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Altruism Revisited

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How do you spell 'advertisement'? As a merchant, I would be 'betting' that the value gained from experiencing for yourself what a particular product has to  offer, is going to pay off in a long term relationship of ongoing sales.

Edited by dream_weaver

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Are free samples of goods or services, altruism?

No, this is done with a profit motive. Thus is not altruism, even in the casual sense of "helping others, with no material gain expected in return".

When a store like Panera sends unsold goods to a soup-kitchen at the end of the day, it would qualify in the casual sense of the term; but, even this is not altruism in the strict philosophical sense.

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Are free samples of goods or services, altruism?

Not if they're given away with the intention of attracting customers.

In retrospect I see where you may be identifying that with uncertainty; I may have been wrong (slightly) this morning.  Will have to reexamine later.

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No surprise here at all.

 

A little free food now (short term loss) on an individual basis (certain loss) is not altruism on the part of the company giving away the food... because statistically speaking and in the long term, a benefit will accrue to the company.  That overall total benefit must be greater than the particular certain losses from giving away food in order for it to be feasible.  It is a question of intelligent marketing of the samples that ensures overall the company benefits from the campaign, otherwise the campaign would not be run in the first place.

 

 

Altruism cannot be attributed to isolated short term incidents if the purpose is not solely or primarily for others.  If the course of action is one which intelligently takes into account wide considerations of risk and possible profit and is taken ON THE PREMISE that the behaviour will lead to an overall benefit to the actor, the little actions are not altruism.

 

Also recall anti-Objectivists argue the zero sum game.  Objectivists do not.  Another person benefiting from an action I take for the purposes of benefiting myself does not somehow change the fact that I benefit nor that it was done for me.  In fact ensuring a side effect benefits others when possible if it does not detract from my aim... can benefit me in the future.  Objectivists are not anti-cooperation or anti-partnership.

 

 

Some niceties cost little and have an overall return... in effect, benevolence is like giving away free samples.  The magnitude of that campaign of course needs to be properly managed... if it is to remain effective for one's selfish interest.

 

 

Also, has anyone raised the issue of "selfish" benevolence? 

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. . . in effect, benevolence is like giving away free samples.

That's an elegant way to grasp it.  Thank you; I think I'll use that in the future.

 

Also, has anyone raised the issue of "selfish" benevolence? 

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24929&hl=benevolence#entry305943

 

They discuss the distinction between selfish and selfless benevolence in that thread.

Considering the extent to which it's misunderstood by the general public (seems to be their primary objection to Objectivism), it could probably use a bit more elaboration.

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On 3/10/2014 at 3:31 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

"Altruism," even in its milder forms, places all other people on equal ground- regardless of their relation to you.  The problem therein is not that benevolence is immoral, as such, but that it is only moral when it is useful.

Benevolence must stem from selfishness; it's a matter of hierarchy.

So can one define altruism as being "useless benevolence"? It works for me.

But I don't know if it includes the idea of "not worth my while benevolence". I was trying to put something together below to get my head around it:

  • Benevolence
    • satisfactory benevolence
      • gifts to loved ones
      • helping the team you are rooting for
    • unsatisfactory benevolence
      • forced benevolence
        • Christmas Gifts
        • Taxes
      • useless benevolence
        • giving money to an active drug addict
        • investing in a bad investment to look ok
        • ??

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

So can one define altruism as being "useless benevolence"? It works for me.

But I don't know if it includes the idea of "not worth my while benevolence". I was trying to put something together below to get my head around it:

  • Benevolence
    • satisfactory benevolence
      • gifts to loved ones
      • helping the team you are rooting for
    • unsatisfactory benevolence
      • forced benevolence
        • Christmas Gifts
        • Taxes
      • useless benevolence
        • giving money to an active drug addict
        • investing in a bad investment to look ok
        • ??

IMHO your dividing it up into three categories is misguided.

Benevolence is when you give something happily, you are glad to give it when you do so.  If you are rational, your being glad to give it means, the gift is voluntary.

So 1. there is no such thing as forced benevolence.

Moreover as a rational person, benevolence, which by definition is voluntary, if it is to make you happy or glad while acting, must be the opposite of a sacrifice.  Observe first that an exchange of something with the exact same value, inspires nothing but indifference.

So 2. There is no such thing as indifferent or unsatisfactory benevolence, i.e. when things having the exact same value in the value hierarchy are exchanged.

Back to the opposite of a sacrifice... recall, giving something which has a higher value in your value hierarchy in exchange for something ("something" here literally means anything, a service, a good, an outcome, something pertaining to the mind, admiration, friendship, an act, a promise to act, a promise to refrain from an act, money... etc. )  which has a lower value in your value hierarchy IS a sacrifice.  In order for benevolence to obtain to a rational being, the giving (happily and gladly) must be of something lower in your hierarchy of values than whatever you receive.

