A SYSTEM OF EMPATHY: REBUTTAL TO AN EXISTENTIALIST THEORY OF JUSTICE

An existentialist theory of justice would be a contradiction and a betrayal of existentialist philosophy. In the present and most likely future of technological society in which even Christianity is surrendering the individual to the needs of the will to power of the few, existentialism is the last philosophy founded upon the power of the individual as morally superior to the indifference of the universe. Existentialism recognizes and must continue to recognize that there is no justice in life nor in the next life, if any, and there is no justice in or out of court. Justice as with ethics and any system of normative principles is a means created by the powers of any given system of power to maintain the status quo of that system of power. Taking “justice” as a serious ontological reality or creating an existentialist “justice” would be just another system of power to maintain the status quo of power. Rather, existentialists who have decided to act as social agents for change must seek an alternate ontological reality. This alternative must involve struggle not peaceful acceptance, but struggle with empathy for all involved in the struggle of power with the indifference of the universe.

 
Existentialism in both its secular and religious form is an attempt to avoid nihilism: an attempt that always fails. In the end of its logic, existentialist reasoning must accept nihilism. Such acceptance does not deny truth. Nihilism denies meaning in life not truth. As soon as some nihilist states there is no absolute truth in life they have contradicted themselves and established that there is absolute truth. At a minimum, there is the absolute truth that I exist and therefore I think and I want more than to exist.

 
Nihilist truth is pragmatic. Once I reject suicide and decide to give meaning to the universe, I must choose an ontology and morality necessary to achieve that meaning. If what I choose works to achieve my result, they are true. If they fail, they are to be rejected or revised or I can go back to contemplating suicide. Regardless of how I proceed, by necessity existentialism involves struggle not peaceful coexistence with what is not “I”. The universe does not care about my existence, it is its own existence. Unless I am one of the few beloved by God and thus made a god alongside of Him or I become a god myself as a being content with my own existence as an end in itself and thus do not ask existentialist questions nor need its reasoning, I will always be one of the poor hated by God and thus always involved in a struggle with His meaningless universe. This struggle with a meaningless universe includes all, including others, who may be out there. There is nothing one can do to make the struggle with the universe any less painful. It is what it is, and in the end it will always win the war regardless of how many battles we fight and win.

 
The struggle with the others who may be or seem to be out is a different situation. Rationally, existentialism has the benefit of avoiding solipsism: there must be others ontologicaly existing out there because I cannot will what I want. It is in the struggle of my will to achieve power over my life and my will’s constant inability and outward failure to do so that proves I am not alone in the universe. There is something out there, it may just be God but it is out there. If it is just God, He is taking so many forms to make my life miserable that He might as well be a multitude of others and pragmatically I must accept such an ontology to survive. Assuming that I am alone would only lead to being a god. Unless that is my destiny, I cannot make that assumption and must deal with the others out there struggling with me or against me in my will to power.

 
Unless I am destined to be a god, pragmatically empathy is the only option for an existentialist to create a system of social normative principles. If I am destined to be my own god, justice is the choice to make to enable and to enforce my will to power. Justice consists of the desire to sit in judgment of others’ will to power; determine how it is interfering with my will to power; and then to force them to conform their will to my will to power. If I am powerful enough, I can do this on my own. In the modern technological society, such justice requires the joint effort of an Orwellian Inner and Outer Party working together. Justice does not care about the ultimate struggle between the individual and the universe. Its concerns are only with the present. That is why no system of justice has ever been nor will it ever be on the right side of history.

 
Empathy is the ability to understand the nature of the struggle with the universe; the others’ struggle within that ultimate struggle; and to force myself to limit my will to power to the minimum necessary so that I and the others’ struggle will not hinder either of us in our ultimate struggle with the indifference of the universe. Unlike justice that inherently wants and creates the power to enforce its will to power, empathy is a matter of luck. Just as the existentialist struggle to give meaning to the universe is a solitary struggle, empathy is a solitary struggle.

 
The substantive question for an existentialist who wants to be an intentionally and knowing actor in the stage of social change is: can systems of empathy be created to replace systems of justice? There are significant generalities and details to be worked out in any such replacement. First of all, the concept of justice as a virtue must be eliminated; it must be seen as a meaningless concept in technological society. In terms of general principles, such a result is difficult enough to achieve for Christian communities that in substance are the only modern technological communities who expect justice only in another life and accept love and mercy as the only obtainable virtues in this life. However, for all practical purposes, it is impossible to achieve for fake religions such as Islam and for Old Testament religions such as Judaism in which justice is seen as a virtue achievable on earth. In terms of details, a system of empathy would require judges who are appointed as “judges” based on pragmatic merit as existentialists and their intelligence and empathetic abilities; who are appointed only for limited terms so that they are not corrupted by power; and are greatly limited their power to act affirmatively on anything. This is impossible in all modern technological societies in which judges are secular religious appointed to be fanatically loyal to the justice called “rule of law” and the delusions associated with such secular religion.

