• JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I don't know if any of you are familiar with this YouTube channel but cosmicskeptic is a student at Oxford university and his videos are riveting in my opinion. He has formed a branch of utilitarianism that he has called "the good delusion". This theory requires determinism, as he outlines that every action is a result of a desire for one's own pleasure. However, I was considering Hitler or any other dictatorial figure, and how they may personally benefit from ethical actions (his theory is an egoist one). I find his point very convincing bit there is just this one hypothetical I cannot get past. He has responded to soldiers jumping in front of a grenade, saying that they chose brief noble pleasure over prolonged suffering of guilt. I just don't know how a dictator could personally benefit from doing something ethical. Consider this a question of egoist ethics, rather than of cosmicskeptic necessarily.
    https://youtu.be/htdDaHAhR-s
  • boethius
    761
    This fallacy has already been addressed by Plato, and others, but probably the go to is by Kant.

    To paraphrase, the idea the self sacrificing soldier feels some "noble pleasure" presupposes that the act is indeed noble according to some non-pleasure based standard of ethics.

    If there was no such conception of duty apart from self pleasure or self interest, then there would simply be no conception to self-sacrifice to begin with. Anyone who did that would be just viewed as foolish and misguided; that the only reasonable approach to soldiery is to fight only insofar as it maximizes self preservation (the basis for both pleasure and interest) which would mean to desert, commit treason, kill one's own side and run off with the food, if it is expedient to survival (i.e. only fight the "enemy" if it's likely an easy enough victory with a low chance of death).

    The "egoist" theorist can of course repair the situation by simply claiming that societies have developed ideas to manipulate people to sacrifice themselves for the "good" of society, but that good is actually bad and you shouldn't listen to it; in other words that, as expected, societies that survive do so due to people willing to defend and buildup those societies, but it's not reasonable for an ego to partake in such defending, only opportunistically extract benefit from the chaos of war or then the naivity of peace; that society as we know it should disintegrate if everyone was reasonably egotistical: police are worse than the mob, soldiers don't hesitate to kill their officers or each other and switch sides or run as soon as their in any real personal danger, judges only rule based on the biggest bribes, no one does business in good faith out of principle, all supply lines are full of dangerous counterfeit etc. and we would return to a system of hunter gatherer with at best close-kin ties (that we continuously try to repress for own benefit rather than our literal sons and daughters). And the critical part, is that all actors would view such a process as reasonable; of course no one would act any differently than what maximizes their gain, and if complex institutions can't exist under such conditions then complex institutions are bad and shouldn't exist.

    And some do make this coherent argument, but mostly the "egoists" want the benefits of a highly prized "Western civilization", but just take all the institutions for granted and deny the altruistic component of their own conformity to the law, or enough of them as a reasonable basis for civilization. For, it sort of gives up the game that the egoist approach would lead to social break-down if everyone was extracting value and no one willing to take any risk for the sake of building value for the group without getting any in return (the self sacrifice of the soldier being the most extreme example) - reaping where another sow as it were - (i.e. collectivist actions of one form or another). Most people simply don't want to devalue the soldiers altruistic sacrifice on their behalf, so the "soldier sacrificing him or herself is for a short term pleasure" is a sort of ego-projection onto altruism; i.e. I like when people do altruistic things for me or for the good of society (the incorruptible judge, the relentless alcoholic detective, the firefighter, the police officer), but I'm not going to do those things and I don't want to conclude such people are better than me nor are doing something radically different to selfishness upon which complex society is built and I highly appreciate as a sort of refined civilization connoisseur (the only true gentlemen) ... so, I'm going to claim seemingly selfless acts are as selfish as my own selfishness just deriving a different form of pleasure.

