Thursday, April 04, 2013

Morality, beauty, talent and goodness--Part 2

This post concerns theories I mostly have had for a good while. For instance, similar ideas may be found in the early part of my book, Exact Morality for Today. Alternatively, for a shorter version, one may go to this post I put on my homepage a decade or so ago. I mainly wrote the contents of this post last summer, as a tie-in between the previous post and the next post (the really interesting one, at least to the mathematically game). Notice that I discriminate here (and in the next post) between morality and effective morality, an important distinction I hadn't observed earlier when trying to define concepts with mathematical exactness, which makes the relations between the concepts as described more coherent.

Morality as idealism

Morality is love of beauty. Beauty I define as part talent and part goodness. Goodness turns out to be the the same as effective morality. Morality is a type of idealism.

As I shall define it, an idealist is someone who wants to make the universe (which practically speaking mostly means the world, since essentially our influences now are mostly limited to Earth) have in the long-term more of certain ideal qualities, i.e., the qualities an ideal world has in abundance. (I don't mean to imply, by using the word "ideal", that there is or could be an ideal, perfect world, since any world would always be more ideal if it had more of the qualities that the idealist loves. Nor do I wish to suggest metaphysical idealism. But other candidate words, like meliorist, have connotations as contrary as those of idealist, so I think I'll stick with idealist.) There can be a great many different kinds of idealists, depending on what qualities the idealist finds ideal. The only requirement I place on what can be an ideal is that it must be something that is not defined in reference to oneself. For instance, if someone wants to increase the extent to which people have genes just like himself, it would be improper to say that this self-love is motivated by idealism arising from his finding himself exceptionally ideal, unless the tendencies causing him to find himself exceptionally ideal are not caused by genetic tendencies to selfishness, but from an inheritable love of qualities not defined in reference to himself that indeed he possesses more than anyone else. An idealist can idealistically love himself if indeed he sees that he is abundantly replete with ideal qualities. For instance, a moral person can love himself greatly because indeed he is abundantly beautiful. But if a person loves himself much more than others just because he has inheritable tendencies coding for self-love, then he is simply, by definition, selfish. And selfishness is not a type of idealism, since one's self obviously is defined in relation to oneself. Similarly, nationalism, love of one's own country because it's one's country, or racism, love of one's own race because it's one's race, though not quite as referential to self as selfishness proper, are still much too referential to one's self to be considered ideals. I think it obvious that much self-love that is justified by the self-lover claiming to love especially the particular more beautiful qualities he or she himself possesses is not self-love really arising from an idealism, but is self-love arising from selfishness that is excused by pretending to an inherent tendency to love unselfishly especially the possessed beautiful qualities (even were the beautiful qualities not possessed); but it's to be excessively cynical to assume that disproportionate love of one's own peculiar beautiful traits is not often idealism, inasmuch as presumably a reason people have peculiar beautiful traits is that their ancestors peculiarly found such traits beautiful enough to especially tend to mate those possessed of the traits, and such predilections, like the beloved traits themselves, may be inherited.

Abstract concepts such as idealism and morality should describe or approximate concepts one may reasonably suppose exist. Thus, let us consider how idealism might evolve. An idealist, to further his ideal, will tend to love unselfishly those he believes support his ideal. For instance, a person who loves beauty will love unselfishly those who also love beauty, because the world being more full of people who unselfishly love beauty causes beauty more to increase. No matter what the ideal an idealist has, an idealist and the other idealists who share the same ideal will tend to love each other unselfishly if they can recognize one another. Idealists, not being selfish, are capable of real unselfish love. There is not the least reason to suppose that people who seek to support an ideal will be less successful than selfish people who merely seek to support themselves. Idealists tend to be loved unselfishly by those sharing or approximately sharing their ideals; the selfish, on the other hand, do not tend to be loved unselfishly by selfish people or others. It's an advantage to be loved unselfishly. Idealism may well be more rewarding than selfishness.

Practically speaking, if an idealist has much doubt as to the extent someone else shares his ideals, his idealism per se is not going to cause him to love that person much. One of the last things an idealist would want would be to love unselfishly someone who fakes an idealism in order to be rewarded by unselfish love from idealists. Sacrificing for people who would prey on a fellow idealist isn't just pointless sacrifice, it's sacrifice made that actually rewards people who prey on those who love your ideal. In other words, practically, idealism can only work to the extent there are situations where the ability in an idealist to detect the idealism in others be stronger than the ability in a deceiver to convincingly fake the idealism. In fact, there is good reason to suppose that idealists often are stronger than deceivers, and the reason doesn't much involve game theory or the other strange explanations popular in the so-called scientific literature regarding altruism, but rather that the important sacrifices involved with love tend to involve mating.

