• Tom Storm
    8.6k
    Ok. Off topic, but it sounds like control or autonomy is very important to you. I'm always fascinated by how different we are despite all the ways in which we are alike.

    IOW: Whatever you do, whyever you think you're doing it, somebody's going to call it self-interest.Vera Mont

    I don't know whether we can even tell in theory what motivates us. It's not all that important to me, to be honest. My intuition says self-interest is probably inescapable, but this comes in soft and hard versions and we need to recognize that self-interest is not incompatible with altruism.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Ok. Off topic, but it sounds like control or autonomy is very important to you. I'm always fascinated by how different we are despite all the ways in which we are alike.Tom Storm

    Yes, its extremely important to me. It may be due to an upbringing where emotions were mostly punished and a lack of a feeling of control in my early life. I agree, its great to see the differences between us! Together we often can compliment each other in areas we personally lack.
  • kudos
    378

    I really like this aphorism. I feel like moral life is a difficult beast. It entangles us in words, representations, and ideas. But none of it makes sense unless one chooses to be moral. This is why most famed philosophers utterly fail to write coherently about it. These majors all have skeletons in their own closets that drive their excellence, but to know morality you need to ask the ones who didn’t get their badge of honour. Kant is still top of my list in this domain, nobody else I’ve encountered has dug deeper yet.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    I don't know whether we can even tell in theory what motivates us. It's not all that important to me, to be honest. My intuition says self-interest is probably inescapable, but this comes in soft and hard versions and we need to recognize that self-interest is not incompatible with altruism.Tom Storm

    That, and also: motivations are invariably mixed. - there are many factors and influences, investments and and interests in a human life. So are thoughts mixed with feelings, instincts with calculations. So are outcomes. All you can do is the best you can do, according to your own sense of rightness.
  • Jacques
    91
    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

    I don't want to rant about anyone. I too do things that I know are right, but it doesn't make me uncomfortable - quite the opposite. I wasn't passing judgment on you or anyone else, instead I was talking about some basic psychological principles that you seem to be completely unfamiliar with. I am passionate about psychology and brain research and have read a few books about it, by Eric Kandel, David Eagleman, Daniel Dennett, Daniel Kahnemann, Oliver Sacks and others. I was just reflecting the state of the science. If you feel personally offended by that, I'm sorry.

    By the way, try to remember when you were stuck in a traffic jam and were happy for the other side because they had a free ride. A true altruist in such a situation would say to himself, "I'm so glad it hit me and not them!"
  • Jacques
    91
    My intuition says self-interest is probably inescapable, but this comes in soft and hard versions and we need to recognize that self-interest is not incompatible with altruism.Tom Storm

    Psychologists say that self-interest is indeed inescapable. As for the soft and hard versions, it is rather not about different versions but about different interests: Some people are more interested in universal harmony and cooperation, others only in loving their own family and perhaps their animals. Some love the money, others the feeling of being okay and helping others.

    A little hint: even aid organizations recruit new members by emphasizing how much it gives you when you help others and experience gratitude, according to the motto "helping makes happy".

    A second hint: In his "Faust" drama, Goethe has his hero exclaim, "Stay yet! you are so beautiful!" With this, he wants to stop the moment of supreme happiness he feels when helping the flood victims.
  • Jacques
    91
    I really like this aphorism. I feel like moral life is a difficult beast. It entangles us in words, representations, and ideas. But none of it makes sense unless one chooses to be moral. This is why most famed philosophers utterly fail to write coherently about it.kudos

    What about John Leslie Mackie and his book "ETHICS Inventing Right and Wrong". His views seem fairly consistent to me.
  • Jacques
    91
    I really like this aphorism.kudos

    Me too. Unfortunately, I know too little about the author to know what exactly he was trying to say. Perhaps he wanted to express his disappointment with German society at the beginning of the 20th century.

    I myself use it in the sense that all people, even the friendliest among them, invariably and at all times inevitably pursue their own interests and inclinations.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    I wasn't passing judgment on you or anyone else, instead I was talking about some basic psychological principles that you seem to be completely unfamiliar with.Jacques

    Whether intended or not, when someone tells you how they feel, if you tell them, "No, you don't really feel that way. I read it in a book.", its insulting. That's basic psychology. You can ask a person why they feel that way, but telling a person that they don't feel what they are feeling will piss people off. Don't do it.

