Love, or survival.

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Love, or survival.

A question of supreme value.

 

Nigelthebold once asked me this question:

 

Quote:
Think of the society in which you would like to live. Is it the one in which everyone is selfish, greedy, and without compassion or empathy? Or is it the society in which everyone cares about everyone else, where generosity is the norm, and consideration the rule? I believe the first society will not stand for long. I believe the second will stand for a long, long time. (Assuming they aren't invaded by the selfish society.

 

My response:

 

Now, here's the difference, I would rather live in the latter society even it weren't going to last long. I rather live amongst a disenfranchised and poor community, with it's toils and suffering, but with a pervading sense of love and community amongst it's people, than Denmark. 

If what I longed for was a society that last long, I'd vouch for groups of individuals with the same sort of goal in mind, the same "ends", regardless if they were selfish, compassionate, greedy, or whatever else it would matter little as long as "living long" was of their ultimate concern as mine. They chose not to rob from me, not because they weren't greedy, but rationally perceived robbing from me to be detrimental to their well being. One does not have to operate from a framework of empathy to be as such. A company may not hire child laborers not out of any moral compulsion of their own, but just because it's not good business. 

So here's a question for you. Would you rather live in a society that will last for long, that offers a good degree of material comfort and well being, but was dominated by individuals who cared very little for their fellow human beings, where empathy and compassion hardly ever reveals itself in human interactions, or just felt so faintly, for the rest of your life, or a society whose material possession were abysmal, who shared whatever little they had, who endearingly loved each other, and yet whose circumstances made them a society not long for the world? 

Would you rather be the family who hid their Jewish neighbor during the holocaust out of compassion and love, who end up being caught, and having their lives cut short, and yet never regretted their decision of love? or the family who witnessed the fate of this one, and refused to shelter their Jewish neighbors, for the sake of prolonging their lives?

Nigel never answered the question, but I was curious to hear how others would answer this. 


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Poorly formed and leading question.

 The lack of response may be because this question is poorly formed, leading and filled with prejudice and assumption.


manofmanynames (not verified)
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Liam wrote: The lack of

Liam wrote:

 The lack of response may be because this question is poorly formed, leading and filled with prejudice and assumption.

Really? the questions are filled with prejudice? I would like to hear you make a case for this. Why you find it so difficult to answer?


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 Quote:Really? the

 

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Really? the questions are filled with prejudice? I would like to hear you make a case for this. Why you find it so difficult to answer?

Actually, I'll defend you a little bit here.  I don't think your question is so much prejudiced as ignorant.

Essentially, you're demonstrating that you have no idea how human behavior works.  Human society is not and cannot be static.  Rather than try to give you a two minute summary, I'm just going to recommend a book to you.  You need the full course, I believe:

Product DetailsNonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright (Paperback - Jan 9, 2001)

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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manofmanynames wrote: Now,

manofmanynames wrote:
Now, here's the difference, I would rather live in the latter society even it weren't going to last long. I rather live amongst a disenfranchised and poor community, with it's toils and suffering, but with a pervading sense of love and community amongst it's people, than Denmark.

Uow, uow uow, wait just a minute! Are you implying that Denmark doesn't have a pervading sense of love and community amongst it's people? Do you live in Denmark? Have you ever been to Denmark?

Let me say on behalf of all us Danes that if a person who smugly, and prejudiciously sees fit to judge almost six million people as being somehow estranged and without any sense of community, doesn't wan't to live here, then good ridance!

 

And let me say that from the structure and wording of Nigel's question as you represent it, it it clear that he is not refering to what society is morally superior, but is talking about how benign and socially interdependable societes are more stable, and thus friendliness and social skills have been selected for in Homo Sapiens.

 

He's not suggesting a false dichotomy between friendly but shortlived versus stable but selfish societies.

You are the one doing that, by the way flipping his whole question upside down.

His point was that societies of selfish people who manipulate eachother cannot stand over long time, but wether one want to live in such a society is up to one self. He's just saying that people like that will likely die out quickly, as their societies collapse under the weight of it's own corruption.

 

So where you want to live, and who you want as your neighbours is completely up to you, and by the way, I'd obviously also prefer to live among good decent people, even if destitute, but your false dichotomy is irrelevant anyway. You don't HAVE to choose suffering and destitution if you want decent neighbours. As a matter of fact, if you look at third world countries' crimerates, civil war and corruption-rates, the opposite almost seems to be the case.

 

I'm not suggesting that there are no people in Africa who are decent neighbours and form loving communities, but it does appear to be alot more difficult to maintain such societies amidst hunger and war.

