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View Poll Results: Who is your favorite philosopher(s)?
Ancient Philosophy (Aristotle, Plato) 13 19.40%
Scholasticism (St. Thomas Aquinas) 3 4.48%
Renaissance Humanism (Thomas More, Erasmus) 1 1.49%
Rationalism (Descartes, Voltaire, Kant) 18 26.87%
Empiricism, Social Contract (John Locke, David Hume) 11 16.42%
Social Materialism/Marxism (Karl Marx, Hegel) 6 8.96%
Existentialism (Kafka, Nietzsche) 7 10.45%
Post-Moderism/Structuralism (Derrida, Foucault, Nietzsche) 5 7.46%
Analytical Philosophy (Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein) 1 1.49%
Structuralism (Levi-Strauss, Ferdinand de Saussure, Chomsky) 2 2.99%
Voters: 67. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 05-03-2009, 05:42 PM    (permalink
Mr. Hero
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Originally Posted by irishbucsfan View Post
Why? I find blanket statements like that to be repulsive.
I think the individual is the greatest strength of mankind and believe that unimpeded genius is what has driven us out of caves and formed our dominion of this planet. To me the group is only as strong as the members of that group and how well they perform their role so I have quality over quantity-ish feelings toward human beings, I'll also be the first to admit I'm a very low quality human being. I tend to avoid excessive generalizations, but in the case of the individual I break from that pattern. To put it bluntly individual genius is my god. Now I completely understand that most of our great accomplishments where the results of groups working together to accomplish a common end, but what is the most important part of that to me is that those groups are a collection of individuals who for their own varying reasons chose to come together and bring to life the visions of a select few.

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Originally Posted by iowatreat54 View Post
Yes, I don't necessarily agree that the group is greater than the individual, but just that in some cases the good of the group is greater than the good of the individual. In my experience, the great majority of people make decisions that will usually result in short term benefit to themselves while sacrificing a long term benefit for society.
I find that very often much long term harm is the result of large groups trying to act for the benefit of others. The idea that the path to hell is paved with good intentions rings true in a different way than it's normally interpreted to me. So while I certainly see that same self-destructive short sightedness that many people seem to be afflicted by, I see far greater and more powerful evil being created as the result of a large groups attempts to help a situation that they simply do not understand. I don't intend for this to get political and so if a mod finds it to be such please removing the following, but I just can't help to think of our war on poverty and how damaging that has been to the atmosphere of progress that the american dream initially entailed. I understand that people don't mean to cause harm but so often people's good intentions mess with the natural balances and incentives of a situation to degrees they never could have predicted or intended and so often a situation just stagnates or worsens because we as a group intervene when had we left the situation alone and perhaps only had individuals work for the result we desire in their own ways I feel we would've progrosed far quicker and the situation that had us so worried would have been resolved more effectively and promptly.

Sorry for the rant guys but yesterday kicked my ass, so I'm still not running at maximum efficiency.
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Old 05-03-2009, 05:51 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by JeffSamardzijaIRISH View Post
It's because people are not good judges of themselves(most of the time). They tend to overrate their abilities and perceive themselves as better than they actually are. I'm not saying this for everyone, because some can judge their own abilities within reason, but for the most part people overrate themselves because that's where they want to be.
I agree that many people are poor judges of their themselves, however I think that the group is just as horrible of a judge as individuals are. Which is why I view failure as such an important thing since failure is a true and honest judge. If we let people fail they would a) better learn their own limitations and b) provide further cautionary tales for future generations. Yet we as a society seem to have this great desire to defeat failure in all cases.
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Old 05-03-2009, 05:54 PM    (permalink
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I think the individual is the greatest strength of mankind and believe that unimpeded genius is what has driven us out of caves and formed our dominion of this planet.
Ironic, considering that what drove us out of caves was the formation of hunter-gatherer tribes in which the collective unit hunted and shared its profits equally.

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To put it bluntly individual genius is my god. Now I completely understand that most of our great accomplishments where the results of groups working together to accomplish a common end, but what is the most important part of that to me is that those groups are a collection of individuals who for their own varying reasons chose to come together and bring to life the visions of a select few.
Which is how a collective entity always works. You just described Marxism.

