Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Irrationality of Altruism

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Birthplace of Independent Conservatism

Altruism can be defined as:  an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest.

The altruist therefore will places their own self interests, indeed their own happiness subordinate to that of others.

Ayn Rand in the following video montage explains altruism and how in its purist form it is an immoral doctrine and in her words evil.

For a contemporary outlook on the irrationality of self sacrificing altruism Shane Atwell's Blog takes an in depth look at why Rand (and others) viewed altruism as evil.

From Shane's article Altruism Empowers Evil:
I've always loved epic stories of good versus evil. I love Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dune--long, multi-generational conflicts. But it wasn't until I read, and re-read, Atlas Shrugged that I learned a crucial fact about evil, a fact not grasped in those other works. Evil is impotent. As Rand explains in Atlas and her non-fiction works, evil is anti-life. Evil is an overbearing state that demands your sacrifices, it is the irrational brute, it is the idea that there are no standards and no reality. Vice is giving up your life, acting from unexamined emotions, refusing to think. The good is life on this earth, it is the rational and the life promoting. Virtue is examining the world around you, thinking, doing things that improve your work, your health, your life. Good versus evil is reality-reason-self-interest versus unreality-irrationality-sacrifice.

Evil is the abandonment of reason, the ability to understand and create. So how can it be powerful? How can evil create wealth, build civilizations, arm itself with high-tech weapons? It can't. Evildoers acquire wealth and weapons from those that are rational. Evil gains the material of its power from the good. Without the support of the good, evil would be powerless.

So why do depictions of the inherent power of evil resonate with so many people? Why is Darth Vadar such an imposing figure in Star Wars and Sauron in the Lord of the Rings? I believe the answer is the morality of altruism.

When I say 'altruism', I'm not talking about giving your neighbor a cup of sugar or letting someone merge in traffic. Altruism is not practicing 'random acts of kindness'. Altruism is the idea that your moral worth derives solely from sacrificing to others. Altruism is the morality that views your normal life, your job, your family vacations, your hobbies, as morally neutral or even contemptible. Altruism only recognizes your acts of giving up values, depriving yourself of joy, of devoting your life to service as virtuous.

Among altruism's contradictions, two are important for this discussion. The first is that it requires you to sacrifice but treats the recipients as virtuous. If you're sacrificing for someone else's benefit, why do they get a moral pass? Why are you morally required to give, but they are allowed to receive? Because they have less than you? Perhaps, but you can bet there's always someone else in the world worse off than they are. The disgusting implications of this chain of reasoning lead most people to just stop thinking about the recipients too much. And so sacrifice itself becomes the sole virtue regardless of whether it helps anyone.
Read the rest.

The rational demands one never sacrifice a higher value for a lesser one. The doctrine of altruism demands you do.

And in a nutshell that is precisely what the Libyan intervention was. Rank altruism.


Following is further contemporary argument with regard to the anti-morals that altruism breeds. h/t Shane Atwell.
Obama’s “Humanitarian” War-Fighting Philosophy

Humanitarians are famously but deceptively indiscriminate in their generosity and with the dispensing of largesse, whether the latter comes from their own wealth or from extorted taxpayer revenue. As long as the object of their charity is “in need” or “needy,” it matters not to the humanitarian. His measure of “need” is both the “virtue” of poverty, and a poverty of virtue.

President Barack Obama on Monday evening, March 28, 2011, demonstrated, in his speech on why he ordered military operations against Libya, that he is a humanitarian of the lowest order. He is willing to be completely selfless at the expense of this country’s blood and treasure to “save the Libyan people” and prevent the images of “mass graves” appearing before him on his teleprompter. That is, he is a vessel of humanitarian instincts brimming to overflow with a selflessness eager and willing to sacrifice things that are not his to sacrifice. Humanitarians are, at root, nihilists, destroyers of values in pursuit of “saving” non-values. Obama competes with swine in that he will eat anything as long as it is “in need” requires “sacrifice,” that altruist touchstone of moral purity. Here are pertinent excerpts from his address:

Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That’s what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.

What interests, what values are at stake? No answer. What responsibility? No answer.

