is conformity to the rules of right conduct; ethics is a system of
moral principals. In essence, ethics is the rules and morality is
following the rules. Thus, these two philosophical subjects are
properly treated together.
There are three approaches to ethics: 1) deontological ethics, of the style usually credited to Immanuel Kant, where the basic focus is to adhere to a set of rules setting forth both the "rights" and the "duties" of each individual and the group; 2) consequentialism, where the ethical focus is on obtaining a "good" result; and 3) virtue ethics, which focuses upon the virtues of action or inaction as the primary, rather than a secondary consideration, but which can be easily harmonized with the other kinds of ethics. Those who have set forth systems of virtue ethics have a difficult time defining their system in terms which do not, at their base, rely upon either the concepts of consequences or of rights and duties, so I initially discard that option. Similarly, deontological ethics would seem to be but a sterile exercise of totalitarian power if a set of rules for the respective "rights" and "duties" of the individual and the group is constructed with no thought at all to the consequences. If you think about it long enough, the primary focus of what constitutes a "right" and what constitutes a "duty" is on the "good" or "bad" consequences which result from choices that are made. Contrast this with the deontological ethics of Kant, which:
"is based uncompromisingly on the search for a single supreme principle of morality, a principle moreover that has rational authority, leading rather than following the passions, and binding on all rational creatures. Every action springs from some subjective principle, or maxim, and the moral worth of an individual lies entirely in the question of whether the maxim of their action is respect for the law, the duty of obeying the categorical imperative. Kant's own application of this test forbid lying, suicide, revolution against the extant political order, solitary sex, and selling one's hair for wig-making, but the extent to which his ethics can be disentangled from its Lutheran matrix is controversial. . . . ."31
It is easy to
see why Ayn Rand spends so much time denigrating Kant, as his ethical
principles are absolutely the opposite of hers, which are based upon
total selfishness of the individual. It would be extremely interesting
to know just what ethics Kant might have derived if his "single supreme
principle of morality" had not been "respect for the law, the duty of
obeying the categorical imperative" but instead, the Golden Rule. That
is certainly another principle which would meet his criteria of having
"rational authority, leading rather than following the passions, and
binding on all rational creatures." It is also a principle which would
lead one to consider the consequences of any particular action or
inaction. Kant's blind faith in law and obedience discards all
consideration of consequences, a stance which those of us in the 20th
century find morally reprehensible. The essence of the Nuremberg War
Crimes Trial was to punish those who claimed that the "categorical
imperative" required them to obey orders without regard to the moral
consequences of those orders. So, while deontological ethics cannot be
rejected out-of-hand, at least not at this point in our discussion, it
would appear to require modification to consider the consequences of
action or inaction before the "rules" are derived. That should lead us
to first consider consequentialism.
As you might guess, unlike the philosophical subjects up to now, there are no easy choices for the "active" mind which chooses to confront the underlying principles of Ethics. Long contemplation confronts you with many bad choices, and only an occasional good choice. The central tension for ethics is the "right" of the group to expect, or to even compel, conformity by the individual to the accepted rules, or group ethics. The essence of the ethics of Kant is that the individual is totally subservient to the group. This concept is abhorrent to Americans, who have based the formation of this country on the principle of "certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
It is part of the fundamental nature of mankind that an individual is not whole without a social relationship to some identifiable group.32 From the moment when a person is born, it is automatically assumed that this individual owes a duty of loyalty to whichever groups the accident of birth has caused that individual to be associated with. And the higher is the level of the civilization of each such group, the more onerous is the duty of loyalty to that group. If we envision any form of "Progress" as the ultimate destiny of mankind, we automatically enslave ourselves and our children through the end of time to that vision of "Progress." The reaction to this tyranny of group identity, of which Kant is merely the most extreme example, leads us to consider granting moral supremacy to the individual.
a. Supremacy Of The Individual
We have a strong
tendency in the United States to consider the individual to be morally
superior to the group. The entire concept of "freedom" is based upon
this idea of the moral supremacy of the individual. We assert that the
group has no right to impose its moral values upon the individual, but
we limit that assertion by an alleged consent of the individual to
various proscriptions imposed by the group. But has the individual
truly consented? Of course not.
