In Defence of Greed

AmericanEvilI’m having a lively discussion over at Ebonmuse’s recent post “Why I am not a communist” where I’ve mostly been discussing with a member of the audience, Mrnaglfar.

At a point in our discussion, Mrnaglfar asserted that greed is not inherently bad after I explained that it is not possible to have a perfect society based on a vice (greed). Specifically, his comment was:

More to the point, where do you get off even calling greed a ‘vice’, as if greed was inherently morally wrong? It’s like calling a hammer wrong; greed is merely a tool that can be used for many things. In the proper context, greed can be good – it can inspire innovation, make people strive for lofty goals, and without greed, very little would have ever been accomplished. However, greed can also throw people in poverty and lead to acts of violence, among other things. To merely paint greed a wrong with one broad brush stroke is similar to denying human nature entails greed and that in a perfect society it would vanish, and that through merely teaching children we can somehow undo over a billion years of evolution.

In all honesty, this perplexed me as I’ve never seen someone defend greed before. I’ve heard people claim that greed was a human flaw that capitalism has been built to exploit so that the end result is better for everyone. I’ve seen people believe that greed is part of human nature, a necessary evil and unchangable. But never that greed is not a vice.

As the conversation progressed and more thought was poured into the subject, it became obvious to me that Mrnaglfar’s idea of what greed is is quite different from what anyone normally associates with the word:

A selfish or excessive desire for or pursuit of more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions” – from the Wiktrionary.

A telling example being how honour is explained as “greed for social status”. While Honour certainly entails a social status concept, there is nothing inherently greedy about it. People did not amass personal honour as an end in itself. Rather, if they did, then they had greed for honour or social standing, or to put more plainly, greed for glory and/or fame.

From the context, he seems to treat “greed” as a synonym for “desire” in order to base the idea that greed, by itself has a neutral moral value. However, greed entails aspects that go beyond the concept of simply desiring something. A Desire for money is not the same as Greed for money. A Desire for love, is not the same as greed for love. Indeed to treat greed like that in order to defend a concept is a form of equivocation.

As part of the converstation, there was a distinct defense of greed that I would like to tackle.

Greed as a tool

This was the initial argument that was raised in defence of greed. The concept being that since greed drives forward innovation, creativity and personal advancement under capitalism, it should be considered a tool and as such have a neutral moral value in the same sense that a knife can either be used for good (cutting food) or evil (killing people).

Initially I went with this definition although it did not sit well with me. Someting was amiss. I asserted that if greed is to be considered a tool then it is similar to a tool like a gun, whose main purpose is to do harm. However even this did not sound correct.

So I slept on it and with a fresh mind I think I can see what the problem is. Greed cannot be considered a tool at all.

A tool is something you manipulate in order to accomplish something. As an instrument it has no intrinsic value which is why you cannot label a weapon bad by default. However, even though the instrument has no moral value by itself, the action it is used to accompish does and that action takes its moral value not from the tool but by the desires.

And Greed is a desire.

You do not manipulate greed in order to accomplish something like you would a tool. Greed manipulares you (please save your “In Soviet Russia” jokes).
Say that I have greed for money. This is then my desire; to acquire money even though they are more than I need. My tool in this case is not greed as well but my brain and muscles. This is what I manipulate in order to acquire more money. The action that I decide upon on how to make more money can be labeled as good or bad depending on cumulative value of the desires and beliefs that manipulated me to do it.

Consider the following scenarios

A person robs a bank. The desires that led to this are:

  • He had more than enough money to live on but had a greed for more. – bad
  • The person has no avertion on intimidating and/or possibly killing innocent people. – very bad
  • He has no avertion to taking items that do not belong to him – very bad
  • He person was too lazy to find a legal way to acquire money. – bad

The cumulation of these three bad desires led to a bad action. You will also notice that the degree of how a desire or belief is bad varies. Thus a non-aversion to killing people is much worse than being lazy.

Now,if we are to take the same scenario with a twist on his desires:

  • He did not have enough money to live. He had a desire to survive. – marginally good
  • He did not have enough money to feed his family. He had a desire to help them. – good
  • Even though he has an avertion on intimidating and/or possibly killing innocent people, it is not enough to overcome his desperation – very bad
  • Even though he has he has an avertion to taking what does not belong to his, it is not enough to overcome his desperation – bad
  • The person is very hard working but for various circumstances cannot find a job. This leads to desperation – good (hard working)

Even though the person has more good desires than bad, his weak avertion to intimidation and killing is cumulatively worse than all the good desires together. Nevertheless, any court of law would recognise the circumstances and would give him a more lenient sentence compared to the previous example.

Next, lets try something different but more related to greed. Say a televangelist is misapropriating funds from his wealthy church in order to have a wealthy lifestyle

  • He has more than enough money to live. He is however greedy for wealth – bad
  • He has no avertion to lying to cover this up – very bad
  • He uses a very small part of his wealth to help the people who built up his wealth – marginally good
  • He has not avertion to lying about his church’s powers in order to get more money. – bad

Now this person is not doing anything illegal under the law, but any moral person would condemn his actions.

Finally, let’s look at an example where the action of a greedy person is good. This person is a used car’s salesman.

  • He is greedy for weath – bad
  • He has a small avertion to lying but it can be overcome by greed – bad.
  • He has a strong desire to avoid illegal activities – very good

Now this person, even though greedy and occasionally a liar, is still considered good (only marginally) as regards to his work. It is not because greed is neutral and does not count but rather because his good desires outweight his bad.

If we are to define greed as a neutral tool instead of a bad desire, then these calculation fail for we would have to define all desires as neutral tools. Lazyness is a tool (just not useful in capitalism as Mrnaglfar says), lying is a tool, intimidation is a tool etc. They can all possibly be used for good or bad purposes but if we are to make all desires and beliefs into neutral tools, how are we to judge an action as good or bad?

The answer is, we cannot. To do so would be to judge an action as good or bad on strictly subjective basis without any base. Even I do not promote such a way to judge.

So, Greed, like all desires, is not a tool. It has a moral value and that value is that greed is condemnable. One would thus be inclined to ask:

Why is greed wrong?

Circular reasoning

fisheye washing machineIn regards to capitalism, greed does not apear to be all that bad, but I would like to show how this is a form of circular reasoning. It goes as thus.

  • Greed is good because without it, capitalism would not work.
  • Capitalism is good because every human is greedy and capitalism is the only system that can make it to serve good purposes.

This kind of circular reasoning does not allow a window where greed could be potentially phased out with a better desire, say, a like a desire to help people for emotional gain. As long as as capitalism remains the dominant culture, greed must be maintained and indeed increased if possible. As long as greed remains a powerful desire in most people, capitalism will work until it hits its other inenvitable hurdles.

Under this logic it is impossible to change things and indeed greed takes a perverted good moral value only because it derives this value from the perceived good value of capitalism.

The morality of Greed

Circular reasoning aside, how do we decide the moral value greed? I believe we can extract the value of greed from the definition and results it produces by itself, when not tempered by any other value.

Lets take the definition of greed once more.

A selfish or excessive desire for or pursuit of more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions

I’ve highlighted the parts which are relevant.

