Thursday, February 09, 2006

Scientists & Altruist Confusions

LiveScience.com is today featuring the following story:

Altruistic Love Related to Happier Marriages

Altruism may breed better marriages, a new study suggests. Or, the data might mean that good marriages make people more altruistic.

Whatever, altruism and happiness seem to go together in the realm of love.
Sadly, scientists have mostly been profoundly ignorant of what altruism (or for that matter love) means. In this case they attempted to test for it through the following method
:
Study participants were asked whether they agreed with statements that define altruism, such as, "I'd rather suffer myself than let the one I love suffer," and "I'm willing to sacrifice my own wishes to let the one I love achieve his or hers."
Sorry, incorrect! That question not only does not define altruism, it is the opposite of altruism it is acting in one's self-interest. Altruism as a word was originated by Auguste Comte and means in effect "otherism." It means that one's moral purpose in life ought to be the welfare of others. It was invented as an antonym for egoism. But if egoism means anything it means concern for one's interests or values. What could be a higher value than the spouse one loves? Is it selfless, to wish to die rather than see one's spouse suffer? No it isn't! Not if one selfishly wishes to live only a certain kind of life and anything else is worse than death. To show concern for one's top values even at the cost of some suffering is to choose a higher value (the spouse's life) over a lower value one's own (presumably temporary) suffering, is not selflessness but a sign of integrity and pride, thoroughly egoistic virtues.

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