Altriusm, a nice way to express your selfishness?

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  • #51


Of course he receives something from helping her, but that doesn't make the act selfish. An act can be altruistic even though there are elements of "selfishness" involved. In fact, I think its necessary. If he helped her against his good will, then the act would not be as altruistic as in the case in which he wanted to help her. Suppose one reluctantly plunges into the water to save a drowning baby not thinking of any consequential benefits whatsoever. It is absurd to consider this a less selfish act than wanting to rescue the baby because you wanted the baby to be rescued.

I think aperion made a very good point. It is remarkable how we seem to be wired to analyze such moral questions by reducing them down to the individual.
I know that people claim they make action before thought all the time in these situations but I am unconvinced.
Memory of a person's exact thoughts is not easy to map out when interviewed and it is much more simple to say "I acted without thinking." "Acting without thinking" is well recieved and accepted but I don't buy it. I doubt the brain shuts off when approached with a life or death situation. There might be lightning fast decision making but still it's there.

The idea that motive is relevant to the concept of altruism versus selfishness is not absurd at all.
 
  • #52
DaveC426913
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The idea that motive is relevant to the concept of altruism versus selfishness is not absurd at all.
Again, since altruism is observed in creatures that have no semblance of motive or thought, where does that leave your idea?
 
  • #53
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Again, since altruism is observed in creatures that have no semblance of motive or thought, where does that leave your idea?
It leads to the idea that anthropomorphic personification is often used in evolutionary contexts, and this shouldn't be any problem, as long as we don't try to force complete definition on creatures which are not self aware.


But in the case of humans, I don't think we should bend the definition to exclude "selflessness".

Im not an altruist if I give free weapons to the enemy of my enemy , wait until one is wiped out and the other weakened, then send my troops to mop whoever is left of the two of them. I'm maybe an "Machiavellist".

The word may acquire new meanings when used in conjunction which creatures which have no self awareness. There is nothing holy with definitions and words are often used in new contexts.
 
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  • #54


Give me specific examples. Specific animals. If you mean ants dieing to form bridges then that is specific to ants and how colonies operate.

If you mean wolves within a wolf pack then I would compare them to dogs. Watching dog behavior I am not convinced that they have no semblance of thought.
 
  • #55
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Give me specific examples. Specific animals. If you mean ants dieing to form bridges then that is specific to ants and how colonies operate.

If you mean wolves within a wolf pack then I would compare them to dogs. Watching dog behavior I am not convinced that they have no semblance of thought.
Animals have cognitive processes no doubt about it. Many can solve problems, they do communicate ...
 
  • #56


Again, since altruism is observed in creatures that have no semblance of motive or thought, where does that leave your idea?
I was responding to the quote above.

Which idea do you mean?

That humans have identity? That narcissism trumps everything that people do and there is no escape from the self and what a person may think about themself?

Or do you mean the idea that I doubt people who claimed to have acted to save lives without thinking first?

To be clear: a hundred "qualified" people could interview people who saved lives and all their responses everytime could be "I acted without thinking!" this would still not make it so. The people themselves being interviewed may or may not be qualified to rewind their own thought process and regurgitate verbatum what was going on in their minds. It is very easy to say "I acted without thinking;" it is nearly impossible to trace back all the thoughts in sequence.

Even a thought as simple as "I should go do that." Is teeming with presumptions about self and identity.
 
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  • #57
apeiron
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I think aperion made a very good point. It is remarkable how we seem to be wired to analyze such moral questions by reducing them down to the individual.
Where it gets more interesting is when we ask if there are analogs at the human society level for phenoptosis and apoptosis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmed_cell_death
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenoptosis

Top-down constraint is responsible for keeping individual components even alive. If you are not part of the co-operative whole, then best that you have been designed to self-destruct.

In modern society (out of equilbrium?) it is hard to see that. But what do they say about old eskimoes going out to die in the snow? And there is the euthanasia debate.

There is altruism for you. And from the biological analog, you can see the role of the global system as well as the actions of the individual.
 
  • #58
disregardthat
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I doubt the brain shuts off when approached with a life or death situation. There might be lightning fast decision making but still it's there.
It is reasonable that the brain channels its capacity for dealing with the situation such that we are less conscious of our acts and decisions in life threatening situations where fast action is necessary. Of course one does not act blindly, I believe the subconscience is capable of deciding to act according to the situation very well. In other words, we act "on instinct".

