We will often be very polite to strangers, and very rude to the ones who are closest to us.
Shouldn't it be the other way around if at all?
Shouldn't our loved ones be given the politeness we reserve for strangers plus more?
It seems so.
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No because politeness is feigned concern, empathy, interest, etc.
I'd like to think that the ones we love prefer us to express our genuine feelings, as opposed to socially mandated ones. And, by the very definition of 'loved ones', these feelings are going to be positive on the whole. I know I prefer harsh truth from my friends to false-but-pleasant courtesy.
I believe there is a tug of war present in every unenlightened mind in any situation. It's like the devil and angel simultaneously present on one's shoulder - one can choose which one to listen to - our ego or our true nature, maybe.
I think we understand that we have a dimension to ourselves which wants to be polite to everyone, as well as a dimension which wants to be selfish and controlling. If we decide we want to enhance either nature, then that appears just what we want to do at that time. I don't think we are one or the other in our unenlightened state - we seem simply to be that tug of war.
How do you know what your genuine feelings are, if most of the time we are confused about who we are? Which feelings are really 'you' - the ones which want to kill someone when angry, or the ones which want to help someone when content? Both of them maybe, and so we can't say we are entirely impolite or polite.
The difference between the two can be that one feels good to act upon, while other feels bad. I don't think when someone is acting upon the polite side they witness within their character, they are feigning anything - they are simply bringing that side to the fore because they want to.
I'm afraid I don't have as dualistic a view of human nature. I don't feel, by any means, I have a nature within me which desires to be polite to everyone, just as I cannot detect a nature which desires to be completely selfish and controlling. If I am, as you indicate, merely a tug of war between two opposing natures, where does my will come into the picture? What am I, if anything, except for the chance result of two independent wills competing?
Which of my feelings are me?
I would say — all and none.
All, because they are all equally expressions of me.
None, because none of them, even combined, can truly encapsulate me.
I disagree that one type of action feels bad to act upon and another feels good. If it were this simple, we would have no incentive to perform 'bad' actions and the world would be a much more peaceful place (whether that is good or bad – a subject for another debate). But the simple truth, as I see it, is that if I lash out at a stranger in anger over some offence, I do feel good about it. Likewise, if I am forced to engage in polite niceties for an extended period of time with someone I don't feel any affection for, I will feel decidedly bad as a result.
Last edited by Aristippus on July 29th, 2009, 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If you have a selection mechanism regarding who you are polite to, then the group of people you are selecting from still needs to be made up of people. The "everyone" you refer to in your statement is also made up of people. So one can see that you are intending to be polite to everyone (i.e. the whole group of people) until you use your selection mechanism. It is this intention to be polite to everyone which I am referring to when I say: "we have a dimension to ourselves which wants to be polite to everyone".
It appears to come in when one sides with one opposing nature over another - a decision to be consciously polite, or rude, for example.
Exactly - some people say this "I" is what makes our life a misery, and the sooner we get rid of it, the better. Without "I" there is no separation from other people and other phenomena; and so there is no suffering also.
My stance on this discussed on my blog post: Morality is easy, if you want to discuss anything further on that thread.
Hmm, I don't quite follow your logic...
Say I want to be polite to people who are agreeable to me... My 'selection mechanism' is based solely on their being agreeable to me... How can a part of me intend to be polite to everyone, assuming, as is the case, that some people exist who are not agreeable to me?
Say I arrive at a table of strangers... at what point would you say I am intending to be polite to everyone? I cannot recall ever having that experience, unless all were in some way immediately agreeable to me (based on mere appearance, perhaps)... But I do not see how this can be generalised out into an intent towards everyone, especially considering the variable is agreeableness – not whether or not they are people...
If this is the case, then I have my own unique will – distinct from either of these opposing natures. And thus, by definition, morally neutral. Why not simply follow this will, disregarding the other two? Or would you say it was of a fundamentally different kind?
I am somewhat attracted to that idea myself. However, why could I not surrender this I to the 'Dark Side', so to speak, instead of the 'good' – and achieve exactly the same results?
Thanks, I'll check it out :)
When you arrive there.