    In some cases, I get the sense the author does not agree with the self sacrificing soldier, but realizes their audience expects such actions to be praised and they'll lose attention if they don't say "yes, the soldier that jumped on a grenade to save his comrades isn't bad in my egoist framework that seems on first viewing, and perhaps every subsequent viewing, incompatible with the soldiers actions; indeed, not simply the self sacrificing but all loyal soldiers in all places and at all times as the only loyalty is to oneself, which is what egoism obviously means; therefore, considering this, here's some bullshit that paints over the picture".

    In other cases, such authors seem to be genuinely committed to the idea the soldier's sacrifice for freedom is "good" and also committed to "egoism" as the only ethical foundation, and so concluding the self sacrificing soldier is actually acting fully egotistical for some short term perceived benefit or pleasure or forward looking reverse-nostalgia to being remembered nobly, is the only available solution if the idea these two notions are simply incompatible is investigated, as it's clearly "unfair".

    However, in both cases, if "the good" is self-interest of one form or another, then taking on harm for the benefit of others is clearly "bad" and following this logic nowhere appears that there's some "pleasure" based on some perceived virtuous actions toward others (we don't care about them) or a pleasure based on the opinion of others (we don't care about the opinions of others in themselves, only insofar as knowledge of them can be used for self benefit, which is logically impossible to do if one is dead). So, clearly the pleasure the soldier feels is not a "good pleasure" but a pleasure born from social conditioning that is bad, of which the entire egotistical project is to rid oneself of; the short term pleasure, if it is there, clearly can only come from social manipulation which we want to avoid in the egoist framework. An "enlightened egoist" would simply not consider jumping on the grenade, but would only be considering self preservation; appreciative if some fool did jump on it, but otherwise just trying to get out of the way of the impending shrapnel. If the pleasure isn't even there for the foolish soldier that does jump, maybe the soldier really is acting selflessly and this whole "it's a pleasure to be blown up in the short term" is hapless psychological projection onto a non-refutable hypothesis (which can be ever guarded preciously within the self as totally true).

    Also of note, when adopting this system there does not remain standing some "standard of ethic" apart from self interest in this pleasure maximizing sense. The question "the dictators benefits from doing something ethical" simply doesn't make sense. We simply don't care about other people and their misguided ethical notions that are not egotistical nor society as a whole and if it's going in a "good direction" or not. All other ethical standards other than selfishness are simply false. There can't be two mutually exclusive definitions of ethics within a coherent ethic; it simply makes no sense to say "only selfishness is reasonable ... but ... nevertheless I can tweak my actions to be compatible with (i.e. be an entrepreneurs and not a mobster) and I can tweak institutions (support them being not totally corrupt) to still result in good social outcomes' see, I'm still a good person according to social norms, which I just started by saying are false if not selfish"; if only selfishness is the reasonable ethic, then there simply is no standard upon which to judge the law abiding entrepreneur is better in principle than the mobster (or the entrepreneur that is also a mobster and captures the institutions meant to regulate his activity by exploiting the selfish philosophy or simply cowardice of the, so called, public servants within that institution) and there is no standard upon which to judge society as a whole as "better off with non-corrupt judges"; we simply don't care whether judges are corrupt or not in some general sense if we are only focused on ourself, they should be corrupt if they can get away with it and they obviously can get away with it if they are all trying to be corrupt (which they all should be trying to be), good for them, but, what matters to me (which is all that counts in such a philosophy) is simply understanding whatever the judge believes, in order to get what I want if we happen to make an encounter in a trial (if he's a fool, I'll need to invent some socialist bullshit to justify my actions are in the public good, or maybe just kill all the witnesses if I can get away with it; if he's smart, then I'll need to have the bigger bribe or bigger threat to get a satisfactory exchange for the service I want).
  • unenlightened
    5k
    he outlines that every action is a result of a desire for one's own pleasure.JacobPhilosophy

    @boethius has already shot your fox a number of times, but let us tear the corpse to pieces none the less. Determinism requires, as you say above, that it is not the pleasure of the act that causes the action (because that comes after the action), but the desire for pleasure. And desire is a thought, an idea of pleasure. And of course an idea of pleasure can be anything at all; one can find the idea of another's pleasure pleasurable just as well as the idea of one's own pleasure, or the idea of doing God's Will or any damn thing.

