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The philosopher Peter Singer discusses morality and enlightened self-interest. Question: Why should we behave morally? Peter Singer: I mean, the sound bite answer is you should be moral because in the long run, looking at your real interest, it will be better for you but, you know, without more explanation, that sound bite maybe doesn't convince people. I think people need to reexamine their self-interest, this is where we began this conversation when you look at people like Madoff and so on or going back to earlier similar crises. Why do these people who already have so much money sacrifice ethical standards in order to have more? That's the bewildering thing and I think it has to be that they have the wrong view of their self-interest. They actually believe that the difference between having 10 million and a billion is somehow really important difference that is going to make their lives so much better and is worth taking risks for 'cause they must have known they were taking serious risk. And I think that that's a mistake, I don't think there's any evidence that suggest that you're necessarily going to be happier as a billionaire than... once you got 10 million. Question: How have your ideas about morality evolved? Peter Singer: I think the major difference between my views when I was just a graduate student and now is I give more weight to the idea that you can give an answer from the perspective of an enlightened self-interest to innate question, "Why should I be moral?" So I think it's very often, not always, but it's very often in our interest to have ethical standards and to act in accordance with them and that's good for us in our relations with others because people respect us because of it and get to know it. It's also good for us in terms of our sense of satisfaction and fulfillment with life and so I think you can give an answer that works well for many people, if not quite perfectly through that. I wasn't really as aware of that when I wrote the Master's thesis but in other aspects, the reset of the thesis, I think I would probably still accept. I don't think you can rationally prove an answer for everyone irrespective to their nature or preferences that shows that it's always rational for them morally. Recorded on: March 16, 2009 Question: Why should we behave morally? Peter Singer: I mean, the sound bite answer is you should be moral because in the long run, looking at your real interest, it will be better for you but, you know, without more explanation, that sound bite maybe doesn't convince people. I think people need to reexamine their self-interest, this is where we began this conversation when you look at people like Madoff and so on or going back to earlier similar crises. Why do these people who already have so much money sacrifice ethical standards in order to have more? That's the bewildering thing and I think it has to be that they have the wrong view of their self-interest. They actually believe that the difference between having 10 million and a billion is somehow really important difference that is going to make their lives so much better and is worth taking risks for 'cause they must have known they were taking serious risk. And I think that that's a mistake, I don't think there's any evidence that suggest that you're necessarily going to be happier as a billionaire than... once you got 10 million. Question: How have your ideas about morality evolved? Peter Singer: I think the major difference between my views when I was just a graduate student and now is I give more weight to the idea that you can give an answer from the perspective of an enlightened self-interest to innate question, "Why should I be moral?" So I think it's very often, not always, but it's very often in our interest to have ethical standards and to act in accordance with them and that's good for us in our relations with others because people respect us because of it and get to know it. It's also good for us in terms of our sense of satisfaction and fulfillment with life and so I think you can give an answer that works well for many people, if not quite perfectly through that. I wasn't really as aware of that when I wrote the Master's thesis but in other aspects, the reset of the thesis, I think I would probably still accept. I don't think you can rationally prove an answer for everyone irrespective to their nature or preferences that shows that it's always rational for them morally. Recorded on: March 16, 2009
Richard Murphy, Philip Booth and Mike Lewis ask: Do we need to fundamentally change our attitude toward tax? To view it as a fair and just contribution toward shared public services, and not as an egregious state-run money pinching scheme? Listen to the podcast of the full event including audience Q&A: http://www.thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2012/should-tax-be-more-taxing Our events are made possible with the support of our Fellowship. Support us by donating or applying to become a Fellow. Donate: http://www.thersa.org/support-the-rsa Become a Fellow: http://www.thersa.org/fellowship/apply Find out more about HMRC: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ Tax Avoidance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_avoidance Tax Noncompliance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_noncompliance
