Sunday, October 16, 2016

Altruism and Beauty

Ayn Rand made a mistaken equation between altruism and Communism. Seeing abuses of Communism, she came up to the idea that altruism as such is evil. She was wrong.

Anything that carries any kind of appeal to people – moral, intellectual, physical or anything else – will have all sorts of people wanting to exploit it. If people have altruistic ideals, it is very likely that some jerk will come all along and pander to them, then take them into a bad place. That Stalin pandered to altruistic ideals to create a barbaric order does not impugn altruism; it impugns Stalin.

A similar error has been made by feminists. They saw abuses of beauty by stupid teenagers and unscrupulous plastic surgeons, and they decided that the problem was with beauty. It is not. Once again, anything that has appeal to people will see people wanting to use it for wrong. The problem is not with what has appeal, but with those who use it for wrongdoing.

Intelligence can also be used for wrong things; but that does not make intelligence bad. Money can also be used for wrong things; but that does not make money bad. Patriotism can also be used for wrong things; and that does not make patriotism bad either.

Same with just about anything that is out there.

The problem therefore is not with altruism, as Ayn Rand claimed. The problem is with those who exploit it. That there are corrupt charitable organizations does not damn generosity either. It damns those who take good values and then use them to do wrong. Same is the case with altruism.

Stalin does not own altruism, and Communism does not own altruism. There are plenty of altruists who did actual good and were no part of any kind of tyranny or corruption. Stalin used altruism for wrong. That does not damn altruism. It damns Stalin.

Separate what's true from what's not true. Altruism can most certainly be used for wrong; but so can such things as beauty, intelligence and money. None of these things are in themselves bad. These are things that carry appeal. And anything that has any kind of appeal will see some opportunist wanting to use it for wrong ends.

Beauty is not bad; intelligence is not bad; money is not bad. Neither is altruism. The problems are with those who use these things for wrong. Do not equate altruism with Stalinism. Do not equate beauty with unscrupulous plastic surgeons or stupid teenagers either. All of these things can be used for wrong. That does not make any of them bad.


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