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Source: (consider it) Thread: Philosophy, and Being Good For Goodness’ Sake
LutheranChik
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Stoicism is making a comeback in some circles. On Facebook, for instance, there are a number of pages offering resources for studying Stoicism, and daily inspiration from Stoic authors.

I find myself enjoying these pages. I think part of the appeal to me is the idea of pursuing a good life without the baggage of guilt and perfectionism and moral accountancy that tends to with religious discussions of morality and ethics.

My background is Lutheran, and in sectors of our particular religious circle there is such an inherited terror of “ works- righteousness” that even talking about seeking to be a good person risks criticism: Why, I must be trying to earn my way to heaven, or trying to rank myself spiritually against other people! Who do I think I am, anyway? ( Even the Third Use of the Law is viewed with some side eye here.)

And of course on the other side of the equation are the moral bean counters for whom every day is a struggle to be “ good enough” for God... people like the guy I knew back in college who firmly believed that at the end of his life God was going to show him a playback of everything he'd ever done and demand an accounting.

How refreshing, then, to read advice from people like Marcus Aurelius: “ If it isn’t right, don’t do it; and if it isn’t true, don’t say it.” No promises of heaven or threats of hell; no bean-counting; just an appeal to goodness for goodness’ sake.

In a society where the Christian brand has been damaged perhaps beyond redemption by Christians who really don’t seem to give a damn about being good — why not look to secular philosophy for answers about how to be better, more functional individuals and help create better, more functional communities?

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Raptor Eye
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If Christianity is about love of God and love of others as ourselves, I fail to see how that translates to anything but doing and being what is good and right.

If some call themselves Christians so that they will go to heaven, or give themselves airs, or benefit from it in any way, perhaps the sight of Jesus on the cross and the sound of his words might persuade them otherwise, better than any man made philosophy will do so.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
... In a society where the Christian brand has been damaged perhaps beyond redemption by Christians who really don’t seem to give a damn about being good — why not look to secular philosophy for answers about how to be better, more functional individuals and help create better, more functional communities?

Because if Christianity is true, then we have to follow Christ, irrespective of how we and our fellow believers have damaged his reputation.

Secular philosophy only stands or falls as an independent guide if Jesus was not born, did not die on the cross and was not raised from the dead.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
Because if Christianity is true, then we have to follow Christ, irrespective of how we and our fellow believers have damaged his reputation.

That only hold true for particular interpretations.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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LutheranChik
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I know the standard argument is that God has hardwired humans to have a capacity for doing good, whether or not we recognize it as a gift of God or always do the right thing. That is a different argument. What I am suggesting is that secular philosophies that concern themselves with leading a good life give people permission to think about good and bad behavior in a way that doesn’t involve divine sin accountancy or particular theological doctrines.

I was just reading about how the head of a “ Christian” organization in the US — one that routinely demonizes groups of people ranging from pro- choice voters to the LGBTQ — blithely dismissing was our Fearless Leader’s serial sexual infidelities/misbehavior as “a mulligan.” And that is just one example of the hypocrisy infecting institutional Christianity and sullying its reputation, especially among young people and the unchurched.

My attitude is that , in our current state of chaos, if someone finds comfort and guidance reading Seneca or the Buddha or whomever, that’s a good thing.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:

My attitude is that , in our current state of chaos, if someone finds comfort and guidance reading Seneca or the Buddha or whomever, that’s a good thing.

My attitude is along these lines, but I find it dismaying that Christians are not fighting against the hypocrisy of Christian Trump apologists.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
My attitude is along these lines, but I find it dismaying that Christians are not fighting against the hypocrisy of Christian Trump apologists.

Some are, and are doing so very publicly. One of my favorites is here. Others are doing so in their own communities or spheres of influence.

I find it dismaying that more Christians are not fighting against the hypocrisy of Christian Trump supporters, but I am thankful for those who are. May their numbers increase.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Gramps49
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There is the story of an old German Lutheran pastor on his deathbed saying, "I can rest in peace for I have done no good works."

