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Author Topic: Diego Destroys Western Philosophy: The Thread  (Read 479 times)

Robert Neville

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Re: Diego Destroys Western Philosophy: The Thread
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2018, 08:44:14 pm »
Part 3!


I didn't think I'd have to argue about this one, because it's extremely self-evident. I'm not sure what you'll accept as "proof," but I think explanatory power is fairly important when assessing the truth of a generalized statement such as "people act in their own self-interest." Going off of that, I know of very few instances in which people voluntarily act in ways that are diametrically opposed to their interests. Nearly all individual actions can be explained by self-interest, even if it may not always be rational. Individuals join groups not because they believe the group will be improved, but because they believe the group will defend them. Parents lay down their lives for their children due to their selfish desire for their progeny to live. I continue to feed my cat because I selfishly enjoy cuddling with him. I could go on.

The thing is, though, that is again an interpretation, rather than something backed up by objective data. "Individuals join groups because they believe group will defend them" is a conflicting interpretation to "people believe the group will be improved". It cannot debunk the other, or vice versa, at least not in your argument, because it is based on the same phenomenon (people joining groups) without providing any additional evidence in its favour.

I would argue, in fact, that it takes a tremendous amount of brainwashing to force individuals to act against their own interests. I would cite collectivist institutions such as organized religion and the military as an example of this. Meanwhile, if we look at the individuals in our society who have experienced the least collectivist indoctrination-- small children-- we find that they are some of the most egotistical, self-interested people on the planet. After a couple decades of schooling, this eventually changes. It takes a village to indoctrinate a child.

Again, neither organised religion nor the military would have survived if they went so counter to humans' innate interests. The fact that they persist for thousands of years, while Objectivism is less than a century old, and any concept of "rational egotism" or ideology adjacent to it is far more tenuous, and only seems to exist when the social conditions are sufficiently favorable to it. (i.e. the society has become rich enough to support a layer of such people without collapsing.)

Citing small children as an example is particularly funny, though, because it confirms that in the nature/nurture debate, you fall on the nurture side far beyond the established science. Simply put, it's an accepted fact that brains grow and develop a lot throughout childhood and teenage years, and only stop doing so at 21. Occam's razor suggests that fact that small children are particularly egotistic has far more (i.e. practically everything) to do with their brains not having developed theory of mind yet.

You saying that a rational egoist will not do things to harm others through some mechanism that sounds remarkably like a golden rule derivation.  However, that is not the logical position at all. Rather, a calculation of how likely is a negative result likely to occur would ensue. Take a person who has a self-interest in murder. That person may not commit said murder in the middle of NYC due to the fact that he would obviously get caught and spending the rest of his life in jail would be very contrary to most's self-interest. However, given a hypothetical circumstance where said person could commit the murder with a guarantee of never being caught, that person ought to do it. It fulfills his self-interest. The other person may not like it too well but that person's suffering need not be taken into account by the first. Your position relies on assumptions of equal power distribution and equal probability of recurrence when a the cost of a "wrong" act is calculated.

I've already addressed this. A rational person understands that if he obtains power and infringes on the rights of another-- silences them, harms them, kills them-- then another person in power will be able to do the same to him. I don't accept the premise that committing murder, even with a "guarantee" of not being caught, is the rational thing to do. The golden rule is guided by caring for others. This mentality is guided by caring for oneself. While the outcome may be the same, the rationale is different.

I also did not assume an equal probability of recurrence. I simply implied the possibility of recurrence. Utilitarian probability calculus is not necessary here.

It should be noted that what you consider "rationality" is in fact extreme loss aversion. You believe that a mere possibility of recurrence is enough to make it rational not infringe on others' freedom; apparently, it doesn't matter how small it is. By the same logic, rational people would never ****, or invest in stocks (another, though less random, way of gambling, really), but they do, and every so often, they win (not too often with gambling, far more often with stocks.) Equally, choosing to "infringe on the rights of others" then becomes a ****, and rational people/most normal people will take that **** if they see that the odds are good enough.

This is also basic game theory: it's fine to say that "never" infringing on others's freedom (in the way you define it, that is), is always the right thing to do, and keeping to that principle will protect you from recurrence. In practice, you can keep to that principle, not exercise your power over someone else, and then someone with yet more power can still infringe on your freedom and power and take what you had. You may then think to yourself that someone with yet more power will that do the same to him but that doesn't help you at all after the fact. Hence, the rational thing is again to exercise power when you think you can get away with it without recurrence, and not worry about others if they are already too powerful for your behaviour to affect them in any way. This is also the way human societies have shaped themselves into what they are now, and is what I think Treet was getting at with his "systems" argument.


Let's examine the world in terms of systems. Systems work because all of their individual mechanisms perform the functions they are supposed to perform. If there is some guiding principle that says the responsibility of each component is to help ensure the grand system works as best as possible, then the system will maintain itself just fine. However, let's say each component works for the sake of itself and the functioning of the system of a whole is just a consequence of each component pursuing its own self interest. It's not too difficult to derive that when parts of the system acknowledge that they can pursue their best interests in opposite of the system's overall interest, that those components will and the system is not as stable. The continuation of the system is no longer necessary based upon the rules that have been established.

This paragraph makes a number of assumptions, none of which I'm comfortable with. Most importantly, it assumes that the system is worth preserving and perpetuating. You seem to place value on the system based simply on the virtue that it is a system. You respect order. I don't-- at least, not inherently. In fact, looking throughout history, I see very few systems that I would consider worthy of preserving. Order is not inherently a virtue. This is an enormous fallacy on your part.

