Sunday, July 7, 2013

Disinterested Interests

In the end the principle of my choice really will be my own feeling of painful or not- painful, of pain and pleasure. There is Hume’s famous aphorism which says: If I am given the choice between cutting my little finger and the death of someone else, even if I am forced to cut my little finger, nothing can force me to think that cutting my little finger is preferable to the death of someone else.

So, these are irreducible choices which are non-transferable in relation to the subject. This principle of an irreducible, non-transferable, atomistic individual choice which is unconditionally referred to the subject himself is what is called interest. 

   -M. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, 272.

In fact, what links individuals in civil society is not maximum profit from exchange, it is a series of what could be called “disinterested interests.” What will this be? Well, Ferguson says, what links individuals to each other in civil society is instinct, sentiment, and sympathy, it is the impulses of benevolence individuals feel for each other, but is also the loathing of others, repugnance for the misfortune of individuals, but possibly the pleasure taken in the misfortune of others with whom one will break. This, then, is the first difference between the bonds that bring economic subjects together and those that bring together individuals belonging to civil society: there is a distinct set of non-egoist interests, a distinct interplay of non-egoist, disinterested interests which is much wider than egoism itself.  
   -ibid, 302.

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