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Obamacult
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Postby Obamacult » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:36 pm

Your diatribe is Orwellian and ridiculous.

First you make an absurd fallacious statement that:

Trotskylvania wrote: Alice says in effect that while the communist system appears utopian, building a communist society is impossible because humanity's flawed nature and greed prohibits production being planned for use, and directed democratically by the community.


What kind of nonsense is this? By your definition it is 'greed' that I engage in trade with someone else in a free, voluntary and peaceful society that makes us both better off or the exchange wouldn't have been undertaken in the first place!

Why is that anything that communists want they have to get by coercive means? Why is it that you should have any business meddling in my life and the life of those I trade with in a free, voluntary and peaceful transaction that has nothing to do with you?

Mind your own business, moreover if you want to live in a collectivist hell hole anywhere in a free society -- then within a free society you have the right and privilege to do so. Indeed, within a free society all things are possible. I won't tread on you, you don't tread on me. Presumably, if your world view is so effective at producing growth and increased living standards -- then you should welcome a free society in which to practice it and juxtapose its success against the 'squalor and decay' of my capitalist society!!!



Trotskylvania wrote: it would then follow that if Alice follows her logic to its inexorable conclusion, she must argue that we should change human nature.


What kind of bullshit is this!

You want to tinker on your brain and physiology, by all means do so, but I advocate freedom from this kind of nonsense. Presumably, you would prefer to make this mandatory and managed by the 'state'?!!

Indeed, where do you come by these barbaric positions?

Public school?
Last edited by Obamacult on Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby United Dependencies » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:38 pm

I suppose then that it would one day be possible to condition people to accept and work under any form of governance. Seems like the only thing left to do is decide which one we want.
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Vectrova
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Postby Vectrova » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:40 pm

Free Detroit wrote:
Vectrova wrote:clever, i must say

but how do you go about changing countless millennia of social conditioning that makes people, for example, self-interested? the sheer inertia behind these ideas is what makes particular ideologies simply unfeasible, regardless of how self-defeating they might be


Social / cultural conditioning can be changed rather quickly; within a generation if proper measures are taken. There is no "ideological inertia"; culture is not genetic.

For example, a couple millennia of Christian domination in Europe did not biologically condition us to accept Jesus as the big cheese of the universe. How long has it taken for atheism to become a more-or-less acceptable public position in Anglo-European cultures? Two or three generations. Did it require brain surgery or eugenics? Not really.


i wish it were that easy, really.

A few examples, for perspective: in texas, an atheist is legally prohibited from hold public office. in some states, blue laws forbid purchase of alcohol on sunday for no discernible secular reason. What do people in american courts traditionally swear upon in a ritual of espousing honesty? A bible. Where do our philosophical roots and ideas stem from in virtually sciences in the first world? Saint Augustine and his theology, thomas aquinas and his molding platonic philosophy into Christianity as a whole.

Ideas don't die quickly or easily. Religion is just one example of many. Other ideas, political ideologies for instance, similarly refuse to die even if they have been resoundingly refuted over and over. Socially, humans think in terms of in-groups and out-groups with all the unfortunate implications that come with it.

Millennia of Christian domination didn't influence our biology, but we still feel the aftershocks of the Medieval and Renaissance eras today. History, even that long ago, is far from dead.
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Free Detroit
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Postby Free Detroit » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:47 pm

Xomic wrote:
Free Detroit wrote:
Social / cultural conditioning can be changed rather quickly; within a generation if proper measures are taken. There is no "ideological inertia"; culture is not genetic.

For example, a couple millennia of Christian domination in Europe did not biologically condition us to accept Jesus as the big cheese of the universe. How long has it taken for atheism to become a more-or-less acceptable public position in Anglo-European cultures? Two or three generations. Did it require brain surgery or eugenics? Not really.


No but the memes of Christianity are still strong, even if the notions of a divine savoir isn't.

