Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: morality

Ethical egoism is harmful

**Note**: *This is a rambling argument against ethical egoism; I’m saying that it doesn’t make sense to reject altruism, especially using evolution as an argument, and in fact, evolution can be used to explain how altruism can be evolved. I’m not talking about possible solutions or theories of socio-economic organization. Obviously, philosophy informs those ideologies and the rejection of ethical egoism has implications in that regard. But that’s another topic.*

I can’t believe that ethical egoism is even considered to be a valid moral-framework. It essentially legitimizes being a selfish asshole who has no regard for the feelings of others; a narcissistic psychopath would be the supreme ethical-egoist. This is absolute nonsense. It is argued that altruism doesn’t “make sense” because looking out for another person when it’s not even in your interest doesn’t jive with “natural selection” (something right libertarians are in _love_ with). That’s still generally true; evolution is ruthless competition — the amoral laws of nature or the “law of the jungle”. But there is also emergent complexity.

When you start dealing with agents that not just aware of themselves, but also _other_ agents like them, then they must necessarily be aware of the consequences of their actions, on such agents. This was a foregone conclusion, I think, once sexual reproduction evolved. At some point, a creature would evolve that needs to be aware of opposite sex, and needs to be able to maximize its chances of reproducing with that opposite sex. That requires an internal cognitive framework (or at least embedding so that we don’t have to quibble about sentience) that can represent an “other”. Naturally, this will give rise to cooperation, because even by chance two agents can discover that their chances of success at gathering resources (food; i.e., energy) is maximized if they work together. From here it’s not too difficult to see how packs, herds, and flocks evolved. Once the brain already has a sense of the opposite sex, it’s not hard to extend that to other members — I would argue that that would have necessarily evolved at the same time as awareness of the opposite sex because agents usually have to compete with members of their own sex for access to the opposite. Hence again, even by chance, it is possible for agents to discover that by working collectively, their chances for success are maximized. This is especially observed in pack animals from wolves, and in primates, especially in us.

If early humans only looked out for themselves, we would have gone extinct. This is because by himself or herself, a single human-being is not a formidable predator; we don’t have big, sharp, teeth or claws. We aren’t especially hardy either; we don’t have fur and we are comparatively frail when compared to other predators that occupy the same niche. This is true for many primates as well. But what maximized the chance of not just group, but _individual_ success and survival, is working together _as_ a group. To do that necessarily _requires_ altruism, since the agent _must_ be able to balance individual needs against the overall well-being of the group. For example, when a group is attacked, healthier individuals will protect the injured, old, and young — this puts them at more risk, but they do it regardless because group survival is only guaranteed by the protection of those who cannot protect themselves. With humans this reaches a different stage. No longer guided by the blind evolution, our sentience lets us explore the solution space of social-organization even further. Our sense of _self_ , our metacognition, lets us _question_ norms and wonder about _other_ social arrangements.

But that one can explore this solution space means that one will encounter both _bad_ and _good_ solutions. Ethical egoism is bad solution. That it has been conceived of, doesn’t give it any validity. Individuals purely acting in their own self-interest may lead to a functional society, but it is not one that is necessarily equal (it is highly improbable+ that it would be); where the rights of a percentage are not being continually oppressed — disregard of the rights or feelings of others necessarily leads to that. As human beings, our chances of survival are maximized by having concern _about_ our fellow humans. In these times, we’re talking about the survival of human civilization itself.

Ethical egoism as a moral framework should be rejected.

+*I have this intuition about a game-theoretic agent-based framework that could perhaps provide evidence for this. I would need to use an inequality measure of some sort and then run thousands of simulations to get a distribution of values for the coefficient, and the parameters (types of cost-functions, basically) that produce those values. I haven’t fully thought it through because I have other stuff to work on, but it’s an experiment I’d like to try one day.*

Final thoughts

I need to write this down just to sort it out. Everyone says it’s not a “big deal” and that “life will go on”. I don’t know. In elections prior, I have been disappointed but I never grieved. I thought America was headed, or at least heading (however haphazardly) in a direction where we didn’t care about each other’s race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. I thought that we were poised and ready to tackle the problems of this new century. Then this happened. Instead of policies, we were literally debating a candidate’s fitness for being President. Instead of merely deciding the direction of this country, we were deciding its character. I never thought that we would elect a man who categorically stated that he wanted to ban an entire religion from this country. I never thought that we would elect a man who is a bully. I thought that we valued experience, knowledge, and intelligence in this country. I never thought we would elect an inexperienced man, who, based on all we know, is not even a successful businessman. I thought we valued pragmatism, poise, and compromise, if not in Congress, at least in the President. I never thought we would elect an immature, thin-skinned man, who goes into an apoplectic fit just from a mean word.

