• Jacques
    91
    The state of all human morality can be summed up in two sentences: We ought to. But we don't. — Kurt Tucholsky

    What do you say?

    In my opinion, people only do something if they expect it to benefit them, and not because they ought to do it.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    A lot of us do things that don't benefit ourselves because we believe in living more than an emotional life. This is not to brag, this is to inform, but I've donated to water.org for years. This helps bring fresh water and to places that don't have it in the world. I don't get a tax break from it. I don't tell anyone I do it (except you) and I will never meet anyone who benefitted from it or gain anything more than a slight emotional satisfaction from it.

    My temptation is to stop donating. But I know I have the money and I know it goes toward some good somewhere else in the world. It is better for me to donate, so I do. Don't be so quick to paint all of humanity in a particular way. There are a lot of varied people out there.
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    "The state of all human morality can be summed up in two sentences: We ought to. But we don't."
    Kurt Tucholsky
    Jacques
    Too much general and quite a wrong example as a summation of morality.
    This statement can refer to anything, not to a moral issue in particular. Making mistakes, choosing a wrong path, missing to do something, regretting about one's decision, and so on, all of which being cases in which "should" or "ought" could be applied are not necessarily connected to morality.
    In other words, moral actions in or for which the conditional "should" or "ought" can be used are only specific cases, a subtotal of the total cases in which these two words.

    (I wonder what this guy --Tucholsky-- had in mind when he said that and in what context (important).
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    In my opinion, people only do something if they expect it to benefit them, and not because they ought to do it.Jacques
    Yes, especially those people who understand that 'one ought to do whatever one expects will eventually benefit one.'
  • Mww
    4.7k
    — Kurt TucholskyJacques

    “…. Natural and moral philosophy, on the contrary, can each have their empirical part, since the former has to determine the laws of nature as an object of experience; the latter the laws of the human will, so far as it is affected by nature: the former, however, being laws according to which everything does happen; the latter, laws according to which everything ought to happen. Ethics, however, must also consider the conditions under which what ought to happen frequently does not…”

    —Not Kurt Tucholsky. And a few more than two sentences, to say the same thing.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    The state of all human morality can be summed up in two sentences: We ought to. But we don't.
    — Kurt Tucholsky

    Immoral acts are disproportional. For example, a single person running a scam might effectively scam dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people. Only a comparatively small number of offenders are necessary to create the feeling that we live in a society where you can't trust anyone because scamming is so prevalent.

    Also, even if the scammer does no wrongdoing in any other scenario, he's still not living a moral life. There's no prize in morality for being 99% compliant, and we judge people mostly by their violations.

    As for "We ought to, but we don't - well most people do, in fact, this conclusion is a result of our perception.

    The other thing I'd add is that morality is a specific context and doesn't take into account real-life circumstances. For example, in terms of a police officer taking bribes - it's immoral. For 99% of the population, they don't benefit from having a corrupt police force and they're not police officers themselves. So, it's pretty simple when it's a 100% loss situation for 99% of the population, then it's going to be viewed as immoral. That 99% can't even be corrupt police officers, since most won't be police officers at all, it's an unrealistic perspective.

    The straightforward conclusion of something being 100% morally wrong, only applies from an unrealistic perspective. For the actual police officer who maybe isn't being paid enough, sees everyone else doing it, wants to make a better life for his family and so on, it may be more morally complex. The moral choice may come at the expense of other important considerations - even other moral considerations.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    What do you say?Jacques

    No, that's not how morality works. When it works.
    Who determines the "ought to"? Who obeys it, under what conditions? Who disobeys it, under what conditions? Human motivation is never, not even in the first five years of life, as simple as calculating benefit.
  • Jacques
    91
    It is better for me to donate, so I do.Philosophim

    Hi, Philosophim,

    that's exactly what I meant: you donate because it's better for you.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Hi, Philosophim,

    that's exactly what I meant: you donate because it's better for you.
    Jacques

    No, I mean I do it because its the right thing to do. I have the money, and its for a good cause. I decide to. Its not for personal benefit like going to the movies or something. Trust me, I can find far more ways to enjoy the money and I wouldn't feel a twinge of guilt. Not everything is about personal benefit.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    There are different ways to interpret 'benefit'. The people who want to make a case for essential human selfishness can stretch the word to mean anything that makes you feel good in the moment, such as expressing a social virtue or kind impulse, or anything that helps to safeguard the long term continuity of your genetic heritage, or anything that fortifies the group that affords you protection from some hazard.
    Ultimately, every possible act can be said to be done for one's own benefit in some way.
    True, but meaningless.
  • Jacques
    91
    This statement can refer to anything, not to a moral issue in particular.Alkis Piskas
    You're right about that, but if it can refer to anything, it can also refer to morality.