Let that sink in a bit.

Luther himself said that we need to do good works because it is the neighborly thing to do--Most Lutheran pastors tend to ignore that point.

Lutherchick, if you can look up the theology of Pelagius. Most of what we have from him comes from the reaction of Augustine to him.

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Kwesi
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LutheranChik
quote:
LutheranChik: How refreshing, then, to read advice from people like Marcus Aurelius: “ If it isn’t right, don’t do it; and if it isn’t true, don’t say it.” No promises of heaven or threats of hell; no bean-counting; just an appeal to goodness for goodness’ sake.
To which Paul would ask the question "Why do I find it so difficult to do what I know to be good?" And "Why do I find it so easy to do what I know is not good?" (Romans 7:19).
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LutheranChik
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Because something is hard to do is not an argument for not trying to do it. And unlike many Christian theologies, I am not aware of any Stoics, for instance, arguing that anything short of perfection in seeking the good is an affront to God and ticket to eternal damnation.

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mousethief

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Pelagius is perhaps the most calumnied theologian in history. The hatchet job that Augustine does on him is annoying as all hell. Nobody knows what Pelagius actually believed, only the straw man that Augustine created.

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Kwesi
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quote:
LutheranChik: Because something is hard to do is not an argument for not trying to do it. And unlike many Christian theologies, I am not aware of any Stoics, for instance, arguing that anything short of perfection in seeking the good is an affront to God and ticket to eternal damnation.

Well, I don't think those theologies are soundly-based, do you, LuthernChik? Do not the gospels endorse the Jewish view that "None is good, save one, that is God?" Does not the incarnation reveal God as one who consorts with publicans and sinners? Do not Paul and the apostles preach that salvation is due to the merits and righteousness of Christ?
ISTM that Stoicism, as you present it, is admirable for urging us to do good because it is right, and in that sense is not in conflict with Judaism or Christianity, but it has an over optimistic view of the possibilities of human nature about which Christianity is sceptical. I don't think we have to believe in the fires of hell or even God to adopt such a view.

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Yorick

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:


Secular philosophy only stands or falls as an independent guide if Jesus was not born, did not die on the cross and was not raised from the dead.

That’s absurd. Secular philosophy is not contingent on any religious stories. It’s secular like that.

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این نیز بگذرد

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:

Secular philosophy only stands or falls as an independent guide if Jesus was not born, did not die on the cross and was not raised from the dead.

So there was no philosophy before Jesus was born?

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Garden. Room. Walk

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Golden Key
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Enoch--

quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
... In a society where the Christian brand has been damaged perhaps beyond redemption by Christians who really don’t seem to give a damn about being good — why not look to secular philosophy for answers about how to be better, more functional individuals and help create better, more functional communities?

Because if Christianity is true, then we have to follow Christ, irrespective of how we and our fellow believers have damaged his reputation.

Secular philosophy only stands or falls as an independent guide if Jesus was not born, did not die on the cross and was not raised from the dead.

A couple things:

a) Yes, re continuing to follow Christ, if Christianity is true. Sometimes, though, the best thing you (gen.) can do for your faith is take a break from it. Especially if you've gotten to the point where you're really sick of it. I'm *not* saying anyone *should* take a break. But ISTM "maybe we need a break" is part of what Lutheran Chik is saying.

Also that the non-Christian world is probably extremely sick of Christianity right now, at least the public face of it. If they want guidance in how to live, good secular advice may be an answer--at least for now. Christianity needs to earn back trust. It's going to take a long time. Medical and other charity work. If a non-Christian respects Christianity at all, it's usually for good works. And ALL churches need to take abuse very seriously, protect kids, root out the abusers, inform and cooperate with civil authorities, and point abusers towards serious help--*more* than saying "you sinned; repent; Jesus loves you".

