MINIMIZING EVIL As the Greatest Good

Do the ends justify the means, or the means, the ends? Neither. A completely different answer awaits. We have to change our considerations of complex issues from unsophisticated, uncouth, flying blind, to something much more subtle, inspired by the turn towards more subtle analysis that physics itself had to take, in the last three centuries (just post-Newton).

“Maximization of agency towards greater good”… is the only good. Why?

Because the world is fast, and getting faster, exponentially. We are confronted to an increasingly violent shoot storm. Philosophy is not just a consolation anymore. Philosophy has become the only pragmatic way out of a gathering multidimensional cataclysm.

Yes, it is also an excretion storm. Humanity is excreting, all over the planet, creating lethal imbalances all over. Contemplate the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, one of the world’s greatest biological structures. 2,300 kilometers long, 350,000 square kilometers in area. Yet, it is suddenly threatened by utter destruction. Why? Australian agriculture, all these plants, eaten by all these hungry vegetarians, out there. (In full truth, sugarcane is the primary culprit.)

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Yes, of course, the spikes will make you bleed, and they are venomous.

Massive production of plants requires a lot of phosphates, and other fertilizers. The latter gets into the sea. One thing leads to another. And then the babies of a killer starfish, the Crown of Thorn starfish, survive at roughly 100 times their natural rate. And the ladies Crown of Thorns are rather prolific: they produce up to twenty million eggs each. What is the Crown of Thorns prefered diet? Live coral. Crown of Thorns have already eaten their way through roughly half the Great Barrier Reef.

It is a science fiction situation, it requires a science fiction solution (philosophy will tell you as much). There are too many killer starfishes already. One needs killer robots. They are been developed: the starfish terminators have eyes, and they recognize Crown of Thorns with 99.9% precision, and inject them with bile, to which the Crown of Thorns is highly allergic.

Autonomous killer robots at sea: what could go wrong? Are sharks next? Of course! Not to terminate the species, but to make the swimmers safe (we could reprogram for plutocrats, some will insinuate…). Proper usage of philosophical evil optimization theory shows that, only this way, is evil minimized.

So welcome, killers robots!

Take another example: lack of awareness, and the evil Clintons, helped by the Bush of Oblahblah, let the financial plutocracy grow completely out of control. The silly ones will give money, clothing, even food, and feel emphatic, happy about themselves, and their pacific tendencies. Does the Will to Peace generate peace? A philosophical question. And the answer is awful: when a bushel of wheat goes from the American Middle  West to Africa, it is bought and sold virtually, by the financial traitors… No less than 2,000 times! Then they live in plush mansions. Of course those traitors are culprit. But so are those who let them thrive, namely all those ready to vote for crooks (names starting with “C”).

Shoot storm? Yes, not just animal waste and dirt that is flying, but outright bullets. To wit: extremely violent wars out of nowhere. Contemplate Rwanda, Somalia, the Islamist State. Worse could be around the corner: a (nuclear) war of India with Pakistan, quickly generalizing, is imaginable.

Science fiction, some will sneer, from the bottom of their feel-good ignorance.

But 2015 was considerably warmer than 2014, which was, itself, the warmest year, ever, by a long shot. Greenland is melting, fast. A collapse of ice shields in Antarctica, little talked about, looks imminent (at least to me).

Science fiction, some will scoff, and turn around, to study nothing. Yet, look at the Zika virus, propped by global warming. The USA is scrambling to study it. It did not exist six months ago, as a problem for WHO. Now it’s a total panic. Brazil just attributed 4,000 cases of microcephaly to that virus carried by mosquitoes. Four countries advised women not to get pregnant, more will follow. Tomorrow.

Genetic engineering may be a way to stop Zika. Otherwise, massive usage of poisons (which

already started). This sort of question are all highly philosophical, they are always choices between an evil, and the other.

In Libya, the West, led by France, destroyed a bloody despotic regime, practicing mass murder, but then, the West dropped the ball. On the philosophical ground of non-intervention, and Obama “leading from way behind” France, the West let the Natives argue between themselves to find out how they would organize this country, which is more than 4,000 years old.

