Is this logical?

I won’t add anything for now. Just that simple question.

I can be logically concluded that we would not exist if we didn't care about each other on some level that we can't logically explain.

I don’t think so. I think that we can logically explain having caring feelings for others.

No, it’s psychobabble. It’s one of those things that sounds wise because they use logic to contradict logic. Until you think about it. In this case, until you think about it a lot.

There are several issues with the wording. The statement is very vague, making it difficult to actually understand what is being said, which in turn makes it difficult to analyze and refute. For instance, the statement doesn’t say why we would not exist or who “we” refers to. It is left to our minds to fill in the blanks and presume that it is talking about us dying out as a species if we did not protect and care for each other. It also doesn’t say what “each other” means. Just our children? Our families? People we are close to? All of humanity? If you don’t quantify what you are saying I can’t analyze it, which is the exact point of psychobabble.

And at what point would we stop existing? What level of disconnect would be required for “us” (us as in “me”? us as in “humankind”?) to stop existing? To what connection is it referring? If parents didn’t protect and care for their young then the species would die in a generation. But that can’t be explained? We’ve never heard of instinct or seen it in animals which aren’t possessed of emotions like we are? We’ve never heard of a tom cat who might protect his own children, or eat them, depending on his mood at the time?

There is not enough information there to make any meaningful analysis of the statement. That and, as Tim pointed out, emotions are completely scientifically explainable. Logic isn’t the tool we use to explain things, science is. Logic is a part of science, but not the only tool. Logic, used alone, is very, very bad at giving us usable, intelligent answers. How many of us have seen “logical” proofs of God?

The purpose of statements like this is simply to “sound wise”, and they never actually “are wise”. This one is particularly difficult to analyze because of the extreme vagueness in what they are actually saying and the sheer number of things which you must infer from the statement in order to make it a complete thought. Since it is our own minds filling in these gaps we are left with vague notions rather than concrete statements to analyze, making meaningful analysis impossible.

The purpose of statements like this is simply to “sound wise”...
It's what Daniel Dennet calls a 'deepity'.

For those who’ve never heard that term, here’s a video that’s less than two minutes long where Dennet explains what a ‘deepity’ is:



Huh. “We” is all humankind, I thought that was clear. But if you extend to other creatures, then the questions you have later become evidence for the point being made. “Each other” is all inclusive, also don’t see that as a problem. What is the question about a connection? What connection? Seems like all those questions are the very illogical things it points to.

Both of you have stated that emotions of caring are scientifically explainable. I know of theories, but those theories have holes in them. Nature vs Nurture is still a debate. The battle of Might and Right is still going on.

I believe those are explanations in psychology sciences alone. There are evolutionary explanations and chemical explanations as well.

You have to make inferences for any of that to be clear at all. For instance, what is the source of this little blurb? Is it the motivational-type thing it appears to be? Or is it something that somebody said at some survivor’s support group? Because if you were to find out it’s the latter then what you thought was obvious suddenly isn’t such a sure thing any more.

An argument is built up of one or more premises. If taken at face value then we find that this argument has 3 premises. It is saying, using the most liberal interpretation, that people in general have a propensity to care about other people, even those they do not know, that humankind would not exist were that not true, and that it cannot be logically explained why this is true. So let’s look at those premises individually.

Is the first premise true? Do we care about people we don’t even know. The answer is “sometimes”. How much we care about any given group is based solely off how much we relate to that group. Do you think Americans cared very much about the Japanese during WWII? How much did the Nazis care about the Jews? So as a blanket statement, that we necessarily care about each other, the first premise is categorically false.

Is the second premise true? Since the second premise states that we would not exist if the first premise were not true, and the first premise is not true, then this premise is also false. We do exist, so if the first premise is false, this one must also be false.

Is the third premise true? It is neither true nor false, it is invalid. The third premise is that we cannot logically explain the second premise. Since the second premise is false we cannot even logically evaluate it. It would be like trying to locally evaluate the nature of a creature which you just made up and know not to be real. You cannot logically evaluate a falsity.

Nature v nurture is a settled debate for those in the know. Our behavior is a product of one or the other or both, depending on the behavior. Also our microbiomes can have an impact on our behavior. But as far as caring about others, that is a deeply rooted (and by far, primarily, a product of our evolution as a social animal.) Lots of mammals have qualities of empathy and caring for others. It is pretty straightforward.

