Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Socrates said all men seek to do good. If they do evil, it’s because they don’t know what is good.

This is absurd. People don’t need a Socrates to tell them what is good. Common sense tells them that. Yet they pretend to believe this, and seek teachers willing to embarrass themselves by presuming to tell people what they already know.

Most people don’t do what common sense tells them is good, because they think they have no choice but to do what they must. They try not to think about whether what they do is good or evil, and pretend that someone wiser than they must tell them.

Most people try not to think, but even the most self-centered know they're members of a community, and what's good for them may not be good for the other members of that community.

In the childhood of our race, we thought that community included other beings, some of whom were superior to us, while others were inferior. Our relationship to the superior beings resembled that of a child to its parent. If we prospered, it was because we pleased those superior beings. If we suffered, it was because we had angered them. And because we are rational animals, they held us responsible for the welfare of our inferiors, animals without reason, as parents hold their older children responsible for their younger siblings.

But as human society grew larger and more complex, we no longer thought of ourselves as members of a community, an extended family. We seemed more like cells of a body.

An individual could no more survive outside of his community, the body politic, than a cell could survive outside of its body. Society was too complex for any one person to understand, any more than a cell can understood the body to which it belongs. People suspected their welfare was of no more concern to the community to which they belonged than the individual cells of their own bodies were to them.

Then scientists told us that this world is not a body, alive as we are alive. It resembles a machine more than it does a living organism.

People concluded there is no community. Good and evil have no meaning except to the individual. Good is whatever is good for us, regardless of its consequences for others.

People who prosper usually do so at the expense of others. If and when they try to justify what appears to others, and perhaps to themselves, to be unjust, they claim it only appears unjust from the loser’s point of view. Their victory is actually good for everyone because long before Spencer people believed in the survival of the fittest. Everyone admired the victor, even the vanquished.

But now they know that, by enriching themselves at the expense of others, they've destroyed the world and themselves as well, like a parasite that dies with the host on which it feeds.  

They now know that what they’ve done is evil as they define evil – destructive not only to others, but to themselves as well - but rather than try to save themselves by doing what is good for everyone, they go on doing what they’ve been doing and try not to think about the consequences; or they think just enough to try justifying themselves. Man, as Swift said, is not an animal that reasons (animal rationale) but an animal capable of reasoning (animal rationis capax), and resorts to reason only when force fails.

People are right to think that good and evil do not exist except in relation to us. What kills us is not evil in an absolute sense, not even if it kills the world as well, because the world is not alive as we are alive; therefore it will not die as we will. It will only change. It is only we who die.

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