Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Can an Altruist be happy

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

The first sentence in the first link is "As long as acts of kindness don't become obligatory or overwhelming, they can enrich the giver and the whole community." But philosophical altruism, the kind that we're talking about here, is precisely a code where such acts are morally obligatory. They're not studying the same thing we're criticizing.

I have a slightly different take on obligatory altruism as a statist, social, religious advocacy. It is motivated by entitlement, guilt, and so on, but it remains altruism by force - iow, I would call it 'political altruism'.

Either way, the dismissal of free will makes it one of the nastiest things perpetrated on society.

'Philosophical altruism', is where morality is distinct, in my opinion..

I believe, to fully grasp the immorality involved in altruism, one should understand how broad the concept is. "Other-ism", as distinguished from "I-ism", is holding 'others' as the value by which one lives.

To live by, through, and for, others would describe the total meaning that Rand ascribed to it (though she might not have said that precisely.)

"By", as in existing by others' sanction (and permission) - "through", as in living solely or mainly for the approval of others - and "for", as in constantly feeling obliged to help others, and dutifully acting on it.

For such a critical concept in O'ist morality, my feeling is that often Objectivists are too exclusively focused on the "for others" part -- leading to debates on charity, helping strangers, etc, etc.

Of course, there is nothing immoral with these; assuming one does them willingly, consciously, and not at disproportionate cost to oneself.

The "for" is only a minor component, and not even the most significant. There is a possibility of rationalizing away, and repressing, basic human qualities such as empathy, compassion and benvolence, if it is taken to its 'logical' conclusion.

If one 'gets' the immorality of altruism - in its broadest Randian sense - then the morality of rational egoism becomes clearer. (And vice-versa, of course.)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 109
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

The ultimate perceptual data that the argument is based on are the observations needed to form the relevant concepts, like 'value,' 'altruism,' and 'happiness.' The core of the argument is the follow

Actually, research shows that altruistic people are generally happier than others: http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/altruism/altruism-happiness http://www.wholeliving.com/article/givin

I feel there's some confusion in this thread. Selfishness versus altruism is not an answer to "what makes us happy?" but "in whose interests ought we act?" Selfishness answers that we ought act

To live by, through, and for, others would describe the total meaning that Rand ascribed to it (though she might not have said that precisely.)

"By", as in existing by others' sanction (and permission) - "through", as in living solely or mainly for the approval of others - and "for", as in constantly feeling obliged to help others, and dutifully acting on it.

I think that is an accurate description of what Rand meant by the word "altruism". But it is a fairly strict description, and I doubt there are many people who actually subscribe to it as a guiding philosophy for themselves. Possibly some "true believer" Communists, and I know of "true believer" environmentalist types who view humans as scum on the earth, and apply that to themselves (in one case, to the extent of attempted suicide). Christians would not fall into that category, though possibly Buddhists would.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that is an accurate description of what Rand meant by the word "altruism". But it is a fairly strict description, and I doubt there are many people who actually subscribe to it as a guiding philosophy for themselves. Possibly some "true believer" Communists, and I know of "true believer" environmentalist types who view humans as scum on the earth, and apply that to themselves (in one case, to the extent of attempted suicide). Christians would not fall into that category, though possibly Buddhists would.

By what you say, there are few altruists!

Where I agree is that altruism is very rarely "a guiding philosophy." It isn't explicit. Certainly, though, it is implicit in everything we see in the majority of people.

I mean, what does one call a person who gains pleasure in his success - from the reaction he gets from others? Or, who dishonestly manipulates others to his advantage?

Or, who thrives on gaining power over people? Or marries a "trophy wife", despite his true feelings about her? A never ending list.

Are they egoists? as would be commonly accepted. No, it's all altruism, by the definition you agreed upon.

I would argue that anything that falls outside of one's own life as the standard of value, implicitly embraces altruism. While I for one find value in benevolence to others, there can be no half-way compromise between egoism and altruism.

Link to post
Share on other sites

By what you say, there are few altruists!

Where I agree is that altruism is very rarely "a guiding philosophy." It isn't explicit. Certainly, though, it is implicit in everything we see in the majority of people.

I mean, what does one call a person who gains pleasure in his success - from the reaction he gets from others? Or, who dishonestly manipulates others to his advantage?

