RE: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Prisoner's

Robin Faichney (
Sat, 19 Apr 1997 10:02:00 +0100

D. H. Rosdeitcher wrote:
> Over the past couple of months, I had some disagreements with people who
>Non-Objectivists. But, I have redefined my enemy to be a non-contextual
>mentality that is demonstrated by the following:
> There seem to be 2 kinds of Buddhists: One kind understands that there
>an inescapable duality between words and their context, but choose to break
>that duality in order to give credence to a nonsensical ideology like
>The other kind of Buddhist appears to not understand the duality that
>words can have different meanings depending to their context. Here are 2
>examples of both types of Buddhists in action:
>Robin wrote:
> wrote:
>>>Obviously we are
>>> the sense that we can engage in trade, that we can delay
>>>gratification, that we are willing to "invest" effort today on the
>>>assumption that there will be return with interest at a later date.
>Robin wrote:
>>Sorry, that's not altruism.
>>Regard for others, both natural and moral; devotion to the interests of
>>others; brotherly kindness; -- opposed to egoism or selfishness.
>By saying, "that's not altruism", Robin implies that he understood what
>meant by the term 'altruism'. But, he takes the word back out of context in
>order to present the impression that the word has intrinsic meaning apart
>its context.

FYI, I have been "devoted" to Wittgenstein's theory of meaning ever
I first encountered it about 18 years ago. This says that the meaning
a word or phrase is its use in a language game, where "language game"
means basically "context". I fully appreciate how malleable is meaning.

But if you've been following recent discussions you should know there
is also Consensus Reality. The relevant aspect of CR here is our
common understanding of what words mean, without which verbal
communication is *absolutely* impossible. Now, this is certainly
dependent in many cases, but in the case of "altruism" I am not aware of
any such variability, which is why I said, in effect, that Reed's use
the word was simply wrong. Context-dependence does *not* mean you
can just use a word any way you like.

>This is how Buddhism survives as an ideology--through people
>stuck in a non-contextual thinking mode...

Could you venture an explanation of how this works, or would you
rather just leave it as a bald assertion?

Robin Faichney