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Humanitarianism and kindness is considered by most people to be a

  1. Aug 12, 2010 #1
    Humanitarianism and kindness is considered by most people to be a virtue, but has anyone ever given a reason to practice kindness towards others other than it makes the practitioner feel good?
     
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  3. Aug 12, 2010 #2
    Re: Humanitarianism

    I'd say many, and especially those who see whole human race as one "being" - doing good for/to others is doing good for/to self, since there is no more a clear moral border of where you end and other begin, in the "idea" that we are all One. (BTW, thanks to God, or to those flying unicorns, that there's still the physical one, or sex would be one helluva boring thing to do).

    And yes, I do believe in it, though, I'd still "spank" those who keep doign bad to others for sake of their own egoistical purposes and gains, but wouldn't judge them, since they don't know what they are doing (in a more universal standpoint).

    Ignorance is natural, as well it's natural for those who are less ignorant to try teach those who are to act for the better of all.

    To not get me wrong, I've still got plenty of ignorance to "lose". ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
  4. Aug 12, 2010 #3
    Re: Humanitarianism

    I am intrigued by your reply but one question remains. In reference to the following:

    Why would you pursue punishment against people who hurt others, if the effects of their bad behavior have no effect on you?
     
  5. Aug 12, 2010 #4

    f95toli

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    Re: Humanitarianism

    Yes, there has been a LOT of work done on the biological/evolutionary reasons for altruism.
    I believe Nature (or Science, one of them) had a special issue on dealing with this just a few months ago.
     
  6. Aug 12, 2010 #5
    Re: Humanitarianism

    There is increasing evidence that morality and empathy are innate and support the survival of the species. Unlike reptiles, for example, we seldom eat our own young and cannot merely lay eggs and walk away. People are social animals and our young require more support than any other species.

    For the vast majority of time homonids have existed they evolved in small groups of perhaps 8 to at most 30. These people were generally closely related so risking one's life to save another or sharing food or other necessities was a means of insuring the survival of one's genes. Even chimps have been observed refusing food if it meant another would suffer and punishing a chimp for being selfish. The variety of different dispositions possible even in such small groups also supports the theory that this is a dynamic feedback system that allows the group behavior to change dramatically according to environmental pressures.
     
  7. Aug 14, 2010 #6
    Re: Humanitarianism

    Altruism is pursued out of egoism when its reward in terms of social status is perceived. So, for example, when people fall in love with or respect, appreciate, or otherwise approve of selfless behavior, this has the potential to egoize the altruist by associating praise with the act of generosity. The same egoization can result from punishment for selfishness or punishment generally.

    True altruism (i.e. not motivated by praise/reward seeking) occurs when people see some inherent benefit in a relatively selfless act. Truly loving someone, for example, means enjoying them enough to feel happy instead of jealous when their well-being increases. This is not to say that people don't convince themselves that they are helping someone out of true love instead of self-interest, just for the purpose of getting the ego-reward of feeling like a "truly good person."

    Basically, there is pleasure/joy in helping others but it can almost always be eclipsed by ego-motivation because of the fact that people are able to reflect and comment on the social value of altruism. Fortunately, it is possible to simply accept egoism as part of human experience instead of endlessly fighting with it and thereby amplifying it. This just involves becoming conscious that egoizing is just one facet of human life among others, and striving to achieve balance. Of course, then the ego takes over the idea of "being balanced" as a source of pride and the balance gets offset in the direction of ego anew.
     
  8. Aug 14, 2010 #7

    loseyourname

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    Re: Humanitarianism

    Cooperation and self-interest: Pareto inefficiency of Nash equilibria in finite random games

    Granted, showing that cooperation more often than not leads to a better outcome than a non-cooperative Nash equilibrium isn't an imperative; it's a strategic choice to make in the absence of a dominant life strategy when cooperation is an option, which is the case for most examples of ethical decisions.

    On the one hand, the argument that the world is better off, and you are also on average better off, by engaging in cooperative behavior, seems prima facie to be a compelling reason to take it as an imperative to engage in such behavior. On the other hand, as an ethicist, you might not want your ethical imperatives to be contingent upon their success as strategic choices (if it's right to do something, it's right even if it makes you worse off).
     
  9. Aug 14, 2010 #8

    Pythagorean

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    Re: Humanitarianism

    It doesn't just "make you feel better". Try being a jerk all of Monday, then try being kind Tuesday. Different social doors will open for different attitudes.
     