Or, who thrives on gaining power over people? Or marries a "trophy wife", despite his true feelings about her? A never ending list.

Are they egoists? as would be commonly accepted. No, it's all altruism, by the definition you agreed upon.

I would argue that anything that falls outside of one's own life as the standard of value, implicitly embraces altruism. While I for one find value in benevolence to others, there can be no half-way compromise between egoism and altruism.

Agreed except for the "guiding philosophy" part: religion explicitly follows the altruism code and taeches sacrifice. It's just that most people either don't see what is truly being taught or they understand that reason and rationality have to dictate much of the time and they are naturally pulled away from sacrifice.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that is an accurate description of what Rand meant by the word "altruism". But it is a fairly strict description, and I doubt there are many people who actually subscribe to it as a guiding philosophy for themselves. Possibly some "true believer" Communists, and I know of "true believer" environmentalist types who view humans as scum on the earth, and apply that to themselves (in one case, to the extent of attempted suicide). Christians would not fall into that category, though possibly Buddhists would.

Re: Christianity, I think it's a mixed bag. While there may often be an implied promise of "heavenly reward" (temporarily leaving aside the question of whether heaven exists), ethically people are still expected to act without thought of themselves. "Self-sacrifice" is held up as a moral ideal.

So, imagine a person who (selfishly) goes to college instead of staying home to care for their parents, having deemed such to be in their best interest. Someone may well tell that person that it is their "Christian duty" to abandon their own interest -- to sacrifice their personal happiness -- for the sake of another. The argument is not typically made "stay at home with your parents because that will get you into heaven." This latter argument would obviously appeal to the person's self-interest... and I suspect that this is why an argument like this is seldom made (at least, to my knowledge).

I think Christians implicitly understand the conflict between "Christ's sacrifice," and the injunction against selfishness, etc., and their quest for heavenly bliss. And so they try to focus on the sacrificial elements, and stress that this duty is good for its own sake, or for God's glory, etc., as opposed to being a personal mission for reward. I suspect that if a man "acted as a Christian," explicitly saying all the while that it was just to get into heaven, that he would be endlessly chastised by all around him for pride, and un-Christian motives, and so forth. He would be told that he wasn't really a Christian at all. After all, he's not supposed to do it for himself. He's supposed to do it for God.

Practically, where life on Earth is concerned, this means that a Christian always has the "high road" in insisting that others abandon their personal ambitions/goals/values for someone else. And it means that when people knowingly act in their own interests, they often feel unworthy and guilty. Sounds like a general nastiness to me, and while I've known (and befriended) more than a few Christians in my time, I've never known them to be "happy" in the way I'd aspire to be. The most deeply Christian folks I've known have always had... a real sadness about them. A sort of cosmic resignation. I don't know better how to describe it, but to say that they speak of "good news" but rarely, genuinely smile with delight.

Would all of this be justified if the Christian God actually existed? I doubt it. A God that would insist on an ethics which turns life on Earth into an exercise of self-denial and self-torture sounds more like my conception of a devil than anything else. I wouldn't trust him or his heaven to do anything for me. But it's also important to note that this God doesn't actually exist (though, of course, that argument belongs in a different thread), and there is no heaven. Which means that all Christian self-sacrifice is completely in vain. And since they must be confronted with that truth from time to time (though struggling against it mentally, inviting the cognitive dissonance this entails), can you imagine how harrowing that must be? "Dark night of the soul" indeed! How happy can a person ultimately be -- in reality -- if the premise of their ethics is a pack of lies, and reality must be continually blocked out in order to maintain the self-deception? What good could possibly come of such a thing? And does it sound like the recipe for happiness?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that is an accurate description of what Rand meant by the word "altruism". But it is a fairly strict description, and I doubt there are many people who actually subscribe to it as a guiding philosophy for themselves.