So how is this depart from the trader principle?  It does not.  It is in complete harmony with it...  the distinguishing feature of this particular kind of trade, is that you are happy to make the trade... and in fact some of what you take as value from the trade is in the happiness you create in  the other person.  [[Edit: Notice happiness is not something you "give away", in the sense that you must lose some happiness for someone to gain it... you can create happiness in other people without "spending" any of your own happiness.]]

E.g. you have something you think is junk.  An old paint set and brushes.  You thought you would like painting but you find it tedious and your fine motor skills are lacking and your results always underwhelmed you.  Your neighbors kid would love to get into painting.  That paint set is far higher on his value hierarchy than on yours, and he offers to mow your lawn in exchange for your paint set.  Regardless of how much money the paint set could get in a garage sale, or how much you could pay someone else to mow your lawn, you know it would simply be worth it to you make the exchange, you could sit back on a Saturday instead of mowing your lawn, and think about how much fun your neighbor's kid will enjoy painting.  Perhaps you also get a kick out of seeing what the kid could paint (which you couldn't).

Recall also, a valid trade always conveys value to both parties.  If no value or a disvalue was conveyed to either party, the trade would not happen, unless the party was mistaken, mislead, or forced (or is acting irrationally to self-sacrifice).

So. 3. Benevolence is not a contradiction of or an exception to the trader principle, it is a recognition of the beneficence, the "win-win", every valid trade actually embodies.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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39 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

IMHO your dividing it up into three categories is misguided.

Benevolence is when you give something happily, you are glad to give it when you do so.  If you are rational, your being glad to give it means, the gift is voluntary.

 

The word Benevolence has been hijacked. The current definitions do not emphasize voluntary. 

Dictionary.com has these definitions.

1.desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness:
to be filled with benevolence toward one's fellow creatures.
2.an act of kindness; a charitable gift.
3.English History. a forced contribution to the sovereign.

41 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

So. 3. Benevolence is not a contradiction of or an exception to the trader principle, it is a recognition of the beneficence, the "win-win", every valid trade actually embodies.

Now, this is new, I have to think about how to incorporate this. Here you are saying the natural economic trade is a type of benevolence. This will bubble up to mean that capitalism is the freedom and opportunity to be benevolent. The key is to make the case that "every free trade" results in an agreement that will improve both parties.

44 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

So 1. there is no such thing as forced benevolence.

How would you characterize a "forced smile"? There's no such thing? Your tax money buys you exactly what you want? The point I am making is that with the common usage of the term, it denotes an ugly reality. The only way for me to show it to people is to concretize their own definition and let them see the absurdity it results in. By twisting the definition of benevolence by their omitting "voluntary", "forced benevolence" ends up denoting something, "fake benevolence".

People don't distinguish between "fake benevolence" and "benevolence". They are considered interchangeable. The absurdity of "useless benevolence" allows them to start distinguishing.

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

So can one define altruism as being "useless benevolence"? It works for me.

But I don't know if it includes the idea of "not worth my while benevolence". I was trying to put something together below to get my head around it:

  • Benevolence
    • satisfactory benevolence
      • gifts to loved ones
      • helping the team you are rooting for
    • unsatisfactory benevolence
      • forced benevolence
        • Christmas Gifts
        • Taxes
      • useless benevolence
        • giving money to an active drug addict
        • investing in a bad investment to look ok
        • ??

Benevolence = Wanting to do this for others because they are a value to you.   

Altruism = You have to do this for others because they need you.   

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6 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The word Benevolence has been hijacked. The current definitions do not emphasize voluntary. 

Dictionary.com has these definitions.

1.desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness:
to be filled with benevolence toward one's fellow creatures.
2.an act of kindness; a charitable gift.
3.English History. a forced contribution to the sovereign.

Now, this is new, I have to think about how to incorporate this. Here you are saying the natural economic trade is a type of benevolence. This will bubble up to mean that capitalism is the freedom and opportunity to be benevolent. The key is to make the case that "every free trade" results in an agreement that will improve both parties.

How would you characterize a "forced smile"? There's no such thing? Your tax money buys you exactly what you want? The point I am making is that with the common usage of the term, it denotes an ugly reality. The only way for me to show it to people is to concretize their own definition and let them see the absurdity it results in. By twisting the definition of benevolence by their omitting "voluntary", "forced benevolence" ends up denoting something, "fake benevolence".

People don't distinguish between "fake benevolence" and "benevolence". They are considered interchangeable. The absurdity of "useless benevolence" allows them to start distinguishing.

Wow.  I sincerely regret wasting my time here.

 

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