Thursday, August 1, 2013

Altruism and Relativism

Say somebody is a moral relativist and altruist.

- Helping people makes me feel good. [This means altruism.]

- We all have a little Hitler in us, so lets not judge each other. [This means relativism.]

Do you see the contradiction? Consider this...

Ideas replicate from person to person, generation to generation. Good ideas live on while bad ideas die out. So over time, we as a whole population get better because on average our ideas have fewer flaws as we improve them. Now consider what it takes for bad ideas to go extinct. People must change their minds. That's the only way. If people don't change their minds, then those bad ideas continue on, being replicated to other people -- like from parents and society to children who are very impressionable at birth.

Now lets consider what things improve the rate of people changing their minds. Our best explanations to date say that a tradition of criticism is the most important thing affecting the rate of people changing their minds. Consider the ancient greeks, and the Enlightenment, and all the cultures that have adopted the Enlightenment traditions, like respect for reason, and science, and disrespect for mysticism. Their progress was due to the tradition of criticism.

The unifying tradition underlying all three of these things I listed is the tradition of criticism. The tradition of reason involves being open to criticism, and using it to improve one's ideas -- to learn from each other by helping each other by pointing out each other's flaws and explaining them. The tradition of science is the same thing except that they focus only on scientific theories that in principle can be ruled out (aka criticized) by physical evidence. And mysticism is everything else that goes on that is void of a critical phase of knowledge creation where theories are put to the test of other people's criticism (and their own criticism).

So, if one refrains from giving criticism, and tells people to not give him criticism, then he is preventing himself from improving, and preventing other people from improving (from your good ideas that are better than his flawed ideas). And not giving criticism means not judging people.

So your method of not wanting to judge people means that you don't want to help people. Yet you think that its good to help people. So if you think that helping people is good, then why don't you want to help people?


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