Selfishness And Identity

Selfishness as a trait means considering oneself entitled to selfish behavior including the justification for such behavior in the past and the planning or willingness for such behavior in the future.

Selfish behavior is
  1. subjectively beneficial for the one acting selfishly.
  2. subjectively or objectively harmful to the target, either physically, emotionally or materially.
  3. done without the consent of the target and not based upon previous consent as part of a deal.
Most people can agree with part 1 and 3 of the definition.   

But the apparently paradoxical mutual accusation of being selfish between breeders and non-breeders (more in the other blog entry: Breeders, Non-Breeders And The Recipr...) made me aware, that there is a wide discrepancy concerning the target of the behavior in part 2 of the definition. 

Personally I can take two views on breeding.    By projecting from myself to others, I consider breeders as self-harming fools, who waste their life away by their choice of changing dirty diapers, when they could instead read a good book.    Taking a more objective view I consider those breeders, who do raise children in an appropriate way as the heroes, who do the dirty and unpleasant work for the survival of society, so that childfree people like me can enjoy the privilege to avoid the dreary and annoying interaction with children.    Before I was in contact with other childfree people, it never even occurred to me to consider those child raising heroes as selfish.   
Of course the following is no claim of any truth or facts, it is a model of speculations.   (It is so much easier to express myself by using simple statements.   Therefore whenever I write 'is', this needs to be read as 'it seems probable to me'.)
I already attempted in another blog entry (Breeders, Non-Breeders And The Reciprocal Accusation Of Selfishness) to explain the childfree accusing breeders as selfish by the discrepancy between their innate attraction to children and their self-restriction and denial to have their own due to some external reason.  
The difference in defining the target of selfishness can be explained by a difference in the perceived own identity.   I am using another pseudo-dichotomous explanation model.   It is a scale of a distribution along a bell curve.   At one extreme end there are the persons with an individual identity, at the other end are the persons with the particle identity.   The majority of people are somewhere in between.

The individual identity means, that a person experiences himself only as an individual person, living his life until death, when the entire existence ends.    A person with such an identity perceives and experiences himself interacting with other individuals.  Morality means the limitation of responsibility and consideration to individuals as the targets of behavior.   
Only individuals consciously suffer pain when harmed.  Not harming according to Epicurus' principle is the reason for limiting the definition of who is the target of selfish behavior to individuals. 
When it concerns resources owned by more abstract entities like society or the ecosystem, the principle is the self-calculated balance of not causing damage without compensating and for not taking more than giving back.    No instance of behavior without any individual as a target can be defined as selfish.  There can only be the trait of selfishness leading to a long term lacking balance of taking more than giving.   Taking long-term responsibility for this balance makes the difference between legitimate self-interest and selfishness.  

The particle identity is different.   Whatever there is innate in the brain as a part of animal instincts, it creates on the conscious level a vague feeling of interconnectedness with something higher, more significant and more valuable than the individual self.  Most probably it is the instinctive identification as being one's eternal genes more than one's individual person in a one time body.  
Feeling interconnected leads on the conscious level to create an image, attitude or idea, of what it is that people feel interconnected with.    This can be anything from the eternal soul of religion and reincarnation, the creation, a system of cosmic powers, mother earth or the ecosystem.   No matter which higher entity they ascribe their being a particle of, being only a particle makes people accept to be externally guided by morals given by and obligations towards that higher entity.
Considering their own individuality as insignificant, they apply this same insignificance also to their fellow particles.   For them, the entire or any part of the higher entitiy is considered as a target in need to be protected from selfish behavior, and everybody else is supposed and sometimes forced to submit to this obligation.
 
When people, who had been brought up religiously and who had so far to their own satisfaction explained all their feeling interconnectedness to their immoral soul, become atheists by rationally discarding the existence of a soul, this does not eliminate their particle identity and their feeling interconnected.   
For them, the ecosystem as something scientifically real and not requiring any faith, is a good replacement to feel interconnected with.   Many of them are somewhere on the middle of the bell curve of the strength of the procreation and nurturing instinct.    
This moderate magnitude of these instincts would motivate them to breed, when encouraged by their religion, even though they are sometimes unhappy with their burden.    Then they call the non-breeders selfish.   
The same magnitude combined wtih the knowledge, that the ecosystem is under hazard of the overpopulation, causes them to refrain from breeding, but they feel deprived of what attracts them to breeding.   So they call the breeders selfish with the ecosystem as the target.   

In both cases, selfish is defined by either god's creation or the ecosystem as the target, but not by the wellbeing of living individuals, who suffer.

 

This text is a slightly modified copy from my ERCP-blog.  

