12

Let’s say there’s a person, Z. Z has decided that his goal in life is to get as much money as possible, and at the end, to upload his consciousness into a robot/computer to live forever in his fortunes.

Hence, he eschews all romantic relationships and all thoughts of having a family or children, as he considers them a waste of time. He also doesn’t care about how other people view him (to the extent that they don’t kill him out of hatred, so no huge obvious scandals or anything), so he won’t donate to charity or spend all his money on “frivolous luxuries” like cars, mansions or fashion, or try to become admired, loved, or famous (unless of course it gets him more money)

The only thing that drives him is watching his bank account number going up. If making friends with finance people will make his wealth grow faster, he will make friends with finance people. If going into politics will make him wealthier, he will do so. If starting a reality TV show about his life will increase his wealth, he will start a reality TV show. If marginalizing some group will make him money, he will—- but however, if marginalizing that group of people will cause his business to fail more than it gains or something (at least so far as he can predict), he will not do it. And etcetera.

  1. Are there any moral/philosophical objections to this kind of life? Any social, practical, economic, etc. concerns?
  2. More importantly: Are there reasons/Is it right to convince Person Z to not follow this lifestyle? I don’t think that the Aristotle writings would change Z’s mind.
  3. Is there any degree of wealth where the person who is wealthy is inevitably harmed by his riches? If no, does that mean that there is no way to convince a rich person to give money away?

Sorry if I worded it badly, I can elaborate on whatever you need.

edit: This is not based off of Trump. Person Z does not care about power or popularity or appreciation from a fanbase or pornstars, nor does he care about spending any of his money beyond necessities and small luxuries and further money making schemes; he just wants to live forever with as much money as possible

closed as primarily opinion-based by curiousdannii, Bread, Swami Vishwananda, Geoffrey Thomas Apr 26 at 10:42

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 4
    Seems like a very impoverished life. But if this is supposed to be modeled on Trump, it is off. People who are said to "only care about money" actually care about something else that the money brings: luxury, self-indulgence, ego-stroking, lack of material concerns, power, popularity, etc. There are of course objections from the point of view of standard moral systems with typical virtues, or values, or rules, but that is obvious, so it is a little unclear what you are looking for. – Conifold Apr 24 at 22:42
  • 4
    Everyone is running their own race. I see no eason why devoting oneself to the accumulation of wealth would be any different from devoting oneself to any other thing. Though personally.devotion to a single purpose seems wasteful. – Richard Apr 24 at 22:47
  • 3
    Your second question is off-topic here. We cannot give you personal advice how to convince someone to pursue a certain lifestyle – Eliran Apr 25 at 0:01
  • 4
    Regardless of motives, the malignant pursuit of wealth consumes far too much in natural resources, depriving others of shelter, food, water, clean air and soil, etc. It drives inflation, because of the shortage of resources which have been wasted or hoarded by the wealthy. It promotes pollution and destroys the very structure of the planet because of all the mining, transportation, technology, commerce, and industry involved in profiteering. It promotes human trafficking for cheap labor. It's an offense against both God (or Nature) and the human species. It has no redeeming qualities. – Bread Apr 25 at 0:39
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    @user39404 I'm sorry, but I thought this was an ethics question asking about moral objections. Yet, how can it not be harmful for someone who destroys his own society and environment? Are we to believe that such a person could be at all healthy, being completely detached from everything but himself? – Bread Apr 25 at 1:22
15

Yes (well assuming you're using "moral" in any of the normal senses).

Aristotle objected to this in Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics.

In chapter 5, Aristotle suggests there are three candidates for the "good life":

  1. Pleasure
  2. Honor
  3. Virtue

He then as an aside says the following:

The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else. And so one might rather take the aforenamed objects to be ends; for they are loved for themselves. But it is evident that not even these are ends; yet many arguments have been thrown away in support of them. Let us leave this subject, then (Nicomachean Ethics BK I.5)

At least on Aristotle's read, it makes no sense to make money the goal, because money is a tool used to acquire other things. In which case, money is not the goal -- it is the tool one sees as necessary to whatever one thinks the goal is. (to be more precise, money can only be an intermediate and not a final end, because it cannot logically be pursued for the sake of itself)

Stated another way, a logical (and perhaps moral) objection is that the pursuit of money for money's sake is an act of sheer idiocy. Money only has value in exchange for something.

