I’m about to broach a subject that seems very simple to me, but has caused at least 50% of the strenuous philosophical discussions I’ve ever had. To a large degree where you stand on this simple yet divisive matter has an effect on all of your beliefs. The subject is altruism and whether or not humans are even truly capable of selfless acts.
If you’re like me and most of my friends you spent a large portion of my childhood attending church. In church one of the sermon topics was frequently sacrifice (not surprising since christianity is based human sacrifice). Sacrifice is a foundational principle of christianity.
You hear parents all the time talking about the sacrifices they make for their children. A sacrifice is exchanging something you have for no return on investment. Liquidating a resource and receiving nothing or something of inconsequential value in exchange.
This is where people are going to start claiming I’m seeking to devalue “sacrifices” made by others, nothing is further from the truth. Rather than trying to convince you to see a different thing I’m going to show you that sacrifice is literally impossible because it breaks the risk/reward paradigm.
The following is a quote from : The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism by Ayn Rand.
“The ethics of altruism has created the image of the brute, as its answer, in order to make men accept two inhuman tenets: (a) that any concern with one’s own interests is evil, regardless of what these interests might be, and (b) that the brute’s activities are in fact to one’s own interest (which altruism enjoins man to renounce for the sake of his neighbors). For a view of the”
― Ayn Rand,
Alt-rightsters will be very confused. They love Ayn Rand. They seem to think that her work is conservative oriented, and to a degree it is.
I’m going to make one more point before I expand the picture to illustrate it more effectively.
Sane people engage in the behavior that gets them the most behavioral profit. The word profit in that sentence is not monetary. Think of it as profit in a quid pro quo model.
The headline of this article comes from a long dead commercial that was was used by the opponents of a casino gambling and lottery referendum before the Arkansas people. To sum it up quickly it shows a wild eyed addicted gambler shooting craps, he’s drenched in sweat, tie askew, and as he attempts to make his point he yells “come on! baby needs a new pair of shoes” and rolls a 7 and craps out. A hard edit later he’s unlocking the front door of his home only to have his weeping wife carrying his screaming, crying, barefoot child meet him at the door and say “where have you been? have you got the money Bill? Baby needs a new pair of shoes!”
Bill wasn’t shooting craps to earn shoe money for the toddler. He was shooting craps because it gave him an endorphin rush to his reward center. That’s behavioral profit.
If a mother goes without those cute red fuck me pumps to buy her son new sneakers it was because she got an endorphin rush from taking an action that from her perspective makes her a good parent, shows that her adulting skills are on point. That’s a profit.
When evaluating new things with a new set of tools there are always surprises but regarding the egoist paradigm I’ve never seen an act that appeared altruistic remain altruistic after analysis via this model.
Revolutionaries quite often give up their whole pre-activism lives, home, cars, spouses in favor of a chance at improving society. Not altruistic. The endorphins in this case come from asserting one’s self in revolutionary acts that are intended to change society for the better
Go forth in to the world and bring me examples and we’ll pick them apart.