The 1st part of the above statement, that we could not exist without our caring for each other, seems logically correct, as we would all eventually die if none of us cared about other people. Because we need others to survive and thrive.

I’d say it’s possible to survive without anyone caring for anyone else.

But it would be basic survival. No societies or communities, just substance living in the few areas of the earth where humans can survive alone.

Look at the big cats. Cougars are loners that only come together to mate, yet they survive.

I suppose that if you take the “care about each other” part to the extreme and say that we don’t even care for our young, then, no, we’re toast.

Of course I am including caring about our young and our young caring about us. That is the origin of our extreme social nature. When women began giving birth to babies who needed a long long period of intensive caregiving, our social natures were no doubt enhanced by continued evolution. Had caregivers not cared a lot about their offspring, humans would have died off.

I can get that the word “exist” might be a stretch, something like “exist as we are” might be better, or “thrive” maybe. I could imagine that, without mutual care, we were independent animals, maybe forming a family group for a few years or something, but we could never have accomplished something as simple as building a cement bridge without a lot more cooperation.

So, to the 3 premises by Widdershins:

If we care about people sometimes, that’s sufficient, and I think that is easily proven from just about any dataset of people. Even with the WWII example, some Americans did care about the Japanese. I don’t think Nazi treatment of Jews proves people don’t care about each other. The question of degree doesn’t need to enter as long as you stay away from the extremes.

So that solves the problem of making the 2nd premise false. How can a social creature survive without caring for others? Caring is true by definition.

The difficulty, the illogic of our existence, is then that we obviously do exist, we exist as we do due to our social psychology, yet we can observe a lot of not caring and can even come up with anti-social behavior that benefits a few for a short period.

Another reason I don’t think the scientific reasoning is critical is that it is a fairly recent invention. People were much meaner to each other for most of history, openly so. And the explanations, gods, were constantly questioned with no alternative answer. Yet we survived.

I never suggested that we needed scientific reasoning to survive. I suggested that with scientific reasoning we can easily surmise that we can logically explain that we are emotional creatures shaped by our evolution and environments, and as such we have feelings that include empathic and caring feelings for some others. The feelings themselves are not “logical”, they are emotions. Emotions are not logical. But the understanding that we have emotions IS logical.

Plotting Caring Vs. Success creates a graph with a positive slope, going from 0-caring and 0-survival to… I’m not sure because there are no units to measure caring or success of a species. But whatever the units, the graph will go up as you go to the right.

There might be a point at which too much caring reduces the average individual level of Success, but it’s hard to imagine if or how that would work.

I think I got that Tim.

Good illustration 3 pt.


And that illustrates my point beautifully about needing to define the terms and words we are using. Earlier “we” was “all humankind” and “each other” was “all inclusive”. That sounds to me like “all people at all times”. There were no exceptions or exclusions in those statements. But now we’re saying, “some people some of the time”. Because they were poorly defined and taken to be “obvious”, the definitions have shifted. It’s simple human nature. The definitions we assign to things are assigned based on what we considered when assigning the definitions and are then later modified as we consider new things we hadn’t before. And when we modify those definitions in our heads, especially in a discussion like this, we simply cannot help but for our biases to affect that modification in our favor.

So I would say again, the argument is ill defined and vague, making it impossible to intelligently assess. Any argument I give based on what I take away from it is never going to convince the person who takes away something else from it. The definitions will just keep shifting for both of us, it will never even cross our minds to share those definitions with each other because it’s “obvious”, and we can never reach consensus. I could possibly convince someone that I was right and the statement is wrong, but that wouldn’t make me right. The statement is neither right nor wrong because it is so poorly defined as to be ultimately meaningless. While you may take meaning from it based on definitions you assign, that meaning is your own; a personalized meaning based on an interpretation of the statement. The statement itself has no meaning whatsoever.

There’s a fundamental principle in biology that it seems wasn’t recognized until fairly recently. Namely, you cannot understand an organism without also understanding the environment within which it exists. I believe it’s as true at the microscopic level as it is at the human level.

