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Is greed good?

  1. Aug 24, 2004 #1
    greed is essential for the progress of mankind but not for the individual....
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2004 #2


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    aGreed :tongue:
  4. Aug 24, 2004 #3
    Greed is essential for individual progress too. Why would anyone ever strive for something unless they had some desire and motivation, something they wanted and expected for what they were doing?
  5. Aug 24, 2004 #4
    I do not argee. Ever since humanity aquired Intelligent thought, it has given us a means to bypass our compulsions and act for things both for ourselfs and beyond ourselfs without their influences.

    To say greed can assist the progress of mankind is perhaps true, but to say it is a requirement is to go too far in my opinion.
  6. Aug 24, 2004 #5
    But couldnt greed also be a means for the spread of struggle? Say for instance the latter portion of the Roman republic, there was a large gap between the wealthy aristocrats and the poor.

    So much so that most of the land was owned by these aristocrats who lived in splendor while the rest of the citizenry struggled to eke out a living. The poor rallied behind Tiberius Gracchus, an aristocrat and champion who sympathized with their situation, to end the greedy landgrabbing that the aristocrats continually sought after. His success was shortlived after he used some rather illegal means (ironic considering that Tiberius used greed to quickly pass it through evasion of the law) to get the agrarian laws that limited the amount of land any one person could own to pass into effect. He was sought after and killed after his term expired and his brother, Gaius, stepped in. He too was killed and the greedy aristocrats reversed the laws that Tiberius and Gaius put into effect.

    Both sides used greed, one individual (Tiberius' haste in passing the much-needed reforms, outlook not good) and a group (landgrabbing aristocrats fared much better) but the group's greediness didnt help the progression of mankind, rather, it seems to have went out of control.

    Greed works (consider the self-interest in the United States, lots of individual greed there) but it is limited so that it doesnt infringe on other people's liberties. But it doesnt work in all cases, especially the extreme case mentioned above.
  7. Aug 24, 2004 #6


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    This isn't a particularly meaningful statement unless you specify more precisely what you mean by greed. motai has pointed to some different ideas that can fall under idea of greed.

    And without context your actual point is unclear. Even if it is true, why make this particular statement? Is there some set of actions you are trying to justify? Or is it more a question of finding one of the basic elements of human character? And if so, what is your purpose in pointing it out?

    My suspicion is that with a wide enough definition of greed, the statement would be trivially true but your point would be lost, and that for a more narrow definition, your point could be challenged.

    Well, this is the theory anyway. The "not infringing" part is currently having fairly mixed results in practice... :wink:
  8. Aug 24, 2004 #7
    Back when our ancestors were savages, greed was good because it meant a better chance for survival.

    Now that we are all civilized, greed is good because it means a better chance for survival.

    It's survival of the fittest.

    Of course, the frontal lobe allows us savages to examine alternatives. But greed always seems to win regardless. :tongue2:
  9. Aug 25, 2004 #8
    Well if peace keeping people decided to make a huge group and work together to advance as a community rather then just individuals then things would be a lot better. Greed isn't necessary and it shouldn't.

    Also depends on your definition of greed also. Is it greedy to sacrifice your life for someone else because you value the life of others more than your own? I personally see us humans living in a game like monopoly that was created by the producers of currency. Which currency's sole purpose is to control and the idea of success and respect has to be earned through more currency was to prevent chaos that could be caused by non-rewarded force. Because god forbid that we all farm and hunt our own food and be purely independent and non reliant in our governments.
  10. Aug 25, 2004 #9


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    The idea that greed is the only, or even the most important, quality that allowed the ancestors of humans to survive is fairly ludicrous. Plus, a definition of terms is even more important if you want to talk about pre-homo sapiens culture. Analogous qualities that would have existed are more likely to be called territoriality and possessiveness, which were certainly useful under some circumstances, but are hardly the whole story for any social primate.

    In modern civilisation, many qualities that would have been useful for early hominids are detrimental. For example, the ways in which the body reacts to food are not designed for the over-abundance of current Western culture.

    Anyone trying to apply this phrase to human culture most likely neither understands evolutionary theory, nor knows much history or economics.

    It is most associated with the movement called 'eugenics', not with (as you seem to be implying) capitalism -- for which it is not even a particularly good metaphor when examined closely. By using it, you invite accusations of racism and/or facism.

    Good luck finding any reputable cognitive scientists to back you up on this...

    I honestly hope this post was a joke.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2004
  11. Aug 25, 2004 #10
    Where in my post is it stated that greed is the "only, or even the most important, quality that allowed the ancestors of humans to survive?" How are superlatives implied?

    Argumentum ad hominem? Hasty induction? A simple three-line post implies that the author "most likely neither understands evolutionary theory, nor knows much history or economics?"

    Dicto Simpliciter? For simply using a common phrase, integrated into colloquial language, a phrase that has been stripped of its original meaning and historical contexts, the author stands accused of racism and facism? Please. This is induction at its worst. It is offensive.

    Umm...it did have a joke-like tone to it, which was intended, but it is understandable that some people do lack the cognitive faculties to "get it" or perhaps lack a sense of humor. I would have thought that the little green smily with its tongue sticking out would have at least directed one's perceptions to take the content of the post out of the realm of deep, serious thought into a more mellow frame of mind.
  12. Aug 25, 2004 #11
    Greed is not essential for the progress of humankind. Innovation, curiosity, and competition are what have fueled mankind's progress through the ages. Greed HAS indirectly spurred productivity. (ie: I made a widget, and someone saw I have a widget, so now everyone wants a widget, ala mass production) It's curiosity that fuels human progress.. but maybe that's a given?
  13. Aug 25, 2004 #12
    greed is essential for the progress of mankind because the individual is inheritly greedy :wink:
  14. Aug 25, 2004 #13


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    There are all too many people who, whether in support of some form of prejudice or just out of ignorance, would make the statements in your post in all seriousness. When your post is read as blunt statements rather than irony, I believe my comments are mostly justified, and the extra assumptions I supplied are likely to be in the right ballpark.

    However, as I appear to have misread you, I apologize.

    My intention was to head off a line of argument that it now seems (and as I am happy to find out) was not intended. It was, perhaps, an over-reaction.
    This is one of the "extra assumptions" mentioned above.
    Please note that my phrasing ("most likely") is not a categorical statement.
    I was precisely not making an accusation. The intention is to indicate that ignorant use of the phrase can lead there.

    I consider "the survival of the fittest" to be a very unfortunate phrase -- it does not even describe evolutionary processes very cogently, and in the extension of its use beyond biology has generally become a free-floating excuse for various sorts of callousness.

    Still, this is the least defensible of my statements, and was probably a mistake even for my original context.
    "Death is easy, comedy is hard"? :wink:
    This again is a matter of contextualization.

    Anyway, I stand convicted of reacting hastily on having my buttons pushed... :redface:

    Welcome to PF, by the way. I assure you that my response is not typical of the greetings given to new arrivals.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2004
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