  1. A selfish desire: is the desire to hold yourself above others or have your own well being as your most powerful desire. This is not inherently bad but as far as desires go, it’s pretty low on the list (Objectivists begone!)
  2. An excessive desire: is bad by definition. Excess is never good.
  3. More than is needed: This denotes that this person, even though he has anything he might ever need from the subject of his greed, would still require more. This would in turn shift the supply and demand chain in a way that would create indirect suffering to other people.
    As an example, to borrow one from the Atheist Ethicist, is the desire to wash your dog every day when there is a shortage of water. You do not need to wash your dog every day, indeed, washing it less would aleviate the urging problems of other people with the small drawback of a little stink.
  4. More than is deserved: Once again, this is bad by definition. Someone who desires things he does not deserve is prone to performing actions that deny these items from people that do deserve them.
  5. Possesions: Indeed, it is true that greed mainly manifests itself for material goods. It does occasionaly appear as a greed for power or fame but it is the minority of cases and does not really work with capitalism that well (unless fame or power is gained through wealth).
    The problem with this is that excessive materialistic desires are prone to create a problem in a world where the resources are already severely limited.

But lets not jugde just by literal semantics. Greed can be shown to be wrong philosophically.

As mentioned above, greed is usually for material possesions. This goes contrary to the knowledge that the resources of this world are limited. A greedy person, would not care if what he takes (legally) would indirectly cause someone who needs it more to miss it. As long as he has it then his desire is quenched. This is easily shown if you look at the recent problems with gas. Even though poor countries are not necessarily the ones that are producing the food, the rising food prices all over the world because the food is being used as gas by rich countries is indirectly affecting them.

Secondly, greed feeds upon itself. When someone has a excessive desire to get more than what is needed, it means that when the current target is reached, the desire remains and a new target is acquired. It is not true that the person will stop acquiring the subject of his greed after the current objective is reached for this would not be greed anymore.

Thirdy, greed causes needless suffering to the humans who posses it. Someone who is driven by material greed will always crave for more material possesions, no matter how many he already has. This will never allow him to be at peace with himself.
Even if his greed is stopped by other desires, like an avertion to crime or an avertion to other’s suffering, his greed will not go away. It will stay within him, causing emotional pain for the things he desires but cannot have.

Epilogue

And thus we come to the end of my little article. I hope I’ve sufficiently proved, by definition and philosophy that greed is a vice for it is a desire with an inherent negative value. Claiming that greed is good because it can occasionally lead to good deeds it akin to saying that the end justifies the means.

One last thing I’d like to tackle is the “perfect society” comment. I, like many others, strive to better the world. There are various things that are ambiguous and difficult to label as bad or good but we try. When I mention a better world, I do not know what I mean. I have no solid idea if the perfect world would be communism, anarchism or a socialist capitalism or whatnot. However I do have a clear idea of what does not belong in a better world, indeed, what is contrary to the spirit of it. Vices.

And greed is one of them.

18 thoughts on “In Defence of Greed

  1. “Do you deserve a million euros? Do you deserve to rule the world?”

    Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t. Is it your place to judge? I doubt it. 😉

    Maybe we all deserve you to rule the world.. 😛

    “Some things are plain obvious.”

    ‘Obvious’ does not mean ‘right’. Any intrigue can teach you that. Just because you take it for obvious – back to common perceived reality – it does not mean a thing. Example: To the Iraqis it was obvious Kuwait was one of their provinces.

    “This is again one of those cases where you cannot change reality just by wishing it was so.”

    I do not intend to. I just question your absolute-sounding statements because they are black’n’whiting the issue and don’t solve the problems caused by the issue. This I consider of little use. 🙁

    And about excesses, you cannot condemn going beyond limits per se. Mankind achieved a lot of improvements out of the “going beyond the limits of its needs”. Is achieving, creating or getting something we do not really need to be called bad? Nobody really needs rocket science to survive, at least not now.. but is it bad we use a lot of effort to build starships? Science-Excesses, my dear friend. 😉

    “Don’t tell me that your previous life excesses were good overall.”

    I won’t. They weren’t. Not overall. But they were teaching well and necessary in some point of my psyche as well, etc. So I just can’t let you get away with the absolute statement “Excess = Bad”. Sorry, but it just isn’t true.

  2. Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t. Is it your place to judge? I doubt it

    The problem is that you need an argument about what you deserve and why. You may think, inside, that you deserve everything but the point is not what you think inside but how other see it from what you say and how you act.
    Either you can prove that you deserve or need what you want, or people will label you as greedy.
    Not believing yourself to be greedy does not cut it. No greedy person sees himself as such and all of them think they deserve what they are after.

    ‘Obvious’ does not mean ‘right’. Any intrigue can teach you that. Just because you take it for obvious – back to common perceived reality – it does not mean a thing. Example: To the Iraqis it was obvious Kuwait was one of their provinces.

    Obvious in the sense that, lacking a very convincing argument on your part, there is no reason to believe you deserve those things.

    I do not intend to. I just question your absolute-sounding statements because they are black’n’whiting the issue and don’t solve the problems caused by the issue. This I consider of little use. 🙁

    The definition of what you deserve is what you’re proven to deserve. There’re only two possible options. Either you deserve something or you don’t. There’s no room for maybes unfortunately.

    And about excesses, you cannot condemn going beyond limits per se. Mankind achieved a lot of improvements out of the “going beyond the limits of its needs”. Is achieving, creating or getting something we do not really need to be called bad? Nobody really needs rocket science to survive, at least not now.. but is it bad we use a lot of effort to build starships? Science-Excesses, my dear friend. 😉

    Well I was talking about excesses in the context of desires. An excess has many meanings and not all of them are bad. But when talking about desires, an “excessive desire” is bad by definition and this is what I was arguing for before.

    I won’t. They weren’t. Not overall. But they were teaching well and necessary in some point of my psyche as well, etc. So I just can’t let you get away with the absolute statement “Excess = Bad”. Sorry, but it just isn’t true.

    And I accepted that and even mentioned that they made you hardier. However, the overall result of an excessive desire is bad. This is why it is labeled as bad.

  3. “The problem is that you need an argument about what you deserve and why.”

    Nah. Bollocks. To raise a claim and to deserve something are not exactly the same thing and I only need an argument in front of someone who shall judge me. But since judgement is not of mankinds most outstanding virtues I doubt that I will need an argument. Btw, these kinds of arguments are relative: If I have one you do not accept as an argument you actually deactivate it with your perception, don’t you? (I am almost sure you will come up with the scientifically proven objective truth thing right now.. 😀 irony that it is exactly what I mean. We had that one. 😉 )

    “Obvious in the sense that, lacking a very convincing argument on your part, there is no reason to believe you deserve those things.”

    So once again I have to convince thee, oh my mighty judge? o_O Sorry.. obvious in my language is a lame excuse for not wasting time and effort on an issue but just take it. :-/

    “The definition of what you deserve is what you’re proven to deserve.”

    Ok, if you take THIS as a base for deserving, your system might apply that way.

    “However, the overall result of an excessive desire is bad. This is why it is labeled as bad.”

    I still disagree. There is hardly something that beats personal experience and so I come to the conclusion that if excessive desires result in experience of some kind that is not to gain otherwise the result of this excessive desire is not necessarily bad.

  4. Nah. Bollocks. To raise a claim and to deserve something are not exactly the same thing and I only need an argument in front of someone who shall judge me

    To think you deserve something and to actually deserve something is a matter of perspective.
    It’s not just one person who judges you, it’s everyone.

    If I have one you do not accept as an argument you actually deactivate it with your perception, don’t you? (I am almost sure you will come up with the scientifically proven objective truth thing right now.. 😀 irony that it is exactly what I mean. We had that one. 😉

    We’re talking theoretically now so it’s difficult to show but if I did find something that you did as greedy or excessive I would have told you and explained why I think so. Based on the conversation we would have one of us could change their mind. Either I would not consider you greedy anymore or you would not continue what you were doing. If the discussion reached a deadlock then you would be left with someone who considers you as greedy. Not a good perspective. Given enough such friends putting pressure on you to change your ways, you would either do so, or break away from the group.

