Magneto and Deontology

Deontology is the theory of ethics that one’s actions are ethically correct if done to fulfill duty, rather than to serve self-interest. Duty includes certain ethical obligations toward others, which, if we satisfy duty, the action is ethical, and if not, then not.

Consequentialism is that theory that actions that lead to good results are to be judged as good, or, in other words, that the ends justify the means. After the nightmare horrors of the Twentieth Century there is no need to dwell on the dubious nature of such claims.

Both the human lives, families, laws and cultures ruined by the claim that fornication and sexual perversion, since leading to no harm, was licit; and the human lives lost in the deluge of mass-murder, mass-robbery, and mass-deception, promoted as necessary means to reach delusional Utopias, expose consequentialism as devilry.

The devils smile when men announce that the ends justify the means. Committing an eternal evil to stain the soul to achieve a temporal good in the passing world is a foolish proposition, if one wishes to regard the real consequences in the long run.

Sometime devils take human form, as when a famed economist and grifter and sodomite pedophile named Keynes answered criticism that promoting a policy of temporary benefit was certain to have evil long-term consequences, answered his critics by superciliously snorting, “in the long run, we are all dead.”

The policy was institutionalized currency devaluation, that is, afflicting the workingman by draining the value of savings and investment via inflation, incentivizing immediate consumption.

Please note Keynes is dead and facing the eternal consequences of those who counsel fraud, which may include being wrapped in the same flames that torment Ulysses and Diomed, in the Eight pit of the Eight circle of hell; meanwhile institutional inflation, thanks to the Federal Reserve, is here, and will be with us until the End of the Age, or the return to the Gold Standard, whichever comes first.

So certain types of consequentialism are not consequential at all, in that the real consequences of a common policy or individual action are disregarded. See the abortion debate for details.

Do the ends ever justify the means?

Let us turn to that astute philosopher Magneto, mutant master of magnetism and leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to explain the point:

There are forms of consequentialism, it should be noted, that do not necessarily lead to atrocity, or even to inflation. The Eudaemonism of Aristotle or the Hedonism of Epicurus, in the wide majority of cases, because seeking the long term good of what best suits a man to live well includes the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, will lead to the same conclusions as a deontological view.

Eudaemonism or the Hedonism are workable ethical theories in a wide majority of cases, because a just man can be just both because it is good, and because it is good for him. Neither, however, can answer the Socratic question of whether it is better to be just or to appear just.

And, as adumbrated above, regarding the complete consequences of one’s actions, natural and supernatural, the desire to achieve virtue in this life and bliss in the next, may indeed lead to the same conclusions as a deontological theory, if the penalties for breach of duty are as ineluctable, just, and proportionate as has so rarely been seen on Earth.

Immanuel Kant famously attempted to promote a theory of deontology based on human reason rather than the Decalogue, with dubious result. His formulation of the Golden Rule was what he called the Categorical Imperative: Act only according to that maxim of ethics whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

One of the waggish teachers at my school once composed a mocking ditty, to be sung to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain” that ran this way:

If you’re father’s in the cellar
Hiding from the feller
Who wants to break his skull…
(te-toot te-tootle-y-oot!)
Hurry up and let him in
Lying, you know, is a sin
It’s categorical! 

Witticisms aside, no deontological theory of ethics, or, for that matter, no consequentialist theory of ethics, allows one to escape from the fact that the human condition puts one ethical duty and odds with another (as in this case the duty of honesty is at odds with filial piety), and that we must therefore prioritize duties in such a fashion as to fulfill those we can in a just and prudent fashion.

The point of such a theory is to identify the source of moral maxims, to distinguish true claims of what duty commands from false claims, and to guide the wise in ordering their moral judgment according to natural law.

It is usually forgotten in all such philosophical discussions of the matter than the men themselves discussing the matter, in their lives before, during and after the discussion, conduct themselves according to the moral maxims of their land and generation, and, more to the point, according to moral maxims largely shared with all men of any land and generation.

It is not to justify the existence of such maxims that the discussion takes place, but rather, within the tradition of the maxims known and upheld as true, to find if simpler rules, or a golden rule, can summarize the various maxims so as to make the reconciliation of conflicts of duties more clear to the just mind.

The Freudian conceit that moral maxims are merely social programming internalized by fraud is itself a fraud that defeats itself: no one who thought honesty was honestly merely an internalized social norm would tell society so, lest the social norm fail.

Likewise for Utilitarianism or Nietzscheanism: if the source of morality is the utility of the greatest number or the will to power, it is immoral to investigate the sources of morality, as either disenchanting truth, by desecrating the traditional sources of moral order, neither is useful to the greatest number, nor aids in the pursuit of personal power.

Attempts to find universal moral imperatives without a universal lawgiver to make such maxims, a creator to create men able to apprehend such maxims, and a superhumanly perfect judge able rationally to weight the merits of each case, and to reward and punish fidelity or infidelity to those duties, are ultimately in vain.

Traditionally, an act is ethical when both the means are licit and proportionate to the good sought; the good sought is actually good, and is being sought out of a good motive; and the nature of the act itself is not evil.

We can see why Utopianism (as “Wokeness” beneath its current ever-changing camouflage of Newspeak non-words is called) is so popular a temptation in the hands of Uncle Screwtape. If evil ends are allowed when the greater good outweighs the evil, then great evils must be allowed when great good results, greater evils when greater good results, and greatest evils when greatest good results, and infinite evil, pure evil without limit, is allowed when the pure and infinite good result is Utopia, a land more beautiful than Oz and richer than Cockaigne and loftier than Cloudcuckooland!