But in the order of variables which need to be present - in this case yourself, the strangers (people), and agreeableness and disagreeableness, the last two ... come last. So in order for someone to be agreeable they have to be a person first, and since you are selecting people to be polite to, then you are intending to be polite to people firstly, and secondly agreeable people. Agreeable people and disagreeable people are both people, and all those people together make up everyone.
As you say; the case may be that "all were in some way immediately agreeable" - and so your intent to be polite to everyone can be fully carried out.
Are those oppposing natures 'wills'? The way I see it is that an idea bubbles up into our awareness, and then we choose to give that idea any energy by acting on it, or just let it go - in this way we exercise our will. The dimensions we have to our character appear to create certain ideas we can choose to follow - like the impulse to be polite or rude, for example.
Because the 'dark side' seems to be generally related to hatred, selfishness, greed, etc. - all those things which rely on a serious divide between people - an 'I' which imposes itself on the world and any community it finds itself within. When we are not championing 'I', we are behaving compassionately and with thoughts for other people's comfort.
I guess my point is that this intending seems to exist only in the abstract. I certainly don't feel this initial intention or experience it in any way. The initial instant before qualifying people as agreeable or not – if perceptible at all – is certainly not occupied with the intention to be polite to them. If the intent to be polite to someone is determined by their agreeableness to you, that intent is not formed until the assessment of their agreeableness is complete. The absence of that assessment (i.e. in the initial moment of meeting someone) is not occupied by a positive intention (positive or negative judgements not yet having even been made) – but, by a neutral one.
It would appear so... as they have their own particular agendas and in some way or another exert a pull on me towards either of these... in other words, they have both intent and power...
Of course, I would add, this is just an errant way of looking at ones own intent and power, which is unitary. It is only when you draw them out and abstract them that they appear to have an existence of their own, and this is precisely what I am arguing against.
But may I not achieve selflessness by acting unequivocally in the most despicable way possible in any given situation – regardless of my own greater apprehensions and desires – in the same way I may do so by acting unequivocally righteously in any given scenario? In both examples I am denying the uniqueness of my Self for the unilateral simplicity of one of those extremes.
I am championing 'I' everytime a smile I caused in a stranger or friend causes me joy. This, to me, is equally selfish behaviour as stealing something I desire. Though the former case would be called good, and the latter case bad.
As an existential phenomenon, an agreeable person must firstly be a person and then agreeable, you can't have agreeableness (as we find in a person) before you have a person. That is what I meant by saying you firstly intend to be polite to a person, and secondly that person has to be agreeable - the latter condition is a secondary intention. So, as we work our way backwards through your intentions, we find that you intend to be agreeable to a person before you impose the additional requirement of them being agreeable. Like you said - the table full of strangers is just that - people who you are not acquianted with and so you don't yet know if they are agreeable, and you intend to be polite. You don't know who yet, so you intend to be polite to everyone until you detect who is agreeable as a secondary requirement. When I walk in to a shop, I intend to pay the shop-owner, but only if I choose something to buy. There are two conditions necessary there - to be in the shop, and to choose something, and if I don't choose something and pay for it, that doesn't mean I didn't have the intention to walk in to the shop in the first place. The same goes if you decide a stranger is disagreeable - it doesn't mean that you never had the intention to be polite to him.
I disagree that the opposing dimensions of selfishness and altruism have their own 'wills' - it seems we have a differing definition of a 'will' here - I say it is the decision-making process, while you seem to say it is the manifestation of thoughts. I say we choose which thoughts to act upon - we can get selfish and altruistic ideas bubbling in to our consciousness one after another - the angel and devil arguing simultaneously, and our will is simply our choice-making capacity - our volition. To make it something else takes away any possibility of making a decision.
Can you give an example of how you can behave despicably in a given situation while acting selflessly? I can't imagine such a scenario.
When a stranger smiles at you and makes you happy, then the stranger is the cause of your happiness, not your own initial smiling at him/her. Otherwise, where you do you stop with tracing the cause? You could work your way back through the causes to the Big Bang itself... and then there would definitely be no 'I'!
