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Altruist Manifesto

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Al Kufr
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I was having a debate with a conservative about the war on terror and an article by Edwin A. Locke called "Giving Real Meaning to Veterans Day "at one point the conservative said:

If it's a good thing to die for your own rights and freedom, why is it a bad thing to die for the rights and freedom of others? That doesn't make sense. Dying only for yourself is selfish, dying for someone else is selfless. A man can give no greater gift than to lay down his life for another.

While I agree tactics could be handled better, i disagre that the war is a bad idea..

And i responded with Three sentences that gave way to the longest altruist self sacrificial diatribe ive read in a long time. But it was so "good" i thought that id post it here. I said:

It is immoral to go sacrifice your life and interst for the sake of others.You tell a soldier to go get himself killed in a war that he ,his family or his country has nothing to gain from. And why should tactics  be handled better?are you saying that for the sake of our soldiers? and if you are, isnt that selfish?

And he responded with:

It's immoral to do something good for someone else that has no benefit to yourself? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds. Haven't you ever heard of disinterested benevolence?

Nobody told those soldiers to go get themselves killed in a war that they, their family, or their country had nothing to gain from. Those soldiers volunteered. They volunteered to follow orders, wherever that might take them. The fact that those orders are to possibly perform a sacrificial selfless act is irrelevent to them and to us. Why can't we just appreciate them for their altruism? Why must we call them immoral for doing something good for someone else?

The tactics should be handled better for several reasons. First, to minimize collateral damage (civilian deaths, hospitals, etc.). Second, to speedily end the war for the sake of the taxpayers. Finally, to prevent as few deaths of soldiers as possible. It is important to note that these are not labeled by importance. The most important, obviously, would be collateral damage, because none of them volunteered to be there. Then would come the soldiers, because they did volunteer to be there, and they were aware of the costs at the time. The least important would be the speedy end for the sake of the taxpayers. i think the importance level is rather obvious.

Is it selfish to improve the tactics for the sake of the soldiers? No. These soldiers have done something great. They have volunteered to lay down their lives in the protection of others. That is a selfless act. But to use the best and most effective tactics so as not to lose more soldiers than necessary is not selfish, it's pragmatic. It doesn't minimize that altruistic act, as you seem intent on doing. It merely prevents more soldier from having to make the ultimate, sacrificial, selfless act.

Are you familiar with Hobbes' state of nature? Just in case, here's a summary: the state of nature is the state of humans outside of civilization. In this state of nature, everyone has the right to everything. As a result, only the strongest people survive. In Hobbes' own words, life is "nasty, brutish, and short." Why is it that way? Because everyone is only doing what is in THEIR OWN best interest. What you're saying is that people should only do what is in THEIR OWN best interest. You're advocating a return to the state of nature, but on a nationalistic level. If it's immoral to do something selfless for someone else on a nationalistic level, wouldn't it also be immoral to do so on an individual level?

The point I'm making is that doing something selfless performs two main actions in this conflict (however, doing selfless acts always performs the second action that it performs in this conflict, and frequently performs other main actions, in any conflict): First, it separates us from those we are fighting. The fact that our soldiers are willing to give their lives selflessly with no readily conceivable immediate benefit to any of their interests is what makes the US soldiers different from the iraqis. The forces we are fighting in Iraq, and afghanistan for that matter, are merely trying to preserve their oppressive way of life; a way of life that takes away the freedom and rights of others. They are fighting for their own interest and power. They are fighting for selfish reasons. We, on the other hand, are fighting to free another people from said oppression. We, or more accurately, our soldiers, are fighting so that other people can have the same benefit we had, so that people in another country might be willing to lay down their lives selflessly for another someday. We're not, in effect, fighting a war in Iraq, but fighting a war to spread freedom across the globe. (Some might view this as rather sentimental, corny, and optimistic, nevertheless, it remains true.)

The second main function of selfless acts in this conflict (a function that is true of any selfless act) is that it separates us from animals. Altruism is one of the big things that makes us human. The act of setting aside your own safety and interests for someone else shows that you are reasoning on a higher intellectual, moral, and ethical scale than any animal on the planet, and, in fact, many humans. Acting altruistically is one of the great burdens of mankind. You know that whole "do the right thing" that your mom was always telling you about? That's what acting altruistically is. It is paramount in ethics and morals.