    Second, I am familiar with the psychological and philosophical theories that there is no altruism, but that everything we do is for our own self-interest. This is not science. This is psychology and philosophy. There are also competing theories that claim we can be altruistic beyond our own self-interest. Just think of the example of a person leaping on a grenade to defend the rest of the men in their squad. If you believe your audience is unfamiliar with a theory you are referencing, actually reference it in your OP when a person seems to invalidate that theory that you would like to talk about.

    By the way, try to remember when you were stuck in a traffic jam and were happy for the other side because they had a free ride. A true altruist in such a situation would say to himself, "I'm so glad it hit me and not them!"Jacques

    Another thing you shouldn't do is assume things of people without asking them. Not in traffic per say, but I have had situations in life where I had been in an unfortunate position over another person, and I was glad for them that they didn't have to handle it because I knew I would be able to handle it better. It still sucked, but it could have been worse. I am that type of human being. Assuming I couldn't be without asking first is ignorant and immature.

    Fantastic that you've read. Keep reading. But don't think that reading a few books makes you an expert on the human condition. When you talk to someone and they seem to counter your theory, listen first. That's the step to becoming a real expert. You have someone in front of you that does things for moral reasons without self-benefit. I'm very real and someone you can learn from.
  • kudos
    378
    Moral life is itself a problem even for itself. Which is ironic, but also kind of sad…
  • Jacques
    91
    Kant is still top of my list in this domain, nobody else I’ve encountered has dug deeper yet.kudos

    With Kant, I have my difficulties when he says:

    "Being charitable wherever possible is a duty, and besides, there are some souls so disposed to empathy that they find inner pleasure in spreading joy around them, even without any other motivating factor of vanity or self-interest, and they can delight in the satisfaction of others, even if it is not their own achievement. But I maintain that in such a case, actions of this kind, as dutiful and amiable as they may be, still lack true moral value and are on par with other inclinations, such as the inclination for honor, which, if it fortunately aligns with what is genuinely beneficial and dutiful, is deserving of praise and encouragement but not esteem; for the maxim lacks moral content, namely, to perform such actions not out of inclination but out of duty."

    Therefore, Friedrich Schiller made fun of him with the following satirical poem:

    "Conscience Scruples:

    I gladly serve my friends
    but unfortunately, I do it with inclination
    and so it often vexes me
    that I am not virtuous.

    Decisium:

    There is no other advice
    you must seek to despise them
    and then with disgust, do
    what duty commands you."
  • Jacques
    91
    By the way, I have found a passage in the "Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals" that, in my opinion, can serve as evidence that Kant justifies the categorical imperative with self-interest, thus contradicting himself. Therefore, I would say that his "categorical imperative" reveals itself as a "hypothetical imperative" .

    Here is the quote:

    "Still another finds himself in comfortable circumstances while he sees others in great need (and he could easily help them too): What concern of mine is it? Let everyone be as happy as heaven wills or as he can make himself, I will take nothing from him nor even envy him; only I have no desire to contribute to his well-being or to assist him in his trouble! Now, although such an outlook might become a universal natural law, it is nevertheless impossible to will that a maxim of this kind should hold everywhere as a law of nature. For a will that resolved this would contradict itself, inasmuch as cases could often occur in which one would need the love and sympathy of others, and by such a law of nature, sprung from his own will, he would rob himself of all hope of the assistance he wishes for."

    The justification for altruism is based on the consideration that one might also benefit from the altruism of others. The question of why one should act morally is thus answered by stating that this principle of altruism is beneficial to oneself.

    Therefore, moral action serves a purpose (at least in this example, but it is only one of four), and is therefore not selfless but rather purpose-driven, and thus not "categorical" but "hypothetical" in Kant's own terminology.
  • Mww
    4.7k
    I have found a passage in the "Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals" that, in my opinion, can serve as evidence that Kant justifies the categorical imperative with self-interest, thus contradicting himself.Jacques

    Nahhh….that’s not what he’s doing. He’s showing how the moral subject contradicts himself, by subsuming “meritorious” duties, re: conditioned by inclination, under the same principle which should only legislate an “inflexible” duty, re: conditioned by law. The paragraphs immediately following those four examples should clarify.
  • Jacques
    91
    Nahhh….that’s not what he’s doing. He’s showing how the moral subject contradicts himselfMww

    Only the first sentence from the quote is indirect speech, but everything from "Now, although ..." onward represents Kant's own opinion as to why it is reasonable to obey the categorical imperative.
  • Mww
    4.7k


    As you wish.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    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

    There's your first problem. What of negative ethics which focus on not violating other's autonomy, and dignity, or refraining from what is harmful to others rather than "what is good for them or the species en totale"? Shit in, shit out. Not shit in, not shit out.