    This completely eviscerates the theory, because it no longer specifies anything as moral or immoral, or even describes human motivation in any way. One needs a theory of what ideas one ought to find pleasure in...
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    He has responded to soldiers jumping in front of a grenade, saying that they chose brief noble pleasure over prolonged suffering of guilt. I just don't know how a dictator could personally benefit from doing something ethical.JacobPhilosophy

    I thought the class of dictators and the class of the ethical don't have an overlap zone i.e. the concept of an ethical dictator has an empty extension. I maybe wrong about this, perhaps you can clarify with an example of an ethical dictator. It seems the word "dictator" has acquired negative connotations over time. To be precise, a dicator is simply someone who wields absolute power over a nation and that's all there is to being a dictator. However, most, if not all, dictators seem to eventually succumb to the dark side so to speak and thus the poor reputation dictators have. Anyway, apart from all that, some dictators, I mean those who are only by virtue of power, are benevolent rulers. The late Christopher Hitchens was of the opinion that the Abrahamic concept of God is a dictatorship of the worst imaginable kind. My opinions aside what matters is we have, in religion, a "good" example of an all-powerful benign authority.

    It appears then that, if by dictator one is only referring to power and who has it then, sure, a good dictator is not something we could call a crazy idea. What would such a dictator gain from being ethical? Well, what does any good man gain from being good?
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I don't disagree that dictators can't be ethical. What I'm saying is I don't know how you can justify the belief using egoism. Dictators maximise their pleasure, at the expense of others. Egoism claims that ethics are derived from our own desire for pleasure alone. I can see how this can be applied to most scenarios, just not this one.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    Egoists claim that ethics is the only way to maximise pleasure. Eg not murdering ensures that you are not murdered. Kind of a contractarian view.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    Egoism claims that ethics are derived from our own desire for pleasure alone.JacobPhilosophy

    This doesn't sound right once you take an essential component of morality, empathy, into account. Empathy is the ability to sense other people's wellbeing and yes, the standard of measure is your own wellbeing in the sense that you imagine yourself in the other person's shoes but what needs to be pointed out is that there's a difference between thinking only of yourself and thinking of yourself and others.

    This feeling for others, empathy in other words, seems to be a big leap in animal cognition, something only humans seem capable of. Yes, rudimentary forms of empathy exist in the form of parental and social bonding, if that's the correct way to describe it but no other animal feels empathy for anything other than itself, its family or its group. On the other hand, human empathy, our sense of morality that follows from it, seems to extend beyond the self, the family, friends, even beyond the human family, to other forms of life too - think animal ethics, environmental conservation, etc.

    So, it's true that, at the end of the day, we're good because it benefits us in some way but we can't ignore the fact that in being moral we think of others in addition to ourselves, something quite different from only thinking of ourselves.

    :chin:
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I wasn't Intending on having a debate about egoism Vs altruism. I just wanted to understand an Egoists view a bit more haha. The argument in regards to empathy is that we evolved to regard others with consideration in order to mutually benefit and survive. This turned into a subconscious preference to not only avoid one's own suffering, but others too. We have evolved to the point where it brings us suffering to see others suffer, which is why we prevent it: to benefit ourselves.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    Yes, society would be destroyed without our human construct of empathy and morality. This is why we engage in them: to prevent the dystopia in which one would not like to live in.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    to benefit ourselves.JacobPhilosophy

