Rebirth of Reason


An Error in Ethics
by Craig Haynie

It seems to me that the Socialists, (and those on the Left in the US), make a mistake very similar to those who profess a belief in God. They both try to take an undefinable idea and interject it into their philosophical hierarchy. Years ago, I would have said that the primary problem with a belief in God is that there is a lack of evidence. However, I now realize that it's much more than that. God cannot be defined, and hence, cannot exist by definition. Concepts such as omnipotent, omnipresent, and infinite, aren't concepts with referents that can be found in reality, so they do not allow themselves definition. To be, is to be something definite -- not infinite. So those who believe in God are making a metaphysical error.

In the same fashion, those on the Left make an ethical error, when they assert altruism into their philosophical hierarchy. Altruism demands that the primary beneficiary of one's actions be other people -- anyone other than oneself. The Left adopt several variations of this theme, but the primary variation seems to be a belief in utilitarianism. Utilitarianism demands that the actions people take be directed to the greatest good, as decided by the greatest number of people. Aside from the problems of having to find a definition for "the greatest number" and "the greatest good," both of which are undefinable concepts,† the whole idea is arbitrary, and a belief in it comes without evidence. There is no logical reason for one to believe in utilitarianism, as there is no logical reason to believe that the beneficiary of one's actions be 'the King' or the 'German Race' or some inanimate object like 'the Temple' or God.

The egoist, on the other hand, carries no such baggage. He doesn't have to concretize undefinable concepts; nor explain his arbitrary choices. The requirements for life demand that all living creatures take action in their own best interest, with themselves as the beneficiary of their actions, in order to stay alive. Everyone alive does this; even those who profess to believe that their actions should be directed towards other people, for other reasons. Failure to act on oneís own behalf results in death, and this is all the reason that one needs to believe in egoism.

So why donít those on the Left see this? Why is it that those who are intricately familiar with the scientific method, with minds capable of comprehending highly specific details and abstract concepts, are incapable of understanding that an arbitrary decision in ethics leads to illogical and incorrect results, in the same fashion that an arbitrary decision in science leads to illogical and incorrect results? One cannot contribute to oneís own life by working for the benefit of others, any more than one can build a highly detailed scientific device, by working on oneís car. Ethics is the science of discovering the values needed for life, and should be treated as such. Likewise, the arbitrary has no place here.

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