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I'm trying to understand the Objectivist view of altruism. For example, imagine I want to reduce the chance that an asteroid wipes out humanity and so donate to an organization working to improve asteroid detection. For simply improving my life or that of my descendants there are much more effective things I could spend my money on, but I want to help future people by increasing the chance they get to exist. Is it wrong for me to try to help these future strangers from whom I will of course get nothing in return? In reading Objectivist writing against altruism the argument tends to be is "this form of trying to help people actually backfires, and has negative effects". For example, the idea that feeding the hungry creates dependence, and makes them worse off than they were before. I see people saying things like "what Africa needs is good institutions that respect property rights, not more handouts". But what if there's a good organization working to create those good institutions? Is it bad to donate to them? If the problem is that "altruism doesn't actually help people" doesn't that just mean you're doing it wrong and should figure out how to do it in ways that actually make people's lives better off? Is it simply wrong to take actions that make other people's lives better without improving your own? Or is it impossibly difficult to actually help people, because without the feedback of the market you end up doing the wrong things? Or something more subtle I'm not understanding? (Objectivist writing spreads ideas that should make the world better, right? But doesn't that mean writing Objectivist books is an altruistic act?)
While talking to my father he reminisced that while growing up with his family, a Latvian pro-soviet emigrant, they had a custom to feed the dog before everyone else stated to eat. The justification was that the dog had no way to feed itself. This is the most ridiculous example of altruism and the morality of sacrifice I could find in my personal knowledge.
http://www.appliedphilosophyonline.com/immigration_and_applied_egoism.htm Immigration and Applied Egoism By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr. 06/09/2012 I have known many immigrants to the United States over the years, and all of them have been very intelligent, personally motivated to achieve their values, and hamstrung by government regulations that will not let them immigrate freely; so long as they are not criminals, acting to overthrow the US government, nor carrying some deadly disease that is incurable. If one looks into the details of our current immigration policy, one will see that it is motivated by the moral principles of altruism. Altruism is the moral doctrine that one ought to be more concerned with the welfare of others rather than having a primary concern for oneself and one’s own well-being (egoism). It takes this form within immigration policy of making it nearly impossible for rational, self-sufficient immigrants to move to the US if the country of origin is suffering due to polices of that country that are against such individuals. In other words, there was a great push to limit immigration from the former Soviet Union because any intelligent observer understood that by letting the best and brightest Soviet citizen immigrate to the USA, the Soviet Union would become impoverished to the point of eventual collapse. But it was US policy not to let this happen, because the well-being of a foreign country took precedent over the well-being of the United States – i.e. applied altruism. It didn’t help matters that many policy officials in the USA considered Communism to be a moral / political ideal themselves, and therefore did not want to see a Communist State collapse due to its fight with the reality of the fact that Slaves of the State are unproductive. So, under an altruistic policy, immigration levels are set, country to country, in terms of what effect such immigration will have on the other nation, not on what such immigration will lead to in the United States. Clearly, if the best and the brightest are permitted to immigrate here due to our greater freedom and hence greater opportunities, then the other nation will indeed suffer and we will benefit. But what of it? Had the Soviet Union collapsed within a few decades, the whole Cold War would have ended and various real but proxy wars would never have happened. In effect, by having such an immigration policy, the US was acting against itself, but this is virtuous according to altruism. Objectivism takes a far different stance due to it’s assertion of rational egoism and the right of an individual to live his life to the fullest, earning as much wealth as he can by being a productive individual. It was the original immigration policy of the Founding Fathers, who understood that vast areas of the Colonies were unsettled wilderness and that by permitting such individual to immigrate freely that the economy would improve and civilization would flourish. An argument being made today is that we no longer have such wilderness areas that require development, and hence immigration ought to be restricted to cut down on city populations. But if highly populated cities were so detrimental to those living there, people would move out into less populated areas, and they are certainly free to do this. However, what we have observed over the centuries is that we can have huge productive cities, so long as men are free to act in their own self-interest. But, again, this requires understanding the morality of egoism, and not trying to make a pre-determination by government edicts of what is best for others living in the cities. And altruism implies force directed against others, since the other’s welfare is uppermost in the altruist’s mind, and the individual simply cannot be expected to live well on his own without someone, including the State, helping him out by making his life decisions for him. Hence, the State must decide for the other whether or not such individuals would be better off in the Soviet Union versus the United States. The idea that an individual ought to be free from the force or fraud of others comes about due to the idea that the individual is able to make rational decisions on his own. By rejecting this principle, altruism forms a type of collectivism, whereby a select group – often the State – claims to know more than the individual and can therefore impose edicts onto him for his own well-being. So, not only is altruism anti-individual on the moral level, it is anti-individual on the requirements of reason; since reason, in fact, is an attribute of the individual and can only operate if that individual chooses to use his own mind. An “open immigration policy” would recognize all these facts about the productive individual and would set each individual free from his former slave to semi-slave State; which would be virtuous, according to the principles of reason and egoism. In short, current US immigration policy is against the success of the United States and ought to be changed to better reflect the achievements that are possible by free, rational men, who go through the effort to start a new life for their own betterment in a free country.