Mr. Happy wrote:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, The Price Equation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_equation
I won't pretend that I understand it but there are consistent means of assessing altruism depending on how you define it.
I’m not completely on board with George R. Price’s interpretation of Altruism: in that, I think the idea of people seeing greater value in those genetically similar to themselves to be slightly misguided. I’d see it as rather a consequence of environmental factors rather than a direct mechanism as he seems to be relying on. Yet, that aside, the theory rather represents a supporting cause for my argument here. ‘Altruism is a delusion’ stands from a holistic humanistic point of view because there is plainly no direct mechanism for concern where we extend beyond those we know and care about.
Mr. Happy wrote:
The thing that interests me is that animals are seen to lack reason. If only the selfish can be reasoning and humans are incapable of acting without reasoning then you need to be unreasoning, i.e. an animal, in order to be altruistic. This suggests that animals are capable of acting to a higher ethical standard than humans.
You might rightly question whether a dog is incapable of reasoning or just lack the language capabilities to clearly articulate that reasoning but take the example of a bee laying down life in order to defend its queen. Surely an insect would be as near to completely instinctual/intuitive as you can get. And yet we consider ourselves capable of higher ethics via self-examination.
‘Lesser’ animals lack the complex ability of reasoning that is relevant here – they could be described as automatons of instinct and emotion, where those are the basis for morality. Morality being these factors plus higher human reasoning. By that, animals are perfectly moral by their own standard – barring some anomalies perhaps.
I wouldn’t say that humans are capable of higher ethics than lesser animals unless you would beg the question and define ethics are requiring human reasoning. I would do that, but of course the statement is, then, purposeless.
Mr. Happy wrote:
If acting in selfish interests is antithetical to group society that lets us evolve society and therefore culture and education as part of that society then altruism is necessary and to some extent rational without us being aware of that rationality. This argument I believe disconnects motivation from rationality and ethics.
What if your motivation is to do the most good (help other people) possible and use logical means to achieve that end? Doing anything less than trying to optimise the effect of your actions would be illogical and less altruistic. The two things can co-exist but shouldn't be confused with each other.
This is debatable because in my view selfishness that can be seen as detrimental to one’s ‘environment’ to be irrational, which is not a part of Rational Egoism. At the same time, this does not increase the worth of altruism which I would argue can be likewise destructive to one’s ‘environment’. Altruism where it pushes to ‘spreading too thin’ the resources available is rather detrimental to what I would call progress, and certainly from an individualistic context.
We are debating the rationality of that motivation, not the mechanism.
To summarise at least my own views:
(Moral, collectivist) Altruism is good: True.
(Rational, collectivist) Altruism is good: True insofar as ‘close’ altruism such as that for friends and family; False insofar as boundless altruism for all humanity.
(Moral, individualist) Altruism is good: Meaningless. Morality is defined collectively, other is otherwise arbitrary and thus unprovable, or else rational.
(Rational, individualist) Altruism is good: False.