Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘existence’

The Nature of Emergencies

Posted by Jerry on April 2, 2008

When discussing the ethics of emergencies, I have encountered the objection that if a moral system is unable to properly address life-boat scenarios, then the system is at least inadequate if not completely worthless. The argument is that a significant number of people actually do face emergency situations on a daily basis; if a philosophy is unable to address and offer moral prescriptions for such people in such situations, then—effectively—the philosophy has ignored a huge chunk of the human population and is inapplicable to them.

Let us consider the validity of such an objection. Here are some statements that highlight the dire plight and struggles of a large number of people around the world: 

  • Across the world, one child dies every five seconds due to hunger-related causes.
  • Nearly one in three people die prematurely or have disabilities due to malnutrition and calorie defeciencies, according to the World Health Organization.
  • In 2005, about 10.1 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday.
  • 25 million people have died from AIDS, which has caused more than 15 million children to lose at least one parent. Approximately 39.5 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the world.

From the above, one would surmise that the world is indeed in a chronic state of emergency—that human life qua life is essentially always in a chronically anxious and uncertain mode of living. Are we always in an emergency?

This line of thought is grossly fallacious: it confuses the categories of the metaphysical and the empirical or man-made. A given state of affairs in empirical reality does not determine the metaphysical nature of reality. Reality is as is. Human life—by virtue of human free will—often diverges from the norm and ideal of its own nature. For example, while external reality contains and permits no contradictions, human minds and actions often involve contradictory ideas or behavior.

The emergencies faced by a large number of people around the world is a description of the actual state of affairs in the world; in other words, it is am empirical observation. This, however, does not mean that life qua life (in the metaphysical sense) is chronically in a state of emergency. It is meaningless to speak of emergencies without some reference to normality or normal conditions; it is an aberration from normal conditions that is regarded as an emergency. In the context of this discussion, “normal conditions” refers to the identity of reality as it is. Examples of an aberration in reality would be when you face a contradiction due to incorrect premises or irrational actions, or when natural or man-made disasters make nature hostile and threatening to your life.

An emergency situation, therefore, by definition involves a divergence from the normal state of affairs in accordance with the identity of reality. For example, a normal human heart functions in accordance with its identity, i.e., it does what it is metaphysically equipped to do. A malfunctioning heart is an aberration from this normality because its proper functioning is hindered. This creates a state of emergency with regard to the heart.

As a thought-experiment, imagine that 90 percent of the human beings on this planet suffered cardiac arrests at the same time. Would we be philosophically justified in stating that the essential identity of the human heart has now changed? That is, would it make sense to redefine the essential identity of the human heart? Hopefully, this comes across as an absurd suggestion. It is not the number of cardiac arrests that determine the metaphysical nature of the human heart; likewise, it is not the innumerable instances of crises in human lives across the world that determine the metaphysical nature of life and this universe.

Therefore, to claim that human life qua life is always an emergency is to plead for a redefinition of the essential identity of reality and human life. It is not just a particularly sloppy error in thinking but a grossly malevolent perspective on life and reality.

Every moral theory—of any philosophical system—has to rest on a metaphysical view of existence. It has to begin with a set of premises that define the nature of reality and then build a moral theory that prescribes moral actions that will indeed work in such a reality, because it is based on the way in which reality functions.

A moral system cannot be constructed on premises derived from emergency situations because emergencies do not determine or change the metaphysics of reality as such. One example of an emergency situation is wherein no volitional choice by the human agent is possible; therefore, in such a situation, no moral prescriptions can exist as well. However, it is a self-evident fact that we are regularly faced with alternatives in normal conditions and we certainly do make choices; therefore, a moral system must respect and recognize this metaphysical fact in the kind of prescriptions it offers.

Another example of an emergency is wherein a man acts to save the life of another person—perhaps even at the cost of his own life; to apply this as a principle of behavior even in normal state of affairs is to condemn every man to matyrdom—as a sacrificial animal for the other. I hope there is no need to speculate about the consquences of such a moral prescription.

Thus, to fabricate a contorted moral system on the premises of such emergency situations will result in disastrous consequences. A logical system of premises that is based upon the metaphysical nature of reality and human life is the only foundation for a proper code of morality.

Posted in General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

The Holy Order

Posted by Jerry on July 6, 2005

I have noticed this in me, a change; a very slow and deliberate journey that has changed the core of my identity.

In previous years, I was a very devout, religious Christian believer. My highest value was the knowledge of God and His intimate relation with me in my life. I will admit that there were many things I accepted on christian doctrinal faith, but there were also many more beliefs for which I pursued a rational and secular foundation. Nonetheless, my relationship with God had the quality of innocent acceptance and honest conversation. I called Him my father, my friend, my own. I walked with Him, I talked with Him, I joked with Him. God was like my own happy secret.

And yet, through all those years, I carried in me a very distinct feeling of worthlessness. In fact, I enjoyed my status as “unworthy” and “insignificant” — I thought I was practicing humility. In some strange way, I thought that the more I degraded my human spirit, the more I exalted the spirit of God — like He could only gain the affirmation of His highest spiritual ascension through my personal acknowledgment of self-descent. Before God, I thought, I am not even worthy of His pity, let alone His magnanimous love, which He offers me nonetheless.

God, I thought, loved me only because His nature was love, not because I was worthy of being loved by Him. I did not believe there was any inherent quality of goodness in me that made me lovable to God. It was He, in all His benevolence and mercy, that loved me, a poor, miserable, mortal sinner.

Ofcourse, the nature of this relationship with God can be seen as potentially very destructive to the human psyche; but that is the point.
The idea is in fact to invalidate the ego, reduce the identity of the self to the degree of such insignificance that there remains no shred of self-worth, self-esteem, or any definite concept of the self in one’s being.

Some might argue that this is not the goal of religious belief: to degrade the human spirit. However, I believe that recognizing the essence of the magnanimity of God invariably leads one to feel like how I felt: so utterly insignificant in this grand scheme of God’s awesome creation and His benevolence! Religion invariably makes you feel insignificant. Religious emphasis on the after-life and the soul invariably leads one to ignore or supress the experience of this material, real life, the personal concerns of this current world, the identity of the physical body, and the protection of one’s ego. This is what Kira Argounova in We The Living means when she says that anyone who believes in God does not value himself or life; he spits upon his own face.

The religious virtue of humility is best achieved not by making a pretense at being insignificant, but by truly and fully believing that one is not worthy and achieving complete emotional, psychological, social, and physical insignificance! Religious virtue is in honestly being able to say: I am nothing. I can do nothing. I am merely an instrument for God to do His works through me. I have no desires but to fulfill the desires of God. I am empty vessel; I am a blind and obedient servant. I do not deserve anything except that which God deems me worthy of having in His great mercy and pity. I do not even have the right to my life or my body, because I am only a channel for His will on earth and in my life.

It is a religious virtue to find your tongue licking the dirt of the ground… reducing yourself to dust, for that is what religion wants you to believe: You are nothing but dirt, and to dirt you shall return.

Posted in Atheism, General Work/Life, Personal, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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