But the RCC especially needs to get its at together. Rightly or wrongly, the RCC is the primary face of Christianity to the world.


b) Actually, secular thought *and* other faiths contain good things that basically agree with Christian ethics.

CS Lewis wrote "The Abolition Of Man", a book that's mostly about "natural law" (Full text at Archive.org). The Appendix, about 4/5 of the way down the page, compares and contrasts quotes about ethics from both secular and religious sources. (Plus some where that's hard to tell.)

The Religious Tolerance site has a section on Reciprocity (aka the Golden Rule) in various belief systems--both secular and religious.

And this page includes quotes from several philosophers, plus Humanism.

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--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?" (Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon")
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BroJames
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I would have said that one of the best things about Christian faith is precisely that it allows one to do good without any ulterior motive of self-benefit.

In Christ I am accepted just as I am. My faults and failings are overcome by what Jesus Christ has done on the cross. Brought into the family and household of God by the grace of God, I seek to live a good life, not because of anything I must do to secure or improve my position, but in thankfulness and love towards the God who has already irrevocably given me all good things in Jesus Christ both for now and for the age to come.

Thus, if I do good, it is purely for goodness’ sake (and for God's sake), and not for any advantage to me.

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Yorick

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Interesting. Do you feel no happiness or gratification in believing your good thoughts and deeds please your God, or that you reciprocate His love?

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این نیز بگذرد

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Pelagius is perhaps the most calumnied theologian in history. The hatchet job that Augustine does on him is annoying as all hell. Nobody knows what Pelagius actually believed, only the straw man that Augustine created.

This. Sometimes, it is necessary to go back to the root in order to understand how we got to where we are.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Yorick

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Sorry to pursue the point without waiting for a reply, but I need to dash.

I believe it is impossible to love without self-benefit. Indeed, many iterations of human loving are overwhelmingly selfish (some, to a malignant degree).

The same can be said about charity and all other virtuousness, the self-beneficial blowback of which is inevitable. Denial of this is bogus (and often rather sanctimonious).

There is no such thing as being good for goodness’ sake. I don’t mean to be cynical or curmudgeonly, but to encourage an admission and celebration of the truth that we serve our own benefits by being good to others.

Win-win. Yay.

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این نیز بگذرد

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:
Sorry to pursue the point without waiting for a reply, but I need to dash.

I believe it is impossible to love without self-benefit. Indeed, many iterations of human loving are overwhelmingly selfish (some, to a malignant degree).

The same can be said about charity and all other virtuousness, the self-beneficial blowback of which is inevitable. Denial of this is bogus (and often rather sanctimonious).

There is no such thing as being good for goodness’ sake. I don’t mean to be cynical or curmudgeonly, but to encourage an admission and celebration of the truth that we serve our own benefits by being good to others.

Win-win. Yay.

Of course it pleases us to please those we love with our actions, but pleasing the other or gaining the gratitude of the other for doing so is not necessarily the motivation for the original action.

There is such a thing as self-giving sacrificial love.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Yorick

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Perhaps I wasn’t clear. What I am saying is that it is not possible to give lovingly or act virtuously without self-benefit, so there’s no such thing as being good purely for the sake of it. It is at least partly for our own benefit that we do good things.

This would not seem to be controversial to the tenets of Christian faith, so I find it intriguing that there is always so much resistance to the idea.

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این نیز بگذرد

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quetzalcoatl
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I find it too vague, in any case. What does good for goodness' sake mean? That I might love someone else with no feelings on my part? That doesn't make sense to me.

I suppose treating others well might be irritating, but I carry on. I wonder how long for.

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Barnabas62
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I think the real mystery is how the central Christian belief in grace got so bent out of shape. Pharisaic Christianity is poisonous. As is complacent exclusive Crosstianity.

We get into a Hell of a lot of trouble if we deny image of God, or the reality of human fallibility. Also if we overemphasise one and discount the other.