What would be the effect of returning moral supremacy to the individual? The only rational conclusion is that this leads to anarchy, where each individual defines what is moral for that individual. There seem to always be a number of advocates of anarchy lurking in the wings, but is anarchy really the answer? Of course not. Anarchy denies the necessity of the social relationship to the group, and is thus anti-survival. It is also marks a return to "The Law of the Jungle."
b. Supremacy Of The Group
If the group
cannot afford to allow each individual to establish his or her own
moral code, then that naturally means that the morality of the group is
superior to that of the individual. Right? The problem with this
concept is that it naturally leads to morally reprehensible ethics of
Kant, and to the most evil episodes in the history of mankind.
Virtually the definition of tyranny in the minds of mankind is the
thought that the state has an absolute right to intrude itself into all
of the affairs of each individual as they go through their everyday
life. But the dictionary definition of tyranny is founded upon the
concept that a tyrant is unjust, so what is "just?"
Something is "just" when it is "1. guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness. 2. done or made according to principle; equitable; proper. 3. based on right; rightful; lawful. 4. in keeping with truth or fact; true; correct. . . ."33 But that seems to be unenlightening as to whether the group or the individual is supreme in matters of morality. In fact, the use of the word "justice" in the definition creates a circularity because "justice" is "the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness."34 We have elected the supremacy of reason for our epistemology, so we are "just" in at least that regard. But our reason informs us of so much in the way of group tyranny down through history. The essential missing element would seem to be "fairness." Group morality tends to be "unfair" to the individuals who are forced to conform in the way of Kant, and this is unjust.
So, we cannot give the group an absolute moral supremacy over the individual, because we know that this leads, either quickly or eventually, to an absolute tyranny as the chosen ends of the group become the overriding moral value to which the individual must conform.35 But we still cannot bring ourselves to accept the anarchy of individual morality, either. Each of us fears what others might do if we allow them to define their morality such that harm to us is allowable.
So, we must sigh and adopt the concept that the morality of the group is superior to the morality of the individual; but we will avoid tyranny by limiting the group morality to only that which is "just," in spite of a fuzzy definition of "just."
c. Limited Group Supremacy
The catch phrase
which we use to identify our concept of the limited moral supremacy of
the group is "individual rights," which is usually seen as more of a
political principle than an ethical one.36
Politics is something different from Ethics, because Politics can only
be exercised by a group, while Ethics is primarily a question for the
individual. But like many of the interrelated concepts within
Philosophy, we cannot rationally discuss Ethics without at least
touching on Politics.
Ayn Rand identifies her fundamental ethical principal by the catch phrase of "rational egoism." Egoism is "1. the habit of valuing everything only in reference to one's personal interest; selfishness (as opposed to altruism). 2. egotism or conceit. 3. Ethics. the view that morality ultimately rests on self interest."37 This is, obviously, a concept of the supremacy of the individual. Accordingly, to evaluate her philosophy in this regard, we must consider whether the limiting word, "rational," in some way prevents the descent into anarchy which would be the natural result of making the individual the supreme ruler of mankind.
I cannot fault her diatribes against altruism; and there are far too many good examples of why societies based on altruism ultimately fail, and usually quite rapidly. So, while some form of egoism does seem like the right answer, it also seems clear that some limit must be imposed upon the individual's selfishness. For Ayn Rand, that limit is established by the word "rational," which appears to mean that the reasoning of each individual will be affected by his or her own personal assessment of the value of the group relationship, and that this assessment will cause each individual to place limits upon their own selfishness in order to ameliorate the harm to the group which absolute selfishness would cause. Personally, I do not feel that the word "rational" imposes any limit at all upon selfishness.
