"Does Egoism Pass the Test"

To: Egoism and Ethics Debate 
Subject: Re: Does egoism pass even the simplest test?
From: "David G. McDivitt" 
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 17:52:18 -0700

I understand Dennis' perspective regarding right and wrong, and to some extent admire the fact he has continued to say the same things relentlessly for three years. Diversity is good, and Dennis represents that diversity in this forum. If everyone in the world was an egoist, and there was no representation of principle philosophically, the world may not be a good place to the extent it would lack diversity.

I do not feel egoism can be argued idealistically, in a standalone fashion, nor the moralism Dennis ascribes to. Each of these contrasting philosophies exists in a much larger dynamic. Through our dialog, I feel we are fortunate to have reduced the many perspectives available to only these two, possibly having identified the root of idealistic conflict, being self versus society. Unfortunately Dennis may not appreciate his arguments being reduced to the side of society only, but hopefully he can admit his arguments rest in social value.

Those who call themselves egoists here hold jobs or educational positions. Certainly they would not allow their idealism to negate the social status worked for in this regard. Obtaining these positions required acceptance and accomplishment of certain protocols, the which could be seen just as moral as anything Dennis says. Dennis might make note of this in his subsequent arguments. By the same token Dennis refers to himself on occasion as a civil libertarian, thus expressing egoist tendencies himself.

Indeed, to say society is an entity with rights and privileges is a reification and refutation of self, yet unless people had the ability to work together to the extent they have, we would not have so many advances in technology. To the downtrodden it is nice to shift some of their identity away from the personal, full of misery and woe, to that of society. Surely even the egoist has done this on occasion. Some people simply do not do as well as others. They shall therefore seek out whatever identification provides the most satisfaction. One who does well in this world, and at the same time declares egoism, is indeed privileged, for not everyone can do that.

There is much to be said for self sufficiency. If the downtrodden thought in terms of self sufficiency more, it is quite possible they would need fewer handouts from prosperous people. They may be less addicted to help, and government institutions, which tax the more prosperous for their benefit. The fact is they do not. Idealistically saying they should, psychoanalyzing them and reducing their intent, will not cause them to. It is possible therefore to become somewhat detached from the rest of humanity through egoism, and the privileged viewpoint it affords. What is the likelihood of a poor person, scarcely able to make ends meet, being an egoist? Not much I'm afraid. An egoist is more likely to be one who has less fear of having what is needed to live each day.

Now that we have established the egoist perspective is an elitist one, what do we do with it? Do we say it is wrong? Would the egoist care? Would the mere saying so cause the egoist to lose this privilege? Probably not, but my argument is we should not want this. Society needs leaders. Though the egoist position is a Darwinian one, where would we be having no elite in our midst? Where would society derive its inspiration, even if such inspiration is to pull the egoist spitefully down, in envy of such privilege?

Criticizing the egoist morally, is to contrast the whole of understood biology, as well as the evolution of nonbiological systems as well. Where else can such moralism be found? Do we say a black hole is wrong, being previously a star itself, as it gobbles a neighboring star? An egoist does not even gobble other people, necessarily. In wildlife there are examples within some species of altruistic behavior, whereby they help each other survive, but this is by far not the most common. Besides, what evidence is there an egoist will necessarily refuse helping others, simply by nature of being an egoist?

When judging egoists, quite possibly we fair better by removing our own subjective jealousy, being less fixated on what someone else has, rather than what we have ourselves. Possibly our time would be better spent tending after own business. Will such envy necessarily change the egoist? It is doubtful. Such envy will more than likely have greater effect on us instead. Maybe the egoist could be characterized as one who rose above the incessant backbiting of human nature, having made something of self, and therefore deserves to look different by all known ethical standards. Possibly it is which way we ourselves look at the egoist which establishes whether such a one is really an egoist after all.

>From: "T. Harms"
>Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 11:32:41 -0700
>>.... I never judge ideas on whether I like them or not. I
>>may like some ideas and dislike others, but everything for me depends upon
>>whether an idea has a strong rational basis. Egoism IMO cannot be
>>defended rationally. Two of the countless objections I have to are that
>>it misunderstands, IMO, what is required for one to be a unique
>>individual, it is logically compatible with rape, genocide, child sexual
>>abuse, etc.,
>From the manner of your writing, however, I have been left with the
>impression that the strongest element in your latter objection is, indeed,
>that these are things that you personally find repugnant.
>If you do not judge an idea on whether you like it or not then rape,
>genocide, etc. are not to be rejected because you don't like them. Right?
>If egoism were to have the "strong rational basis" you seek, *and* imply
>the admission of such possibilities without categorical condemnation, then
>you would by logic accept these as consequents. Thus you cannot use the
>mere fact that egoism carries these implications to reject it.
>You may, of course, take these as warning signs, as indications that egoism
>probably has at least one "fatal flaw." But that observation does not do
>the pick and shovel work of exposing what such flaws may be, it only gives
>a rough pointer as to a direction for inquiry. This is why your arguments
>have been so weak: You use this indicator as a conclusive resolution, but
>in doing that you at least *appear* to be relying wholly on sheer personal
>preference. Any such argument hands an immediate victory to egoism because
>egoism would reduce everything to sheer personal preference.

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