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LutheranChik
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I’m not arguing that there isn’t self- interest involved in being good. I want to. be good in a way that encourages others to be good, so that we can all benefit from living in a society where people are trying to be good. Self- interest? You bet.

“ Being good for goodness’ sake” was a phrase I lifted from a humanist group that used it in advertising. I didn’t parse it the way some of you are insisting on doing, but using it as a contrast to “being good to make God happy,” or “ being good to keep God from being angry,” or just not giving a rip about being good.

BroJames: What you describe is actually the viewpoint I ascribe to, and the one which I was taught: Grace frees us to love God and serve our neighbors in an authentic way. HOW to do that , though, is often not articulated in helpful ways in popular Lutheran circles, for reasons I explained in my OP. It can almost be like squeamish parents trying to explain sex to a curious child and coming out with inanities like, “When Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, something special happens and...um...erm...that’s how your brother wound up in Mommy’s tummy. Let’s go out for ice cream!” For us it’s like, “ God loves us very much, and something special happens that takes away our sins so we can be God’s friends and do what God wants; so...um...erm... we go out and do that...oh, look! Beer!”

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
I would have said that one of the best things about Christian faith is precisely that it allows one to do good without any ulterior motive of self-benefit.

It is the benefit of some interpretations of Christianity, but not all of them.
quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:

I believe it is impossible to love without self-benefit.

I disagree. I have done the right thing with 0 benefit to myself and I'm not even a good person.
Yes, we are wired to feel good when we do good. But your absolutist view presupposes that this is the initial motivation, and my experience tells me it isn't always. Most of the time, I do think biology factors into what we do than many would care to admit. I disagree that it is the sum total.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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quetzalcoatl
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It's an interesting OP, but I'm not sure why philosophy is needed in order to do good. I grew up in a tough area, where most people were pretty kind and generous to each other. As far as I know, none of them had done courses in Stoicism or any other ism, and I didn't know any who were religious. Is this surprising?

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Yorick

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
I have done the right thing with 0 benefit to myself.

I find that impossible to imagine, though perhaps we are talking past each others’ definitions? Even the most selflessly directed acts of good must benefit the actor, and motivation is irrelevant.

If you could unpack your own experience a little, that may shed light. Otherwise, please could you (or anyone) propose a hypothetical situation in which a person could do good with no self-benefit?

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این نیز بگذرد

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LutheranChik
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Quetzalcoatl: I take your point. But there are times when we all need guidance or validation in doing good. In my country at the moment, many of the institutions we’ve depended on to help set our moral compasses are either entirely untrustworthy ( unless you take what they say and go 180 degrees in the opposite direction), or else have recused themselves from the discussion.

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quetzalcoatl
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That's a good point. I suppose added to this is the sense that (some) Christians are the worst ones of all.

I think in the UK the welfare state made a kind of explicit contract out of treating each other well, and roughly equally. But of course, this is now being undermined in various ways.

As a background, though, we are a social species of animal, and they tend to treat each other OK, as well as sometimes, not OK. I would imagine that early hominids were like this, and maybe things have gone downhill, not sure about that. Historical generalizations make my teeth ache.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
I have done the right thing with 0 benefit to myself.

I find that impossible to imagine, though perhaps we are talking past each others’ definitions? Even the most selflessly directed acts of good must benefit the actor, and motivation is irrelevant.

If you could unpack your own experience a little, that may shed light. Otherwise, please could you (or anyone) propose a hypothetical situation in which a person could do good with no self-benefit?

I am not unpacking the most effective examples from my own life.
Why must? benefit. If a building caught fire and a person dies from smoke inhalation because they rescued others, where is their benefit?

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Yorick

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Okay, that’s a good example. Well, maybe try this. If they had not died attempting to rescue others their lives might be tortured by guilt. It may be a stretch that being dead is better, but many people would perhaps insist on this being true.

More profoundly but possibly less directly, there is personal benefit from such selfess acts of heroism as it engenders reciprocation, which benefits our species in general and therefore all of us as individuals.