    As for the context, there is none, since it is an aphorism that stands alone. You can verify it here. It is the penultimate aphorism on that page.
  • Jacques
    91
    No, that's not how morality works. When it works.
    Who determines the "ought to"? Who obeys it, under what conditions? Who disobeys it, under what conditions? Human motivation is never, not even in the first five years of life, as simple as calculating benefit.
    Vera Mont
    If I interpret Tucholsky correctly, he does not want to show how morality works, but rather that it does not work at all, at least not for adult people. What we "ought to" is demanded by moralists, philosophers, theologians, teachers and parents. Who obeys it? I think children are the most likely to do it.

    Human motivation is based on reward from the reward center in the brain rather than on calculation. In my opinion, the benefit is mainly a good feeling. This good feeling can be triggered from person to person by different things: for one person by money, for another by power, attention, love, gratitude, sociability, favorite pastime ... etc.
  • Jacques
    91
    Its not for personal benefit like going to the movies or something. Trust me, I can find far more ways to enjoy the money and I wouldn't feel a twinge of guilt. Not everything is about personal benefit.Philosophim

    But then why did you contradict yourself by your previous assertions:

    "I will never meet anyone who benefitted from it or gain anything more than a slight emotional satisfaction from it."

    "It is better for me to donate, so I do."

    Please decide whether you have benefited or not. You cannot have both at the same time.
  • Jacques
    91
    True, but meaningless.Vera Mont

    True, but not meaningless. Why should it be?
  • Jacques
    91
    This good feeling can be triggered from person to person by different things: for one person by money, for another by power, attention, love, gratitude, sociability, favorite pastime ... etc.Jacques

    People interpret some of these motivations as being selfless, but in truth there is no such thing as selfless motivation.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    "It is better for me to donate, so I do."

    Please decide whether you have benefited or not. You cannot have both at the same time.
    Jacques

    Maybe we're having a language barrier of intentions here. I've tried to make it clear that I do not benefit from giving my money away compared to using the money for myself. I am not contradicting myself. When I say, "It is better for me", translate this to, "It is more ethical for me". I do not receive ANYTHING for giving my money away. This should be clear.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    True, but not meaningless. Why should it be?Jacques

    Because the more ways a word can be interpreted, the less utility it has in communicating clear ideas. If a word is made to stand for everything, it can't mean anything.

    Human motivation is based on reward from the reward center in the brain rather than on calculation.Jacques

    Both, either, neither and/or many more factors.
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    This statement can refer to anything, not to a moral issue in particular.
    — Alkis Piskas
    You're right about that, but if it can refer to anything, it can also refer to morality.
    As for the context, there is none, since it is an aphorism that stands alone.
    Jacques
    Exactly. This is what I meant: it's not characteristic of morality. A characteristic is a peculiar and distinctive quality of something. Alone, independently of context, it cannot express, represent, etc. morality.

    On the other hand, there are other "aphorisms" --as you say-- that are characteristic of morality and describe or epitomize or "sum up" --as the author says-- morality better. E.g. "Not doing to others what we do not want others do to us." This can only refer to, characterize, express, represent, etc. morality.
  • Jacques
    91
    I do not receive ANYTHING for giving my money away. This should be clear.Philosophim

    I believe that you get a good feeling about it, and a good feeling is more than NOTHING. It represents a value in itself, and not a small one.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    Maybe we're having a language barrier of intentions here. I've tried to make it clear that I do not benefit from giving my money away compared to using the money for myself. I am not contradicting myself. When I say, "It is better for me", translate this to, "It is more ethical for me". I do not receive ANYTHING for giving my money away. This should be clear.Philosophim

    I don't disagree with you, but I wonder if a soft form of self-interested altruism might be behind such actions? Any thoughts on this? I take similar actions, providing money to various causes, etc. But I wonder if 'it is more ethical to me' comes with it a kind of satisfaction in doing one's duty, being part of a solution... whatever it might be.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    In my opinion, people only do something if they expect it to benefit them, and not because they ought to do it.Jacques

    In other words there is no selflessness? Personally I suspect self-interest plays a role in much altruism. I'm not sure how you would demonstrate that this is always the case, but it may be. The real question is does it matter? If morality is ultimately a social enterprise and about cooperation and flourishing, then the idea that there is something in it for us all to be moral is possibly inescapable.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    I believe that you get a good feeling about it, and a good feeling is more than NOTHING. It represents a value in itself, and not a small one.Jacques

    Then why are we having a conversation? I tell you how I feel and that I get nothing out of it over 3 times, yet you say I'm a liar. You know what you're finding out about your self? That you don't do anything except for your own self-interest, and you have the arrogance and stubborn ignorance to believe no one else can possibly do otherwise.

