View Full Version : On Comteian altruism and alignment.

Duke Malagigi
2007-08-29, 01:28 PM
Before anyone gets upset hust remember, I'm stating this as an opinion only. Okay, let's go on. In my opinion altruism as defined by Auguste Comte is inherently Lawful not inherently Good.

"M. Comte, in particular, whose social system, as unfolded in his Systeme de Politique Positive, aims at establishing (though by moral more than by legal appliances) a despotism of society over the individual, surpassing anything contemplated in the political ideal of the most rigid disciplinarian among the ancient philosophers." (On Liberty.)

In a purely altruistic society, by both Comte's and Mill's standards, there would no concept of individual rights and liberty. In other words, under pure Comteian altruism, the individual would have no safeguards against abuse or control by the rest of society. His or her life, liberty and dignity would be subject to and forfeit at the real or perceived needs of the group. Altruism does not automatically mean benevolence. Benevolence is kindess, mercy, compassion and and willingness to lay down one's life for another, whether or nor this was for the greater good.

Benevolence: Safeguard the lives and dignities of other in addition to or instead of yourself. Good.
Altruism: For the greater, even at cost to yourself and others. Lawful.

Any response, including angry ones, should be written in a polite and thoughtful manner.

Rex Blunder
2007-08-29, 01:36 PM
Nice! Raising unsolved issues in ethical philosophy when we can't even all agree that balanced classes are better than unbalanced classes.

Can "greatest good for the greatest number" issues be discussed without agreement on the values in the moral arithmatic? like, does "10 people get to be rich" outweight "one guy has to be kicked in the face once per minute?"

Duke Malagigi
2007-08-29, 01:47 PM
Can "greatest good for the greatest number" issues be discussed without agreement on the values in the moral arithmatic? like, does "10 people get to be rich" outweight "one guy has to be kicked in the face once per minute?"

I wouldn't consider one person getting kicked in the face once per minute good trade off for ten other people prospering myself. Even if I did benefit from the poor guy's constant abuse. To me Good and Evil is about how far you are willing to go to acomplish a task and how you treat others. Law and Chaos are about whether you support the group over the individual.

2007-08-29, 01:50 PM
Altruism: For the greater freedom, even at cost of danger to yourself and others. Chaotic.

Altruism: For the safety and order of all, even at cost of you own freedom and others. Lawful.

2007-08-29, 06:04 PM
Um... Are you saying that if the word "altruism" is used to mean something quite different from what it's normally taken to mean, then "altruism" may not be Good? If so, then, uh... I agree. But what's your point? When "altruism" is given as a Good trait (or just THE Good trait), the word is being used in the normal way, and it does mean benevolence.

Obviously, working for the good of an abstract entity like "society" isn't Good if benefit to society doesn't translate into benefit to its individual members. And actually harming the members of your society/nation/religion/race in order to make it prosper is Evil. But it's probably Lawful regardless. So if that's "altruism" as defined by Auguste Comte, then yeah, sure, "Comteian altruism" is Lawful, not (inherently) Good. But he's using a weird definition.

On the other hand, if your goal is to help other individuals, then trying to bring the greatest benefit you can to the greatest number of individuals you can is just being efficient. Only sensible.

So it depends entirely on what you mean by the "greater good". The first option is neither inherently Good nor inherently altuistic, in the normal sense of the word. If you try to force everyone else to behave the way you think they should, that's rather selfish of you, isn't it? Putting your own desires regarding folks' behavior above everyone else's. But if you just encourage people to work together instead of working against each other... Well, surely that's Good, isn't it? Who could object to that?

I can't say that I quite understand the whole supposed self-sacrifice vs. selfishness dichotomy, myself. I mean, if you want to help other people, and you like helping other people, and helping other people makes you happy, then how is it sacrificing your own interests to help others? Isn't seeing to it that other people get what they want in fact one of your interests? In fact, wouldn't it by definition be more important to you than anything else that you put it ahead of?

On the other hand, if you didn't like to help people, and didn't want to help people, and helping other people didn't make you happy, then surely you wouldn't help them unless you expected to get something out of it. People don't just suddenly do things for no reason. And anything that you don't choose to do for a reason (even if it's just "because I felt like it") is by definition involuntary anyway, right? So that wouldn't be an alignment issue at all, any more than a case of the hiccups.

You logically can't willingly ignore your own goals in order to serve someone else's, since anything you try to do is one of your goals. So I would rather say that trying to do well by others is Good, trying to harm others is Evil, and not doing anything to others is Neutral.