God Belief vs Humanistic Atheism vs Enlightened Self Interest Atheism vs Capcom vs SNK

” If you believe in a god, the reasons you want to help others have partially to do with influencing that god’s treatment of you (and possibly them), in the here and now and in the hereafter.”

Question from Rohit:
I’ve been thinking about the value of the human being in three different types of world views – the god belief world view, the atheistic-humanistic world view, the atheistic-enlightened self interest world view.

In the best form of the god-belief world view I’ve come across people who think human life is precious and all human beings must treat each other well as they are all “drops of the divine ocean”

In the atheistic-humanist world view people say that human beings have an intrinsic value and thus one important goal is the upliftment of human beings. One should not treat other human beings badly as we all have an intrinsic value.

In the atheistic-enlightened self interest world view, again the human being is important – as your self interest lies in not treating people badly, trying to help people (so that you are helped in return) but unlike the God-belief or atheistic-humanist views, no intrinsic value is given to the human being.
Being nice becomes a means to an end (the end being your enlightened self interest). Also, various degrees of “being nice” are permitted, depending on one’s enlightened self interest. This world view borders on opportunism.
And since no intrinsic value is placed on the human being (except as an enhancer of one’s enlightened self interest) – one tends to value different people differently.

Now arguably, the atheistic-humanist world view is just as deluded as the God-belief world view – it simply trades the delusion of existence of a God to the delusion of intrinsic value of the human being. Why should the human being be assumed to have an intrinsic value – is it because we are intelligent, or conscious or both? Do more intelligent human beings have more intrinsic value then? If we came across an alien civilization much more advanced than us, would their life be more valuable than the life of a human being?

I find only the atheistic-enlightened self interest to be logically consistent. It seems to me to be without any significant assumptions/ delusions.
But as I indicated above, it seems to be almost opportunistic.

I’d really like to hear your comments on this! Am I missing something here? Is there a logical, consistent atheistic world view that does not simply reduce human beings to objects/ means to an end.

Well, humans are objects. Philosophically, so is anything else with a physical or even conceptual presence. Saying humans are objects doesn’t therefore reduce or belittle them.

Humans, like anything else, can be means to an end. They can also be ends themselves, as far as a person is concerned. That’s as far as the thought process goes in most cases: you’re doing something for other people. The “enlightened self-interest” part is that you’re ultimately serving yourself because you want something for them. So no altruism is entirely pure.

This is true whether you’re religious or not, so it has little to do with that debate. If you believe in a god, the reasons you want to help others have partially to do with influencing that god’s treatment of you (and possibly them), in the here and now and in the hereafter. That’s the only difference. Where the religious sometimes fail to empathise with others is that they get the idea that without this particular reason to be good to others, there are no good reasons at all. That leads into a lot of arguments over what a “good” reason is.

Meanwhile, even if humans really have intrinsic worth we have no way of determining what it is, so it’s useless to us. However, humans have an undeniable worth to other humans. This may be subjective, but it’s so universal that it’s possible to behave for one’s whole life as if humans have truly intrinsic worth and never be contradicted or even challenged. (I’ve only ever been challenged on it on ATA, by people who advocate a divine source of human worth.) This approach is both humanist in its effects and enlightened in its concept, for it assumes no unverified absolutes.

Speaking more generally, a world view logically consistent with atheism accepts that any value or worth given to people, things or ideals is assigned by us and us alone. Therefore the values assigned by humans are unmatched in their importance to us, and as worthy as any other. Then we just have to compare contradictory valuations on merit.


5 thoughts on “God Belief vs Humanistic Atheism vs Enlightened Self Interest Atheism vs Capcom vs SNK”

  1. Thanks. Your comments are pretty well thought out. Its similar to what one other atheist said and I agree with most of what you’ve pointed out.

    There were two things that were bothering me when I wrote the question (if you can call it a question…): 1) that enlightened self interest objectifies humans, and 2) that it is an opportunistic world view.