But more to the point I don't believe this is the sort of thing Trots is talking about; a belief in one deity or another may not be hardcoded into human nature, but spirituality or spiritual outlook might be (In the sense they're willing to attribute events or effects to supernatural causes). One can be an atheist, for example, and still have a a lucky rabbit's foot, for example, despite the lack of evidence for such things. Whether that sort of thing is human nature is another question for another thread.


Oh, I understand the OP. It's true, genetics are mutable in a physical / medical sense, so arguments about nature don't really fly. I thought that point was simply fact. The thing is, it's not news, just an extension of a problem that started - at the latest - when Galileo pissed all over Aristotle by suggesting the earth was not the center of the universe.

Arguments grounded on human nature are suspect, always, and usually don't hold because we know that nature is not a fixed enterprise. Just because we can speed up the rate of change doesn't bring up any new argument...

But, that said, "human nature" arguments almost always refer to social or cultural conditioning, not biological conditioning / evolution, hence my response.
Last edited by Free Detroit on Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby greed and death » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:58 pm

Trotskylvania wrote:I would like to address arguments that concern appeals to "human nature". I wish to address, not the fact that such arguments are seldom rigorous, seldom if ever establishing even the barest inkling of a concrete human nature, but a particular fallacy of this argument which is unique to our modern era, and will only become more relevant in the future.

It is a common argument against any speculative political economic system that its basic assumptions run contrary to human nature. It is usually very much like original sin, actually. In say, opposing communism, Alice says in effect that while the communist system appears utopian, building a communist society is impossible because humanity's flawed nature and greed prohibits production being planned for use, and directed democratically by the community.

This is a tacit recognition of the moral worthiness of the communist aim. And once upon a time, this didn't matter so much, if Alice was indeed correct in her assessment of human nature and its possible contradiction to the communist ethos. But we live in a brave new world now, thanks to the immense development of science and technology.

For the sake of argument, let us define human nature as the previously immutable parts of the human condition that are defined by our genes. So, in an era where concepts like genetic engineering have left the realm of science fiction and have indeed become big business in themselves, and when even more radical transhumanist technological practices are looking increasingly possible, the human nature argument is losing its salience. Because human nature is becoming something that we can self-consciously manipulate.

So, given these new possibilities, a new dimension to the appeal to human nature opens up. If our human nature is no longer immutable, can we really say that our biological nature in anyway trumps a moral argument? If by arguing as she does, Alice has tacitly accepted the moral worthiness of the communist vision, and instead has said "Shucks, we can't do it because it's against our nature," it would then follow that if Alice follows her logic to its inexorable conclusion, she must argue that we should change human nature.


We must of course respect choice of those humans involved.

Me and my family will use genetics to enhance our greed, while you enhance your compassion.

In the genetic arms race we will win, because we will join your commune when things suck for us, and leave your commune without contributing when things go well.

The age of genetics is an exciting time because it guarantees that capitalism and the greed it is based on reign supreme.
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New Rogernomics
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Postby New Rogernomics » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:07 pm

Well modern morality is derived from altruism in animals, and there is no 'perfect system' where independent thought reigns. If you design a 'perfect' system for a few million, or even a billion then there will always be destructive elements (whether they take the form of dissent, environmental catastrophe or war). Systems have to adapt and be freely adopted, systems such as the state system or the corporate system usually collapse through violent means (as they coerce their members) or otherwise popular revolution. Communism in state form cannot work, because the workers eventually demand the end of the elite political classes. You can describe it differently, but you will never be able to compel people to accept the system forever, no matter how 'perfect' the system is.

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Free Detroit
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Postby Free Detroit » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:17 pm

New Rogernomics wrote:Well modern morality is derived from altruism in animals, and there is no 'perfect system' where independent thought reigns. If you design a 'perfect' system for a few million, or even a billion then there will always be destructive elements (whether they take the form of dissent, environmental catastrophe or war). Systems have to adapt and be freely adopted, systems such as the state system or the corporate system usually collapse through violent means (as they coerce their members) or otherwise popular revolution. Communism in state form cannot work, because the workers eventually demand the end of the elite political classes. You can describe it differently, but you will never be able to compel people to accept the system forever, no matter how 'perfect' the system is.


