Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If You're Looking For a Patsy...

There's a comment at the end of chapter...5 of A Theory of Justice, which I think...well. Here's the best and worst part about utilitarianism: Utilitarianism does not take seriously the difference between persons. That, for Nietzsche, is kind of important.

In glib terms the difference is basically, between a single human being and dudes, generally. Or, in even more glibly: What I'm calling the inverse ninja theory. One ninja is a terrifying, unseen menace that can kill and destroy without sound at terrifying speeds. One hundred ninjas are chumps.

I can't put it any clearer: the difference between people returning passports and stealing from mom and pop stores, the difference between Toshiro Mifune and, uhhhhh, me. En masse, people are really goddamn stupid. 100 million Bon Jovi fans can't be wrong, quoth one ad campaign. On their own, people can be shockingly prescient and fun to spend time with. The difference between people in aggregate and people as persons. The difference between people, anonymously, and persons, individually.

(Note now that Anonymous is a whole other breed and could easily be its own philosophical post. Hrm. Can I do that? I mean, I can, but, if I stop doing Theory of Justice explicitly now...what was it? Breaking a rule is only hard the first time. Yeah. Not 'till I'm done.)

Of course, the difference between people could be terribly little. But it's unknown or, at least, not easily converted into math. The math is what utilitarianism is based on, the idea that good and bad can be boiled down and added up, according not just to number of people but sheer volume of good or bad to all parties.

Nietzsche, of course, would have a heart attack. That individual spark, he believes is the last hope for human beings caught up in the gigantic, globe spanning system.

Today, the best example of people trying to get out of a globe spanning system, or at least one that leaps to mind quickly, is the Tea Party. Their philosophy boils down to less government means more freedom. Everything else spins out of that. They're scared, basically, of the idea that citizens need government to protect them from forces beyond the control of the citizens and believe that by returning to the practices of a time when the world was less connected, it will better insulate the United States. It won't, of course.

But together, they're reduced to pathetic caricatures with lots to talk about, but nothing to say in crazy costumes. Maybe they'd be better when taken individually, I think Niezstche would hope. Utilitarians would throw it out and seeing as one of their primary politicians is not clear on where the American Constitution talks about the separation of Church and State, I think the joke might finally be on Nietzsche.

Bad Religion's Better Off Dead is a song that's almost certainly about a failed relationship now becoming poisonous, but it's applicability here is in one line: If you're looking for a patsy, why not try the entire human race? Otherwise, it's a fantastic punk song, with a chorus that centers around the bitter lyric "the next time I create the universe...". It's under three minutes. It rips. Press play already.

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