Is it selfish to enforce your vision of how the world should be run? | INFJ Forum

Is it selfish to enforce your vision of how the world should be run?

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by TinyBubbles, May 17, 2010.

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  1. TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    (inspired by Therefore Chris' thread)

    say a man rushes into a burning building to save a young girl who was trapped there. he's a hero, right? or is he? the same man tracks down a thief who had run off with a woman's handbag, even though the woman WANTED to get robbed. the man insists she take back her purse. would that be selfish then? to ENFORCE your vision of what a good act is onto the world, whether they want it or not?

    IS fanaticism, regardless of intent, a bad thing? i hope you see what i'm saying -- the man in the above story is adamant about wanting the right thing to be done, but not because he cares all that much about what other people want or how it will affect them, but because he wants to maintain the vision in his head about what a good person should do. is this selfish? if a person insists on sacrificing their life for a stranger, and the stranger suffers perpetual guilt, had the person committed a selfish act -- even though the end result was that the stranger had lived? Is he not saving HIMSELF (ie. acting selfishly) the burden of guilt by sacrificing himself, and instead passing it onto someone else?

    Thoughts etc. welcome as always!
     
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  2. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    No, my vision of the world is not selfish; it is correct.


    (Edit: I guess this is the problem with moral questions.)
     
  3. OP
    TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    that's what everyone believes though; on what are you basing it on?
     
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  4. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    When you start trying to base it on something, then you wind up with something like Kant's categorical imperative, which, as far as I am concerned, doesn't actually make sense.

    To act only in such a way as you could will it to become a universal maxim for me means to not act at all because there is no act that I would wish to become universal. At best I could propose a situational ethics, but the fact that it is situation means that it is lacking in a firm basis. The other possibility is to adopt the utilitarian least harm principle, but then once again we are stuck with the issue of what constitutes harm.

    Sartre attempted to formulate an existentialist ethic in Existentialism Is a Humanism, but he later recanted, and people generally agree that it is an impossibility.

    There really is no good solution that I know of.
     
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  5. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    I don't know if I would call it selfish, so much as foolish to try to impose one's vision on a situation, without carefully assessing whether one's vision adequately comprehends the actual situation. This would include taking advice from other people.
     
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  6. WaeV

    WaeV Community Member

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    It depends. Selfish people would selfishly impose their view on the world, whereas selfless people would selflessly impose their view on the world. Either can be good, either can be bad.
     
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  7. OP
    TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    interesting, i agree there is a large element of subjectivity involved in defining ethics. perhaps there's no such thing as being a good person then - of having solid ethics, since applicability of every kind of ethical principle would depend highly, if not totally, on the specific situation.

    also, what's Kant's categorical imperative? I'm not familiar with it.
     
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  8. OP
    TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    foolish, clever.. selfish selfless.. wrong right.. good bad.. where do we draw the line? i agree wholeheartedly that it is 'foolish' to take action without first adequately comprehending the situation, but then you've got to consider what constitutes adequate? :|
     
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  9. bagelriffic

    bagelriffic Community Member

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    hm good question, and with the above mentioned example of the woman being robbed i would think it was not right to give her back her purse if she wanted it that way. i think in that scenario the best course of action would be to explain to the woman all of the available insights i may have into the situation pretaining to why i would think it is wrong. after that the direction she takes is hers and hers alone.

    imo intent doesn't and shouldn't amount to much. if someone is truly that bent on doing good, they should find a way to do it without hurting others in the process.
     
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  10. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    Yes, it would be selfish to impose my will on the world. I should not be so selfish as to stop a rapist from raping anyone they want and killing them afterwards.

    It would be ethical to stop them, but selfish regardless.

    The woman in your example wasnt robbed, she made a gift of her purse.
     
  11. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    To act only in such a way as you could will it to become a universal maxim is the categorical imperative.
     
  12. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    Adequacy requires experienced assesment. If it is a mundane matter, you probably don't need to consult. But if it involves social or technical complexities, you need to consult people with expertise, who can give you a better idea of what factors need to be considered to adequately assess a situation.
     
  13. enfp can be shy

    enfp can be shy people vs the bad people?
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    If we never apply our moral views on others, and we consider any attempt to "help" anyone as selfish meddling with their own lives - we could allow all kinds of atrocities. To a large extent we currently do, our organization of life is WAY too indifferent. We assume too many things for granted, spontaneous, natural etc, just because we are taught to be afraid to even experiment, and only to think about ourselves. Moreover, we are being threatened; we are taught it is EVIL to impose your own views on others; and thus we allow a lot of suffering to go on, assuming people are just better off. We've gradually and subtly become quite cruel, in this process, and we can't even see it anymore.
     
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  14. Ergo Christobal

    Ergo Christobal Talking Lightbulb
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    Layman's terms: Do only that which you would want everyone else to do in the same situation.

