Thursday, June 22, 2006

altruism, egoism, purpose

I have a confession to make. When I was younger, I was in some contexts terribly altruistic. Actually, it was a combination of thinking that sacrifice is right (which is altruism) and a feeling of fear of asserting my own (barely developed) will with others. And I suffered the consequences, among them mental passivity. If you don't have your own goals there isn't much to think about. It is virtually impossible to think about things that don't interest you, such as others goals. So you don't even succeed in being particularly valuable to others, instead you get pretty boring to hang out with. The most interesting people are always people who primarily act in their self-interest (even if many who act in their own self-interest of course are boring as well).

It is important for all involved to use other people for you own interest. To always have some sort of purpose with them, though it may not be any remarkable (it doesn't have to be more than "it's nice to have a cup of coffee with this person". An altruist on the other hand may agree to that coffee without even wanting it, if it is that other person's will.)

Of course, it has to be made in a moral context, as a trader. I'm actually less manipulative and "advantage-taking" than most. I don't try to get value from people without having their agreement, or without having something to offer myself. And that's how I prefer others by be also, rational egoists. So I practice what I advocate, which is more than many advocaters of altruism can say. They advocate altruism and then collect the sacrifices themselves, acting like egoists of the bad, predatory kind. Always be suspicious of people who ask you to sacrifice something.

Of course, always having a purpose in your dealings with other people is just an instance of the broader principle to always have a purpose. Purpose is a fundamental need for us humans. People who are completely adrift (and the Lord knows I've been there) is at odds with their nature and the requirements of life, and suffers accordingly. (Todays philosophical question: can't the purpose be an altruistic one? Stay tuned for the surprising answer...)

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