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Posts Tagged ‘Morals’
Posted by Jerry on November 2, 2009
Posted in Culture, Homosexuality, India, Love and Romance, Mumbai, My Friends, Personal, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Culture, Ethics, Gay, Homosexuality, Ideas, India, Morality, Morals, Mumbai, Objectivism, Rights | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on August 7, 2008
To the extent of my knowledge, nobody–not even any Objectivists–have pointed out some of the crucial complications in morality that occur toward the climactic scene in the movie The Dark Knight. I haven’t the time to write all of it down right now in detail, although I have stated these in conversations with my friend soon after we watched the movie for the second time.
Let me say this: The Dark Knight is a fantastic example of superb artistic integration–including music, plot, theme, character, ideas, logic, and conflict. It’s a cinematic achievement that occurs only rarely in a lifetime. However, it’s themes are dark, evil, and at very critical junctures, even ambiguous, which I think becomes its failing. This is not Nolan’s fault, however. I think it’s a matter of the philosophical context he functions in–the one in which we all find ourselves–the predominant one holding sway in this world today.
At the Atlasphere review of this movie, this is the comment I left:
I loved the movie as well; however, this review like all the others I have read by Objectivists, fail to identify some crucial failures in the morals held up as ideals by the director for the characters of Batman, Dent, and the people of Gotham.
For one, Rand would never have approved how the boat scene in the end turned out, nor would she have approved of how Batmand undercuts his own virtue and corrupts the image of good by accepting the mantle of a criminal fugitive. It’s a very Christ-like self-sacrificial attempt to take on the “sins of the world.”
In addition to the above, let me clarify that the boat scene requires a moral context that is ignorant of how the plot eventually plays out; imagine yourself as a citizen of Gotham on one of those boats and not having even an inkling about how your fate’s going to turn out. You do not know that Batman will eventually save the day. Now, given this context, analyze the morality of the actions that people on that boat commit–and the implicit affirmation of a certain course of action as the right and moral one.
UPDATE: Hello, yes, there is the gun-point scenario and the game theory. However, there is more, and unfortunately, I don’t have the time to make a detailed case, so here goes: The choice made by both parties in the two boats–and in particular, the choice made by the convicts–would logically have led to the destruction of the lives of everyone on both boats.
Essentially, between choosing to blow either one of the boats, *some* people made the “executive decision” to end the lives of every single person on both boats (by leaving the decision upto Joker to blow both boats at midnight).
However, this evil choice and its horrendously destructive logical outcome is cloaked under the garb of altruism that the movie affirms as the ideal and self-sacrificial course of action, when in fact there it is more a butchering of others than of the self that is being advocated, and the evil is not just altruism but annihilation, a worship of death.
The essential evil is this: Gotham city affirms the exact same premise of burning death and destruction that motivates Joker’s desire to see “the world burn.”
Moreover, the interference of Batman to save the day distracts the movie-watching audience from fully processing the horrendous and evil nature of what had just transpired–something more evil than the Joker himself, and something the Joker should have been proud of. By saving the day, Batman (and thus, the director) sheilded Gotham and the movie-audience from witnessing the explosive mutilation and barbarity that would have resulted from the altruistic choice they had made. Nobody on the boat would have known that Batman would interfere to save them. Thus, Joker won and he didn’t even know.
Thus, in the end, actually, evil in this movie triumphs in more ways than even Joker could grasp–or the director. This is because the evil is served to us on a sappy, emotionalist plate that has all the sprinkling of humanity, humanism, altruism, brotherhood, love, self-sacrifice, etc.
Finally, another really disturbing aspect of the movie was that the convict in the boat was shown as the one being able to make the so-called “moral” decision without a thought—of throwing the detonator out of the boat, saying this was something that should have been done a long time ago. I agree that the detonator should have been thrown out–but as I said above, there should have been an explicit statement of the reason–even briefly–that this was being done in defiance of the terrorist, not because we want to accept death and then congregate to pray together during our final moments (as it was shown in the movie among the convicts).