Last edited by Mossling on August 2nd, 2009, 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
And to be a person, they must 'first' also be an existent thing. Yet I can't be said to have the intention, at any point, to be polite to all existent things. The agreeableness is the only quality that matters and the only one which actually invokes politeness. I am being polite for the sake of the person's agreeableness, not for the sake of their personhood.
This simply is not the case. I have, if anything at all, a neutral intention until I have assessed the agreeableness of the persons present. I say this from experience and self-reflection.
I walk in the shop seeking something in particular, yes. I meet someone looking for something in particular as well ('agreeableness', for the sake of this discussion). If I do not find it, in both cases, I leave. But where is my intention really directed in both these cases? To the object I'm looking for, not that which it resides in. To the item I wish to buy, not to the shop. The shop is incidental, it merely facilitates my purchase. The person (though perhaps this could be phrased a little better...) is incidental also, what I seek is agreeableness (good conversation, enjoyment, etc.)
I was using 'selfless' in the sense of 'self-denial', not in the sense of giving to others at your own expense (though obviously the former can include the latter). An example of a selfless but despicable action would be raping and murdering my 16 year old brother... Everything about me is disgusted by and recoils from such an action. To do it would be an extreme act of selflessness in the sense of self-denial. An equally selfless but righteous act would be allowing myself to be brutally raped and slowly tortured to death over a period of weeks in order to save the lives of 1,000 children I have never met. My self recoils from that action, even though it would benefit many, almost as much as it does from the former course of action. Both are examples of self-denial. Because in actuality, I neither wish to rape/kill my brother nor be raped/tortured/killed by others. This is because I am normal. It does not mean I would not gladly sacrifice myself for my loved ones in certain situations, and it certainly doesn't mean there is no situation wherein I would kill someone. It simply means I am so much more than a simple, unilateral, mode of action.
So what relation, if any, does the joke I tell have to the smile on my friend's face?
If someone tells you an utterly hilarious joke, or gives you the biggest and sincerest compliment imaginable, do you actively will your own laughter or beaming smile? There is a clear causality at work here. Yes, you could trace the causes back to the Big Bang, but the same could be said for everything. To enable the possibility of meaningful discussion, we deal with the most obvious and relevant causal processes.
You can't deny that you intend to be polite to people in your philosophy - it's irrational to assume you will be polite to a chair, for example. Those people you intend to be polite to will be represented by everyone before you select which people are agreeable. This is logical, and due to this, at some point in time you intend to be polite to everyone (if they are agreeable - you don't yet know because they are strangers) - and that is all that I am highlighting.
You have a dimension within you which intends to be polite to everyone. It's just that some people turn out to be less agreeable than others, and in reality you end up being polite to less than everyone. It's like intending to spend the necessary amount of time to finish drawing a beautiful picture, but half way through becoming bored and giving up. Just because you gave up and every time you have tried you gave up, doesn't mean that the intention to finish the picture was not there in the first place. Maybe you know before hand that if you become bored you will give up - it still doesn't affect your initial intention to finish it.
Being impolite to someone feels bad, and so one looks to avoid being impolite - this reinforces the intention to be polite to everyone even more from the outset - we don't seek negative experiences.
I am sorry; I have never come across the idea of selflessness relative to rape or murder. We have differing definitions there. To me, selflessness has only ever meant being altruistic - unselfish, sharing, cooperating, etc. The dictionary supports me on that front.
I think your idea of self-denial is warped. The dictionary says: "a restraint or limitation of one's own desires or interests". Raping someone would be the opposite of this; would it not? Please, let's use dictionary definitions so that we are both speaking english - it will save us both a lot of time.
Indeed; and so when the stranger in your first example smiled at you - the stranger caused you to smile as "the most obvious and relevant causal process". The further one gets away from just simple 'cause and effect' - i.e. a cause creating an effect, and that effect becomeing a cause which creates another effect, etc. - the more ambiguous, complex and confusing it becomes. That's why generally we say that a cause and effect are two directly and obviously linked temporal events. Otherwise we end up saying things like: "I smiled at a stranger and caused myself joy" - it sounds a bit creepy, haha.
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