The Way to Be Happy is to Make Others Happy - "discuss"

What do you think? 

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Actually, I think you're a perfect gentleman, and I'm not kissing your arse when I say that.

Well, I wouldn't exactly go THAT far, but I'm glad I've left that misimpression. On a subject as ambiguous as altruism, I simply wanted to explore both sides of the coin.

Well, that's exactly what I want.
& would it hurt you to go for a walk once in a while? :-p

I could certainly use the exercise - I'm about 28 pounds above my old high school weight, and I'm practically starving myself to get back there.

James - ah, the thing is, at the moment they really do have a point. We have no pat answers, and that is what we need, and what I'm very close to providing. I'm actually going to turn to the Christians in order to sort out the finer points, because ours is simply an atheist version of theirs. I have the basic thing but not the finer points.

Here's my pompous pontificating essay for today (ie. the long version of what I've just said):


But there's more to it than self-interest. It's still something of a riddle.

Self-interest plays a big part, and that's fine.

Our brains light up in a very nice way when we are altruistic. As it says in "Wild Justice" somewhere, pleasure is nature's way of telling us we are doing something which is somehow advantageous.

We feel good when we are altruistic. (But we can feel good when we are bad, too.)

However we don't always behave altruistically in order to make ourselves feel good. On some occasions, we do it just for the other person, perhaps a stranger. Our feelings or personal advantage can be irrelevant to us. I believe this is the behaviour which Christians want us to justify and promote rationally.

We have

MOTIVATION
&
SANCTION

The sanction part is easy. What motivates the motivation? Actually, you could probably say that the motivation and sanction are related.

The motivation comes from the effects of evolution which are now hard-wired into our brains. Etc etc etc. It's one thing to talk about why it evolved, it's another to justify it now in rational terms.

From "Wild Justice": "The evolution of morality, including unselfish behavior, is perfectly consistent with theories of "selfish genes". We just need to remember that explanations about why a behavior evolved and what makes an animal exhibit that behavior right now are distinct."

Even that's not enough for us. We need some kind of rational, "higher" reasons why we should do it. Ultimate reasons. Transcendent reasons.

OK so I believe I've come across those ultimate, dare I say transcendent, reasons - reasons which are as good as those of the Christians', and, in fact, the same as theirs. It is going to have to wait until later, before I come out with these. I hate to be a tool, but if I'm right then they are hot property and they need to be launched in the right way. Without the right way they could cause a lot of damage in the world - by kicking the legs out from under religion. Plus, I suppose, I want to be the one to come out with the fancy website. Probably though I'm full of crap. I ran them past a well-known philosopher and she said she liked the idea and was intrigued, so perhaps they are good.

All of this is not because I'm particularly clever or good but because I've had a freakishly unusual life, coupled with the leisure time and resources (thank you, Incapacity Benefit) to think about it all, coupled with meeting the right people (thank you --- ---). If I come across the same idea earlier on then I suppose I'll be forced to give up the project in its present form.

What I am going to do next is go to the different religions (where I live, they are all well-represented) and ask them for what they've been banging on about for 2000 years plus about X, Y, Z spiritual issues which have popped out of this framework in the course of my thinking. Atheists will be very surprised about how right and how wise the religions really are. We will never call them stupid again after this. That's disgraceful anyway, and just shows up our own ignorance and shallowness. Compared to them, atheists in general come across like a bunch of 14-year-old boys who live in their bedrooms. We pitifully lack the spiritual dimension which is the stock in trade of religion, and it makes us look like idiots, when we are always braying about how superior we are. As for Richard Dawkins - well, someone who's married to Lalla Ward can't be all bad.

So yes, I believe we can say with certainty that to behave altruistically will cause our brains to give us a little shot of oxytocin or some other happy chemical. But "feeling good" is in no way a reliable guide to what is moral. We need some other principle that is reliable. Christians already have theirs: we can explain that same principle in our own robust terms.

I'm interested. The only acceptable "rule" I've felt able to endorse is like a hybrid of the golden rule, and libertarianism.

No man-made idealism will ever be perfect. It's probably safe to say that no idealism will ever be perfect, since they're all man-made. So our calculations wrt how to behave in ways that are "best for humanity" will always be complicated and dynamic, depending on current circumstances and opinions.

With all due respect, Simon, and I DO respect you, RE: "However we don't always behave altruistically in order to make ourselves feel good. On some occasions, we do it just for the other person, perhaps a stranger. Our feelings or personal advantage can be irrelevant to us."

I still maintain, as I did before in a comment, I believe, to Unseen, this behavior falls under the "What A Good Boy Am I," as per Eric Berne's Games People Play. ("What A Good Boy Am I" is my own invention, premised on Berne's games, which, I maintain explains soldiers falling on grenades, etc.)

Falling on a grenade for a "payoff" of just a couple seconds? That doesn't pass the giggle test.

Who calculates how long a payoff will last? I mean, besides you --

Apparently you do, too.

How do you figure? Other than counting on your fingers and toes, that is --

I figure because you seem to think that the seconds between seeing the grenade and taking the explosion is sufficient time to enjoy the psychological reward.

Or is there another way or reckoning it?

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