Meanwhile, the free citizens of Gotham were shown as immoral people who not only debated on whether or not to trigger the bomb but also who were ready to press the button right up until the last moment when the man got a moral crisis of guilt (or cowardice, whichever).
Why did Nolan choose to show convicts as making the “right” choice without a thought and show the free citizens debating the matter endless but then not being able to follow through? Is this a matter of undercutting the moral legitimacy of the good citizens?
For these reasons, my argument stands that the ending of this movie is morally ambiguous at best, critically wrong and evil at worst, and the actions of the citizens of Gotham on both those boats were terrifyingly evil for the logical consequences that would have played out. These citizens were not moral, were not virtuous, and were not defying the Joker. Hence, Joker should have been happy.
Posted in General Work/Life, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: Ayn Rand, Batman, cinema, Dark Knight, Morality, Morals, move, Movies, Nolan, Objectivism, Rand, The Dark Knight | 21 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on March 28, 2008
Most people function on a mix of rational and irrational ideas in their lives. There are only two ways you can survive: either you be consistently rational and act accordingly or you allow for instances of irrationality and hope that you will luckily escape the consequences of it or have someone else (usually, the government or rational neighbors) bail you out from the mess of your own creation.
It is only the human mind that can harbor contradictions, because it has free will—and since external reality does not permit such a mix of contradictions, the extent to which a person functions on irrationalities and contradiction, to that extent he is at war with reality.
Religion is fundamentally irrational. To the extent that you practice your religion consistently, it won’t be long before you either seriously or fatally harm yourself or someone else. It is the inescapable nature of reality. Here are just a couple of examples that highlight this principle manifesting in reality (from John Enright’s blog):
An eleven-year old girl is dead because her parents refused to take her to the doctor for a treatable condition. Instead, they chose to pray to god for a healing to occur. When, miraculously, no healing occured, and the child’s condition worsened over 30 days until she eventually succumbed to her death, her parents said that they did not pray with enough faith. Not to accept defeat in their battle against reality, the girl’s mother has now vowed to pray for her daughter’s resurrection:
An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.
Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday in Weston, just outside Wausau.
“She got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.
Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.
The girl’s parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to “apparently they didn’t have enough faith,” the police chief said.
They believed the key to healing “was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray,” he said.
The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.
A very troubling aspect of this story is that the government’s child services division apparently finds nothing alarming about these parents’ behavior and its implications to their three other daughters. The dead child–whose death was directly caused by the faith and irrationality of her parents–has three siblings between the ages of 13 and 16.
The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.
“They are still in the home,” he said. “There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see.”
In another account of a battle against reality, a father allegedly placed his infant baby in a microwave oven to burn; his wife explains that her husband was under the influence of Satan, who had taken advantage of a “weak moment.” Through some means, the wife acquired the knowledge that Satan was angry at her husband for choosing to become a Christian preacher. Therefore, Satan compelled her husband to put their infant child in the microwave, shut the door, turn it on, and watch as the baby suffered serious burns.
The wife of this demon-haunted man, however, does admit to an interesting fact:
Mauldin said her husband had a mental disability and her efforts to get him help have failed.
Those who claim that religion is not something to be made fun of are correct in one sense. Religion cannot be taken so lightly as to be made fun of; know that the believers are not taking their religion lightly–and to the degree that they are not, we shouldn’t either, because life hangs in the balance. Religion should be criticized, denounded, and condemned as strongly as the practitioners who practice it hold their faith.
The pernicious death-premise of religion is hardly recognized by even most secular folks and atheists. While the secularists and atheists are content with rejecting religious beliefs, many of them often acknowledge that some people need religion and that religion can certainly provide a path to a virtuous and moral lifestyle. Indeed, many atheists share the same moral code that religion prescribes! Religion is seen as a guide to virtuous living that can be secularized, which is the insidious nature of this form of irrationality—it hides under the garb of universal virtue.
