questions about altruism/saving lives!

Joost20 (@joost20) 8 years, 7 months ago

Somebody posted this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_singer_the_why_and_how_of_effective_altruism.html
I couldn’t find the discussion again but thank you for the one who posted the talk! This talk kept me thinking. It raised many questions. It feels to me that it is really important to watch this talk and have a discussion the content of this TED-talk. I know that not everybody is going to watch this talk so I will try to post some the question that kept me thinking over the last few weeks.
1. Let’s say that somebody got hit by a bus and you’re the only one around and his live is in your hands. Without your help he wouldn’t survive. You would feel really bad if you didn’t do anything and this person would in front of you. But what if there is not 2 m but 10000 km between you and the person who dies. There are so many people dying from preventable diseases in Africa. And we know that we are indirect in a position to save lives. Each one of us. Just by giving money to charities like ‘Against Malaria Foundation’ we are in a position to save lives! And my question is: ‘ Can you blame people for not doing everything to save these lives?’ I hope that you understand what I mean. We are in the same way I a position to help as with the guy who gets hit by a bus.
2.My second question is: ‘When we decide to help through giving money to charities. When is it enough?’ I understand that we don’t want to give all our money away. But when we say: ‘All lives have equal values’. Then I start to think in lives with everything I do. You buy 5 beers for your friends! Fun! 10 euro’s! 2 malaria patients without a cure! And you where in the position to help. I really start feeling bad when I think about this. Because aren’t we responsible to save the lives we can? Especially when ‘all lives have equal values’. Most of my friends say that they have an ‘healthy amount of egoism’ which withholds them from this bad feeling. I can’t find a reason to justify my ‘good times’ with friend when I think about this problem. I really want to know how you guys think about this topic and I hope it was not to long! My English is not fluently, I did my best! I have more questions but I will keep them for later.. HOPING FOR REACTIONS!

June 12, 2013 at 12:56 am
Kellar (2) (@lofed0329) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@joost20 I understand what you’re saying but there is only so much people are willing to go out of their normal routine to help another human being. Africa is probably the most prime example of where we could help. As it may be that their lives are what’s on the line, being altruistic doesn’t require one to have to go across a sea to help a continent (which would be awesome) but to contribute to the cause in a helpful manner. I consider my self an altruistic person because I am at peace when I’m helping people; however, I cannot spend the money nor spare the time to go help those in need in Africa. There are people who do have the requirements to fully aid the continent but most people don’t. So when people have the insufficient resources to actually help the Africans, they donate to charity or “adopt” a child in an African country. We all don’t enjoy the suffering of others nor wish it upon these people who live a borderline paleolithic lifestyle. I wish I could do more to help but I’ve got matters that I have to take care of before I can go out and put 100% effort to save the African Nation.

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Nadine (3) (@dientjh) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@joost20 You could also look at it another way: if you would be out spending your life only dedicated to help others, would you still be happy? Would you even still have enough money to provide for yourself? To me it seems that if you ignore your own needs too much in order to help others, you ultimately become useless to do anything. So then nobody benefits from your existence.
I agree with Kellar that you should help anyway you can, but you have to give yourself some reasonable boundaries. Questioning every move you make will not make anybody better. Furthemore, if everybody was a life saver, in the ultimate sense as described by Kellar, society would collapse. Other functions have to be filled in, and that is also very usefull. Maybe it is usefull in a more indirect manner, but it still is.
So I would suggest that you would find a way to contribute and help those in need without ignoring your own needs.

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

It might clarify things to realize there is nothing of value including your life or the life of another. You are not special. Neither is the other person. Neither am I. Just live and quit trying to stand out.

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Anonymous (2,833) (@) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@joost20, The problem with charities is this:

Where the hell did my money ACTUALLY go?

Most likely nearly 50% or more is spent on giving americans a pay check so they can order files, call people, and make more signs and spend money on advertisement to get more money for their charity. Thus that 50% is a sink into a system which I don’t necessarily agree with.

The other 50%, in the instance of “we can fight malaria” charities, where do you think THAT goes?
1. It goes to a tiny, TINY, fraction of a research lab’s salary, where they try and come up with a new (additional!!!!) cure for malaria and basically subsidize some rich doctor’s lab.
2. It goes to volunteer programs where over-paid americans (the actual paid ones) go around the world and set up mosquito nets and tell people about malaria
and/or
3. It goes to a flight ticket, a box of medicine, and one or two people to distribute it.