    So even though things are relative as you say, they still matter.

    So once again I have to convince thee, oh my mighty judge? o_O Sorry.. obvious in my language is a lame excuse for not wasting time and effort on an issue but just take it. :-/

    See above.
    If you do not care to convince your friends that what you are doing is moral, then you’re going to end up with friendship problems.

    I still disagree. There is hardly something that beats personal experience and so I come to the conclusion that if excessive desires result in experience of some kind that is not to gain otherwise the result of this excessive desire is not necessarily bad.

    By this logic, if I put my hand in the flame, even though I know I’ll get burnt, it is worth it.
    If I eat like a pig and get fat, it is worth it.
    There is nothing bad I can do that is not worth it by this reasoning.

    I hope you can see why this is wrong.

  5. This discussion has been contnuing over at Daylight Atheism but it keeps derailing the subject. Since we keep discussing the subject of this post, I’ll bring my responses here

    Continuing from here

    DB0: You cannot separate desires from intentions that easily.

    Mrnaglfar: I just did. Desires are the basic drives; greed, love, hate, envy, jealously, etc that motivate human behavior (one could be motivated to do any number of things from those). Intentions are the desired effects one wishes their actions to have; whether to help or harm. Actions are the results of intentions, and may or may not live up to their intentions. You can judge actions and intentions all you want, but desires encompass all human behavior.

    Greed is a desire. Envy is a desire. Love and Hate are not. These are concepts of humans. You can have a desire for love, but love itself is the subject of it. Or you may be in love and thus have the desire to help your lover or the desire to have your love reciprocated.
    I can have a desire for Ice cream. I can have a desire for food. I can have an excessive desire for food (greed).
    A desire is not necessarily a basic need.

    My intentions in all these cases are to achieve my desire.

    If my intention is to make the world a better place for example, It is because I have the desire to make the world a better place. If my intention is to make money, I have the desire to make money. This is what I say that it is not easy to separate these two concepts.

    You say that “Intentions are the desired effects one wishes their actions to have; whether to help or harm.” (emphasis mine) and you’re missing the fact that your own sentence betrays your argument.

    Furthermore, looking at the dictionary definition of intention, I am trying to see if there is some kind of equivocation going on that makes both of us confused

    Wiktionary says:
    Intention: A course of action that a person intends to follow.
    Intend: Fix the mind upon (something to be accomplished);

    By this definition, an intention is something that you decide after you’ve sorted out your desires. It has no moral value by itself but it is decided upon by the rest of your desires and beliefs as in my examples above.

    If you are using a different definition of “intention” let me know so that we avoid confusion and equivoation

  6. And there’s the loophole big enough to march an army though; Excessive varies from person to person. Is any desire beyond what you need to keep skin and bones alive ‘excessive’

    I wouldn’t get so dramatic. Even if the level of need of each person varies, we can still find various of his desires excessive using common sense. I’m not talking about putting gravy on your steak or bacon next to your eggs. I could even argue that occasionally these are necessary to retain a richness of life that is necessary for the avoidance of emotional pain. Of course, the best thing would be to train yourself not to need them at all.

    An excessive desire for food in this case would probably mean an amount of food that goes far beyond normal needs of a human being.

    It seems to me that we’re wasting too much time arguing over the meaning of words. Your attempting to make “excessive” an irrelevant word but it exists for a reason.

    Desire: Greed
    Intention: To make lots of money and earn the esteem of others. Having more sex because of those two things would be nice too.
    Action A) Sell drugs
    Action B) Create a new successful treatment used to prevent illness
    Action C) Study hard in school to get a high ranking job
    Action D) Practice music to become a rockstar
    Action E) Rob a bank
    Action F) Produce products and services that have no intention of helping people, but people end up liking them anyway and they make life better.

    I went into this in more detail with examples in the article above. The course of action that you follow in your desire for excessive wealth (which I would further classify as a misguided path to gain respect) is decided by the rest of your intentions and beliefs
    It’s your cumulative desires and beliefs that will formulate your intentions.

    Think of it like this, you cannot decide on the morality of a person just by looking at his actions and the course of action (intentions) he has.
    If someone has the belief that all black, gay and jew people have to be exterminated but never have an intention to do it himself, does it not make him still immoral?

    Furthermore you are attempting to insert this word (intention) so as to take the blame away from greed but this is not possible.
    To take your example above:

    “Intention: To make lots of money and earn the esteem of others. Having more sex because of those two things would be nice too.”
    Desire: To have more sex
    Desire: To earn the esteem of others
    Action (In order to achieve the above): Gain more wealth
    This, is not greed btw. It could only be classified as greed if you
    A) Had a desire for excessive money (end-desire)
    B) Had a desire for excessive esteed/fame (end-desire)

    Like in our other discussion, you are confusing greed with a generic “desire to improve the self” but this is equivocation and a wrong one as well.

  7. What is the driving force of capitalism? Since we disagree on the meaning of “Greed” (and possibly “Envy”), give a description and we can them debate the morality of it.

    The definition of the driving force is self-interested behavior; self-interested in this case meaning the want to gain resources that directly benefit oneself to the exclusion of others. Self-interest, in other words, meaning working to maximize one’s benefits, relative to their costs in all areas of life. In this case, By maximizing ones benefits, that directly requires that one attempts to achieve the maximum level possible, meaning being greedy.

    This self-interest can be directed towards maintaining friendships (being nice), being innovative (creating the newest, or best product), striving to display one’s success in the hopes of drawing the attention of a partener, or really whatever you want to bring about.

    You think by my saying “greed isn’t bad” that I envision the type of world were everyone becomes an island unto themselves and tells the rest of the world to fuck off, backstabbing, lying, stealing, and cheating their way to the top (which indeed some people feel they should do). Others feel it’s in their self-interest to appear nice, generous, kind, creative, or rebellious (and indeed, some of these people are legitmately acting out of what they feel, kindness, sadness, joy, whatever), but they act upon them in varying and vastly differing ways. Some christians feel it’s the ultimate act of love to try and bring you to Jesus and some greedy doctor ends up saving hundreds of lives.

    It’s why you can’t say greed is evil, or a vice; it’s responisible for too much good and bad to be hit by any one brush stroke.

  8. self-interested in this case meaning the want to gain resources that directly benefit oneself to the exclusion of others.

    I can be self-interested by benefiting others and satisfy my emotional needs.
    I can be self-interested by gaining resources that do not exclude others (i.e, via file sharing)
    I can be self-interested by only having the resources I need to survive (food, shelter & socialisation) and not requiring any more.

    I claim that this self-interest that you espouse if of lower moral value than these and also prone to abuse given other desires and beliefs on that person (like no avertion to causing suffering)

    By maximizing ones benefits, that directly requires that one attempts to achieve the maximum level possible, meaning being greedy

    Lets leave greed out of the equation for now lest we fall into equivocations once more. Suffice to say that this is not the common understanding of greed. Greed knows no “maximum level”.

    You think by my saying “greed isn’t bad” that I envision the type of world were everyone becomes an island unto themselves and tells the rest of the world to fuck off,

    No but I think that you don’t realise that this is what pure greed leads not unless temprered by other desires and beliefs.

    Others feel it’s in their self-interest to appear nice, generous, kind, creative, or rebellious (and indeed, some of these people are legitmately acting out of what they feel, kindness, sadness, joy, whatever), but they act upon them in varying and vastly differing ways.

