RE: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Priso

Wright, James 7929 (
Mon, 21 Apr 97 08:16:00 EDT

Dan Henry wrote:
<Snip catalogue of behavior>
>Sorry, this isn't altruism.
>I cooperate all the time. I help my neighbors, I slow down at yellow
>lights, and I hold doors open for all people. I do all this with
>selfish motives.<
Not sure where this came from. As Martz noted, any given act may be
describable in terms of self-interest, and for a given act that
description may be accurate; where I disagree with Martz is that all acts
are selfish (or survival-based).
You personally may display altruistic behavior or not, as you choose; do
you dispute that any altruistic acts exist?
>Anyone calls me altruistic is itchin' for a fight ; ).<
Being largely Buddhist by nature, I'll have to take a rain check on
>If there's an expectation of reward, or a sense of duty, then it isn't
>altruism . I agree with Reed; what we call altruistic behavior can just
>easily be ascribed to other motives.<
I posted to this earlier, that there is a specific class of acts
mentioned in Buddhism that are done without regard of who will benefit,
if possible by forgetting that you have even done them yourself. It is
considered beneficial.
>Families are very far from communistic, also. I have a 23-month old.
>a hell of a lot of work, and I'll do anything for him. But I don't
>his weaknesses or vulnerabilities. I have enormous respect for him
>all that he accomplishes every day. He's paying his way ten times
Really? How much does he earn as a child model for
Admiration / disdain for weaknesses and vulnerabilities does not enter
the discussion, IMO; communism being as much a philosophical system as a
political one, he is contributing little (besides possibly pleasing
behavior from time to time) while consuming quite a lot of family
resources (time, money, patience, etc). Do you keep books on his
account, and demand payment for overdrafts from time to time?
I do not see how your family is all that different; can you elaborate?
>Sorry if some of this ground has already been covered (I just recently
>resubscribed after a 6-month absence).<
Welcome back!
Perhaps to clarify: any given act can be interpreted according to your
own filters. I will throw a rope.
a) In the form of a lasso at a fleeing thief;
b) In the form of a lasso to a drowning individual;
c) Across a chasm that I do not intend to cross, tying it off at both
ends to make a rope bridge I will not use, for possible use by someone
The first is not altruistic at all; the second doubtfully so; the third I
would contend is. That you may not be able to discern why I might build a
bridge I wouldn't use is not pertinent; I might also be doing it just to
have something to do, I suppose. If intent of the act is part of
altruism, then must the lowest possible intent always be ascribed to a
given act? Or is this one of the background meta-memes at work, "All men
are sinful and therefore suspect in motive on all occasions?"