I think that’s something a lot of people miss, it’s not random mutation, though that happens, but mutations are fairly meaningless until they get directed by the environment the organism is trying to survive within.

For a great informative read on recent (past couple decades) revelations:

Professor Jerry A. Coyne August 23, 2018

Long before he published “On the Origin of Species,” Charles Darwin jotted down his evolutionary ideas in pocket notebooks. One of the most famous of his notes is a drawing from 1837, not long after Darwin returned to England from the voyage of the Beagle. Below the words “I think” is his sketch of how new species could arise by a branching process — explaining how species are descended from a common ancestor. This was a revolutionary idea that remains central to evolutionary biology.

Key to this idea is vertical inheritance. Traits are passed down from generation to generation: Your DNA comes from your parents, just as, on a larger time scale, humans and chimpanzees inherited their DNA from a common ancestor that lived about 7 million years ago. We can reconstruct the evolutionary past by comparing the sequences of this passed-down DNA because, occasionally, copying errors — mutations — occur between generations, so that within any lineage the DNA sequences change slowly over time. Because the human and orangutan DNA sequences had longer to accumulate differences than did the human and chimpanzee ones (15 million vs. 7 million years, respectively), the DNA of chimpanzees and humans is more similar than is the DNA of orangutans and humans. These comparisons are how we make evolutionary trees similar to Darwin’s.

But in his new book, “The Tangled Tree,” science writer David Quammen sees Darwin’s tree image as simply “wrong,” for inheritance may sometimes be horizontal. Imagine that a chunk of orangutan DNA somehow got incorporated into human DNA, perhaps transferred by a virus that first infected an orangutan and then a human. This would be horizontal, not vertical, transmission of DNA, or horizontal gene transfer (HGT). If you looked only at …

Okay so that’s a tangent to the discuss, excuse me.

It’s Tim and π’s fault for distracting me, perhaps with a little help from the hair-splitting direction of the dialogue, next thing I’m way off on my own path.

Not for the first time. :slight_smile:


Hairsplitting is fine. I wrote this in response to the endless hairsplitting that goes on about where we came from and how we survived and why we are “good”. Not surprising that it didn’t end the debate. I don’t think it descends to the level of deepity though. It’s not ambiguous and it’s not obviously false. To make the case that there is logic, i.e. science, that explains why we care about each other, you would need to use the latest advances in neuroscience, biology, evolution and pre-history. None of this was available until recently, and most of it is not widely understood. I’d be surprised to find evidence of a consensus.

But, rather than go down that academic road, think of it in terms of the arguments that are actually occurring. The ones in living rooms, not formal debates. According to some, if it’s true that life arose from chemical reactions and intelligence is merely a continuation of those reactions, then we can’t claim that any of it is rational. I’m essentially conceding that point. I can’t explain it in full, I can only rely on what others have discovered and trust they did their work correctly, which is very similar to relying on the chemical reactions to have gotten it all right. I could talk the philosophy of mind all day and the logic of evolving to fit the physical reality, but no one knows everything, so do I really know anything? A basic premise of science is that you can’t prove anything to 100% certainty, yet, it goes on to base new ideas on those less 100% certain ideas.

Instead, I look to what does exist and sum up all the cooperation and caring that had to happen to build things like the Apocrypha. I skip over the part where that civilization collapsed, because we know all civilizations collapse. We also know that something survives, that people still want to build a better world for their children so they try again despite the evidence of failure everywhere. So, we must care about each other on some level to want to do that.

CC said, “There’s a fundamental principle in biology that it seems wasn’t recognized until fairly recently. Namely, you cannot understand an organism without also understanding the environment within which it exists. I believe it’s as true at the microscopic level as it is at the human level.”

That’s right.

To make the case that there is logic, i.e. science, that explains why we care about each other, you would need to use the latest advances in neuroscience, biology, evolution and pre-history.
Or looking to related Apes, chimps and even mammals. Caring (selective for sure, but so are we) seems to be built in at some fundamental neural network level of complex brains and not limited to mammalian. Which makes sense, first comes procreation, then comes nurturing.


{To me it seems a self-evident fact based on countless observations, and I don’t think I’m being totally unlogical.}


Seems to me, this is simply a word game.