Growing up, we’re taught things by our parents to help us become civil, productive members of society. We are taught to say “Please”, “Sorry”, and “Thank you”. We are taught to respect each other. We are taught not to bully each other. We are taught not to discriminate against each other. We are taught not to take advantage of each other. We are taught not to lie. We are taught to work hard. We are taught to be good people. This election changed all of that. How can a man who disregards the social contract of a society ever be fit to lead that very society? I think those on the other side think I’m sad or disappointed because my party lost. No; it has nothing to do with being Republican or Democrat. But it has everything to do with deciding who we are as a country. Our principles. Our values. Hillary may have been a flawed candidate, but I don’t think that she is fundamentally a bad person. Think about someone you disagree with; an acquaintance, friend, or even a family member. Simply because you disagree with them, do you consider them a bad person? This is how I have felt about every candidate I didn’t support. I disagreed with Bush, but I never thought he was a bad person. I disagreed with McCain and Romney, but I never thought that they were bad people. They never did anything that ever made me feel that way. Think about Bush’s statement to Cindy Sheehan, his statement about Muslims after 9/11, or McCain’s response to a woman attacking Obama. They were respectful — that is how the people who want to be leaders of this country should behave. As much as I disagreed with any of them, I was confident that they have the best interests of the country at heart; but not Trump — he only cares about himself.

How do you explain something like this to a child? If you voted for a person who does everything you tell your child not to do, how do you explain yourself? A Trump supporter told me that one shouldn’t look to politicians for moral guidance. I’m not sure if they understood my original argument. This is not about having a source of morality; it is about an example. Think back to our earliest lessons in morality — fables — if you do bad things, you get in trouble. If you do good things, good things happen to you. Trump contradicts this most basic axiom. His character contradicts it, and now so does our national character apparently, in that a significant part of the country is not just fine with,but wanted a man like this to be president.

As a rebuttal I often get questions as to how I could support someone shady like Hillary. This usually comes with a gish gallop of numerous conspiracy-theory articles. But in general you can sum it up to the following: she lied about Bengazhi, she is corrupt, and of course, her emails. None of those paint her in a flattering light and in isolation they may be concerning. But it turns into a matter of priority. This is what Trump supporters need to understand: she is flawed, but she isn’t talking about banning a whole religion from the country. She may have made shady deals, but she isn’t talking about how it is ok to sexually assault a woman. She is establishment, and she may care more for establishment interests, but she isn’t talking about inciting violence or questioning the foundations of our democracy; she isn’t talking about using nukes or blowing ships out of the water.

I have never felt scared in this country before. That’s different now. Trump’s senior-most advisers are alt-right fanatics. He has regularly courted the white-nationalist and white-supremacist segments of society. He refuses to disavow them as well. I’m not white and I’m an immigrant. How is that supposed to make me feel?

My opposition to Trump is not simply policy. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was on a Republican ticket. It is something far more fundamental; it is about what it means to be an American and a good human-being. It is about how we treat each other. It is about transcending our differences instead of magnifying them. It is about who we are as a society. It is about staying true to the principles that founded this great nation. It is about the statement that we make to the world about who we are as a country. It’s not just about the next 4 years, but the next 400 and where we need to go as a civilization. I really thought we were there. I really thought we were close this time. I really thought that we could start fixing some of the brain-dead decisions that got us here. I really thought that we could actually tackle climate-change. I really thought that we could do it right this time. The irony of all this, is that Trump supporters will never realize that they not only voted against my interests, but theirs as well. And that is why this hurts so much.

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove
%d bloggers like this: