Monday, October 26, 2009

Altruism, A Few More Comments

Storm Jingram requested that I expound on my criticism of Altruism in my last post.

Inherent to calling any act an "altruistic" one, is the belief that the act has no value to the actor. It is easy to conceive that many "atruistic" acts are indirectly beneficial, such as building a good reputation or interpersonal trust, but I've helped people out before in secret and still felt a rush of joy. Our minds may simply be hardwired to enjoy simple acts of kindness.

The problem with Altruism and other forms of morality is that there is an implicit compulsion to do those acts. It's not that you simply enjoy doing them, it's that you MUST do them if you are to be a "good" person. People will cast shame on people who don't practice "altruism". Isn't it a little ironic to use manipulation to coerce acts that produce happiness? This compulsion, this guilt, drains the joy out of the act. In the end, we are left with less kindness and less joy.

Replace "You Must" with "You Can" and it will make all the difference.


Storm Jingram said...

OK,I think I understand. What you are saying in another way is that large controlling institutions will use the holding of "self sacrifice" as a primary value as a way to control people and get them to be subserviant. Altruism is the opposite of individualism, and altruism, under your definition (which I agree with) would say that if you do a "good deed" without sacrificing (that is you enjoyed it or got some good out of it) than it is not true self sacrifice and "doesn't count." Under this definition, altruism is an evil concept, at least at its root, and I do not disagree. Thanks for the clarification.

Brian Shelley said...

I don't think it takes a "large controlling institution," but it is a method of manipulation.

--You don't enjoy what I'm telling you to do? You're not supposed to feel good. Clearly you're still too selfish.--

In its extreme form is does seem a little cultish.