Now if >80, 90% of the money went to #3 I would definitely be encouraged to do so. But the fact that you have HEARD about the charity means they are spending radical $ on advertisement and fund raising, and I’m guessing something around 40% is actually going to the cause, meanwhile I end up subsidizing with the other 60%, people who already make more than me.

The fact is, is that Malaria could be cured by now. AIDs has a few remedies, not fool proof, but available.

The problem is not the amount of people willing to help, its the ability for the systems to allow help to actually occur.

You are either going to need to buy the medicine yourself, fly down to wherever you want to go and start distributing it, or the entire western-world’s perspective is going to have to change on altruism. Neither of which are really going to happen, are they?


@HowardHolmes
, That’s no way to experience life.

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@ijesuschrist, You are correct that it is not the way it is typically spent. If “shoulds” are based on votes, you win.

Rather than labeling it, let’s discuss it. Is the objection to my suggestion that life has no value? If life has value, is it finite or infinite? If infinite how does that differ from saying it has none? If finite, then the valuing is merely a means of comparing you to me, which I will not do.

If this wasn’t clear, the only way there can be value is for there to be a finite amount. Ask Midas what happens when everything is gold–it rapidly loses value. Something is of value only if one has it and another wants it. If you value your life, that is what means.

Maybe the objection is to the word special. Special inevitably follows value. Special is the raison d’etre of value.

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Anonymous (2,833) (@) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@HowardHolmes,
“If infinite how does that differ from saying it has none?”

Is the glass half full or half empty?

My point is, you have no idea, none of us do, towards the idea of purpose or no purpose, meaning or no meaning.

So why IN THE EXISTENTIAL INCREDIBLENESS OF EVERYTHING would you ever make the conscious decision to say the glass is half empty?

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@ijesuschrist, I would enjoy a discussion, but I never said anything about glasses being half full or half empty. It is probably my brain that is half full, so go slow and try again to make your point.

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Anonymous (2,833) (@) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@HowardHolmes,
You asked the question:
‘If life has value, is it finite or infinite? If infinite how does that differ from saying it has none?’

Assuming this was a rhetorical question, I followed with the simple analogy, posed in a question:

“Is the glass half full or half empty?”

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@ijesuschrist, Please allow me to began anew with your assertion “that’s no way to experience life.” I think this is where I got off track by not understanding what was meant by this. I should have asked for clarification, rather than preceding on assumption. So please clarify what is meant my that assertion.

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Anonymous (2,833) (@) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@HowardHolmes,
You said:
“You are not special. Neither is the other person. Neither am I. Just live and quit trying to stand out.”

I said:
“That is no way to live life.”

The above claim in which ‘no one is special’, I would assume, would also imply that nothing is special. And proceeding with your same logic in your response to mine, I would say – “What is the difference between everything being special, and nothing being special?”

Then, the analogy again comes into play; is the cup half full, or half empty?

Since these choices are non-mutually exclusive, and, in the case of ‘special’ and ‘non-special’, cannot be proven and are subjective, we must make a conscious decision to decide the fullness of our cups.

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@ijesuschrist, We can say something meaningful about special. It refers to a value. Value has no meaning without the idea of things differing in value. If there were two things, X and Y in the world (and only these two things) then the concept of value has no meaning unless X and Y differed in value. If they had no value, the same value or infinite value this would amount to the same thing.

When I claim “nothing has value” or “nothing is special”, I am by definition claiming that nothing is better or worse than something else. The only conscious decision open to us regarding value is “Am I better than others, worse than others or the same as others?’ Others can be taken to include other things.

All decisions being subjective, this is a subjective decision, but I would be surprised to find anyone admitting to supporting the idea that “I am better than you.” I fully realize that the only way to have identity is to not only accept that idea, but actively promote it (because this is what identity is (i.e. to be special; to be different)). I also accept that the having of and promotion of identities is very common. I assert all identities (and hence differences in values) are illusionary. If you do not hold to the same opinion, we have a misunderstanding, so I will try to understand your needing to support the view that you have an identity and that it is special.

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VIII (34) (@triplemind) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@joost20, this video is total propaganda. you should stop worrying so much about the appearance of caring and start worrying about understanding what an effect dealing with the injustices LOCALLY can do. you can always go live with the people who are suffering but why do you need an airplane ticket there? walk, hitch a ride, it’s dangerous but you’re on a holy quest what could go wrong?! money is so fucking dumb and that’s why it’s failing, the purpose of money was to show that effort equals comfort but NATURE DOES THAT TOO so go find people in need don’t just find a white dude who’s collecting money to give to poor kids halfway around the world that’s passive as fuck. ugh!