A majority of people in the world (including many atheists) consider only religious people to be some of the most virtuous people on this planet. Think Teresa of Calcutta. How many people believe that Teresa was lacking in any significant moral virtue? I’d venture to say—very few. How many think she was downright evil?
Do you see my point?
UPDATE: Yahoo! News and the Associated Press have just posted a more detailed account of the 11-year old girl’s death, including interviews with the parents and some relatives. Here are some of the details missing from the original link I posted in my article above:
An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.
She had probably been ill for about a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, the chief said Wednesday, noting that he expects to complete the investigation by Friday and forward the results to the district attorney.
The girl’s mother, Leilani Neumann, said that she and her family believe in the Bible and that healing comes from God, but that they do not belong to an organized religion or faith, are not fanatics and have nothing against doctors.
She insisted her youngest child, a wiry girl known to wear her straight brown hair in a ponytail, was in good health until recently.
“We just noticed a tiredness within the past two weeks,” she said Wednesday. “And then just the day before and that day (she died), it suddenly just went to a more serious situation. We stayed fast in prayer then. We believed that she would recover. We saw signs that to us, it looked like she was recovering.”
Her daughter — who hadn’t seen a doctor since she got some shots as a 3-year-old, according to Vergin — had no fever and there was warmth in her body, she said.
The girl’s father, Dale Neumann, a former police officer, said he started CPR “as soon as the breath of life left” his daughter’s body.
Family members elsewhere called authorities to seek help for the girl.
“My sister-in-law, she’s very religious, she believes in faith instead of doctors …,” the girl’s aunt told a sheriff’s dispatcher Sunday afternoon in a call from. “And she called my mother-in-law today … and she explained to us that she believes her daughter’s in a coma now and she’s relying on faith.”
The dispatcher got more information from the caller and asked whether an ambulance should be sent.
“Please,” the woman replied. “I mean, she’s refusing. She’s going to fight it. … We’ve been trying to get her to take her to the hospital for a week, a few days now.”
The aunt called back with more information on the family’s location, emergency logs show. Family friends also made a 911 call from the home. Police and paramedics arrived within minutes and immediately called for an ambulance that took her to a hospital.
But less than an hour after authorities reached the home, Madeline — a bright student who left public school for home schooling this semester — was declared dead.
She is survived by her parents and three older siblings.
“We are remaining strong for our children,” Leilani Neumann said. “Only our faith in God is giving us strength at this time.”
The Neumanns said they moved from California to a modern, middle-class home in woodsy Weston, just outside Wassau in central Wisconsin, about two years ago to open a coffee shop and be closer to other relatives. A basketball hoop is set up in the driveway.
Leilani Neumann said she and her husband are not worried about the investigation because “our lives are in God’s hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do.”
Posted in Atheism, Culture, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atheism, Catholicism, Christianity, Dogma, Faith, Irrational, Irrationality, Life, Madeline Neumann, Morality, Morals, Rationality, Reason, Religion, Teresa, Teresa of Calcutta | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on March 10, 2008
The right to migrate–that is, to move from one nation or society to another–is a derivative of the right to liberty and the right to own property wherever it is possible. Ultimately, all of these are derived from an individual’s right to his own life. Objectivism upholds a policy of open immigration for America–and not impractically so. It is impossible for a moral principle to be impractical in reality.
The Objective Standard–an Objectivist journal of culture and politics–has a new article on how the moral right to immigrate is not only consonant with individual rights but also fully and consistently practicable in reality. People wrongly associate issues like illegal immigration, over-population, competition in jobs and wages, cultural erosion, and so on as challenges to open immigration. What they do not realize is that these problems arise precisely because the U.S. government rampantly violates human rights by not permitting open immigration and instead legislating arbitrary immigration quotas and ethnic lotteries.
The article in the Objective Standard explains in detail how current immigration policies give birth to greater security concerns and rights violations than a moral and objective immigration policy. Here is a particularly striking excerpt from the opening paragraphs of the article:
Morally speaking, if a person rationally judges that immigrating to America would be good for his life, he should immigrate; a rational morality holds that one should always act on one’s best judgment. But does a foreigner have a right to move to America? And should America welcome him? Yes, he does—and yes, she should.
