Utilitarianism: yet another sacrificial cult

Utilitarianism: yet another sacrificial cult

Utilitarianism is a moral theory associated with the Enlightenment that attempts to provide a universal solution for dealing with moral dilemmas. It claims that the correct course of action is that which produces “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.” The option with the best consequences, defined in this way, is the correct moral choice.

The Enlightenment was a period where many thinkers imagined that social progress was to be achieved through a heightened use of “reason,” and reason meant science. Emulating and trying to join in the prestige of science, utilitarianism focuses on quantitative analyses; what is objective and measurable, to promote the greatest happiness.

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Reversion to Tit for Tat

As the optimal strategy for iterated games, Tit for Tat long ago became the norm and basis of human social coordination. It is manifest in our sense of fair play, in our customs and laws, and in all our economic exchanges. Tit for Tat is then a strange attractor for human societies. They all tend toward it, homeostatically. The further you push a society away from Tit for Tat, the harder will it try to get back.

Prevent a people from responding to tats for a long, long time, and eventually they will snap. The frenzy of the explosive rush to restore equilibrium will manifest in a million tits for every tat. Those who had lately done well by tatting will find themselves all tits up.

It will be a bloody ugly rebound.

Our Dreams of the Implicate Order

On the walk from my office to the train a week ago last Monday, I reflected on the fact that I had all day been curiously alive to moments from my past. In part this was due to the fact that it was my birthday, and people from every era of my life were reaching out to wish my happiness. But other factors were at work, too. I ran into a blog post that linked to a recording of Allegri’s Miserere Mei – one of the most sublime works ever written – and vividly remembered singing it as a boy, and so enacting Heaven. A story I had told my little granddaughter the day before, about the time when I was only four, and went camping with my Dad, and woke up unable to find my way out of the mummy sleeping bag, so that I tried to stand up and get his help, in the process falling down the steps out of the open forest shelter (and almost into the fire he had started), made me chuckle again. So did the memory of her reaction: “Silly Poppy!” I began to remember lots and lots of things from long and not so long ago – some of them tagged (oops!) for later use in the confessional – and suddenly as I walked the moments all crowded in upon me at once. Not in a chaos or a hurry, but as it were quietly, softly.

It was no stampede. Rather, it was a stately pavane.

Suddenly I staggered, thunderstruck by a completely unexpected notion: what if those moments *really were* immediately present to this one? What if I could feel that moment of suffocated terror in the mummy bag as if it were still happening? Clearly, I could: all that I had to do, in order to make that happen, was simply attend to it carefully enough, and without distraction. It might take a few moments of concentration, but if I wanted to I could, I knew, bring back any moment I wanted with as much clarity and intensity as I wished.

Then – this was the strike of the thunder – I thought: “That’s what dreams are like; and it is the way things really are; for, in Eternity, and to Eternity, everything (whether actual or not) is all at once together.”

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Flaubert’s Herodias: A Study of Revelation & Consciousness

Moreau Salome

Gustave Moreau: Salome

Introduction. The action of Flaubert’s Herodias, one of the Trois Contes or Three Tales of 1877, occurs on the birthday of Herod Antipas or Antipater, the Hellenized “Tetrarch” of Judea who is in fact a client-king permitted to rule over his people solely by the political calculation of reigning Roman emperor, Tiberius.  Tensions run high in Judea. The influential preacher John the Baptist, whom the Tetrarch currently holds imprisoned in a dungeon, has denounced Herod for his marriage to the divorced wife, Herodias, of the Tetrarch’s exiled brother, Herod Philip I.  The marriage amounts, says John, to incest.  Apart from the specific charge, the Baptist’s preaching has stirred up religious turmoil in the kingdom, encouraging a general dissidence.  The Pharisees, for example, feel displaced in piety and thus in status as strict interpreters of the law by John’s extravagant Puritanism; they already incline to distrust Herod, largely Greek in education and taste, an obvious puppet of Rome, and in these ways only barely a Jew.  Flaubert writes, “The Jews were tired of [Herod’s] idolatrous ways.”  As readers later learn, Sadducees, Essenes, and Samaritans, and others live grudgingly with one another in Herod’s realm; the reasons for their mutual mistrust seem more or less exaggerated and ritually or tribally driven.  Herod’s factional ties in Rome also complicate his life.

In Rome political jockeying takes place ceaselessly among various power brokers who would gain influence over the monarch for their own corrupt benefit.  Herod thinks to himself, for example, that, “probably Agrippa [one of his rivals] had ruined his credit with the emperor.”  His other brother Philip is meanwhile “secretly arming” behind his borders while Arab warriors in service to an ambitious raider-king have encamped themselves on his southern march.  Herod vacillates between the possibilities of making a pact with the Arabs or making one with the Parthians, Rome’s enemy and counterweight in the East.  Herod is proverbially between a rock and a hard place – or between the abyss and the Resurrection.

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Now to Every Man and Nation Comes the Moment to Decide

It is *amazing* to me, the lengths to which people will go, to try to circumvent the *utterly obvious,* the *utterly ineluctable.*

Not that I am different.

It’s like, “No, I’m not actually damned on my present course, cause, cause, cause, you see, cause …” Eyes frantically casting about for a way out.

But there is no way out. Under Omnipotence, the very notion is absurd.

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Righteousness is Adaptive Because the Cosmos Is Just

The cosmos is just because it is good; and it is good because it is the creation of God, who is the Good.

If the cosmos were not just, then righteous conduct could not be well fitted to reality, and would not therefore have proven to be adaptive. There could not then be such a category as righteousness. You can’t behave rightly if there’s no such thing as a right way to behave.

The fact that evolution has generated codes of righteous conduct – of formalized moral laws – does not then indicate that morality is nothing more than a happenstantial product of iterated memetic variation under selection pressures. On the contrary, it indicates that morality is an aspect of the cosmic landscape that is prior to biological evolution, and pervasively conditions it, *so that* iterated rounds of selection by the morally ordered cosmic landscape on memetic variations can occur in the first place, and proceed to generate in organisms moral sentiments that are more or less well-fitted to their world.

No cosmic order, then no selector, and no selection.

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Conflation of Ends Ruins Everything

Vox Day has often insisted that to the extent an organization’s attention is diverted away from its primary purpose toward goals of social justice, it is prevented from serving that original purpose.

The same dynamic is at work in us. Multi-tasking is inefficient, because it is confusing. It prevents good performance on any one thing. Focus on one thing at a time, and do it well. You will work faster and more efficiently, and your output will be better.

The same dynamic is at work even in our instruments. E.g., low flow showerheads don’t work as showerheads; low flow toilets don’t flush very well. Mandating low flow plumbing is a way to ration water use that doesn’t work, because it ruins the plumbing qua plumbing, so that people must use it more than they would if it worked properly to accomplish the proper ends of plumbing.

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Moral Truths Are Necessary & Eternal

Is stealing objectively wrong?

Capital investment – saving up to make life better somehow – is not possible except where property is secure. Nor is social trust; so nor therefore is cooperation. Stealing decoheres society.

Similar considerations pertain to lying, murder, adultery: they are all the death of society as such. These are mathematically demonstrable truths of game theory.

Then morality is a department of mathematical logic. And the truths of math, logic and metaphysics are necessarily true; which is to say, that they are eternally true, and could not be otherwise.

Whatever is must be conditioned by these truths. There is no way to evade them; this is what is meant by, “God is not mocked.”

So they condition all possible worlds; so they condition our world; so they condition us.