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

Wright, James 7929 (
Tue, 29 Apr 97 10:02:00 EDT

Martz wrote:
>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
>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?<

No, not difficult at all; your example directed my thinking in another
If I remember your original argument, you were suggesting cooperation was
in mutual self-interest; I suggested that by definition, there was no
MUTUAL self-interest, that any act done in the benefit of two individuals
was cooperation. So far you are unwilling to accept my suggestion that
self-interest benefits only one person, and that mutual self-interest is
not a contradiction in terms, that there are acts that can benefit two or
more persons at once that can be called self-interested. Since you will
not accept my suggestion, I will accept yours and abandon the discussion
at that point; I cannot argue against your suggestion using your

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

>self-interest, IMO.[JW]

>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.<

Isn't that what I started saying a while back? "personal" interest? Or
are you using the "advantage" part to override the "personal"? If so, we
are not in disagreement.
I simply stress the "personal" more.

<Snip automotive history>
>>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

>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.<

With the understanding that I stress the "personal" part of the
definition you cited above, and that you stress that "personal advantage
can also benefit someone else"
I think we can agree to disagree.

>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.

I may be misreading Reed's original post, but it seems to me he implied
cooperation is a consequence of society and group organization, not a
consequence of self-interest.

>He didn't introduce it and it's quite frustrating when someone
>misses the point.

I am indeed as frustrated as you are; being advised pointedly by Lee that
I am missing the point is only limitedly useful, when I think others are
creating points out of whole cloth and drawing unjustified conclusions
from unexamined premises.

>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.

We finally got to the empathy part, Reed! <VBG!>
I will not perpetuate any more misunderstanding on this subject; you and
Lee can have the victory. Self-interest can include others by definition,
and everything I've posted for the last week is irrelevant.
I hope you feel better for winning; I still suspect we have missed an
opportunity for communication of ideas, although I can accept that at
least half (and probably more) of the responsibility is mine.
IMATDO? Not familiar with that acronym.
I am not offended, and I hope you are not; I've gotten past momentary
aggravation at Lee for his post, and will try to maintain civility into
the future.