It shouldn't really be surprising that love, and more especially love as artistically and profoundly represented, tends to be associated with mating. Oh sure, a person can love through charitable organizations and the like, and if one is careful about it and possessed of above average sensitivity, one arguably should do so if the sacrifice is not too great, but one seldom sees people profoundly affected emotionally by the thought of donating to these organizations, because such opportunities for love are not the archetypal opportunities. People naturally more tend to love mates than other people, and that is not at all a bad thing. Not infrequently a girl will love one beautiful male (in the sense I define beauty), but because he is poor or taken by another female (say because the latter female is more beautiful), she has a choice between mating the better-loved male anyway or mating some other male she loves less who will better care for her and her children. Not that a female should always mate the better-loved male (it is appropriate, after all, that wealth be used to further the children of good females), but still it is arguably the most significant opportunity for appropriate unselfishness that a female is likely to face. A tendency to choose beautiful sex over resources is probably what most makes a good female good. Similarly, in males. On the one hand, a male can squander much of his youth trying to get as much responsibility-free sex as he can get, making him incapable of caring effectively, or he can try to care greatly for someone he finds special or prepare for the day he finds such a female. On the other hand, a male who doubts whether anyone he loves will mate with him can selfishly use his money to essentially buy a mate he doesn't love, or he can more unselfishly opt to keep his money, using it for some higher purpose or choosing to bestow it upon his relatives, or to give up altogether much concern with making money, allowing him to pursue wisdom less restrainedly than those more constrained by worldly cares. The important quality of love through mating is that such love is expressed through mutual children and descendants. A female who sexually loves unselfishly causes her mate to have mutual children he wouldn't otherwise have; similarly, a male who cares for a mate unselfishly tends to enable his mate to have more mutual descendants than she would have if he were not so unselfish. If a person is tricked into unselfish love for a mate, the deceiver will gain mutual children. However, those children will have a deceived parent, tricked into the inappropriate unselfishness. Since children tend to inherit the traits of their parents, children of parents who deceive in the mating sphere will tend to be not only deceptive, but easily deceived as well. To the extent love is mainly important when it comes to mating, there will be an association between deceit and gullibility when it comes to judging moral character, which leads to a strong indirect test of moral character.

True, one can imagine it might be difficult to judge directly whether an ostensibly moral and appropriately unselfish person is precisely that or just a good deceiver as to his own character; but the association between between deceit and insensitivity that exists with regard to moral character allows one to indirectly judge an apparent moral unselfishness genuine. Moral sensitivity is much easier to judge directly than moral unselfishness. Any at all reflective person has the opportunity to understand his or her own personality better than others; and it is a simple matter to determine whether another understands one's character in a way that corresponds to what makes sense to oneself. By judging sensitivity toward one's own moral character one can in fact by association judge quite easily how unlikely someone else is to be deceptive when it comes to presenting his own moral character. As long as love is mainly toward mates, it should be harder to fake morals than to correctly judge morals in others. People often say that it is inappropriate to judge others, and outside the mating sphere that is mostly true. Outside of the mating sphere, society should rightly be hesitant to punish character without proof, and the whole process ought to be very formal, as in court of law. But with mating, of course, everyone judges though they say they might not; there is nothing typical or desirable about a female sleeping with anybody or about a male dispensing caring with any female who desires it or is willing to have sex with him. If a male is judged not worthy of it, it is appropriate for a female not to have children with him; similarly, if a female is judged not worthy of it, it is appropriate for a male not to care for her or their children. But if the mate is judged worthy of it, the judgment is very appropriate and useful, enabling the sort of love that to the extent it is common makes love difficult to fake, which difficulty is what makes real love possible.