    If you want to rant that everyone must be as selfish and run by emotions as you, then go ahead. There are plenty of us in life who work to overcome emotions because they understand that some outcomes are better for the world then their own pleasure or happiness. The fact that you don't believe it says everything about yourself. You need to go meet more people in the world. Go volunteer at a place you don't want to. Do something that you know is right, but makes you uncomfortable. Then think about it. You need to experience it for yourself before you start making judgement about other people.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    I don't disagree with you, but I wonder if a soft form of self-interested altruism might be behind such actions? Any thoughts on this?Tom Storm

    No. I do plenty of things that offer me less satisfaction than the alternatives. My sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about two years ago during the Covid pandemic. She lost her job, she ended up making some poor decisions and moved to a place with no support. I recently got to the point in my career where I could work remotely where ever I wanted. I had been planning on moving up North because I hate the weather in Texas. I have a close friend I've known for 20 years, and I was going to move in to the area after visiting.

    But with my sister's recent diagnosis, I had a choice. No one was expecting me to help her and her kids out. I would have been very happy up North. I chose to move to the town she moved to for one year to help her out. Why? Because no one else could. Because I was the only one who could. And my belief is that the overall outcome of life on this planet would have been worse off if I had simply done what I wanted.

    I would not have felt guilty. I have no particular feelings towards my sister or her kids. She's made her own choices in life. I still sometimes have pushes to just leave and go up North. But I don't because its not time yet. I choose my outcomes in life based on what is most moral, because I've spent a lot of time thinking on these things and not letting my emotions sway my decisions.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    self-interested altruismTom Storm
    :up:
    If morality is ultimately a social enterprise and about cooperation and flourishing, then the idea that there is something in it for us all to be moral is possibly inescapable.Tom Storm
    :100:
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    I would not have felt guilty. I have no particular feelings towards my sister or her kids. She's made her own choices in life. I still sometimes have pushes to just leave and go up North. But I don't because its not time yet. I choose my outcomes in life based on what is most moral, because I've spent a lot of time thinking on these things and not letting my emotions sway my decisions.Philosophim

    You sound very certain. You are talking about what you are conscious of. Can you rule out unconscious influences on your actions - guilt, duty, pride, etc? In my own case, I rarely know why I do anything and have very little insight into my motivations - I'm a swirling vortex of contradictions and unconscious values and biases. Despite this I feel unreasonably content.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    In my own case, I rarely know why I do anything and have very little insight into my motivations - I'm a swirling vortex of contradictions and unconscious values and biases. Despite this I feel unreasonably content.Tom Storm
    More an Epicurean than a Stoic? :cool: :up:
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    You sound very certain. You are talking about what you are conscious of. Can you rule out unconscious influences on your actions - guilt, duty, etc?Tom Storm

    Yes. I am a very introspective person who thinks on a major decision for a long time from multiple angles. I understand that the average person does not do this. You're going to have to trust me on this one despite it just being an internet conversation. There are people like me who choose moral decisions that do not directly benefit themselves because they know there is more to life than just themselves. No religion required.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    More an Epicurean than a Stoic? :cool:180 Proof

    No question. :wink:
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    You're going to have to trust me on this one despite it just being an internet conversation.Philosophim

    Hey, I don't doubt that you are sincere and believe this. I guess I hold a view that all people, regardless of how they make decisions, are influenced by unconscious factors - biases, desires, etc.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    Can you rule out unconscious influences on your actions - guilt, duty, pride, etc?Tom Storm

    IOW: Whatever you do, whyever you think you're doing it, somebody's going to call it self-interest. They tyewll you you don't understand your own motivations - but then, they understand your motivations even less, so what can they usefully tell you, anyway?
    What they get out of that, I have no idea - a sense of superiority, maybe, to ethical people?
    At the end of a lifetime, some disinterested agency might be able to weigh up everything you did - how much you benefited yourself vs how much you benefited others.
    Presumably, you're not expecting a reward, like going to heaven - just a final tally.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Hey, I don't doubt that you are sincere and believe this. I guess I hold a view that all people, regardless of how they make decisions, are influenced by unconscious factors - biases, desires, etc.Tom Storm

    That's definitely true. Snap decisions are made with those factors for sure. But when you take time to really think on something, and you are a person that analyzes your own motives very carefully, you can minimize and even remove those underlying factors.
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