Think about it like this, if no one ever acted altruistically, you wouldn't have been born. you see, your mother gave birth to you at great expense to her own interests. She bore you for nine months, then went through the great pains of labor for God knows how many hours, only to shove a watermelon sized you out of her goonya (pardon my terminology, i mean no disrespect to your mother). In performing that act, she gave up her own safety (it's a lot harder, after all, to outrun a psycho axe murderer when you're 8 months pregnant), she gave up her own health (it's also a lot harder to stand on your own two feet when pregnant, it's harder to walk, you throw up in the mornings, you have to lay up for a day or two after giving birth, etc.), and she CAUSED herself pain. Unless you were living on a farm, and she had you to help with the farm work (which was actually a common occurrence on farms not a hundred years ago, after all, it was easier to do a lot of farm work if you had 9 children), then she was causing herself significant pain and suffering for no conceivable benefit to herself. The definition of a selfless act. But according to you, selfless acts are immoral. So, according to you, your own mother was immoral to have given birth to you.

Unless of course you mean that the only selfless act that is immoral is sacrificing your own life with no conceivable benefit, in which case you are inconsistent and I'm going to have to end this conversation.

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I had to stop reading too, for the same reason. But I disagree with the premise that the soldiers we have in Iraq are over there consciously "sacrificing" themselves. It's just fashionable to use that terminology because "selflessness" is still considered a good thing in our religion dominated society.

The soldiers who died in Iraq and elsewhere had their lives TAKEN from them, against their will. Most believe in what they are doing and subconsciously hold freedom and defense of their country as a value worth RISKING their lives for, not necessarily OFFERING them up to have their throats slit in a certain death (which is the imagery that "sacrifice" brings to mind).

Actually most of them are fighting primarily for their buddies on their right and left, whom they definitely hold as values.

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I think nobody is going to read that altruistic diatribe, for the simple reason that this forum is not for people who are interested in altruistic diatribes. :dough:

Doesn't necessarily prevent us from reading, analyzing, and then debunking altruistic diatribes, though, does it? ;)

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Someone in another thread asked for evidence of how Kant has corrupted modern philosophy. The evidence is there, in that diatribe, starting with this statement:

It's immoral to do something good for someone else that has no benefit to yourself? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds. Haven't you ever heard of disinterested benevolence?
"Disinterested benevolence" is pure Kant: sacrifice as an end in itself, as the thing that distinguishes us from mere animals.

Altruism is one of the big things that makes us human. The act of setting aside your own safety and interests for someone else shows that you are reasoning on a higher intellectual, moral, and ethical scale than any animal on the planet, and, in fact, many humans. Acting altruistically is one of the great burdens of mankind. You know that whole "do the right thing" that your mom was always telling you about? That's what acting altruistically is. It is paramount in ethics and morals.
Duty, “the great burden of mankind”, in the form of sacrifice, as the essence of morality. This individual is a Kantian convert, even though, in all probability, they haven’t read a word he wrote.
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It's immoral to do something good for someone else that has no benefit to yourself? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds. Haven't you ever heard of disinterested benevolence?

Nobody told those soldiers to go get themselves killed in a war that they, their family, or their country had nothing to gain from. Those soldiers volunteered. They volunteered to follow orders, wherever that might take them. The fact that those orders are to possibly perform a sacrificial selfless act is irrelevent to them and to us. Why can't we just appreciate them for their altruism? Why must we call them immoral for doing something good for someone else?

The reasons why people join the military are diverse. Let's assume for an instant these soldiers joined because of the "right" reasons according to this altruist. I suppose we are talking of the US military. So they joined to protect the US and things they believe it stands for. So they did actually did volunteer to fight for things of benefit to their country, themselves or their family. We can even stretch this to include some parts of foreign policy of the US such as helping out in peace missions of the UN. But I doubt the number of military would be that high if the obejective would be the liberation of every corner of the earth. Military see themselves as the people to rely on when war is unavoidable. That doesn't mean their leaders have the right to dispose of their lives as they care fit.

Interesting point about altruism. Those soldiers altruism is explained by the fact they obey orders without questioning. The ideal altruist : the robot.

I totaly agree with the part of the tactics.

Is it selfish to improve the tactics for the sake of the soldiers? No. These soldiers have done something great. They have volunteered to lay down their lives in the protection of others. That is a selfless act. But to use the best and most effective tactics so as not to lose more soldiers than necessary is not selfish, it's pragmatic. It doesn't minimize that altruistic act, as you seem intent on doing. It merely prevents more soldier from having to make the ultimate, sacrificial, selfless act.

Huh??? To quote Patton: 'You all think you are here to give your life for your country, well forget it. You job is to make sure the poor bastard on the oppisite side loses his life for his country'.