  • If the goal is to buy things, then it may be that money is actually being accumulated for pleasure.
  • If the goal is to receive honor because you have a lot of money, then that's the goal (a billionaire's life is not materially altered by adding another billion, but the fame of having a growing fortune could be someone's end).
  • If the goal is to have what is necessary for virtue (and enough things to live a life of relative ease are necessary for Aristotle's picture) then that's the real goal.

In an interesting way, Aristotle captures the later objections that could be raised by utilitarians -- since they would see pleasure ("happiness") as the goal.

  • 2
    Overall, I agree with this answer, but the line of reasoning seems to suggest that collecting anything just for the sake of collecting it is illogical and possibly immoral. Collecting rocks, for example, could give me pleasure, and qualify as part of a "good" life. I don't see why collecting dollar bills should be any different - some people truly do enjoy having money, and not because of the things it can buy. – Nuclear Wang Apr 25 at 13:20
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    @llama An economy isn't a zero-sum game; I don't deprive you of a dollar by keeping it for myself. In fact, if I invest that dollar, I can tally that as part of my net worth, while allowing someone else to use the value of that money in the meantime. By spending the dollar, only one of us can have it, but by investing it, both of us can use it. – Nuclear Wang Apr 25 at 20:51
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    @NuclearWang in that case, they are not interested in money qua money; they are interested in money qua points. This isn't quite the same thing as collecting it for no reason nor does it require them to collect only unique bills. So that's not really a disagreement with Aristotle -- it's the same point he's making -- money is an intermediate end and never a final one. – virmaior Apr 25 at 22:21
  • 1
    @virmaior No, that's completely orthogonal. Even if you want to collect money for money's sake, you would invest it - it's the best way to get more money (if we ignore all the shady and outright illegal stuff). The side-effect of that would be (very slightly) improving the living standards of everyone else, through the accumulation of capital. And if you really want loads of money, you better put it where it makes the most sense - to yield as much return as possible. Nuclear was just fighting the stunningly common misconception that making money means someone else has a loss. – Luaan Apr 26 at 6:27
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    @JAB You're just projecting some subjective values on the matter. People can have pleasure from mere increase in the thickness of their money stack. They might use banknotes to pave their road or plaster their walls. They might enjoy making a large hole and filling it with banknotes. They might enjoy the number increasing on their bank account, or the movements of their securities on the market. Heck, people enjoy watching the number of steps they've taken over their lifetime increase on their smartphone (and no, it's not about socializing or exercise for everyone). – Luaan Apr 26 at 6:30
11

I think the moral argument against a life purely motivated by money is simple.

Increasing wealth alone benefits no one, including the “wealthy” person, therefore it is not “good.” It could easily do great good, but doesn’t, therefore it is in fact “bad.” This is like the “good man” who does nothing when bad things happen, and therefore is bad.


Some other points which are not perhaps purely moral arguments I can think of are:

If one gains all the money in the world, and doesn’t use it, are they really rich?

If they use it, but do nothing noteworthy, did it matter?

If they do things that matter, but don’t care, was it worth it?

To have a great wealth of money isn’t the same as having great value.

To paraphrase Aristotle, money is just a tool, the wealth is in the doing and the pleasure gained from it.

To amass great riches and not use it is like a bird of the sky who, having gained its feathers, never flies.

Something is wrong with the bird.

  • very nice answer. – debo.stackoverflow Apr 25 at 7:29
  • 1
    He's motivated not by money, but what you can do with it, which he believes can literally remove his human condition, and thus escape death. If that were possible, I'd say there's something wrong with everyone else. – Mazura Apr 26 at 5:50
  • Optimally increasing wealth brings massive benefits to everyone that's part of the economy in question. It means investing money in worthwhile activities, accumulating capital and increasing the average living standards. It's very hard to amass money today without benefiting the people. Unless you go the political/illegal route, of course. Every dollar you invest to get more out is a dollar that very slightly improves the productivity of labor, and thus the purchasing power of the dollar. Even outright hoarding, stupid as it is, means that the money remaining in circulation is worth more. – Luaan Apr 26 at 6:34
2
  1. Are there any moral/philosophical objections to this kind of life?

The chief philosophical objection is that money is not an end unto itself - If money brings that person happiness (or that's what the person imagines), then happiness is what the person is after. Then their life is not purely motivated by money, but by the desire for happiness.

If the person does not care about happiness, but only about money, there is a clear concern: The person will (probably, unless money coincidentally makes them happy) be less happy than if they had more happiness.

If the person actually is purely motivated by money, of course this concern also becomes void: If a person is purely motivated by money, they do not care about happiness, unless happiness makes them money. So if they are in fact only motivated by one thing, there is nowhere to look for goals or states that should outrank that motivation - there is only that motivation by assumption.

  1. Is it right to convince the person not to follow that lifestyle?

That's an ethical question, and the answer will depend on your ethical system (if you have one.) But, assuming that what the person is really after is happiness, rather than money, most systems would agree that pointing that out to the person, and showing them how their quest for more money impedes their happiness, would be not only ethically unproblematic, but a decent thing to do.

  1. Is there any degree of wealth where the person who is wealthy is inevitably harmed by his riches? If no, does that mean that there is no way to convince a rich person to give money away?

Assume the following:

  • There is no such degree of wealth; an increase of wealth by itself never harms the owner.
  • Harm is decrease of happiness, good is increase of happiness. (Not moral good, but what's good for me)

Even then there are plenty of situations where a person could increase their happiness by giving money away. Social bonds increase our happiness. Doing what we think is the right thing gives us happiness. Gaining either of these will often coincide with giving away (part of) our wealth. Therefore, there will be lots of reason where it is better for a person to give money away, even though more wealth in itself would have been a good rather than harm for that person.

  • 1
    This dude doesn't want to die. That's a pretty reasonable concern. +1 – Mazura Apr 26 at 5:56
  • Joined to upvote this as a refreshingly 'model-neutral' answer. – Ynneadwraith Apr 26 at 9:15
1

Like for any moral question, you have to pick a moral framework to be able to get an answer.

For example, I know of no religion that would approve of person Z.

Kant would say that person Z's behavior is contrary to reason, as "accumulate as much money as possible without caring for anything else" can not be made into an universal law (In layman terms: "what if everybody did the same? Society would collapse and you would end up with no money at all, so don't do it")

Relativists like Nietzsche or Spinoza, for whom there is no such thing as universal good, but only what is good for me and what is good for you, would tell him "sure, man. Whatever gets you your kicks as long as you don't prevent me to get mine."

Now, depending on your moral framework, you have according arguments to sway person Z.

A religious person would tell him *"What you are doing is bad, my god disaproves of it." To which person Z would probably reply "well I don't believe in your god, so go away".

A Kantian would tell him his behavior is contrary to reason: "What if everybody did like you ?" to which person Z would reply "well, precisely, NOT everybody does like me and it works quite ok for me so far. Seems quite reasonable to me. So go away."

If Relativists would consider that person Z's behavior is bad for them, they would break his knees, take his money and, why not, distribute it. If they have any advice for person Z, they would tell her/him that she/he has to live with the consequences of his/her choices. Person Z would be wise to do basic risk assessment, like for example make sure his plan to upload his mind in a computer is realist.

  • My religion is science, and I do not approve of this message (imaginary -1). – Mazura Apr 26 at 5:53
0

There could be nothing wrong about making money. There could be nothing wrong about rejecting any too specific thing for it being a waste of time, if they could universally legally live without it, no matter how common it is in your eyes.

You only feel there is a problem when he is perceived as "only" motivated by money. Here is a problem: it's very difficult to prove a negative, namely there is exactly nothing beside money that could motivate him. If he claims you don't know him, and he has other objectives that you just don't understand, I don't think there is any easy way to continue the discussion.

So let's assume this is a philosophical question, and both of you agree on Z's way of thinking exactly.

The point is, does his way of making money contribute to the world and society? If we ignore minor details and the imperfectness of reality, money could mean the following two things:

  1. A way to model the contributions to the world. The people with the most contributions should get more.
  2. A measure for the resources in the world someone could control.