This, I think, is pretty well-stated. I disagree with your idea about the origins of morality, but agree for the most part iwth your conclusion. For the sake of argument, though (and sticking with the OP)...

The idea that one might fundamentally alter any genetic predisposition re: altruism or re: "independent thought" (a dubious concept in itself) kind of dashes this argument. You're still assuming there is a necessary and fundamentally static human nature.

If you want to take it, the escape hatch I can imagine is "well, if you alter [thing x] then we are no longer human, but something else." That's a fine response, I think, though it dodges the problem entirely.
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New Rogernomics
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Postby New Rogernomics » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:33 pm

Free Detroit wrote:
New Rogernomics wrote:Well modern morality is derived from altruism in animals, and there is no 'perfect system' where independent thought reigns. If you design a 'perfect' system for a few million, or even a billion then there will always be destructive elements (whether they take the form of dissent, environmental catastrophe or war). Systems have to adapt and be freely adopted, systems such as the state system or the corporate system usually collapse through violent means (as they coerce their members) or otherwise popular revolution. Communism in state form cannot work, because the workers eventually demand the end of the elite political classes. You can describe it differently, but you will never be able to compel people to accept the system forever, no matter how 'perfect' the system is.


This, I think, is pretty well-stated. I disagree with your idea about the origins of morality, but agree for the most part iwth your conclusion. For the sake of argument, though (and sticking with the OP)...

The idea that one might fundamentally alter any genetic predisposition re: altruism or re: "independent thought" (a dubious concept in itself) kind of dashes this argument. You're still assuming there is a necessary and fundamentally static human nature.

If you want to take it, the escape hatch I can imagine is "well, if you alter [thing x] then we are no longer human, but something else." That's a fine response, I think, though it dodges the problem entirely.
It isn't an 'idea', rather a theory gathering more and more evidence to support it every day. Humans have greater cognitive and reasoning ability (i.e. sentience) but they are still animals akin to lesser primates (evolutionary instinct encouraging them to care for their young).

Altruism could be removed on a genetic level, but removing altruism wouldn't necessarily create rational superhumans (i.e. vulcans); just remove essential survival instincts and ethics. Human nature changes with evolutionary pressures (social construction and lifestyle plays a big part), but at a very slow pace (in the area of millions of years).

Alteration is not my point however. I see combating or trying to change human nature to an extreme, such as pushing for Objectivist style rationality (or alternatively a collective mentality) as futile and dangerous.

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Postby Mike the Progressive » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:44 pm

Human nature is shit.

It has never been "evil" or "corrupt," but the self, ego, "I" is what defines it. It's never been immutable. But individuals are driven by their interests. When I am thirsty, I want a drink. When I am hungry, I want to eat. When I want safety, I try to find a place that is safe for me. And while altruism does exist, a person, pushed into a corner, will do what is best for him/her. It's the drive to survive.

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Galborg
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Postby Galborg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:55 pm

Ain't no such thing as human nature. We share monkey nature with our cousins. Every thing specifically human (language, fire, trousers, iron etc) is artificial by definition.
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Free Detroit
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Postby Free Detroit » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:10 pm

New Rogernomics wrote:It isn't an 'idea', rather a theory gathering more and more evidence to support it every day. Humans have greater cognitive and reasoning ability (i.e. sentience) but they are still animals akin to lesser primates (evolutionary instinct encouraging them to care for their young).

Altruism could be removed on a genetic level, but removing altruism wouldn't necessarily create rational superhumans (i.e. vulcans); just remove essential survival instincts and ethics. Human nature changes with evolutionary pressures (social construction and lifestyle plays a big part), but at a very slow pace (in the area of millions of years).