Even when taken to the extreme of dying for a good cause, kindness may easily be imagined to be personally self-beneficial when compared with the prospect of living without it.

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این نیز بگذرد

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
For us it’s like, “ God loves us very much, and something special happens that takes away our sins so we can be God’s friends and do what God wants; so...um...erm... we go out and do that...oh, look! Beer!”

Brilliant. You have the gifts of honesty and clarity. Such observations cut through so much crap and confusion.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
I have done the right thing with 0 benefit to myself.

I find that impossible to imagine <snip> Otherwise, please could you (or anyone) propose a hypothetical situation in which a person could do good with no self-benefit?
I would suggest as RL examples Michael Skippen who died aboard The Herald of Free Enterprise in 1987, or Andrew Parker (who survived). You could argue for Andrew Parker that there was some personal benefit to him in saving his wife and daughter, but not I think the other 20 passengers he helped. It’s hard to see, though, what benefit there was to Michael who clearly might have been able to save himself, but in fact lost his life trying to save others.
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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:
Okay, that’s a good example. Well, maybe try this. If they had not died attempting to rescue others their lives might be tortured by guilt. It may be a stretch that being dead is better, but many people would perhaps insist on this being true.

More profoundly but possibly less directly, there is personal benefit from such selfess acts of heroism as it engenders reciprocation, which benefits our species in general and therefore all of us as individuals.

Even when taken to the extreme of dying for a good cause, kindness may easily be imagined to be personally self-beneficial when compared with the prospect of living without it.

This is a stretch though. One cannot know how one will feel until after. and often there is no time to think of the aftermath, there is only do or do not. We like to think that we think about everything and the reality is that in such situations it is react rather than act.

[ 24. January 2018, 17:44: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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anoesis
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quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:
Even when taken to the extreme of dying for a good cause, kindness may easily be imagined to be personally self-beneficial when compared with the prospect of living without it.

You're taking this on faith, though. It's not as though you can interview a dead person about their motivations, and how they feel having taken option A, versus how they feel they might have felt if they plumped for option B.

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The history of humanity give one little hope that strength left to its own devices won't be abused. Indeed, it gives one little ground to think that strength would continue to exist if it were not abused. -- Dafyd --

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
In a society where the Christian brand has been damaged perhaps beyond redemption by Christians who really don’t seem to give a damn about being good — why not look to secular philosophy for answers about how to be better, more functional individuals and help create better, more functional communities?

Christians have been looking to non-Christian philosophies for advice since the fathers. Thomistic ethics makes use of Aristotle for example. That's not to say that one should do ethics and politics as if Christianity weren't true.
The main difference between Stoic ethics and Christian ethics is that Stoic ethics are an ethics of non-feeling while Christianity is an ethics of love. You can probably try to finesse the difference but one's going to take precedence.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:
Perhaps I wasn’t clear. What I am saying is that it is not possible to give lovingly or act virtuously without self-benefit, so there’s no such thing as being good purely for the sake of it. It is at least partly for our own benefit that we do good things.

This would not seem to be controversial to the tenets of Christian faith, so I find it intriguing that there is always so much resistance to the idea.

The problem with this much ballyhooed POV is that it is unfalsifiable. It is always possible to whip up some angle, some way of looking at every deed so that it somehow benefits the doer. Everything fits because it's always possible to make up something to bridge the gap, whether or not that something has any actual backing from the facts of the case.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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Barnabas62
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Yes.

Whereas I think the OP encourages us to look again at an issue of faith. The continuing weakness and propensity to behave badly found in believers. Becoming more like Christ appears to be a chancy business. This isn't a new issue but it is a challenging one. Which (thanks LC) does not go away after beer!

Yorick's viewpoint is not falsifiable but I'm not sure if it really looks at two or three key questions.

Is our perception of human selfishness a real thing?

If the answer to that is yes, is it a bad thing?

And if it is a bad thing, what steps should be taken to grow out of it?