As Will Durant points out, the concepts of Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the selfishness of so-called Natural Morality even led some philosophers to protest against the dysgenic effects of charity.38 As a group, we recoil against the thought that it might be "immoral" to give charity to those less fortunate than us; that we would be better served as a species to allow the unfortunate to die off because they lost the battle for survival.
The aversion we feel towards such thoughts is clearly the product of our modern culture, which has established "entitlements" to a certain level of care for each individual, simply on the basis that the individual belongs to our group. At the present time in the United States, we are battling, not over the fundamental question of whether "entitlements" are necessarily "right" or "wrong," but over the level of "entitlements" which our society can afford to provide. These "entitlements" are a form of altruism which the group imposes upon the individual by way of the system of taxation. In other words, the group demands a certain level of charity from taxpayers, and enforces that demand by collecting taxes for the purpose of funding those "entitlements" which the group has determined are the minimal levels of charity to which each individual is entitled as a matter of that individual's "rights."
In the present political battle on this subject, Newt Gingrich has taken the position that "entitlements" ought to be dismantled in favor of returning those functions to private charities. This does not alter the concept that the unfortunate individuals are "entitled" to be helped by society; it is rather an expression of his personal philosophy that private charitable groups can do so much of a better job at dispensing this sort of aid than can the federal government.
None of this addresses the fundamental question as to which of these two concepts is "right," and must therefore become part of our ethical standards. In fact, when each is stated in bald terms, we develop a natural aversion to them both. Is there some middle ground between the concepts that charity is morally wrong (because it weakens the species by allowing the weak to survive) and that charity is a moral obligation, which may be enforced upon us by group action? The obvious third alternative is voluntary charity, which is what we have traditionally taken charity to mean. But we are dealing with morality, and our moral heritage as Christians commands that the rich must give charity to the poor. To adopt the euphemism of "voluntary" charity is to beg the question of whether or not charity should be a moral obligation.
In the world of rational egoism advocated by Ayn Rand, I will choose to give some minimal amount to charity in times of plenty because I wish to purchase the good feelings which will come upon me from my charitable act, and I value those good feelings greater than I value the contribution which I will make. Thus, my own selfish interests lead me to make charitable contributions, and (she would assert) such contributions should never be mandated by the group. This successfully leads us to that middle alternative, rejecting both the concept that charity ought to be prohibited by the group Ethics and the concept that it ought to be mandated by the group Ethics.
But the nagging feeling remains that this is not "right" in a fundamental moral sense. Do we owe no obligation to the group to perform charitable acts under some set of circumstances? Does the group owe us no charity if we find ourselves to be the victims of circumstance? Must we rely solely upon pleas to the compassion and/or guilt of others for relief from our own adversity?
If we dig deeper, we will discover a dichotomy in our feelings about adversity which is based upon the source of the adversity and the concept of "fault." Our feelings are that if individuals suffer adversity through no fault of their own, they have a right to expect charitable aid from society. But if those same individuals find themselves suffering through the exact same adversity, but the adversity is of their own making (such as what we perceive for drug addicts), they have no right to demand charity from the rest of us. This is the source of our dilemma.
The source of most of our perceived moral obligations derives, in essence, from fear. We fear that, despite all of our care, adversity will strike us and ruin us. We will find ourselves overcome by floods, fires, old age, and/or ill health. Thus, part of our social bond with one another is that if any suffer this sort of adversity, through no fault of their own, the rest of us will rush in to aid the afflicted. If the afflicted person is at fault, we may still offer aid, but the aid will be of a lesser quality and/or quantity, and will be given far more grudgingly, usually in direct proportion to the level of fault which the giver perceives in the individual recipient. The epitome of this latter feeling is our reaction to panhandlers we encounter on the street. Our judgment tells us that each of them has a "better alternative" than to be a panhandler, so our giving to any of them is the most grudging of all.