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I find that very often much long term harm is the result of large groups trying to act for the benefit of others. The idea that the path to hell is paved with good intentions rings true in a different way than it's normally interpreted to me. So while I certainly see that same self-destructive short sightedness that many people seem to be afflicted by, I see far greater and more powerful evil being created as the result of a large groups attempts to help a situation that they simply do not understand. I don't intend for this to get political and so if a mod finds it to be such please removing the following, but I just can't help to think of our war on poverty and how damaging that has been to the atmosphere of progress that the american dream initially entailed. I understand that people don't mean to cause harm but so often people's good intentions mess with the natural balances and incentives of a situation to degrees they never could have predicted or intended and so often a situation just stagnates or worsens because we as a group intervene when had we left the situation alone and perhaps only had individuals work for the result we desire in their own ways I feel we would've progrosed far quicker and the situation that had us so worried would have been resolved more effectively and promptly.
A fair opinion, although I think you are putting WAY too much stock in the equity of the human condition. The "war on poverty" (if you could even call our joke of a social welfare system that), is not intent upon stifling individual initiative, but rather giving people a chance to better themselves and in turn, society. It's such a lazy cop-out to attack the help given to those we feel are undeserving simply because one cannot understand their plight. The vast VAST majority of people who succeed in this world do so to a very small degree because of their individual talents. You must also dislike roads, clean water, meat inspectors, etc.

"Progress" is an incredibly vague term btw, so you'd probably serve yourself well to define exactly what you mean. Herbert Spencer, for example, believed in the utilitarian standard of ultimate value, but never really defined what exactly that meant. Similarly, Adam Smith spoke of the invisible hand of the market, but never actually defined what that meant. I'm curious how exactly others benefit by people doing what is entirely in their self-interests, or how we even define utilitarian interests.


This is also my critique of Rand (among many many others). She never actually deals with the fact that people have multiple, often competing individual objectives. It's such a vague and sophmoric way of trying to completely justify self-serving behavior without any attempt to underline what exactly that entails.
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Old 05-03-2009, 05:56 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by Mr. Hero View Post
I agree that many people are poor judges of their themselves, however I think that the group is just as horrible of a judge as individuals are. Which is why I view failure as such an important thing since failure is a true and honest judge. If we let people fail they would a) better learn their own limitations and b) provide further cautionary tales for future generations. Yet we as a society seem to have this great desire to defeat failure in all cases.
the key word being society. since it depends on everyone, the better everyone does, the better off anyone is.
And about judging, I think the problem lies in people believing that their successes or faillures define them. I don't really buy into that. I define me. So I'm perfectly fine with being extremely critical of myself. I know what kind of person I want to be, and if I don't do things accoridingly (for better or for worse) I'll give myself hell for it. Could just be me though, I tend to feel better than the rest of mankind.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:01 PM    (permalink
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See, like I believe bf51 briefly mentioned, society isn't so much trying to put down individual progression and success, but are trying to help those who are less fortunate, or as Mr. Hero is putting, 'failing'.

Additionally, a group working together toward a common goal is much more efficient than individuals working alone, even if they have the same goal.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:02 PM    (permalink
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Has anybody read the book "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins?
Yes, I was going to mention one of the ideas from the book, where acting altruistically is beneficial not only to others in the group but also to ourselves. You can see this not only in early human history (hunter-gatherers) but with the other 4 apes in the animal kingdom. Hell, even early agrarian societies were sharing everything.

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Old 05-03-2009, 06:06 PM    (permalink
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Yes, I was going to mention one of the ideas from the book, where acting altruistically is beneficial not only to others in the group but also to ourselves. You can see this not only in early human history (hunter-gatherers) but with the other 4 apes in the animal kingdom. Hell, even early agrarian societies were sharing everything.
he really makes a good point. Selflessness doesn't exist, we do things for others for our own benefit. It makes us feel better to make others feel better.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:08 PM    (permalink
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A fair opinion, although I think you are putting WAY too much stock in the equity of the human condition. The "war on poverty" (if you could even call our joke of a social welfare system that), is not intent upon stifling individual initiative, but rather giving people a chance to better themselves and in turn, society. It's such a lazy cop-out to attack the help given to those we feel are undeserving simply because one cannot understand their plight. The vast VAST majority of people who succeed in this world do so to a very small degree because of their individual talents. You must also dislike roads, clean water, meat inspectors, etc.
This discussion is pretty interesting. Excuse me if I sound ignorant because my only philosophy training is a couple university courses which I slept through.

I'm just wondering about the bolded part of your statement. Could you go into more detail about why you believe this because intuitively it seems to be the exact opposite for me.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:09 PM    (permalink
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he really makes a good point. Selflessness doesn't exist, we do things for others for our own benefit. It makes us feel better to make others feel better.
Really, so the soldier who throws himself on the grenade and gives his life for his "brothers in arms" does so because it will make him feel better? Sorry, selflessness exists.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:11 PM    (permalink
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he really makes a good point. Selflessness doesn't exist, we do things for others for our own benefit. It makes us feel better to make others feel better.
Well, I like the idea because it makes a lot of sense to me. My reward in helping others is not only something that gives me personal pleasure but I'm also rewarded if it's to the benefit of society as a whole. Of course, as I go down this road, I likely end up talking about socialism and that would get some people here's panties in a twist. I won't say there isnt selflessness because people do things that are selfless all the time.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:14 PM    (permalink
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Really, so the soldier who throws himself on the grenade and gives his life for his "brothers in arms" does so because it will make him feel better? Sorry, selflessness exists.
I am not trying to save selflessness doesn't exist but I am sure the fact that a soldier who does that will be remembered as a hero plays a role. Many people just want to be remembered after death as throwing oneself on a grenade assures that. Now I am sure that isn't the only reason someone would do that and I am not even saying it is the main reason but on some level it is a self serving action.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:16 PM    (permalink
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Really, so the soldier who throws himself on the grenade and gives his life for his "brothers in arms" does so because it will make him feel better? Sorry, selflessness exists.
Well, see, imo this gets into how you interpret the idea of 'yourself' (I can't think of a better term at the moment).