  10. Aug 14, 2010 #9
    Re: Humanitarianism

    Don't assume cooperation is always ethical. Cooperation is also the basis for collusion with corruption.
     
  11. Aug 14, 2010 #10

    loseyourname

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    Re: Humanitarianism

    Well, it's ethical in a two-player game, but yes, in more than two player games, such as life, cooperation can mean one group cooperating to harm another group.

    I guess that's a problem with basing any justification of altruism on its biological origin, too. Altruism in non-humans occurs within a kin group whereby the probability of harm to self is offset by the probability that the genes of the individual being saved are similar enough to your own. But chimpanzees, for instance, which I believe have been cited as exhibiting altruistic behavior within a kin-group, also band together and systematically harass and murder members of other kin groups.

    The simple fact that a behavior is advantageous either strategically or evolutionarily doesn't mean it's ethically correct behavior, even if such facts explain the existence of pre-moral sentiments that lead us to desire that we behave in an ethical manner.
     
  12. Aug 14, 2010 #11
    Re: Humanitarianism

    Even in a two-player system, cooperation can result in exploitation of one for the benefit of the other. Don't assume you can reason in abstraction without checking the validity of the permutations of your generalization. You have to actively look for those that contradict your predicted outcome. It's called falsification.
     
  13. Aug 14, 2010 #12

    loseyourname

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    Re: Humanitarianism

    Not if the change from Nash equilibrium is Pareto optimal. That was the point of that article. More often than not, cooperation led to a better outcome for both parties.
     
  14. Aug 15, 2010 #13
    Re: Humanitarianism

    In oligopoly, cooperation between firms leads to monopoly-like price-setting (I assume you're referring to this). Price-competition affects firms' revenues negatively, so they cooperate to maintain a high minimum price. This still exploits consumers since they are the ones who benefit from price-competition. Firm cooperation/collusion only benefits those on the payroll of the firms.

    In general, cooperation is the basis for exploitation between a weaker and stronger party. The stronger party dominates the weaker one and cooperation is the weaker one's means of averting total loss. Domination is always cooperative, not competitive. The presence of competition suggests there is some hope of averting domination, even if it's just a pipe dream of the competitor.
     
  15. Aug 15, 2010 #14

    loseyourname

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    Re: Humanitarianism

    Not exactly. This paper examines situations in which self-interested behavior does not produce Pareto-optimal outcomes; economically, these would represent markets in which the conditions of pure competition do not and cannot obtain (if they did, then self-interested behavior would produce a Pareto-optimal outcome). These might be public goods markets in which rational pricing is impossible or private goods markets in which significant externalities exist. In either case, the equilibrium point reached in the absence of cooperation is not Pareto-optimal, and introducing cooperation more often than not in the trial runs tended to produce advantageous results for all players. However, cooperation involved all players, not two ganging up to cooperate to the disadvantage of the rest.

    Obviously, if you're going to apply the result to any actual policy problem, it's more complicated than a game-theoretical general case. For instance, in the provision of national defense, it isn't necessarily the best idea to have weapons manufacturers sitting on the appropriations subcommittee responsible for purchasing weapons.

    I was interested more in the biological application of this result than in the economic application, though, since it related to the reasons that altruism (or really, in this case, mutualism) might be evolutionarily advantageous.
     
  16. Aug 15, 2010 #15
    Re: Humanitarianism

    The economic claims you're making are interesting. Maybe we should start another thread to discuss the economic side of this, preferably with specific examples since your technical language gets too abstract for me to critically synthesize at points.

    Still, as far as cooperation goes in the sense of basic inter-individual altruism, I think it is a fundamental mistake to equate the two. To put in terms for a two-year old to understand, there's a difference between acting in someone's interest and cooperating with their will. (Well, maybe you'd have to be a little older than two). The point is that people cooperate with others due to domination/submission and self-interest all the time. This is the dark side of "cooperation" that people like to gloss over in order to talk about mutually beneficial voluntary cooperation. Women, for example, have traditionally cooperated in their own subjugation within patriarchy. It was in the interest of their children, and their own survival to do so - but that doesn't mean it was good or necessary for them to self-sacrifice in this way. Likewise, people cooperate with power sometimes in order to gain social capital so that they can vye for their own power later on - thus investing in opportunities to pursue self-interest by working in the interest of others as a condition of acquiring social power.
     
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