The model for this appears to be in the form of a social insurance policy. As a member of the group, we adopt the protection of the group, and we can be expected to contribute to the protection of the group. You should recognize this concept from the many debates over the morality of the military draft. If you deny the power of this "duty" to the group, as Ayn Rand does, then you deny the bonds which link us together as a society, and you also deny the group the ability to protect itself (and you). It is thus in the rational self interest of all of Ayn Rand's "rational egoists" to surrender a certain duty to the group as a whole in return for the privilege of belonging to the group, and acquiring a certain level of protection from the group which no individual can provide on their own.
The bottom line becomes that the group morality must be supreme, or else we will not have a group for very long; but the scope of those moral imperatives adopted by the group must be strictly limited, or else the individual members of the group will rebel against the tyranny of the group morality. When we mouth the old bromide of "that government is best which governs least,"39 we are at the same time expressing our concept of a group morality. Thus, the group has a moral right to compel an individual to perform his duty to the group in those cases where either: 1) the group is threatened by an outside force, or is engaged in a struggle for advancement; 2) one or more group members are afflicted with adversity through no fault of their own; or 3) a failure to so compel the individual in question would result in the individual becoming the enemy of the group, such as might result if we fail to compel each individual to receive some minimum amount of moral and intellectual education. In all other circumstances, the group must leave moral decisions to the rational egos of the individuals which comprise the group.
d. An Epistemological Note
I do not believe
it to be possible to reach the conclusion which I just did, above,
without consideration of my own emotional reactions to the concepts
being discussed. It should be noted here because this serves as an
example of the importance of making the right choices when we are
considering Epistemology. Excluding the inputs we receive from our
consciousness and our emotions, as some would surely advocate, would
most likely result in our reaching an entirely different ethical
conclusion: that the group has no right at all to compel an individual
to perform any duty. This is the conclusion drawn by Ayn Rand, who goes
to great lengths to ridicule the concept of duty.
But I believe that each human being has a duty to act as a human being and not as an animal. The animal is entirely selfish, and is devoted to self interest. This is the egoism which Ayn Rand worshipped, but it is NOT what we define as "humanity." Being human involves human emotions, and the greatest source of such emotions is from our interactions with other humans. We must do what we can to cherish the society in which we were nurtured, and we owe that as a duty, in return for that nurturing. As I said above, the source of moral obligations is fear. The moral obligation of society to only impose the minimal amount of duty upon us flows from our own fears of tyranny. We know that others will not cherish our values, and thus we are unlikely to approve of moral choices which are made for us.
But to allow every individual the right to define their own morality, according to their own self interest, raises the fear in the rest of us that each individual is possibly our enemy; we simply have not yet discovered the circumstances in which that other person might betray us. What we really fear the most is living in fear. We wish to order our society in such a way that we eliminate our fears without surrendering our freedoms.
Such choices involve delicate emotional balances which cannot be achieved if your Epistemology denies the validity of using emotional inputs as part of your rational determination of truth. But the supreme analytical engine of your reason must be alert to the need to sift out emotional reactions which result only from those preconceived prejudices which you intend to discard anyway. Eliminating emotions altogether eliminates the need to sift through them, but it also eliminates the essence of our humanity; for it is our emotions which truly make us human.
e. My Ethics
For my ethical
philosophy, I adopt rule utilitarianism, and thus my morality conforms
to a set of rules which are derived from the teachings which should
guide all of mankind, at least if you assume that everyone adopts my
philosophy. In my opinion, rule utilitarianism constitutes a synthesis
(as per the Hegelian dialectic) of the deontological and consequential
forms of ethics. Consequentialism provides the guiding hand to rule
formation, which lacks such guidance in the "pure" deontological form
of Kant. In particular, utilitarianism, with its focus on a measure of
happiness, ought to find favor among those raised to revere their
endowment with "certain unalienable rights, that among these are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The resulting rules may be
promulgated as either a religious or civil code. Obviously, for this
book, I have chosen the form of a religious code.
Given that mankind should rely upon the lessons of human experience for progress in that experience, it is quite natural for mankind to rely upon rules as the representation of those lessons. This is why rule utilitarianism is preferred to other possible forms. Similarly, those who might choose to argue for deontological ethics would do well to consider the Golden Rule as the "single supreme principle of morality, a principle moreover that has rational authority, leading rather than following the passions, and binding on all rational creatures" which was asserted by Kant to be the foundation of a deontological system. It is my assertion that the resulting ethical system would most likely resemble rule utilitarianism.