    Not just ourselves but others also. That's my point.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    This is the key unfalsifiable distinguisher between altruism and egoism. You cannot truly know one's desires. An egoist claims that they do good because it is hard-wired into the fibre of their being and gives them the greatest form of pleasure their is (this reaction has resulted from contractarianism). An altruist isn't convinced that this is the ONLY reason, but merely a result of deontological good.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    This is the key unfalsifiable distinguisher between altruism and egoism. You cannot truly know one's desires. An egoist claims that they do good because it is hard-wired into the fibre of their being and gives them the greatest form of pleasure their is (this reaction has resulted from contractarianism). An altruist isn't convinced that this is the ONLY reason, but merely a result of deontological good.JacobPhilosophy

    Let's be realistic. Is it possible to remove personal gain from anything anyone does? No, right. The egoist is right in that a person gains - is happy or benefits in some way - when s/he does something good but that can't be helped, no? To ask someone to remove himself completely from the positive consequences of his/her actions is to ask for the impossible, ergo, is unreasonable. You can't or rather shouldn't say that a pregnant mother doesn't care about the growing fetus in her womb because she enjoys the food she eats for a healthy baby. She can't not enjoy her meals and we can't hold that against her, right? Altruism isn't about not gaining anything from one's actions, it's about seeing personal benefit in the wellbeing of others.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I never said altruism was anything like that. Read what I said: altruists don't believe it is the ONLY reason. They believe it is secondary - not necessarily the primary motivator for good actions. Egoists believe it is the only reason.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    I never said altruism was anything like that. Read what I said: altruists don't believe it is the ONLY reason. They believe it is secondary - not necessarily the primary motivator for good actions. Egoists believe it is the only reason.JacobPhilosophy

    :up: I see. So, the egoist thinks the altruist's primary motivation is his/her own personal benefit from his/her actions.

    Well, if we must make a distinction between primary and secondary motivations then we must ask this question: is there any difference between egoism and altruism? The egoist will answer "no, there isn't" because, s/he'll say, "ultimately, even the altruist gains something from benefiting others."

    I'll then ask the question, "what makes an egoist happy and what makes an altruist happy?" This query, if it does anything at all, reveals, in my humble opinion, the heart of issue: it's not whether being egoistic or altruistic makes you happy - of course it does, depending on one's preferred attitude - but it's actually about what makes you happy. An egoistic's source of happiness, if we could call it that, is his/her own wellbeing but the wellbeing of others is what brings joy to an altruist. There's a difference there, no?

    Coming to primary and secondary motivations, this distinction is unhelpful at best and misleading at worst because it merges two distinct concepts - altruism and egoism - into one - egoism (ultimately) by laying an emphasis on motivation (we're all primarily interested in our own wellbeing) but the actual difference between these two ideas - altruism and egoism - isn't based on motivation per se in the sense of whether being an egoist/altruist makes us happy or not but what truly sets the egoist and altruist apart is what makes them happy - personal wellbeing for the egoist and the wellbeing of others for the altruist.

    Think of it. If the egoist has his way and is correct, there's no difference between someone who likes comedy movies and someone who likes tragedy movies. After all, they're both into those kinds of movies because it makes them happy. :chin:
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I worded it poorly. An altruist believes that they engages in an ethical act because it is somewhat inately "good". If they were not to benefit at all from said act, an altruist believes that they would still do it. The positive emotion is just a bonus, rather than a secondary motivator. However, an egoist refuses this. I personally don't think it is possible to conceive of a truly selfless act so maybe the hypothetical is flawed.

    To make things clear: although an altruist may accept that they will always be edit from ethics, they don't think that they are engaging in it BECAUSE of the personal benefit - they are engaging in it because it is right and "selfless".

    But if you dig deeper and consider why it is "right" or "good" to avoid unethical acts, you find that it is ultimately subjective and there is no objective reason to be moral (without a god, but even then there are issues with objectivity). Cosmicskeptic's "good delusion" is an attempt to get as close as possible to an objective basis for ethics: it IS that you only act in order to attempt to receive pleasure. There is an objective way to maximise one's pleasure. Therefore, ethics are that objective method to ultimately reach the subjective desire that everyone has. This is how he avoids the Is/Ought divide. Is is not that you OUGHT to have a preference for you pleasure, but it IS the case and it is impossible for it not to be the case.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    It looks like the egoist, in his view on altruism, believes that it's possible for a good act (toward others) either not to benefit or to cause a sense of loss to the person who commits the act - this conceptualization of altruism is what prevents him from seeing a difference between him and the altruist.