    It is in our self interest to be (and not just appear to) all that, for the human is a social animal. Without socialisation, he withers. These are the kind of desires & beliefs however that, even though self-interested (ultimately, as every desire is), are of higher moral value than greed.

    You compare a greedy doctor with Christians.
    I compare a greedy doctor with a doctor who has a genuine desire to save people. Who do you think will do more good? Indeed I would argue that if a doctor is mostly driven by greed, he is/will be prone to acts that might give him more money to the detriment of his patients.
    Case in point. The U.S. healthcare system is built on greed and it’s a dismal failure compared to the healthcare systems of socialised countries.

    It’s why you can’t say greed is evil, or a vice; it’s responisible for too much good and bad to be hit by any one brush stroke.

    Restating your initial position is not an argument. This is what I tackled in the article above.
    Greed is not responsible for this much good. The system that abused greed is responsible and also responsible for quite a lot of suffering.

  9. From the other thread:

    Ok, give me one good way you can seperate self-interest from greed.

    I can’t.

    Greed is a form of self-interest, generally for things that can be accumulated, and that always makes the person having it strive for more, even though what he has is quite enough.
    If you’re going to argue that “having enough” is subjective, I will mention that with greed, there is never enough.

  10. I can be self-interested by benefiting others and satisfy my emotional needs.
    I can be self-interested by gaining resources that do not exclude others (i.e, via file sharing)
    I can be self-interested by only having the resources I need to survive (food, shelter & socialisation) and not requiring any more.

    I claim that this self-interest that you espouse if of lower moral value than these and also prone to abuse given other desires and beliefs on that person (like no avertion to causing suffering)

    You can indeed be self-interested and not exclude others when it comes to things that are non-exclusive. However, most things in life, especially the important things for most people, are exclusive; food, fuel, transportation, houses, friendships (you might think friendships are non-exclusive but by someone spending more time with you, that’s more time they cannot spead on their own or with a different person). However, you raise a good point, which I mentioned as well; by being self -interested, it does not mean you are incapable of benefitting others. Matter of fact, most of our benefits in this modern world of ours are the results of just that, some self-interested person who ended up helping out many others.

    You claim that this self-interest is of a lower moral value because it can be abused? Aversions to causing suffering can be abused too, it just depends how one acts on it. You’re not arguing that self-interest is morally wrong, just that acts that result from it can be considered wrong, and that point I have no problem with.

    Greed knows no “maximum level”.

    Neither does self-interest, there’s no contention there. This is part of the definition I gave before

    No but I think that you don’t realise that this is what pure greed leads not unless temprered by other desires and beliefs.

    I understand that, but perhaps you’d like to give me your take on what happens when people are very, very self-interested. Paint me a picture of what that world would look like.

    Self-interest however, cannot be shut off, it can only switch from area to area

    It is in our self interest to be (and not just appear to) all that, for the human is a social animal. Without socialisation, he withers. These are the kind of desires & beliefs however that, even though self-interested (ultimately, as every desire is), are of higher moral value than greed.

    So are you admitting that the most caring and pleasant aspects of humanity are the result of self-interest too? Sounds like this whole ‘self-interest’ thing isn’t so bad if it can produce things you feel are of higher moral value than itself; something of a moral perpetual motion machine. A fine example of how you can’t simply paint self-interest as a bad thing.

    I compare a greedy doctor with a doctor who has a genuine desire to save people. Who do you think will do more good? Indeed I would argue that if a doctor is mostly driven by greed, he is/will be prone to acts that might give him more money to the detriment of his patients.

    Or that doctor is so self-interested in becoming the best doctor there is that they’ll work long hours to make sure everything is in top shape and do everything they can for their patients. It certainly may be the case that doctor who cares about whether his patients live or die for personal reasons other than to not be known as the doctor who keeps killing people will help more people. However, that still overlooks the greedy doctor who will do more actual good for some people than others who’s intentions you feel are on a “higher moral level”, again showing that greed isn’t as bad as you think it always is.

    Case in point. The U.S. healthcare system is built on greed and it’s a dismal failure compared to the healthcare systems of socialised countries.

    Clearly proving that greed is always a bad thing, right? You know, it’s kind of weird how I mentioned I’m for socialist safety nets like health care because we depend on those who are struggling to make ends meet, isnt it? Being self-interested is perpherial to being well-informed, and self-interest could very easily fix this situation any number of ways, but it requires people self-interested in it enough who are willing to do the research and set up the programs and convince our government to change and organize people together.

    Greed is not responsible for this much good.

    Except all those “higer moral values” you said came from being self-interested, and their results too.

    If you’re going to argue that “having enough” is subjective, I will mention that with greed, there is never enough.

    That’s percisely why I said having enough is subjective, because it depends on who you ask and what their view of enough is. At what point would you have so much money you’d walk past a $100 bill on the sidewalk?

    One last large point:
    Lets leave greed out of the equation for now lest we fall into equivocations once more. Suffice to say that this is not the common understanding of greed.

    If we’re going to leave greed out of the equation, stop mentioning greed in every part of your response. We can call it self-interest to clear things up, since you just mentioned you cannot seperate the terms greed and self-interest, and self-interest probably sounds nicer.

    1. However, most things in life, especially the important things for most people, are exclusive; food, fuel, transportation, houses, friendships (you might think friendships are non-exclusive but by someone spending more time with you, that’s more time they cannot spead on their own or with a different person).

      None of the things you mentions are exclusive. I might be growing my own food and not excluding someone from having it. I might build my own house, and not exclude someone to have his own. I might have friends and have group meetings, and not exclude anyone.

      However, you raise a good point, which I mentioned as well; by being self -interested, it does not mean you are incapable of benefitting others. Matter of fact, most of our benefits in this modern world of ours are the results of just that, some self-interested person who ended up helping out many others.

      I never said that by self-interest you cannot benefit others. I said that materialistic self-interest does not benefit others except (hopefully) through the capitalistic system and excessive materialistic self-interest (greed) is even worse.

      You claim that this self-interest is of a lower moral value because it can be abused? Aversions to causing suffering can be abused too, it just depends how one acts on it. You’re not arguing that self-interest is morally wrong, just that acts that result from it can be considered wrong, and that point I have no problem with.

      I’m not arguing that self-interest is wrong. I’m arguing that Greed is wrong.
      These two are not synonymous although you seem to treat them that way.

      Neither does self-interest, there’s no contention there. This is part of the definition I gave before

      The self interest definition you gave before is not the same as the one I am talking about. Your definition is much more close to “greed” which is why you have trouble separating these two meanings.
      We are talking about different ideas and I claim that mine if superior because (initially) it can work without exclusivity.

      I understand that, but perhaps you’d like to give me your take on what happens when people are very, very self-interested. Paint me a picture of what that world would look like.

      I cannot really know how a society people who’s only driving force is greed would act for this definition is inhuman. It is quite probable that such a society would implode.

      Self-interest however, cannot be shut off, it can only switch from area to area

      Your definition of self-interest can be shut off and moved to my definition, which is what I am trying to argue for.

      So are you admitting that the most caring and pleasant aspects of humanity are the result of self-interest too? Sounds like this whole ’self-interest’ thing isn’t so bad if it can produce things you feel are of higher moral value than itself; something of a moral perpetual motion machine. A fine example of how you can’t simply paint self-interest as a bad thing.

      Once again, not your definition of it.

      I’ll attempt to to make a distinction of the two terms:
      I am talking about interest of the self. Every desire is, ultimately, a desire of the self. Something that I want because (I hope) it will give me some emotional benefit.
      You are talking about interest for the self. A specific desire that will produce a tangible benefit such as wealth, power, fame etc.

