Is Altruism Bad?
Yesterday, I had a long and interesting conversation with a Philosopher and Ayn Rand proponent named Elliot Temple. You can find the discussion here.
So here are my thoughts on that discussion.
First thing I want to say was that I was impressed at Temple's patience and endurance regarding the discussion. Most people I've had these type of conversations with, get tired after an hour maybe two. We went at it for EIGHT hours. Though, it wasn't an instant back and forth as it was done via a type of message board. I don't think it bears any consequence on the veracity of either party, but finding someone that could keep up with me on a prolonged discussion without it getting off the rails was a pleasurable experience.
My main goal with this discussion was to try understand why objectivists think that Altruism is bad.
We worked with this particular definition of Altruism -meaning sacrificing yourself for others, putting others before yourself. I had been initially put off by the idea of a philosophy that promotes "selfishness," at least that's how I first saw it.
The conversation took a few detours but we finally honed in on the idea of "sacrifice."
Elliot made some very compelling arguments against the idea of sacrifice and I have to admit I think the arguments are solid. The main thing to consider is how an objectivists sees a sacrifice is not how one generally thinks about sacrifice. I brought up the example of donating my time or money to an organization that is looking to improve scientific research. To an objectivist, this is not a sacrifice because I am pursuing something I value; So it is more of a trade than a sacrifice.
But does that make Altruism bad? To an objectivist, I would guess it really does depend on the idea of sacrifice. Could certain forms of Altruism be considered not a sacrifice? Temple answered, "Maybe, but then Rand would say they should be called by a different word since it's a different concept. And she'd be skeptical – there's a reason people are choosing to call it "altruism", which my dictionary says is "the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others"
I am not sure if there is a word to describe the type of Altruism I am thinking of that is not "sacrificial" in the way objectivists define the term. Perhaps one can make it up and call it "Objective Altruism." I don't know if we will continue the discussion any longer but I'd like to explore this idea a bit further if so.
I am still unsure how I feel about every idea presented by Temple. It is certainly a different way of thinking; and in some areas it seems socially impractical. However, these are important topics that require serious thought and dismissing ideas without ever engaging with them is just foolish. I might give Rand a closer look after all!
It is going to be a while though as I'll be focusing mostly on Deutsch and Popper for the time being in addition to the work I'll be doing for the IDW project #2 which is likely going to be Free Will; but this was a very enjoyable detour. This is in addition to work and classes so Rand might have to wait quite a while.