Researchers Prove Altruism Begins In Infancy- is this an anticipation?

  • Does this new scientific research support the Epicurean doctrine of anticipations? The study concluded that human beings are born with the ability to sometimes exhibit a selfless inclination for the well being of others. This seems to be an innate propensity to treat others as having equal value and shares some resemblance to justice. Does anyone agree or disagree?


    Below are two links. One is to a short summary of the research and the other links to the scientific publication.

    Born Kind? Researchers Prove Altruism Begins In Infancy
    https://www.studyfinds.org/ben…-help-others-study-finds/


    Altruistic food sharing behavior by human infants after a hunger manipulation

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-58645-9

  • This question is right exactly in the expertise of Elayne but I know she has been very busy lately - no doubt she will weigh in when able.


    My own sense of caution as to the first article would be on this premise:
     
    "Human nature is complicated, no doubt, but most of us would at least like to think that people are fundamentally good. If you’re a big believer in humanity’s best qualities, a new study is backing up your beliefs in a major way. It appears that babies may be instinctively altruistic."


    I think it's perilous to think in terms of "good" and "evil" and as to whether we approve or disapprove of the inclination being discussed, but at the basic level of there being any kind of inclination at all, as opposed to there being only a total blank slate, I bet the findings of the article do support a reasonable theory of "anticipations."



    However - is this next quote true? Because I would expect a form of anticipations would probably exist in all higher animals, and perhaps in all life forms.


    "Kindness towards others at one’s own expense is a uniquely human trait. While some primates have displayed a tendency to help each other out and share resources in certain situations, it is virtually unheard of across the animal kingdom for an animal to give up food he or she needs just because another is in need."

  • I'm planning on discussing this actually in my Twentieth message. Lucretius wrote on the origins of compassion for the weak and for neighbors in the fifth book of De Rerum Natura, which is the most complete and fascinating discussion of Epicurean anthropology (it's generally assumed that he based his poem on Epicurus' books On Nature)




    And when they saw an offspring born

    From out themselves, then first the human race

    Began to soften. For ’twas now that fire

    Rendered their shivering frames less staunch to bear,

    Under the canopy of the sky, the cold;

    And Love reduced their shaggy hardiness;

    And children, with the prattle and the kiss,

    Soon broke the parents’ haughty temper down.

    Then, too, did neighbours ‘gin to league as friends,

    Eager to wrong no more or suffer wrong,

    And urged for children and the womankind

    Mercy, of fathers, whilst with cries and gestures

    They stammered hints how meet it was that all

    Should have compassion on the weak. And still,

    Though concord not in every wise could then

    Begotten be, a good, a goodly part

    Kept faith inviolate- or else mankind

    Long since had been unutterably cut off,

    And propagation never could have brought

    The species down the ages.


    Lucretius, in De Rerum Natura 5:1015-27




    (also, the book The Bonobo and the Atheist is an anthropological account of the origins of morality, for which I wrote a review

    http://societyofepicurus.com/t…-the-atheist-book-review/)

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • I think it's perilous to think in terms of "good" and "evil" and as to whether we approve or disapprove of the inclination being discussed, but at the basic level of there being any kind of inclination at all, as opposed to there being only a total blank slate, I bet the findings of the article do support a reasonable theory of "anticipations."


    However - is this next quote true? Because I would expect a form of anticipations would probably exist in all higher animals, and perhaps in all life forms.


    "Kindness towards others at one’s own expense is a uniquely human trait. While some primates have displayed a tendency to help each other out and share resources in certain situations, it is virtually unheard of across the animal kingdom for an animal to give up food he or she needs just because another is in need."

    Good points Cassius. I had also seen the grey parrot study and forgot about it. I agree that this behavior is likely not limited to humans although it may be most developed in homo sapiens .


    When I consider altruism in the context of the anticipations of friendship and justice along with the evolutionary-like mechanisms of Epicurean physics, it seems like the behavior is fundamental to our social nature because it works better than being selfish.


    I may be hopelessly biased by a Christian and virtue ethics-based upbringing and therefore looking for a justification to see life as more than a brutish survival of the fittest. However, it does seem objectively true that we all live better when we have the circumspection to see the well-being of others is sometimes more important than our own.

  • I'm planning on discussing this actually in my Twentieth message.

    I look forward to seeing the message Hiram as I am signed up to your email list.

    Thanks for pointing out the quote from Lucretius. It seems to be an excellent example of the evolutionary-type materialist explanation of how and why we develop social bonds and eventually civilization.


    Thanks also for the link to your review of “The Bonobo and the Atheist.” I look forward to reading it.


    Lee

  • (also, the book The Bonobo and the Atheist is an anthropological account of the origins of morality, for which I wrote a review

    http://societyofepicurus.com/t…-the-atheist-book-review/)

    Hiram, I read your review and thought it was very good. In particular the point at the end about “is” vs “ought.”


    I completely agree with you that “ought” statements are true and it is misguided to look for a rational first principle for their validity beyond human feelings. We can reason about what we ought to do but will never find a reason for the original moral principles. Those who intellectualize morality as only about “is” statements run the risk of becoming amoral which is unnatural.

  • Is /ought is a fetish among logicians. And it mostly ends in pointless and self-defeating opinions. Because in the end we all MUST act on our moral intuitions. Not acting on them is a moral choice too.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • Sorry, have been busy lately, but Lee-- I do not see it as sometimes putting the "wellbeing" of others ahead of my own, even if it might look like that to an outsider. It's still always my own pleasure I'm choosing for. Even if I do something that looks superficially like self-sacrifice, it's because my happiness is fully entangled in the happiness of those I love. Not separate, not competing. So to withhold help to a beloved friend when it's within my capabilities to help would cause me immediate and ongoing pain.


    I think this is critical to be clear on. Otherwise you risk having competing morality rules that will leave you confused. Trying to balance self and other. It makes a mess, and it understates the depth of human friendship.

  • on the issue of developmental sharing behavior, yes, a well documented phenomenon. It is "programmed", a prolepsis, not taught.

  • Thanks for clarifying this point Elayne. I see the distinction and the need to resolve our behavior back to the experience of pleasure as the primary principal.


    I believe I read somewhere (maybe De Witt’s book) how Epicurus taught that giving up one’s life for a friend could be justified/rationalized because living with the pain of choosing one’s life over that of a friend was more painful than death.