    Then it must be asked, "can good (toward others) ever be emotionally neutral or can good ever make someone unhappy?" Isn't the idea of good intimately tied to happiness in the sense that they occur together? If it's good it should make you happy although the converse is false. If so, the egoist fails to see this causal connection between good (toward others) and happiness - an altruist's act of goodwill toward others will, for certain, make the altruist happy for goodness is precisely the kind of thing that makes one happy. If that's the case then the egoist's notion of altruism as something that shouldn't make the person doing good happy or even that it should make that person unhappy is to misapprehend what we mean by good.

    :chin:
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    yes, by definition good is almost synonymous with happiness. This is why it's hard to describe altruism, as an egoist myself, because it seems counter-intuitive to logic. I do things that benefit others solely because of my personal gain. Not only does it make me feel good to do so but it perpetuates a society in which I would like to live in. Altruism doesn't exist but we treat it as though it does. Objective ethics don't exist but we treat it as though they do. Sorry I'm finding it very hard to articulate the finer details of this.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    Altruism doesn't exist but we treat it as though it does.JacobPhilosophy

    So says the egoist. That's what I've been trying to disprove all along.

    The egoist fails to recognize the fact that being/doing good is supposed to make you happy. If this isn't true then how would you distinguish good from bad from morally neutral acts? The good is supposed to make you happy, the bad is supposed to make you sad, and the morally neutral will do neither. The egoist, by conceptualizing altruism as something that shouldn't benefit, cause happiness to, the person being altruistic is making the error of trying to conceive of an impossible object, like a square circle. That's what I think anyway. I could be mistaken.

    Objective ethics don't exist but we treat it as though they do.JacobPhilosophy

    Why?
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    Why?
    Initially, in order to survive. Now it is so ingrained into our being that it is in order to avoid suffering. That's what I think anyway.
    Btw how do I make it so it says "why" and then "TheMadFool underneath?" I've been quite active on this forum for a bit now and I don't know how haha.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    Initially, in order to survive. Now it is so ingrained into our being that it is in order to avoid suffering. That's what I think anyway.
    Btw how do I make it so it says "why" and then "TheMadFool underneath?" I've been quite active on this forum for a bit now and I don't know how haha.
    JacobPhilosophy

    :up:
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    How??JacobPhilosophy

    Good question. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer. Sorry
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I get the /quote stuff but I don't get how to show who said it.
    I don't understand
  • boethius
    761
    Yes, society would be destroyed without our human construct of empathy and morality. This is why we engage in them: to prevent the dystopia in which one would not like to live in.JacobPhilosophy

    This is the basic error I was describing (if by "we" you include egoism / self interest): the egoist may appreciate what "Western civilization" provides for him, but will not sacrifice anything to maintain or advance it it. The egoist (by definition) does not value anything other than himself; exterior things are not valued and it is a self-contradiction to say the egoist "engages" with empathy and morality to prevent dystopia. That is the whole point of egoism: one owes nothing to society, has no duty towards social outcomes as a whole.

    The fundamental confusion egoist "philosophy" engages in is confusing "appreciation" with "value". Both the egoist and the altruist appreciate a favour, but the egoist does not "value" favours in a general sense of maintaining social bonds as the altruist does. The egoist appreciates a favour to themselves, and cares nothing about doing favours in the sense of expecting nothing in return (if the self-interest maximizing egoist provides a favour it is by definition justified as part of a plan to get something greater in return, whether a direct implied debt relationship with the recipient of the favour or then as a stochastic process of being perceived as "generous", with the plan of leveraging this to get more than the favours cost; but only because society values generosity, not the egoist himself).

