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

Wright, James 7929 (
Mon, 21 Apr 97 13:08:00 EDT

David wrote:
<Snip start, Wittgenstein's theories>
> This theory is self-refuting. Wittgenstein forms this theory about
>yet claimed that theories were meaningless. Also, he said we are just
playing an
>arbitrary language game, but he himself is implying that he exists
outside of
>this arbitrary game, by describing an objective reality that there
exists a
>.language game. So, he's exempting himself from his own rules about
theories and
>language games. He cannot escape the implicit assumption that there
exists an
>objective reality and language is for describing that reality. <

The sentence that starts, "Also.." makes an assumption about
Wittgenstein's theories which is explicitly described as an implication.
"Implicit assumption" again shows up in the last sentence.
I suspect Wittgenstein (whom I haven't read) may have intended to be seen
as part of the "language game" he is participating in. Do you have any
way to show that he considered himself / his theories outside of them?

<Snip paragraph on definitions>
>I agree with you on the importance of understanding what words mean in
>traditional sense. But, meanings of words can be flexible according to
>context. Notice that if Wittgenstein's theory is correct, that words
>correspond to sense data, then meanings of words would be extremely

IF you are going to use words in a non-traditional sense, then define
what you intend them to mean in your posts. Various of us have enough
difficulty deciding what the traditional meanings of words can encompass
(see recent work on "Altruism") without random, non-explicit use of
traditional words in non-traditional ways.
I do not find this an unreasonable request, that the rest of us be clued
in on what you intend to convey with the words you use. In any case, you
still risk having us misinterpret what you intend to convey when our
context is different from yours, even using words in their usual and
customary senses.
>>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?

>> Suppose you see Buddhist monks being altruistic by helping poor
>>Buddhists may call that pure altruism, devotional service, dissolving
>>egotistical needs, etc. Buddhists won't be probing into wider contexts
by asking
>>questions like, "What is our motivation?" "Who do we work for?" "What
effects do
>>we really make?" There could be a bigger picture than what is see
directly in
>>front of you. But, Wittgenstein might say that the sense level was all
>>really existed.

What leads you to believe that a wider context exists? Why should there
be any deeper motivation, superior authority, or unseen effects? Massive
universal conspiracy?
I would contend that it is precisely because the Buddhists have seen into
themselves farther than others, and recognized what a shallow illusion
the "self" really is, that they are precisely those persons most capable
of acting without attachment to motivation, authority, or unseen effect.
Much of this discussion seems to me to be related to Reed's "argument
from incredulity" made earlier; that if *I* am not disinterested, and *I*
cannot act without being interested in the result of *MY* acts, then *no
one* can. One sees versions of this in the indicted politician claiming
that "Everyone does it," or criminals claiming that "All are criminals on
some level or another." This seems transparently weak to me; the universe
is not limited by imagination, mine or anyone else's.
If you intend to claim that there is no possibility of altruistic action,
I contend that a much stronger argument is needed. If you wish to ignore
convention and use words as you wish, leaving the reader to interpret
what you meant according to their own experience (context), then I will
misunderstand and disagree with your positions frequently.
I do appreciate a concrete example of how you approach the understanding
you have arrived at; I find that I cannot agree with it, but at least I
understand your position a little better.