If you view yourself and self benefit as something you obtain while you are alive and can personally experience, then I would agree with you. However, you can view the benefit even after death. While the act of jumping on the grenade is to save others, it can still offer benefit to one's name and legacy after the fact. So, while the intent may not be that, it still can be the outcome. Which would ask is selflessness in the intent or the outcome?
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:19 PM    (permalink
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I am not trying to save selflessness doesn't exist but I am sure the fact that a soldier who does that will be remembered as a hero plays a role. Many people just want to be remembered after death as throwing oneself on a grenade assures that. Now I am sure that isn't the only reason someone would do that and I am not even saying it is the main reason but on some level it is a self serving action.
So what are you saying? It's not the only or main reason, but that for some small reason it is done for glory? Yeah, I'm calling ******** on that one.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:21 PM    (permalink
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Really, so the soldier who throws himself on the grenade and gives his life for his "brothers in arms" does so because it will make him feel better? Sorry, selflessness exists.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:22 PM    (permalink
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Well, see, imo this gets into how you interpret the idea of 'yourself' (I can't think of a better term at the moment).

If you view yourself and self benefit as something you obtain while you are alive and can personally experience, then I would agree with you. However, you can view the benefit even after death. While the act of jumping on the grenade is to save others, it can still offer benefit to one's name and legacy after the fact. So, while the intent may not be that, it still can be the outcome. Which would ask is selflessness in the intent or the outcome?
Because one sees the value of another or more then one life (comrade/ comrades) as being worth more then one's own (self), selflessness exists.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:23 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by CJSchneider View Post
So what are you saying? It's not the only or main reason, but that for some small reason it is done for glory? Yeah, I'm calling ******** on that one.
I am just saying throwing oneself on a grenade is not always a selfless act. I am not saying it is not an honorable act. I am not saying someone who throws himself on a grenade should not be considered a hero. I am saying that it isn't always done just for the good of others. Now I am not inside other peoples heads and nobody can really know for sure what someone is thinking before dying to save others after making a split second decision but I suspect that glory does play a part in some cases and I am sure glory has played a main role in some cases. I also think it is likely that many times glory doesn't play any kind of role at all.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:23 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by CJSchneider View Post
Really, so the soldier who throws himself on the grenade and gives his life for his "brothers in arms" does so because it will make him feel better? Sorry, selflessness exists.
that's the exception, not the rule. It's not a universal truth (I don't believe in that either) but the reason we view a guy like that as a hero is because it's exceptional. Which in turn indicates that rare acts of selflessness are highly appreciated by society as a whole, which in turn creates an incentive for others to be selfless too.

Also, guys who throw themselves on grenades to save their brothers in arms are badass.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:23 PM    (permalink
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:26 PM    (permalink
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that's the exception, not the rule. It's not a universal truth (I don't believe in that either) but the reason we view a guy like that as a hero is because it's exceptional. Which in turn indicates that rare acts of selflessness are highly appreciated by society as a whole, which in turn creates an incentive for others to be selfless too.

Also, guys who throw themselves on grenades to save their brothers in arms are badass.
Which will limit my involvement here for obvious religious reasons

I never said true selflessness was an everyday occurrence, and I do get your point, but if I can prove that anything, regardless of what it is, is rare, I have still proved its existence.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:26 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by CJSchneider View Post
Because one sees the value of another or more then one life (comrade/ comrades) as being worth more then one's own (self), selflessness exists.
I agree, it does exist. But complete selflessness does not. Sacrificing yourself for others is an act of selflessness, but because your name and legacy is benefited, even a little bit, from the act, it is not an act of complete selflessness. That's how I view it anyway, and it's not to take away from the act itself.

But like bf51 bluntly stated, there is no such thing as black and white. You can't be 100% selfless or 100% selfish. It will always fall somewhere in between.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:29 PM    (permalink
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This discussion is pretty interesting. Excuse me if I sound ignorant because my only philosophy training is a couple university courses which I slept through.