      There difference is subtle.
      Every desire if of the self.
      Not all desires are for the self.

      Or that doctor is so self-interested in becoming the best doctor there is that they’ll work long hours to make sure everything is in top shape and do everything they can for their patients.

      This is not the same as being greedy. This doctor you are talking of, has a desire of excellence, not greed.
      A greedy doctor, might not be interest in being the best in their field as they would hit lessening returns. He would be much better served in using his extra time for material gains.

      That’s percisely why I said having enough is subjective, because it depends on who you ask and what their view of enough is. At what point would you have so much money you’d walk past a $100 bill on the sidewalk?

      You don’t understand. It’s not that having enough is subjective.
      A non-greedy person may have a high standard of living but still find his own subjective “enough” level
      A greedy person will never reach it for it is always in front. A dangling carrot so to speak.

      If we’re going to leave greed out of the equation, stop mentioning greed in every part of your response. We can call it self-interest to clear things up, since you just mentioned you cannot seperate the terms greed and self-interest, and self-interest probably sounds nicer

      I said I cannot separate them, not that they are synonymous. Indeed, this is a major problem in our discussion.

  11. f you eat that food you grow, you’ve stopped someone else from eatting it[…]

    That is absurd. Taking this to its logical conclusion you’re basically saying that if I don’t use all of my conscious time, helping others I am somehow excluding them.

    If you want to have a meaningful discussion about them you need to seperate self-interest from greed; if you can’t draw lines between the two, treating them the same seems pretty accurate. If one can be materialistically greedy, why can’t one also be socially greedy?

    I cannot separate them because one (greed) is defined as an extention of the other (self-interest). Trying to separate them is like trying to separate “desire” for “self-interest”.
    As I said, you can be greedy for fame or glory (which someone would consider social aspects) but it would end up in problems like all kinds of greed as well.

    If you want to tell me excessive is not simply a subjective addition, you’ll need to take it up with that defintion, which seems to encompass the others as well.

    I gave you another definition for greed already. Let me state it more plainly:

    Greed is an interest for the self that can never be satiated.

    If everyone was ‘maximally greedy’ and well informed in the economy,

    Before I saw your reply, I thought about the perfect example of a pure greed. A Corporation.
    A corporation is only driven by greed, all it looks for is profits.
    Many have compared corporation to sociopaths and indeed, if you imagine a corporation as a human, its behaviour, more often than not is so.

    If everyone was maximally greedy, well informed and didn’t have other desires, it would mean that the society would implode as there would be no one left to exploit. Exploitation of something (environment, people etc) is, unfortunately, one of the bases of capitalism.
    You are in favour or socialistic checks, instead of leaving the free market to its own devices, yet you ideology goes contrary to that idea.
    If greed is not what is causing the problem, then what (desire/belief) is it that you need (socialistic) control in order to prevent?

    Are you proposing there are two different kinds of self-interest?

    I just showed you how they are not the same thing and yet you insist that they are and ask me what I’ve already answered!
    My answer is already above.

    Ok, lets stop and first try to untangle this definitions knot.

    I assert that there are two types of “self-interest”.
    Interest of the self.
    Interest for the self.

    They are both using the same expressions (self-interest) but they do not have the same meaning. It is obvious that we should have different words for them in order to avoid equivocations but we don’t and we have to work with it.
    If you dissagree with me and my definitions given above, let me know why.

  12. Excluding them from that time, yes. Unless you can be two places at once I don’t see any way around that.

    You didn’t understand my question. I did not mean excluding them from my presense, I meant that I am excluding them from all the things I could be doing for them by using all my conscious thoughts to serve them.

    Such a broad definition of self-interest makes absolutely no sense.

    Or it might work out for the betterment of everyone, all depends on how one decides to act on it. One could be famous by producing music that people love or infamous for murder.

    And yet, without greed one could do the same things and avoid all the negatives of greed.

    Can you think up any human urge that can be completely satisfied once and for all?

    You are always picking the few examples that serve your argument while the vast majority go against it.
    Food and socializing are special cases in the sense that you need to take them is limited quantities to fill up your “reserves” so to speak and then you need to take the next dose.
    One can satiate their need for money once I have enough to live by.
    One can satiate their need for fame by reaching a set level (“I want to be a famous actor), or indeed have no need for fame at all
    One can satiate their need for wealth by reaching a set level, or have no such need at all.

    And if every other person and corporation was just as greedy, as I said, the result is the identical communist equalibrium point

    Rubbish. This would happen only if everyone in the world started at the same level in life which is blatantly untrue and will never be achieved while greed is the driving force of our economic system.
    Even if we somehow managed to reach the same economic level everywhere in the world, people of less intelligence would still be exploited and as the environment available for exploitation dwindled, so would the exploitation and inequality grow once again.

    Capitalism requires exploitation for their to be profit, relative to their competitors; in a perfectly informed, self-interested, economy everyone would be on exactly the same page; no one would be getting exploited (natural resources perhaps would), but everyone would remain at the same relative level as everyone else

    This can never happen with capitalism since it is a system made to make the rich richer.

    and that pure capitalism has certain problems with it that a free-market on it’s own cannot fix,

    And what is causing those problems?
    I claim that Capitalism cannot make a perfect society because it relies on a vice.
    You disagree that greed is a vice but yet recognise that capitalism cannot make a perfect society. Why?

    You’ve explained that you feel acts can be broken into ones done for material gains and those done for social or emotional gains

    No, I have explained that there is interest in the self, meaning that everything you do is because you want it. You always act in the interests of the self because you cannot do anything else. It is your desires your are acting on, no matter what you do.

    And then there is interest in the self which means that you do things for some gain to yourself, wether that is wealth, fame or whatever.
    These are two different definitions.

    When I do something to help someone else, I use my interest of the self, to increase the well being of others. I have a desire to help others.
    When I do something to help myself, I use my interest of the self to feed the interest for the self. I have a desire to help myself.

    I don’t know how much more clear I can make this.

  13. Such a broad definition of self-interest makes absolutely no sense.

    No, it makes perfect sense; if you are doing something for yourself, you’re not doing it for someone else. If you’re doing something for someone else, you must be getting a benefit from it; evolution would not have favored other types of behavior.

    And yet, without greed one could do the same things and avoid all the negatives of greed.

    If you ignore that whole “human nature” thing and make up fake people with artificial philosophical drives, then yeah, you sure could.

    One can satiate their need for money once I have enough to live by.

    Which is clearly why people reach a point of wealth and decide they don’t want anymore money and give the rest away to random strangers. It’s not like they save it for other loved ones, or friends, or end up spending that money, thus requiring they get more. The most rational thing would be for people to try and make as much money as possible and then do research into the most efficient charities or sources to donate it to instead of simply abstaining from the economy at that point; such behavior would cause an economic collapse, for once a business man made enough money he would either shut down his factory and everyone working there would lose their jobs, or once they hit that point they would hand the factory off to someone else, who would in turn do the same until that same level of wealth no longer allowed them to live as they planned, requiring they make more money.

    One can satiate their need for fame by reaching a set level (”I want to be a famous actor), or indeed have no need for fame at all

    Because “I want to be a famous actor” is such a specific goal, I’m sure people can meet that and then sit comfortably with it being perpetually maintained. Clearly, if they sit back once they hit that level people won’t forget about them, or that fame won’t be shifted to anyone else.
    But sure, if they don’t want fame in the first place then that famous thing becomes real easy.

    One can satiate their need for wealth by reaching a set level, or have no such need at all.

    See above answer, though everyone requires a certain level of wealth (stand-in for material goods, if not material goods themselves), as to afford the basics, like housing, clothing, and food.

