biggest myth in Western society?

At this point one of my professors has talked several times about something which he calls the biggest myth in Western society. He claims that Hobbes' idea about the selfish nature of humans is incorrect. He also includes Adam Smith's ideas about invidual competition serving the common good (capitalism) in this. Each of the 3 times he has talked about these things in class im the only one who knows (or knows and is willing to tell the class) the basics of the philosophies. Hobbes is my boy and maybe im bias, but wtf how can that be part of the biggest myth in Western society? Does that makes sense to anyone? Its like I have to keep telling people you're being to alltruistic, stop it. This is a daily thing, pisses me off. No wait...

I think he has a good point.


imo, the biggest myth in W. soceity is materialism.

I think one has to define self-interest dirst, an I know it´s not an easy task.

Dogbert is correct. It depends alot on how you define the terms.

I would guess that its defined as written by Hobbes. However I would have to go back and reread it to be able to give more detail.

The problem with Hobbes is that there is no "state of nature" (or whatever phrase he uses). Humans have always been, and will always be, social creatures.

I, like your professor, am very altruistic in my own selfish way.

Sounds as if your professor has his own personal agenda... how altruistic of him.

"At this point one of my professors has talked several times about something which he calls the biggest myth in Western society. He claims that Hobbes' idea about the selfish nature of humans is incorrect. He also includes Adam Smith's ideas about invidual competition serving the common good (capitalism) in this."

LOL! Sounds like a naive loser who hasn't spent a day outside the academic bubble since kindergarten.

And TacoGomez is correct about Hobbes.

on a second thought, lets forget about it.

You're just pissed that you're going to have to find a job when you graduate.

nevermind eviljedi


lol@ppp. I have a job dude

ok so people arent selfish and there has always been a rule of law because people are "social"?

The economic definition selfish=no-externalities may not capture the notion of selfishness completely. I think there´also a paper by Arrow about the differences between values and tastes.

I talked to my prof again yesterday when I turned in a paper on Job. He praised me for speaking up in class and knowing about Hobbes ect. I told him he was one of my favorite philosophers. He went into some example about parents and how they take care of their crying children, and how thats not selfish. My reply wasnt great, but I told him a reason some people take care of their kids is so that they can refelct well on them as parents. Obviously it would have been better if I would have said it was selfish for the parents to want to stop the child from crying back it was annoying, but whatever. The class is about the mystery of suffering, so its pretty strange to even be talking about Hobbes and Smith.

"He went into some example about parents and how they take care of their crying children, and how thats not selfish. My reply wasnt great, but I told him a reason some people take care of their kids is so that they can refelct well on them as parents."

He's a tool. "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins is a great explanation for this apparent altruism that exists among relatives.

Hobbes was undeniably incorrect when he claimed that when early man existed in this "state of nature" (pre-civilized society with no central authority) there prevailed a war of "all against all." We know now that small bands of hunter-gatherers are quite able of self-governance and egalitarian social structures that respect individual rights and suppress "alpha male" tendencies seeking to dominate the group.I'm against the "geno-centric" views of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Pinker and other sociobiologists and Evolutionary Psychologists. They place too much emphasis on the gene at the expense of the enormous importance of environment in shaping which genes will be "triggered."This page, http://www.thegreatdebate.org.uk/GDarticles.html offers a useful summary of the nature-nurture debate.The mistake Hobbes made, in my opinion, was that he witnessed man's capacity for war and strife (primarily the English Civil War,) and attributed this only to man's instincts, rather than acknowledge the environment of his day was instrumental in shaping the characters of the individuals (and the social structures that would subsequently perpetuate) who fought these conflicts.

The biggest myth is we belive our stories without ever inquiring

psychological standpoint here-

there are flaws with all of the theories presented here.

people will still save the life of a complete stranger at great risk to themselves even when there's nobody around to tell whether they did or not.

So, we don't always do things according to what would be rational for gene propogation.

also, in general, people will sometimes risk things of greater value (their life, their entire social reputation) than any potential reward for an particular altruistic act.

by the same token, however, people will act egoistically much of the time as well.

and if people can get rid of anxiety caused by other's distress by a method not involving the person, they will also often take that route.

a lot of it depends on how you define altruism.

'I'm against the "geno-centric" views of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Pinker and other sociobiologists and Evolutionary Psychologists. They place too much emphasis on the gene at the expense of the enormous importance of environment in shaping which genes will be "triggered."'

This I do not understand. Do you mean the social environment of the community or the world at large? If you mean 'society' I'm sure it's Dawkins position that the community is the result individual cooperating strategically in pursuit of their biological interests. Family and community are complex networks of genetic relatedness, they affect selection because they're part of the process.

If Dawkins is correct there are no myths and nothing unique about 'Western Society' to worry about. I think he's right.

Hobbes was prescient, but he didn't have the whole story. But 'the war of all against all' sounds alot better than the push/pull of cooperation and contention that's a more accurate picture.

whoa this thread is still alive! My prof had some interesting things to say regarding Camus recently. I have a paper due later this week so i'll post some hightlights.