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Positive prudence

by Loren Booda
Tags: positive, prudence
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Feb9-10, 01:35 AM
P: 16
a society of altruists is a hive. We imagine ants have no concept of independence because they just don't leave the community, but neither do humans. You can take Billy out of the hills, but you can't take the hills out of Billy. If society is seen as a bunch of ideas rather than the individuals that express them, those ideas define ones group within the larger society. Altruism is more common in these groups, probably because locals tend to be wary of outsiders, but also because it's what defines them. "Bikers are a brotherhood" even when they're killing each other. When looking for altruists, perhaps the resolution for a "discrete individual" could be adjusted.
Feb9-10, 08:53 PM
P: 279
Wow. When I read the title, "positive prudence," I never would have guessed the direction of this thread! The meaning of altruism seems to have become the focus of debate.

I thought the benefits of commerce might be listed here, you know, the idea of the "invisible hand." Each person follows his own self-interest and society enjoys the spill-over benefits. I have studied electrical engineering and law with an applied philosophy attitude, and I figure the most beneficial technologies have been building public sanitation systems based on vastly improved understanding of disease transmission. What I get PO-ed about in America is guys like Trump trying to trump up their contribution to society, i.e., capitalist competition is the source of all good, when in fact it is the prudent citizens that make such games possible.

Webster's defines prudence as the ability to guide one's actions according to reason. There is a way to be selfish which accounts for the legitimate needs of others, and this is what the law expects of us in America, for the most part. One does not "have to" go to the aid of another in distress, pay their bills, give to charity, etc., yet all such things are encouraged via public policy and moral suasion (Jewish tradition makes charity a form of social obligation without going into communist extremes). We pay people to be "First Responders" and these people are obligated to be "Good Samaritans" under contract.

The law basically (1) enforces valid private contracts that are not criminal or unenforceable as a matter of public policy; (2) punishes actors who cause harm to another under tort liability theories; and (3) enforces criminal codes against violators. This is basically in line with the concept of prudence as the ability to govern one's actions based on reason.

Recently I have isolated the reason that prudence remains an ideal. The basis for reason is emotion which Spinoza defines as a feeling of pleasure or pain accompanied by an idea about its cause. Humans don't have perfect causal knowledge, that is, we do not form perfect causal ideas, particularly this skill is limited in early childhood and is biased by personal experience even among ardent scientists.

However in theory there is no need for me to sacrifice anything of real value in the effort to care for myself and others, I simply need to realize which ideas/actions really do benefit both self and others without causing harm/pain. Greed is not one of the ideas that does this in the long run (it is driven primarily by a fear or idea about a cause of pain).
Mar29-10, 11:15 AM
P: 1,117
Ironically, it has been noted that racism actually costs its perpetrators and beneficiaries more than it benefits them (see Feagin, I believe). So the "altruism" of favoring individuals on the basis of racial and/or national solidarity actually is a form of altruism, although it causes a great deal of harm and detriment outside the spheres of privilege.

Ironically, I think a lot of the negativity about globalism is the product of protectionist sentiments by people who favor altruism at the level of race or nation and see globalism as a threat to their particular pet sub-globalism.

Also ironic is the fact that it has been a long time, if ever, that any sub-global "tribe" existed self-sufficiently without benefiting from some form of global trade. So the "altruism" of global tribalisms is at the same time the exploitation that justifies protectionism, racism/nationalism, and anti-globalism.

Ultimately I think individuals are going to have to accept that humans are a global species and focus on regulating the global economic republic in a way that prevents national and racial socialistic altruism and promotes fair trade among individuals free of collective egos, favoritism, and prejudices.

This may be a long way off, if ever, though because people discovered long ago that they could benefit by figuring out ways to group people and exploit some for the benefit of others. I'm sure many people see this as (a positive) part of the global free market of social-economic power and (social-cultural) capital. Personally, I think it sucks and the costs outweigh the benefits for all individuals, even though they might be getting the long-end of the stick for the time being.

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