Any sense of altruism, though, is bad, even if it's not a sense of altruism to the fullest extent. Any and all Christians are altruistic to the extent they practice Christianity consistently, and egoistic to the extent they are capable of rationalizing their beliefs (I don't think I should put egoistic there, but I'm just pointing out that contradictory beliefs are easily possible). Much of Rand's ethical ideas are an effort to show that ANY amount of altruism and selflessness is bad, which is easier to see when it is practiced consistently. A belief in a deity that controls the universe giving you what will make you happy feeds easily into altruism or selflessness. Much like begging for food from a dictator. I can imagine being "given" such good things as food or emotional support creates an emotional sense of happiness, but dependent upon the deity, or whatever other entity that provides stuff (could be a romantic relationship, friendship, society, kidnapper [stockholm Syndrome], Keating towards Roark, etc). Second-handedness and other-ism like that is also bad, but doesn't in all cases fit a strict definition of altruism.

I'm not actually to sure about Buddhists believing in a higher power that controls anything in the universe, but I'd argue Buddhism works on a more epistemological level and isn't aiming for anyone's sake in particular. Perhaps in some cases aiming for minimizing thinking altogether, reducing a sense of self entirely. So, not exactly altruism in terms of ethical standards, but surely not egoistic.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Would all of this be justified if the Christian God actually existed? I doubt it. A God that would insist on an ethics which turns life on Earth into an exercise of self-denial and self-torture sounds more like my conception of a devil than anything else. I wouldn't trust him or his heaven to do anything for me. But it's also important to note that this God doesn't actually exist (though, of course, that argument belongs in a different thread), and there is no heaven. Which means that all Christian self-sacrifice is completely in vain. And since they must be confronted with that truth from time to time (though struggling against it mentally, inviting the cognitive dissonance this entails), can you imagine how harrowing that must be? "Dark night of the soul" indeed! How happy can a person ultimately be -- in reality -- if the premise of their ethics is a pack of lies, and reality must be continually blocked out in order to maintain the self-deception? What good could possibly come of such a thing? And does it sound like the recipe for happiness?

Yeah, that's well said, Don:

Imagine the sicko who would 'design' Man to have the consciousness to deny Him, but would then punish men for exactly that.

I'm often saying that if there were a God, His proudest moment would be when individuals chose to reject Him and go it alone.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I mean, what does one call a person who gains pleasure in his success - from the reaction he gets from others?

Someone who values the admiration of others more than he values his own pleasure in his work.

Or, who dishonestly manipulates others to his advantage?

Someone who values his own advantage more than he respects other people.

Or, who thrives on gaining power over people?

A person who values power over other values.

Or marries a "trophy wife", despite his true feelings about her?

A man who values the admiration of others more than he values feeling personally good about his wife.

My point in all of this is that, though I would (like you) disagree with the values in the examples you give, I wouldn't chalk them up to altruism. I would, instead, chalk it up to a flawed value system, flawed in various areas.

Link to post
Share on other sites
religion explicitly follows the altruism code and taeches sacrifice

No, that's not an accurate statement. It depends upon what religion you are speaking of. Buddhism may be altruistic because of the loss of individual personality, but I am no expert on the matter so I won't assert that. Christianity puts the attainment of heaven -- the individual soul -- as the highest value, and so personal sacrifice is merely a means to that end. It's not altruistic.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Any sense of altruism, though, is bad, even if it's not a sense of altruism to the fullest extent. Any and all Christians are altruistic to the extent they practice Christianity consistently, and egoistic to the extent they are capable of rationalizing their beliefs (I don't think I should put egoistic there, but I'm just pointing out that contradictory beliefs are easily possible).

I want to point out that rationalizing is definitely not egoistic or selfish because it only inhibits one's ability to reason properly and consistently.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Someone who values the admiration of others more than he values his own pleasure in his work.

Someone who values his own advantage more than he respects other people.

A person who values power over other values.

A man who values the admiration of others more than he values feeling personally good about his wife.

My point in all of this is that, though I would (like you) disagree with the values in the examples you give, I wouldn't chalk them up to altruism. I would, instead, chalk it up to a flawed value system, flawed in various areas.

So, would you call this person rationally selfish?

No, I know you won't.

Also, what is the commonality of his flawed values, here? Surely, it's that he holds other people's opinions - their minds - above his own; which means he has long sacrificed his mind to the collective 'others'..

What can you call this but altruism in the broad sense?

(By, through, and for, 'others'.)

"Second-hander", and Christian "I am my brother's keeper", both are sub-sets of altruism, imo.

Remember, liberal-progressives are also (often secular/ atheist) altruists.

Nobody's mentioned them here, have they?

Altruism is extremely wide.