Perhaps controversially, I think that where conversion to Christianity is presented as an appeal to self interest (say this prayer and you won't burn) many people who go that way get off to a bad start. 'Christianity will be good for me'. That's never been the call to follow Christ.

[ 25. January 2018, 07:24: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Golden Key
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Yorick:
Perhaps I wasn’t clear. What I am saying is that it is not possible to give lovingly or act virtuously without self-benefit, so there’s no such thing as being good purely for the sake of it. It is at least partly for our own benefit that we do good things.

This would not seem to be controversial to the tenets of Christian faith, so I find it intriguing that there is always so much resistance to the idea.

The problem with this much ballyhooed POV is that it is unfalsifiable. It is always possible to whip up some angle, some way of looking at every deed so that it somehow benefits the doer. Everything fits because it's always possible to make up something to bridge the gap, whether or not that something has any actual backing from the facts of the case.
Actually, I think it's perfectly possible to do good in your own self interest. E.g., volunteering somewhere in order to distract yourself from depression, worries, grief, etc. And I think that's ok, as long as you don't dump all that on the people you're helping.

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Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?" (Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon")
--"Oh, Peace Train, save this country!" (Yusuf/Cat Stevens, "Peace Train")

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Yorick

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
The problem with this much ballyhooed POV is that it is unfalsifiable.

Well that’s true, but it’s not really the point, is it? The point is that acts of goodness are somehow claimed to be more virtuous because they are done selflessly, and I’m interested in why this should be.

A man acting bravely to save strangers from a burning building is doing something which results in an objective quantum of good- say, 3 lives are saved, or 8. That quantum is not affected by whether he himself gained reward for it.

It’s interesting that many such rescuers play down their heroism after the event, saying they only did what anyone else would have done and they deny the heroism. I wonder why this should be, but it often looks like some sort of coyness or embarrassment.

Anyway. My point is that we value add to the quantum when the hero acts without regard for reward, and I think religious people are especially prone to this.

Why might that be? Well perhaps it’s because they feel these selflessly virtuous acts are especially pleasing to their deity, or that in doing them they observe some divine imperative. I dunno.

It seems ironic though, that the purity of their selflessness may thus be contaminated by the personal gain of gratification by which they benefit, even if it is merely in the sense that they feel more holy because of it. I suspect this is the reason that religious people sometimes seem reluctant to admit the self-benefit component of goodness, which is rather a pity because the concomitant sanctimoniousness is somewhat distasteful and I feel that their goodness should be thoroughly celebrated regardless of the value added by the degree of piety conferred by its selflessness.

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این نیز بگذرد

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Boogie

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It’s never all or none imo

I volunteer because I love the job, it gives me so much. Sense of purpose, challenge, a reason to go out, a reason to get up in the morning - I could go on. But if the job were to pay me money I wouldn’t do it. My motivation is to help people, not to make money.

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Garden. Room. Walk

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Barnabas62
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Virtue is its own reward Yorick. The self interest enters in when we believe we are accumulating brownie points, with God, other people, whatever.

Back on the OP, I think there is everything to be gained by reading what philosophers, folks of other faiths, etc, have to say about virtuous behaviour. Comparing and contrasting never did anyone any harm and it can open our minds about our own blind spots.

Following Christ does require a offering of self. He said so in various ways. I guess we offer, take back, repent, offer again. Not meant dismissively, but the journey of a snail up a drain pipe comes to mind.

One of the old mystics observed that selfishness hurts us more than anything else in the world. It can take a lot of living to get to the point of accepting there is a lot of truth in that.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Snags
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I've had Yorick's argument before, in Another Place with (probably) Another Person. In that context it was a denial that there is really any such thing as altruism, or a genuinely altruistic act.

Ultimately I don't find it particularly helpful, as (as has been stated above) whatever argument you bring to bear against it can be refuted with cunning "Ah, but ...". It is essentially a self-reinforcing axiom if you choose to view the world that way.