Stephen Post discusses the mental and physical benefits of altruistic behavior. Post is the author of Is Ultimate Reality Unlimited Love? (http://goo.gl/T6Qjdx) Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Transcript: If you are living a generous other regarding altruistic life, if you are volunteering formally or just being helpful informally, are there benefits to that? And yes, our research has shown that the benefits are significant. So, for example, in one national survey Americans were asked if they volunteered in 2009. So this was a study that began in 2010 so it was looking back a year. Forty-one percent of Americans had volunteered an average of about 100 hours a year which is only two hours a week roughly. So not high thresholds. And then we asked well, did it make you feel physically healthier. Sixty-eight percent said yes. That's kind of like getting off carbs for a little bit and, you know, feeling more energized. Did it make you feel happier? Ninety-six percent -- yes. Did it make you feel less stressed? Seventy-seven percent -- yes. People developed deeper friendships, more meaningful relationships. They had a sense of gratification. They expressed greater resiliency when they experienced problems and tough times in life. So in my view if you could take those kinds of self-reported benefits and put them in a pill, market them at the drugstore, you'd be a billionaire overnight. But the thing is that you don't really have to do that because if people simply get in touch with that evolved aspect of their being, they tend to benefit from it. So I was asked to give a talk at a group of widows and widowers. There is an association on Long Island of widows and widowers and they wanted to know if the study's showing it really helps with getting through grief and bereavement if you're able to report informal helping activities in your environment. I gave a really nice talk and lo and behold, at the end in the Q and A there was a guy in the back and he looked at me and he said, I don't care what you say, buddy. I don't do nothin' for nothin'. And, you know, there is that mentality that somehow you have to get reciprocal gains for everything you do. It's all tit for tat. But if you look at the science there are lots of mental and physical benefits. We study AA a lot. We study the 12 steps which is where people in Alcoholics Anonymous help other alcoholics. We discovered that if you have the high quartile of helpers over that first year of sobriety, 40 percent of them stay sober for a whole year. If you have the low quartile of helpers only 22 percent stay sober. So high helping activity in AA where you're a greeter at the door or you're handing out literature or giving testimony or just meeting other people in the community who you think might need a little AA support or something like that or being a sponsor. That actually doubles the likelihood of your recovery within a one year period. There are a lot of studies like this now. Young people, adolescents who are engaged in volunteering show lower risk for cardiovascular disease lifelong. They have lower cholesterol levels, lower stress levels, there are a whole lot of things I can talk about there. But in general it's good to be good and science says it's so. So I think that's been well established and a lot of people jumped on that bandwagon. We were probably the first ones to start working seriously on that or at least among the first. There were other groups but we funded a lot of research in that area, published a lot of important things and now, you know, it's pretty much the kind of story that you find in Parade Magazine. I call it give and glow or sometimes the giver's glow. O Magazine did their Christmas article cover piece on the giver's glow this past year. So it's caught on in the popular culture. But it's not a direct motivation. It's a side effect or a byproduct and I always like to emphasize that you're helping others because it's the good thing to do, you know, it's the golden rule and all of that. But as it turns out in general it's a very healthy way to go. Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Choreographer Elizabeth Streb takes us through the theory and practice of PopAction, her particular brand of extreme action dance. Developed by Streb over the last 20 years, PopAction classes help dancers acquire new skills by posing unique challenges: change your base of support in a rapid fire way, physically designate specific locations in vertical and horizontal space, learn to pop the muscles to initiate action (rather than skeletally transferring weight), train for impact, learn to fly with low-to-the-ground maneuvers that increase spatial awareness, and incorporate a timing system that is not musical but physical (“felt timing”). The classes confronts issues of falling and fear. STREB operates on a ‘personal best’ principle; the method suits all body types, ages, and skill sets. All adult classes are taught by current company members. Read more at BigThink.com: http://goo.gl/O8uR Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: PopAction is a form that I and Streb, you know, the larger Streb which is pretty much hundreds and hundreds of dancers at this point have been developing over the last 30 years. If we were just an urban kind of crazy set of action aficionados it would be similar to parkour but because I was in the dance world and located myself in the early seventies in the downtown experimental postmodern dance world I placed a very formal lens over my investigations. The simple idea about PopAction was I believed that humans could fly and that’s where the genesis of the whole idea began by me awkwardly leaping off ladders and crashing to the floor. I didn’t realize how complicated it would be and how much hardware I’d need and how impractical it is to fly, you know, on every level. So I started really low to the ground and decided that – it was also a theatrical artistic suspicion that I thought no one lands. Like it’s not just flight, it’s a failure of flight. The dance world doesn’t ever land. They spend a lot of technical time camouflaging gravity. The circus never lands, they just swing. It’s beautiful, aesthetic but there’s no rhythm in swinging. They don’t land either. Gymnastics doesn’t land. Only maybe football and American boxing deals with impact. So I early on started to develop a technique for taking the hit when we landed. And I think that the drama of action theater is really embedded in that moment. But I think flight, flips, things that different acrobats do but weren’t considered elitist moments in time and space and body actually are the most exciting moves a human can do. I noticed that and I wanted to embed it into my action scenario more. So it wasn’t just flight. It was how you fly and that you land. if you examine normal dance and their base of support is usually the bottoms of their feet we shift our base of support. A couple formal principles here in PopAction are just shifting your base of support from the bottoms of your feet which puts you into normal pedestrian spatial locality and maybe landing on your stomach, landing on your back, landing on your