Views: 123

Tags: breeder, identity, interconnectedness, selfishness

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Comment by Clarence Dember on October 30, 2011 at 6:45pm
.......altruistic soulful was a type error created by my phone.
Comment by Clarence Dember on October 27, 2011 at 4:07pm
I am to the greater degree an Objectivist and my fidelity is to be found with that branch of philosophy. I can see points in the Venn diagram where ideas overlap but the derivation of ideas is of a widely separate process. Still, I am not an absolutely one sided person and am eclectic to some degree. in philosophical terms. Thank you again for the opportunity to learn more about your philosophical preferences.
Comment by Clarence Dember on October 27, 2011 at 3:23pm
Thanks for the invite. I'll read more.
Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 27, 2011 at 3:18pm
I invite you to join the Epicurean Atheists Group.  So far, it is inactive due to a lack of members.
Comment by Clarence Dember on October 27, 2011 at 2:09pm
My 3 cats benefit from my action of sparing them pain and preventing their harm. It sounds like the balanced adult sort of behavior people should encourage in society. Children are sometimes born with a sense of this balance but it is most often learned I think.
Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 27, 2011 at 10:03am

 

The Altruistic idea that we, the able - must sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the economist, the high priest, the emperor, the task master on the assembly line, the politician, the man of lesser ability -because we are able and can produce for the wrest of society; this kind of an idea is a version of either mental or economic slavery.

I never wrote one word in favor of such a sacrifice.

Of course such a twisted sense of morality would cause men to rescue the relative of a stranger from a burning building before rescuing their own loved ones so that the act of rescuing a perfect stranger could be judged by others as not self serving and worthy of representing the moral choice.

I have never even heard of this kind of moral expectation.

My personal morality is based upon the tit-for-tat strategy.   The goal is the balance of giving and receiving, but doing the first step of giving.   Only in accordance with Epicurus' principle, my focus is not on literally giving and proactively doing things reciprocally, but on sparing the other harm and pain, protecting the other from harm.   

 

 

 

Comment by Clarence Dember on October 27, 2011 at 6:31am
My friend, use this one and omit the previous post attempt. Sorry, it is admirable that you are doing well enough with this second language of English. The more tools the better.
So, the worth of a thing should not be to far abstracted from it's purpose for the sake of it's employer. We have fiat currency for instance as an example. Long ago people figured out they could substitute a worthless thing for a valuable thing. Gold coin became in time silver and then nickel or lead. Solid Copper became Copper plated and so on.
The Altruistic idea that we, the able - must sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the economist, the high priest, the emperor, the task master on the assembly line, the politician, the man of lesser ability -because we are able and can produce for the wrest of society; this kind of an idea is a version of either mental or economic slavery. Where did it come from? Emmanuel Kant held that the only act holding moral value was one that was not self serving and that all. men would agree to as having moral import or worth.
Of course such a twisted sense of morality would cause men to rescue the relative of a stranger from a burning building before rescuing their own loved ones so that the act of rescuing a perfect stranger could be judged by others as not self serving and worthy of representing the moral choice.
The lack of utility to the rescuers family and himself would torture him till the end of his days.
I think You have said Epicurus would improve on this Sense of morality by selecting the selfish choice that did no harm. Perhaps the proactive choice of asking the village to make a rule that all dwellings must have fire alarms would avoid this kind of a loss of life and property in the first place. This would remove the likelyhood of suffering from loss of property and life.
Many times individuals must choose sanity or madness amongst their survival options. As such, would not the rescue of your own kin promote greater potential for sanity, a value than the rescue of a stranger? Is self preservation more moral than death by alcohol poisoning, in an attempt to obliterate bitter loss? I make a case for rational self interest being part of the justifiable selfishness of the Epicurian criteria.
Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 27, 2011 at 5:03am
I am unable to understand, what you say.    I have no clue, what "altruistic soulful" means, or a "lost volition" or "producing the part-time" or .....  Even level 60 on freerice has not prepared me to understand your complex, compact and elaborate way of expressing yourself.   It is just beyond the comprehension of a non-native speaker of English.
Comment by Clarence Dember on October 26, 2011 at 8:14pm
Mauli, If I were to be paid to articulate a philosophic Hobsen's choice for the masses, you could call me a philosopher for hire. If I was a poster child for the status quo, you could call me a standard bearer. If I was a staunch advocate for social change you could call me a malcontent. If I was fomenting anarchy, you could call me an anarchist.
I am merely defending the values cumulative towards and corollary to an individual's volitional rational life. These things which altruists have found to be in the way of making things better for [Your choice of person(s) here].
Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 26, 2011 at 7:54pm

Clarence, I have difficulties to understand the real meaning of your comments.   My replies were probably not to what you said, but to the result of my attempts to understand as much as possible.   

you want to do away with volition via the anti- concept. of altruism

Is this a question about the hidden self-interest in apparent altruism?

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