It would take a pretty strict and dedicated hermit to live a life devoid of the products of the efforts and minds of others. Our hermit could employ no language created by others, no tools, clothes or foods created by others. He could live in no shelter created by others. He would have to survive on the foods, clothing, and tools he could glean from his environment while avoiding any of the technologies invented by his predecessors. He would have to live like a fox in a den, or like a chimpanzee in the crook of a tree. It would take a very unique individual to be able to live in this manner for very long.
Most people would view this manner of "living"as merely existing and not really living. And such a hermit would raise the question of whether he is living a truly human life, and not just surviving as an animal. Many would consider such a life as hardly worth the effort. Even Robinson Crusoe, the Swiss Family Robinson, and Tom Hanks (in Cast Away) needed, used, and wanted more. But the real question is - how do you get more?
There are really only two strategies available to you if you do want more. You can take it, or you can trade for it. The take-it strategy further breaks down into two kinds. You can take what other people do not want, or have not laid claim to (lets call this the "take-it-easy"strategy). Or you can take what other people do want or have laid claim to (and we'll call this the "take-it-hard"strategy).
Someone choosing the take-it-easy strategy is choosing to live as a scavenger on the detritus of others -- on their unwanted leavings. But to live by this strategy (even if only for the moment), it is necessary that you learn enough about the attitudes of others towards the things that you want to take, that you can determine whether any other person lays a defensible claim to it. In other words, even to live by this scavenger strategy, you have to consider the attitudes of others towards the concept of ownership and what they might consider their property, and their range of possible reactions if you take what you wish to. Even Robinson Crusoe was worried about this issue when he saw the footprint in the sand. The island on which he was living might belong to someone else. He had been freely taking what he needed from the island's resource, and the owners might not be too pleased with what he had been taking. He was afraid of what their reactions might be.
Which brings us to the take-it-hard strategy. Rather than expending the time and effort necessary to collect or create the things you want (like that hermit or Robinson Crusoe), you can simply take them from someone who already has them. However, the take-it-hard strategy, while superficially seeming to involve less effort for success, generally involves considerably more risk - especially in the longer term. Employment of the take-it-hard strategy will usually generate a response. No one likes to have the things they have gathered or made simply taken. Most people will react in some defensive manner and will often retaliate. The more persistent the taker, the more defensive the takee is likely to become. The greater the value (to the takee) that is taken, the more likely the takee is to retaliate. In other words, even to live by this thievery strategy, you have to consider the attitudes of others towards what they consider as their property, and their range of possible reactions if you take what you wish to. To be successful, even for the moment, it is necessary that you learn enough about the attitudes of others towards the things that you want to take and their likely defensive and retaliatory responses.
The take-it-hard strategy has some interesting ramifications within the context of human societies. The take-it-hard strategy involves taking things of value from others without adequate compensation. This is usually called "theft", or "fraud", or "extortion". In general, you will find that all these kinds of behaviours are deemed illegal in any culture. (The exception would be for those circumstances where the takees are not considered "people"by the culture involved. Slavery, for example, is legal only in cultures that regard slaves as "less than people".) Between "people", in all cultures, practicing the take-it-hard strategy is seriously frowned upon.
There are a number of reasons that humans gather together in groups. But two of the more important reasons are self-defence, and mutual cooperation. Like every other social species, human evolution discovered long ago that we are better off in groups. We can defend ourselves against predators more effectively in groups. We can gather more values in groups. And we can even make better values when we cooperate.
The take-it-hard strategy is sufficiently disruptive to all these benefits of participating in a social group that the employment of the strategy is universally penalized by all such groups. The take-it-hard strategy is therefore universally retaliated against by the entire social group, not just the takee. The only way that someone can consistently employ a take-it-hard strategy is to do so by stealth. Either the thief steals so subtly that the victims he deals with do not associate the theft with the thief. Or the thief must constantly find new victims from whom to steal. In most social groups, however, clandestine thievery is almost always a relatively rare opportunistic action. It occurs in inverse proportion to the group's ability to remember and recognize the culprit. All of which means that someone intent on a successful employment of the take-it-hard strategy must necessarily pay considerable attention to the circumstances of the others with whom he must deal -- not just the intended takees, but the rest of the social group as well. Employing the take-it-hard strategy is not a low effort undertaking. It is, instead, a high risk, high effort avenue to the acquisition of whatever it is that you want. It is not generally successful.
