Why I Open Fire

I’ve been debating on an online list expressing my contention that there is no purely altruistic action. I cited apparent altruistic actions of my own (washing a co-worker’s coffee cup while washing my own dishes ) and explained my own selfish motive for doing so (feeling magnanimous in anticipating someone’s unexpected joy in seeing their dish washed). The argument against altruism is not my own invention, it is central to the Ayn Rand novels which I have read and I had previously read this same idea in a book of philosophy essays in 1997 although I can’t remember the name of that particular writer. The point is whenever I see a person claim an altruistic motive I am inclined to go after them.

What is interesting is that Christianity is big on self denial but many people of the so-called altruistic ilk are either agnostic or people who reject the possibility of a god altogether. These are people who reject religion but who (in my opinion) still embrace the “value” of self-abnegation that was injected into our culture by Christianity itself. In short it is my contention that many of these people reject the possibility of God but are still unconsciously aspiring to be Jesus. Living and dying for the sake of others is a terrible value because the idea is counterproductive both for those who practice it and for the intended beneficiaries of said action AND it induces guilt in those who don’t practice it (unless they’re smart enough to realize what a stupid idea it is.)

How is living for others counterproductive? Let’s say I’m engaged to person A but I meet person B and want to marry her instead. If I live for myself I will marry person B. Person A might end up unhappy but there’s a very real possibility that two people (person B and me) could end up happy. BUT if I value my own happiness less than others I might marry person A anyway. I thus guarantee myself a less than optimal solution (I really wanted person B) AND person A gets the short end of the stick as well. Why? Because if she’s not the one I really wanted the marriage is a lie and that’s going to come into play at some point. She will be stuck with a less than happy husband and the end result is I’ll go play pool all the time until she moves out in frustration. So in living for others I’ve just guaranteed the UNHAPPINESS or at least a less-than-optimal result for two people. So in seeking to serve the interest of another I’ve actually torpedoed us both. You get my point?

Perhaps using myself as an example makes a bad point and does the subject injustice. If you want to read a better example go here and you will find something to make you think. Thanks to Phelps for sending me the link.

16 Responses to “Why I Open Fire”

  1. guy in the UNLV Jacket says:

    Become a Muslim and marry both chicks. Your problem is solved

  2. Mexigogue says:

    No cuz then I’ll come home and they’re both doing each other and won’t unlock the door. I’ve watched enough lesbian porn to know how this stuff works out.

  3. I see you have really thought this one out young grasshopper!

  4. Citizen Quasar says:

    It was on an Objectivist forum (which I got booted off of) that I first saw the word “Mexigogue” and followed the link here. I commend you on your blog because it is very ineresting and touches on a wide variety of topics.

    As for Ayn Rand, there is an article about altruism in her book “The Virtue of Selfishness” entitled “Isn’t Everyone Selfish?” Unfortunately, it is not by her. It is by Nathaniel Branden.

    Nathaniel Branden was Ayn Rand’s first serious understudy and, being half her age, ended up screwing her in an extra-marital affair that lasted for some time. He started cheating on her with a student and was excommunicated by her from The Nathaniel Branden Institute because of this. [Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.]

    He signed over his institute to her and disclaimers in the book say that he is no longer affiliated with Objectivism or Ayn Rand. He, along with Barbara (the wife he cheated on with Ayn) wrote “Miss” Rand’s first biography entitled “Who is Ayn Rand.” When Rand died, they each wrote books about the affair: The Passion of Ayn Rand and Judgement Day.

    Leonard Peikoff, whom Ayn Rand designated as her “intellectual heir” (UGH!!!), and who runs the Ayn Rand Institute, denied the affair for many years and lately has tried to justify it using Objectivistic rhetoric.

    If anything can be said with certainty regarding Objectivism is that it rests on three Axioms which are best proved by trying to disprove them: Existence, Consciousness, and Identity. Her arguments against altruism are soundly based on these and derived by irrefutable logic.

    I guess what I am trying to say here is that you can screw the teacher but leave her students alone.

  5. Mexigogue says:

    Wow. I haven’t posted to the Objectivist forum in ages, and it was maybe 8 posts in all. So THAT explains where you came from! It all comes together now.

