[extropy-chat] Usefulness of Anger and Hate

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Dec 15 22:00:57 UTC 2006

Keith writes

>>Yes, that's right.  Quite a number of behavioral traits including kindness,
>>generosity, and even loyalty and honesty are, alas, luxuries that due to
>>our wealth today we can afford, but which many of our ancestors could
>>not afford.
> I suggest you have not read enough anthropology.  Loyalty comes out most 
> strongly in combat groups, and I don't see kindness, generosity and honesty
> being correlated with wealth.  (Enron for example.)

I suggest that you address people as equals.  :-)

One's wealth in the world, whether one is a member of a primitive
tribe or whether one is in dire personal circumstances, does affect
what levels of these finer emotions one exhibits.  In other words,
people are often driven towards selfishness, dishonesty, and brutality
(beyond their normal capacities) by deprivation.  That's all I meant.
It's common sense really. (Although, is sometimes totally astonishing
how noble a few people remain even under the most trying

>>What is not clear to me is how the "rational thought" that you
>>are referring to here relates to the values of the hater, or in
>>general an actor.
> I have no idea of what you might be referring to by "values of the 
> hater."  Hate, like other intense emotional states, tends to interfere with 
> a person's ability to think.  Panic does that as well, which is why you get 
> lots of people killed in fires where the building doors open to the inside.
>>Could you provide an example where
>>the xenophobia, say, was *irrational*?
> Xenophobia induced by xenophobic hate memes *had* a function in the stone 
> age.

Yes.  I want an example where xenophobia or some other of your
"non-rational" states, say, is irrational also today.  I'm trying to tease
out whether or not it actually boils down to just a value conflict, as
I suspect. For example, xenophobia need not be irrational provided
that one's values and goals are not inclusive of that which is deemed
"foreign" or alien.  Clearly if we were to broaden a bit our definition
of xenophobia (which we are *not* doing), then xenophobia would
fit very nicely with goals such as self-preservation, or preservation
of one's culture.

> It induced a closely related group of warriors facing bad times 
> (starvation) to attack neighbors in an attempt to have their gene line 
> prosper.  Inducing a state where warriors were willing to take a high 
> chance of dying was rational from the *gene's* viewpoint if not so rational 
> from the viewpoint of dead warriors.

That might depend!   You may be projecting your own (and my own)
values onto these dead warriors.  As is thoughtfully presented in the
book "The Robot's Rebellion", if you haven't read it, the goals of an
individual *may* consistently include the survival of his family, or his
friends, or even his tribe or culture.  These warriors may have chosen
their actions with full knowledge and calm awareness.

What I'm saying is that what has been taken in these discussions
as rational vs. irrational is often nothing more than conflicting goals.
It's been emphasized that what most people here mean by "rational"
is characteristic of activity that leads towards their goals.  We may
also add that consistency is a necessary part of anyone's definition
of rationality (I would think.)

> Because we don't now live in closely related groups and fight for them, 
> xenophobia induced by xenophobic hate memes isn't rational even for genes 
> today.  You still may have to kill hopped up warriors coming after you, you 
> might even have to destroy them as a people or nation, but hating them is 
> pointless because it interferes with your ability to think.

Well, strong emotional states like love or anger can do exactly what
you're talking about, i.e., interfere with our ability to think.  And yes,
it's plausible to regard such interference as a compromise of rational
behavior. But merely because something is a deep-seated value with
which we as  individuals may disagree, of course does not mean that
it's in any way necessarily irrational.  Back to suicide bombers, I
guess we are:  I'd say a majority of posters here did not consider
suicide bombing to be irrational, (a caveat, however, being that many
nonetheless endorsed a notion of certain *goals* being irrational, a
viewpoint that still seems peculari to me, and appears to cross the
is/ought boundary).


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