The Sixth Day is a movie that showcases the ethics of Materialism versus “Religious Sovereignty” and how technology is fundamentally neither moral nor immoral – though I’m not sure the movie itself is aware of it. The movie itself seems to be an argument against Materialism. The villain is an Atheist who holds that we should live forever through successive duplicates and that clones should have the same rights as anyone else. The protagonist (who is himself a clone) relays largely on a “God’s Will” argument which is entirely psychological and is reminiscent of Hume’s Moral Sentiment theory.
In my essay On Genetic Engineering I refute this argument as a prime example of non-empirical argumentation. Essentially all arguments that are not derived from evidence of something regarding the health or ill-health (benefit or detriment) to human beings are an argument from sentiment whether that sentiment be religious, libertarian or so on. I am not saying that all arguments must be strictly speaking utilitarian, but all arguments must be strictly speaking mechanistic. That is, they must regard the well-being of individuals rather than what they prefer. This is in contrast to Utilitarianism in the sense that one could argue Utilitarianism is simply arguing for Man’s happiness, when Virtue Ethics argue for Man’s flourishing. Therefore, we need not give opinion here of the conundrum of whether we would agree to the reasoning behind all sentient creature’s minds being set on a infinite loop of momentary pure pleasure for the end of time. All we must say is whether we concur or disagree with this moral-end is not based on sentiment but based on some reasoning based on data. Also, to say we do not base our values and preferences off of sentiment does not mean we cannot have values or sentiments of what is the good. Only that to the extent possible we wish to have our sentiments be based off of reasoning, rather than our reasoning be based off our sentiments. I believe it was Sherlock Holmes who said something along the lines of: Base your theories off the facts and not the other way around.
There are a litany of concepts that are connected with the one’s easily found in the film, so for the sake of brevity I will only handle the one’s I find of immediate interest – namely questions of autonomy, identity, consent and moral responsibility. First off identity for it is involved in all the others in the subjective sense of whether we find clones to be autonomous (or simply replicants of the original – at-least at-first) being able to have their existences’ authorized by consent (if they are truly just and truly the original in new flesh and with a new replicant brain) and whether they, the original or some synthesis (or neither) possess moral responsibility for their actions and selves. Is the clone truly a new individual? Is the sock whose form is the same but woven from new fabric entirely new? The answer is simply both. Yes, it is a new person – a new person is standing there. You can have two Schwarzeneggers when before there was only one. One can be conditioned differently than the other. And also no, they are identical; when Spock or Kirk get into the transporter, they are dematerialized, and in-effect they are killed, and they are reconstructed atom by atom making an identical version – it is the captain and his pointy-eared logician. But what does all this logic and mental work mean in terms of moral questions and practical applications? How do we define ourselves and act in this Materialist world?
Throughout human history, even the most Materialist men (even I) have viewed themselves as something that is fundamentally mental in existence. To be human, to be this thinking animal, is to feel at-times that we are living behind our eyes, that we our passengers in our skulls and we control this suit the way Krang controlled his. Simply because we perceive ourselves this way, does not mean or give us any information at-all about our objective fundamental nature; it will however, by definition, give us information about our phenomenogical nature. A nature which to some extent could change when our fundamental sense of identity is tested. As material beings, our perceptions and thoughts our governed by physical law; however, our material beings could be altered by the sentient “section” or element of our brain as Freud is known for documenting with psychotherapy treating such things as mentally induced blindness and so on. How would we respond if, like Schwarzenegger, we discovered that we are not “ourselves?” That is, we (whoever we are) do not “originally” exist in the body we currently reside in. We originated (in some sense) in a previous body and this body is simply an artificial vessel that keeps our mental operations on a type of potentially limitless version of completely functional life-support. Objectively this doesn’t make any sense. We are ourselves. In this case a clone that has the memories of an Austrian weightlifter, governor, actor, terminator and one of the few decent Republicans there are out there. However, this is not a question about material, but on Man’s perception, so the fact that it in a factual or objective sense doesn’t make any sense is utterly irrelevant. In terms of phenomenology our sense of identity is forever altered. We are not ourselves. We are carbon copies that lacking originality lack a type of psychological sense of value and sovereignty we once had – it is cloning, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence which has us ask the hard questions, the real questions of who we are, which is why the Existentialists and the Christians are opposed.
