The Perils of Altruism

Posted: September 22, 2011 in Ethics, Metaphysics
Tags: , , , , , ,

This choice has been offered: either sacrifice* others to yourself, or sacrifice yourself to others. Now, which will you choose as your moral purpose? Which is more noble? Clearly, sacrificing others to yourself comes with the implicit, distasteful understanding that fraud or force is necessary because no one in their right mind would knowingly and voluntarily do that. Altruism rests on this foundation — the alternative is worse.

Are the alternatives correct, though, or is it a false dichotomy? The choice as presented assumes that sacrifice is necessary. If you do not choose to sacrifice yourself to others, then you necessarily will be sacrificing others to yourself (or vice versa). But is that assumption correct? Is sacrifice a necessary part of the way men deal with one another? If not, does that suggest a third option: neither sacrificing yourself to others, nor others to yourself?

Changing tracks a bit, it stands to reason that life, in order to survive, feeds off of other life-forms — from herbivores that eat grass to carnivores that eat herbivores, and everything in-between. That is the nature of life and nothing less will sustain it. None of the rules of life are arbitrary or whimsical — it is the necessary consequence of one of the laws of nature: the law of identity — A is A. A life-form is a particular type of entity, with particular characteristics and requirements. If any life-form were to act against — i.e. contradict — its requirements, then it would die. If a plant were to strangle its roots and shun light, it would wither and die. If an herbivore were to refuse to consume plants, it would die. If a carnivore were to refuse to consume herbivores, it would die.

With that in mind, it would be an error to assume that men deal with one another in the same manner and under the same terms as animals deal with other classes of life-forms — by consuming them. True, men deal with other classes of life-forms in this regard, but there is a key attribute that men possess which makes their interaction with each other different from all the rest — their rational faculty.

Man’s mind allows him to produce the values, which his life requires. Man can organize plants in a manner which yields a thousand to a million times more produce than nature would otherwise produce. Man can organize animals in much the same way to create similar effects. Man can design and build machines to make his efforts ever more efficient. Man’s limit of achievement has continuously been broken by each new invention. Man, by his nature, is a producer of his own values. Where in any of this, is sacrifice necessary?

Since men are the creators of the objective values that man’s life requires, it is in man’s nature to deal with other men, not as exploiter or exploitee, but as traders. Each man possesses a value that they produced (with which they are willing to part) and trades it for another value (which they require more than the original) — both men gain objective value which supports both of their lives. Where in any of this, is sacrifice necessary?

Remember, “If any life-form were to act against — i.e. contradict — its requirements, then it would die.” To assume that sacrifice is necessary when dealing with one another is to assume that the only means to acquire values, which your life requires, is by expropriating them from others — this contradicts man’s requirement to produce and trade the objective values that his life requires. Figuring out how to grow food will sustain your life, killing others for the food they created will not — what will happen when you run out of victims? Trading values that you do not require for those that you do will sustain your life, killing others who possess the values you need will not — what will happen when you run out of victims? Those potential victims, if regarded as traders instead, can continue to produce the values you require, which will allow you the opportunity to trade (if you offer them a good value in return).

Since altruism’s foundation is based on the necessity of sacrifice, it too contradicts man’s requirements, and therefore, is a morality of death. What are those contradictions, you might ask. For starters, altruism is a contradiction in terms. Isn’t the person accepting the values, that you offer selflessly, selfish for accepting them? Selfishness goes against altruism and would be considered bad under those terms, right? Why would a moral standard require you to support its antithesis? Secondly, the nature of altruism contradicts man’s requirements. Don’t you require material values (food, water, cloths, shelter, etc.) to survive and live a fulfilling life? If you get those values from someone else, then according to the standard of altruism you’d be bad for being selfish, right? If you create them and consume them yourself, then according to altruism you’d be bad for not sharing, right?  In either case, according to altruism, you’re evil if you take steps to sustain your life.

Why would a moral standard, if practiced consistently, guide you to self-destruction? The fact that men are alive today means they’ve breached the morality of altruism to some degree — that leads to the perils of altruism: those who are noble die in its name and those who are alive owe their guilty lives to others.

The third option is far superior than the original two. It allows men to be set free from other men and allows them to live free on their own effort or any voluntary arrangements their hearts desire — all this is accomplished without sacrifice.

*Note: I suppose it would be prudent to clearly identify what I mean by sacrifice. It is a type of trade which exchanges something of higher value for something of lower value. A $1 bill in exchange for $100 bill is not a sacrifice — A $100 bill for $1 bill is. Going without food to feed your child is not a sacrifice — taking the food out of your child’s mouth for another’s child is.



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