Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Monday, February 29, 2016
Is Donald Trump a Utilitarian, a Consequentialist or an Objectivist?
John Stuart Mill (London Stereoscopic Company)
Is Donald Trump a utilitarian, a consequentialist or an
objectivist and follower of Ayn Rand who trumpeted a belief in individualism,
willpower and self-interest? On the spectrum of amoral philosophical systems,
objectivism is obviously the most extreme. Utilitarian thinking was developed
by the 19th century philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill
and the idea is basically that usefulness or goodness is defined by the amount of
pleasure produced by an action less the displeasure derived from effecting it.
Consequentialism is a slighter broader view emphasizing product over process
and looking at the value of all action in terms of what results from it, rather
than its morality. There have been attempts to unite the utilitarian idea with the notion of goodness, particularly by the English philosopher Derek Parfitt (On What Matters) but generally the notions of morality and efficacity don't go hand in hand. Mr. Trump’s plans and promises have been criticized for
being sketchy, but the little we know indicates that he's a candidate who's result orientated, often to the detriment of what Kant termed categorical imperatives. For
instance, his plan to stop Muslims from coming into the country is
discriminatory. Why not stop all Hindus from coming into the States because of
extremist elements who have committed violent acts, the same with right wing
Jews and Buddhist sects in Myanmar who have committed violent acts
against Muslims? Who says these folks don’t have their own form of
millenarianism which could be a danger to the American people? You get things
done, but at what cost? Americans have inalienable rights. Will these be
trampled in the name of expedience? Will the essence of democracy be lost? However, while Trump may seem to be a utilitarian or consequentialist due to
his emphasis on self-interest, his plans are too murky and general to enable the kind of due diligence a true utilitarian or even consequentialist might
require and even though Trump's bottom line oriented he doesn't seem to think about the consequences of his actions even when he's simply giving a speech. However, objectivism which depends more on the almost transcendent vision
of the individual easily fits the bill. Yes, if Ayn Rand were alive Donald
Trump might be the model for a book like Atlas Shruggedor The Fountainhead.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.