The Christian, the Existentialist and Liberal alike are all robbed of their defining qualities with the birth of these radical sciences. The faithful and Existentialist through seeing existence in terms of meaning, the Social Liberal through grounding human rights on Idealist Sovereignty. That is, Liberals ground humans not in their material matter, but on the fact that they are radically mental beings. This is why for them all animals have only limited rights and they have ignored the majestic primates, elephants, dolphins and whales who have (as the evidence currently shows) degrees of sentience, emotional complexity, individuality, intelligence, complex and individuated social structure and other things that they use to differ humans from the animal kingdom. Firstly, when I refer to the Christian, here I refer to the psychological Christian, whose frame of mind is not based on factuality or evidence, but the feeling that God watches the sparrow that falls, and his lord is fundamentally in control of this world. That is why many Catholics are against birth control though it is never condemned in the Bible.
The Christian must feel that Man cannot fundamentally control his destiny. That we, the human race, that domineering force that unlike all other beings spat upon Nature and shouted to the heavens that we would alter Earth and choose our own fate, must always be half-way ‘tween two worlds. One foot in the room of Scientific Determinism and Materialism, that mind-set and way-of-life that has produced the wonders of the twenty-first century, has saved billions of lives and is the sole force that has in-itself created luxury, leisure and surplus wealth and joy on this planet as distinguished from the world of Primitive Communism that the faithful want us to be in-part attached to. That is, though wearing eye glasses to in-effect cure short or long-sightedness is fine to the Christian, he is against altering Man to eradicate the problem before it would occur. He is against altering Man’s nature because it is foreign to his psyche. Just as vaccines are still foreign to some, and such things were certainly foreign to the Christians of the 18th century who argued that Smallpox vaccines should not be allowed, for it God were good and the creator of all things, surely Smallpox must be a part of his holy creation. The Existentialists, despite how much they make obscene gestures towards the Christian is his fundamental ally in this struggle and all that require the fundamental alteration of Man’s view of himself form Idealist to Materialist being. The Existentialist is a teenager, who cannot go on if he must confess that he isn’t “all that special.” He would rather choose the reality of irrationality, melancholic Nihilism, absurdity, mortality and suffering if it maintains the drama that sustains his Ego. There is no Ego in Materialism – and we see a dwindling if not an abandonment of the Ego with the application of cloning, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. These are the tools that will free us not only materially, but subjectively, as I have argued in my Genetic Engineering essay. I was going to go into further detail of the point of animals and Liberalism, however, I realize I have spoken a great deal on identity, and should move on to the remaining three concepts I wish to explore.
Now onto autonomy, which coupled with identity are the main deciding factors in consent and moral responsibility. Are we autonomous beings? And whether yes or no, would us being clones change the answer? First off, we must remember there are two interpretations and uses of the word autonomy. Causal autonomy and political autonomy, or, materialist and libertarian autonomy. We clearly do not have autonomy of the “self” the way some would contend in creating a notion of free will and ultimate moral responsibility. However, later I will examine a more “casual” rather than strictly causal interpretation of moral responsibility where we can assign a sense of praise and insult based off of virtue and consequence. But do we have political autonomy? In our world certainly not. We are beholden to the interests and needs of the Capitalist class (and to a smaller degree Government) and societies function for their profit. Therefore, we may act freely as long as we do not act as to realistically change society to free the population from economic slavery. Bourgeois freedom is the freedom to act within the bourgeois narrative just as Christian freedom is the right to accept God and those who speak for him. Only Anarchist freedom is the true material freedom to be a liberated being, or to act like a fool and squander one’s potential destroying themselves slowly as long as others do not directly suffer from one’s self-imposed damnation. But does cloning change either?
There is an illusion of change in-regards to causal autonomy. For we perceive a lack of sovereignty as result from our predecessor choosing that we (as the new Jacob) exist with the knowledge that we our “not ourselves” and must face this existential dilemma for as long as it confronts us. However, when I get to my section on consent, I will use the reverse reasoning, both based solely on phenomenology rather than anything obtainable through the sense. That is, either one is valid and the only one that could be said is “better” or “more reasonable” is the one that creates more utility and health. When confronting the question of attitudes, that is, questions that have nothing to do with what exists (aliens, angels, a continuation of the species etc) in a factual sense, there is only the matter of utility – truth has no bearing, and we therefore are facing only the feeling of truth and way-of-life which has no objective facticity and only reasonableness. There is only a change in political autonomy if we make it to be so. Just as human beings only have rights if we choose (through our subjective attitudes and reasoning) to enforce the rights (both social and individual) that we create from nothing but reasoning and hopefully utility – which is a form of reasoning in a broad sense.
