Suppose that a majority of people in a democratic society believed in Immanuel Kant’s maxim that, There is only a single categorical-imperative, and it is: Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.
Kant was a famous German philosopher who also said that, There can be nothing more dreadful than that the actions of one man should be subject to another. However, he believed also that if an action is not done with the motive of duty, then it is without moral value. Some people have construed his maxim to mean that society should act only on that same single categorical-imperative – this is interpreted generally as duty to others – that there should be no limit on an individual’s obligation to society. People must collectively provide whatever it takes for the welfare of others.
What if public welfare subsidies stall the lower class from adhering to the work ethic and educational values of the middle class so that they can migrate from one level to the other such as has happened in the past before the welfare state?
Gross and irrational selfishness in human beings is all too common. A simple sort of stupidity exists if the successful business person or employee who takes a good living from the world, cannot find in their lives, the required love and grace through charity toward other people in need. The miser and the robber baron we deem a deviant to moral normalcy, yet condemning selfishness and individualism, and thereby the marketplace seems a mistake.
A limit to one’s moral obligation to others does exist.* One cannot be obliged to give to a level of self-destruction.
If it could be shown that an idea of political obligation led to autocratic states with a record of human rights abuses itself, then otherwise fine-sounding ideals must be set aside. Perhaps in a democracy the whittling away of individual liberties by the expanding welfare state could lead to the very destruction of civilization.
The trouble with selling “liberty” as the most important political paragon in the world is that it is a value-neutral ideal. It basically says, “There you go, you have borders that can’t be breeched and your social obligations are limited, now go do what you can with your life.” Many theorists find this wanting. In response to this critique, many apologists for liberty sell it simply as the best bread making machine in town, certainly economic conservatives promote it as that.
Liberty is one of the pillars of Western Civilization
We have social obligations and biological needs that supercede individual choices, and this rests on our human nature as set by natural selection over millions of years. Even the Einsteinium-Spinozian god is not needed to explain human behavior. We know how we became moral; we weeded the monkey out of us by killing the psychopath over the thousands of millenniums on the hot grassy plains. We did it with violence and we did it for the tribe's safety. The psychopath learned deception or died. We are the great deceivers. We have obligations also to fend for ourselves . . . to not be parasites . . . we have a duty to think for ourselves and to not be a conformist–mental parasites. We have a responsibility to keep up with science and to make decisions on evident facts and not according to faith, ideology or wishful-thinking. In modern terms, we are required to understand that an education doesn’t necessarily mean knowledge and this actual creative frontal-lobe thinking requires puzzle solving.
What can we agree on morally to resolve the dispute between altruism and individualism? Is there such a thing as pure altruism? After all this history, the ego in us whispers against such an event. Natural Selection seems to admit a dual, almost mutually-exclusive, dynamic: a dominate egotistical xenophobic chimp-like fault-setting in human nature which is adjusted upwards to a socially-driven egalitarianism in a hunter-gatherer situation of archaic homo sapiens. What this means for modern humans is that human nature proves both egoism and altruism have a place in our repertoire.
Benedictus Spinoza maintained that men who are governed by reason, desire for themselves nothing which they do not also desire for the rest of humankind, and consequently, are just, faithful and honorable in their conduct. Aristotle said, we should behave to friends as we would wish friends to behave to us. Confucius said, what you do not want done to yourself, do not unto others. Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, hurt none, but, as far as possible, benefit all. Jesus preached, all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do even so to them. From the Old Testament there is, what is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. In Koran, no one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. In Sanskrit, do nothing to others which would cause you pain if done to you. From the Buddha, hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. From Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, regard your brother’s gain as your gain, his loss as your loss. The examples from Hesoid to Bertrand Russell of this universal moral reciprocity has the authority of every great moral thinker since antiquity.
If moral reciprocity is to be expected to take a hold of the world, several events need to occur. The duty of others’ welfare cannot be forced on the individual. Every institution, private or public, should practice moral reciprocity without coercion. A strict and short code of human rights need be applied to every single person. Everyone of us is to have sovereignty over our minds and the consequential adjuncts it entails, including the right to own property. The cost of moral reciprocity is far less than applying a morality like, ‘The social redistribution of wealth’ or ‘The kindly subjugation of the democratic peoples of the world by the bloated modern welfare state.’
No appliqué of words about freedom is going to limit the growth of the oligarch and it’s bureaucracy in The New Ancien Régime. A crusade for a work-ethic means little if the middle-class ceases to exist. The state-dependant population in our mismanaged myopia today dispatch their glances with uxorious eyes to the state, just as it once did to the church, mosque or temple. The state will morph to serve its master, which was once the common people but is now ever-incrementally the New Ancien Régime.
The single most important thing we can do universally: Whatever rights you would ask others to grant to you, grant also of them.
* Discussed further in Atheism Skepticism and Philosophy, E A St Amant
© 2019 - E. A. St. Amant