And here’s another juicy bit from the article:
America’s border is not properly a barrier for the purpose of keeping foreigners out; it is properly a boundary designating the area in which the U.S. government must protect rights.
Posted in Culture, Economics, Immigration Issues, India, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: Culture, Illegal immigration, Immigration, Immigration policies, individual rights, Morals, Objectivism, open immigration, Politics, Rights, The Objective Standard, the right to mobility, US immigration policies | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on February 6, 2008
I sometimes get the desire to spend money on apparently cheap items only so that the people selling them to me continue to remain in business. Many times, I consciously feel the urge to buy something from a streetside vendor so that I can prolong his sense of hope and trust in the virtue of trade and production—particularly because I realize the sharp necessity of this hope in the face of what surrounds such people in India: abject poverty, beggars, homeless wanderers, alcoholics, marauders, looters, unscrupulous police officers, cheats, robbers, thugs, etc.
The other day, I was eating a vegetable sandwich at a roadside foodstall. In the short time that it took me to eat my sandwich, three different individuals–perhaps thugs, goons, or police officers in plain clothes–came up to the sandwich vendor at separate times: all three of these men didn’t say a word; they just came up to the stall and looked at the vendor knowingly. Then all three of them left with money that the vendor had given them. After the last of them had gone, the vendor just looked down at his table and muttered in Hindi: “Everyone wants money; if they take all my money away, what will I have left?”
I was shocked and disgusted by what had just happened! I knew that the vendor had just been extorted of money for the “privilege” of setting up his stall and running his food business on that street. Typically, such vendors have to pay not just the police officers patrolling the street but every other thug who has laid claim on a stretch of land only by the virtue of force for the privilege of being productive.
After I had finished eating, I paid the money I owed the man for my sandwich, and then gave him an extra 10 Rupees. It is a very small amount of money–both to him and to me; it was not intended for him to use it to survive the night or some such thing. I gave him the extra money to convey a sense of hope–my hope that he chooses to continue his business and be productive, instead of quitting and joining the thugs, or becoming a leech, or giving up on life entirely and stagnating.
I offered my money in response to his struggle to attain values and live life. I was proud of it.
Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: benevolence, charity, extortion, generosity, hope, Ideas, India, money, Morality, Morals, Philosophy, police, Politics, poverty, thugs, values | 17 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on November 4, 2007
There are times when I read or hear something and I am reminded again of just how radical the Objectivist philosophy is and how difficult it must be for someone new to the philosophy to get their head around it–it is a complete reversal of practically every fundamental premise that was considered moral for millenia–from judeo-christian ethics to Kantian duty ethics.
Just take one example. Objectivism identifies the fact that all ethics proper to man is essentially egoistic; that is, whatever is proper to man’s life qua man is in his interest and is therefore moral. However, the concepts of egoism and selfishness are so corrupted in our language and philosophy that it is seemingly impossible to understand how moral acts can be selfish.
Mainstream morality offers only one alternative: you either sacrifice your own interests for others or sacrifice the interests of others for yourself. Selfishness is defined as concern for the self at the expense of others, a vice; and selflessness is defined as concern for the other at the expense of the self, a virtue. And for some odd reason, people who are selfish are considered evil.
However, as Ayn Rand noted, this moral vocabulary permits no concept for a benevolent interaction among men which requires no sacrifice! One is either selfish or selfless, and both are defined in sacrificial terms. What is the moral concept identifying a relationship among individuals where no one is asked to be the sacrificial animal for the other? For this reason, Ayn Rand saw the imperative need to rescue the concept of selfishness from philosophical adulteration.
