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Stance on egoism (rational/ethical) vs. altruism?

0 votes
Do you think altruism is possible? If it's not, and everything everybody does revolves around self-interest (i.e. what they will get out of it), then why not choose Ayn Rand's Objectivism (I fucking hate it and her with a burning passion) and laissez-faire capitalism (equally hated)? As according to egoist thought, it's unethical/immoral to put others before the self. The way it is argued seems to make it impossible to disprove or even deny. Thoughts on this?
asked Feb 11, 2012 by Vindico Vaco (1,300 points)
your question isn't taking into an account other egoisms that exist, especially Stirner's egoism, which is quite different that Rand's. You are right to say that Rand's stance was that it is unethical/immoral to be altruistic or do anything altruistic, but ethics and morality would be of no concern to Stirner in deciding what sort of action to take. So Stirner's stance would be that one could do something altruistic if they wanted to, or they could do something non-altruistic instead, it all comes down to what that individual decides to do and this decision is made with no consideration of what is considered "good" or "bad", "Moral"or "immoral", "ethical" or "unethical", etc.

3 Answers

+4 votes
Lets leave aside philosophy for a moment and go to the behaviour of animals and humans. Science have shown that animals and humans both engage in war and collaborate. Peter Kropotkin in his book "Mutual Aid: A factor of Evolution" http://www.theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Petr_Kropotkin__Mutual_Aid__A_Factor_of_Evolution.html showed that the not so visible side of success in species survival is collaboration inside the species against others or in mere self-survival.

Egoism can be said to be the direct logical linguistic opposite of altruism yet like every binary operation it is not that simple. Max Stirner himself said: "Who, then, is “self-sacrificing?”[Literally, “sacrificing”; the German word has not the prefix “self.”] In the full sense, surely, he who ventures everything else for one thing, one object, one will, one passion. Is not the lover self-sacrificing who forsakes father and mother, endures all dangers and privations, to reach his goal? Or the ambitious man, who offers up all his desires, wishes, and satisfactions to the single passion, or the avaricious man who denies himself everything to gather treasures, or the pleasure-seeker, etc.? He is ruled by a passion to which he brings the rest as sacrifices.

And are these self-sacrificing people perchance not selfish, not egoist? As they have only one ruling passion, so they provide for only one satisfaction, but for this the more strenuously, they are wholly absorbed in it. Their entire activity is egoistic, but it is a one-sided, unopened, narrow egoism; it is possessedness."

So one can be egoistic and also be altruistic at the same time if this things outside me is of my love or desire. It is clear "egoism" and "self interest" is involved here but of course it is also altruistic. And so for example gift economies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy) could be superficially identified and mostly altruistic relationships but this is not exactly the case. Anarchist antropologist David Graeber when speaking about french antropologist Marcel Mauss says:

"Instead, what anthropologists were discovering were societies where economic life was based on utterly different principles, and most objects moved back and forth as gifts and almost everything we would call “economic” behavior was based on a pretense of pure generosity and a refusal to calculate exactly who had given what to whom. Such “gift economies” could on occasion become highly competitive, but when they did it was in exactly the opposite way from our own: Instead of vying to see who could accumulate the most, the winners were the ones who managed to give the most away. In some notorious cases, such as the Kwakiutl of British Columbia, this could lead to dramatic contests of liberality, where ambitious chiefs would try to outdo one another by distributing thousands of silver bracelets, Hudson Bay blankets or Singer sewing machines, and even by destroying wealth sinking famous heirlooms in the ocean, or setting huge piles of wealth on fire and daring their rivals to do the same...In gift economies, Mauss argued, exchanges do not have the impersonal qualities of the capitalist marketplace: In fact, even when objects of great value change hands, what really matters is the relations between the people; exchange is about creating friendships, or working out rivalries, or obligations, and only incidentally about moving around valuable goods. As a result everything becomes personally charged, even property: In gift economies, the most famous objects of wealth heirloom necklaces, weapons, feather cloaks always seem to develop personalities of their own."