(On 'power' - I'm sure Rand did explain it somewhere as altruistic- collectivist.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

No, that's not an accurate statement. Christianity puts the attainment of heaven -- the individual soul -- as the highest value, and so personal sacrifice is merely a means to that end. It's not altruistic.

Wrong. As Rand said:

Christ (in Christian philosophy) is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. That is sacrificing the ideal to the nonideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used.

Link to post
Share on other sites

(On 'power' - I'm sure Rand did explain it somewhere as altruistic- collectivist.)

She differentiated between economic power (good) and political power (bad).

The latter of course requires the use of force; the politician using it is not himself being altruistic but he is asking others to be.

Link to post
Share on other sites

But she could expect a heavenly reward.

That was never mentioned in the parable. The lesson was that in order for giving to be moral, it requires sacrifice.

I suspect that the main reason people who consider themselves to be altruistic can be happy is because they are evading the real meaning of altruism, and conflating it with charity.

The info below is from: http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Rowlands/Is_Altruism_Really_About_Self-Sacrifice.shtml

In the conventional view of morality, which we refer to as altruism, helping other people is the goal. But to call a particular action 'moral' requires more than just helping people. You have to do it for the right reasons. If you're looking to benefit yourself, then it's not a moral act. If you donate to charity and then call a press conference to announce it, aren't you just trying to buy good publicity? And doesn't that demean the act? Is it really moral if you're just doing it for personal gain? You would just be using those who are in need.

Anytime you personally gain from helping others, it casts a shadow on the whole action. How does anyone know you really did it for the right reasons? Maybe you're just trying to look like a good person. Certainly a large public donation fits that theory. But there are other ways to gain. If some rich person donated money to a medical research fund, and it turns out they have that illness, isn't that less noble than if they did it out of caring for their fellow man? You're just trying to help yourself.

So while the point of the altruism is to help other people, it's easy to see that personally benefiting from the action corrupts the moral status of the act. The larger the personal gain, the less praiseworthy the act is. The only way to have your motives be pure is if you don't gain at all from your act. Only then can you be sure that your doing it for the right reasons.

And in fact, you can even go further. You can show how much you really care by actually giving something up in order to act virtuously. Donating a few dollars to a charity might be good, but it's not a very note-worthy act. If you donate a much larger chunk of money, even more than you can really afford, then it really shows how good of a person you are. Not only do you not have any selfish benefits from the act, but the large cost you're incurring shows your commitment to doing the right thing.

But now we arrive at the problem. The morality was supposed to be about helping other people. That's what everyone thinks about when they think of their morality. But along the way, it was decided that it wasn't enough to just help other people, you had to be entirely motivated by their needs. If you gained while helping other people, your actions were no longer considered morally praiseworthy. But if you sacrificed greatly while helping other people, it showed that you were a good person.

Suddenly the focus of the morality has shifted from simply helping other people to sacrificing in order to do it. You're judged as virtuous if you sacrifice a lot for the cause. In fact, how moral the act is gets measured by how much you benefit or sacrifice for it. If you benefit, it lowers how moral it was. If you sacrifice for it, it increases the virtue of the act by showing how dedicated you are to helping other people.

So the morality stops being about helping other people. It doesn't even matter if you've really helped them at all, as long as you tried. Certainly the morality of the act is not measured by how much good you did. The cost you incurred is what gets measured. And when that's the case, the morality becomes all about how much suffering your willing to take for the sake of being moral. It becomes a morality of self-sacrifice.

Link to post
Share on other sites
That was never mentioned in the parable. The lesson was that in order for giving to be moral, it requires sacrifice.

Whether a heavenly reward is mentioned in that particular story or not, the rest of the New Testament is clear on the matter: "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life". That's just one quote --I can give you more. Nor would I agree with you that "the lesson was that in order for giving to be moral, it requires sacrifice" -- that's just your particular interpretation. I certainly wouldn't agree that that was the "lesson" of that story.

In the conventional view of morality, which we refer to as altruism, helping other people is the goal.

Actually, I thought we had a much more narrow definition of altruism that we were working with, based on Rand's views. Now you have broadened it again, which presumably brings us back to the research findings that show positive benefits to those who practice what you call altruism: they are happier people.