    Ayn Rand was not what you call attractive but I would have liked to have screwed her anyway, if nothing else for the fact that afterwards when I tried to hug her she would be sure to say “That’s not logical.” Then we’d both play air guitar and go to sleep in the wet spot, although I’d try to manipulate the covers so that she got more wet spot than me.

    I’m awfully digressing.

  6. R says:

    That wet spot is the only slightly awkward part of sex.

  7. Rae says:

    The introductions after the act is over can be awkward too.

  8. Citizen Quasar says:

    Alas. It is true.

    You looked a lot thinner in your avatar then.

  9. Mexigogue says:

    You’re too far for me to punch from here Citizen. Punch yourself in the head.

  10. oregonchick says:

    That was a bad example, Mexi.

    First of all, if you live for other people, why would your concern for Person A overrule Person B, the woman you profess to love? And wouldn’t it be the best thing for Person A to be informed of the truth of your feelings so she could have the choice to go forward with a loveless marriage or find someone who loves her above all others? The only reason I could think of NOT to fess up would be fear of how it will make you look to others or some kind of avoidance of an ugly scene, which is entirely self-motivated.

    And for the record, I still abhor Ayn Rand.

  11. Jenn says:

    Holy shit, Mexi! I’ve been on this alturism kick for a while now. I like how you’ve touched on the subject and the great example.

    Oregonchick, I think that was a perfect example. I myself have been in that situation and know that people are in that situation all the time. Why would Person A, when informed, want to stay in a relationship when they know the other isn’t happy? That in turn will lead to Person A’s unhappiness, such as Mexi said. Yes, Person A will hurt either way, but if they leave, in time the hurt will fade and they can then move on. If they stay, they will wake up everyday knowing that the other wanted to be with Person B and the hurt will always be there. You can’t get over something that won’t go away. Anyhow, if Person A chooses to go along with a loveless marriage, you end up with two unhappy people. If Person A lets go, they can find happiness and so can the others. It in turn is a form of rejection for Person A and rejection in any form is painful. I would much rather go through the rejection, let time take it’s toll and get over it, then wake up feeling as though I’m with someone who doesn’t want me. That daily rejection would be suicide.

    It doesn’t mean you’re selfish and want only yourself to be happy. If you really think about it, if you’re the one letting Person A go because you know it’s not what you want, you are thinking of their feelings too, by not keeping them around and living a lie.

    I really want to give the examples/stories but it’ll turn out to be a hideously long comment.

    Mexi, hats off, this is by-far one of THEE best posts I’ve read in a long time.

  12. Mexigogue says:

    First of all, if you live for other people, why would your concern for Person A overrule Person B, the woman you profess to love?

    A person in such a position might say “It would be selfish of me to break off the engagement with person A and I don’t want to hurt her feelings therefore I will marry her anyway” (rationalizing that person B will be hurt less because there was never an engagement with her)

    Jenn: You’re right about everything except one: It DOES mean you’re selfish, but that’s not a bad thing. If everyone is selfish and promotes their own self interest at least one person is going to get what they want. If everybody involved is selfless and practices self-denial it’s quite possible that no one will get what they want because everyone is trying to defer to the others and they might guess wrong.

  13. Jenn says:

    Very true. I take that statement back. I just don’t want to admit that I’m ever selfish, damnit Mexi.

  14. HMT says:

    hahaha.. R made the best point of this comment section I’ve ever seen..

  15. RT says:

    OK, I’m still checking into this, but I do want to say a little something about Jenn’s post and your rebuttal.

    Giving up the relationship with either person A or B IS a form of selflessness. Selfishness, on the other hand, would be to go ahead and marry person A to save yourself from any pain, while having an affair with person B because that’s the person you think you want to be with.

    Very interesting post! I might actually learn something here :o)

  16. An80sNut says:

    I like where you are taking this but when I say you mention religion it made me step back. I find that most organized religions focus on the good you do which will then be rewarded in the afterlife. It is hard to find unselfish acts but I believe in all cases we get something out of them even if it is emotional more than physical.