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Hypothetical Selfish Question

turgid (580780) writes | more than 2 years ago

User Journal 4

Wouldn't it be great to exist entirely for yourself? The objective of life would be to achieve zero pain and suffering and as much "pleasure" as possible at any cost since we are not considering the effect of our existence on other human beings.

Wouldn't it be great to exist entirely for yourself? The objective of life would be to achieve zero pain and suffering and as much "pleasure" as possible at any cost since we are not considering the effect of our existence on other human beings.

Just think of a life with absolutely no consequences, because you just don't care. You take whatever you need or want. You eat, drink and consume anything you desire. You will not be short of heat and shelter, because you will just take it at will.

Why?

Suppose you had decided to arbitrarily limit your life to the time that the consequences got to you.

I am not asking this question because I am considering this course of action ... no, I don't have the courage.... :-) I intend to live as long as possible in as curmudgeonly a way as possible... and I want to live long enough to see a fellow human being walk on Mars.

This is an attempt to solicit some input to answer an important moral question.

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4 comments

Lonely (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38553030)

I'd think it would be lonely, surrounded only by those who either pleasure you or seek to deny you pleasure. Who would want to live in a world without peers?

Human behavior reflects competitive advantage (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#38553612)

The reason that people behave as they do is largely a function of the momentum of human social evolution, which itself is built on top of human biological evolution. People do seek for themselves, but defer to others because the lack of deference marks them as enemies of those with which they interact, putting them at a competitive disadvantage. Conversely, those persons who pay the most attention to others while at the same time seeking their own gain (a complex behavior, but what most people do to various degrees of success their entire lives) end up with the greatest competitive advantage, because their capacity is multiplied by those who provide material assistance because they feel indebted to them in some way.

In short, it is universally beneficial to have as many people who want to help you and to have as few people want to harm you, and the current human society mostly reflects that. Richard Dawkins produced a documentary on the subject, Nice Guys Finish First [youtube.com] , as something of a clarification of his earlier acclaimed book, The Selfish Gene.

Re: Hypothetical Selfish Question (1)

shrykk (747039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38557324)

Breaking social norms would end up reducing the pleasures available to you quickly - just grabbing what's in front of you would surely create more problems than the pleasures briefly gained. The chances of you achieving much pleasure before incurring some mild discomfort and ending it all would be slim.

Going a bit further than your question, it is probably possible to live purely for oneself to a greater or lesser extent while appearing to be a normal member of society. You might think some people already do. Someone who really wanted to live that way might choose to commit crime, intending to live a long life of luxury on ill-gotten gains or a short life if caught.

I don't think so (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38558174)

The "take everything you want at will" works until the thing you want belongs to someone else. Then, you've got a problem.

On the most basic level, I think this is what keeps most people from living that way: the fact that other people sometimes can and will stop you.

But I think there's an evolutionary benefit to cooperation, to living a decent life where you don't take whatever you want when you want it. Any parent knows this circumstance, when there's something you want but you decide not to have it so you can get something, or do something for your child. Even though it may not show up on a balance sheet, you get something when you live that way. Something that's not easily measurable, but completely concrete.

I don't know if you've got a mate or kids, turgid. I've noticed that even having a dog or cat opens up one's life enough to attenuate the self-centered impulses. Even when you feel like laying in bed, you've got to get up because that dog depends on you taking her for a walk and feeding her.

Happy New Year.

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