Which brings us to the alternative of the trade-for-it strategy. It is the lowest risk, lowest effort, most consistently successful strategy for getting the greatest amount of whatever it is that you want. If you want something, whatever it might be, find someone who has it and trade them something they would value more. The entire discipline of economics is the study of the practical application of this strategy. Of course, this strategy does require that you pay considerable attention to the wants and desires of other people. You will find it more difficult to get what you want if you wait for them to come to you with offers to trade. You will be more likely to get more of what you want if you learn what other people want, and offer them that in exchange. The people who are most successful at getting what they want, are the ones who can offer in trade what many other people want. Bill Gates has amassed over $40 billion by the simple(!?) process of trading his software to people who want it more than he does.
The net result of all this talk of strategies for getting what you want, is that unless you are going to adopt the strategy of the isolated hermit, you will have to consider the wants and needs, likes and dislikes, attitudes and likely reactions of other people. When planning how you are going to go about getting what you want, other people have to count in your deliberations.
Now this evolutionary focus on values and behaviour can be considered by some to be a very self-centered approach to the foundation of Morality and Ethics. And some philosophers will object that the approach violates Kant's dictum that moral behaviour necessarily (sometimes by definition) must treat other people as ends in themselves, rather than as means to my ends. However, the evolutionary approach to moral values and moral behaviour such as I have outlined here (and in Essay Question 4) regards Kant's dictum as the operational consequence of morality, and not a criticism of it, an alternative to it, or the definition of morality.
If you are going to live with other people (and not lead the life of our solitary hermit) then other people have to count in your deliberations over how to get what you want. Getting what you want is the motivation for any behaviour. Getting what you want is the motivation for being logical, rational, and considerate of others. The easiest (least mental resource intensive) way to treat other people, is to treat them as you yourself would like to be treated. It's not called "The Golden Rule"for nothing -- it is a good rule of thumb because it works more often than not. The easiest way to deal with other people, regardless of the particular strategy you wish to adopt, is to assume that they have wants and needs, likes and dislikes, attitudes and likely reactions very similar to your own. In other words, while the motivation is self-centered, the means to your ends is to consider others as ends in themselves. Even if you plan on not treating them that way.
In a moral dialogue, each party tries to understand the valuational perspectives of the other, in order that together they may find a mutually agreeable course of action. This search for a mutually agreeable result cannot be done with groups, and cannot be done on behalf of someone else (third parties). It can only be done when both parties to the search are a "me" -- first person singular. I am "me"and me is "I" -- in English there is no problem of distinguishing to whom I am referring. But "you"in modern English can refer to either "you collectively"or "you singularly". To make it clear, therefore, to whom we are referring when we employ the "second person singular"pronoun, it is best to draw upon "Olde"English and make use of the "thee/thou/thy/thine"pronouns.
Only I can know the details of my own valuational perspectives on the world around me. No one else can determine for me which alternatives are more attractive to me. Unless I provide the information through description, no one else has access to the landscape of my valuational perspectives on the world. For exactly the same reasons, only thee can know the details of thine own valuational perspectives on the world around thee. No one else, and especially not me, can determine for thee which alternatives are more attractive to thee. Unless thee provide me with the information through description, I can have no access to the landscape of thy valuational perspectives on the world.
Of course, we do likely share a great deal of environmental and historical background. So I can often make some pretty good guesses what the gross shape of thy valuational landscape might be. The greater the degree of commonality in background, the better I am able to guess thy valuational landscape by extrapolating from my own. I cannot determine thy valuational perspectives with sufficient accuracy to be able to consistently find an outcome that thee will agree is acceptably agreeable. I can always make some gross estimates, but I cannot do it consistently with any accuracy, especially if I do not thee well.
If we each face this difficulty with a singular "other", then we cannot hope to estimate the valuational perspectives of a group. As with thee, I can make some gross estimates under some conditions. It is relatively easy to imagine special scenarios where the relevant values of a reasonably homogeneous group are predictable. But situations of this sort are rare in the reality of social intercourse. So guessing would all too rarely be sufficiently accurate to be effective.
The only recourse then, is to engage the "other"is dialogue -- probing and exploring, and sharing my own perspectives in return for a glimpse (through description) into the valuational perspectives of the "other". But then dialog is a two-party game. One cannot "dialog"with a multi-headed group. One can only dialogue with individuals. Moreover, because the valuational perspectives of each individual "other"is uniquely subjective to that particular "other", one can only form an estimate of the valuational perspectives of a group by learning about the valuational perspectives of each individual member of the group.
The uniquely personal and subjective nature of one's valuational perspectives on the world dictate that moral dialogue must necessarily take place between two "first parties".
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