you're calling the Biblical definition (the fact that this slightly irks me is a personal flaw for another topic... :)). I'm interested in understanding specifically what the Evolutionary definition is, and how something like genes or chemicals that have no brain (intelligent decision making process) can be classified as being selfish.

Edited by Stile, : Just ruining the un-edited purity of this post to fix some spellings. 'Cause that's just how I roll.

Edited by Stile, : Go about your business. This edit never occured. *waves a hand in front of your face*


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Blue Jay, posted 04-24-2009 11:02 AM Blue Jay has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by Blue Jay, posted 04-24-2009 2:42 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply
 Message 13 by Modulous, posted 04-24-2009 4:18 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply

    
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 989 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 12 of 35 (506261)
04-24-2009 2:42 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Stile
04-24-2009 11:25 AM


Re: A selfish tongue in a selfless cheek
Hi, Stile.

Stile writes:

I have never read "The Selfish Gene" by... that guy who wrote it... and I am not a biologist or anything like that by trade (I'm an electrical design engineer).

I have also not read it. But, I know that it was written by Richard Dawkins.

I respect engineers: my father and my brother are both mechanical engineers, and my sister and I both considered studying engineering in college (we both eventually switched to basic sciences, though).

-----

Stile writes:

Can you explain to me what is basically meant by "selfish genes/chemicals"?

It's just a catchy phrase attached to the gene-centered evolution concept. Basically, it's just the idea that natural selection on genes is more important than natural selection on individuals and populations. So, the self-propagation of genes is the primary driving force of evolution in this view.

The "selfish gene" idea seemed like a good way for me to embody the notion of subconscious, evolution-driven "selfishness" (which Cedre couldn't quite grasp).

-----

Stile writes:

I suppose my definition of selfish is what you're calling the Biblical definition (the fact that this slightly irks me is a personal flaw for another topic... :)).

:)

Perhaps we could call it colloquial selfishness or traditional selfishness, then.

-----

Stile writes:

I'm interested in understanding specifically what the Evolutionary definition is, and how something like genes or chemicals that have no brain (intelligent decision making process) can be classified as being selfish.

It's just anthropomorphization.

-----

One thing that interests me along the same lines is how far "selfishness" extends.

For instance, most people would agree that preferentially serving your own interests and ignoring others’ interests is selfish.
But, is it also selfish to preferentially serve your own family?
How about preferential service for your own country, religion, culture group or race? What about your own species?

Don’t all of these ultimately trace back to selfishness?
If these actions are not selfish, why is the preference always for the ingroup?

The government should respect my rights as a human being!
Those damn coyotes are after my chickens again: I’ll kill them!
How could you do this to me? I thought we were friends!

I tend to think that selfishness is innate in most people, and does define relationships, culture and morality in most situations.

I also am inclined to think it ought not to be so, but I’m afraid I can’t envision a world that could function in an absence of all selfishness, so the ethical question seems to be only about where to draw the line.


-Bluejay/Mantis/Thylacosmilus

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Stile, posted 04-24-2009 11:25 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 396 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 13 of 35 (506275)
04-24-2009 4:18 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Stile
04-24-2009 11:25 AM


a selfish answer to a selfish question
Can you explain to me what is basically meant by "selfish genes/chemicals"? Is it just giving a catchy label to something that doesn't really have anything to do with "being selfish"? Or is there more to it? Why was the label 'selfish' chosen to describe such things?

Selfish genes was just chosen as a eye catching title for a pop-sci book. As is often the case in science, catchy names stick - even if they cause confusion. The pupose of the book was to explain selfless behaviour in individuals with regards to evolution as the behaviour of utterly selfish behaviour of genes.

It's a good book - worth checking out (and the most recent version has a pile of footnotes with up to date info and expansions on those sections and terms people had apprehensions about over the thirty years since it was first published.

The basic thesis is that genes do whatever they can to replicate. Almost all of the time this has the side effect of benefiting the individuals that inherit them, and some times it has the side effect of benefiting the populations that are composed of individuals that have inherited them. But no matter how selfless the populations or the individuals...the genes remain entirely and completely 'selfish'. They only 'care' about getting themselves replicated.

I think that the point is particularly saliently demonstrated with intragenomic conflict: sometimes, and seemingly paradoxically, the genes manage to increase in frequency even though they are, on the whole, detrimental to the health or wellbeing of the individual that possesses them.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Stile, posted 04-24-2009 11:25 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply

  
Lokins
Junior Member (Idle past 3383 days)
Posts: 23
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 05-28-2009


Message 14 of 35 (510207)
05-28-2009 9:32 PM


Psychological Egoism is the theory that selfless actions do not exist, and Ethical Egoism is the theory that it is better to be motivated only by self-interest.

Does anyone actually believe this stuff? I've seen arguments for them, but neither I nor anyone I've talked to seems to find them very convincing.

I actually think this is an interesting theory, and I've had a hard time thinking of a counter-example. Evolutionary psychology should predict that most deeds would be selfish, seeing that the reason that they evolved would be that it furthers the possibility of passing on one's genes.

If I help someone, I know that it makes the other person happy, but that in turn makes me happy, so if you think about it, I'm only doing the act to make myself happy.


Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by Stile, posted 05-29-2009 7:53 AM Lokins has responded

    
Stile
Member
Posts: 3849
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 15 of 35 (510238)
05-29-2009 7:53 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by Lokins
05-28-2009 9:32 PM


What do you mean by 'selfish?'
Lokins writes:

If I help someone, I know that it makes the other person happy, but that in turn makes me happy, so if you think about it, I'm only doing the act to make myself happy.

Quite possible. Especially if your only motivation for helping someone was to make yourself happy. That sounds very selfish.

But what if I help someone, and I did so only to help them, and I ended up making myself happy by accident?

Was my action selfish because something good coincidentally happened to me?
If so, then the word 'selfish' no longer means "doing something to benefit yourself" but something more along the lines of "things that result in personal benefits, regardless of their original motivation." Which would mean that if the sun shines on my wedding day, I'm being selfish? That doesn't seem to make much sense.

Or, perhaps it was nice because my motivation was to help someone else, and wasn't selfish at all. This way there's also no reason to re-define the word 'selfish.'

The problem is that I can say my motivation is "for being nice" and you'll never know if I'm lying or not. But it's certainly possible that I'm not lying, therefore it's certainly possible for selfless actions to exist.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by Lokins, posted 05-28-2009 9:32 PM Lokins has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Lokins, posted 05-29-2009 10:48 AM Stile has responded

    
Newer Topic | Older Topic
Jump to:


Copyright 2001-2018 by EvC Forum, All Rights Reserved

™ Version 4.0 Beta
Innovative software from Qwixotic © 2019