The ethical system of Utility was most succinctly expressed by John Stuart Mill.40 Short of setting forth a set of utilitarian rules for society to follow, I have little to add to what he and his followers have written on this subject. Accordingly, what follows here should be taken as only a brief synopsis of this topic. All readers are referred to other writings on the subject of Utility for further enlightenment. In particular, I urge you not to neglect the Mill essay "On Liberty" (1859), which should rebut Ayn Rand's assertion that Mill is a proponent of an altruistic "duty" approach to ethics. Ayn Rand could reach such a conclusion only because her focus is on unrestrained selfishness, which I would hope we all can agree is bad. To me, the proper restraint on selfishness is when you begin to subtract happiness from other people in order to satisfy your own selfish desires. It is wrong to do those things.
It seems almost intuitive that mankind seeks pleasure in preference to pain. Thus it is natural for an ethical philosophy to express itself in terms of achieving pleasure in some form or another. It is also natural to find that selfishness is an attribute of evil while unselfishness is an attribute of good.41 Combining those two very simple thoughts yields the basic principle of Utility: When ethical rules are to be used to choose between two or more alternative courses of action, the proper ethical choice is that alternative which yields the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of individuals.42 Accordingly, the goal of the ethical rules is to unselfishly seek to give pleasure to large numbers.
In some ways, this presents a tyranny of the majority. The majority acts to create a rule, and the majority will be pleased to see that the rule is followed, so the rule must be followed because that is how the majority has determined that it will be most pleased. However, if we look at a hypothetical rule by which the majority denies pleasure to all, it will clearly be seen that such a rule is unethical, and therefore immoral. It is the duty of all citizens in a society to oppose immorality.
Merely as an example of the workings of Utility, let us consider a rule by which the majority attempts to deny me the pleasure of viewing pornographic pictures. There is no Utilitarian morality problem with the creation of pornography because the participants achieve some degree of pleasure both from the performance of the acts depicted therein and from the financial rewards associated with performing those acts professionally. If the viewing of images created in this fashion is greatly pleasurable to the majority of men, and it certainly would be if the stigma associated with pornography were removed, then how does a rule against such viewing promote Utility? In other words, for a rule against pleasure to be ethical itself, it must be based upon a clear overriding concern of the majority of individuals in any given society. Absent other considerations,43 this rule fails.
As an example of such an overriding rule, we can examine rules for military conscription. When we conscript our young people into the military services, we consign a certain number of them to mutilation and death. But we do so knowing full well that the larger good of the greater number is served because we have yet to develop any real alternative to the maintenance of a strong military in order to preserve order and protect our citizenry, thus providing the peace necessary for the advancement of human thought. Thus we sacrifice a somewhat randomly selected minority to ensure the continued pleasure of the vast majority.
While there are surely many who deride Utility for various reasons, those who have written thoughtful criticisms of Utility which I have read seemingly have missed the point somewhere along the line. In other words, in my opinion at least, only by a severe misinterpretation of Utility can you find something obviously wrong to criticize. Utility requires a truly deep meditation on the balances to be made when considering issues which are "close calls," one way or another. We should not lightly alter the rules we have derived over the centuries, but neither should we cling to those rules which were derived using a conceptual basis which bears no relationship at all to our current value system.
But the key point to all of this is that it is mankind, not some God, who sets the rules for the conduct of the affairs of mankind. Accordingly, it is only mankind which can establish the value system, or scale, against which each rule or course of conduct is to be measured in order to determine its position on some one dimensional scale of morality. Given that this is true, it is up to mankind to order the values we all adhere to so that we can properly achieve the mission of mankind in this universe. Of course, even this mission is of our own creation, but everyone needs some higher cause to believe in, and so we might as well choose one which will be useful to future generations.
