Why is "what's best for everyone" better than "what's only best for me (and my friends / family)"?

Does it need explaining or justifying at all? 

Views: 870

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

So, what you are proposing is a social change as well as an analysis of decision making: a world without morality or ethics (both of which would have to go because of the scorn and shame thing).

At any rate, your system is still a big tautology and it is based upon assumptions most of us won't make.

What do you see as assumptions?

Could that be due to potentially not knowing what is substantiated already in psychology?

What is the exact nature of the tautology here? And what are the assumptions? Without that I can't know what you are even objecting to.

Oh and right and wrong can still be there. Not good and bad, but right and wrong for sure.  They are tied to having more or less accurate values.  Tapping into the idea that accuracy is the underlying purpose of values and subsequently choice which we all know is based on weighing values, we can now understand that it is appropriate we value accuracy as it is the end of all means relating to choice.

Now we get back full circle, and you understand why I say that there is a difference between right and good though.  And now you understand what I was saying earlier about shame and scorn.

You don't have to believe my hypothesis, but at least you understand what I meant when we started this discussion.  That is really what I was going for.

Unseen if choice is measurement, then humans value accuracy above all else.  If so, at the core of measurement, accuracy can then be nothing other than the purpose of it. 

This is an assumption and it's one of those assumptions most of us won't agree to. So, your "if" remains an if and your theory is a huge contingency.

What part is the assumption?  If it is "humans value accuracy above all else", that part was just poorly worded.

The hypothesis wouldn't rest on what we value as that varies from person to person.

Cognitive behaviorism has substantiated that values are determined through the perceptions.  It is also understood that values are drawn from the identifiable properties of things...  I just don't understand what you are objecting to as an assumption beyond things that wouldn't make or break the hypothesis.

From   Does it pay to be nice? – the maths of altruism part i


Direct reciprocity

"If I cooperated last time, you will cooperate this time with probability p.
If I defected last time, you will cooperate this time with probability q. ...

What remained was Generous Tit-for-tat, a more cooperative strategy that incorporated an idea of forgiveness. "In this strategy if you cooperated last time then I will definitely cooperate this time, so p=1. And if you defected last time I will still cooperate with a certain probability. So I will always cooperate if you cooperate, and I sometimes cooperate even if you defect, and that is forgiveness." This probability of forgiveness was just the probability q in each strategy. The most successful strategy to emerge from the tournament had p=1 and q=1/3. ...

This was a dramatic difference to Axelrod’s old tournaments where Tit-for-tat reigned supreme. Even more surprising was that the system carried on evolving, the society becoming more and more cooperative, more and more lenient, until it was dominated by players who always cooperated. "And once you have a society of Always Cooperate it invites the invasion of Always Defect," says Nowak. All it takes is a few mutations in the strategies as they reproduce and the whole cycle will start again. ...

"It is very beautiful because you have these cycles of cooperation and defection." Nowak's first observations in the field have since been confirmed by many other studies over the years: cooperation is never fully stable. "So we have a simple mathematical version of oscillations in human history, where you have cooperation for some time, then it is destroyed, then it is rebuilt, and so on." "

Indirect reciprocity and Reputation

"... our assessment of a player's reputation is a number, r, which we set to zero until we observe them playing the game. ...

 A more complex social norm might have a player's reputation increase (or decrease) only if we see them help (or not help) players with reputations larger than a certain value. ...

... my strategy might be to only help those recipients whose reputation I judge to have at least some value, k (so I would help someone if their reputation r≥k). ...

... the most successful, in terms of how long they remained dominant in the population, were those strategies that behaved cooperatively and discriminated on the basis of their opponents' reputation, that is, those with k≤0."

