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Thread: The ethics of distinct organic systems

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    The ethics of distinct organic systems

    I'm going to jump over a few barriers here and interrelate ethics with physics. The primary question is this:

    - can any distinct organic system be fully altruistic towards another

    Now to define my terms:

    Organic Systems - I'm taking this to mean any living entity, group, or organization. So it could mean any individual organism, or any group formed by living organisms - corporations, governments, countries, religions, etc

    Being Fully Altruistic - We'll take this to mean that the behavior of any given organic system, whether individual or a group, is sacrificial beyond what would provide a socially acceptable mutual benefit

    To re-state the question given the definitions, we're looking at any type of system, whether an individual or group, that wants to sustain itself across time while competing with other systems for resources. The question is - can any distinct system be truly altruistic towards another, defined by my definition above.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Let me suggests species that form Cleaning symbiosis relationships with other species.

    The role of cleaning symbioses has been debated by biologists for over thirty years. Some believe that cleaning represents selfless co-operation, essentially pure mutualism, increasing the fitness of both individuals. Others such as Robert Trivers hold that it illustrates mutual selfishness, reciprocal altruism. Others again believe that cleaning behaviour is simply one-sided exploitation, a form of parasitism.
    Depends on who shovels the shit so to speak.

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    The closest thing I can think of is the parent - child relationship, but even then if you think of a child as an extension of it's parent it makes sense to go as far as dying for your children.

    In theory a reasonably clever human could emancipate themselves from this law of nature as such, but still there would be a growing negative pressure on such behavior. For instance, one could give a homeless person twenty bucks for no reason, but would be unlikely to offer a thousand. So the law's still there, it just hurts more the more we try to sacrifice until more sacrifice becomes untenable.

    Are humans the only species that can exhibit this behavior? That's an interesting question.

    And can corporations be ethical? Can nation states be ethical?

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    The closest thing I can think of is the parent - child relationship, but even then if you think of a child as an extension of it's parent it makes sense to go as far as dying for your children.
    Potential for genetic result trumps past genetic result. That would be fitness not altruism.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Are humans the only species that can exhibit this behavior? That's an interesting question.
    No. Most apes, many birds, and most mammals do the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    And can corporations be ethical? Can nation states be ethical?
    Yes. As an extension of humans both can enact ethical standards consistent with human tendencies.

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    Given that maybe the law, so to speak, shouldn't be confined by a binary we can / can not be ethical, but rather defined as a continuum. We can act ethically beyond normal bounds, but eventually more sacrifice becomes untenable.

    So the rule isn't that we're selfish, but that eventually self trumps other. The lion's share has to go to ourselves.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    untenable? Do you mean terminator event? I think there was a Schwarzenegger movie or three about that.

    Seems to me that if there is an end that the species (mankind), not the individual prevails which brings us back to 'do' so to sing.

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    Maybe not a terminator event but maybe mankind isn't a cohesive group. There will always be tension within, some do better, some do worse.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    I wouldn't take comfort in some do worse cause that road has no bottom. Observe it enough and you're in to something rather substantial. Something for which there many triplevers leading back the other way.

    My daughter is on that train. She's so high and she's so low but she won't let go. So, observing that, I don't meddle much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I'm going to jump over a few barriers here and interrelate ethics with physics. The primary question is this:

    - can any distinct organic system be fully altruistic towards another

    Now to define my terms:

    Organic Systems - I'm taking this to mean any living entity, group, or organization. So it could mean any individual organism, or any group formed by living organisms - corporations, governments, countries, religions, etc

    Being Fully Altruistic - We'll take this to mean that the behavior of any given organic system, whether individual or a group, is sacrificial beyond what would provide a socially acceptable mutual benefit

    To re-state the question given the definitions, we're looking at any type of system, whether an individual or group, that wants to sustain itself across time while competing with other systems for resources. The question is - can any distinct system be truly altruistic towards another, defined by my definition above.
    Of course they can. I once saved a mouse from manhole. Despite of (small) risk of being infected and despite the fact that probably this mouse would run and do mousy things which are not quite beneficial for the city and me. And even I now would use mouse poison without any problem to fight mice near my house. But if I see another mouse somewhere in the city clearly suffering I will probably save it again.

    So, the answer to your question is yes. Now, why is it important?

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Sure. Look at, for instance, animals in captivity who end up fostering baby animals of other species. If you're not making conscious moral decisions in the first place, it's easy to do something "commendable" without realizing it.

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