That was a serious debate: Libyans have had some outstanding issues, of civilizational grade, for millennia (so do Algeria, Tunisia, even Morocco). One of these issues is whether the 3,500 years old alphabet could, or even ought, to be used, in parts where it still exists, rather than the youngish alphabet brought by the invading Arab armies, armed with their “Submission” (= Islam).

However, profiting from the chaos, the Islamist State moved in. And now it’s moving ever more, as the West is destroying it in the Orient.Now France wants to attack and destroy the Islamist State in Libya. Is this philosophically correct? (I think so, can’t wait!)

Philosophical questions are everywhere, and they are not just fascinating, but they have to drive policy. The situation is much more acute than when Seneca was advising emperor Nero, or when emperor Marcus Aurelius was playing stoic philosopher.

To all these questions, only one context in which to frame the answers: relativity. Relativity of knowledge, relativity of evil, relativity of consequences, relativity of action.

So yes, “maximization of agency towards greater good” is where it’s at. Not just where ethics ought to be at, but where action should be.

(Massimo P. and his friends have what seems to me roughly the same approach to goodness of “maximizing agency“; see: “From ancient to modern From ancient to modern Stoicism — part I“. It’s pretty clear that it was always the overriding principle of my approach to philosophy. I thank Massimo in passing for giving me the occasion of planting my claws and fangs into something juicy, in other word, making my thoughts more, well, effective by providing a debating ground.)

Can we find some inspiration in science? Yes, of course. Look at physics: energy is not of the essence. The essence is the potential, not the absolute energy. It is the potential which sits on the right hand side of the De Broglie-Schrodinger equation. Thus it’s the potential which acts (contemplate the Bohm-Aharanov effect).

Physics is dominated by the principle of least action (found by Maupertuis, during the Enlightenment). Least action of evil, such is modern stoicism. Keeping in mind that inaction is itself a form of action.

Notice that the old problem of the “ends which justify the means” has been completely reformulated in a much larger physical and philosophical universe. The entire, immense power of modern logic, mathematics and physics can then be brought to bear. It is not a question of carrying the equations over: equations constitute only logical foam. What is deeper than the equations, what really gets the logic going, is the context they represent.

For example, a way to formulate Quantum Physics, related to the Least Action Principle, is to consider the “sum over histories”… Well, just as human history itself. Causalities, entangled, are all over histories.

Ethics has got more complicated, but, in this vastly richer landscape, minimal energy, minimal evil solutions abound.

This is not just the great age of science, it’s the greatest age of philosophy. In the age of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, the empire was in danger, from forces, in and out. Now civilization itself is in question, and even worse, the biosphere itself is threatened. It’s an ecology most propitious to a blossoming of philosophy. The greatest questions ever, await the greatest answers.

And much inspiration has to come from science, whose main job is not just to find the facts, but sophisticated logics to give them meaning. Today’s most sophisticated logics and mathematics are far ahead of the best known yesterday.

We want goodness? Let’s maximize agency towards goodness. The Principle of Least Evil, in other words.

Patrice Ayme’

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8 Responses to “MINIMIZING EVIL As the Greatest Good”

