Friday, November 1, 2019

A Dog Eat Dog World?

Hobbes envisioned a dog eat dog world and utilitarian thinkers like Bentham and J.S. Mill saw the pursuit of happiness as creating the fabric of a morality. Some thinkers have tried to bridge the gap between utilitarianism and Kantian deontology which involves the search for absolute truth. In a New York Review of Books essay entitled “What Is a Good Life," TNYRB, 2/10/11) Ronald Dworkin countervailingly argued that goodness cannot include doing something that threatens one’s own survival. Where does that leave self-sacrifice? But the atomic notion of man, as a spinning particle only united with others in a Darwinian struggle for survival in the end seems more the stuff of manifestos than everyday experience. Peter Singer wrote a famous tract called Animal Liberation which sees the protection of animals a form of self-interest. However, more recently, the Harvard philosopher Christine Korsgaard has argued for a Kantian view of the matter—in which killing animals, who are imbued with their own unmistakable form of consciousness, is seen as categorically unjustifiable. Larissa MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning: Voyages to the Brink of Moral Extremity brings up the question of altruism which is something that even the great ideologue of capitalism, Adam Smith, engages (by way of sympathy) in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The geneticist J.B.S Haldane famously remarked, “Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers and eight cousins.” It will be interesting to find out if spiritualism itself is naturally selective and turns out to produce its own set of equations and coefficients. 

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