Anytime you personally gain from helping others, it casts a shadow on the whole action.

Which means that Christians do not practice altruism, as they personally gain from helping others. I don't agree with you, by the way, that "it casts a shadow on the whole action" -- why do you think that?

If some rich person donated money to a medical research fund, and it turns out they have that illness, isn't that less noble than if they did it out of caring for their fellow man?

You have a distorted sense of morality. I don't agree at all with your premises.

So while the point of the altruism is to help other people, it's easy to see that personally benefiting from the action corrupts the moral status of the act.

I don't think it's "easy to see" at all -- please explain why.

But along the way, it was decided that it wasn't enough to just help other people, you had to be entirely motivated by their needs.

Now we're getting into the area of black helicopters -- WHO "decided"? Do you think there is some kind of conspiracy out there?

Suddenly the focus of the morality has shifted from simply helping other people to sacrificing in order to do it.

Tell me when this "sudden" event ocurred -- do you have a date?

f you sacrifice for it, it increases the virtue of the act by showing how dedicated you are to helping other people

I would agree that great personal sacrifice can show how dedicated one is to a particular value or set of values. However, I don't agree that somehow that "increases the virtue of the act" -- what do you base that on?

It doesn't even matter if you've really helped them at all, as long as you tried

This is certainly true of the secular Left and of bloated bureaucracies in general.

And when that's the case, the morality becomes all about how much suffering your willing to take for the sake of being moral

Can you be more specific? Just WHO acts this way?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Also, what is the commonality of his flawed values, here? Surely, it's that he holds other people's opinions - their minds - above his own; which means he has long sacrificed his mind to the collective 'others'..

First, I didn't know that your hypotheticals involved one man, not simply many, though I don't think it makes a difference. Anyway, I disagree that "other people's opinions" is the common thread running through these flawed values. Love of power does not concern itself with the opinion of others -- it is the love of the heady feeling of authority. A man might feel it when training dogs. The same with a man who manipulates others for his own advantage -- he values his advantage more than he cares for the opinion of others. So, we can't agree here.

"Second-hander", and Christian "I am my brother's keeper", both are sub-sets of altruism, imo

I don't know what "second-hander" means, so I can't comment on that. But if the Christian is his brother's keeper because it will further his ultimate happiness, then it's not really altruism as Rand defines it.

Remember, liberal-progressives are also (often secular/ atheist) altruists

Some are, but some just love power, which being in charge of other people's money (via countless govt. programs)gives them.

Altruism is extremely wide

I disagree. Rand's definition is not that wide. If you widen it as much as you suggest, then some of her protagonists could be said to be altruists. Well-known Objectivists could be said to be altruists, then, as they give up their time and resources to further a cause.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wrong. As Rand said:

Christ (in Christian philosophy) is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. That is sacrificing the ideal to the nonideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used.

Much of what you (or rather, Rand) asserts here simply flies in the face of orthodox Christian theology. It's a flawed understanding. I don't think that Rand understood Christianity, based on her comments on it, but that's not really surprising -- she came from a Jewish background, and there's no indication she ever had much interaction with orthodox Christian theologians. She respected Aquinas, but she didn't study him to any degree.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Avila:

Since you seem quite well acquainted with the tenets of Christianity would you agree that Jesus Christ is the archetype of the ideal Christian? Is he the person Christians should emulate and aspire to be like?

If so, then perhaps you can tell us which of his qualities or actions were "good" according to Christian doctrine and therefore obligatory (or desirable) for Christians to emulate. And, how are these qualities fundamentally different from other ideologies, egoism in particular?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I disagree. Rand's definition is not that wide. If you widen it as much as you suggest, then some of her protagonists could be said to be altruists. Well-known Objectivists could be said to be altruists, then, as they give up their time and resources to further a cause.

Some of Rand's protagonists could be said to be altruists? Well-known Objectivists could be said to be altruists? How so?

"...as they give up their time and resources to further a cause."

:I

I've tried before -- and will try this once again -- but you're not understanding what "altruism" is at all, here. It has nothing to do with "giving up time and resources to further a cause." (!) Nothing.

When I go to work, I am giving up my time and resources to further a cause. My cause, in specific, is the well-being of myself and my family. This is a selfish pursuit, not an altruistic one.