In essence, we can have no higher ethical goal than to pass a better world to our children than that world into which we were born. While there is some potential cause for alarm that this goal might not be met at some point, there clearly is still time for us all to get mankind back on the "right track." It is to that end that this book is directed.
But within that overall context, go forth and pursue your own happiness; it is also your Declaration of Independence. "Don't worry; be happy!" True Ethics for the masses.
f. An Answer To The Critics
I cannot depart
the subject of utility without first defending it against its critics.
Foremost among those would be Ayn Rand, who lists John Stuart Mill as
one of the great enemies of her philosophy. I believe that she misreads
The central thesis of her argument springs from her concept that selfishness is the better ethical concept, as opposed to altruism. Mill asserts that happiness is the proper yardstick of Ethics; the more happiness for the more individuals, the better things are. Ayn Rand reads this as advocating altruism. I read it as advocating controlled selfishness, and it is, in fact, controlled selfishness which we have adopted as our basic model here in the United States. In his 1859 essay "On Liberty," Mill makes clear his belief that the "sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self protection." That is very close to the totally unrestrained selfishness of Ayn Rand herself!
I believe a detailed analysis would show that even controlled (or limited) selfishness tends to produce a great deal of happiness in the selfish individual, while forced altruism tends to produce an equivalent amount of unhappiness in the individuals who are forced to part with those things which they value in order to meet their ethical duties to altruism. Ayn Rand's uncontrolled selfishness produces a few very happy individuals (who are in control) and a large number of unhappy individuals (who comprise the controlled population). Clearly, that is wrong!
It is true that it is possible to read an ethical goal of producing happiness in the greatest number of people as an altruistic goal. And it is certainly true that even in my own concept of Utility, it is possible to inflict a great deal of unhappiness, or even death, on an individual or small group if it is required to enhance the happiness of the group as a whole. But it is a gross oversimplification44 to say that the individual is required in all circumstances to act in an altruistic fashion as opposed to acting in a fashion which selfishly feeds their own happiness.
Utility allows each individual to be totally selfish, so long as they do not impinge upon the domain of some other individual or of the group. This occurs through individual freedom, which Utility requires because tyranny breeds group unhappiness. It is clear that adopting this as a basic rule will result in a great deal of happiness in all individuals. Where the concept of Utility differs from egoism is that it does not give license to unlimited selfishness by all individuals in a society (which has the practical result of the most powerful individuals in a society having their selfishness most readily and completely filled). Instead, Utility draws an arbitrary boundary line which occurs at the point where if one individual increases the level of their selfishness, it will begin to remove happiness from a larger number of other individuals. At that boundary line, the marginal increase in happiness in the selfish individual will be outweighed by the sum total of the marginal decreases in happiness in the other individuals who are affected by that selfishness. A stark example of crossing that boundary line is where the selfish individual uses fraud to gain wealth from a large number of other individuals. Utility prohibits this; egoism does not.
Is it altruistic to devise an ethical code which protects individuals from fraud? Is it altruistic to set limits on the selfishness of individuals? Perhaps it is, but we will set rational limits for the protection of our civilization qua civilization (because we believe that promoting civilized behavior is better than devolving back down to the Law of the Jungle, and that requires the moral supremacy of the group); and we will send each individual out to pursue his or her own happiness in the world, without the guilt which our present system assumes will be the control mechanism.
Based upon her personal ethical standard of absolute individual selfishness, Ayn Rand argues for "a full, perfect, unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism"45 as the only moral economic system. But such a system promotes the clear immorality of fraud. It corrupts civilization by subjecting it once more to the Law of the Jungle. We cannot call ourselves civilized if we allow each individual to pursue his or her own selfish interests, requiring the rest of humanity to defend themselves from each predator among us. As Ayn Rand points out herself, when your primary value is inconsistent with its natural and rational consequences, something is terribly wrong. Here, what is wrong is choosing "rational egoism" as her primary ethical value.