    I think that all normative ethics are useful but none of them are complete. Sometimes utilitarianism works, sometimes the golden rule, sometimes Kant... the fact is that there is not and never will be a "right" answer for a moral problem that applies to all cases. It's up to the individual to figure out what normative theory or applied ethical argument best suits the situation.

    for those who don't know, normative ethics encompasses the attempts at general rules concerning right and wrong. Examples: Hedonistic Utilitarianism, Kant's categorical imperative, the golden rule...
     
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    #14 Ergo Christobal, May 17, 2010
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  15. rbecca23

    rbecca23 Regular Poster

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    There's a fine line. I can't imagine anything being right if it's forced. People have the right to choose for themselves, and if someone imposes on another's personal agency, they are crossing a line.
    Offering an idea and enforcing and idea are two very different things, and I would go with the former in sharing one's morals and opinions about the world.
     
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  16. brennaah

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    I think it depends on the will of others as well. Is law enforcement selfish? Does the will of the majority affect whether or not an act is selfish? What if the woman wanted her purse stolen because she was an accomplice to a higher crime, endangering the lives of others? I suppose the answer is relative to your own perspective and moral code, but the way I see it, government in the free world is a sort of medium to determine general ethics for a society... and if that is the case, you can use the law as a guideline [at least in those scenarios].
     
  17. aeon

    aeon Ooh, a bunny!
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    In as much as force would be the means by which said vision would be realized, as opposed to mutual consent between and among those concerned, I think such choices would fit the common usage of the word "selfish."

    I personally do not value such behavior.

    At the same time, my sense is that all people, at all times, are doing the best they can to meet their own needs, within the contraints of their situation, with the resources available to them, and according to their values. For some, this may result in the choice to engage with another by means of force.

    For my own person, I question (and doubt) the value of using adjectives that denote moral judgement as it concerns others' choices. I am free to value (or not) those choices as it concerns another, but to judge those choices as good/bad, right/wrong, selfish/altruistic, and so on, is a kind of invalidation that I do not value, and is a style of thinking that tends to lead me away from engagement, dialogue, and potential understanding of another's experience, perspective, and choices in this world.


    cheers,
    Ian
     
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  18. Peppermint

    Peppermint Well-known member

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    The main problem of this is that we do not know what is "right" and what is "wrong" objectively. (I'm using objectively here not as 'impartial' or 'logical', but as 'big picture' view) Every human has some notion of what is right or wrong, but not all humans share them. There arises the problem. If asked this question, most people would probably say: "I wouldn't mind, if they did it the right way". But do the other people agree, do they think it's right? The answer is probably No. Would it be selfish for one human to impose his "right" vision upon a majority that is disagreeable? This question is again relative on the notion of right-wrong.
    For example some might say, but since it's the right thing, the disagreeable ones will learn it and it will be better for them and all the rest.

    What is my opinion? Yes it is selfish, but aside from being selfish, my major concerns would be elsewhere. Is this person competent? How would the damage-benefit ratio look like? What right does this person have to decide for others, etc.

    It is narrow approach from any angle I look at it and one likely to lead to ruin. Depending on the percentage of the population agreeing and how the general state of affairs in the world under the vision of this person compares to the previous ones would play a role, of course.


    In an everyday, small scale context, I don't see it necessarily as selfish because it doesn't impact as many people and circumstances. Granted, that goes only if the person isn't some militant fanatical nutjob ready to kill for their "vision".

    So, my conclusion is that it mostly depends on how it is enforced and the magnitude of impact.
     
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  19. VH

    VH Variable Hybrid

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    Nothing in this world is unselfish, even unselfishness. Trying to enforce anything is selfish, even if it is for the greater good, as the urge stems from the self, and the self's desire to see it done.

    That said, someone has to make things right - which is really what this thread is a debate about - who has the right to decide what should be done.

    Here's a life lesson for those of you who want to debate right and wrong. People who bicker over what exactly that entails will never take the initiative to actually do it, and therefore will constantly be left behind in a state of questioning the authority of those that did.

    You can either lead, follow, or whine about it. Personally, I think life is too short to sit around and bitch about what the people who took the initiative did. Figure out your vision for what is right and do whatever you have to do to make it happen. It's your ripple in the ocean of life. Make it count.
     
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  20. WaeV

    WaeV Community Member

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    I'd agree with you but for that you included the selfish/altruistic pair along with good/bad and right/wrong. Whereas good/bad and right/wrong are very nearly synonyms, selfishness/altruism is another thing entirely.

    Whereas applying the term "good" or the term "bad" to someone's actions is a subjective judgement, applying the term "selfish" or "selfless" is an objective classification which ideally carries no weight of judgement.
     
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