Alteration is not my point however. I see combating or trying to change human nature to an extreme, such as pushing for Objectivist style rationality (or alternatively a collective mentality) as futile and dangerous.


"Idea" wasn't meant to imply there wasn't evidence to support it, or that it isn't backed by formal theory. I agree with you, in part; my real problem was that you specified "modern morality", as opposed to morality at large or in abstract. Specific notions of morality in the modern world are less influenced by biology or evolution than by social factors. As for morality at large - I have no problem assuming that a tendency toward certain moral norms is derived from from biological imperatives, but the particulars are far from natural. Furthermore, any natural inclinations are easily overridden by social and cultural norms, so the question of origins really doesn't matter anyway, unless we ascribe some special significance to an already constructed notion of "natural" behavior. Which, of course, we were kind of already doing on account of the thread topic.

And, I agree entirely with your point about the intentional mucking about with humanity in order to create some kind of superhuman being dangerous and generally undesirable (though, good god, Objectivist superhumans? I'm sure THAT would end well :roll: ), I was only playing with OPs premise.
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Postby New Rogernomics » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:29 pm

Free Detroit wrote:
New Rogernomics wrote:It isn't an 'idea', rather a theory gathering more and more evidence to support it every day. Humans have greater cognitive and reasoning ability (i.e. sentience) but they are still animals akin to lesser primates (evolutionary instinct encouraging them to care for their young).

Altruism could be removed on a genetic level, but removing altruism wouldn't necessarily create rational superhumans (i.e. vulcans); just remove essential survival instincts and ethics. Human nature changes with evolutionary pressures (social construction and lifestyle plays a big part), but at a very slow pace (in the area of millions of years).

Alteration is not my point however. I see combating or trying to change human nature to an extreme, such as pushing for Objectivist style rationality (or alternatively a collective mentality) as futile and dangerous.


"Idea" wasn't meant to imply there wasn't evidence to support it, or that it isn't backed by formal theory. I agree with you, in part; my real problem was that you specified "modern morality", as opposed to morality at large or in abstract. Specific notions of morality in the modern world are less influenced by biology or evolution than by social factors. As for morality at large - I have no problem assuming that a tendency toward certain moral norms is derived from from biological imperatives, but the particulars are far from natural. Furthermore, any natural inclinations are easily overridden by social and cultural norms, so the question of origins really doesn't matter anyway, unless we ascribe some special significance to an already constructed notion of "natural" behavior. Which, of course, we were kind of already doing on account of the thread topic.

And, I agree entirely with your point about the intentional mucking about with humanity in order to create some kind of superhuman being dangerous and generally undesirable (though, good god, Objectivist superhumans? I'm sure THAT would end well :roll: ), I was only playing with OPs premise.
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Postby Trotskylvania » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:54 am

Obamacult wrote:Your diatribe is Orwellian and ridiculous.

First you make an absurd fallacious statement that:

Predictably, you have misunderstood everything about my argument.
Obamacult wrote:What kind of nonsense is this? By your definition it is 'greed' that I engage in trade with someone else in a free, voluntary and peaceful society that makes us both better off or the exchange wouldn't have been undertaken in the first place!

Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's nonsense.

For one, I was characterizing a common appeal to human nature argument. You seem to have totally disregarded everything, both in the characterized argument as well as my own response.
Obamacult wrote:Why is that anything that communists want they have to get by coercive means? Why is it that you should have any business meddling in my life and the life of those I trade with in a free, voluntary and peaceful transaction that has nothing to do with you?

See above. For one, you ignored that it is the traditional anti-communist appeal to nature argument that categorically denies that humans can live in a minimally coercive (i.e., communist) society. They attribute this to greed, and that man's rapacious nature will prevent free, voluntary societies.
Obamacult wrote:Mind your own business, moreover if you want to live in a collectivist hell hole anywhere in a free society -- then within a free society you have the right and privilege to do so. Indeed, within a free society all things are possible. I won't tread on you, you don't tread on me. Presumably, if your world view is so effective at producing growth and increased living standards -- then you should welcome a free society in which to practice it and juxtapose its success against the 'squalor and decay' of my capitalist society!!!