Now onto the question of consent. Cloning could, if we contradict the reasoning given in cloning contradicting the sensation of loss of autonomy, be the ultimate argument against Anti-Natalism. Typically the Anti-Natalists could at-least make the case that bringing life in the world is unjust or cruel because all life currently cannot give consent to be born and most life suffers in ways that most would consider to be agonizing and without redeeming effect or attribute (particularly in the third-world). However, in a scientific utopia of cloning and genetic engineering (though the two strictly speaking could not be done to the same organism) the individual in question could agree to have himself duplicated (which would be the new being giving consent to be made, as I already said, if we take the other side of this purely phenomenogical question of whether the clone is the past self or a new one) and then improved in a way where all immense suffering is removed – either through genetic or social means. However, if we were to take the reasoning given before in the case of autonomy, the worst we can say is that there is no better case in reasoning against the Anti-Natalists. Cloning however is not a worse case. That is, if we are to make the claim the clone cannot give consent that simply places the clone in the same position as all life on the planet is. Just as the individual who is genetically engineered cannot give consent to be made strong or red-haired (beneficial or meaningless traits) but neither can the individual being born according to random chance or “God’s Will” as seen by the Christians as stated earlier. However, the Millian Harm Principle must be applied as I stated in my Genetic Engineering essay. One could not clone beings as slaves and deem it acceptable because they are not “real” people; a frame of mind that is carelessly thrown about in the movie The Sixth Day.
And now onto Moral Responsibility. Is the clone responsible for the actions of the original or past clone(s)? He could very-well remember them, and feel that he himself has committed them – and yet he has not. As I have stated, I do not mean fundamental blame, the notion that we are the moral authors of our actions – for both Materialism and Determinism shows this to be a false notion. But as to whether or not we can assign blame unto the new clone, like the question of the attitude we “choose” to respond to events and life in general with, ultimately this is a question of utility as is most conundrums of responding to crime or any behavior with social implications. It is beneficial to reward the Man of Virtue and aid the damned or poor soul – placing him in prison has shown to both warp his soul and warp the souls and reasoning faculties of the societies that must rationalize taking the freedoms of those who were victims of Nature and life-long circumstance. This does not change with clones. If it is beneficial to make the clone morally responsible for his past self, it should be done – as long as his fundamental freedom is not stolen. I am merely speaking about attitudes toward the clone, not political assessments that will determine whether or not he is guilty of a crime and so on. This attitude’s utility is almost entirely based on the question (for whether or not society benefits from the differences in attitude in-terms of non-clones’ actions will be secondary and either attitude could be seen in having their benefits and their detriments curbed for they themselves do not intimately experience the clone’s existence. Just as the fundamental question regarding whether or not one should get married is the difference in behavior a couple will have in their marriage, not how said marriage will affect the phenomenology of those around them) of how the clone will function and act under either of the “software.” That is the software of “I am responsible for the successes and sins of my past self,” and the mental software of, “I have a clean slate and this new life to make my own.” Personally, I think the latter has greater promise, but how great minds will respond – the clone of a Galileo, Orwell or Lenin for example – to the sensation that all they have done in their past life is removed from their identity and worth we can only speculate.
In conclusion, technology is neither fundamentally moral nor immoral. Only its use and the utility of said use has moral ramifications intimately. To liberate the utility and potential of technology, we must first liberate ourselves from class divisions so we may take control of the Means of Production and use technology for the benefit of the entire human race and in theory the planet and all existence; for if there are any conflicts of interests between beings and their virtue (the Man and the cow for example) they exist only on the individual level if at-all. Man can raise cattle that otherwise wouldn’t exist, the cattle can be healthy and live according to its Nature and virtue for a time, before being slaughtered as to fulfill its virtue in the food chain. However this is a question regarding utility of social arrangement (primarily scientific and empirical questions of reality) while the main focus and aim of this paper is to address the phenomenogical and visceral side to human existence – the utility of differences in attitude. The best example of expressing distinctions in fundamental perception and subjective being being clearly expressed in the technologies of cloning, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence for reasons that I both mentioned above and in my Genetic Engineering essay.