    Rubbish. This would happen only if everyone in the world started at the same level in life which is blatantly untrue and will never be achieved while greed is the driving force of our economic system.
    Even if we somehow managed to reach the same economic level everywhere in the world, people of less intelligence would still be exploited and as the environment available for exploitation dwindled, so would the exploitation and inequality grow once again.

    Wow, it sounds like you just restated my arguements against communism; that’s it’s basic assumptions are untrue and thus cannot work. However, for however much people don’t live up to the ideal standards that either system hold them to, captialism seems to be able to survive and work in the real world better than communism (which you say has never been tried in the pure form, to which I could say capitalism has never been tried in the pure form either, as neither set of assumptions have been met by either).

    This can never happen with capitalism since it is a system made to make the rich richer.

    There’s nothing wrong with the system, and it’s not just vast conspiracy; what part of the captialist system prevents poor people from getting rich, and stops rich people from becoming poor?
    The reason for inequity is because of the people in the system, but inequity has always, and will always exist, whether in the material, or more common social form of it.

    And what is causing those problems?

    Self-interest. I could have sworn I said that.

    I claim that Capitalism cannot make a perfect society because it relies on a vice.
    You disagree that greed is a vice but yet recognise that capitalism cannot make a perfect society. Why?

    Captialism cannot make a perfect society for the same reason communism can’t; for the same reason any system can’t. Because of the people within the system, because those people are not all the same, and all of them are trying to fufill desires that everyone else is for which resources are scarce and will, because of that, directly bump into the self-interested desires of others. Surprise surprise, but life won’t be perfect. Sure, if no one was self-interested, society might be perfect; granted we’d all be dead (since people would spend all their time trying to help others, who would in turn be doing the same thing, none of which would be taking care of themselves which will quickly lead to death), and if not dead for whatever fluke reason,they would be without clothing, shelter, tools, jobs, or anything (all those nifty toys that greed has created), but you know, anything to avoid your terrible vice that can do no good, right?

    I have explained that there is interest in the self, meaning that everything you do is because you want it. You always act in the interests of the self because you cannot do anything else. It is your desires your are acting on, no matter what you do.

    With you so far.

    And then there is interest in the self which means that you do things for some gain to yourself, wether that is wealth, fame or whatever.
    These are two different definitions.

    I’m aware they’re two seperate definitions, but you seem to not be aware they aren’t too distinct types of self-interest; it’s still one self-interest, merely acting in a seperate way, and in either case, acting the way it does because evolution has shaped it to act that way; because acting in a way to gain materialistically and/or socially has brought reproductive benefits, which turn out to be the ultimate currency.

    When I do something to help someone else, I use my interest of the self, to increase the well being of others. I have a desire to help others.
    When I do something to help myself, I use my interest of the self to feed the interest for the self. I have a desire to help myself.

    Yes, and in both cases you’re self-interested; it’s still the same self-interest. In one case, you’re self-interested in your emotional state, how acting a certain way makes you feel. In the other case you’re self-interested in your material possessions, how attaining something you want and/or use makes you feel.
    Again, these two can and often do overlap, since both work on your emotional state; how attaining something new makes you feel or how helping a friend makes you feel, or how helping a friend attain something he wants makes you feel, or how a friend helping you attain something you want makes you feel.
    You’re drawing the line between what areas the self-interest works in, which is fine as self-interest can work in any and all areas of your life, but it’s still the same emotions, and same self-interest. You haven’t expanded on your point about that at all, if there was one.

  14. It has been proven time and again that evolution can favour altruism in the same way it can favour egoism. It can also favour intolerance for others.

    You say that when I’m doing someone for someone else, I must be getting something back (and I add, even if that “something” is intangible). This is true, but this is a different “self-interest” than the one you have defined as the driving force of Capitalism:

    When did I say evolution can’t favor alturism? I merely said it can’t do so without a reward. And no, it’s absolutely no different than the self-interest that drives other behaviors. If you wanted to evolve altruism in a species, one of three things needs to occur; either it needs to be reciprocated, the species need to share high degrees of genetic relatedness (i.e. ants and bees), or there needs to be an increase in the amount of sexual oppertunties the altruist receives, all of which mean by helping others the altruist helps himself; thus self-interest.
    It’s absolutely no different, and other than asserting that it is, you have nothing to back you on that point.

    This can only mean that the kind of all-encompassing self-interest you defined just now is not enough to drive capitalism forward.

    How did you draw that conclusion? What else do you figure is driving economies?

    You’ve already acknowledged (above) that people can have a self-interests (human nature) that do not translate to greed.

    Depends how one defines greed and self-interest. You’re a fan of saying they aren’t the same thing, yet cannot disentangle them or conflate the two which each other anyway.
    Indeed, people can certainly feel like they want to help other people, or feel like they want to express themselves by painting, or feel plenty of things that don’t feel like “Greed”, but behind each of those feelings self-interested behavior has been the constant presence that has shaped them all and can continue to shape them depending on what reproductive consequences they hold.

    You’re still arguing from popularity. Just because most people do it, does not mean it cannot be changed or that it is the only way.

    Sure, people could stop spending their money altogether except on the basic needs of like; lots of people would be out of a job and starving, all those fun toys we enjoy so much like cars, computers, ipods, music, nice clothing, and the like would all be gone, and eventually, people would still need to make more money to at least spend on food, but outside of all that and more, your idea sounds pretty crackerjack.

    While greed is the driving force? (which was my condition in the context of my phrase) Yes.
    This is why I do not advise people to attempt communism. I urge people to discard greed and replace interest in the self with more moral desires.

    More moral; says who?
    See above answer for likely consequences of such an action if widespread.

    Inequality.

    Inequity alone? There you go with your broad brushing again. How about intelligence, or proper investment, or skill, or social networks, or attractiveness (yes, it plays a sizable roll too), or risk taking, or the fact that because of the definintion, only a small percentage of people are even able to be rich, and to climb that ladder, someone has to come down as you come up, or perservance?
    I’m not denying inequity plays a roll, but it’s not as simple as that; there are many ways to get rich or to stop being rich, and while those born into a lower economic class are at a disadvantage it does not prevent them from changing that provided they can make up for that disadvantage through other channels.
    Even if they don’t end up being rich, they can also still rise substaintally to upper-middle classes, or work so their children can have an advantage.

    Your outlook in life saddens me. Not only because it borders on nihilism but because you will use it as an excuse to not to try and achieve equality…

    The fact it may sadden you does not pass as a point. Every system, in theory, is perfect, but people are not. Pardon me for stating the obvious but ‘the system’ is some abstract concept; there is no such thing as ‘the system’, just people and other people and how they interact which each other. Or how about in every species, human or otherwise, there is inequity? It’s the very thing evolution works on.
    Not to mention there will always be inequity because everyone is different. Hardly from being a bad thing, I celebrate that difference; would you rather everyone be equal and the same? Now that’s saddening.

    See, your circular argument slowly appears again

    Q: What causes the problems in the world?
    A: Self-Interest (interest in the self)

    Q: Why can we not change self-interest to something else?
    A: Because capitalism requires it

    Q: If Capitalism requires something that is causing problems in the world, Why not try some other system?
    A: Because most people are self-interested.

    Q: Why not try to change people to be less self-interested?
    A: Because societies based on capitalism would collapse/Because capitalism requires it.

    etc.