Your mistake is believing that private property has anything to do with freedom. Private ownership of the means of production is not conducive to freedom. It is in fact a means by which the bourgeoisie exercise their dictatorship over society. So long as this state of affairs exists, people are not free.
Obamacult wrote:What kind of bullshit is this!

You want to tinker on your brain and physiology, by all means do so, but I advocate freedom from this kind of nonsense. Presumably, you would prefer to make this mandatory and managed by the 'state'?!!

Indeed, where do you come by these barbaric positions?

Public school?

Again, you've charged in here, totally misunderstanding the whole point. The point I was making is that by making the "human nature" argument, you concede the moral correctness of your opponents position, and are left in our modern age, if you want to be internally consistent, with the logic of the argument pushing you to advocating changing human nature.
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Postby Risottia » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:17 am

Trotskylvania wrote:I would like to address arguments that concern appeals to "human nature". ...


I regard arguments who appeal to "human nature" when talking social issues as completely immaterial.
Basically, because all contemporary societies are artificial constructs - so, the "nature" stuff doesn't enter the equation.
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Postby Risottia » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:18 am

Obamacult wrote:Your diatribe is Orwellian and ridiculous.

First you make an absurd fallacious statement that:

Trotskylvania wrote: Alice says in effect that while the communist system appears utopian, building a communist society is impossible because humanity's flawed nature and greed prohibits production being planned for use, and directed democratically by the community.


What kind of nonsense is this? By your definition it is 'greed' that I engage in trade with someone else in a free, voluntary and peaceful society that makes us both better off or the exchange wouldn't have been undertaken in the first place!

Why is that anything that communists want they have to get by coercive means? Why is it that you should have any business meddling in my life and the life of those I trade with in a free, voluntary and peaceful transaction that has nothing to do with you?


What a huge strawman of the OP.

Indeed, where do you come by these barbaric positions?
Public school?

And a nice elitist ad-hominem.

FAIL.
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Postby Kilobugya » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:22 am

I mostly agree with the OP.

Calling to "human nature" isn't always fully a fallacy, but most of the time it is.

First we have to actually understand what this human nature is. It doesn't work, at all, like simple visions of it "humans are greedy ! humans are selfish !". Evolutionary psychology is complicated. Evolution isn't a straight-forward process. It's a clumsy process, stacking "hacks" on top of "hacks", slowly changing something into something else, constrained by its previous shape. And it's a process that has to produce beings able to survive in a lot of different situations - that's why the brain was even created by it at first, because evolution is too slow to adapt to changes in the world (it takes many generations to do so), so we survive better with much faster way of adapting ourselves to the environment. And game theory teaches us that the correct answer is often dependent of what the others do - the "natural" solution to a prisonner's dilemma is "tit for tat with initial cooperation" aka "reciprocate altruism" aka "I'm nice with people unless they were mean with me before". So human nature is complicated, and depends a lot of what the environment is.

Then yes, with genetic engineering and neuroscience, we are more and more able to alter human nature. Take a simple example (which I oversimplify for the this forum, but the idea is valid) : people who have a low level of serotonin are more likely to be aggressive. And people have a low level of serotonin when they have been oppressed or abused, kept into low social situation, have a low self-esteem, ... That's a mechanism created by evolution that makes full sense in social mammals : when you're at the lowest social level of a mammal pack, you've very low chance of getting offsprings, so you should (from the pov of genes) be more aggressive, even if it's risky. But we, with our brains and science, can overpower evolution. We could do it in at least three ways : 1. remove the conditions for low serotonin (lower social inequalities, ensure good living for everyone, fight parenting methods that lower self-esteem like corporal punishments, ...) 2. give serotonin to those who have a low level of it and 3. fix the genes to break the "low serotonin => aggressivity" link.

