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TheAssassinMercenary

Pyschological Questions

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Well, this thread is a place for us to stretch our brain muscles by asking or attempting to answer some phsycological questions. I'll start with this:

Does greed make us bad people, or is it basic human survival instinct? I feel that it can make us evil should we let the greed overcome us, but we naturally pursue what is best for us. That doesn't mean we can't be compassionate, I'm just saying we naturally look out for ourselves first.

I should probably establish that this should be a judgement free zone in terms of the views of others. The point of this thread is to hear the difference of opinion.

Edited by TheAssassinMercenary

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Psychology is the study of human behaviors and mental processes while what you are asking is more philosophical.

Edited by Naughx

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Psychology is the study of human behaviors and mental processes while what you are asking is more philosophical.

Both are not necessarily excludent. Psychology has its roots on philosophy and shares some common questions with it. Philosophy of psychology is a thing.

Anyway, if you want to ask if greed is evil (which is what you do when you ask if we're evil by being greedy), then you're making a purely philosophical question. If you want to know why we are greedy, then you're making a psychological question that borders on philosophy depending on the approach that is taken.

I really wish there was a nice site about psychology (that is not wikipedia), like http://plato.stanford.edu/is about philosophy.

Edited by Rapier

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It is about human behavior, or more accurately, how modern human behavior can be traced to their primitive instincts.

I mean we already know things like the Babinski and Moro Reflexes already exist so...

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Both are not necessarily excludent. Psychology has its roots on philosophy and shares some common questions with it. Philosophy of psychology is a thing.

Anyway, if you want to ask if greed is evil (which is what you do when you ask if we're evil by being greedy), then you're making a purely philosophical question. If you want to know why we are greedy, then you're making a psychological question that borders on philosophy depending on the approach that is taken.

I really wish there was a nice site about psychology (that is not wikipedia), like http://plato.stanford.edu/is about philosophy.

psych is way bigger. also i'm pretty sure the framework for how papers are published is different, but i'm unsure of that. overall, wikipedia works fine from art history to astrophysics. be grateful!

i'd also just like to say that i reject autocorrect as the culprit for the bad title. "physcological" isn't a word.

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Psychology is way bigger than Philosophy? uh, what

isn't philosophy the vast ocean where these "small" (relatively, in comparisson) sciences were born? Philosophy is very broad whereas sciences such as psychology have a very limited field. That said, I could be wrong, since all I have about psychology is some interest and love. :V

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Both are not necessarily excludent. Psychology has its roots on philosophy and shares some common questions with it. Philosophy of psychology is a thing.

Anyway, if you want to ask if greed is evil (which is what you do when you ask if we're evil by being greedy), then you're making a purely philosophical question. If you want to know why we are greedy, then you're making a psychological question that borders on philosophy depending on the approach that is taken.

I really wish there was a nice site about psychology (that is not wikipedia), like http://plato.stanford.edu/is about philosophy.

All modern scientific disciplines have their roots in philosophy, so that's sort of a specious point. Prior to the 19th century (specifically 1834), there were no "scientists." The word didn't exist. There were natural philosophers. Newton, for example, considered himself a "natural philosopher" (hence why he wrote the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"). The boundaries between mathematics, philosophy, and science were nonexistent; they were all considered particular applications of philosophy. It is, however, true that psychology (like, but perhaps even more strongly than, most other social sciences) tends to hold a closer resemblance to philosophy, in part because it investigates things like how thinking works, what the nature of a mind is, what "thoughts" are, etc. "Philosophy of psychology" is also a bit of a specious point, because every discipline has a "philosophy of X" for it. One of my philosophy professors suggested that I switch to double-majoring in philosophy and physics (from just physics), because he felt I had the ability to do well in both, and thus make useful contributions to philosophy of physics (something of a hot topic, since theoretical physics is in such a flux at the moment).

However, the rest of your stuff is spot on. "Is greed evil?" (or, alternatively, "Is pure self-interest, without any concern for others, unethical?") is a philosophical question, specifically a question of ethics. It might benefit from psychological, sociological, economic, or biological/biochemical evidence...but it is still, fundamentally, a question of values--which is what ethics studies. "Why do we behave greedily?" can be a question from both sides, philosophy or psychology, depending on what you mean by "why?" Do you mean, "what judgments contribute to doing this?" (a philosophy question) or do you mean, "what cognitive processes are involved in performing this behavior?" (a psychological and neurological question).

