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You're Bad People
MrMisterValuing scholarship above all elseRegistered Userregular
I'm not pointing this out to tell people that they shouldn't donate money to worthy causes but its more about my personal issue with people making the assumption that if they donate money to something it gives them some sort of morale high ground.
My question is: why the hell wouldn't it give them a moral high ground? If doing good things doesn't give you a moral high ground, then it must not exist. This is, of course, related to psychological egoism, a depressingly popular philosophy on this forum. Psychological egoism is the notion that people always do what they want. The usual inference is then that acts of kindness and charity don't make you a good person--after all, you gave that money to charity because you wanted to, probably because you get off on the warm fuzzy feeling. That's selfish.
There are a lot of problems here. Let's take the direct problems with the theory first--it's either trivial or false, depending on how you interpret the term 'want.' People proposing the theory usually take it to be self-evident that people do what they want, however, if it's really just a definitional matter, then the fact that people do what they want has no bearing on our moral conceptions. It should then be no more surprising or relevant than A=A. The second possible way of defining 'want' is as a certain psychological state of the brain. However, if that's the case then there's no real reason to suppose that people do, in fact, always do what they want. To have evidence of that we would need to do empirical studies and collect data . Furthermore, the fact that proponents of psychological egoism here never seem to think that such studies would be necessary leads me believe that they're generally using the trivial version of the theory.
Of course, the theory has another seldom-mentioned consequence. Not only does it make the people giving to charity no better than you, it also makes you no better than Charles Manson. Do you really think that you're no better than Charles Manson?
I'm convinced the popularity of psychological egoism stems from the way people can use it as a cheap cop-out from moral responsibility. Despite the fact that it's actually a pretty shitty idea in terms of intellectual validity, people like it because it's a good defensive dodge. So I'm telling you to give it up--you really would be better people if you gave money to charity, and you should, and as long as you don't I'm going to have the moral high ground on the issue. Of course, there are probably other things you're doing better than me, and there are also certainly other people who are giving more to charity than I am, and hence who have the high ground on me there as well. But I'm not going to pussy-foot around it and act like no judgments are applicable to my behavior. You shouldn't either.
Cowboy up and learn to live with the fact that your actions have significance.