By not actually wanting to control any resources, he gives up #2. For #1, as a kind of contribution, it is obviously morally good. He could be better by donating to charity, etc. But not doing so doesn't make him bad. There is nothing wrong until he has so much money (some percents of total money) that he becomes a headache of the government. In that case, they may create specific rules against him, and we couldn't talk about morality anymore when it becomes a legal problem. Before this happens, prices falls or the government issues more money to compensate him not using his money for anything. Nothing would change much. He is at worst only considered a kind of risk if he suddenly uses all his money, but that never actually happens.

If we take the minor details and imperfectness into consideration, the logic still hold, but the way we understand it would change much.

We know that money is quite a crude model of the actual contributions. He may make money by doing immoral things, which simplifies the question. (If he is immoral, he is still immoral if he also makes money.) If not, there are two ends of ways potentially making enough money that is worth discussion:

  1. By inventing something very valuable using his knowledge or other abilities.
  2. By investment, that he could put the money or other resources somewhere and simply forget them.

Many of the actual ways lies in between.

For pure #2, if that really doesn't require him to do anything, he would simply feel empty. It would become a psychological problem for him instead of a moral one. He would now control some resources using his money. But the people managing his money would be just normal people, and would do most of the things you would expect from a normal person.

#1 would slowly degenerate. Z would not consider the number increment appealing forever if he simply keeps repeating the same task. If he intends to keep making significantly more money than normal people, he has to learn a lot of new things and make predictions about the future. It would not be as simple as everyone knows how to make money, and he simply does that. He may ends up trying whatever you have considered useless for him at least once in the infinite time he has, just to make him open to chances or understand the market, and doesn't demand immediate payback.

On the other hand, if you do something valuable for whatever reasons, you will expect some reward. You may still do it even if there isn't any obvious reward, but there would be reward for similar things at one point if you had the chance to live forever.

In the end, the two ways of thinking wouldn't be that different. Unless Z does something immoral, he is just contributing to some otherwise irrelevant people in some form, while not contributing to the people you have specified. But Z is likely oversimplifying the problem, and you might not be so optimistic about any politics involved, which may have created the difference. Possible consequences include:

  • Z is not actually able to keep making that much of money, which mostly hurts himself.
  • Z neglects moral responsibility for other reasons, and we blame him for other reasons.
  • Z prefers profitable jobs to useful jobs more than normal people. It is difficult to blame Z as the market balances itself.
  • Z doesn't push for making the world more fair, and doesn't set an example himself. This is like not voting in politics. It's difficult to decide the morality and may need a separate question.

People could have a false sense of security for things mostly #2 that need a bit #1. They may keep their position for much longer time. But in the end, they would have the same problem of #1: Any part that needs intervention would slowly degenerate. They fall to the basic interest rate if someone never improve in infinite time.

There is another small thing: Any person who have really a lot of money and behaves weirdly would possibly disrupt the market, such as damage some jobs slightly or produce useless things. But that isn't specific to Z. It could apply to anyone who has a lot of money and a rare hobby. So it cannot be considered immoral.

Now answering the questions:

  1. To my eyes, most people who has said they are like this may not have a moral and practical way of guaranteeing profit in the long run. They may depend on various prerequisites that doesn't hold yet. We could simplify this as: Z has misinterpreted the meaning of money, which should reflect actual contributions, which naturally has uncertainty for valuable enough things. But not having profit has nothing immoral if they don't have too much money. If they have too much money, that may involve wasting resource, but that could still be considered to be their incapability. If the prerequisites actually hold, they may simply appear as either busy people or lonely people. They are doing useful work for someone. Whether they are satisfied by the number hardly becomes important. And there isn't anything immoral involved.
  2. You could mock him if he ends up making less money than normal people, or blame him if he does any other immoral things. It's very difficult to guarantee a success in all cases, which could be observed in some Ponzi schemes. There are ways for individual cases but I'll not expand in this answer.
  3. No and no. There are many cults that could convince people give money away, and for no good reasons. Why not just leave them in the bank? The question is worded like begging.

Saying Z lives forever somehow simplifies the problem a bit, as everything has to happen sooner or later. Mortal people would have a point that they feel they should stop learning and being open to more chances. Some people could delay this indefinitely, but it's difficult to persuade someone they can too.