    I agree with you in theory that objectifying human beings does not belittle them.
    And since I wrote the long question above, I’ve sort of reconciled atheistic enlightened self interest & the problem of it being an opportunistic worldview. I’ve used the idea of “potential value” of humans for this (its a sleight of hand … sort of).

    The idea goes like this – all human beings have potential value in an absolute sense (instead of intrinsic value) by virtue of their actions, the situations they are flung into, their innate capabilities and the capabilities they build up for themselves. The world is random and you never know 1) Which human being has a high potential value for the world in general & 2) which high potential value human being might come in contact with you and effect you directly.
    If you are not careful, you could ignore or be indifferent to a human being who has high potential value to the world in general, when you could have helped unleash his/her value. The street urchin you ill treated may be the guy who potentially could bring in the next big tech revolution. If you are not careful you could potentially give a cold shoulder to a Forrest Gump.
    Also, you could come in contact with a random human being with high potential value and if you’ve been bad to him/ her, you are (potentially) screwed.

    So it makes sense, keeping one’s enlightened self interest in mind, to be nice to most human beings.
    You could be nicer to those who currently impact your life directly, but its advisable to be nice in general to all.
    Now, since you are forced to be generally nice to all, given enlightened self interest, the problem of opportunism is somewhat mitigated.

    Randomness & the general unpredictability of the world come to the rescue !

  2. There’s something else you need to factor into that philosophy: not all potential is necessarily good potential. Humans have as much potential for harm as they do for good.

    When you hold up the bus for someone, you could be helping a mobster on his way to an assassination. But then, he could be about to kill someone who kills even more people than he does…

    Regardless, I don’t think a moral code needs to force us to do anything. That’s religious, absolutist thinking. At least one definition of a good person is someone who isn’t forced to do good but does it anyway. All kinds of prisoners clean highways.

  3. I here talk of “good” but this assumes a knowledge of good. Since good is subjective it can not factually exist. This also applies to anything of value like “enlightened self interest”. This is not a property of natural causal effect events.
    I personally have not come across any world view that does not require faith in the intangible.
    Therefore there is no logical consistency in any world view in a factual sense. Logical consistency requires an acceptance/faith in the view. No faith and no acceptance of the proposed logic. The existence of logic is not a fact but a belief itself.
    We have ignored the 6th sense, the minds eye, experience through meaning which can not be proven, yet it defines us. Without it we are nothing. How you see something determines what you see.

  4. The concept of “good”, like many concepts, is not so much faith in the intangible as a declaration of the intangible. The whole point of the atheistic or naturalistic view is that “good” does not exist outside of human perception or opinion, but it’s perceived universally enough that it can be used as a working convention. So we accept it pragmatically, knowing full well that in an absolute sense it’s not really there.

  5. Yes, good and bad are intangible human concepts. And yes they are entirely subjective. I think alot of people need an epiphany where they realize that morals, behaviors, ways of thinking, and concepts are not universal. Think of how great it was to kill the Native Americans back when America was first being occupied. Even now wars are painted as “good” and “bad” sides by the leaders. Many are simple minded enough to believe that it’s ok to kill a person from the “bad” side. Perfectly moral! Right? I think a loss of any life is a shame personally. Why? Because I don’t want to die. I don’t want those I care about to die. How could I wish that on somebody else just because of where they were born, what government or religion they follow, or some of the decisions they have made? Of course I want those to die (be executed) who murder others for fun (school shootings and such). I think the roots of “good” and “bad” and even morality come down to:

    1. Sympathy
    2. Empathy
    3. Something that benefits.
    4. Anger, or rather fear of retaliation/consequences of making people angry.

    In order to keep societies from self destructing humans label things “good” if they fall into category of “Oh, I’d like if this were done to me” or “this is beneficial to me”. And things are “bad” if they fall into the category of “This will make somebody angry if they found out about it” or “this isn’t beneficial to me” or “I wouldn’t like it if this were done to me”. This is just my own weak generalization of course. Things like a teenager coming out to his parents about being an atheist and it making them angry obviously shouldn’t be seen as “bad”. But it is seen as “bad” by the parents because it is definitely not beneficial to them to have their child cursed to hell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *