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It seems that I always place myself first and seldomly think of other people. Is this egotistical?I wanna understand the nature, of my personality. I have trouble opening to people, too. I dont understand, i also have poor self love. human.

I worte down i thought kindess is: "I think kindness is only human because it is the strength to spread love and peace, from the inside to another."

asked May 15 '12 at 01:44

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Sage
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edited Sep 09 '12 at 22:28

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Andrew Dalton ♦
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Focus more on the self love part. Don't worry about other people for now. You can't love/give to other people anyway if you can't love/give to yourself first.

(May 15 '12 at 02:43) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

I changed the title a bit, since the original ("How is kindness a virtue?") implies that we all agree that it is, and in fact we do not. ;-)

(Sep 09 '12 at 22:27) Andrew Dalton ♦ Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

Wikipedia says:

"Kindness is the act or the state of being kind, being marked by good and charitable behavior, pleasant disposition, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognized as a value in many cultures and religions (see ethics in religion)."

Kindness as such is a package deal. It bundles together "good" behavior with "charitable" behavior a "pleasant disposition", and "concern for others". That's:

  • acting properly
  • helping people who need it
  • not being grumpy (or "being pleasant")
  • caring about others

The first of the above four doesn't help us if we are trying to find why kindness is a virtue.

The other three are debatable, or at least conditional virtues. Taking them in order:

  • You should only help people who need it if you can afford to. That is, after you help them, you should be better off than before, taking into account your health, your wealth, and your spiritual state. Helping an evil person who needs it is bad for your soul. Helping a good person, when the price is your own future health and happiness, is not worth it unless they are someone you love.
  • An actually pleasant attitude is the result of feeling benevolent. Many people fake a pleasant attitude when they don't feel benevolent at all. This isn't a virtue at all, but is, instead a form of dishonesty and repression which makes a person uglier and uglier over time. Benevolence is an emotion, not a virtue. One should not try to feel any particular emotion, because emotions are automatic. Yes, benevolence is a good emotion to have, but it is a reward of virtue, not a virtue in itself. Don't fake how you feel. Control how you act.
  • Caring about others is a fact about your mental motivation. When you care about someone, you are curious about how they are doing -- about whether they are happy. Actually, curiosity is an emotion. It's a desire to know something. Again, like benevolence, since it is an emotion, it is outside the realm of virtue.

Taken as a complex, the above three attributes of a person can be understood as being what other people would like you to be. Most people want kindness in other people. A kind person is someone you can depend on to help you if you need it, they'll have a positive attitude and therefore won't annoy you or bring you down, and they are someone who cares how well you are doing.

Observe, though, that all of the above actions are proper actions towards someone you actually value.

To "be kind," as observed by others, is to treat them as if you value them.

The big question is: do you? If you do, then you should "be kind", though, in fact, there's no moral commandment necessary. We are kind towards people we value. No moralist need "guilt us" into it.

It's only towards people we don't value that the words "be kind" can make any sense, and, in fact, they mean the same as "have mercy." It is this meaning of "be kind" that is relevant in The Fountainhead when Howard Roark says to Peter Keating: "I'm not kind, Peter".

Kindness, in fact, can be a vice. It depends on whom you are being kind to. And when you are being kind to the right people, it's pretty automatic.

So I suggest forgetting about kindness as a virtue. Focus on justice instead. It is the fundamental and crucial virtue regarding the treatment of other people.

Kindness is just "being nice", regardless of how just it is.

answered Sep 09 '12 at 18:36

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John Paquette ♦
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edited Sep 09 '12 at 22:02

If you have aspirations at being a leader of any type, being just is an absolute virtue. Being kind is also immensely helpful, especially to people who are exhibiting correct values and acting properly. I see guys like John Allison as being great examples of what I am speaking of. I am sure people love being around these types for their obvious achievements coupled to their sunny kindness. I agree with your observations above but I do think if Objectivists want to create a real impact in the real world, kindness (not of the sappy kind and certainly not being kind to evil people) can help.

(Sep 09 '12 at 19:23) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Justice implies being kind to people you have no reason to dislike. There is no need to focus on kindness in addition to justice. Treat people justly and you'll appear to be quite kind to anyone who deserves it.

(Sep 09 '12 at 22:09) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image
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Virtues are the actions by which we gain and keep our values.

The primary virtues are: honesty, integrity, independence, justice, pride, productivity and rationality.

I would consider kindness to be a secondary virtue. Secondary, because part of what it means to be kind is to be honest, to have integrity, to be just, and so on.

However, like all virtues, kindness is only a virtue in the proper context. If you are kind to someone at your own expense, out of a sense of duty, or in a self-deprecating way, then that's not a virtue; it's self-destruction.

For someone who truly places themselves first, kindness is a virtue because in order to live a happy and fulfilling life, we need other people; those who are unkind or cruel tend to drive away and alienate others, not attract them.

answered May 16 '12 at 05:49

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Rick ♦
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I think you're underplaying kindness as it affects many of the primary virtues. It is hard for a very unkind person to be productive (you need some other people working with you to build anything but the simplest thing). Similarly it is hard to have a wholesome sense of pride if your pride comes from being cruel or unkind. That said, you do point out something critical: be kind for yourself not for "duty" or martyrdom or self-sacrifice. The most kind people I have met are genuinely happy and that's what it's really all about.

(Sep 09 '12 at 16:55) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

As John indicates in his answer, kindness is simply not a moral virtue. Moral virtues are absolute principles in very broad contexts -- they are basically always-on guidance for human survival and flourishing. In contrast, a policy which is sometimes helpful for human life and other times damaging (like kindness) can't qualify as a moral virtue no matter how wonderful it is in those times that it is not damaging. John has it right: focusing on actual virtues like justice and integrity will lead you to engage in kind treatment of others when it is appropriate. The reverse focus is dangerous.

(Sep 10 '12 at 02:47) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

In this regard, you may enjoy Dr. Tara Smith's chapter on "Implications for Certain Conventional Virtues: Charity, Generosity, Kindness, Temperance" in her book Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics.

(Sep 10 '12 at 02:50) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

I have added to "will read" list ;-)

(Sep 10 '12 at 10:52) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image
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Asked: May 15 '12 at 01:44

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Last updated: Sep 10 '12 at 10:52