The sort of capitalism envisioned by Ayn Rand only works if the capitalists each perceive it to be in their own best self interest to avoid the worst possible abuses which capitalism can create. But with no other moral code beyond rational egoism, from where comes the sense of violating one's own self interest which is supposed to regulate our capitalistic system? The answer lies in one word: guilt. This guilt is a given if we adhere to Christianity, because Christianity is fundamentally based on guilt. But Ayn Rand, and others of her ilk, have discarded both Christianity and its guilt (and good riddance, too). So, what sort of control mechanism can we install on capitalism, which is merely the economic expression of an ethical value of rational egoism, in order to prevent the sorts of abuse which we know will occur in the absence of a control? The only rational answer is Utility, which can be derived as an expression of the widely admired Golden Rule.
Utility should be viewed as a modified version of egoism, with a control system installed to prevent willful harm to others, and to society as a whole. Each individual is still allowed to pursue his or her own selfish desires, but only up to a point. That point occurs where the selfishness of the individual in question begins to inflict harm upon others or upon the group. No group of humans can call itself civilized if it allows its members to willfully inflict harm upon others or upon itself. The ultimate Ayn Rand capitalists are the street gangs which we all despise. Those gangs pursue their own selfish interests without regard to the harm which they inflict upon others and upon our society. Do they really care who is injured in a drive-by shooting? Of course not. What is the cure? Limits on selfishness. How? With Utility as the basic ethical primary value, not egoism (selfishness).
31 "The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy" (1996), by Simon Blackburn, the entry for Kant.
32 The classic expression of this thought comes from John Donne (1572-1631): "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624), number 17.) However, the thought traces itself back to at least Romans 14:7, which reads: "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself." But that thought is modified by the following verse, which reads: "for if we live, we live for the Lord, or of we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." This emphasizes the social relationship of each Christian to the group: the Christian Church.
33 Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, 1993.
34 Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, 1993.
35 Consider the dilemma of the soldier confronted with an order which will lead to committing a war crime (i.e., a massacre of a group of civilians). If the soldier disobeys, he may be executed by his commander for disobedience. But if he does not, he may be persecuted (or executed) by the eventual victors for his failure to disobey! This is one unresolvable conflict in our morality.
36 See, e.g., Ayn Rand's book, Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982), page 27.
37 Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, 1993.
38 The Mansions of Philosophy, 1929, page 136.
39 The thought apparently originates with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), in Essays: Second Series (1844), Politics, he says: "The less government we have, the better - the fewer laws, and the less confided power."
40 Most philosophers merely re-state some expression of conventional wisdom, even if they appear to be offering an inspiring insight. Mill is no exception. While Mill is the principle author who refined the concept of Utility, it is easy to find expressions of Utilitarian thought which trace back many centuries. Any historical ruler who placed the good of the population as a whole above the good of some segment of the population was expressing a Utilitarian moral choice. In modern times, we would refer to such a ruler as "wise," but that is clearly a value judgment based upon our own upbringing in a Utilitarian world.
41 A clear example of this is the so-called Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or more briefly, "Do as you would be done by."
42 Scholars of Western Civilization classify philosophies in various ways. The philosophy I express is a derivative of universalistic hedonism, or Utilitarianism, which is based upon a formula which is usually expressed as the "greatest pleasure of the greatest number." Since most people do not have the time for large amounts of introspective thought when confronted with a moral choice, I propose using a set of rules by which each individual can take a shortcut to making the proper choice. Thus, formally speaking, I advocate "rule" Utilitarianism as the proper philosophy of life.
43 And I do not deny that there are other considerations. The most obvious is the use of children in the production of pornography. The next would be the complaints of feminists that materials of this type promote the view of women as mere sex objects. In a manner which is very similar to the way in which our current society attempts to forge a moral consensus, all such considerations must be given their proper weight before a final conclusion results in rule formation.
44 A complex balance is required, which is why so-called "rules" must be developed, to aid each individual in striking those balances when confronted with ethical choices.
45 See Ayn Rand's book, Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982), Faith and Force, page 80.
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