Re: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Priso ner's Dillema

Martz (
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 00:29:58 +0100

On Mon, 21 Apr 1997, "Wright, James 7929" <> wrote:

>> It is a wholly unnatural state, conjured up by
>>people who have been conned into the notion of some higher power to
>>convince themselves that they're heaven-bound.<

>I find Deity and higher-power notions unnecessary.

So what motivates your selflessness? Don't forget you've been steeped in
the trappings of a deific culture all your life, like it or not.

>>I can accept that possibility, but I still reckon it's people fooling
>>themselves rather than being fooled by observations.<

>Be careful; the possibility of overlooking an occurrence that's really
>there is also common.

Unprovable either way. See my other post re: motivation.

>>Our social nature encourages us to fit in, at least broadly,
>>with what society expects of us. If that inspires us to acts of
>>it is only because we don't want to be cast as unusual or unfit.<
>It *may* be because we want to fit in; that may not be the only motive
>for charity, either.

Sorry, I didn't mean that was the only cause, although I see that I
wrote it as if I did.

>>Because for our species it confers survival advantage - a
>>selfish motivation.
>My gracious, you have a pessimistic opinion of humanity! (Not that I
>favor martyrdom, for any reason).

Pessimistic? Me? Never. I'll now invoke the traditional response of the
hardened cynic. "I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist." So there. I expect
people to act from a prime motivation based on self. To me, that means
that people are just getting on with living the best they know how and
the occasional act which touches my life for good or ill is purely
accidental. That attitude has served me well so far and is a big
improvement over a previous me who thought that selflessness existed.

<snip grocery store example>
>Does this (admittedly small) act qualify as altruism in your view?

Every act may be altruistic, it depends on motivation. Was this one
altruistic? Who knows. Can I think of any selfish motivations for it?
Yes. The same as would apply to acts of charity and a bunch of baser
ones as well (if I can help screw the store out of a few cents I'll
gladly do it).

>Thanks for a thoughtfully-written post.

You're welcome, but I only did it cos it made me feel good. ;)


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