Properly, selfishness is concern with one’s own interest. It is the job of philosophy and ethics to define what those interests are, whether the interests of men clash, and whether the pursuit of those interests are a vice. In other words, it is the job of ethics to define the moral status of human goals and goal-directed actions, and identify a set of values and interests that are proper to man’s survival. Objectivism is a value-oriented philosophy: it points out that values presume beneficiaries and that the pursuit of a rational value is selfish, because it is a concern with one’s own interests.
After reading Roger Scruton’s article Altruism and Selfishness, I realized that the Objectivist virtue of selfishness is not an easy concept to grasp. Scruton gets it all wrong despite coming close to understanding the concept. He says:
Learning to love your neighbor as yourself is learning to take pleasure in the things that please him, as a mother takes pleasure in the pleasures of her child. To call this “selfishness” is to abuse the language. A selfish act is one directed at the self; an unselfish act is one directed at others. And the truly unselfish person is the one who wants to perform unselfish acts, who takes pleasure in giving, and who enjoys the prospect of another’s success. This is not, as Rand would have us believe, just another form of selfishness. It is an altogether higher motive, one in which the other has replaced the self as the object of concern.
Notice how Scruton succumbs to mainstream altruist vocabulary by divorcing a mother’s love for her child from her own interest or the love one has for a neighbor from one’s own pleasure; he wants to insist that any love a mother has for a child is purely selfless. In effect, the argument is that the child is not a value to his mother. To pursue values eagerly is to be selfish, and were the child a value to his mother, then the mother would be selfish.
Scruton divorces the concept of life from objectivity, the concept of objectivity from values, and the concept of value from self.
Scruton ignores the fact that life offers the concept of objectivity, that values are objective, and that rational selfishness involves the pursuit of rational values. For Scruton, selfish actions are only those that are directed toward the self. This sort of definition completely ignores the issue of whether those actions which are directed toward the self are indeed objectively proper and rational actions or not; that is, are those actions truly in one’s objective self-interest or are they self-destructive even though you might derive pleasure from those actions.
Scruton also argues that wanting to love someone or taking pleasure in giving is not selfish. Here again he does not address whether the object of our love or generosity is someone whom we value or it does not matter who this person is. The value-oriented or goal-directed nature of human action and human life is ignored completely.
For Scruton, the goal of our pursuit does not matter so long as the action is directed at someone else: if we love someone else, then we are selfless.
By this line of argument, he not only divorces values from actions but also equivocates any random, hedonistic, promiscuous, irrational acts of self-indulgence with selfishness even if it might actually be a self-distructive behavior.
If selfishness is properly the concern for oneself, then self-destructive hedonism and self-indulgence should be the epitome of selfless acts, i.e., acts done with no concern or regard for one’s self and well-being. In other words, it should be clear that pleasure is the not the standard of moral evaluation: merely wanting to love someone or wanting to be generous is not the standard by which we decide whether our actions are selfish or selfess, moral or immoral.
[Related post: Morality in the Jungle]
Posted in Ayn Rand, Objectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Altruism, Ayn Rand, Egoism, Ideas, Morality, Morals, Objectivism, Philosophy, Selfishness, selflessness | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 29, 2007
My mom reminds me of this: too much of anything is bad, even if it is a good thing.
Well, let’s see:
Few would argue that freedom is a bad thing, unless of course you’re an Islamoloony or some other religious fanatic.
Assuming that you are a sane and sensible individual, therefore, is too much freedom–or absolute freedom–bad?
Perhaps, you might say it depends on the context. Rightfully then, in the context of adult human beings, is absolute freedom–too much freedom–a bad thing?
Whatever your answers, be careful not to blur the boundary between freedom and force: where one ends, the other begins.
So, should we re-think the golden mean? That too much of anything is bad? Is the “middle ground” always the right way to go? Can too much of “the middle ground” never be bad? Can too much of the grey never be wrong?
Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: evil, Freedom, golden mean, Good, Morals, right, wrong | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jerry 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.]
Posted in General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Altruism, Culture, Egoism, Ethical egoism, Morality, Morals, Philosophy, Rational egoism, Society, Utilitariansim | 58 Comments »