Edit : please note through that while improving human nature is possible, we have to remember that it'll have a cost and risks associated, so "it's against human nature", if actually true (understanding the complexity of human nature) is a weak argument, it's a "this won't be easy and we have to be careful" kind of argument not a "it's not possible" kind of arguments. The kind of arguments that justifies taking a decade after Gagarin to go to the Moon instead of rushing there in a few months, but not to not go to the Moon at all.
Last edited by Kilobugya on Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Kilobugya » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:33 am

Reichsland wrote:So if it was possible to change human nature, would it still be human nature?


If it's a minor alteration it'll be "improved human nature", if it's a major alteration it'll be "transhuman nature", but it's a pointless vocabulary issue.

Reichsland wrote:Deviations in human nature is what allow each of us to be precisely that, human. No one person is perfect.


Improving humans doesn't mean making them perfect or all the same. There is no such thing as perfection.

Reichsland wrote:If we were to change the nature of all humanity to fit another's ideals, we are no longer humans but a shell devoid of any moral choice.


Why would we be any more "devoid of any moral choice" because our nature has been improved by planning, caring, loving brains, than what we have because the product of a blind, uncaring, reckless force known as evolution ? And it's not to fit someone's ideals, it's fit humanity's ideal. If humanity as a whole feels that "communism would be wonderful, but we have to do a few fixes in us for it to work", then so be it.

Reichsland wrote:Humanity was built on the variations of human nature such as greed, envy, love.


And strengthening some of them, while weakening others, we won't make us any less humans - but just better humans.

Reichsland wrote:To change any of them would to be to end the countless generations of individuality.


Once again, improving humans don't mean wiping out individuality at all.
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Postby Ethel mermania » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:39 am

how about animal nature then?

may mammals try and conserve energy as much as possible. if another animal hunts and kills, many animals will chase the killer away and take the spoils for little work.

we are biologically programmed to be lazy selfish shits, which is the anthesis of what is required for a true communist society.

i too buy into the theory of the nobility of communism, and the utter impossiblity of it working.

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Postby Kilobugya » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:45 am

Obamacult wrote:Your diatribe is Orwellian and ridiculous.


Orwellian ?

Obamacult wrote:
Trotskylvania wrote: Alice says in effect that while the communist system appears utopian, building a communist society is impossible because humanity's flawed nature and greed prohibits production being planned for use, and directed democratically by the community.


What kind of nonsense is this? By your definition it is 'greed' that I engage in trade with someone else in a free, voluntary and peaceful society that makes us both better off or the exchange wouldn't have been undertaken in the first place!


There is no such thing as "free, voluntary trade", and "that makes us both better off or the exchange wouldn't have been undertaken in the first place" doesn't mean the trade was fair or optimal. If you gain much more than the other in the trade, even if both gain, it wasn't fair, and if the other could gain much more and you just slightly less, it's far from being optimal. But that wasn't the point of the OP at all.

Obamacult wrote:Why is that anything that communists want they have to get by coercive means?


Actually, communism wants to get rid of coercion (at least in non exceptional cases).

Obamacult wrote:Why is it that you should have any business meddling in my life and the life of those I trade with in a free, voluntary and peaceful transaction that has nothing to do with you?


There is no "free, voluntary, peaceful transaction", every transaction is a balance of power, and something affecting the others as least as much as it affects you.

But once again, that wasn't at all the point of the OP. Did you even read it ?


Obamacult wrote:
Trotskylvania wrote:it would then follow that if Alice follows her logic to its inexorable conclusion, she must argue that we should change human nature.


What kind of bullshit is this!


Bullshit ? If someone says "X is morally right, but not compatible with human nature" than indeed changing human nature is the moral position to do. It doesn't mean changing human nature by any means or at any cost - because then it can become morally wrong, considering all the consequences of that specific mean. But then we have to find a different mean of changing human nature, one that is morally acceptable.