    So, I would agree that egoists may "appreciate" complex society in the sense of having received the favour from everyone who contributed to complex society. However, the egoist, by definition, does not value complex society in itself and therefore feels no duty to take on any risk or cost for a better social outcome generally.

    Of course, there are some instances where individual profit align with general social outcomes, but putting any emphasis on this only demonstrates a total ignorance of how complex society actually functions and the various duties required to maintain it.

    The egoist engages in only the appearance of empathy and (other people's) morality to take advantage of people who will, due to these appearances, carry out duties towards the egoist. If we look at the morality of the egoism itself, there is simply no trace of such a duty.

    It simply makes no sense to say the egoist "engages in empathy and morality" for a better collective outcome. Egoist morality is only concerned with the egoist's outcome; if other people have a different morality, that's simply wrong according to the egoist, and something to understand and take advantage of, but does not exist "side by side" internally with the egoists own conception of morality. The egoist engages with other people's ideas of empathy and morality only insofar as it benefits themselves (that's just what egoism means). Within the egoist morality, it simply makes no sense to say "the egoist, in pursuing self interest, can still be moral" as "moral" within the egoist system is simply pursuing self interest; it is a bait and switch fallacy to view "moral" within the egoists own logic as referring to "society's definition of moral" and that the egoist is concerned about putting in some effort to align with this conception (the egoist doesn't care: pursuing self interest is what's moral within the egoist system because moral is defined as pursuing self interest; if you want to believe moral also refers to something else, then the egoist is willing to tell you what you want to hear, if there is some benefit to them for telling this lie; indeed, perhaps willing to believe this lie themselves if they see some benefit to themselves to being more genuine in telling the lie).

    Egoists that are constantly trying to prove that egoist morality happens to align with collectivist moralities about social outcomes as a whole, either do not understand their own assertions; if one only cares about oneself, by definition one simply doesn't care about society and what might happen if everyone else also cared only about themselves, or they do understand this obvious point, but are lying about it to build an audience for their own benefit.

    So, if by "we" you are talking about people that engage in empathy and morality for a better social outcome, and willing to bear some cost to achieve it (from doing favours to promote social bonds, to paying taxes, to doing the not corrupt thing even at great personal risk or opportunity cost, to jumping on a grenade), then you are talking about altruists broadly construed, and excluding the egoist from this "we"; the egoist is happy to take advantage of these altruists, but is not contributing to the same goal in any regard: the egoist is happy to receive a favour, is happy get tax subsidies for his business, is happy to deal with incorruptible police and detectives (when the egoist is in the "right" even according to the erroneous conception of right that society has - of course wants to deal with corruptible police and judges when such conditions support his predation), is happy when another soldier jumps on a grenade for him, but the egoist, by definition, does not reciprocate any of these things for the sake of maintaining complex society in itself.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    As I have said previously, the origin of ethics is that of self-interest alone. One doesn't murder to ensure one is not murdered. Mutual benefit. I don't see how it could be any different now. I believe an egoist can decide not to murder purely because of self interest: the guilt they feel, imprisonment - and furthermore the desire for prison as a social form of security, as there not being prisons would lead to one's own suffering in feeling unsafe or insecure.
  • boethius
    761
    As I have said previously, the origin of ethics is that of self-interest alone.JacobPhilosophy

    Unless you mean "origin" in some convoluted sense that ultimately rejects egoism, then ethics being self-interest leads to the obvious conclusions I have outlined. One does not care about larger social outcomes, only self interest. There is no duty to others as such.

    One doesn't murder to ensure one is not murdered.JacobPhilosophy

    Not murdering does not ensure one is not murdered. The mobster murders precisely to ensure he is not murdered.

    If you are not murdering because there are social institutions that make murdering inconvenient, then you are not murdering because of these social institutions.

