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Posts Tagged ‘altruism’

How many times have you ever heard someone say that they want a love that is unconditional?  That love itself is selfless?  Has no strings attached?  No preconditions?  I say hogwash!

First off, most people that tell you this are generally people who are telling you what they ‘desire’ in a loving partner. The same people will tell you that love itself is a form of desire. Yet ‘desire’ is a form of want and want a matter of selfishness.

When someone is describing the ‘kind of love’ they desire (want) they are essentially telling you what their selfish desires are. Thus it is a bit odd when their ‘selfish’ desire is to find someone ‘selfless’.  Furthermore, when they describe such a partner, it is generally implied that they have the full intention of offering the same kind of ‘un-conditional’ love in return.

Emotions

Love is of course an emotion. I was a big fan of Leo Buscaglia growing up for a number of reasons. He used to host various television shows and series on the topic of love as well as published a number of books on the subject which I read. Buscaglia described love as a ‘learned’ emotion and discouraged people from using terms such as ‘falling in’ and ‘out’ of love. In fact, he often went on to describe most if not all emotions as being ‘learned behaviors’ and I share this way of thinking.

Consider this. Our minds are rather complex mechanisms that process various stimuli and information on a number of different levels. As we go through our lives our minds create concepts to allow us to sort through the various individual and combined sensory data that our various sensory organs collect for us. For more complex combinations of multiple concepts, our minds will create an amalgam as a new concept. For example when we see a fist sized white leather ball with red stitching we think ‘baseball‘ rather than ‘fist sized white leather ball with red stitching‘.

In our early years we are taught many concepts before we can attach words to those concepts and many of these concepts are the fundamental building blocks on which the rest of our lives will act out. Various schools of psychology place a great deal of emphasis on this early development as key factors in the formation of our personalities and traits. Many of our concepts for emotions are formed at this time in the manner of the way a foundation is formed under a house, and we build upon those concepts over our lives.  But how often do we stop to look at what that foundation is actually made of?

Emotions themselves are learned behaviors and responses, often quite complex combinations of multiple multiple sensory data that relates to either past experiences (concept formation) or to notions we have formed through our process of learning (fantasy scenarios).  If you are told over and over and over again that Love is a magical feeling and is some kind of mystical state of bliss, if you hear or see many stories told in books and movies about fantasy love scenarios that make you feel good (remind you of past experiences or fantasies) you will incorporate those into your fuzzy-wuzzy feel good conceptualization of ‘love’.

Then when you meet someone who’s behaviors and interactions inspires enough of those many many combined concepts that helped you build your notion of love combined with your own excitement, or apprehension, nervousness, shyness, sexual arousal or other factors – woah, it feels like those concepts your brain pieced together over the years! This must be love!!!

You so want love to be ‘magical’, like you have been told over and over and over again, that you don’t stop to realize you have been hyperventilating and your adrenaline is spiking as you are trying to work up the nerve to ask that cute girl for a kiss.  You conform to your concept and believe it to be ‘real’ magic.

Love is a Concept

When in fact you step back and look at all the various factors of what you both believe and think are parts of what love actually ‘is’, if you are honest enough with yourself and thorough enough in the integrity of your reduction of the concept as you know it, you will find that in fact it is based on real factors.  Factors that are for the most part based on things that you consider of benefit to you, but in some cases that you were either convinced were something they aren’t or that may even be irrational in nature.

So if love is just another amalgam of multiple concepts, then you can not only rationally approach the concept but you can strive to both control it and seek to maximize it.  As an ethical egoist, my suggestion of course is to optimize it rationally to your maximum benefit.

So is Love really Un-Conditional?

As I described above, most people that describe love as unconditional ‘seek’ out that form of love.  i.e. they desire it.  They place as a condition, the pre-requisite that the person they seek shares their (flawed) view on what love is.  And upon doing so, they do so by way of selfish reasoning!  The sad part is, that means they are half way there – but they never quite make it the rest of the way.