    The assumption with positive ethics is one of burdening others for the sake of one's self interest of the individual or the species. That is just hidden naturalistic fallacies at work to justify force or seeing one's vision carried out, or for one's vision being that which one envisions as being natural thus becoming very convoluted and circular.

    "I presume it is natural to see X (the species flourish), therefore I will force a situation Y on others, presuming that they need to do A, B, C to flourish, because that is my presumption of what is natural". Of course, many assumptions here, including the presumption that the species flourish rather than just a preference one has because it seems like it would be natural (but is really cultural programming, personal preference, mix, etc.).
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    I don't think I am wedded to any approach. Negative ethics has merit. Whatever we do in the morality space will be flawed and inadequate, just like human beings.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    Whatever we do in the morality space will be flawed and inadequate, just like human beingsTom Storm

    Agreed. Living de facto relies on moral violation by the mere fact that we have different ideas of morality that will thus be violated by others we encounter with different ethical standards or approaches to things.

    I can make an argument that this fact itself makes living itself morally disqualifying... but I digress. In fact, I devised a political theory based on just that. Social democratic programs are justified for a minimal standard of living as retribution for people being forced into a social contract that they could never agree to, and may have wanted differently once they reach an age of reasoning.
  • kudos
    378
    I also disagree that it disables the main thesis. It didn’t strike me as an attempt to position morality in something inhuman, external, and certainly not something distant. Human interest is distant, since we only really deal with it in inferences and probabilities and not the real thing; after all, how can a computer program know how it has failed? Kant’s work was attempting to get acquainted with this in his moral philosophy.
  • Jacques
    91
    I feel like moral life is a difficult beast. It entangles us in words, representations, and ideas. But none of it makes sense unless one chooses to be moral.kudos

    I, too, was confused by the concepts of morality for a long time. But by now, my confusion has subsided. Morality is good at defining good and evil, i. e. what we would like others (and ourselves) to do. But it is bad at making people do good and avoid evil. (I am talking about adults.)

    Many still believe that expressing our desire for people to be good is enough to get them to be good. It is not enough to say "Be good!" but that is essentially what moralists of all times have said. I think it's also what Tucholsky meant when he said:

    "We ought to. But we don't."

    Or Mark Twain:

    "No creature can be honorably required to go counter to the law of his nature -- the Law of God."
    - Mark Twain Letters from the Earth

    It is true, it does no harm to say "Be good!" but it is also useless, at least in my opinion. People always do what is in accordance with their nature: good people do good and evil people do evil. Not even the threat of eternal hell punishments have stopped people from doing evil.
  • kudos
    378
    Morality is good at defining good and evil, i. e. what we would like others (and ourselves) to do. But it is bad at making people do good and avoid evil. (I am talking about adults.)

    Well said.

    It is true, it does no harm to say "Be good!" but it is also useless, at least in my opinion. People always do what is in accordance with their nature.

    If it is in our nature to do bad, how can it at the same time not be in our nature to do good? What you say is that we should expect moral law, custom, and rule to be transgressed. Doesn’t this seem ridiculous to you? I guess that’s why people who really believe in this seem sad to me. This makes them look ridiculous.
  • Jacques
    91
    If it is in our nature to do bad, how can it at the same time not be in our nature to do good?kudos
    It is in the nature of one to do good and in the nature of the other to do bad; we're not all the same, are we?
    What you say is that we should expect moral law, custom, and rule to be transgressed.kudos
    I am not saying that we should expect this, but rather that this has been observed many times throughout history.
    Doesn’t this seem ridiculous to you?kudos
    No, it makes me rather sad. I would wish that all people were good, but unfortunately that is not the case. Do you disagree?
  • kudos
    378
    Do you really want that ? A world that abhors pain. The lamb hates the eagle that hunts it, but at the same time loves it, because it is through the Eagle that it appropriates itself. Isn’t moral life sort of a similar? Do you truly hate your villains or envy them?
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    "No creature can be honorably required to go counter to the law of his nature -- the Law of God."Jacques