For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant -– Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world –- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Yes, Qaddafi is a tyrant, but then so are the rulers of China, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf sheikdoms, Tunisia, the Sudan, et al., and too likely Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood consolidates its power. And it is interesting that Obama omitted mention of Lockerbie and Pan Am Flight 103, for which Gaddafi was the button-pusher.
 More irrefutable arguments as to the evils of altruism and this Presidents adherence to the doctrine.

Read the rest.


  1. i would have to argue differently from Ms Rand on this issue. She is arguing from a "Deterministic" point of view as opposed to viewpoint of "free will"

    at the level she speaks of in terms of altruism, individualism is just as irrational and evil also.

  2. I completely disagree with your interpretation of Rands argument.

    It both rational, individualistic, and the only real ethical model from which one should leaf=d their life.

    You, having presented your disagreement should give more substantive argumentatuin thabn the above.

    The case has been made. Shane further delved into and explained the evils of altruism.

    For those who fail to understand the philosophical purity of the argument then so it shall remain.

    I fail completely to see validity in argument you put forth above.

  3. alright, Les,
    the argument presented is on the level of absolutism as illustrated by the following;
    " Altruism can be defined as: an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest."

    this then would be the definition of individualism on the same level;

    "individualism is a doctrine that holds that individuals has a moral obligation help, serve or benefit only himself, if necessary, at the expense of others."

    again we see altruism as;
    "The first is that it requires you to sacrifice but treats the recipients as virtuous. If you're sacrificing for someone else's benefit, why do they get a moral pass? Why are you morally required to give, but they are allowed to receive? "

    individualism on the same level would be;
    the first is that it requires other to sacrifice but treat the individual as virtuous. if they are sacrificing for the benefit of the individual, why does the individual get a moral pass?...

    in other words, Les, when it comes to absolutism what is explicitly said reveals what is implicitly said also along the same line of thought. they are insepararable. that is the nature of consistent and reasoned thought. to present the two ideas any other way is to place them on different levels of thought.

    that is why there is so much confusion on the understanding of the federal Constitution. people read what was explicitly said without additional thought of what it says implicitly.

  4. I disagree. We are talking about an ethical (or moral) concept and the question is where one properly places value.

    As soon as one has answered that question on a rational basis then the answer becomes clear and the doctrine of altruism is understood for the evil that it is.

    I would say however to understand this one must first understand exactly what rational self interest means.

  5. "I would say however to understand this one must first understand exactly what rational self interest means"

    i agree, Les but that is true for altruism also. one must first understand what rational altruism means too.

    both rational concepts includes the concept of self-control. without self-control both result in evil.

  6. There is no such thing as "rational altruism."

    If yu understand altruism you themn understand there is no such thing.

    It took me 30 years to fully understand this.

    Now there is no convincing me of "the errors of my ways."

  7. then there is no such thing as rational self interest either. in order to remain consistant you must apply rationalism to both concepts or to neither. that is only logic.

    and yes i do understand the meaning of altruism.

    but if there is no convincing you otherwise then fine, i won't try to convince you.

  8. We are not speaking of "rationalism." We are speaking of rational self interest as it relates o the doctrine of altruism.

    Your twist in MHO only serves to support and perpetuate altruism. I would guess this stems from a theological propensity on your part.

  9. It certainly does appear as though the mystics, statists, collectivists, socialists, selfless mentality has won the day.

    Opening ones mind to the possibilities that rational self interest and reason presents is apparently a difficult thing for most to do.

    A sad state of reality for human existence.
    But each to their own. And given this statement let each pay the resultant consequences of their chosen course of values and actions.

    Reason and John Galt are waiting for your answer.

  10. Atlas Squatted...

    Now, we're still dealing with the impact on the impact on the world economy 2 years and some months later.

    Happiguy on Crushridge

  11. Hey Happiguy on Crushridge - Unfortunately you know little of Atlas or John Galt, or the philosophy of Rand.

    If you are referring to GWB, I have no argument. Nor would Rand were she alive today.

    GWB likely didn't understand Rand or rational self interest either. Anymore than BHO does.

    So as to who squatted, I guess Bush, and now BHO is doing the deep knee bends.


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