The difference between selfishness and altruism lies in this question: who ought to (primarily) benefit from an actor's actions? Selfishness answers "the actor." Altruism answers "others."

Does that mean that the actor cannot ever benefit from something he does altruistically? Of course not, but it isn't relevant to the question of whether he acted selfishly or not. Does it mean that others cannot ever benefit from something the actor does selfishly? Of course not, but it isn't relevant to the question of whether he acted altruistically or not.

An earlier example I gave was a man selfishly attending college rather than stay home to care for his parents. An altruist could make the argument that the man ought stay home as his "Christian duty" to his parents. But note: the man could just as well choose to stay home to care for his parents selfishly. That this involves other people, that it cares for other people, that it could be seen as "charitable" has nothing to do with whether it is a selfish action or not; the only relevant question here is: why did the man choose to stay with his parents? If, in the end, he did it out of his love for his parents, the pleasures they share, etc. -- if he did it because he judged it to be the best thing to do for himself, and better than going to college -- then he did it selfishly. To complete the scenario, an altruist may well demand that this man go to college instead, because he has some special talent that he "owes it to the world" to develop.

Beyond that, I think you're portraying Christianity falsely if you insist that its ethics are selfish. Christians are not supposed to act in expectation of reward. In fact, most denominations (to my knowledge) would insist that it's impossible to "act" one's way into heaven at all; that salvation is a matter of God's grace, which is an unearned (and unearnable) blessing.

No, man instead should act out of Christian charity, which is selfless, and in the name of the glory of God. "Not man's will, but God's will be done," and all of that. Is there the pretense of individual spiritual reward? Sure. Christianity is wildly inconsistent in just about every aspect. But, again, you're not supposed to "be Christian" in order to attain heaven; you're supposed to "be Christian" because God created you, and because he supposedly set the terms on morality. And what is moral to the Christian God? Self-sacrifice. Self-denial. Self-abnegation. Obedience. Martyrdom.

Would you say that there are few Christians that live up to this "ideal"? Obviously; it's an ideal that cannot be lived up to. And Christians are made to feel guilty and wicked -- "sinners in the hands of an angry God" -- because of it.

Christianity, broadly and in specific, is a horror show (and not in the "good" Alex Delarge sense) to those of us who value... you know... life. Whatever your arguments for "being charitable" (which -- again -- is not necessarily altruism), certainly Christianity cannot carry your banner. When people take Christianity and its ethics really very seriously, do you know what happens? They start flagellating themselves, or they become anchorites. They perform self-mutilations, give up sex and food and money and even speech. They prostrate themselves, spiritually and physically, before the altar of an unknowable, terrible deity. To the extent that they're able to remain in society, they're all screwed up. They misinterpret science to try to salvage their bizarre cosmology and handicap their children's education to "keep them in the fold." This latter practice, which I've seen personally with Bible education upwards of three nights a week, is something akin to brainwashing. They turn their personal associations into opportunities to proselytize and witness and they anticipate with relish the "end times" when everyone supposedly less moral than themselves will be consigned to everlasting torment in the name of "goodness."

It cannot be practiced in full, as Christianity is too irrational and too internally inconsistent, but to the extent that it is practiced, Christianity is bound to bring people pain and ruin. There is nothing, nothing to like about Christianity, and nothing about Christianity which could be expected to make a rational person "happy."

But doing things which benefit others? Often that's a great thing. I act to make my wife happy, my family happy, my friends happy, with regularity. I do it because they enrich my life, and acting in that manner is completely selfish of me. Could I act for the benefit of strangers and thereby continue to act selfishly? It would depend on the context, but yes, it's possible. The appearance of "charity" does not answer the question of why I've acted in the manner I have -- the question of my motivation, and whether or not I am the primary beneficiary of my actions -- which is the only relevant question to ask with respect to selfishness versus altruism. If we'd like to discuss altruism here, that's well and good, but let's at least take care to understand what altruism is so that we can approach the topic honestly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Which means that Christians do not practice altruism, as they personally gain from helping others. I don't agree with you, by the way, that "it casts a shadow on the whole action" -- why do you think that?

Personally gain maybe in the short-term. But for what end is it going towards? Happiness in heaven. A place created by a deity, essentially a place a Christian tries to go to because all the cool kids are there. It's seeking a kind of approval that is other-oriented. To get into heaven, you must play by god's rules, do what he says, regardless of how your actions fit into your life.

