[ExI] People are Genuine Altruists, Sociopaths, or Confused/Moody

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sat Aug 30 20:26:44 UTC 2008

Although this conjecture is still in the process of formation,
and is therefore even more tentative than conjectures must
normally be, it seems to me that there are exactly three kinds
of people:

1. Genuine Altruists
2. Sociopaths
3. the Confused or Moody

But before describing each category, I assume that everyone
participating in this discussion will agree to use the word "selfish"
as is commonly meant, and will reject the notion that tautologically
"everyone does everything for a selfish reason";  for example,
if it gives you a warm glow to anonymously help someone you
don't know on the other side of the world, this "warm glow"
is *not* to be counted as self-interest. IMO persons who use
the word "selfish" in the tautological fashion have merely removed
its usefulness as a descriptive term, and are actually, moreover,
guilty of the Fallacy of Idiosyncratic Language (see below).

1. A genuine altruist is someone who really does give a damn about
other people's feelings, absolutely independent of self-interest.
However, because self-interest almost always overlaps with genuine
altruism, it is not at all easy to distinguish them.  Tests for genuine
altruism include:

      (1) do you leave tips in a restaurant that you are certain
            you will never visit again (and you do not believe that
            in some hidden way "what goes around comes around"
            (in this case) and that you'll eventually benefit, nor is your
            belief that such actions simply make the world a better
            place for you (and those you love) the ultimate cause of
            your action)?
            This question also assumes that you do leave tips on
            occasion, including times when the benefit that you infer
            will accrue to you makes it worth your while to do so.
            For example, it would be possible for a very poor person
            to answer yes to this question, if he strongly believed that
            only if he had more money, he would gladly leave tips.
       (2) if it was revealed to you that you were living in a simulation
            wherein you were the only conscious person, and everyone
            else merely a puppet under the manipulation of a cold,
            distant, infinitely calculating entity who had no emotions
            whatsoever, and was merely clinically performing an 
            experiment, would your behavior towards others change
            at all? (That is, would you knowingly waste time being kind
            to others when there was and could be no eventual payoff
            to you, such as in the final restaurant case of (1), or letting
            another car out of a crowded parking lot go in front of you?)

           If you can answer yes to either (1) or (2), you possess genuine

2. For the purposes of this discussion, I'd like to use the term "sociopath"
to refer to people who have no consciences. In other words, this is
*not* simply a behavioral characteristic, i.e., someone who acts as
though he or she has a conscience, but is doing so only out of fear of 
eventual discrimination should the truth emerge, as---we may hypothesize
---it shortly may under appropriate MRI application. I'm confident that I
will shortly be informed by the more knowledgeable here if my usage is
just too much at odds with convention (e.g. I am guilty of idiosyncratic
language, Fallacy #8 in the Conceptual Fallacies category in
http://www.dianahsieh.com/misc/fallacies.html) and if so, I'll qualify my phrase.

3. Those not falling in the first two categories, I conclude, are either confused
or moody. The confused are those who act almost entirely by impulse and show
no pattern sufficiently strong to place them in categories 1 or 2. For example,
someone may "feel like leaving a tip" for no reason that he nor she nor anyone
else can divine, and certainly is not thinking about it, even to the extent of
wondering just what good it will do him or her to leave such a tip, or whether
it will make the waiter or waitress feel appreciated.

The moody are those who sometimes feel a genuine altruism towards others
but at other times, under identical circumstances, do not---and the moody in
this usage are perfectly aware of when something is likely to redound to their
credit or whether it is not (but vacillate over time). And, since it is assumed
that people reading this know what the word "or" means, it is possible from
my premises above, of course, for someone to be both confused and moody
and so be in category 3, "The Confused or Moody".


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