    No, no, and…. no. Self-interest causes plenty of problems when two or more people want the same thing or have differing interests, and self-interest is also responsible for the all good in the world as well. Forget capitalism; it’s a non-factor here; Captialism is not part of human nature, self-interest and greed (be they roughly the same thing, if only at different extremes) are. You don’t deny either exists and your best advice to people is “just stop being greedy”. Wow, I’ll be no one ever thought of that before, and clearly, because it’s that simple to stop and since you don’t like it it seems the natural step that everyone should abandon it (if even possible) without actually thinking the point through. It’s also easy to claim you’re not greedy or self-interested when you can just rationalize it away despite the clear inequity you live in to many areas of the world.

    Not being interested in the self does not mean that you ignore your own survival instinct (Don’t jump to extremes).
    If everyone put a higher priority in helping others than in helping themselves then any need that you had to survive would have been provided by someone helping you. This does not mean that you just sit and wait for it however.

    Everyone’s interested in the self, or of the self, or however you want to put it; it’s just a matter of how much. A high priority to help others cannot exist without being rewarded; evolution would never favor it. You can add the “what if’s” you want, but without any basis in reality the claims are no different than imagining what a world would be like if we all had magic powers (which could solve all sorts of problems).

    Just because capitalism uses manages to (generally) point greed in the rigth direction, does not make greed good.
    Necessary for Capitalism? Probably.
    Is Capitalism the only thing feasible however? Debatable.
    To further claim that Capitalism is the only thing possible because everyone is inherently greedy is to once again fall into the circular argument I’ve pointed above.

    You’ve assumed from the get go that greed is bad; from what I’ve seen you seem inexcepting of the good greed does, or like to credit that good to other forces (like this mysterious kind of second self-interest). You won’t accept you’re greedy at all, and all this simply by insisting it’s so.
    Exactly what good does greed need to do before you’ll entertain the possibility that maybe it’s not as evil as you’re making it out to be?
    So it may well be the only feasible system given human nature, and that makes it circular logic?

    1. It’s acting in a way that does not help Capitalism.
    2. Humans have already surpased natural selection. Just because we happen to have this meme now does not mean we cannot change it.

    With 1, I don’t even know what you’re talking about, but it’s probably not well thought out.
    With 2, you’ve admitted your ignorance. No species has, or can, surpass natural selection. You’ve demonstrated, simply with that one quote, you have no idea how natural selection works or what it is, and I’ll same by extension from this argument, what self-interest is. It takes away from your point when you admit you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Altruism has been proven to have Evolutionary benefits. An Argument from evolution however has no space in morality. If you really want to argue from an evolutionary standpoint, consider the meme I am talking about as a mutation that can lead to better survivability.

    As I mentioned above, because it translated into helping one’s own genetic material or because it allowed one more sexual oppertunities (which is essentially the same thing). And no, an argument from evolution has no morality, it merely describes what is; it should be noted however, that your claim that greed is wrong and can do no good is demonstratably false, and suggestion to simply abandon it both ill-informed as to the consequences and blind to the methods of how this would need to be achieved (provided such a thing is even possible as to remove one kind of greed you need to replace it with another one).

    I claim that the interest of the self that expresses itself as a desire to help others is moraly superior to the interest of the self that expresses itself as interest in the self.

    And you claiming it does absolutely no good towards showing it’s validity.

    – Desire to help others provides you with emotional gain with minimal strain to yourself, for it can be satiated easily (friends are free)

    Satiated for a time, with a benefit to yourself. Yup, still basic self-interest

    – Not needing much more than your basic needs allows you not to feel emotional pain when you don’t have the extras

    Unless of course those extras translate into real benefits everyone else has except you, at which point you’d be at a distinct disadvantage, which may make some people feel a bit blue. But so long as we’re ignoring human psychology then yes, great point.

    – Not needing a lot means that it is easier for the world resources to be less exploited.

    Yup. if there was no life on earth, then there would be no exploitation of the resources. If there was life as there is now, it will exploit other forms of life. Simply a statement of fact.

    – Interest in the self requires you to always strive for more personal gain with diminishing returns

    Yeah, it’s such a terrible thing to strive for more, to do things better, to keep oneself in health form and maintaining social relationships, or to create new, better ways of doing things. All those evil things.

    – If you can’t achieve what you strive for, you feel emotional pain.

    Most commonly found in the realm of not being able to achieve or maintain social/sexual relationships (you know, that mysteriously existing second kind of self-interest you imagine exists – that one that you claim doesn’t work for capitalism, and yet, it seems to cause the most pain of all). Personally, I feel more pain if I lose a friend then if I don’t get a more expensive car.

    – If your interest in the self is strong enough (or unsatiatable), you may end up losing friends due to your unwillingness to help others (since it would cost you from helping yourself more)

    in which case it would be in your self-interest to help your friends, thus helping yourself more than by not helping your friends.

    Your only arguments against this is that until now are
    – Capitalism requires interest in the self
    – Evolution has made us interested in the self

    None of these touch the moral issue.

    So, let me ask you; have you actually read anything I’ve wrote here, and made an honest effort to understand and entertain it? I think it’s a valid point at this juncture being you have no idea what evolution is (as demonstrated by your above quote), what self-interest is, how it seems you have missed every point about people requiring the greed of others to create jobs and better the standard of living for everyone, how every improvement in human life has come as the result of self-interested behavior, and just in general how incredibly unaccepting of anything outside of your assertion that greed is immoral, thinking that by saying you don’t think it is passes as a moral argument.

  15. Well, I guess if you feel the need to be insulting your cognitive dissonance might actually be having an effect.

    When did I say evolution can’t favor alturism? I merely said it can’t do so without a reward

    No reward needed. The survivability of the genes is the “reward”. The subject doing the altruistic action, does not need to be rewarded in its lifetime. Indeed its life might as well end as the result of the altruistic action.

    If you wanted to evolve altruism in a species, one of three things needs to occur; either it needs to be reciprocated, the species need to share high degrees of genetic relatedness (i.e. ants and bees), or there needs to be an increase in the amount of sexual oppertunties the altruist receives, all of which mean by helping others the altruist helps himself; thus self-interest.
    It’s absolutely no different, and other than asserting that it is, you have nothing to back you on that point.

    There are examples of species who by helping relatives promote their close genetic code through them, even though their own genes might be lost.

    It’s been proven through simulations that societies of humans who were altruistic and intolerant had an advantage as high as as societies which where egoistic and tolerant.

    How did you draw that conclusion? What else do you figure is driving economies?

    Oh Gawds! Enough with the equivocations already!

    Which is it?
    Does self-interest mean to explicitly take actions that benefit you, to the exclusion of others?
    or
    Does self-interest mean to take any action at all, even if that action would be, explicitly and only, for the benefit of others?

    Decide already!

    yet cannot disentangle them or conflate the two which each other anyway

    I’m starting to give up the idea that you might be capable of reading and comprehension. I’ve only answered the same question 2 times now.

    Sure, people could stop spending their money altogether except on the basic needs of like; lots of people would be out of a job and starving

    There we go again with bringing the collapse of capitalism as an argument.
    The people who were out of a job, if they too discarded their need for “toys” as you mentioned, could just as well live with very little and the aforementioned people who stopped spending because they replaced greed with altruism could help them.

    See above answer for likely consequences of such an action if widespread.

    yes yes, I’m tired of fighting your favourite circular argument.

    Inequity alone? There you go with your broad brushing again. How about intelligence, or proper investment, or skill, or social networks, or attractiveness (yes, it plays a sizable roll too), or risk taking, or the fact that because of the definintion, only a small percentage of people are even able to be rich, and to climb that ladder, someone has to come down as you come up, or perservance?

