Morality in the Jungle
Posted by Ergo on September 23, 2007
A moral code is a set of integrated, non-contradictory body of principles that guide man’s actions. This implies the existence of a volitional consciousness to which a moral existence is an objective value (regardless of whether this is recognized or not).
Because there is no such conscious entity as a “group” or “society”, moral codes cannot be premised upon a society or group. In other words, a system of morality is applicable primarily and directly only to individual human beings.
Only individuals have consciousness, and only humans have a volitional and conceptual consciousness; therefore, only individual human beings can act as moral agents. This is why a proper moral system should be concerned with how an individual must act in a given situation–regardless of how many other people he is surrounded with.
However, moral systems like altruism and utlitarianism are flawed at their very foundations because they ignore this simple fact: they are “other-centric” and collectivist at the fundamental level; they disregard the fact that societies or groups are not moral agents; only a single individual human being can be a moral agent. They construct their theories on the premises of “society” or a group of at least two individuals while ignoring the fact that morality is not concerned with how many people exist in any given situation to practice it.
Other-centric moral theories focus upon an individual’s actions in relation to another as the basic framework of a moral situation. A lone individual presumably has no need for a moral system to guide his actions.
It is illogical to confuse the fact that men live and function in society with the false assumption that moral codes have to focus on this social nature of man and be derived from it. A moral code offers a guide to a man’s actions—one man’s actions; each man’s actions.
More fundamental than man’s nature as a social being is his nature as a rational being. A fundamental quality is that which accounts for or explains the greatest number of that entity’s characteristics. Therefore, a moral code should be derived from and be harmonious with this rational nature of man because that is his fundamental nature; the morality of social interactions are secondary and derivative to this.
First, we must answer what is proper and right for a man to do in order to survive on this earth given the nature and identity of his being. The answers to this question also contain the answer to how each man should interact with each other.
Notice that the moral codes of altruism and utilitarianism provide absolutely no moral prescriptions to an individual in the privacy of his own mind, except with regard to his existence among others.
To illustrate, think of a man alone on a deserted island; altruism, utilitarianism, Kantian duty ethics, and so on are useless moral systems to an individual who chooses to live alone or finds himself marooned on an island, because they are divorced from the reality he is faced with. All such moral systems ignore the fact that an individual human being is the most fundamental unit of a moral framework and the only agent of any moral action.
On a deserted island, one must either choose to act to survive for one’s self or choose to do nothing and die. If one chooses to live, he has chosen (implicitly) to be an egoist; this is the first and most basic meta-ethical act of choice, a choice that makes all other ethical acts possible. If you choose to live, you now have to discover the best and most efficient way for you to ensure your survival.
Egoism is the only moral theory that focuses properly on the individual–and how each individual should live his own life. Egoism points out that you should primarily hold yourself as the beneficiary of your actions, because it is in harmony with your meta-ethical choice to live; your own happiness is your highest moral purpose in life; the pursuit of values is predicated upon the standard of what is life-sustaining; and reason is your only most competent tool for evaluating the prudence of your actions.
Alone in the jungle, you must use your reason to ensure your survival and protection from animals and the elements. In fact, it doesn’t–shouldn’t–matter where you live; insofar as you choose to live and act according to the objective requirements of a life qua man, you are acting morally–egoistically–whether alone in a jungle or in the middle of a bustling metropolis.
In other words, egoism is not only a moral system that can be practiced consistently anywhere and without mutual conflict; it is also the only moral system that is useful, sensible, and practicable both in a society full of people as well as on a deserted island by yourself.
The moral is also the practical.
[Of course, living in a society of productive individuals is an immense source of value for an egoist because of all the products, discoveries, inventions, and services that are introduced into his life from the division of labor, i.e., a capitalist society; therefore, an egoist properly finds it in his self-interest to support, encourage, and foster a society of civilized and rational individuals, a society of laissez-faire capitalism.]