    That's a toughie, given that the law of God as taught by most religions runs counter to the laws of nature; that good moral behaviour requires that one suppress one's animal instinct and repudiate one's animal drives.
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    In my opinion, people only do something if they expect it to benefit them, and not because they ought to do it.Jacques

    Can one not do something purely spontaneous and random with no purpose at all. Like scribble on a page for example. If so, then people don't only do something because they expect it to beneficial or have useful purpose to them.

    Would we have words like "aimless", "pointless" "purposeless" or "random" as descriptors for such things if people were perfectly ordered, rational and goal orientated all the time?
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    That's a toughie, given that the law of God as taught by most religions runs counter to the laws of nature; that good moral behaviour requires that one suppress one's animal instinct and repudiate one's animal drives.Vera Mont

    Well the way I see it is that nature itself is creative and destructive. It's chaotic and ordered. And natural living things embody this - acting in both ways either in service of themselves or in service of their community (social animals - packs, prides, squads, troops etc).

    So what is ones instinct? For me it is directly related to ones cognitive ability. Animals that don't have much need for abstraction, reasoning or conceptualisation, reflect this in the limited nature of their languages/communication as well as how instinctually driven they are.

    Humans on the other hand, excel in abstraction, imagination, reasoning etc (cognition) and have one of the most complex languages to reflect that. Thus we can go against instinct if we so wish.

    We can be as self serving or as socially cooperative as we like. It is likely that we have more control over instinct than most animals do. Sacrifice and suicide being prime examples of how we overcome our primal instinct to self preserve.
  • Jacques
    91
    Do you really want that ? A world that abhors pain.kudos

    Yes, I abhor my own pain, since I am not a masochist, and other people's pain, since I am not a sadist either.

    Do you truly hate your villains or envy them?kudos

    I do not envy villains at all, since I am not Nietzsche. On the other hand, I don't hate them either, but I still prefer to see them behind bars.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    Well the way I see it is that nature itself is creative and destructive. It's chaotic and ordered.Benj96

    I don't see chaotic behaviour in animals very often. Only if they are sick or under extreme stress.
    The individual and the community are not in a natural antithesis; they are complementary. A strong, cohesive social unit is better able to protect its members, and provide for its young, than is a contentious one. Solitary animals have to do it all by themselves and can't afford inattention, random or undisciplined behaviour; among social animals, the flock, herd or pack serves both to regulate the individual's impulses and to provide some leisure time. (Geese, e.g. regularly share babysitting duty; wolves often delegate it to young bachelors and spinsters.) Social animals routinely co-operate and when they compete, its under a strict code of rules, to minimize damage.

    Humans on the other hand, excel in abstraction, imagination, reasoning etc (cognition) and have one of the most complex languages to reflect that. Thus we can go against instinct if we so wish.Benj96
    And this is why we start seeing more chaotic, antagonistic bahaviour among chimpanzees. Among humans, it becomes full-scale internecine war - not merely against other other bands of one's own species, but within tribes and even families.

    We can be as self serving or as socially cooperative as we like.Benj96
    Not in stratified civilizations. A lord can, a serf can't. A general can, a galley slave can't. A CEO can, a coal miner can't.
    Sacrifice and suicide being prime examples of how we overcome our primal instinct to self preserve.Benj96
    Separate issues, those. Grouse hens deliberately lure predators away from their chicks; a vixen will attack a bear to protect her cubs; ants die by the hundreds to protect their hill.
    Suicide is far more complicated and physically hard to accomplish. A very old or sick cat just lies down, stops eating and waits.

    Yes, humans are able to suppress instinct, but at what cost in mental health, in happiness, in social and familial strife and post-damage repairs?
  • Jacques
    91
    Can one not do something purely spontaneous and random with no purpose at all.Benj96

    You are right, people can even do something purely spontaneous, while thinking about something else. How could I have forgotten this important possibility?
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