It is reasonable, then, to believe that many people could naturally be idealists. But I haven't said anything about what particular idealism constitutes morality. Obviously, since morality is an interesting, relevant concept to the extent more than a few people are moral or something similar, the ideal that moral people love, which is by definition beauty, ought to be an ideal it would be reasonable to suppose that more than a few people might have evolved to love (to varying degrees, perhaps). Well, since as just explained, the love present in idealism, in order to work, must largely be through mates, it follows that loving an ideal tends to imply a tendency to mate with those sharing the ideal. It is useful and pleasant to mate with talented people, because talented people will tend to be better at helping raise many children well, and because talented people will tend to have talented descendants, and such talent will be useful in descendants. People who find talent beautiful will tend to have more talented children than people who find some other random useless quality important. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that talent is a part of beauty. But if morality is nothing more than love of making the world more talented, then time, and more particularly the particular time at which one desires that the world be most talented, enters the concept of morality in a fundamental way that could make the concept of beauty impractical or even dangerously wrong. Beauty is not just talent; it is goodness as well.

Practically speaking, when we love, we love people--people who are present right now. So there is arguable reason to understand people who say that they love talent or that their ideal is talent as saying merely that they love people in proportion to how talented they are. This indeed is no real idealism at all. Idealism, especially that involving simply defined ideals, properly is not about the short-term; but about wanting to increase the long-term quantity of something, the ideal, in the universe. Nor, indeed, is it reasonable to suppose this sort of quasi-idealism could evolve in people. If you love unselfishly people merely who are talented, who is especially going to love you for that? You will not be loved for such unselfishness by people who share your "ideals", because people who share your "ideals" will simply love talent, and will be quite indifferent as to whether you unselfishly love talent. In fact, they will probably look at talent as effective love of survival; and you loving people unselfishly somewhat conflicts with you loving survival, and so they will love you the less for your unselfishness. True, moral people might love you somewhat more than they would love totally selfish people; but when it comes to being loved really well, as the most important love tends to do inasmuch as it tends to be associated with a favorite mate, you won't much get that from them since they'd prefer to love people who also love goodness in people; your being unselfish will not be a reward equal to the sacrifices by definition involved with unselfishness. Defining idealism in the short-term, though it might have some practical advantages, can lead to dangerous confusions and belief in implausible ideals.

An impractical and still somewhat dangerous alternative would be to define morality as a desire to make the world in the long run more full of talent. But such a definition willy-nilly leads to an awkward divide between the qualities that one loves in others and the qualities that constitute the ideal. If beauty in theory is just talent, practically, if one considers as one should the long run, then what one finds beautiful in others in the sense that it makes one wants to be unselfish must necessarily be something quite distinct from talent. For if one is interested in increasing the amount of talent present in distant generations, one must appreciate in people not just their talent but also their effective love of talent, effective love of effective love of talent, etc. Indeed, by unselfishly rewarding someone who is unselfish toward talented people, etc., one may well do more toward increasing the amount of talent present in the distant future than if one merely rewarded people according as one perceived their talent. Any sort of idealism, if defined relative to the long-run, leads to a kind of unselfish nature; moreover, being such a real idealist is rewarding in the sense similarly minded idealists love one another unselfishly. And any sort of idealism, say, peacocks loving fancy tail feathers, can lead partly to love of talent, since talented individuals, not tending to die off, can better further an ideal, just as peacocks who are able to survive well can pass on their tail-feathers better than lame peacocks; any sort of idealism can compete with selfishness. It's remarkable and reassuring just how little the particular choice of what one theoretically finds beautiful affects what one practically finds beautiful. Still, practically speaking, more than the presence in the long-term of qualities, one needs to consider in people what particular qualities that exist right now in the short-term are worthy of unselfish love. Though I suppose partly one could argue that the main obstacle to having ideals which lead to differing practical and theoretical notions of beauty might be that our particular language fails in making the necessary distinctions, still, there will always be the mathematical awkwardness of deciding precisely what time in the distant future constitutes the time at which the ideal should be maximized; to get around this, one I suppose would be forced to adopt some sort of limit procedure, assuming, as I suppose is mostly reasonable, that in fact such limits exist. What does seem certain is that if one could define beauty in such a way that what one finds beautiful in people in the short run (the qualities that inspire love) is in fact the same as what one wants to maximize in the distant future (the ideal), then one would need one less notion of beauty, leading to an elegant simplicity in concepts that more corresponds to usage. I would also say one would have an elegant simplicity of concepts that more corresponds to how people naturally consider morality, and if so, then it is fairly dangerous to define two vastly different definitions of beauty, since conflating the two is a dangerous thing that would be all too natural if properly there is indeed one notion of beauty that differs from both. Indeed, I think beauty should be defined so that goodness, i.e., the part of beauty that is associated with effective loving, is also what makes one love beauty effectively, i.e., effective morality. One may just accept that this can be done, but I shall show how this may be done mathematically in my next post.

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