Those soldiers volunteered to be in the military. To wage war. They know one of the consequences is getting killed or being an invalid for the rest of their lives but are willing to take the chance. They did not sign over their life to be cannon fodder to be staked in a war roulette. This is not altruism any more but the cry of a high priest for human sacrifice

Are you familiar with Hobbes' state of nature? Just in case, here's a summary: the state of nature is the state of humans outside of civilization. In this state of nature, everyone has the right to everything. As a result, only the strongest people survive. In Hobbes' own words, life is "nasty, brutish, and short." Why is it that way? Because everyone is only doing what is in THEIR OWN best interest. What you're saying is that people should only do what is in THEIR OWN best interest. You're advocating a return to the state of nature, but on a nationalistic level. If it's immoral to do something selfless for someone else on a nationalistic level, wouldn't it also be immoral to do so on an individual level?
Then along came Darwin. Survival of the FITTEST. FITTEST = the best adapted to the environment. The best equipped to deal with the immediate reality. This is not necessarily the strongest in the physical sense. Man never lived in this state of nature. There always have been small groups acting together to augment the chances of survival for the members of that group. This evolved into bigger and complexer societies with incresingly better chances for survival. The modern democratic nations-states of today assure the best life expectancy ever recorded in history. Nature and human selfishness are the cause of societies, not it's enemies.

The point I'm making is that doing something selfless performs two main actions in this conflict (however, doing selfless acts always performs the second action that it performs in this conflict, and frequently performs other main actions, in any conflict): First, it separates us from those we are fighting. The fact that our soldiers are willing to give their lives selflessly with no readily conceivable immediate benefit to any of their interests is what makes the US soldiers different from the iraqis. The forces we are fighting in Iraq, and afghanistan for that matter, are merely trying to preserve their oppressive way of life; a way of life that takes away the freedom and rights of others. They are fighting for their own interest and power. They are fighting for selfish reasons. We, on the other hand, are fighting to free another people from said oppression. We, or more accurately, our soldiers, are fighting so that other people can have the same benefit we had, so that people in another country might be willing to lay down their lives selflessly for another someday. We're not, in effect, fighting a war in Iraq, but fighting a war to spread freedom across the globe. (Some might view this as rather sentimental, corny, and optimistic, nevertheless, it remains true.)

:) What happend to the weapons of mass distruction? Wasn't this what this war was about?

Soldiers on the other side are highly altruistic too, fighting for a moslim world where the Divine Law written by the messager of God (may his Name be blessed by Allah) will be followed by all men as brothers. Their cause may even be greater because they are figthing our greed, loose sexual morals, abuse of alcohol etc. So it's a case of the altruistic fighting the altruistic.

Think about it like this, if no one ever acted altruistically, you wouldn't have been born. you see, your mother gave birth to you at great expense to her own interests. She bore you for nine months, then went through the great pains of labor for God knows how many hours, only to shove a watermelon sized you out of her goonya (pardon my terminology, i mean no disrespect to your mother). In performing that act, she gave up her own safety (it's a lot harder, after all, to outrun a psycho axe murderer when you're 8 months pregnant), she gave up her own health (it's also a lot harder to stand on your own two feet when pregnant, it's harder to walk, you throw up in the mornings, you have to lay up for a day or two after giving birth, etc.), and she CAUSED herself pain. Unless you were living on a farm, and she had you to help with the farm work (which was actually a common occurrence on farms not a hundred years ago, after all, it was easier to do a lot of farm work if you had 9 children), then she was causing herself significant pain and suffering for no conceivable benefit to herself. The definition of a selfless act. But according to you, selfless acts are immoral. So, according to you, your own mother was immoral to have given birth to you.

To begin with, I suspect your mother had fun at your conception :P

I suppose you are a wanted child. She probably wanted a child to love, to give things like a good education, moral sense and stuff she learned from her mother. Basically your mother wanted eternal life trough you and your children. Not her physical life but 50% of her genes and all the moral values, traditions and ideas she could pass on. This is really hard-wired in our brain, from the most primitive animal so it's done without thinking.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Disinterested benevolence" is pure Kant: sacrifice as an end in itself, as the thing that distinguishes us from mere animals

That is a complete misunderstanding of Kantian ethics. He is in fact notorious for arguing--against the British moralists of his time--that the presence of a psychological motive like benevolence fails to define an action as moral.

Benevolence is obviously not necessarily contrary to morality either, just as appropriately regarded self-interest is not. What none of these motives provide, under a Kantian conception, is the foundation of morality, which can only be derived from an understanding of oneself as a rational and free being.

A good, non-technical summary of Kantian ethics is found on Michigan Prof. David Velleman's web-site: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~velleman/Work/KANT.pdf .

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The statement about your mother is quite revealing of his character: he cannot see beyond the physical, animal pain of childbirth to ponder that values might actually be GAINED from a child.

Ask him if he thinks that a person is necessarily giving up their values to raise a child. Some people do, but not everybody.

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