shins, landing on your side, landing on your shoulders so that you really resculpt the occupational space the body is in and therefore provide a different point of view or vantage point to the audience. And then I also believed after the Muybridge plates on human movement potential and animal movement potential that I wanted to remove all transitions, all predictive acts. So the plié you do when you’re going to jump. And I’m not interested theatrically in showing the audience my preparation or my recovery. So it just went down being in unhabitual places in space, encountering danger, inhabiting force fields because I believe that the action experience artistically had to be for the audience a kinesthetic experience, not a storytelling idea. Gravity is our friend, you know. It’s many people’s, you know, it’s an aberration to them. It’s something that they avoid at all costs. Do not fall down. We – STREB really believes that gravity is the most exciting force on earth. It’s oddly enough out of all the four forces, the weakest. And yet if you hurl your body up a foot off the ground only or even three feet and then you just let it land perfectly horizontally, you’ll get a wallop that you just can’t imagine. And I could invite all your audience to just try it, you know. First on your mattress in your bedroom and then go ahead and do it on the carpeted floor. [TRANSCRIPT TRUNCATED]
Wasn't the first guy who ever held meat over a fire experimenting with his food? That turned out all right. Question: What percentage of your food experiments ends up tasting good? Wylie Dufresne: Well luckily, as we mentioned earlier, taste is subjective. So I could lie and say they all taste good. But you know, people ask us that a lot, what is our percentage of success and failure? And that's not a statistic that we keep. But maybe we should because so many people have been asking what percentage. And so, I can sort of guesstimate, but failure is an interesting term because, for instance, we've been trying for seven and a half years to make hot ice cream. Ice cream that eats the same way ice cream does cold, but is thermally hot, as a concept. We've been trying to do that. We've never succeeded in... I mean I'd have to go back and look, but there's probably close to 50 iterations, experiments that... none of which have yielded a successful result, but many things have come out of those failures. So, does that get chalked up each time as a failure or does a failure that leads to a new idea, a new success really count as a failure? And I guess the philosophy major in me kind of isn't so concerned with quantifying it specifically, because I see the glass is half-full even with a failure. But we certain fail more than we succeed, I think, but we've also gotten better at the process. And we've also learned more. We know more today than we did yesterday, than we did last week, than we did five years ago. And so that allows us, in some respects, to be more effective in our experimentation because we've probably gotten better at shaving off 20% of failures and getting closer to succeeding sooner. But I can't tell you how... you know, a percentage because at the end of the day, I don't know that that's... I mean, some might argue that it's useful, but it's not really useful in my mind right now. Question: If marijuana were legalized, would you consider experimenting with it? Wylie Dufresne: Well, it's very food-friendly, let's say that. It's very food-friendly on a number of levels. So, there is, I think... there are people right now exploiting its relationship to the cookie or the brownie or, you know, things like that. And it would be very conducive to ice cream. Question: At what point does it become experimentation for experimentation's sake, or is that an important part of innovation?Wylie Dufresne: Both. I think that, yes, you have to experiment for experimentation's sake. I mean, wasn't the guy that speared that animal and held it over a fire experimenting? I mean, he didn't know that it was going to taste delicious. He didn't know that roasting that piece of meat was good. And how that person even got there I'm not entirely sure. But that was a very successful experiment. And thank God that somebody did it. I mean, why can't I... if I'm serving you food that isn't spoiled, then why can't I play with it? What says that I can't, or shouldn't play with it. To play with it and to learn more about it because in playing with it, I'm going to learn something if I have my eyes open and my mind open. There's no way I can't play with my food and not learn something. And so I see... I see nothing but good coming out of playing with my food because I'm gonna learn something. And I understand that, as I mentioned earlier, not everybody comes to the dinner table at 7:00 saying, "Let's see what's going on here." Sometimes... I mean, I run a business and I know that four guys from Wall Street show up during, you know, bonus season and they want to buy some big burly red wine. They want to have some steak and they want to laugh and make noise and be rambunctious and celebrate their success. They don't necessarily want to pay attention to their food. But I want to take their money and give them a good meal, but if... four other people want to come at 7:00 and have the tasting menu and say, "Geez, let's see what's going on here." I think that my responsibility is to meet both of those people wherever they want to be met. Not to force it upon them necessarily, but to understand what the diner... where the diner wants to go and to meet that person at that expectation level. But, I don't see why I can't go a little bit further. You're not going to get a steak and mashed potatoes at wd-50. You might get steak and you might get mashed potatoes, but what we do with them will probably be a little left or right of center. Recorded August 6, 2010 Interviewed by Max Miller Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Why does the "aha!" moment arrive only after we stop looking for it? At Behance's 99% Conference, Jonah Lehrer explains how creative insight works & what drives incredible achievements. About 99U The 99U delivers the action-oriented education that you didn't get in school, highlighting real-world best practices for making ideas happen.