There isn't a "one" kind of Christianity, there are many flavors of it, so whatever "really is" Christian is irrelevant. If you understand that psychological egoism is invalid, then it isn't too difficult to understand that whatever makes a person feel happy does not imply self-interest. Altruists may be able to feel happy - but at what cost?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I disagree. Rand's definition is not that wide. If you widen it as much as you suggest, then some of her protagonists could be said to be altruists. Well-known Objectivists could be said to be altruists, then, as they give up their time and resources to further a cause.

Okay, I understand now your level of Objectivist knowledge is cursory.

I suggest - if it interests you - starting with rational egoism (a la Objectivism), then work toward altruism (a la Objectivism). You can't comprehend one without the other.

Otherwise you will stay stuck arguing the one narrow concept of "Christian altruism", enlessly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with Altruism is that it uses the best in man against himself. Of course men derive pleasure from generosity and benevolence to others, but that isn't altruism.

In Objectivism:

Altruism = Self Sacrifice

Self Sacrifice = Suicide

Suicide = death.

On the other hand

Happiness = Life

Life = Self protection

Self Protection = Volition

Volition = Choice

And Choice is not allowed in dictatorships that have manipulated mans desire to be kind by calling it Altruism and in the name of Altruism they to come into absolute power. They don't hesitate to sacrifice entire nations. Altruism is their most powerful weapon.

So... to the extent that a man can be happy he is not currently killing himself. The defiance of Altruism is to protect the goodness in man that Altruism pretends and betrays.

Buddhism suggests to those who are unhappy, to just try to be happy settling for less. This notion may offer relief from the misery of sleeping on the dirt by saying at least it isn't a hill of fire ants, but it isn't real happiness. Why are they not allowed to want more from life? Why do communist governments depend on censorship? Because they condescendingly do not trust a man to think for himself.

Many of these old philosophies and religions were designed as a form of population control, when farming wasn't able to sustain human reproduction rates. Those who could not settle for less were despised by those who could. Those who could not conform to unlivable standards were picked off one by one by the mob.

“Is it really moral if you're just doing it for personal gain? You would just be using those who are in need.”

This is one reason altruists shun money as materialistic, and treat it as something corrupt and dirty, so they don't have to feel bad about taking it. Another reason is that if the owner of the money sees it as something bad he won't have such a problem giving it up.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Some of Rand's protagonists could be said to be altruists? Well-known Objectivists could be said to be altruists? How so?

If the definition of altruism is as broad as some here would have it, then John Galt's willingness to die to shield Dagny would be an act of altruism. Now, because I think the definition of altruism is a lot narrower, I don't think Galt was acting altruistically, but rather in accordance with his hierarchy of values: a life without Dagney is of little value to him.

As for "well-known Objectivists", I am thinking of Diana Hsieh working on a big paper against the personhood movement. She mentioned, in the process, that it took a lot of time and effort (time away from other projects) and so she would appreciate any financial contributions. Is that being altruistic? I don't think so -- she is sacrificing her time because it is of value to her. But if your definition of altruism is broad enough, her working on something to benefit others, that takes away from her own productive work, would appear to qualify.

The original question was, can altruists be happy? If you're using a very broad definition, then yes, many are, and the research shows that altruism leads to greater happiness. I don't think true altruists, using the narrower definition that was mentioned previously (quoting Rand) could be happy. I also don't think there are that many of them.

The difference between selfishness and altruism lies in this question: who ought to (primarily) benefit from an actor's actions? Selfishness answers "the actor." Altruism answers "others."

Again, unless we are using the same definition of altruism, then it's difficult to discuss this with any clarity. But, in a broader sense, if charity towards others rewards the actor with greater happiness, and if that actor is a Christian who believes that charity will be rewarded in heaven, then clearly it is beneficial to him first, and others secondarily. So why should that bother Objectivists so?