    People who are born poor or problematic have to struggle many times harder to achieve the same level the rich ones start at.
    The child from a rich family has to struggle to fail in life. The child from a poor family has to struggle to succeed. That is inequality.

    Not to mention there will always be inequity because everyone is different. Hardly from being a bad thing, I celebrate that difference; would you rather everyone be equal and the same? Now that’s saddening.

    because, you know, that’s exactly what I said.

    Self-interest causes plenty of problems when two or more people want the same thing or have differing interests, and self-interest is also responsible for the all good in the world as well.

    This does not invalidate what I’ve shown to be your circular argument. You said that self-interest is causing the problems in the world.
    You saying that it’s also causing the good is just another way of saying that “We cannot change it because capitalism requires it”.

    Jeez, and all those “No”s made me think I made a mistake…

    self-interest and greed (be they roughly the same thing, if only at different extremes)

    Ok, I’d love to see you explain how two things at different extremes can be “roughly the same thing”…

    You don’t deny either exists and your best advice to people is “just stop being greedy”

    Yes, my whole initial article and all my subsequent comments can be adequately summarized as “Don’t be greedy. M’kay?” You’ve masterfully grasped the gist of my argument…

    Wow, I’ll be no one ever thought of that before, and clearly, because it’s that simple to stop and since you don’t like it it seems the natural step that everyone should abandon it (if even possible) without actually thinking the point through

    I never said it would be easy. Indeed it might be one of the hardest things you’ll do. I’m still struggling with it.The difficulty of the attempt does not say anything about the benefit you’ll achieve if you do manage it, even to a lesser degree.

    Everyone’s interested in the self, or of the self, or however you want to put it;

    Interesting. I didn’t know that displaying your inability to understand differing definitions was an argument in itself.

    A high priority to help others cannot exist without being rewarded; evolution would never favor it.

    A. What evolution rewards or not is not the basis of human morality
    B. A high priority to help others can and does exist in families and even extended families of animal. No reward is necessary.

    You’ve assumed from the get go that greed is bad; from what I’ve seen you seem inexcepting of the good greed does, or like to credit that good to other forces (like this mysterious kind of second self-interest)

    What, you mean the mysterious kind of self-interest that I’ve gone to great length to explain and that you’ve ended acknowledging? Just because you cannot grasp the concept because it would make your equivocations shatter only makes your arguments from ignorance.

    And no. I have not assumed from the start that greed is bad. I’ve made quite a lot of arguments towards the end of my post to base my assertion.

    Exactly what good does greed need to do before you’ll entertain the possibility that maybe it’s not as evil as you’re making it out to be?

    I’ve already explained how greed by itself “does” no good. It’s people’s cumulative belief and desires that shape if what they do is good or bad. You attempt to label these cumulative beliefs and desires that shape the intentions as the sole result of greed.

    I’ve also explained why greed is bad without needing to rely on any external factors (like a working capitalistic society)

    Why don’t you give me one argument on why greed is good outside of the scope of capitalism? Remember that greed is insatiable.

    So it may well be the only feasible system given human nature, and that makes it circular logic?

    The only feasible system? hardly.
    Feudalism is feasible, Hunter-gathering is feasible. Trading is feasible. Socialism is feasible, Freeconomy is feasible.
    The problem is to decide which one has the most benefit and/or to discover new and better ones.

    With 1, I don’t even know what you’re talking about, but it’s probably not well thought out.

    I’m starting to get the impression that this is your standard response when you don’t understand something. Generally it’s called argument from ignorance.

    With 2, you’ve admitted your ignorance. No species has, or can, surpass natural selection. You’ve demonstrated, simply with that one quote, you have no idea how natural selection works or what it is, and I’ll same by extension from this argument, what self-interest is. It takes away from your point when you admit you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    We have surpassed natural selection in the sense that the rate of human societal evolution is so rapid that biological mutations play almost no role in who gets selected. Indeed, even someone severely handicapped, who by all means should have been naturally selected away, can survive and have offspring.
    If you want, you might say that our natural selection is now based more on memes than genes.

    Tip: When polite people see something that seems like an horrible misconception, they don’t jump to conclusion and start with the insults, but rather they poke a bit to see that they have not misunderstood or the other person was not clear enough.

    And you claiming it does absolutely no good towards showing it’s validity.

    Wow! You quote mined me just before I proceeded to provide the base for this claim so that you could take a cheap shot. I didn’t know you had it in you.

    Satiated for a time, with a benefit to yourself. Yup, still basic self-interest

    All of these are “self-interest” but with the “interest for the self” definition.
    This specific one also does nothing to power capitalism.

    Unless of course those extras translate into real benefits everyone else has except you, at which point you’d be at a distinct disadvantage, which may make some people feel a bit blue.

    If you don’t need those extras, then there is no distinct disadvantage.
    I don’t need a TV. No disadvantage
    I don’t need a Car. No disadvantage
    I don’t need expensive holidays. No disadvantage
    etc.
    Nice if I have them, no sweat off my back if I don’t.

    But so long as we’re ignoring human psychology then yes, great point

    What part is ignoring human psychology? That you can train yourself not to need anything more than food, shelter and friends? People were doing it already thousands of years ago.

    If there was life as there is now, it will exploit other forms of life. Simply a statement of fact.

    I didn’t say “No exploitation”. I said “less exploitation”. Your inability to read is showing again.

    Yeah, it’s such a terrible thing to strive for more, to do things better, to keep oneself in health form and maintaining social relationships, or to create new, better ways of doing things. All those evil things.

    Are you so angry already that you cannot read the part where I said “diminishing returns”?
    The bad of this is not in the sense that you strive for stuff. It’s because you never stop striving, even though the returns are very few.

    Most commonly found in the realm of not being able to achieve or maintain social/sexual relationships (you know, that mysteriously existing second kind of self-interest you imagine exists – that one that you claim doesn’t work for capitalism, and yet, it seems to cause the most pain of all). Personally, I feel more pain if I lose a friend then if I don’t get a more expensive car.

    It is found anywhere. It depends on where your intentions lie and at what level your Envy drives you.
    It exists in your inability to achieve a material desire. be that to become famous, powerful or wealthy. As long as you have your interest in the self targeted at this purposes, these purposes will cause you emotional pain.

    You anecdotal evidence that it hurts you more to lose a friend than a car is cute.

    in which case it would be in your self-interest to help your friends, thus helping yourself more than by not helping your friends.

    Which means you would have to modify your self-interest to not be insatiable (greed) or too strong and then divert part of it to maintaining relationships. This will however cause you to be less successful in a capitalistic society which will cause you other pains due to Envy.

    So, let me ask you; have you actually read anything I’ve wrote here, and made an honest effort to understand and entertain it?

    Funny you should ask that.

    how it seems you have missed every point about people requiring the greed of others to create jobs and better the standard of living for everyone, how every improvement in human life has come as the result of self-interested behavior

    Which self interest? Taking actions that benefit you, to the exclusion of others or taking any action at all, even if that action would be, explicitly and only, for the benefit of others or perhaps to the exclusion of no-one?

    and just in general how incredibly unaccepting of anything outside of your assertion that greed is immoral, thinking that by saying you don’t think it is passes as a moral argument.

    I’ve based my assertion about the morality of greed on arguments that you have failed to read or comprehend.

  16. Right, this little poo-throwing match has gone far enough. I’m not going to continue discussing with someone who is trying so hard to annoy me.

    I tried to clarify my ideas more than enough so perhaps I’ll end up writing about some of this issues raised in here.

    In the end, we’ve both stated our points and we currently seem to be stuck in a merry-go-round. I’ll leave the field open for more viewpoints if anyone else wishes to jump in.

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