Obamacult wrote:Indeed, where do you come by these barbaric positions?

Public school?


Ad hominem won't help. I could make sneaky remarks like "well, whatever school you went to, they didn't teach you how to read, because it's obvious you didn't read the OP" but it wouldn't help the debate. So please, stay to arguments, not personal attacks.
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Kilobugya
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Founded: Apr 05, 2005
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Kilobugya » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:49 am

greed and death wrote:We must of course respect choice of those humans involved.


Definitely not. First because the humans involved aren't yet born, so can't make choice, and then because "the humans involved" are the whole society, not just the one receiving the change.

greed and death wrote:Me and my family will use genetics to enhance our greed, while you enhance your compassion.

In the genetic arms race we will win, because we will join your commune when things suck for us, and leave your commune without contributing when things go well.


And you'll lose, because of game theory. You can't win an iterated prisonner's dilemma with greed. And life is full of IPD.

greed and death wrote:The age of genetics is an exciting time because it guarantees that capitalism and the greed it is based on reign supreme.


Even a blind, careless, short-sighted, reckless force like evolution didn't favor greed that much. And you think enlighted, caring, planning, ethical force like human brains will do **more** of it ?
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Elmo Logic
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Founded: Nov 27, 2012
Ex-Nation

Postby Elmo Logic » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:49 am

Trotskylvania wrote:I would like to address arguments that concern appeals to "human nature". I wish to address, not the fact that such arguments are seldom rigorous, seldom if ever establishing even the barest inkling of a concrete human nature, but a particular fallacy of this argument which is unique to our modern era, and will only become more relevant in the future.

It is a common argument against any speculative political economic system that its basic assumptions run contrary to human nature. It is usually very much like original sin, actually. In say, opposing communism, Alice says in effect that while the communist system appears utopian, building a communist society is impossible because humanity's flawed nature and greed prohibits production being planned for use, and directed democratically by the community.

This is a tacit recognition of the moral worthiness of the communist aim. And once upon a time, this didn't matter so much, if Alice was indeed correct in her assessment of human nature and its possible contradiction to the communist ethos. But we live in a brave new world now, thanks to the immense development of science and technology.

For the sake of argument, let us define human nature as the previously immutable parts of the human condition that are defined by our genes. So, in an era where concepts like genetic engineering have left the realm of science fiction and have indeed become big business in themselves, and when even more radical transhumanist technological practices are looking increasingly possible, the human nature argument is losing its salience. Because human nature is becoming something that we can self-consciously manipulate.

So, given these new possibilities, a new dimension to the appeal to human nature opens up. If our human nature is no longer immutable, can we really say that our biological nature in anyway trumps a moral argument? If by arguing as she does, Alice has tacitly accepted the moral worthiness of the communist vision, and instead has said "Shucks, we can't do it because it's against our nature," it would then follow that if Alice follows her logic to its inexorable conclusion, she must argue that we should change human nature.

I have one question...

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Grave_n_idle
Post Czar
 
Posts: 37910
Founded: Feb 11, 2004
Ex-Nation

Postby Grave_n_idle » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:55 am

Xomic wrote:Yet if you alter the underlying aspects of humanity, then we're not longer discussing humans.


How much would you have to alter human nature before it stopped being human? That seems awfully imprecise.

And I have to point out - we've been shaping human nature for thousands of years - does that mean we're no longer human?
""Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it's turning God into a nature god."


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Grave_n_idle
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Posts: 37910
Founded: Feb 11, 2004
Ex-Nation

Postby Grave_n_idle » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:59 am

Ethel mermania wrote:how about animal nature then?

may mammals try and conserve energy as much as possible. if another animal hunts and kills, many animals will chase the killer away and take the spoils for little work.

we are biologically programmed to be lazy selfish shits...