  1. EugenR Says:

    The problem is the politically correctness, which has become the only real ideology of the Western world. The goal of this ideology is to create a stand still social and political environment. This is why the same background people are elected to the leadership, who can’t adopt a policy with long term vision, and can’t do anything against existing economic institutions, even if their continued activities are endangering the world environment and the humanity itself. The best example of this is the continuous usage of coal for electricity production, and not only in China and US.
    Bcause of this political correctness the problem of despotic governments, that drive to desperation the population of the counties they rule, can’t be solved because it would mean recolonization of certain parts of the world, enforcement of western social and political values in this countries, and probably need to fight ferociously the local war lords. All this looks very bad in the media, so better let them kill each other, just not to intervene.
    The idea of sovereign countries has become more a burden than a positive value. Countries fall apart, leaders lose their legitimacy, countries become overpopulated, and losing ground and the sovereignty stays in its place.
    And then there is the problem of legitimacy of any culture, even if it forces on its population, mostly the female population, slavery and ignorance. The women in such societies are deprived of education, and has no tools to oppose masculine dominance, and the motherhood is the only activity these women are capable of. Of course when asked, why they don’t fight back, they say we are happy as we are. Sure, the slaves in confederation answered the same answer when asked the same question.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Good point Eugen! Not all the West is paralyzed by Political Correctness: contemplate Netanyahu… Or Switzerland (whose Direct Democracy has passed in recent years deeply un-PC laws… Some of them now in the process of being adopted on an emergency basis by the EU!!!!! Let alone Donald Trump…)

      Political Correctness induces paralysis, indeed. It’s its virtue: this is why plutocracy fosters it.

      Indeed, contrarily to legend, coal burning is augmenting. China can make a new coal plant each week, nuclear plants not.

      It is indeed true that when racist parts of South Africa were forced violently to quit apartheid, a sort of recolonization was in effect: left to themselves, Rhodesia, Namibia, South Africa would have gone on with institutionalized racism. The white man forced them to submit.

      Nowadays, democratization is mostly in trouble in Islamist countries. China stays a question mark (it’s not heading in the right direction at this point!). The whole picture is unstable: France and the USA do most of the war fighting. If some nasty actors think they are weakening, they may step in.

      A nuclear bomb, just one, can make for a very bad day. Before one knows it, we could have a nuclear war situation, with possibility of propagation. That would not be exactly the 1914 scenario (where there was a plot by the nasties in Washington and especially Berlin), but something more accidental.

      European countries are not fully sovereign anymore: they have to abide by EU law. (Britain is trying to get out of it, but it won’t work.) The USA has tried to evade International Law by refusing to be part of the International Criminal Court. Interestingly, France abides to all, but still does pretty much what she wants, “helping”, invading or attacking countries at the drop of a hat, when civilization is threatened too much . (This new way started in full when France intervened to stop the civil war in Rwanda.)

      Women in Africa submitted to gory male rule are not happy: I used to talk to them, including 12 year old girls, as a child. They were thoroughly resentful, and quite loud about it. Those who claim the opposite on TV are typically old hags who are vested in injustice.

  2. Chris Snuggs Says:

    ‘Political Correctness induces paralysis. It’s a virtue: this is why plutocracy fosters it.’
    Chris Snuggs: PC is total sheit, but a favourite of the fascists running Europe

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      PC is the best friend of plutocracy whose fundamental principle is fascism… Indeed paralysis blocks analysis of the fundaments.

      Maybe the EU should allow for direct democracy…

  3. picard578 Says:

    “Why? Australian agriculture, all these plants, eaten by all these hungry vegetarians, out there. (In full truth, sugarcane is the primary culprit.)”

    Just a note: much if not most of the food (corn, grains) is grown not for human food, but for animal food (and those animals serve as human food later). And sugar is widely-used additive because it causes addiction similar to heroine – and is thus added to nearly all processed food, even though it is completely unnecessary in most of it.

    So yeah, modern food industry is to blame.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      You are right, Picard.
      I eat myself lots of soy… But I know it’s GMO soy.

      According to the “Sea Sheperd” founder (one of the co-founder of Greenpeace) and Pamela Anderson (!), who are touring and lobbying hard in France right now (I am on the other side of the Earth, BTW… for those who want to make sure of my Americanness, like Duviel ;-)), there is about seven billion people too many.
      (Before we put Pamela on the Barbie (BBQ in Aussie linguo), we will have to do something about all the silicon, though…)

      French agriculture and meat industry has the world’s toughest standards (higher than “organic” in the USA). The righteous will say: very good! However, this has been disastrous for French agriculture, which, 30 years ago was the world’s second exporter, and now can’t even compete inside France!

      As usual, there are NO LOCAL SOLUTION.

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