Re: virus: (un)selfishness

Martz (
Wed, 23 Apr 1997 00:18:09 +0100

On Tue, 22 Apr 1997, Robin Faichney <> wrote:
>Martz wrote:
>>On Mon, 21 Apr 1997, Robin Faichney <> wrote:
>>>Isn't there anyone else on the list who, like me, questions
>>>the meaningfulness of "ultimate motivation"? Where
>>>people say things like "every human action is ultimately
>>>selfish" do they think that is or ever will be testable?
>>Not now. Maybe with some breakthroughs in neuroscience.
>Wouldn't that be phrenology, rather than neuroscience? :-)

8) Nothing like a few bumps on the head to change your attitude, eh?

>>>Ultimately, for me, nothing is *either* selfish *or*
>>>unselfish, because the self is a fiction.
>>That's a whole 'nother debate.
>No it's not, it's the same one. How can neuroscience or
>phrenology or any analysis of motivation locate something
>that doesn't really exist? What does "selfishness" mean
>if there's no self?

If the study of the nervous system progresses to the point where we can
accurately model the human mind and we can trace effects back to causes
right down to the level of individual neurons we may well be able to say
*precisely* what motivated a given act. I'm reminded of an experiment
which was done (in the 60s I think, if anyone can jog my memory on this
I'd be grateful) where a number of volunteers had little receivers
placed in their brains. When the doctor pressed a button a small
electric charge was delivered. One one patient this would cause him to
look over his left shoulder. Every time the button was pushed, he'd
glance to the left. When he was asked what he was looking for he always
had a sensible reason; "I was looking for my slippers" or "I heard
something". What does this say about motivation?


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