But I have to agree with that this does not touch the issue whether an act in itself is altruistic or not.
 
  • #59
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, I believe the subconscience is capable of "deciding" to act according to the situation very well.
How Freudian. We advanced by leaps and bounds since then.
 
  • #60
disregardthat
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How Freudian. We advanced by leaps and bounds since then.
I'm no psychologist, but I am certainly under the impression that a huge amount of cognitive processing is not conscious thought, at least semi-conscious. It is entirely plausible that the brain under severe stress is using its capacity more efficiently in life-threatening situations such that we are less conscious of the decision-making.

Have you never experienced thinking of something else, and suddenly realize that you have performed several routine tasks, such as turning off lights, or locking a door, without being conscious of the decision-making which took place? I don't suggest that it is equivalent, but at least analogous.
 
  • #61
disregardthat
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In modern society (out of equilbrium?) it is hard to see that. But what do they say about old eskimoes going out to die in the snow? And there is the euthanasia debate.

There is altruism for you. And from the biological analog, you can see the role of the global system as well as the actions of the individual.
Interesting points. However, I don't think that the top-down perspective in itself is not entirely compatible with our inner sense of morality. Morality is commonly centered around the individual and individual intention, and I am sure the reason also lies in our self-consciousness, and not only cultural influence. I agree though that denying either one of these perspectives is denying a vital part of the picture.
 
  • #62


But I have to agree with that this does not touch the issue whether an act in itself is altruistic or not.
It is relevant because I claim that narcissism is everything. I do believe that people carry along a sense of identity which could also be called a conscience; I am skepticle about a "subconscious."

Where motive relates to altruism is this question : If a person has a really strong conscience and they commit an act of altruism are they operating solely to help someone else or are they working to reinforce what they think of themselves?

For a person that says both happen at once the answer to "Is altruism a nice way to express selfishness?" is Mu.

I don't agree though.
 
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  • #63
disregardthat
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For a person that says both happen at once; then the answer to "Is altruism a nice way to express selfishness?" is Mu.
Mu is the answer to every philosophical question depending on perspective.
 
  • #64
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I'm no psychologist, but I am certainly under the impression that a huge amount of cognitive processing is not conscious thought, at least semi-conscious. It is entirely plausible that the brain under severe stress is using its capacity more efficiently in life-threatening situations such that we are less conscious of the decision-making.
Check the schema theory in cognition, how schema can be processed controlled or automatically, and the effects which schematic processing have on our daily lives. (It's huge, btw. Most of cognitive biases, stereotypes, prejudices, peculiar facts observed about memory and learning appear as consequences of schematic processing )

Have you never experienced thinking of something else, and suddenly realize that you have performed several routine tasks, such as turning off lights, or locking a door, without being conscious of the decision-making which took place? I don't suggest that it is equivalent, but at least analogous.
You have scripts (event schemas) to which you are very habituated in this case.

But yeah, I kinda get what you want to say.
 
  • #65
apeiron
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I'm no psychologist, but I am certainly under the impression that a huge amount of cognitive processing is not conscious thought, at least semi-conscious.
The brain does divide into attention and habits. We even now know the pathways involved. And the timings.

An automatic level of responding takes a long time to learn (forming a habit), but is fast to execute because it is emitted in response to relevant perceptual cues. It is how you can hit a tennis ball with practice.

So this kind of reaction is pre-conscious, rather than sub- or un-. A shortcut reaction when you already know what to do as the result of events. And it takes 200 ms to organise an intelligent response.

Conscious level, or rather attentive level, responses take of the order of a third to two-thirds of a second to organise. This is because they are a "first time" unique response. The brain has to devote large areas (prefrontal, temporal, etc) to thinking of what to make of the situation and begin some reaction.

The time scales are incompressible. Neural signals just take time to get around and the more getting around to be done, the longer it has to take to get organised.

This is also the reason for the disjunct between reflexive, thoughtless, feeling responses (quick habits) vs longer, getting oriented, responses.

Altruistic act would could be the result of either habits or deliberation. You have to train soldiers what to do in the heat of battle, children in how to respond with manners.

