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

Martz (
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 22:02:03 +0100

On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, "Wright, James 7929" <> wrote:

>>You weren't listening. In the example given, the fact of reality that
>>one /cannot/ capture the gazelle alone was a premise, and you can't
>>change that.
>Want to invoke the Reed principle? I *AM* arguing the premise; you CAN
>catch a gazelle, all by yourself, it just takes lion tactics, or a snare,
>or a couple of different other methods (archery, etc.)

Fine. It was an example, that's all. A thought experiment. If you feel
inclined to deal with the *essence* of my argument instead of the
specifics then perhaps you might try to imagine something (*anything*
for chrissake) that one person alone cannot do where two or more may
succeed. Surely that's not so difficult?

>>Reality is like that in many places: there exist millions
>>of ways to benefit yourself by cooperating and /incidentally/ benefiting
>>others that simply /cannot/ be done alone. This is a fact, and can't
>>be argued away.
>This is not, however, self-interest, unless you change the definition of
>self-interest, IMO.

Yes it is. Unless *you* change the definition of self-interest. "One's
personal interest or advantage" he discovers on leafing through the
forbidden tome. That definition doesn't care whether any incidental
benefit is conferred on anyone else.

> >I cannot build my own car--I don't have that choice.<
>Henry Ford did. The production line came later.

Bullshit. Who mined and refined the ore? Who made the tools? Who shipped
the materials? Who taught him engineering? That car would not have been
built without the infrastructure of a technological society built on
cooperation and specialisation.

>>And even if I did, it would probably be cheaper for me in terms of my
>>time to just buy it, thereby incidentally benefiting its manufacturer.
>>But I don't buy it with the purpose of filling Mr. Iacocca's pockets;
>>I buy it with the purpose of driving to work to fill mine, and only
>>mine. The fact that I aided someone else was just a consequence.<
>You have now shifted the focus of the argument from the self-interested
>survival of oneself and one's children to the relative economic
>advantages of cooperation, which I never disputed in the first place.

That's not a shift in argument, that's where the argument has been all
along. Only your narrow (and uncommon IMATDO) definition of self-
interest has stopped you from seeing it.

>Lee, I never said cooperation wasn't a good thing - were you paying
>attention to the original discussion? We were discussing whether
>self-interest was sympathetic or antagonistic towards cooperation - and
>economics had no part of the original discussion. I am not being
>obstinate, but it seemed like you brought a whole new set or parameters
>to the discussion, while complaining that I had no appreciation of the
>point of view you brought with them.

I have to agree with Lee here. Cooperation as a consequence of self-
interest has been a central element of this thread from day one. He
didn't introduce it and it's quite frustrating when someone repeatedly
misses the point. That may well be due to inadequate communication on my
part but there have been occasions when I felt you were deliberately
ignoring what I was trying to say. I'll re-read it all when I've got
some time and see if I could have made it any clearer. One of my
failings in debate is that I tend to work on the fly whereas if I sat
and collected my thoughts and presented them properly in a single post
(as Reed has just done in todays "virus: Altruism and the Prisoner's
Dillema" post. A lucid and timely piece Reed - well done.) they may be
more understandable.


For my public key, <> with 'Send public key' as subject an automated reply will follow.

No more random quotes.