 

That is not to say that for example the Sudaneese are inherantly more barbaric than for example the Danes, but Danes of Zealand don't go on Ethnic cleansing sprees to kill and rape and steal from the Danes of Judland.

 

If the Sudaneese had the same stability, education and wealth of Denmark, I have a hard time believing they'd be as Barbaric, because as far as I'm concerned the Sudaneese are humans just like me, with the same capacity for love, trust, friendship and openness as myself.

 

So to answer your question, I prefer loving neighbours over wealth and stability as much as you, but you are presenting an ironically false dichotomy, because wealth and stability leads to loving neighbours.

Well I was born an original sinner
I was spawned from original sin
And if I had a dollar bill for all the things I've done
There'd be a mountain of money piled up to my chin


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I think it's pretty clear

I think it's pretty clear that selfless compassion can't exist. We're all wired to be only self interested. Since we don't have free-will, we don't have a choice to be anything else.

Humans are social animals, so can follow a strategy of mutual cooporation. People pretend to be selfless as way to gain social acceptance. But being empathetic, considerate, etc... has rewards like status, friendship, mates, etc... so people will put on the act of being unselfish.

I think a big reason why we can't have a society mutual cooporation is the fact that we ignore our true nature and put on the act of being something else. Religion tells us God can make us truely unselfish, even though heaven and hell are pretty selfish rewards/punishments. Scammers will tell you "I only want to help you". Scammers take advantage of our ignorant believe that they are unselfish.

So I think humanity would be best if we would just drop the act that we can be anything but self-interested individuals. Then we could come up with good strategies and contracts for our mutual self-interests. Humanity should change from being deceptive hedonists to being unabashed hedonists willing to cooperate with others.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

 

Quote:
Really? the questions are filled with prejudice? I would like to hear you make a case for this. Why you find it so difficult to answer?

Actually, I'll defend you a little bit here.  I don't think your question is so much prejudiced as ignorant.

Essentially, you're demonstrating that you have no idea how human behavior works.  Human society is not and cannot be static.  Rather than try to give you a two minute summary, I'm just going to recommend a book to you.  You need the full course, I believe:

Product DetailsNonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright (Paperback - Jan 9, 2001)

 

 

 

Well, first of all I never said human society was static?

And secondly I'd be weary of accusing individuals of not knowing how human behavior works, and as your support linking them to a book by Robert Wright? The same Robert Wright who argued for the "possibility of divine purpose", and divine intervention (an ID sort of possibility)  in the case of human consciousness? It's seem weird that you proclaim Wrights views as definitive on human nature, when in fact it's far from it. And if you choose to defend his views, you should probably present them. 

I haven't read Non-Zero, but I'm familiar with some of Robert Wrights arguments, like the one about Apostle Paul being motivated by expanding the franchise. It doesn't seem like Robert Wright would disagree that the notion of cooperation in may cases, doesn't really require any real empathy. Indifference allows us to make all sorts of mutually beneficial decisions all the time. Nations have gotten along quite well, without either nations have any sort of love of admiration for each other, rather they have their own gains, that are often achieved more efficiently by cooperation. The relationship between coworkers in many situations is rarely that of friends, nor is the effective management of employees based on love, but rather based of effectiveness. 

In reading the Amazon summary of the book, revealing Wright optimism for world progressing towards a condition were "greed and hatred have outlived their usefulness.", sounds a bit superstitious, resource wars will continually mark the horizons, and any sort of devastation being natural or man made has the capacity to bring out the worst in people. Violence and acts of greed are often waged for no end at all, but of the sheer joy of committing them, they're often fetishists pursuits that rarely lose their luster. Some people may be repulsed by cruelty, others are enthralled by it, they serve no sense of usefulness, but like masturbation serves as means of getting off. 

Wright's sort of optimism has been staple of history, continually dewey eyed by it and continually disappointed. The industrial age fed all sorts of notions of progress among the western world, only to have them murdered by two devastating world wars. Let's not forget Fukuyamas "The End of History" only written a few year back, a piece most us would find comical today. Wright seems to be following along a whole history of failed optimism

If you would like to present what parts of Wright's argument you find persuasive by all mean, go ahead and present it, because I'm sure you don't give such merit to all of it?

