Re: Obligation & Compassion

Mon, 15 Sep 1997 21:54:50 -0700

At 11:52 AM 9/14/97 +0000, you wrote:
>Frederick Mann:
>>"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the
>>sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
>>John Galt in 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand
>Kathryn Aegis:
>Is John Galt really talking about benevolence here? This passage seems to
>refer to values of loyalty or subservience.
FM: He's not talking about benevolence or "non-benevolence"
at all. He does talk about loyalty to himself and no
subservience to others.

The reason for my post is that certain people, when talking
about "no obligations" were being incorrectly accused of not
having compassion and of not wanting to help others.

I'm saying there's no link between "no obligations" on the
one hand, and compassion/benevolence on the other hand.

There are people who believe in "no obligations" who are
compassionate/benevolent. There are people who believe
in "no obligations" who are uncompassionate/malevolent.
There are people who believe in obligations who are
compassionate/benevolent. There are people who believe
in obligations who are uncompassionate/malevolent.

>>That someone says, "I have no obligation to help another," says
>>absolutely nothing about whether that person has compassion or not.
>Kathryn Aegis:
>Yes. In fact, social scientists who study benevolence rarely link
>the two, because a new view of benevolence is emerging. Within the
>context of the set of personal or group relationships affected by it,
>an act of benevolence can be viewed as an investment with a
>future return, as a method of cementing community relationships, or
>as a method of expressing one's social status. One could go so far
>as to state that no one gives anyone anything without some
>expectation of some sort of tangible or intangible future return,
>thus calling into question the entire concept of compassion. The
>idea of compassion may be a holdover from earlier times when we
>humans did not fully understand (or want to face!) our own
>motivations for acting in a benevolent manner.
I think we can make a distinction between benevolence
as attitude and compassion as emotion.

This morning in a parking lot a man asked me if he
could wash my car windows for a little change. I
declined and walked away to dispose of my shopping
cart. Then I felt sorry for him, after all, he did
offer to work for the money. My compassion triggered
my benevolence and I walked back to him and gave him $5.

To him, in his situation, $5 is probably quite significant;
to me it's almost like nothing. And I did gain a feeling
of having done my good deed for the day. I probably felt
a little bit happier, having given him $5, than I would
have felt, giving him nothing.

Generally, in voluntary transactions, both parties gain.

"Man -- every man -- is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake,
and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose."

Frederick Mann
"Furthering human excellence in individuals
and in the human species in general."
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