    The idea that not murdering in your personal case causes the protection of not being murdered you benefit from, is simply not the case. The institutions, and collectivist social ethic that maintains them, that are the actual cause of your protection from murdering pre-date your arrival on the scene.

    If we look at these social institutions and find they require people to choose building and maintaining these social institutions in contradiction to their self-interest, and you reject paying any such similar price for a similar goal, then you are enjoying the fruits of this collectivist project but would not take similar actions to create or maintain it. You are a connoisseurs of civilization but not willing to pay the price (risk dying on the battle field, risk getting murdered by a mobster for the sake of justice, risk fighting real or potential despots at great personal cost to make only diffuse dividends of "just society", in both space and time, to everyone, far outweighing one's own gain in that diffuse benefit; i.e. not maximizing self interest but maximizing social interest: a positive externality to society at great personal cost, which is what the self sacrificing soldier represents).

    You are engaging in a bait and switch fallacy where "the person" is both an individual ego as well as just "people in general". Yes, a society that limits murdering as a way to get ahead benefits "people in general", but particular individuals may have no self interest to help create and maintain these institutions in any significant way nor have any self interest to not-murder if murdering remains more profitable for them despite these institutions (people - detectives, judges, witnesses, politicians - fight against murderous mobsters all the time at great personal cost, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of society collectively construed, and yet, despite such altruism, mobsters still get away with murder at great personal benefit all the time); "crime doesn't pay" is a hope and not a reality. More importantly, we only have our concept of "crime" because of this altruistic ideal that we shouldn't pursue self interest at the cost of society; if society didn't have this altruistic idea then our concept of crime simply wouldn't exist; and such society's have existed in the past and still exist today as organized crime (in some cases in near complete fusion with government). If self interest is what's ethical, the thief or the mobster or the tyrant that gets away with it, is being ethical. If everyone adopted this ethic, there would simply be no value placed on maintaining complex society: our complex society would be looted down to the last lamp post and not rebuilt, and no one would think this is an odd or bad thing; moreover, no one would bother themselves with such questions, only ensuring they get what they can take in this looting process (the wealthy looting the US treasuring is an example of this process, and they don't fear the consequences to US society since they can easily enjoy the fruits of this looting in New Zealand or Switzerland; so, if it turns out not to be good for society to hand over trillions of dollars to the already wealthy, well who cares about that, what one cares about is getting as much of these trillion dollar loot pie as possible and storing it in a safe place like Switzerland; take advantage of "peaceful and just" institutions there if extracting value from similar purposed institutions back home collapses them, is simply the profit maximizing course of action; if such self-interested processes lead eventually to the collapse of Switzerland, well seems that would be far in the future, so again no need to care, and even if was a short term thing, no reason to pay any price to maintain Switzerland government, the self-interested thing would be to loot also Switzerland if such a process is underway and make sure one has the best cave and the guns to protect it).
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    But I benefit from the social institution, whilst simultaneously suffering from it. It deters me from committing the act, but that deterrent also protects me. Without these rules, everyone would be dead. This is how it benefits oneself. I don't see why societal righteousness contradicts egoism, but if it does then I won't use that word. The argument put forth by cosmicskeptic is that anything one does, including ethics, is as a result of the desire to maximise pleasure. In the case of a their: the security granted by living in a society in which robbery is illegal provides greater pleasure than what one may steal. Maybe this isn't egoism but I find it convincing that ethics can be entirely selfish - apart from the case of a dictator. I don't know how a dictator could benefit from acting ethically (which is why I made the forum, I didn't want to argue about definition I just wanted to hear an argument in support).
  • boethius
    761
    But I benefit from the social institutionJacobPhilosophy

    True.

    whilst simultaneously suffering from itJacobPhilosophy

    Also true, but whereas the benefits are essentially endowed (what I described as favour from everyone who builds and maintains the institutions towards you personally), the suffering you have a choice to minimize: from mundane things like evading taxes, littering when alone and not bothering to vote (do more personal productive things relative to minuscule personal benefit of voting), to more extreme things like not paying any taxes at all and joining organized crime or running a toxic polluting business that kills people but hiding behind limited liability and extracting as much profit while institutions play catch-up (or going full corporate mobster and capturing the institutions by any means necessary, both legal and illegal, so they never catch-up and the profits are enjoyed indefinitely).

    Without these rules, everyone would be dead.JacobPhilosophy

    Debatable, "lawless" society can and does exist, it's just far less complex. But I agree, we would mostly be dead without the "rules". However, the egoist only cares about themselves, affects that go beyond what affects them are irrelevant (a cost to think about but creating no personal benefit, outside what's necessary to simply establish that fact in itself in any particular instance).

    This is how it benefits oneself.JacobPhilosophy

    Yes, this is how one benefits from complex society where people follow the rules, but enjoying this benefit in itself is not a reason to also follow the rules. Some rules can be bent, others can be broken; at great personal benefit and little risk of any negative consequences (net benefit). Doing so breaks down society on the aggregate, but each rule breaking act is only a tiny small step towards social breakdown and is easily outweighed by the benefits of the rule breaking (if one gets away with it; which, notably, is not some constant philosophical state of affairs but only because there are people willing to maintain these systems of rules at personal cost).

    I don't see why societal righteousness contradicts egoism, but if it does then I won't use that wordJacobPhilosophy

    The contradiction is in the cost one is willing to pay; a personal cost with a positive externality to society as a whole. The defining characteristic of egoism is being willing to receive a favour (indeed not only nonchalantly, but also ask or demand one) while not willing to reciprocate such favours the moment there's no perceived future benefit to doing so (the business man who takes subsidies because "of course if it's on offer I'm gonna take it" while also complaining about taxes being theft and engaging in as much tax evasion as possible).

    One can benefit from complex society, "appreciate the benefits", while not being willing to defend complex society when under threat (as time is better spent, in terms of expected personal reward, taking advantage of the breakdown to loot as much as possible and then hightailing it to Switzerland).

    Appreciation is not "moral value". I can appreciate getting a favour while not valuing favours in general as a way of maintaining a healthy society, and so not doing any favours myself (outside some scheme where the favour is profitable; i.e. not an actual favour, just the appearance of one).

    Morality as has been developed in our society; yes, does start with a reflection of what are "good and bad experiences" for oneself (which may include pleasure, but may not include only pleasure while also accepting that pleasure isn't a constant but changes based on other realizations, that in themselves are not pleasurable to realize and may not, in themselves, lead to more pleasure but rather merely different pleasure, and so, considering the cost of the realization, leads to less pleasure overall); but morality as is normally used (what we interpret "moral and ethical" to mean outside philosophical discussion in which their meaning is up for debate), specifically refers to those actions undertaken to promote such "good experiences" for all, at the risk of a "bad experience" to oneself (as in itself or the opportunity cost). The greater the difference, the greater the hero inspiring us to do our part. There's of course lot's to debate about in terms of what are the good experiences and what effectively promotes them and what bad experience is worth it given purported effects on said good experiences (i.e. what's the social organization that best leads to this "more goodness" and "less badness", and what are the effective means, whether they be good or bad experiences in themselves, to get there, from reading a book to organizing a revolutionary war), but there are pretty clear examples that I think we all agree, in order to establish the general framework of what has led to the social organization we already have (if we are focusing just on what seems clearly the good parts of this social organization and what actions have created it and maintain it); in other words, the simple and heroic actions that benefit society of which there is little debate: Jumping on a grenade is a bad experience done for the sake of more good experiences of others (yes, one might have those good experiences one's comrades and countrymen, and humanity as a whole, may benefit from one's actions, directly or in some smaller far removed way, in mind when jumping on the grenade, but one does not actually experience those good experiences oneself: one experiences being blown up by a grenade).
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I'm going to have to put a lot more thought into this. Thanks for the discussion, I see your points.
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