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Why should we be good? What is natural? Altruism or hedonism?

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Presentation on theme: "Why should we be good? What is natural? Altruism or hedonism?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Why should we be good? What is natural? Altruism or hedonism?

2 According to Wikipedia.. Altruism is selfless concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and central to many religious traditions. virtue In Buddhism it is considered a fundamental property of human nature.Buddhismhuman nature

3 Association with religion Stick and carrot approach: Avoiding the wrath of God – hell and damnation “Love thy neighbour as thyself” and its reciprocation BUT concept of “disinterested love” is also a secular concept

4 Challenge to Humanists In the absence of a Humanist Bible and teachings, and without continual reminders of what it means to be good, can we assume that society will remain essentially “Good” ?

5 What is natural? Does Herbert Spencer’s notion of “survival of the fittest” imply a “dog eat dog”, selfish, society? Transfer of idea from evolutionary biology to the economics of free- market capitalism Implication is life is a “zero-sum game” – my gain has to be at your expense – stems from competition for food and resources and fitness being about survival. But modern biology emphasises reproductive fitness, which changes the notion of the natural order through sexual selection.

6 Altruism in nature “an organism is said to behave altruistically when its behaviour benefits other organisms, at a cost to itself.” Example: Thompson’s gazelles “Jump on the spot to warn other gazelles of a stalking cheetah.” (Robert Ardrey) Why do it, if it increases its own chances of being eaten? Is it altruism?

7 Social foundations of altruism… Reciprocation: “You scratch my back – I’ll scratch yours”. Human examples?? Life as a game: “tit-for- tat” then make up (Robert Axelrod – Game strategy)

8 Political economy of altruism.. “To be altruistic do you have to be a socialist?” Does it matter whether General Practice medicine is provided by the NHS or privately? Are social audits of large corporations effective in creating corporate altruism?

9 Is society getting worse or better? Rise of fundamentalist ideologies and intolerance Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” Moral evolution and spread of liberal thinking (the liberal meme) : end of slavery, votes and rights for women, gay and disabled rights, political correctness, international court of justice – all making society more humane. “The kindness of strangers” Kate Adie

10 For discussion… Will we only do good if we expect a payoff? Are humans born good or born evil? What steps must we take to ensure that the young grow up good? What sort of “goodness” do we want in society? Is there a place for hedonism?


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