It is really sad that there are few other disciplines with such a wonderfully robust online encyclopedia--the SEP is one of the finest freely-accessible academic encyclopedias in the world, and it would be WONDERFUL if we had more things like it. The closest I've found, thus far, is either http://www.psychology.org/resources/ (made up of real articles, but poorly organized and with lots of gaps) or http://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/ (well-organized, but barebones and minimally cited from what I can tell).

I mean we already know things like the Babinski and Moro Reflexes already exist so...

Somehow, I feel like "reflexes which occur only in infants under the age of 6 months" is not what the OP meant by "modern human behavior." Yes, technically you are correct--infants alive today are "modern humans," and actions they perform are "behavior." But I'm pretty sure the OP meant things that adult humans (and possibly adolescent humans) do, and probably focusing on behaviors that are more easily seen through statistical aggregation than through studying individuals (e.g. why do we have a bias that favors information we already have over newer information, even in cases where we know the newer information is more reliable?)

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Psychology is way bigger than Philosophy? uh, what

isn't philosophy the vast ocean where these "small" (relatively, in comparisson) sciences were born? Philosophy is very broad whereas sciences such as psychology have a very limited field. That said, I could be wrong, since all I have about psychology is some interest and love. :V

in terms of working force, i'm pretty certain it is. from there we can expect a higher volume of publications and such as well. it's a lot more publications to aggregate and summarize/explain. i'm also not sure how much more helpful an encyclopedia for something like physics would be compared to wikipedia, other than possibly being slightly more correct. however, i'm not opposed to it; it would be a nice to have i suppose.

wolframalpha comes close for math, i guess. i don't think it has anything in terms of summarizing research publications and such, though, so it's more or less an online math mega-review book.

to answer the question, "greed" in the way it's defined by the op is more or less just ensuring security of the self before all else. how can that be a bad thing?

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Op you should research moral nihilism. While you obviously can choose to believe in whatever you want, understanding moral nihilism can help you to understand how easily people's core beliefs can differ.

The point I want to make is: a discussion like this can be really difficult to have with people unwilling or unable to understand that their viewpoints stem from subjective ethical and moral codes.

In answer to your question I think that greed can be used for wonderful things and that greed can cause great grief. I think compassion decides how people will direct their own self interests.

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to answer the question, "greed" in the way it's defined by the op is more or less just ensuring security of the self before all else. how can that be a bad thing?

Because of the "before all else." Consider the following spectrum of statements:

1. I will pursue my own security for the current moment, while helping others do the same.

2. I will pursue my own security for the current moment, even if it means accidentally making others less secure.

3. I will pursue my own security for the current moment, even if it means I must sabotage the security of others.

4. I will pursue my own security against all foreseeable future problems, while helping others do the same.

5. I will pursue my own security against all foreseeable future problems, even if it means I accidentally make others less secure.

6. I will pursue my own security against all foreseeable future problems, even if it means I must sabotage the security of others.

7. I will pursue my own security against all possible or potential threats, even if they might never come about.

If we take a hard-line definition of "before all else," that is if we interpret it as literally putting ALL values (including the value of other people) categorically below one's own safety, then #7 is the only one of the bunch which accurately describes it. Pre-emptive strikes are perfectly valid under a "MY security before EVERYTHING else" doctrine.

If, on the other hand, we take an extremely softened reading of "before all else"--to the point that it isn't really before EVERYTHING else, just a core priority--then #1, 2, 4, and 5 are all potentially acceptable, though #2 and 5 might be "I'll avoid it if I can, but do it if I have to" kind of territory.

#3, 6, and 7 are examples of situations where greed means depriving others of life, property, or opportunity, and #6 and 7 in particular show a callous disregard for the needs of others--putting not just your current safety as a priority, but securing future safety at the cost of others' future safety (when that might not be necessary).

