Moral Actions Essay

1743 words - 7 pages

Moral Actions

Honesty and deceit. Compassion and Neglect. Benevolence and malevolence. All these represent the extremes in the spectrum of morality. From the general societal viewpoint, the former represents the attitudes which should be admired, rewarded and emulated, while the latter represents the attitudes which should be abhorred, punished and discouraged. Now philosophers, not being satisfied with leaving things well enough alone, endeavour to discover why this is so. Why do we admire acts of kindness? Why do we loathe acts of malice? It is generally thought that the crux of this question of morality has to do with the magnitude of selfishness accounted for in the acts and thoughts of individuals. If we can think of selfishness as an empirical property, honesty, compassion, and benevolence are acts and attitudes that involve much less selfishness than their moral opposites. This realization, of course, does not answer the question we are considering, it merely pushes it back one metaphysical level. So the revised question should be this: When is selfishness morally acceptable, and when is it not? Nietzsche, in proposing that selfishness is, in a sense, completely free of moral blame at all, comes to a conclusion that is completely opposite to the rest of the philosophers that we have studied. We shall see that Nietzsche is probably on the right track, and that selfishness is a faulty gauge of the morality of an action, and that morality is simply an illusory concept created by the individuals of society to prevent harm to themselves.

We have all seen it before. The African savanna. A cheetah. A pack of grazing gazelles. The cheetah stealthily approaches toward the pack of grazing gazelles. Natural camouflage hides the cheetah well within the tall grasses. Perhaps not well enough. The ever-wary gazelles stop grazing, nostrils flaring, ears and eyes directed toward the grasses. Surveying every shadow, analyzing every movement. Waiting. Realizing that its cover is blown, the cheetah cuts through the grass like a farmer's scythe. The chase begins. Eventually, the cheetah gets the better of one
of the gazelles. Perhaps it had a bum leg, perhaps it was weak. One crushing bite to the windpipe ends the chase. What better illustration of life than this Discovery Channel scenario? Nietzsche would have loved the Discovery Channel because it illustrates Nietzsche's definition of life as a 'will to power'. The will to power is any organism's natural inclination to overpower, appropriate and exploit others in a way that best benefits the organism. The cheetah is exercising its will to power by chasing, killing and devouring the gazelle. The gazelles will to power is to escape, robbing the cheetah of sustenance. No one would find fault with the cheetah in injuring and killing the gazelle, just as no one would find fault with the gazelle if it happened to contribute to the death of the cheetah by starvation. We ourselves...

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