I mean, do you as an atheist, want me to take this understanding of human society and history to heart:

"Well, I wind up arguing that the drift of history, however materially driven, has enough moral direction to suggest that there’s some larger purpose at work, and I guess you can call that transcendence." ~ Robert Wright

 


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 Clearly, I do not live and

 Clearly, I do not live and die by every word that comes out of Wright's pen.  However, his treatment of human society as a function of nonzero sum math is well articulated, logically sound, and empirically testable.  His conclusions, particularly the "dewey eyed" optimism, are not as well supported, and I personally disagree with them.

Are you familiar with how Game Theory and nonzero sum systems work?  If so, it's relatively simple to see how human society forms.  Selective reciprocal altrusim with memory is a far more efficient and effective strategy than any of its conceivable alternatives.

There are several aspects of human nature that necessarily limit the flexibility of human societies.  First, humans, like all animals, are built by "Selfish Genes," and function within the limits of individual selection.  As a result, no human society can escape individual self interest.  Any suggestion of utopian ideals should be tossed aside immediately.

Additionally, humans are innately and incurably competitive.  We stratify ourselves.  As a result, there is no serious possibility of a completely "equal" society.

Humans are diverse.  We range from the brilliant to the moronic, the pitifully weak to the freakishly strong, and passively calm to ragingly aggressive.  No single society can hope to be equally suitable to all its members.

Finally, and most importantly, if you understand something about how game theory works, you know there is a stable point at which two or more strategies find equilibrium.  Dawkins explains this in one of his books... I think it is The Selfish Gene.  In human society, there are several strategies, most notably, plaing fair and cheating.  Depending on how the society is governed, there is a certain value to cheating and a comparable value to playing fair.  The society will reach equilibrium based on these values.  Similarly, altruism and selfishness are strategies, and each one has value relative to risk.  We could probably think of dozens of human societal strategies that overlap.  If we could see this represented graphically, we could imagine dozens of interlocking circles, each of which could grow or shrink to some degree, but none of which could be removed from the graph.  As you alter the size of one circle, you necessarily change the size of other circles as the point of stability changed.

Here's what that means in terms of possible societies.  As poverty increases, the value of cheating increases.  This is a mathematical constant.  The same is true of all other aspects of society.  As wealth increases, self reliance also increases, so societal bonds become less valuable.  You can't change the math.  In other words, you can't stop the fact that there is a point beyond which humans will not share anymore, and there won't be feelings of community and struggling through the hard times together.  The idea of an abysmally poor society dominated by universally shared feelings of helping your neighbor is absurd.

Human societies are indicators of the environment.  Crime, benevolence, happiness, depression, income distribution, etc... all these things are the result of individuals responding dynamically to their environment.  The society doesn't make the people.  The people -- responding to the environment -- make the society.  Any time you drastically change the environment, the people will also change drastically.  Those same people who hid Jews in their attics would behave differently if they lived in different circumstances.  Hitler, had he been born in another place and another time, would have been a different person.  He might have become a famous philanthropist or a renowned author.

The bottom line, then, is that your question is asking us to pick between two things that can't happen.  Though societal happiness is not tied only to material comfort, the two are tied.  As poverty increases, cheating becomes more valuable, and self-interest becomes more valuable.  You can't manufacture a society in which desperately poor people behave as if they were not desperately poor.  Also, humans will not pass a certain point of isolation because we are social animals.  In other words, we will always search for groups, and we will always have a certain amount of altruistic goodwill towards our own group.  You're not going to find a society in which everybody is completely uncaring of everybody else.  

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit

* you can ignore this, I wrote it before I noticed your response. 

 

Hambydammit wrote:

Essentially, you're demonstrating that you have no idea how human behavior works.  Human society is not and cannot be static.  Rather than try to give you a two minute summary, I'm just going to recommend a book to you.  You need the full course, I believe:

Product DetailsNonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright (Paperback - Jan 9, 2001)

 

 

 

Hamby I'm curious to know if you yourself have had the full course? Are you starting to wander off from atheism or something? Nonzero, as Wright's own confession seems to be a work suggesting a sort of divine intelligence, but you curisously omit that observation? Is this because you didn't notice this? Steven Pinker did, and Wright even confesses it:

"You ask whether I am "comfortable with the possibility that the arguments in Nonzero will be extrapolated into arguments for the existence of an intelligent designer." Broadly speaking, yes, because I think there is a distinct chance that natural selection is a result of some sort of design. In fact, in the book I present evidence that--I contend, in a speculative spirit--suggests as much."

I really would like to hear what you have to say, because I'm a bit puzzled. 


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 Quote:Hamby I'm curious to

 

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Hamby I'm curious to know if you yourself have had the full course? Are you starting to wander off from atheism or something?

