Does Altruism Exist?
I’m a great believer in science, and never subscribed to the idea that things just happen at random. Things happen, but I’ve never come across one thing that didn’t have a cause where it can be measured, so the idea that just because something happens and you can’t measure it, it doesn’t suggest that random is the new rule you should use instead. So, two rules, one for what you can identify, and another because you can’t identify it. In every case where this has happened, and later it became possible to measure it, the result was from cause and effect.
When you come to non-tangible structure, new rules apply, but the value known as Karma does seem to hold statistically. I don’t know if this will be weeded out by Facebook, but if there are five types of option, always good, always bad, tit-for-tat but original good, tit-for-tat but original bad, and random like selection, you find that the route takes certain lines.
Always good works better with always good and the same for tit-for-tat but original good. Tit-for-tat but original bad works less well, and bad is disastrous. Random is 50% good or bad with good.
Tit for tat but original good works well with always good and the same for tit-for-tat but original good. Tit-for-tat but original bad works badly, and bad is curtailed. Random is about 50%.
Tit for Tat but original bad works well with good, but is curtailed with similar, Tit for Tat but good alternates between good and bad outcomes, but is curtailed with always bad. Random is about 33%.
Bad always wins against always good, but is curtailed by anything else. Random is about 25%.
Statistically the best return is Tit-for Tat but originally good, so treating others well from the start tends to get the best overall return.
These is just statistical values coming up based on number of outcomes and probabilities that provide a sort of Karma figure, but in real life it usually comes down to like attracting like, so in general societies good people tend to surround themselves with similar and bad people likewise. They usually have the values they admire and value within themselves. When different groups meet there are usually problems stemming from the set of values people hold. So really evil people, although they prey on good or less evil people, try to surround themselves with similar, and aren’t disappointed or even expect it when they receive bad things in return. Quite often their view of life is pointless, and full of woe and horror, inflicting it and getting it in return. You could say that hard and unfeeling people have hard, unfeeling and pointless existences, living only for their own short-term personal pleasure until they don’t exist. People are glad they aren’t around anymore. Good people and Tit for tat but original good are always mourned and quite often feel satisfied they have done well at the end. Tit for tat tends to be more respected. Tit for tat but original bad tend to be remembered for the original bad thing. Bad are remembered, but usually as a warning, quite often their lives ending when anybody else would have been helped. The last thing they usually experience is hopelessness and contempt.
It’s hard to do a mathematical or statistical calculation of general psychological or philosophical principles. I did a set of symbolic logic diagrams on these principles when at university, but lost them when I returned home in a sort of ‘man from Porlock situation’ over 40 years ago.
Altruism though probably does not exist. People will normally only do things that benefit them in some way, say making them feel good about themselves. This is where proportions come into it and effort involved. A millionaire can usually have less effect on themselves personally giving £100 than a poor person giving £1. A billionaire can easily give away a house with more effort than a starving person sharing a loaf of bread. But one thing seems to be apparent, that when you start to make just a small effort to breach the barriers to generosity it becomes easier for subsequent acts.
A good definition of altruism is ‘a willingness to do things that bring advantages to others, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself.’ I would add ‘overall’ to disadvantage, the key word being ‘willingness,’ not an automatic thing. Altruism being a considered act every time, not just of the basis of your beliefs. But I’ve met many people who are very selective with this, kind to others, willing to give time or money, but severe with their own families or partners, who get little or scant attention. ‘Charity begins at home’ has a number of meanings, not just giving close to home, but referring to it as a starting point from where somebody needs to begin a change in their outlook. Jimmy Saville was once considered altruistic, jumping at the chance to help others, when all he saw was an avenue to help himself. His ego was a warning sign. ‘I’ve done good, so I’m entitled to do some bad as kind of compensation.’ Not all acts of kindness are a kindness, but I’ve always believed most people are generally good, just needing a little push sometimes to being altruistic. If they are coerced then they can’t be.
I like the dialogue in Red Dwarf, The Inquisitor, and how it applies to people and beliefs:
Inquisitor: But surely your life is replete with good works? There can be few individuals who have lived a more selfless life.
Kryten: But I am programmed to live unselfishly. And therefore, any good works I do come not out of fine motives, but as a result of a series of binary commands I am compelled to obey.
Inquisitor: Well, then, how can any mechanical justify himself?
Kryten: Perhaps only if he attempted to break his programming and conduct his life according to a set of values he arrived at independently.
We are all programmed by our upbringing and beliefs.