Our problems remain epistemological.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

The Greater Good

"Father, what does the greater good mean?" 
"Well, do you remember the other day when I explained to you about the trolley that couldn't stop?" 
"Yes." 
"And how all the people on the trolley would die unless someone switched the track?" 
"Yes." 
"But that if someone did switch the track, some different people would die?"
"Yes." 
"Well, the person who switches the track and kills those other people tells himself he did it for the greater good." 
"Oh. Okay."
"The greater good is what someone says when they want to do something they know is wrong." 
"I heard a man saying that we have to get vaccinated for the greater good. Is getting vaccinated wrong?" 
"No. But forcing someone to get vaccinated is wrong." 
"But why do they want us to force us? No one even asked us yet." 
"People who desire utopia very badly are not in the habit of asking for permission to get it." 
"What is utopia?" 
"Utopia is man's perfect society." 
"So utopia is like heaven?" 
"No. Utopia is not heaven. Heaven is God's creation. Utopia is something that man hopes to create." 
"I don't understand." 
"Let me try to explain the difference. Close your eyes and listen. I am going to read to you from a short story written by a Russian author who wrote about a dream he had. Here is what he wrote: 

"I suddenly, quite without noticing how, found myself on this other earth, in the bright light of a sunny day, fair as paradise. ... I saw and knew the people of this happy land. That came to me of themselves, they surrounded me, kissed me. The children of the sun, the children of their sun — oh, how beautiful they were! Never had I seen on our own earth such beauty in mankind. Only perhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one might find, some remote faint reflection of this beauty. The eyes of these happy people shone with a clear brightness. Their faces were radiant with the light of reason and fullness of a serenity that comes of perfect understanding, but those faces were gay; in their words and voices there was a note of childlike joy. Oh, from the first moment, from the first glance at them, I understood it all! It was the earth untarnished by the Fall; on it lived people who had not sinned."
"So that is utopia?" 
"No. Listen: 
"They desired nothing and were at peace; they did not aspire to knowledge of life as we aspire to understand it, because their lives were full. ... They showed me their trees, and I could not understand the intense love with which they looked at them; it was as though they were talking with creatures like themselves. ... The work they did for food and raiment was brief and not labourious. They loved and begot children, but I never noticed in them the impulse of that cruel sensuality which overcomes almost every man on this earth.... There was scarcely any illness among them, though there was death; but their old people died peacefully, as though falling asleep, giving blessings and smiles to those who surrounded them to take their last farewell with bright and lovely smiles. I never saw grief or tears on those occasions, but only love.... And not only in their songs but in all their lives they seemed to do nothing but admire one another. It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling."
"That sounds beautiful, father. Is that heaven?" 
"It might be. But at that very moment, there was a sudden explosion of noise, and a cacophony of scraping metal, and grinding gears, and screaming voices, carried on a speeding trolley straining desperately to end its journey, and which came to rest at last in the flesh and bone of those children who, a mere moment before, had communed with nature, and who understood all, and were happy, and sang songs of universal love." 
"The children died?" 
"Yes, in utopia, the children die. Utopia is very dangerous to children. If a grown-up ever starts talking to you about the greater good, you get away and find mother or me right away, do you understand?" 
"Yes, Father. I will."

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