Certainly not.  I thought I explained that earlier.  Wright's explanation of how society is a result of human nature and math is solid.  His ideas on what this implies are... suspect, to say the least.

Just because someone is a bit confused regarding something that isn't their field of expertise, we don't have to throw out things they do happen to know something about.  I honestly thought you'd be happy to see that I'm recommending a book that might resonate with your own theist tendencies.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote:  We

Hambydammit wrote:

 We stratify ourselves.  As a result, there is no serious possibility of a completely "equal" society.

 

Well, Hamby I suggest you return back to my post and see if I ever used or even suggested a completely "equal" society? 

 

Your entire post amounted to you arguing points I never made, for reason that are a bit beyond me. 

 

Quote:
Here's what that means in terms of possible societies.  As poverty increases, the value of cheating increases.  This is a mathematical constant.  The same is true of all other aspects of society.  As wealth increases, self reliance also increases, so societal bonds become less valuable.  

 

And what you forgot here is this, as poverty increases, societal bonds become more valuable, and this is apparent for anyone who has ever worked in a poor community. It's not surprising that you find a stronger sense of community among the poor than among the rich, as you yourself seem to have pointed out. 

 

But I suggest if you go back to original post, perhaps a second reading is in order, because your criticisms don't jive with anything I've said, nor logically follow from it. 

 

Quote:
The idea of an abysmally poor society dominated by universally shared feelings of helping your neighbor is absurd.

 

So the amish are an absurdity?   Those communities in Rwanda where victims and their former victimizers, reconciled and built houses together, are an absurdity? Those early Christians prior to Constantine, who proclaimed a "God of love, who enjoined them to share a higher love", forming bonds with the impoverished, and tending to each others needs, were an absurdity? The various poor communities that I've visited built on such notions of compassion are an absurdity?

 

Now I've never said such communities last, as subsequent generations lacking the sort of conviction that led their forbearers there continue in the sort of community, or remain in tact when wealth and fortune come to town, but saying that such communities have never existed, and don't exist in the present is absurd. 

 

Quote:
The bottom line, then, is that your question is asking us to pick between two things that can't happen.  

 

Like I said, go back to my OP, and point on what I said, or described that "can't happen", rather than making it up as you go along. 

 

Quote:
Those same people who hid Jews in their attics would behave differently if they lived in different circumstances.  Hitler, had he been born in another place and another time, would have been a different person.  He might have become a famous philanthropist or a renowned author.

So this is your reason for why you can't answer this question: "Would you rather be the family who hid their Jewish neighbor during the holocaust out of compassion and love, who end up being caught, and having their lives cut short, and yet never regretted their decision of love? or the family who witnessed the fate of this one, and refused to shelter their Jewish neighbors, for the sake of prolonging their lives?"

Does this also apply to question such as would you rather be that father who locked his daughter up in a cage and raped her for years, and raped her children as well, or the loving father who died saving his drowning daughter? Is your reply that if I lived in different circumstances I might have been just like that dude, so i can't answer this question?


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Hambydammit wrote:I honestly

Hambydammit wrote:

I honestly thought you'd be happy to see that I'm recommending a book that might resonate with your own theist tendencies.

My own theist tendencies? What are my "own" theist tendencies? I find any sort of God-gaping to be revolting, Wrights suggestion of intelligent design behind the development of our consciousness, to me is as trite as the anthropic principle, and what ever shits churned out by the Discovery institute. Unlike the typical atheist here, and the theist they attempt to parody, I''m not a fan of being coddled, the shit that gets applause makes me skeptical. I don't buy shit on the cheap.

I'm not on a theist forum looking to publish a blog and have other theist suck my dick. I don't live in delusions of how theism can save Hamby, or how it will liberate you, or to claim that all atheist are idiots, who have been raped by priest, and have bad experiences with religion, and as a reaction became "atheist". I don't make absurd statements of how atheism makes you more prone to commit evil. I don't understand atheism at it's most dumb, in the thoughts of the Dawkins, and Sapients of the world, I understand it at its best and most profound. I find atheism at its best to be highly convincing, my own disbelief in my twenties was based on such reflections, but the sort of thinking that goes here pales in comparison. 

I have no such thing as theist tendencies, I have human tendencies, that have developed over years of indifference, skepticism, doubts, and questioning that didn't allow me to accept disbelief, or my current theism on the cheap, but that keeps me constantly reflecting, questioning, and probing, more so than most people ever do, theist, and atheist alike, about their own worldviews.