The why do people do voluntary and charitable works? Why do they pursue education that won't necessarily further their career? Why do they seek promotions that won't necessarily give more power or money?

We do have a 'lazy selfish shit' nature, but we also have an altruistic pragmatist nature, and a drive to do things just for the sake of doing them. And both are valid survival characteristics.

All you've got to do is shape the expression of those 'natures' - to create the balance you want.
""Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it's turning God into a nature god."


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Curator of the Vatican Observatory museum collection

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Czechanada
Powerbroker
 
Posts: 8403
Founded: Aug 31, 2010
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Czechanada » Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:12 am

Trotskylvania wrote:I would like to address arguments that concern appeals to "human nature". I wish to address, not the fact that such arguments are seldom rigorous, seldom if ever establishing even the barest inkling of a concrete human nature, but a particular fallacy of this argument which is unique to our modern era, and will only become more relevant in the future.

It is a common argument against any speculative political economic system that its basic assumptions run contrary to human nature. It is usually very much like original sin, actually. In say, opposing communism, Alice says in effect that while the communist system appears utopian, building a communist society is impossible because humanity's flawed nature and greed prohibits production being planned for use, and directed democratically by the community.

This is a tacit recognition of the moral worthiness of the communist aim. And once upon a time, this didn't matter so much, if Alice was indeed correct in her assessment of human nature and its possible contradiction to the communist ethos. But we live in a brave new world now, thanks to the immense development of science and technology.

For the sake of argument, let us define human nature as the previously immutable parts of the human condition that are defined by our genes. So, in an era where concepts like genetic engineering have left the realm of science fiction and have indeed become big business in themselves, and when even more radical transhumanist technological practices are looking increasingly possible, the human nature argument is losing its salience. Because human nature is becoming something that we can self-consciously manipulate.

So, given these new possibilities, a new dimension to the appeal to human nature opens up. If our human nature is no longer immutable, can we really say that our biological nature in anyway trumps a moral argument? If by arguing as she does, Alice has tacitly accepted the moral worthiness of the communist vision, and instead has said "Shucks, we can't do it because it's against our nature," it would then follow that if Alice follows her logic to its inexorable conclusion, she must argue that we should change human nature.


As an aspiring criminologist, I can agree that human nature isn't immutable.
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Reichsland
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Posts: 1332
Founded: Aug 06, 2012
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Reichsland » Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:32 am

Kilobugya wrote:
Reichsland wrote:So if it was possible to change human nature, would it still be human nature?


If it's a minor alteration it'll be "improved human nature", if it's a major alteration it'll be "transhuman nature", but it's a pointless vocabulary issue.

Reichsland wrote:Deviations in human nature is what allow each of us to be precisely that, human. No one person is perfect.


Improving humans doesn't mean making them perfect or all the same. There is no such thing as perfection.

Reichsland wrote:If we were to change the nature of all humanity to fit another's ideals, we are no longer humans but a shell devoid of any moral choice.


Why would we be any more "devoid of any moral choice" because our nature has been improved by planning, caring, loving brains, than what we have because the product of a blind, uncaring, reckless force known as evolution ? And it's not to fit someone's ideals, it's fit humanity's ideal. If humanity as a whole feels that "communism would be wonderful, but we have to do a few fixes in us for it to work", then so be it.

Reichsland wrote:Humanity was built on the variations of human nature such as greed, envy, love.


And strengthening some of them, while weakening others, we won't make us any less humans - but just better humans.

Reichsland wrote:To change any of them would to be to end the countless generations of individuality.


Once again, improving humans don't mean wiping out individuality at all.


Who is to say that those 'loving, caring brains' are doing the right thing. Would they have the right to speak for humanity as a whole? I highly doubt that everyone in the world would find a certain ideology the only perfect way to go. Like I said, someone's perfect utopia is another's living hell. Even nations cannot agree on the best way to govern themselves, let alone humanity choose a method to govern itself.
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