0
  1. Whether or not it is moral is only for him to decide. Years from now his ideas could be feasible and his volition just may allow him to grow into the sort of being that can live forever. It seems he views money as a tool and a life source more than as a means of pleasure, according to you.

  2. What wrong could be done if you manage to convince him? I would say disallowing him to ever realize his goals is controlling, but aside from forcing him to comply with your agenda (or anyone else's), nothing you do will ever be of any moral importance to him, unless he is irrational. As for how moral it is to the rest of humanity, it depends on how cowardly you view humanity as. If we are wimpy, fearful beings, we will assume he means us harm. Else, we will coexist with it.

  3. Money can't harm a person, even if they own it. It's how they money is used. A backwards example might be that I say I own the world, but I'm sure you can imagine ways in which using this resource could be harmful. The same goes for money. As far as I can tell, there is nothing wrong with having lots of money, it's how people obtain it and then use it that is worth being scrutinized.

I think it's fair to call this greed. Greed indicates insecurity, like everything else, but forcing someone to not be greedy does not take away the insecurity. I suggest you wait and see if what he is doing will have any mal effect on him or others. It's always his choice what to do with the short time he has on this Earth, and while you may want the best for him, there is no way you can quantifiably say what he is doing will not ever come of good. People are allowed to want money, to whatever extent they please. How they go about doing that determines their character, and how you go about accepting that determines yours. Simple.

0

Most has been said. The problem, if any, is not moral, but practical.

The reality is that no one will be able to pursue money his entire life without linking it to a greater purpose. You have to believe in something big to be willing to devote your entire life to it, else you are going to feel hollow and question it at some point. And just seeing a growing number on your account can not be it, because, just as is, it has no tangible effect in your life and that of others. It's like counting to infinity, try to tell yourself "that's what I'm going to devote my life to, counting the furthest I can".

Therefore if person Z is pursuing money there MUST be something else that they get from it, and it's probably going to evolve as time goes. Money serves as a security (in the beginning it can also feel as a help to raise your children, get new experiences, etc. even if you don't realize it), maybe an indicator of success, proving yourself to your parents, or that you're worthy to yourself… It could also be the process of getting rich itself that Z is finding interesting (mentally stimulating, requiring friendships, seizing opportunities, etc.).

There is no reason to convince person Z that the pursuit of money is bad. If person Z is going to be harmed, it is not by their riches, it is by their own choice of commitments. If that person Z has a genuine reason, stable over time, for accumulating the money, she may live happy. If the reason was to counter something else (such as a low self-esteem, compensated by hot women obtained by using the money) instead of acting on the matter itself, then it is going to get a little more stormy as time goes.

  • 1
    "something else that they get from it" - yeah, he's after eternal life living in a computer. (why is everyone ignoring that?) – Mazura Apr 26 at 6:01
-2

Money is a tool/medium/channel/etc. Everyone knows it.

When man is working so closely in one thing, overtime, he might not see the big picture anymore, and therefore lose track. Example, a man is working hard and long hours to get money to make his and his family's life easier (and therefore happier). Gradually, he keeps working harder and longer, until he doesn't spend anytime with them. So in reality he's making their lives easier but not happier. He lost track of his goal and he can't see it.

I had a discussion with 2 guys, who I said: "Money can make someone happy, but not necessarily."

And their reply was: "Anyone who believes money can't make him happy, then he never had enough of it."

So the answer to your 2nd question: No (most probably), you can't change his mind, he's a robot already.

Edit

The discussion I had with the 2 guys was hilarious to me, and I completely disagree with them. The point is, some people have different perspective to how they see money.

  • 3
    One may say with equal conviction: "Anyone who believes money can make him happy, then he never had enough of it." – christo183 Apr 25 at 12:22
  • So? Nothing can make you happy "necessarily". How is money any different? And it doesn't apply to Z anyway - his goal is to have as much money as possible forever. He wants money, not things you can buy with money (besides what makes him more money - i.e. investment - and what makes him live longer - i.e. immortality). It's like wanting to have the most water, or the biggest ball of yarn. – Luaan Apr 26 at 6:43

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