On Teleology Negative Utilitarianism and Existential Nihilism
If we look at the existence that it appears we all share, we come to the conclusion that all possibilities for biological existence will one day end and that this is good. That it is good is of course a normative claim and can never be validated by simply saying that it will occur – but it is good through the lack of pain (and therefore the lack of existence) being a good.
Inside every newborn baby is a rotting corpse just dying to show itself. It is a fundamental mistake of human perception, showing our pro-natal (pro-existence) bias that sees life as good and death as bad; that sees vitality as virtuous in the normative sense. For just as the tree naturally grows, time and time again we see it is part of its teleology to wither and die – to say one is preferable and one is not the way society does is entirely on this unfounded pro-natal bias towards life and irrational dis-taste for death. For Aristotle is right in his biological depictions of living things. Human beings while alive display certain traits which we label as “healthy” for this or that reason. However, what is not properly argued is the normative value of the correct function of the organism – that is of health and virtue.
What if there were a race of beings that existed for a thousand years, and in their virtue, that is, while in their proper mode of functioning they excreted painful fluids throughout their extremities which aided in reproduction for fellow sufferers – more damned souls to suffer needlessly for a thousand years? Would we say this races’ virtue is a good? The only substantial difference between them and us is that if we are to exist it does benefit us (individually and society-wise) to have some of the things conventionally conceived as virtues to alleviate or prevent suffering. However, vitality is Nature’s greatest curse, for it is the vital man who suffers for a century. It is the wretched and repulsive which know the grace of death quickly.
Human beings are the most sensitive of all creatures neurologically, the most vital, and without our intellect we would suffer incredibly through the pains created by Nature – even with our intellect and modern conveniences we suffer incredibly through both external and internal pains. Though teleology has nothing to do with normative claims, it is a happy coincidence that the end (telos) of all things is the preferred end – an end where no beings capable of experiencing pain exist.
I have previously in past essays illustrated the divide between “actual” and “pragmatic” and the “personal” and the “ethical” and how human beings should spend their time while living their meaningless and worthless existence. People often know what it is to be done but it remains undone due-to the egotistical and evil nature of most people most of the time. But this hubris and evil dies with the person, and since they could not do otherwise, it is wrong to hate them for their smallness and vanity. All of human endeavor is either killing time (personal) or trying to aid our fellow sufferers who like us would have been better not being (ethics). This has nothing to do with what exists and what does not in-regards to the Noumenon, but philosophy, like art and science, should only be concerned with the Phenomenal or “pragmatic” realm of existence in which it appears we communally experience.
So much of our time is spent distracting ourselves, deluding ourselves, stimulating our capacity to take pleasure in the meaningless and the vane; the superficial and the trivial. Existence itself is trivial and the only thing that holds significance pragmatically (though perhaps not “noumenally” – that we will never know, though our ignorance in such things is irrelevant) is pain – the only absolute cure for pain is death.
Humans cling to illusions of positive meaning and significance through love, religion and various other illusions, but ultimately these things produce more pain than pleasure even if they are successful in their aims of satisfaction – which they can be momentarily but not absolutely due-to the nature of humans and our craving. Humans yearn to believe in the “passionate” mode of existence which so many philosophers implicitly or explicitly warn against – it is this passionate mode of existence which implicitly wishes for us to do the impossible and justify our existence through this positive significance and satisfaction of said positive normative claim of meaning or value (as opposed to the negative significance of an existence devoid of pain).
Though many philosophers warn us into falling into the illusions of love and passion, it is the Cynics and the Stoics who dedicate the most attention to these questions of mental states. The Stoic Man is the man who has found peace in himself by killing passions. The passionate part of us feels sad that we must, to be rational, kill this beautiful feeling, this hope, this love, but we must remember that we are unlikely to attain the object of our desires and even if we did we would be unlikely to be as happy as we imagined ourselves in our fantasies – that the happiness produced would be worth the miseries of wanting is unlikely pragmatically and simply not true in the sense that pain is the main thing we should avoid rather than pursue pleasure or any other positive aim, goal or objective.
The Cynics are far-more wise than the Stoics for their early advocacy of Anti-Natalism. The Stoics are wise but fall into unforgivable error when they both try to say we should be dispassionate (there is nothing to value; we should be Existential Nihilists) and yet say that all their Pantheistic God has made is good (has positive meaning or value) and all evil we see and experience is through our own weakness or ignorance. This is foolish. If we adopt the “dispassionate” mode of existence and care for nothing personally, if we see the Universe as an empty place filled with billions of lightyears of so-much nothing, then we cannot say that this existence is good. The dispassionate mode of existence can be good through lacking the evil; that is, because it rightly lacks the pains and assertions of value, meaning or feelings of passion that bring pain it is good – though at its very best it can never be more good than death, for in death the corpse is as content and as serene as the Buddhist Monk who has achieved Nirvana.
In a sense, Nietzsche is the philosopher who, despite being in error, corrects the error of the Stoics by removing the contradiction of dispassionate living and positive assertions of meaning and value. He says we should live passionately and not rationally, we should be bold and impulsive, building our houses on shaky but beautiful places, and he is the philosopher who tries the hardest to vindicate existence through the existence of some good. Essentially his “amor fati” is an attempt to vindicate all of existence by claiming that through causality if one thing has positive meaning or value than all of existence is validated through “all things being necessary.” Though he is correct in reasoning in that which is necessary for this supposedly “positive significance” he goes far too-far in vindicating all the particulars in existence for the greatness of Beethoven’s music for example, which he fails to demonstrate has any value outside of utilitarian conceptions.
He also fails in demonstrating that anything has any positive meaning, intrinsic value, purpose or meaning; which of course means that even if he could demonstrate that the existence of positive meaning in one thing vindicates all things as good he fails through demonstrating anything as “supremely good” or containing innate value. Nietzsche’s attempts to ground existence positively in the passions and the Great Souled Man is much like the Christians grounding existence in God ironically, making the same error as the Christians who without merit think that just because a hypothetical God exists our lives are meaningful – even if a God did exist this is a descriptive claim and has nothing to do with the normative realm of existence. A vain attempt to ground or justify an existence which can never be justified except to the extent that it can alleviate the burdens of others – that is fulfilling the negative significant role of existence of seeking to eradicate suffering. It is telling that he says that his only resignation will be “turning away,” for one has to turn his head from the stark and glaring truth of the world to see it as a purposeful and valuable thing intrinsically.
This should not be surprising – yet it always is to the common folk and leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many. The wisest prophets have always said we live for others and not for ourselves, and yet people are shocked and scream in horror when the wise tell them existence is empty and meaningless – devoid of any personal meaning, value, or significance to attach ourselves to.
It will not do to let the mob revolt or even so much as peep forth from its hiding-place; it is hideous of mien, and its rebel leaders are those flights of imagination which I have been describing. The smallest annoyance, whether it comes from our fellow men or from the things around us, may swell up into a monster of dreadful aspect, putting us at our wits’ end – and all because we go on brooding over our troubles and painting them in the most glaring colours and on the largest scale. It is much better to take a very calm and prosaic view of what is disagreeable; for that is the easiest way of bearing it.
…We often try to banish the gloom and despondency of the present by speculating upon our chances of success in the future; a process which leads us to invent a great many chimaerical hopes. Every one of them contains the germ of illusion, and disappointment is inevitable when our hopes are shattered by the hard facts of life. Arthur Schopenhauer
 I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.