David Graeber. "Give It Away" http://www.theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/David_Graeber__Give_It_Away.html

So gift economies include motivations that don´t appear out of something similar to "christian love" but of other "egoistic" tendencies such as the desire of prestige and recognition as well as keeping good relations with those who can help me in the future.

Hakim Bey thus establishes this bridge in this way:

"The essence of the party: face-to-face, a group of humans synergize their efforts to realize mutual desires, whether for good food and cheer, dance, conversation, the arts of life; perhaps even for erotic pleasure, or to create a communal artwork, or to attain the very transport of bliss — in short, a “union of egoists” (as Stirner put it) in its simplest form — or else, in Kropotkin's terms, a basic biological drive to “mutual aid.” (Here we should also mention Bataille's “economy of excess” and his theory of potlatch culture.) "

So a union of egoists is a form of mutual aid. Mutual Aid is not the same as "christian love". Mutual aid is something done in the self-interest of both sides.
answered Feb 12, 2012 by iconoclast (3,250 points)
+1 vote
I am not satisfied with the paradoxical assumptions of subjectivity that support the concept of altruism. But, I am also not satisfied with a constrained concept of subjectivity/self/ego/"I" (from now on just "ego"). This is all tied up in the way that I understand subjectivity to begin with. That what we recognize as the ego is an expression of complicated cognitive processes which make it possible for the boundaries of ego to fluctuate: that the ego is capable of identifying with, appropriating, connecting, or otherwise expanding to include other minds, bodies, objects, and images. From the studies in developmental psychology that I've read, it appears that the ego shrinks through development as theory of mind develops, as a sense of self recedes from an undifferentiated identification with all that is perceived. And from other studies of subjectivity the ego appears capable of redefining its boundaries to various extents: whether as a transcendental experience, a psychotic break, consummate love (sometimes), empathy, and/or less powerful experiences of identification with others.

So, if the ego is more of this sort of concept, then egoism is also less bound. If my sense of self can expand to include you (or at the very least, my self-image and the image of you are intricately bound up with each other), then my behavior is no longer towards you... but towards myself. At the same time, if my sense of self doesn't expand to include you and I regard you as an other, I would enter into a self-other relationship and be more or less considerate. I could reason that my self-interests include the happiness of those around me and wind up with an 'enlightened self-interest' or I could reason that it's better to be calloused towards the conditions of others and wind up with a ethic like Ayn Rands.

If the ego is fairly amorphous and an ethics rooted in a static ego is embraced, is that being true to the ego? Even worse, if the ego is the expression of more fundamental psychological patterns that use it for their unknown fulfillment... is it really the ego that can be the grounds for an ethics? What if ego and environment are so intricately entangled that it would make more sense to comprehend them as shades of a common experience and not actually separate beings?

Why not choose Ayn Rand's Objectivism? who the fuck wants to live in a world filled with miserable people?

Why put others before the self? interdependence... my existence depends upon some others to such an extent that there is no clean cut in our reciprocal relations.

Is altruism possible? only to the extent that it includes the ego, even if that inclusion is through some sort of identification.
answered Feb 13, 2012 by Squee (2,470 points)
–1 vote
The two points are actually in harmony with each other.  The standard of life is each person is strongly influenced by those around.  Does a person want electric power to their house.  It is easier and better use of material and labor if others also get power around that person.   Not saying it is needed but by raising the standards of others has quicker and better long term effects for everyone.

On a more primitive level, if a person want waters directed to their home, or they want a clearing to your castle or they want a wall to protect their family and crops; it is in their best interests to consider that the mutual benefit of all, allows them to have everything they want faster and also for all of those to be better maintained.  Mutual good benefits everyone faster than what they could achieve on their own.   We could to multiply the two approached by 2 years, 10 years, and 100 years and the difference would be that of two separate ages.
answered Jun 2, 2012 by afunctionalworld (2,070 points)
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