Mark Sloan (MS) has offered a number of comments promoting the view that sacrifice is a necessary part of morality. Here is why I believe that he is wrong.
Assume that a choice between two options is available to an entity. Option A is expected to have a minor benefit to the entity and a major benefit to the community. Option B is expected to require a moderate sacrifice from the entity and provide a minor benefit to the community. Which is more moral and why?
If sacrifice is required for morality, then option A is clearly not moral despite being better for the community than B. For me, this immediately raises the question — “So what IS the point of morality?”
In my world, the point/reason/goal/purpose/telos of morality is to benefit the community. The more an act benefits the community, the more moral it is. The more an act unnecessarily harms the community, the more immoral it is.
If an entity buys into the ideas that a) morality is GOOD and to be desired and b) that morality *requires* sacrifice, then that entity is going to choose option B even though *EVERYONE* would have been better served by option A. To me, that seems to be a “very bad thing”TM.
MS is correct when he points out that
Axelrod’s book The Evolution of Cooperation and the work in the literature since then is clear that the kind of cooperation of interest in game theory requires two critical elements: 1) sacrificing one’s self interests in the short term in order to gain the benefits of cooperation, and 2) punishing poor cooperators.
but sacrificing short-term interests to gain better long-term benefits is not truly a sacrifice in the longer-term view (in the sense that most people use the term) — it is an intelligent, far-sighted trade-off. Further, the *STUDY* of cooperation is necessarily deconstructionist and must include short-term sacrifice in order to avoid the overwhelming effects of short-term self-interest — but that doesn’t mean that cooperation itself (and thus morality) REQUIRES sacrifice.
The reason why I harp on this is because most people equate self-interest as being the opposite of morality — which is emphatically not true. As pointed out in yesterday’s post, it is very, very rare that enlightened (or long-term) self-interest deviates from morality — and even a truly selfish paperclip-maximizer will *appear* moral until it believes that it can’t be stopped. Self-interest is moral because helping yourself means both a reduced requirement for the community to help you and a more effective you to help the community — and you are the best judge of what help you need. Or, to twist it around a little bit, I would like to personally make the sacrifice of asking you not to sacrifice so that you are better able to benefit the community (which will then benefit me).