They start flagellating themselves, or they become anchorites. They perform self-mutilations, give up sex and food and money and even speech. They prostrate themselves, spiritually and physically, before the altar of an unknowable, terrible deity. To the extent that they're able to remain in society, they're all screwed up. They misinterpret science to try to salvage their bizarre cosmology and handicap their children's education to "keep them in the fold." This latter practice, which I've seen personally with Bible education upwards of three nights a week, is something akin to brainwashing. They turn their personal associations into opportunities to proselytize and witness and they anticipate with relish the "end times" when everyone supposedly less moral than themselves will be consigned to everlasting torment in the name of "goodness."

This is rather all quite dramatic, though I've never seen it (and I know a lot of serious Christians). But at any rate the same sorts of actions are quite visible in the non-religious -- athletes, for example, give up food and perform all kinds of mortifications that the rest of us wouldn't care to do, in order to achieve a goal which is valuable to them. From where I'm sitting, I can look out the window and see five of my neighbors' homes. All of them are Christian: three are Catholic, one is Methodist, and another is Lutheran. They are all fine, upstanding, intelligent people. They contribute to our little Midwestern town in a number of capacities. They all take their faith quite seriously, and yet haven't done any of the things you claim they do.

It cannot be practiced in full, as Christianity is too irrational and too internally inconsistent, but to the extent that it is practiced, Christianity is bound to bring people pain and ruin.

You're sounding a bit hysterical. Certainly one can think of happy, prosperous, productive Christians: C.S. Lewis, G.K Chesterton (both ex-atheists), Tolkien, etc. I can think of happy, prosperous, productive atheists. Having meaning and purpose in one's life is conducive to happiness and joy, and whether one has that through a devotion to Objectivism or a devotion to God -- so what? Why do you care so much?

A place created by a deity, essentially a place a Christian tries to go to because all the cool kids are there

Euiol, since you're plainly incapable of mature discussion (one without distorting the positions of those you disagree with), I won't be replying to your posts.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Euiol, since you're plainly incapable of mature discussion (one without distorting the positions of those you disagree with), I won't be replying to your posts.

What is distorted, exactly? I've always understood heaven to be a concept of a place you go to if you're good and followed morality as set by god. I used that comparison because it's a lot like getting into an exclusive clique if you follow some type of standard set by the leader of the clique. If heaven is sought for oneself, and if heaven is just understood to be a state of happiness, that's closer to the Buddhist concept of nirvana than anything. In which case I'd reply as I did before: something that feels good isn't necessarily in your self-interest. Egoism is about what the *best* possible life is for oneself, objectively speaking. Eudaimonia, in other words. (That's leaving aside whether heaven or nirvana is real in the first place)

The *feeling* of happiness isn't relevant at all. There are two ways to use the word happiness; a temporary state and a long-term state. Similar to the word depression; a temporary state and a long-term state. Feeling that things are going well doesn't mean they are going well; if happiness is the standard, ethics are just subjective. Maybe a person could plausibly reach a nice old age and be an altruist, but you'd have to ask what life they *could* have lived if they were consistently egoistic. The more consistently altruistic someone is, the worse the life would probably end up being.

Edited by Eiuol
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am paraphrasing a speech Ayn Rand made, sorry I don't remember the exact information, she was comparing Christianity to Fascism I think.

She said: "Christianity would have you love your neighbor as yourself, thats not quite right, but at least it doesn't forbid a man from loving himself." She was talking about Christianity as a milder state of altruism, and the significance of it is that you can't fight a strong altruism with a milder altruism.

I think the Modern American version of Christianity has been greatly influenced by the founding principles of this country. Modern American Christians are no longer burning witches for instance. Christianity has a tendency to absorb the cultures around it, as Christmas and Easter traditions such as the yule log and the Easter bunny have roots in pagan rituals. It may even eventually go so far as to claim God was speaking through Ayn Rand because that is how God intended us to experience this world otherwise he would have revealed himself to us. But, as I watched an evangelist recently they are already appropriating some of Rand's ideas without giving her credit.

I am seeing my own Christian upbringing as a kind of dream state, where nothing makes much sense, you can't be sure of anything, there are ups and downs, but no one seems to know why anything happens, and band-aids are the best they can do for the problems that keep reproducing themselves. Do the jobless people expect to become happy as they prey for the economy(they have no understanding of) to get better? Is a person really "Happy" when they are only dreaming of happiness? How many people who think they are happy have ever formed a solid definition of what happiness is, and know what effort is necessary to achieve it, and actually put that effort into practice?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...