This is all a bit difficult and fruitless until I unveil the central idea.  I'm hoping it will all make sense then. This will take a few months, after I've filled in the rest of the pieces.  What I'm working on at the moment is "reasons to be good".  I believe that we all know from experience that it's better to be "good".  We just need to analyze the reasons why this is so.  We can describe the neurological basis of empathy, for example, but this doesn't justify empathy, it just says that evolution says we should be empathic.  However, it does somehow back up the argument.  It says that empathy is there for a reason. 

I heard this exchange in an ethics course I took:

Prof: You have a question?

Student: Yes, WHY should we do what's good?

Prof: Because there's nothing better to do.

WHERE does evolution say we should be empathic? Evolution progresses based on death!

RE: "Evolution progresses based on death!"

Evolution progresses on surviving death, to pass on your survival traits to your progeny.

"WHERE does evolution say we should be empathic?"

Unseen  -  that's a very good question, and it's kind of what I'm working on now. 

Short answer: empathy has evolved, therefore evolution says we should be empathic.  Perhaps this is just a version of the naturalistic fallacy - that what is natural is good. 

A more relevant question would be, why did it evolve? 

Social animals are exquisitely tuned to what their fellow animals are doing and feeling.  This makes good sense for social animals since they rely on the other members of their herd / flock / tribe to sense danger, for example. 

Mirror neurons have been discovered, so far, in the brains of humans, monkeys, birds and whales.  The function of these is to mimic within the brain of a subject, what another member of its group is doing or feeling.  For example, if a monkey watches me pick up a piece of food with my hand, then in that monkey's brain, the part that controls picking up food with its hand will fire in response.  The monkey's brain mirrors what the monkey is watching me do. 

It has been observed among animals and humans that emotional states appear to be contagious. 

As I currently understand it, from my scanty research, it is believed that generalized (ie. towards non-kin) compassion and empathy started life as the parent-child bond.  Because of group dynamics, it was found advantageous to spread this behaviour to include non-related individuals as part of a strategy of cooperation. 

It is increasingly becoming clear that cooperation is a successful strategy for social animals to use.  It is also believed that cooperation is in fact fundamental to the success of life on planet Earth. 

All sort of "things that have evolved" have fallen by the wayside. Simply because some creatures feel empathy doesn't necessarily give it survival value. Feeling empathy can certainly be dysfunctional. Feeling empathy toward someone incapable of empathy seems like a bad strategy.

To be sure, cooperation is functional among a group with similar interests in working toward a shared goal. Without the commonality of interests and goals, there's no reason to suppose it's much more than a waste of energy and time.

"All sort of "things that have evolved" have fallen by the wayside."

But empathy is still very much with us, hard-wired into our brains, and widespread among social mammals at least.  Therefore it would appear still to be useful.  

"Feeling empathy can certainly be dysfunctional. Feeling empathy toward someone incapable of empathy seems like a bad strategy."

Yes, this is a good point.  Nature isn't "perfect".  We can do destructive things based on creative impulses.  However, "someone incapable of empathy" - eg. a psychopath, for example, is a statistical outlier, there is something wrong with this person, they are very far from normal.  This kind of person is a special case.  There are also autistic people.  Certainly, if you have an autistic child, it is a good strategy to feel empathy for this child so that you can take care of him/her.  The reason it is called "good" is that, as Richard Dawkins points out, we have a biological imperative to care for our offspring because they carry our genes.  

Most people who appear not to show empathy are just grumpy.  In reality, empathy happens in our brains whether we like it or not.  Apart from psychopaths and autistic people: a person who appears not to show empathy is a person with emotional problems.  If you know what to look for, you can read them like a book, and will understand their problems and be able to unlock their humanity.  

It seems that the ability to empathize is strongly influenced by a person's experiences in life.  This would make sense, and I personally have found that this is true.  How can our mirror neurons fire in sympathy if we don't recognize anything to sympathize with?  After we do recognize it, our mirror neurons light up like a Christmas tree.  

Short answer:  empathy fosters cooperation, and cooperation helps us to survive.  

"...a group with similar interests in working toward a shared goal."

Presumably, individual survival. 


© 2015   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service