I'm just wondering about the bolded part of your statement. Could you go into more detail about why you believe this because intuitively it seems to be the exact opposite for me.
Well, I guess it would require me to define what exactly 'success' is, which honestly I'm uncomfortable doing.

But let's say that it's some type of material benefit, and eschew the immaterial. I could come up with lots of anecdotal examples, but then I'd be no better than anyone else that I'm accusing of being far too rigid in their thinking.

So, let's start from a few basic premises. Everyone is involved in some type of societal and governmental system. The efficiency and guidelines of that system will greatly affect the degree to which that person is able to succeed or not succeed personally. In the absence of any structure, it is almost completely arbitrary. People like to act like the absence of governmental structure promotes individual success, but in fact it's absolutely the opposite. It's called anarchy, it doesn't work.

Taking it a step further, assuming all governmental systems are equal, how does one succeed within that society? Do they do it purely on their own initiative? Of course not. As we've already established, one of the great promoters of invidual success is the structure of society. Furthermore, even working within that system, it's clear that those who are born with great advantages will likely do much better in life than those that aren't. A basic comparison of societal bifurcation would score that point home.

I'm not saying people can't improve their lives (again, assuming we can really define what that means). Nor am I saying that people should march in lockstep to whatever is declared the "will of the people", which is one of the main reason why totalitarian socialism never works. What I am saying, however, is the Herbert Spencer ethos about utilitarian individualism is a complete myth. It has never existed, it never will.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:30 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by CJSchneider View Post
Which will limit my involvement here for obvious religious reasons
I understand that. I put it between whatever these things are called in enlish () because I didn't want to drag religion into it, just wanted to indicate where I was coming from.

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I never said true selflessness was an everyday occurrence, and I do get your point, but if I can prove that anything, regardless of what it is, is rare, I have still proved its existence.
I guess I didn't really translate my thoughts very well. You're correct in saying it does exist. Even though I do think that even appearent selflessness has, to a certain extent, selfish motivations.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:33 PM    (permalink
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I agree, it does exist. But complete selflessness does not. Sacrificing yourself for others is an act of selflessness, but because your name and legacy is benefited, even a little bit, from the act, it is not an act of complete selflessness. That's how I view it anyway, and it's not to take away from the act itself.

But like bf51 bluntly stated, there is no such thing as black and white. You can't be 100% selfless or 100% selfish. It will always fall somewhere in between.
But you do. In saying that when one gives all of one's self they do so with some glimmer of belief in personal gain, you take away from that act, especially if it is total selflessness.


I disagree. I do believe that absolutes can exist.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:36 PM    (permalink
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But you do. In saying that when one gives all of one's self they do so with some glimmer of belief in personal gain, you take away from that act, especially if it is total selflessness.


I disagree. I do believe that absolutes can exist.
okay trying hard not to drag religion into this, I'm sure you'll do the same. But how does that work?

I mean, I can't bring myself to believe that there is something as simple as pure evil or pure good. I'm just curious of how that works in your mind.
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Old 05-03-2009, 06:36 PM    (permalink
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Well, I guess it would require me to define what exactly 'success' is, which honestly I'm uncomfortable doing.

But let's say that it's some type of material benefit, and eschew the immaterial. I could come up with lots of anecdotal examples, but then I'd be no better than anyone else that I'm accusing of being far too rigid in their thinking.

So, let's start from a few basic premises. Everyone is involved in some type of societal and governmental system. The efficiency and guidelines of that system will greatly affect the degree to which that person is able to succeed or not succeed personal. In the absence of any structure, it is almost completely arbitrary. People like to act like the absence of governmental structure promotes individual success, but in fact it's absolutely the opposite. It's called anarchy, it doesn't work.

Taking it a step further, assuming all governmental systems are equal, how does one succeed within that society? Do they do it purely on their own initiative? Of course not. As we've already established, one of the great promoters of invidual success is the structure of society. Furthermore, even working within that system, it's clear that those who are born with great advantages will likely do much better in life than those that don't. A basic comparison of societal bifurcation would score that point home.

I'm not saying people can't improve their lives (again, assuming we can really define what that means). Nor am I saying that people should march in lockstep to whatever is declared the "will of the people", which is one of the main reason why totalitarian socialism never works. What I am saying, however, is the Herbert Spencer ethos about utilitarian individualism is a complete myth. It has never existed, it never will.
I understand that one's success is not determined solely by their own actions. Obviously the structure you pointed out is necessary. However, the structure is the same for everybody. For example, a homeless person and a rich person are operating within the same political system in the US.

Now obviously the situation you are born into has a lot to do with your success. That said, I think you're undermining the individual quite a bit, particularly in this day and age where the barriers to monetary success have dropped quite a bit. I just read a statistic that said 2/3rds of the world's billionaires are self-made. I'm sure the millionaire statistic would be similar if not even bigger. I think that points to individual merit having a ton to do with success.
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