- About The Phil
Born out of the arrogance of humanity is the assumption that should any problem ever arise then we will, ultimately find the solution. However, if that problem stems from our very nature, that thing that is the reason we’re still here, the reason we push forward, why we haven’t been swept under the veil of time, then it cannot be solved.
Self-interest or necessity is that thing. As this paper continues it would seem that perhaps a more apt title for such an attribute, that golden ticket to existence is “greed“.
No doubt the minute I said the word “greed” you thought back to that famous quote of Gordon Gecko’s that “greed is good“. Indeed it is, but both good and bad. For us it exists in a grey area. For the individual it is good, and for humanity it is bad. Yet society’s direction is governed by the actions and reactions of individuals to one another. Ultimately the combined greed of individuals is the influence for the progress of humanity.
Hence, it is neither wholly good nor wholly bad. “Greed” can be found in the middle of that Venn diagram of morality. Simply put then “greed is“. It’s our foundation, the reason we’re still here, and yet it is our greatest problem.
This will be the general course of this paper, to explain to you why it is that our very existence is a contradiction in terms. Why we live in what I like to term as a “Paradoxical Existence”, by which I mean that we live our lives on two parallel lines. One line runs along the interest of every individual and the other as the interest of humanity (or our species as a whole). Just as with all parallel lines they run alongside each other, but are destined by they’re very definition never to me, cross or intersect. That which is good for humanity will always be what is good for the individual. Yet every person will not share the same interest as humanity all the time. Our free will that influences our sense of necessity in the here and now does not take into consideration the future interests of our species. What I’ll endeavour to do is to show as to why this is the case. To do this I will explain the two key features of “Paradoxical Existence”, termed the “Destruction of Paradise” and the “Murder of Humanity”. Finally ending on the ever title of this paper “The Death of Beauty”.
So what does this mean? Well to begin with, it’s probably for the better that I refer to it as self-interest rather than greed simply because the association with the word will ultimately infringe upon the idea.
The first part of this paper is called the “Destruction of Paradise”. Paradise is the natural world, but more definitively it is the natural world that existed in the absence of humanity. Ever since we’ve got here, we’ve slowly been chipping away.
As I’ve said earlier, individuals influence the course of humanity, and therefore humanity progresses in its own self-interest, or one would believe. It is the progress of humanity to develop, learn and multiply. Yet we do so in a world of finite, limited resources, and have no doubt everything is finite. Whilst it is true that a physicist will tell you matter cannot be destroyed, so technically nothing is finite. But we live in a world of relative finite resources. This means that we consume everything faster than it will, ever, relative to our own existence, reconstitute itself.
The easiest way to envision this is to imagine the natural world as a candle. A candle that’s been lit ever since we’ve come to be. Humanity is the flame. Slowly over out now countless generations we’ve been burning it away. The more the candle burns, the brighter our flame grows. Yet the brighter our flame, the more we notice that candle running out. We burn through, abuse and consume the finite resources, whilst running that they’re running out.
So this is where we find the problem. Humanity’s interest is to stop this. To stop the candle running out and yet it’s bound to happen. For the self-interest or necessity of every person is to continue on existing. To exist therefore, an individual must consume. Every individual keeps on consuming, so society cannot stop that progress.
A more doom and gloom visualisation is possibly to understand that such concepts as “Global Warming”, the end of oil, and the total depletion of all natural resources are inevitable. They are bound to happen, brought about by every individual enacting their own self-interest.
It is impossible for us as a species to stop, unless we stop our existence as a whole. This is where we reach the clear paradox. It’s in our interest to exist, that’s clearly obvious, but if we exist, or continue to exist then it’s against our interest because we’re consuming, destroying ourselves and burning the candle.
Ultimately then, we continue to exist in that grey area, of both interest and counter-interest. We’ll keep on living, slowly burning the candle; we’ll multiply and burn faster. We will destroy paradise because it’s in the person’s interest to do so and yet counter to societies. We will exist ourselves out of existence. The candle will burn out eventually, and a flame can’t exist without its fuel.
Moving on then from the “Destruction of Paradise” we come to the second part of this paper called the “Murder of Humanity”. It’s murder, because we will be the ones who carry out the act.
What happens when we (as a species) progress and become ever more advanced is that we multiply. There is a direct correlation between our progress and our numbers. We increase exponentially to that progress. We become better and we increase.
As I’ve said now already, the interest of every person is to continue on existing. But what happens when we increase in population is that we are unavoidably forced into competition with one another. Essentially there is less for everyone with every new person that comes into existence. Therefore that self-interest or necessity of every individual becomes stronger. It’s an economical view, that should there be less of something, or it is rarer then it is more valuable. The price paid is set by an individual’s interest. That competitive nature enacts a pressure on every person to become more self-interested. In lay man’s terms it’s a case of “if only one person can have something, then that person will be me, or whoever I deem to be worthy in my interest”. As if everyone on Earth has been forced into a room, a room that’s “just” too small for comfort. We’d all feel that according to our interest we’d deserve more space, and we’d feel competition with one another to justify getting that bit extra.
So what does this mean for society? Put simply it means that due to the summation of every person’s desire (or interest) is the governing force for humanity then the species moves into a downward spiralling progress. We become more and more competitive with one another. The interest of the individual begins to out-weigh the interest if humanity or society. Soon, the very purpose of society is in competition with itself, no longer interested in the perpetuation of the species but rather the individual interest of every person. This is our second paradox that we create. We want to beat ourselves from getting to what we want. On our walk along the knife-edge of existence, we will fall due to our own competition and interest.
Lastly then, with the “Destruction of Paradise” and the “Murder of Humanity” we’ll gaze upon our fleeting moments until the end, but we’ve always done this, due to that aforementioned “Paradoxical Existence”. This is called “The Death of Beauty”.
Be under no illusion, this doesn’t mean that if we die out as a species then beauty does too because we’re beautiful or anything like that. Perhaps a kind of beauty can be found in the knowledge that this is a contradiction that defies its definition by the reasoning that it can be true, however this isn’t what I’m attempting to show.
Beauty will die with us because beauty only exists for us. What I mean by this is that beauty is only the appreciation of things and not the thing itself. A rose, therefore, is only beautiful because I feel that it is. It wasn’t “created” beautiful or “born” beautiful, but only became beautiful when someone who appreciated it, saw it.
Beauty therefore is relative to both the object perceived and the one who perceives it. We’ve all heard “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and it truly is that simple. It exists separately for every single individual. Something I find beautiful, you may not. However this doesn’t stop it from being beautiful. So long as I exist, then “beauty” relative to me does too.
But when we interest, or exist, ourselves out of existence, then we ultimately bring beauty with us. If we’re not here to attribute, or place it upon something then it cannot exist and hence like us it will die. That will be the greatest loss that will echo on after us. That thing that is unique to us, that is unique for every other living creature. Our beauty, the only one we know and the only one that can be attributed to something by us will disappear, totally un-replaceable.
This is it then, nothing dramatic. No violent zombie apocalypse, no nuclear holocaust or revolutions, mutants, or what have you. No, out end will come by own hand. We usher in our doom with every continued moment of our existence. We cannot stop it, because we don’t want to. We shuffle along, the clock will tick, and eventually our time will run out. The sun will set, peacefully it always does, and hand in hand with beauty we will go with it.
Keith Murphy SF Philopsophy