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Anonymous (2,833) (@) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@HowardHolmes,
You said:
“I am by definition claiming that nothing is better or worse than something else.”
Thereby implying:
“nothing has value” or “nothing is special”

Yet I could say the same statement, and end result being
“Everything has value and everything is special”

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@ijesuschrist, There is still an ignoring of what is meant by value. If I say “nothing has value” I am saying “nothing is more valuable or less valuable than anything else”. These two statements are exactly equivalent. Both statements affirm that the concept of value is empty and refers to nothing that is real (not unlike the majority of our words).

If I say “everything” has value, I am saying that everything is more valuable or less valuable than at least one other thing.

If I say “everything is special” I am saying everything is more valuable than at least one other thing.

I still assume we agree on everything I said above. If not, please help be understand.

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Anonymous (2,833) (@) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@HowardHolmes,
“If I say “everything” has value, I am saying that everything is more valuable or less valuable than at least one other thing.”

Not necessarily so, value does not need to be in comparison, although it often is.

Value is completely subjective, and therefore I do not have a definition of it.

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@ijesuschrist, The lack of a referent for the concept is exactly the problem. If I refer to a horse we all know what I am talking about. No person claims to be a horse because they know they could not get by with it. It is real. If I say value, no one knows what it is or does or anything about it. It is nothing but a pretty word. So then I say we all have it and everyone feels warm and fuzzy. The same would happen for any meaningless sound we all agreed was laudatory. People want to be important or caring or nice or sweet or pretty or smart or rational or conscious or valuable or black or female or American or ….ad infinitum. They are all meaningless words which tell me nothing about you of significance. When are we going to stop wasting our time talking about them? (and about us?)

This post started with someone talking about something “important”. He did this because he wanted to be important. Then he starts talking about helping people so he can be a helper. So now we all have to laud him for being important and helping. Doesn’t this get tiring? He is no more important or helpful than anyone else. Why talk about it? If you want to do something, do it and quit bragging about it.

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Anonymous (2,833) (@) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@HowardHolmes, Your cup is very, very half full.

If you can bring a cup to a conference, a very large cup, a golden cup, filled with wonderful liquid and you look out upon the audience, one could say the following things;

1. This is a relatively large cup in comparison to others, it is made of gold, and filled with a liquid.
It is not the largest cup, nor is it infinitely large, therefore, it is nothing special.
It is made of gold, but there is a lot of gold, and therefore, it is nothing special.
It is filled with a liquid, water, but water is one of the most abundant molecules on our planet, so it is nothing special.
There are also other golden cups, so again it is nothing special.

2. This is a grand cup, the largest golden cup ever made, and so it is special.
It is made of gold, one of the least reactive, and thus one of the most beautiful metals in our universe, and is special.
It is filled with a liquid that sustains life on this planet, and refreshes thirst, and thus is special.

From everything I can take from you so far, you would much rather hear, and speak #1.

But why?

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Joost20 (37) (@joost20) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@HowardHolmes,
Thank you for your reply! Since I placed this post there has happened something. Or actually i am somewhat in the middle of understanding it. I talked to somebody who literally chanced my perspective in the direction of the things you are saying. After the conversation I feel that my old perspectives (the way i thought for years and years) are coming back and then go again , because this has become the automatic response kind of thinking. I cannot explain it in words very well. ‘what fires together wires together’. Thanks for the post where you said that i tried to be important. I think that i was trying indeed.

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Obfuscate (126) (@HowardHolmes) 8 years, 7 months ago ago

@joost20, Thanks for sharing the joy.

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 7 years, 11 months ago ago

Altruism doesn’t exist, not in the sense you are talking about at least. When you give you do it to appease the pressures of responsibility you design for your own mind, when you give it is for your comfort not those you help, because you feel guilty for enjoying life when others don’t so you give to others to offset that guilt.

Some people learn to dull that or ignore it and live for themselves, but I’d hold that ignoring such factors about yourself is not really being true to yourself, but then ignoring the right to have a measure of enjoyment for yourself from life is also contrary to your nature, so you balance it in a way that you can live with, don’t expect a perfect and comfortable balance, just one you can live with and be capable of both.

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