The truth is that none of us would really ‘want’ a ‘selfless’ love or for someone to love us ‘unconditionally’. For someone to do so absolutely without condition it would mean they gain no individual benefit from doing what is considered ‘loving behavior’ whatsoever.  Just stop and think what this really means:

  • They are not with you because they ‘want’ to be with you, but out of a sense of duty to their concept of what ‘love’ is.
  • They don’t do things for you because they desire you to be happy, but because they feel obliged to do it.
  • They cannot have any pre-conceived notions at all of what ‘they’ think is right or even what ‘you’ think is right. For you to ‘want’ is just as ‘conditional’ as for them

Does it sound a bit robotic?  A tad idiotic?  It’s being mutual slaves out of obligation to self-sacrifice. It makes you ponder that the ultimate ‘unconditional love’ is a suicide pact.  Who wants that?

As for me, I ‘want’ a selfish lover. And I seek to be a selfish lover. When I am with someone, I desire someone that I ‘want’ to be with and take great ‘joy’ in being with them – and them with me.  I selfishly crave a partner that greedily craves my company. I willfully desire to offer of myself to them in exchange for their offering of themselves to me.  I want them to be happy, because it brings me joy for them to be that way. And I fully expect them to meet my pre-condition of seeing love the same way.

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(originally posted to Facebook on Friday, November 26, 2010)

I figured having a reference for all the ‘socialistic’ altruism in the bible might be useful.  I’ll add more as I come across them.

Old testament

Exodus 22:25
“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.”

Leviticus 23:22
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not make clean riddance of the corners of your field when you reap, neither shall you gather any gleaning of your harvest: you shall leave them to the poor, and to the stranger.”

Leviticus 25:25
“If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.”

Leviticus 25:35-37
“If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.  Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you.  You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.”

Deuteronomy 15:1
“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.”

Deuteronomy 15:7-8
“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.”

Deuteronomy 15:11
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”

Deuteronomy 23:24-25 *
“If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket.”

   * I need to remember this one next time I’m at a devout Christians house – the fridge is free game baby!

New Testament

Matthew 5:42
Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Matthew 6:2,3
Jesus said, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do… when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Matthew 19:21-24 (also Mark 10:21-25, Luke 18:22-25)
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 14:13,14
Jesus said, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Acts 2:44-45
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”

Acts 4:32-35
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

1 Timothy 6:17-18
Paul says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

2 Corinthians 8:13-14
Paul says, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Paul says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

That last one is a cute one.  ‘not reluctantly or under compulsion.’ And what’s the alternative under Christianity?  BURN IN A FLAMING HELL FOREVER!!!!  Translation:  “God loves blind obedience.”

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Originally posted to Facebook Notes

I have always had a problem with militant environmentalism. Especially when such extreme activism is nothing more than a facade for anti-industrialism or anti-capitalist socialism. But there is something more fundamental in those words that I have a problem with. This involves two preconceptions that those words represent.

The first preconception is that the ‘world needs saving’.

I have no doubt that there are areas of the world could use some help. I have seen for myself, as well as volunteered for, many projects dedicated to improving environmental conditions in various places around my community. Whether it be the River Rouge clean up, Paint Creek revitalization or building trout structures on the Ausable river. But the whole world???

Part of this stems from the limited capacity of the human mind as well as the arrogance of the human ego. The arrogance itself is also two fold. One part being the arrogance to assume that we, as a civilization that has existed in an industrialized state for less than 2 centuries can ‘screw up’ something that has been self-maintaining for 3.5 BILLION years. The second being, that if the entire world was in trouble, that we, as a civilization could do anything to stop it.

This does not mean that we can’t screw up small portions of it or that we shouldn’t try to clean up those parts we screw up. But this also does not equate to ‘saving the world’.

The second preconception is more subtle, but as a result, more insidious. Pure and simple, it begs the question that ‘if’ the world does need saving, it needs saving from whom? In short, the words are anti-humanistic. The only possible subject in that statement is to ‘save the world’ – from guess who – us!

As a result, I am highly suspect and critical of any group that asks me to ‘save the world’

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I tend to be political. When I am involved in politics, if forced to pick a ‘category’ for my politics, I most closely identify with libertarianism. But more often than not, I tend to find that my political action tend to entail fighting a similar sounding word – liberalism.
Mind you, I am one of the few in this world that still remember the difference between a Roosevelt democrat and a modern liberal. In short, I tend to associate the modern liberal with the philosophies of Moore (Thomas, not Roger) and more specifically, Marx. Therefore it comes of no surprise to me that collectivist and populist groups such as minority ‘rights’ collective movements or organized labor traditionally support or at least provide a voter base for the ‘modern liberal’ politician.
At the same time, I tend to hold an atheistic agnostic view of mysticism in general. Thus it often begs the question why I am more often willing to support a republican candidate ahead of a democratic (read: liberal) one when many republicans express an open inspiration from predominantly Christian belief systems and backgrounds. Upon thinking further on this subject I first looked at the similarities and then at the differences.