Edit:

Another way of saying this is that many, many commenters (official or man-on-the-street) think the United States' foreign policy, particularly with regard to where, when, and how it conducts military involvement with other nations, is highly blame-worthy. They say this because they believe that the United States puts its own political and financial security--which a nation can be interpreted as a certain kind of "self"--categorically ahead of the political and financial security of all other nations in the world, to the point that the US intervenes (through both overt force and provision of materiel) primarily based on how "useful" a situation is, or how detrimental it would be to their enemies, rather than based on concerns like "will this save more lives" or "will this make the world a more stable, pleasant place to live in." This is frequently characterized as overweening pride and, more often than not, corporately-motivated greed. The war in Iraq, for example, is almost always characterized by opponents as merely an attempt to secure a US-supported source of crude oil in the Middle East. (I do not mean to comment for or against this critique; just presenting it as I have heard it.) This "greed as self-protection" is quite clearly reviled by a lot of people, in and outside the US.

Edited by amiabletemplar

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psych is way bigger. also i'm pretty sure the framework for how papers are published is different, but i'm unsure of that. overall, wikipedia works fine from art history to astrophysics. be grateful!

i'd also just like to say that i reject autocorrect as the culprit for the bad title. "physcological" isn't a word.

Well, I had turned off autocorrect and edited the title, which is probably why.

Edit: Fixed title. Also, I would take everything on Wikipedia with a grain of salt. I knew a guy who changed the Mexican burrowing toad to the balloon snail.

Edited by TheAssassinMercenary

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The title's still misspelled. ;/

Back to the original question, greed is a perfectly normal animal instinct.

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Does greed make us bad people, or is it basic human survival instinct? I feel that it can make us evil should we let the greed overcome us, but we naturally pursue what is best for us. That doesn't mean we can't be compassionate, I'm just saying we naturally look out for ourselves first.

When does desire become greed?

Desire is necessary for survival. If we had no desire we would not do anything and would shortly die. Greed is usually defined as a desire that has grown beyond keeping us alive and begun to impede the survival of others. Greed is usually considered a negative because it requires exploitation, theft, and other harmful acts. The person who experiences greed does not think they are a bad person, but most people, including psychologists, are likely to become the victims of greed. If there are two greedy people, they will see the other's greed as bad, but not their own. Both the greedy and the non-greedy have some incentive to consider it a bad thing, at least for others.

Edited by Makaze

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The title's still misspelled. ;/

Back to the original question, greed is a perfectly normal animal instinct.

So is violence, yet we see no problem with instructing others to curb their violent tendencies--and punishing them when they fail to do so. What makes greed different?

Also, be very careful of committing a fallacious appeal to nature. Just because a behavior is found in nature, does not make it automatically good. Similarly, just because a behavior is not found in nature, that doesn't make it bad. Incest occurs, quite frequently, in nature (particularly among our close genetic relatives, the bonobos), but I doubt that would be an acceptable reason for humans to engage in it.

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So is violence, yet we see no problem with instructing others to curb their violent tendencies--and punishing them when they fail to do so. What makes greed different?

Also, be very careful of committing a fallacious appeal to nature. Just because a behavior is found in nature, does not make it automatically good. Similarly, just because a behavior is not found in nature, that doesn't make it bad. Incest occurs, quite frequently, in nature (particularly among our close genetic relatives, the bonobos), but I doubt that would be an acceptable reason for humans to engage in it.

So, the logical conclusion is that violence and greed can be good with moderation, which means they're not as bad as they sound, just as altruism and pacifism are bad without moderation.

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Incest occurs, quite frequently, in nature (particularly among our close genetic relatives, the bonobos), but I doubt that would be an acceptable reason for humans to engage in it.

Nature selects strongly against incest because it diminishes genetic diversity. So it would be bad?

Edited by Naughx

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So, the logical conclusion is that violence and greed can be good with moderation, which means they're not as bad as they sound, just as altruism and pacifism are bad without moderation.

How can altruism be negative?

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How can altruism be negative?

Theoretically, when you give so much that there is no longer enough for you. I don't know of any real life example of this happening, though.

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Theoretically, when you give so much that there is no longer enough for you. I don't know of any real life example of this happening, though.

That would seem to lead to a contradiction in terms. If you sacrifice yourself too much then you cannot give more later. A true altruist must survive for others too?

Sorry for the tangent.

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