Why Ethics Is Harmful
T. K. Oih
At the faculty of philosophy where I studied philosophy at philosophy was divided into two branches: theoretical and practical. Theoretical philosophy included fields like metaphysics and epistemology, while practical philosophy was mainly about politics and ethics. I have always found this division strange, for out of all areas of philosophical inquiry ethics seems to me the most limited in its practical applications, and at the same time I can hardly imagine a science more practical than metaphysics. It is not an exaggeration that a serious study of metaphysics opens up such an infinite horizon of ideas that to explore a mere fraction of them could easily take numerous lifetimes. And how would one explore these ideas if not by applying them to real-life situations and putting them to test as what they essentially are, instruments of making sense of the world we live in? Thus it can safely be said that metaphysics, having the potential to alter the very experience of being, is of the greatest practical value. Ethics, on the other hand, has nothing to add to that vast sea of thought but opinions and theories on one relatively marginal human problem, the problem of right and wrong.
The argument for the importance of ethics is the same as the argument for its alleged practicality: ethics teaches us to do the right thing, and if everyone did the right thing, the world would be a wonderful place. The only problem is that not everyone does the right thing, and those who do are faced with an enormous resistance. Every act of goodness is instantly and systematically crushed with maladious aggression. This one insuperable obstacle will forever keep plaguing ethics, not because ethics is practical but because it pretends to be practical but never can be. Metaphysics can be subjectively appreciated, which is a good thing, since subjective consciousness is the only consciousness we have. We don’t need to worry about other people’s consciousness. We can, if we choose to, but we don’t have to. Ethics, on the other hand, clearly aims at a general theory and is completely useless until the general theory is put into practice, which, contrary to all the mindless positivity that is infecting humanity at a more alarming rate than any pestilence ever, is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Is there then not any value in an individual doing the right thing despite what others around him are doing? Surely it would honorable to set an example whether anyone follows it or not? Even if we ignore the others, what better could one do to himself than to act according to his will — for isn’t that what »doing the right thing» ultimately is? But unfortunately the worth of an act, even a seemingly »good» act, is measured in its results, and what kind of results could one possibly achieve with solitary good acts when they’re countered with abysmal tides of destruction? To take a practical example, what good does it do for a nature activist to hold onto a few trees when the forests around them are cut down at an increasing rate and animals one after another killed to extinction? It is painfully obvious that the vast majority of people are either morally corrupt or totally out of their mind, and that reduces individual attempts at goodness to nothing. Ethics is like communism: it doesn’t work in practice. That makes it not only useless but detrimental, for it gives people false hope, and if there is one thing there is too much of in this world, it is hope.