I tend to be leery of any organized movement that relies upon ‘belief’ to support their core objectives. Both religion and modern liberalism – mind you I am using that term synonymous with what could best be described as ‘softened’ collectivism – rely on belief in their ideal to support their motives and therefore their respective agendas. No biggie I suppose … just about any movement or even philosophy has behind it an idealistic goal that is as of yet unrealized and therefore requires some level of ‘belief’ that should it be realized (or at least sufficiently advanced) then the results will speak for themselves.
However, many such ideal do become at least somewhat realized and as of yet, the ideals of both parties (pun intended) have not spoken very strongly in support of their claims of what ‘should’ be expected by their realization. (at this point I could go into greater details of failed socialist or communist states or point to the horrors of time periods seen over by christian or other religious zealots – but I’m sure most are aware of enough of them to avoid the redundancy)

So what are the similarities?
Taking each onto themselves we can start with religion: a belief in an omnipotent being responsible for creating everything and somehow ever present in the events of the world. You can’t see it, you can’t question it, you must simply have faith in it. You are asked to sacrifice to your fellow man and to take your suffering as your award awaits you in the hereafter and while here the good lord will provide for his faithful. – to do otherwise is heresy, blasphemy and sin.

Then there is statism: a belief in a utopian society where the state is responsible for owning and distributing all that is created and all that is needed. You should not question it, and it does require a faith that those involved within it are upholding that same utopian ideal; From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. The state does ask you sacrifice (the first part) but also offers you assistance – dare we say to the ‘faithful’? To do otherwise is a crime against the state akin to treason.

Both ask of the individual selflessness and require duty to the whole. Both provide something somewhat intangible greater than one’s self for which they are to provide this sacrifice; for one the ‘state’ and the other the ‘almighty’.

So why then does statism bother me more than mysticism? It’s interesting now that I have stepped outside the blind ‘faith’ style of the Christians I find around me to look at many so-called ‘modern’ religions and to examine their ceremonies, rituals and methods of worship, to read in history how these developed to what they are today and to look also at how many christians (or other religions, but mind you were are talking about christians in the present) have looked upon other beliefs with their own rituals as ‘primitive’ or ‘superstitious’ – even barbaric in nature. As the tenor sings a can’t in the back and a man in a fancy robe with a pointy hat waves around his little ball of incense on a chain before offering his followers the symbolic flesh and blood of their savior I can’t help but stifle a chuckle at the hypocrisy.

But then where is God? (big ‘G’) I looked for him at many points in my life before coming to my current doubters perspective – believe me! (again, pun intended) God (big ‘G’) is this invisible man whom most say lives in the sky, he is all around us, he is responsible for everything, knows everything, sees everything. Yet no one can really prove he’s there to a reasoning individual with any level of certainty – at least one that does not also require a leap of faith.

So where is the state? The state ‘is’ all around us! Anyone that understands the least bit about causality knows that although they can – for the most part – control their own behavior, decisions and how they react to the consequences, the same cannot be said for the man (or woman) standing next to you.
As long as there are two or more people in a situation, each with their own needs, wants and desires, you will need some construct of ‘rules’ to govern their interactions with each other and with those things around them that they might need, want or desire. This would be nice and peachy in that idealistic (yet all too often unrealized) existence where everyone followed the rules all the time – but of course we know better.
Then comes the need for enforcement of the rules – enforcement that does not adversely support the needs, wants and desires of one individual over that of another. The combination of these rules and the enforcement of same sooner or later shows up as government and can be eventually found synonymous with ‘the state’.
So, therefore (using a little deductive reasoning here) as long as there are two more more people in a situation, each with their own needs wants and desires – the emergence of a governing entity that could be dubbed ‘the state’ is pretty much an inevitability.

In short? A lot of people believe in a god. A lot more believe in some type of statism. But the state is the only one that we can readily demonstrate having an immediate and incontrovertible effect upon our daily lives.

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