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Saturday, 26 May 2018

Men Cannot Predict Consequences

Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher who founded utilitarianism




How many times have we stubbornly and ardently wanted something, and maybe got out of our way and moved heaven and earth to make it happen, only to realise in the end not only and not so much that it was not worth it, but above all that it was not for our benefit at all, and that it would even have been better if the opposite had occurred?

It is sufficient to think, furthermore, of the heterogony of ends, or the unintended consequences of intentional actions, of which the most macroscopic examples are the side effects of drugs and the laws of the state.

All this is telling us that often we are not able to foresee, understand and evaluate the medium- and long-term consequences of actions or events, in a nutshell we can't see beyond the end of our nose.

This is not the only but one of the fundamental reasons why any consequentialist ethical system, namely a system for which every choice of a moral agent must be guided by the evaluation of the consequences that will derive from each alternative choice, can only fail.

We have many examples of great historical significance of this disastrous, catastrophic failure to foresee the consequences until the total reversal of intent.

Muslim men in Europe praying


An example is offered - unintentionally, of course - exactly by a philosopher who is the representative of a consequentialist school of thought, utilitarianism, which we will discuss below: the contemporary Australian philosopher Peter Singer.

In his book One World published in 2002, Singer vigorously defends mass immigration from Third World countries to those of the First, arguing on a utilitarian basis that, while the possible inconveniences, if ever there are, for the peoples of the latter are mild, they are nothing compared to the good that immigration into rich nations brings to the poor of the world (Singer, an ethnic Jew, would perfectly agree with Pope Francis).

The Princeton professor arrives (or arrived, in 2002) to the point of saying that the European countries and North America should greatly increase the number of immigrants they welcome.

With the benefit of hindsight, which is 20/20, I do not know if Peter has changed his mind. I know however that the events that followed have completely refuted him, even from within his own viewpoint. That's because the type of immigration from poor regions to rich regions that he advocated has had - and is continuing to have on an ever-increasing scale - the consequence of spreading Islam in the Western world, once Christian and still preserving some traces of the virtues and attitudes arising from Christianity, including doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Once the ethnic, cultural and religious replacement of Christianity with Islam will to a good extent be accomplished - not only for the purely demographic reasons of the different degree of reproduction between Muslims and native Westerners but even more so because a society, especially as complex as ours, cannot exist without religion, and it would be destined to collapse (but this is a subject for another article) -, what will happen to us is what is happening in the rich Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which erect walls and close their borders to their Muslim "brothers" of Syria.

This is how Singer's pro-immigration recommendation, which would have the self-declared intention to help the world's poor, will result in the rich countries' changed nature - changed exactly thanks to the application of the precepts and prescriptions of this utilitarian philosopher -, which in turn will have the direct consequence of making them much more reluctant to help the poor.

Ecological disaster


Another clamorous example of miscalculation is that of another Jewish and atheist philosopher, Karl Marx.

All or almost all the predictions that Marx derived from his diabolical theory have been refuted by that giant laboratory that is history, proving that his theory is indeed scientific, as he called it, but at the same time false.

In particular, Marx thought that the only relationships that matter, the only dynamic relationships, were those between man and man, social.

The other relational aspect of the economy, that is the relationship between man and nature, this communist man par excellence saw as active only on the part of man, and purely passive on the part of nature.

Unlike for others of his ideas, Marx cannot be blamed for having had this idea.

In the nineteenth century it would have been very difficult, indeed impossible, to foresee ecological disasters, to think that the environment could, so to speak, "rebel". Certain phenomena needed to take place, events to occur, ideas to be developed and understood before we could make similar predictions.

But this is yet another demonstration of human incapacity for far-sightedness.

Finally, I mention only briefly - with the intention of developing it more fully another time - the so-called "sexual liberation", that orgy of promiscuity and libertinage that has engulfed and enveloped the West at least starting from the notorious sixties on.

It's only love, said Oscar Wilde. Make love not war, the hippies echoed. Who could think that something bad could come from "love"? That chaos could derive from "love"?

Well, there was someone who understood it. And he understood it precisely because he was going against the current, and his foresight came from far away, from very far away, from another world.

I'm talking about Paul VI and his encyclical Humane Vitae, in which, perhaps enlightened by the Holy Spirit and certainly on the basis of a true doctrine - predictive ability is the test of truth -, he was able to foresee, already in the now distant 1968 (so much water has passed under the bridge), those many and serious evils that we later saw.

Yet again evidence that are not men alone, without supernatural help, who are able to see far away.

Utilitarianism, founded by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) (also influenced by the Italian Cesare Beccaria and his treatise Dei delitti e delle pene), is a consequentialist moral theory of the kind described at the beginning of this article.

For it the right moral action in all circumstances is that which is expected to result in maximum utility, understood as the greatest pleasure and happiness for the largest number of moral patients - that is, all those who will suffer the consequences of such action - and the least pain and unhappiness for the least number of them.

What one feels, the feeling, both physical, as sensation, and psychic, as emotion, reigns supreme.

In fact what else can be the foundation of an ethical system that has been deprived of God, what other rational basis can it find? It is the triumph of the purest materialism.

There are other ethical systems without God besides utilitarianism, but the latter is perhaps the one that best represents the atheistic position.

Once the feelings of pleasure at the pillar of the whole moral system have been erected, and provided with a somewhat rational basis (the so-called "utilitarian" calculation), it has infiltrated European culture and, by extension, Western spasmodic research, not to say obsessive, of pleasure itself, by any means: "natural" - sex -, artificial - chemically, with drugs, alcohol, sweets, excess and excessive consumption of food -, possession of wealth, power, material goods, obsession with shopping, and so on.

This article is also in Italian, here.

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