Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weeding out Egoism

Consequentialism Revisited

Weeding out Egoism

In egoism (individual utilitarianism), “How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?” is answered by emphasizing good consequences (L1.1, L1.3) for the person taking the action, considering a selfish character to be important, and finding it important to act in one’s own self-interest. It is a reaction against the idea that selfless, self-sacrificial behavior indicates a virtuous character and
 selfish behavior is indicative of a weak moral character. Egoists see it the other way around. Egoism is voluntarist (created, 70, 71) (L2) by default, in that it is not a discovered truth (71), even if it is assumed to be—it is actually a mere construct, not of indifferent nature, but of human will, because it does not pass L1.3, not considering self and the Other to be interchangeable.

Rational laws and codes are not in place to encourage beneficial behavior we cannot avoid doing, or discourage unpleasant behavior we cannot avoid doing. There will be no law prescribing we must breathe and no law condemning all bodily excretions. Tending to our own needs qualifies as both breathing and excreting—breathing, because one is as valuable as any Other self; excreting, because one is not the only valuable self. So there will be no moral codes prescribing, or condemning us when we tend to our own needs, since we do this by nature. But egoism crosses the line of half-honesty (some ‘confess’ we are selfish by nature, namely psychological egoists, leaving out or downplaying that we also have the natural ‘capacity’ for rational empathy, 51) into the territory of calling “good” what is actually evil (and evil what is actually good), when it prescribes that one tend to one’s own self-interest, with regard for the Other only if one’s self is the main beneficiary (failing L1.3, 70).

In truth, we have the capacity for both selfishness and selflessness (rational empathy, 51). Some of us are more selfish by nature, some of us more selfless, but all of us have the potential for both and God can give us strength to include the Other in our focus. Some claim that, if ought implies can (see note 84 and Objection 24 in Appendix E), it is irrational to expect humans to look out for each Other (ought), when we aren’t built that way (cannot), but every time we do look out for each Other (whether or not the behavior is naturally or supernaturally motivated) is evidence we are capable of Other-regarding behavior. However, to be Other-regarding when it does not benefit (especially if it inconveniences) oneself, says the egoist, is to behave immorally towards oneself.

Ayn Rand’s (1905-1982) philosophy of rational self-interest is called Objectivism (52), and is not to be confused with objectivism (little ‘o’), which simply states that there are objective values (some objectivists deny Rand’s theory is objective, as she rejects intrinsic value) (52). She said it this way: “The actor must always be the beneficiary of his action,” (5g). If only she had meant it the way Wolfgang Carstens did when he said, “the actor must always be the recipient of his action” (20) in the sense that the actor must imagine he is receiving his behavior toward the Other (Golden Rule) [she did however ironically affirm a different variation of the Golden Rule (59) (see Appendix G and Objection 12 in Appendix E)]. However, egoism discourages fellow-feeling and a natural concern for the Other, both essential to a cultivated moral sense. Egoism grates against this moral sense when it writes it off as selfishness, while at the same time prescribing against it. Rand contradicts herself, as well as committing the fallacy of the suppressed correlative, by condemning selfless acts while also saying there are no selfless acts because “a ‘selfless,’ ‘disinterested’ love is a contradiction in terms,”(5g) (Objection 16 in Appendix E). However, ‘selfless’ doesn’t mean “disinterested”—it just means the interest is inclusive rather than exclusive of the Other. This can be seen in a dialectic (58, 66)…

(L1.3) The Other and Self Dialectic

Thesis: The Other or out-group should always benefit, whereas self or in-group should never benefit (self-abusive theories). Be a doormat.
Antithesis: Self or in-group should always benefit, whereas the Other or out-group should never benefit (egoistic theories). Be selfish.
Synthesis: In every in-group and out-group, a self is an Other, an Other is a self (65; Objection 19 in Appendix E), so however we should treat Other/self is the same as how we should treat self/Other (56). Also, since we can reason without thinking of the Other (or, for that matter, the self), theories which exalt reason fail to answer this aspect of the question of ethics. Would we even ask how/why we should be or behave if there were no self/Other?

God's Golden Rule love, though self-sacrificial, is neither self-effacing love (remember Kant’s “man made for law” thinking), nor selfish love (review L1.1 and L1.3). One way of applying that in our own lives is to cut the Other slack as we cut slack for ourselves, and vice versa. Our motivation for cutting the Other and self slack is that God cut us slack when we were still acting like buffoons. To avoid selflessness is to be self-effacing, is to neglect the part of ourselves that is made to love, that is common to all selves (65; Objection 19 in Appendix E).

One who asks if "giving, or generosity, is fundamentally about the giver," is really asking whether we love because the person is inherently lovable or deserving of or needful of love—or whether we love because we’ve got love to give. There is selfish giving (which isn’t really giving) and there is Other-focused, selfless giving. Perfect Golden Rule love is to love unconditionally, regardless of good or bad qualities/actions. Loving unconditionally includes disliking negative qualities/actions (and loving anyway). The "good" in the Other is the same as it is in self. Selfness. We are loving the Other as self...nothing more, nothing less. Regardless of all of our good/bad qualities/actions—we all share selfness...and that's good.

One is more likely to commit an act of heroism (selfless act) in the heat of the moment if they regularly practice acts of selflessness (heroism). This is one reason why it is so important to make selfless choices by habit (in behavior, and in thought), so that in the heat of the moment, when there is no time to reason out the right response, when your guard is down, your behavior confirms a pattern of selfless (heroic) past intention, rather than resulting in something you look back on with regret. Keeping our focus on Christ’s sacrifice for us is how we learn to recognize those signals that urge us to focus on self to the detriment of the Other, learn to anticipate them and counteract them with Other-focused (heroic) behavior (40).

Egoism cannot solve moral conflicts (in fact creates an atmosphere of fierce competition) between individuals and contradicts itself by pitting the moral duty of each individual against the moral duty of all other individuals (remember that in the beginning it was established that a good ethical theory must count the self and the Other interchangeably) (failing L1.3, 70). Egoists would only follow the Golden Rule to avoid conflict with the Other if they perceive such avoidance benefits self, rather than living out the rational empathy (51) implicit in this timeless, culture-spanning principle. To say that applied egoism is what is best for everyone (assuming that if we all look out for our own interests, everyone’s interests will be taken care of) is to be Other-regarding—is not strict egoism (to focus on the consequences to myself and the Other is utilitarianism; group egoism). And there is no love in promoting a society of egoists solely for the reason that it is in the self-interest of Number One (failing L1.3, 70). The uncreated (71), eternal, ultimate end (consequences) of both being (character) and doing (conduct), is Golden Rule love that endures all circumstances: love the Other as self. Egoism has cheap fuel because it never intends to get off the ground; it does not acknowledge the real destination (52).

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