Personally whilst I accept the argument (it's hard not to, in the abstract) I actually think it's fundamentally a category error. Further, it ultimately leads to a position which essentially removes any kind of moral agency (or culpability) or indeed genuine choice from all actors. Spend too long dwelling on it and you end up in a very bleak, jaded, nihilistic place.

So for me, it's more of a 6th form debating point, where one can feel intellectually smug to have won the debate, but ultimately bereft because you've a) missed the point and b) lost all beauty in the world.

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Vain witterings :-: Vain pretentions :-: The Dog's Blog(locks)

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Yorick

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Pfft. Seriously.

Perhaps I failed adequately to express my admiration and profoundest gratitude of all those who act selflessly for the benefit of others? Perhaps I failed to mention how deeply I respect people who act kindly towards others when motivated by their religious faith? Perhaps I failed to say how I value the message of charitable kindness championed by Jesus Christ as the single most positively influential beneficence in the history of mankind?

Well there we are. I hope that makes you feel better.

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این نیز بگذرد

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Snags:

Personally whilst I accept the argument (it's hard not to, in the abstract) I actually think it's fundamentally a category error. Further, it ultimately leads to a position which essentially removes any kind of moral agency (or culpability) or indeed genuine choice from all actors.

Yorick’s point can be verified scientifically. To a point, at least. We get a dopamine rush when we do good. This has been measured. No one else might know you did that Good thing, but you do. And there is solid scientific theory that suggests a a level of altruism has a species benefit.

There is a psychological phenomenon where, after a good deed or Doing The Right Thing, a person will allow themselves an indulgence. A bit of naughty behaviour.
If the deed brought no reward, the sense of entitlement would not exist.

Where I was arguing with Yorick was on the absolute nature of his point, not that it had zero validity.

A lot of our behaviour is built into the hardware and software. This doesn’t mean we have no agency, just that choice is made less often than we’d like to believe. And certainly not how we’d like to believe.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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quetzalcoatl
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I don't understand why it matters. If I get a kick from loving someone, so what? Are we supposed to live in total austerity, with no shred of self? That would just lead to some kind of nit-picking obsession. I also find it hard to believe that we can compute such things ourselves. Yeah, I just helped that old lady cross the road, and there was no ego in what I did! Well, good boy.

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I can't talk to you today; I talked to two people yesterday.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
I don't understand why it matters.

It should be obvious why it matters to some types of Christian. If one cannot help what they do, if it is merely self-interested, this invalidates their beliefs.
It matters to anyone who believes they control what they do.

And, this is a discussion board. If nothing matters, then why are you here? [Biased]

ETA: And knowing how we function can help us control what we do.

[ 25. January 2018, 15:03: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
I don't understand why it matters.

It should be obvious why it matters to some types of Christian. If one cannot help what they do, if it is merely self-interested, this invalidates their beliefs.
It matters to anyone who believes they control what they do.

And, this is a discussion board. If nothing matters, then why are you here? [Biased]

ETA: And knowing how we function can help us control what we do.

I'm not suggesting that it's merely self-interest, but that most human actions contain a combination of both self-interest and other-interest.

I also doubt that one can monitor oneself in this regard, for any trace of self-regard. We are so good at self-disguises. But why torture yourself that your love for someone might feel good for you?

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I can't talk to you today; I talked to two people yesterday.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
I'm not suggesting that it's merely self-interest, but that most human actions contain a combination of both self-interest and other-interest.

Of course they do. The problem is that people think they use reason and balance far more than they do. It is a lot more instinct and reaction than is comfortable to admit.

ETA: I realise this is along the lines of the bit I didn't quote, but the emphasis is on why I think it matters.

[ 25. January 2018, 15:29: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

Posts: 17605 | From: the round earth's imagined corners | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged
Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
If I get a kick from loving someone, so what? Are we supposed to live in total austerity, with no shred of self?

Do you think selfishness can hurt you?

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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