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This just in: Humans are still scum!


ollie
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Aid workers giving girls food for sex in Liberia: report

The aid agency Save the Children says foreign workers and peacekeepers are sexually exploiting young girls in Liberia, despite pledges to stamp out such abuse.

Girls as young as eight are being forced by local and international agency workers to have sex in exchange for food, according to a report called From Camp to Community: Liberia Study on Exploitation of Children, released Monday.

"These children were engaging in sex for money for education, for food for the day, or even for something as small as a ride," said Save the Children spokeswoman Emilia Brookstein.

...

The report said that among the abusers were officials from the UN's World Food Program and UN peacekeepers, as well as wealthy businessmen from communities near camps that house children internally displaced by Liberia's civil war.

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Hume was certainly a wuss. All that crap about billiard balls and lack of free will.

If that were true, then I'd have to say humans really aren't scum; just passive cogs in the machine, who believe we make choices but really have no choice.

Bullshit.

(... and don't get me started on Schopenhauer.)

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Hobbes is valuable, but unconvincing. Looking around and observing the consequence (the effect), he then zooms backwards and argues in favour of the cause. Basing his justification of the cause on the subsequent effect without acknowledging the latter as even being such! It's terribly circular.

Hume was a lifesaver. I was always astounded by debates about free-will vs. determinism. It seemed so shortsighted and artificial. Why do the two notions need to be seen as at odds, rather than different faces of the same coin? Every decision I make and have made is based, and will be based on, the decisions I've previously made and the decisions and circumstances around me which are, in turn, based on the decisions and circumstances that preceded them. I make the choice freely, but the choice can't be but contingent on the sum of all that preceded it and informed it. My will is free, but inextricable tied to the freedom that goes before.

Compatibilism may not be perfectly expressed through Hume, but I don't think that it reduces anyone, as formulated, to a cog in an anything. You *do* make the choice. The choice simply doesn't occur in a vacuum. (And would we prefer that it did?)

In highschool, in a novella called "When Soft Voice Dies", I expressed the idea variously as:

"I could read our future with the fall of my urine, if I just took the time to figure out how" and "Who's to blame but your parents and their parents and their parents, back to the first copulation forever ago? You aren't responsible, but you are being held responsible. Find your star and explode."

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I argue for helping others on the basis of not wanting to be a hypocrite.

As an example, imagine you're a motorist whose car breaks down (or has a flat), and you're stranded on the side of the road, hoping to be helped. In essence, you want a member of the general public (or that limited subset of the general public that's driving by) to stop and give you assistance.

The thing is, you are also a member of the general public. If the situation were reversed, and you didn't help, then you'd be hypocritical, in that you, a member of the general public, wouldn't provide something, but you would want the (rest of the) general public to provide it when you needed it. This kind of hypocrisy galls me.

As someone once said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Aloha,

Brad

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He takes the specifically cultural and ascribes it to the species writ large.

That would be the problem with Rational Choice Theory, which seems to dominate social science in so many subdisciplines. "People often default to this, so it must be true in itself." I remember someone in media studies saying that about Rush Limbaugh's vision of the world: "It's true because (if) it works."

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The thing is, you are also a member of the general public.

:thumbup:

It reminds me of the bit that I picked up from Rawls' (iirc) ethics, and the whole business of social balance - if you're at a party, think yourself the most disadvantaged person there, and act accordingly, as if it could turn out that you might actually were.

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Rawlsian theory really has guts, actually. If you can seriously agree to participate in a schema like his "veil of ignorance" as a starting point for dividing stuff up, then you're really putting your money where your mouth is. I dig him for sure. (In fact, I'd say he could be considered Applied Kant.)

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I argue for helping others on the basis of not wanting to be a hypocrite.

Some interesting things have come out of this thread and I've done some wiki-reading on some of these philosophers.

So where would doing something out of the goodness of one's heart fall into this? Doing something for the sake of not wanting to be a hypocrite still smacks of "What's in it for me?".

Edited to add: I suppose doing something out of the goodness of one's heart is just a mental trick of the subconcious. Anyone want to point me to a philosopher that tackles this?

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I find questions around altruism are wrapped up in questions around identity. Is it possible to have no identity, and still act? The term thrown around among theologians is kenosis, or self-emptying - is this possible? That is the key goal through so many mystical traditions - in Christianity, Buddhism, Vendanta, philosophical Taoism, Sufism, etc. etc. I'm a big fan of the Frankfurt School writers like Adorno who get a lot of mileage out of the concept of dialectics - that subject (self) and object (other) are flexible categories, each informing the other, and that things go off the rails (i.e. get violent) whenever they get fixed in any way. Clinging to identity, in other words, is where trouble begins; it makes us turn others (as well as ourselves) into things to be manipulated, operated on, used, or ultimately annihilated. Culture encourages this sort of thing in all sorts of different ways (the economy would collapse if it didn't).

I'm sure that's more abstract than I'd like, but that's where these "aid workers" are coming from, I think - abusing these kids is one of the ways they use to prop up their own identities (empowered, affluent, etc., in contrast to unempowered, impoverished, etc.), under cover of this "altuistic" service they're supposed to be rendering.

And while it's a banal comparison (but that other thread has it on my mind), I figure that's why traffic jams happen so often too.

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I'm not sure about what you say about traffic jams, which I think have more to do with the tragedy of the commons than people propping up their own identities. (In other words, I attribute it more to short-sightedness than notions of identity.)

I don't know - I see traffic jams coming about because of people prioritising themselves at the expense of others, writ large. I think that does make sense in light of the whole issue of enclosure (commons), which was a way in which some people prioritised themselves at the expense of others as well; Jeremy Rifkin (et al.) pinpoints that as one of the key flashpoints of modernity, where people were forced into the cities and made to fend for themselves - which means, among other things, getting wrapped up in the problem of identity (who/what am I, how to I make my way in the world, how do I not get bulldozed by all these others, what can I get away with, etc.).

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Hey we agree on something StoneMtn! :)

The Veil of Ignorance is a great mental tool. It really helps in terms of discovering otherwise unexamined cultural biases. Gutsy for sure.

It does sometimes get abused, though. Sara Goering, for example, well-intentionally applying it to debates about genetic modifications. It seems like a good fit initially, but really falls apart. (I don't know if she still holds this position, though. She may have changed her mind.) But a big thumbs up for Rawls, who knew where and when to apply it.

Ollie - I can't think of an answer to your question about philosophers who have tackled that question specifically. Although I thought DEM's response was damn fine. It does get tackled a lot in psychology (ie. egoism) ... particularly the idea that nothing can ever "really" be altruistic because there are internal motivations and payoffs for behaving altruistically. The suspicion that we might be hardwired to experience pleasure and satisfaction through aiding others or interceeding to correct their misfortune in this view is seen as negating altruism, rather than as a vindication of it. Somehow the crushing beauty of the notion that compassion might be of universal utility is lost on adherents of this line of thinking.

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The idea that we might be hardwired to experience pleasure and satisfaction through aiding others or interceeding to correct their misfortune in this view is seen as negating altruism, rather than as a vindication of it.

For an interesting literary take on the whole feeling-good-when-helping-others thing, read "Only Begotten Daughter" by James Morrow.

Aloha,

Brad

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I like Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey for the same reason (I think! I haven't read the Morrow); there's something compelling in the way that the main character's life is redeemed in having to give up his rigid vision of how life should go, and to turn to the service of the least enfranchised character in the story.

I reminds me of Susan Neiman's definition of evil - "the urge to unite the is with the ought" - especially how self and others ought (or ought not) to be.

[edit to add:] - found a good video - Susan Neiman on PBS

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