Game theory again: if people believe the alternative to the current order is a worse order (which is what "chaos" ultimately becomes), then they'll keep preserving it; if not, they'll rebel, and if enough of that think that, they'll succeed (all in line with Hobbesian thinking). All evidence available to us suggests that it is very much human nature to arrange themselves into systems, even if they are as primitive as the tribes the humanity started out as. Order of one system may not be a virtue in itself - however, it is not being compared to "true freedom", but rather to the alternative systems that'll spring up once that system is gone. A civil war may weaken the state, and even completely destroy it, but then the power will immediately flow to warlords squabbling over the wreckage; each one of their domains is again a system, with its own "order", one that is far more limited in territory then the state was, but is far less constrained in terms of what warlord can do to the people he commands. (And that's without remembering that given enough time, a new state, or several of them, will again be established, even if by former warlords.)

You say freedom is a good thing and that calling it irrational is rather silly, but you offer no facts or numbers to support that. Defense of freedom is very valuable at times, very detrimental at others. It is up to a cold, dispassionate calculation to discern which. Blind defense of freedom is irrational, and I think I can cite plenty of examples to prove that. You, on the other hand, don't cite examples for your defenses. When freedom detracts or impedes from the better-functioning of the larger system, it becomes a vice.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume this was tongue-in-cheek. You've offered no numbers or facts either in your comments. While you say you can cite examples, you don't cite any. You also say that if freedom detracts from a system, it becomes a vice. This is at best not an inherent truth, and at worst an outright unjustifiable opinion.

I think your biggest stumble in this debate is the assumption that I share your belief in society/humanity moving towards something. I don't. At least, not at the expense of individual freedom. Liberty is the end-in-itself; the things it produces (innovation, capitalism, choice, competition, scientific advancement) are merely by-products of something that is already morally justified. There is absolutely nothing to bolster your statement that a system takes precedent over freedom aside from your own personal opinion about what we should be striving for. Again, I note how inherently subjective utilitarianism is. Because your goal is subjective, you'll have a hell of a time convincing everyone else who lives in your "perfect system."

Again, your worldview conflicts with the available anthropological evidence. It's generally accepted by anthropologists that the people in hunter-gatherer tribes had far more liberty than the people in the settled civilisations, and it's only relatively recently that our civilisation advanced to the point it's no longer the case. Yet, settled agrarian civilisation formed out of hunter-gatherer tribes every single time the conditions allowed for it, and then proceed to defeat and/or absorb the remaining hunter-gatherers, in the process reducing their liberty. This is literally human nature as observed by milennia of anthropological record.

The same anthropological record also shows that for most people, "Liberty as the end-in-itself" is not enough. Time and time again, they opt to set goals grander than themselves (or, more often, join others' goals that are grander than themselves) at the expense of their liberty. If this ran so counter to human nature, it wouldn't be happening so consistently.

I do agree, though, that Treet's utilitarian idea of a system is subjective, and can never be fully objective for all people, because some proportion of people will always be born with minds going against that. That is why I aim for sustainable, rather than "perfect", so that the order can accept a few fluctuations.

Utilitarianism works so long as people follow the rules that get established and follow the cold calculations even when they don't serve their own interests. If they don't and don't constantly act in the image of the "greater good", they are not utilitarian at all. So the "corrupted leaders" you are assuredly use a "greater good" mask for something else. Rather, I would think they would fall more in-line with the rules of your philosophy. Given that much power, why shouldn't they pursue things out of self-interest? What consequence to themselves could they incur that would make it not in their own interest? In my theory, that person would be forced to take the weight of the suffering he would cause into account and that would assuredly make "self-interest" obsolete.

I'm glad you raised this point. Here's how I think we elect corrupt leaders.

1) A collectivist system indoctrinates our youth. It tells them to respect authority. It tells them to follow rules that infringe on their natural human behavior. Most importantly, it tells them that orderly systems are more important than individuals.
 
2) These children grow up believing in something greater than themselves. They believe humanity is striving towards a goal. Despite the indoctrination process, no two individuals have the exact same goal in mind. Some believe in an Islamic caliphate. Some become racists, having grown up thinking only in terms of collectives. Others, like yourself, see technological advancement as the ultimate goal. In any case, they put this goal on a pedestal, as their parents, teachers, and priests have told them that "it's important to believe in something greater than yourself."

3) This new generation becomes politically active. Like every generation, it is completely divided. Gradually, they coalesce around various leaders. Some of these leaders are sponge-people who genuinely believe in a "greater good" for their people-- Mao and Hitler, for example. Others are self-interested, but not rational-- Kim Jong Un. In the first case, the goal takes precedent, and carnage ensues. In the second, the chosen leader and his cronies set about ransacking the country, irrationally believing that their actions have no consequences.

4) The people, despite everything, avoid revolution. It is antithetical to everything that's been drilled into their brains. They trust the system. They're glad that the trains run on time. They respect order and authority, even when all evidence points to the undeniable fact that what is happening is against their own interests. When made aware of this, they meekly concede the fact, but maintain that this does not matter, as their own interests aren't important against the will of the collective.

If the people truly acted in their own interests, they would not follow these leaders in the first place. It is ideologies like yours that cause them to blindly support dictators, tyrants, and thieves.

Once again, the final post is mainly ideology not rooted in fact that I have already addressed elsewhere, such as the unscientific prioritisation of nurture over nature, and ignorance of game theory. I'll also say that the way you have brought Kim Jong-Un into this is wildly off-mark: for one, there is enough information available to make description of him as "not rational" questionable at best. The reason his addition is weird, though, is that he is a third-generation inheritor of power, while your example compares him with those who directly seized it through their personal efforts. In fact, Kim Jong-Un is a system succeeding at staying in place and smoothly producing a successor it was always supposed to; Hitler is a failure of a system (though not a complete one, since it still used existing institutions, even if it was to end them), and Mao is the result of the old system completely collapsing, in part through the rebellion you so champion elsewhere.

 

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