This is to continue the discussion of Objectivism from the front page. Some basic info:
Among her writings are The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, both of which have been turned into feature films.
Despite her atheism, Rand is popular among Tea Party conservatives because of her anti-tax stance.
Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan was a personal friend of Rand.
Ok . . .lets keep our definitions traditional then.
Substitute selfishness for "enlightened self interest." This is the basic premise of how human social relations work. We generally do things for others because we get something out of it. The mother gets to see her genes passed down the line . . .her genetic legacy is protected . . . I care for and protect my family because I love them and I feel intrinsically rewarded when I do so.
You would be hard pressed to find anybody who ever did anything out of a sense of complete self abnegation. Even soldiers who give their lives do so because they are devoted to the mission and want it to succeed. Religious nuts flagellate themselves because they get some sort of twisted satisfaction out of it.
The basic premise I was trying to make is that if I don't take care of myself I won't be able to take care of anybody else either. Hence the common sense rules that a parent put on their 02 mask first in an airplane. I live so that my family and those important to me can live as well. You do the same.
In response to your other insinuation, of course there are greedy people in the world. Nobody is saying that greed is good a la Gordon Gecko. What I am saying is that each one of us looking out for own good is the way to go. If our individual "needs" clash with one another, well then, we have the courts to settle our grievances.
Kevin - it doesn't work - selfishness is bad no matter how you want to dress it up. If you weigh everything so as to be selfish or enlightened self interest then you will be seen as such - and avoided.
I think that looking at the world as us all being selfish isn't healthy - and it isn't a good way to view the world - a better way to view the world is to see yourself as meeting your own needs with equal consideration of others needs - you can apply this to the environment, animals, aliens and the cosmos.
You have different outcomes if you do the selfish thing as compared to the considering all needs way. The considering all needs way gets way more well being for all. The selfish way leaves others sometimes feeling like they don't count, and that lowers all our well being.
Alice, it isn't me dressing anything up. The concept of enlightened self interest has been around in psychological circles for many years.
Your description of meeting ones needs while meeting the needs of others is, in fact, a description of enlightened self-interest.
Right, Kevin. There is a logical reason for the "put your own oxygen mask on before helping your children with theirs" sign. If you're not addressing your own needs, you won't be able to help with others'.
On the other hand the "greed is good" philosophy obviously works well enough for the psychopaths among us to keep enough of them surviving and reproducing to be a continual problem. We really haven't worked out a sufficiently fine tuned asshole control method to prevent them from rising to positions of power and ultimately causing widespread disasters like WWII and the current global financial crisis (to mention just two of thousands over the sad history of our species).
The concept of one person one vote has helped, but we've not managed to figure out a reliable way of avoiding the subversion of this idea over time. The authors of the US constitution (following in the footsteps of the architects of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment thinkers gave it their best shot, but 200 years on, we seem to be running into the same issues that prompted the French and American revolutions (i.e. assholes in leadership positions).
We've managed to define our terms a bit better (assholes -> psychopaths) and neuroscience has found MRI scan differences between psychopaths and "normal" people, but we still don't know how to sideline the (apparently evolutionarily inevitable) predators among us in a reliable, permanent way. The less intelligent predators can be caught and jailed, but meanwhile the brighter ones are successfully lobbying for privately owned prisons and profiting from our limited ability to control the activities of their less bright brothers.
Kevin - OK then - we must agree therefore..... I can see the value in understanding that we are motivated for our own self interest - but if this leads us to thinking that therefore we only need to what is in our own self interest then I think they are mistaken. Understanding that we are motivated by our own self interest, should then give us a self awareness that allows us to sometimes act against our own self interest or in the interest of someone else, because we wish to give something to someone else, and know this in a conscience sense. Awareness is the only reason that enlightened self interest is of value. It's what you do with this awareness that is next - the next level is also realising that to act solely for self interest is not in your or others best interest and therefore is to be continually monitored so that balance of myself and others can be considered.
Having read most of Ayn Rand's work I can tell you that her concept of selfishness doesn't have any enlightened part anywhere.
Actually, the concept of "enlightened self interest" comes from Albert Ellis and other cognitive theorists.
For the record, I'm not a full-blown follower of Rand, but, like other philosophers, there are points she made (particularly about how government tends to get bigger and bigger until creativity is stifled) certainly ring true to me.
That said, the mortgage meltdown certainly illustrates the need for oversight . . . .Rand's weakness is that she naively thought that the free market would correct all problems.
Dee - thanks, great short cut and time saver for me :)
Ullrich - I'm quite excited by your theory - you seem to be saying that if we could rid the world of psychopaths we wouldn't have all this instability - that their greed is at the root of the problems of war and economic crash...? A genocide on psychopaths perhaps?
Also, what role do you think they have played in our society still be present at part of the fittest that have survived? Or do you think them as more of a birth defect, having ill formed growth of the brain due to environmental factors such as nutritional deficiencies in utero?
I think they survived because psychopathy has survival benefits for the psychopath. Probably they remain a fairly small fraction of the population because tribes or groups with too many psychopaths are at a disadvantage compared to tribes with fewer. People who aren't bound by moral compunctions not to rape (for instance) will, in some cases (like in societies where rape isn't considered that big a deal and women aren't allowed access to abortion) possibly have more children than their better socialized brothers. The other possibility is that psychopaths are more likely to rise to the top of authoritarian hierarchies (e.g. CEO positions in publicly traded corporations) and will have greater opportunities to reproduce because of their positions. It's not what you know, it's how many people you're willing to trample underfoot on your journey to the top of the heap. :(
It is also possible that the same genetic variation that causes psychopathy also is responsible (when suitably regulated) for leadership abilities, so having just the right number of psychopathy related genes in your tribe might give it an advantage over those with higher or lower percentages of those traits.
Unfortunately, all this hardly qualifies as a theory yet, but it is IMHO a reasonable hypothesis which seems to account for some of recent and ancient history. Hopefully there are groups of scientists full of folks much brighter than I out there looking into all this in more detail.
Until all this is sorted out in detail, genocide is probably not a good idea even against psychopaths because we can't know at this stage of our understanding what other positive traits might be linked to psychopathy related genes... or even how genes and socialization interact to produce psychopathy. Maybe we will eventually learn how to control the obvious negative aspects and wind up with more brilliant leaders and fewer serial killers out of the same set of genes.
George got me onto this discussion - so I'm here to see what's going on.... :)
Ullrich - I also think that many just acquire psychopathic traits as an adaptive mechanism - I wish you well with your hypothesis and also hope that someone gets to follow this up with some science and study - it would be very interesting.... :)