As usual, it is an interactive systems story despite being a dichotomy. Habits can be attended to (we can catch slips even in the commission if we are prepared). And attentive level awareness is needed to learn habits in the first place. Every routine was once a novelty.
 
  • #66
DaveC426913
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It leads to the idea that anthropomorphic personification is often used in evolutionary contexts, and this shouldn't be any problem, as long as we don't try to force complete definition on creatures which are not self aware.
Wait. Are you suggesting that altruism in animals is not altruism?? Then you are using circular logic. You're defining altruism as an act of intent, then using lack of intent to disqualify acts.

Give me specific examples. Specific animals. If you mean ants dieing to form bridges then that is specific to ants and how colonies operate.

If you mean wolves within a wolf pack then I would compare them to dogs. Watching dog behavior I am not convinced that they have no semblance of thought.
Animals have cognitive processes no doubt about it. Many can solve problems, they do communicate ...
The Wiki example of animal altruism is that of spiders that allow their young to eat them.
 
  • #67
disregardthat
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You obviously knows quite a lot of how the brain process information and how it decides and act. How is this though related to the "level of consciousness", or "focus", we feel when acting or deciding? Certainly we are less focused when performing reflex-like routine tasks such as open a drawer than having a live conversation or debate.

Wait. Are you suggesting that altruism in animals is not altruism?? Then you are using circular logic. You're defining altruism as an act of intent, then using lack of intent to disqualify acts.
Precisely.
 
  • #68
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However, I don't think that the top-down perspective in itself is not entirely compatible with our inner sense of morality. Morality is commonly centered around the individual and individual intention, and I am sure the reason also lies in our self-consciousness, and not only cultural influence. I agree though that denying either one of these perspectives is denying a vital part of the picture.
Explaining is not excusing.

There are still many debates against sociobiology and evolutionary psychology which are centered on the idea of morality. There are claims that evolutionary psychology is intrinsically sexist, homophobic, racist, finding excuses for male aggression, that it is an excuse for amoral & immoral behaviors and so on. Which of course aint true.

Like in most of the cases, the truth is somewhere in the middle. We are what we are due both our phenotype and learned behaviors. We are the result of both nature and nurture.
 
  • #69
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Wait. Are you suggesting that altruism in animals is not altruism?? Then you are using circular logic. You're defining altruism as an act of intent, then using lack of intent to disqualify acts.
I am suggesting that as words are used in new situations, new meanings may arise in the same word. We can simply define evolutionary altruism without using the word "selfless". There is nothing sacred with word definitions, and new uses / meanings for a word may arise from necessity to apply it in new situations.
 
  • #70
disregardthat
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Like in most of the cases, the truth is somewhere in the middle. We are what we are due both our phenotype and learned behaviors. We are the result of both nature and nurture.
It was never my intention to protest that if you interpreted it as such. In fact, I believe I said the opposite.
 
  • #71
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Precisely.
See posts above again. I allow for new meanings of the words to be developed in new situations. This is probably how words meaning multiple things came to exist in the first place.
 
  • #72
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It was never my intention to protest that if you interpreted it as such. In fact, I believe I said the opposite.
You did. My post was linked to the morality issue, and I felt the need to reinforce nature vs nurture. Thats all.
 
  • #73
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Ok, I found those 2 definitions linked to altruism in evolutionary psychology:

Phenotypic altruism: benefiting another (physically or materially) at some physical or resource cost to itself

- the case with vampire bats which drink excess blood regurgitating blood to feed members in need of food in the colony
- the case in which parents care for offspring at material cost for themselves

Genotypic altruism: Benefiting another one reproductive success at the cost of own reproductive success.

- Dave's example with spiders who let themselves eaten.

I believe that those 2 definitions are pretty cool. They do not contain any incommode words such as "selfless".
 
  • #74
DaveC426913
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See posts above again. I allow for new meanings of the words to be developed in new situations. This is probably how words meaning multiple things came to exist in the first place.
Whether a young or an aged definition is immaterial as far as I'm concerned; I don't see why you raise it at all. Either an event meets the criteria for altruism or it does not. Speculating about how old it might be changes nothing.
 
  • #75
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Whether a young or an aged definition is immaterial as far as I'm concerned; I don't see why you raise it at all. Either an event meets the criteria for altruism or it does not. Speculating about how old it might be changes nothing.
Its an overloading of the meaning of a word. Just that simple.
 

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