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Thread: Most of us are basically good: a thought experiment

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    Most of us are basically good: a thought experiment

    I have a theory that most of us, certainly not all, are basically good people who want to help others and reduce suffering in the world. To illustrate this, here's the thought experiment:

    You place any given person in a room with two buttons:

    - one is a 'permanently solve every problem' button for themselves
    - the other is a 'permanently solve every problem' button for everyone in the world, including themselves

    No strings attached, no catch, all they have to do is walk across the room, and press one of the buttons. Which of the buttons do they press?
    The argument is that most people would press the button to help everyone, given the opportunity, but given the reality of competing resources we're forced to fight with each other - what some would consider immorality.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Most of us are basically fearful: a thought experiment

    yada yada
    We are tribalists by nature.

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    Most of us are basically fearful: a thought experiment

    yada yada
    We are tribalists by nature.
    Agreed, think that comes from this part:

    but given the reality of competing resources we're forced to fight with each other - what some would consider immorality.
    Helping others is mutually beneficial, and ideal, but not possible given constraints.

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    The cost of pushing the everyone button is zero, somebody would have to be pretty negative on society not to push it.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Amazingly we have republicans ........ freedom is greater than community ..... go figure

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    Most people seem to respond very generously when a tragedy occurs. People will donate money to help victims of storms and fires. People will rush out and try to rescue strangers during a disaster. Most of the time, we might not think of how we can help others, but it does seem as if when disasters happen, we suddenly become caring. Humans are pretty complicated and I don't think all of us are tribal. I think almost everyone would push the right button, with the possible exception of hateful narcissists. But, helping the entire world is in one's own best interests too, so who knows? I assume that means no more wars or poverty etc. What's not to like?

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    I'm surprised that as many give as are claimed by this report.

    Charitable Giving Statistics
    Americans gave $410 billion to charities in 2017, up 5%. https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/

    Seems to me these numbers come from tax returns rather than actual surveys of donations received by charities. Still, I'm impressed and confused since the numbers don't match up with the levels of self-interest displayed in political arena.

    I think the rates shown by Red Cross for blood donations, 3%, were nearer the actual levels of participation.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Charitable Giving Statistics Americans gave $410 billion to charities in 2017, up 5% https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/



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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    I'm surprised that as many give as are claimed by this report.

    Charitable Giving Statistics
    Americans gave $410 billion to charities in 2017, up 5%. https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/

    Seems to me these numbers come from tax returns rather than actual surveys of donations received by charities. Still, I'm impressed and confused since the numbers don't match up with the levels of self-interest displayed in political arena.

    I think the rates shown by Red Cross for blood donations, 3%, were nearer the actual levels of participation.
    When people give to charity, they aren't usually thinking about politics. Americans in general, are known to be quite generous when it comes to charitable giving.

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Everyone is basically good. The only disagreement is on what goals qualify as "good", and what means are tolerable in order to achieve those goals.

    Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Mother Theresa, all of the popes, every king, emperor, tyrant and despot in history were good people whose failings were due only to their having a different view on who was deserving of their good graces, who needed to be punished or eliminated to serve the greater good, and how far they should go in pursuit of their ideals.

    Even Donald Trump is a good man - he just believes that he is the only person worthy of his care, and that pursuit of his personal benefit is a goal so worthwhile that it's unimportant if the little people (anyone who isn't Donald Trump, and therefore doesn't really qualify as 'people') get hurt in pursuit of that personal benefit.

    He's not a bad person. He doesn't seek to harm others for no reason. It's just that his reasons don't match yours or mine - what is important to him isn't the same as what is important to us.

    The real problem of evil is that there are no evil people - just good people who restrict their attempts to be good to smaller tribes than 'all of humanity', or 'all animals', or 'all living things'.

    Everyone draws the line somewhere. 'Good' just means 'draws the line in a similar place to me'.

    Put Adolf Hitler into your thought experiment, and he would unhesitatingly press the 'fix all the problems for everyone' button, secure in the belief that doing so would cause all the Jews, vagrants, homosexuals, and communists to vanish, and would provide a utopian world in which Germans governed as benign dictators to protect the lesser races from their own inadequacy. Does that make him 'good'? If so, does that render the OP thought experiment valueless? I suspect the answer to both is 'yes'.

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