THE ‘RULE OF LAW’ DELUSION

Maintaining the “rule of law” is always pontificated by  the powerful as a necessary good of both Western and Eastern Civilization as a means to protect the weak from the powerful, and “rule of law” is almost always used by the powerful interchangeably with “system of justice”. Historically, there is no reason for such pontificating nor with such synonymous use of these terms. What should be pontificated upon is the “rule of power” and the means to control it — including controlling the power of the law. The rule of law is only concerned with maintaining a given social status quo. It is the rule of power that changes the status of quo. In terms of pragmatics, a “system of injustice” is as much a rule of law as a system of justice, in practice they are the same: justice and injustice are two sides of the same coin and both necessarily serve to maintain the powerful few in power over the many. Rather than protecting the weak from the strong, the rule of law and its social system of norms called “justice” serve to protect the few strong from the many weak who in combination, if allowed, would overcome and kill the few in power resulting in chaos, anarchy, and the creation of a new powers-that-be. This is the nature of reality that is accepted by the rule of power but not by the delusional rule of law called justice.

 
Philosophers of law are always crying about the horrendous state of existence in which humanity would be absence “the rule of law” consisting of constant random and arbitrary violence absence  — that is if humanity were still ruled by the law of the jungle in which the strongest rule by force over the weakest. They seem to ignore that the law of the jungle is as much a rule of law as their version of it in which the law holds a monopoly on violence. Without doubt, historically, the primitive state of humanity was and would be a violent one in the absence of an organized system of so-called justice to control personal vendetta and retribution for all actual or perceived injustices among humans. The recent book “War in Human Civilization” by Azar Gat accurately delineates how Thomas Hobbes’ view of the primitive state of humanity was much more accurate than the Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s view of it. Of course this crying comes from philosophers of law — including Hobbes and Rousseau — who are all either members of the ruling class of their society or its house servants. What these house servants ignore or fail to state is that a system of injustice working as a rule of law will serve the same purpose. The inmates of a modern maximum security prison in the United States live in society maintained by the rule of law in which random and arbitrary violence is more absent than in any rule of law community outside of prison. The same could be said of the rule of law in North Korea or in any efficiently operated military dictatorship — or even of the military. Any efficiently run rule of law will eliminate the constant random and arbitrary violence of our primitive state: either a system of justice or injustice. No honest review of history or the workings of social struggles would support a view that “the rule of law” is intended to defend the weak from the strong, but rather the intent is to protect the few strong from the many weak whose power in a conglomeration would be greater than those few.

 
Anyone not among nor working for the powers-that-be who contemplates the reality of social interactions between the strong and the weak whether in a primitive state or in any state would realize that the individual who wants to live and survive in life wants power, wants to be strong, and will grab power over the weak when given the chance. I am not saying this as if it were an evil, it is the reality of life. Even if a group of humans loves each other, cooperate, and get along in peace as most seem to preach they want, nature will not cooperate with this goal. Eventually there will occur a natural occurrence such as disease, famine, cold, heat, flooding, or some other “Act of God” that will force a peaceful community of humans into a battle against nature to survive. In this battle, the strong will survive, the weak will not. By ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ I am not referring to physically strong or weak nor any popular conception of evolution — which has nothing to do with the scientific concept of evolution operating essentially as a statistical spreadsheet for sense experience of those who survive and those who do not. Who are the strong and the weak in any given situation is dependent on the situation. The defining characteristics of those who will survive in any given struggle for power over nature will be those with the strongest will to power over it and all parts of it, including their fellow and sister humans, plus being lucky. Sometimes this will to power will be physical, other times mental, others social, and so forth, depending on the nature of the struggle for power.

 
Living in a modern technological society, we have lost sight of the misery and struggle over nature by our ancestors that has gotten us here and that is hidden by technology though the struggle against nature is the motivating force of all life, human or not. The individual is faced with a few existential truths about life that must be accepted to live: “I exist”; “there is something out there that is not I”; and “I need power over that something to live.” If anyone reading this wants to contemplate this reality, I suggest Sand Pebbles Podcast.

 
When these individual existential realities become social, we have social classes and class struggles that also are not evils: they are a necessary part of reality. There is no basis in reality to hope for a Marxist end to social classes and class struggle: they are the substance and essence of reality. For some reason, God hates the poor and weak and wants to keep them poor and weak. The poor and weak must struggle to overcome this reality; they can only do so when they unite enough to overcome it; but despite any material progress they are doomed to fall back into being the poor and weak. This is the rule of power. If anyone reading this wants to contemplate this reality, again I suggest Sand Pebbles Podcast and Between World and Us. As summarized by George Orwell in is book 1984:

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other.

 

This is the reality accepted by the rule of power. This is the reality ignored by the delusion, a delusion perhaps intentionally created, of the rule of law. The law is just another means by those in power to stay in power. Slavery, forced colonialism, forced imperialism, apartheid, and all evils of which those worshiping the rule of law complain were all legal in their day. It is delusional to maintain that the evil powers of the rule of law can or must be corrected not by simply removing the evil powers but by giving the rule of law new and different powers that will eventually become just as evil as those powers eliminated. The power of the rule of law will on its own try to expand and magnify and will expand and magnify as needed to keep the powers-that-be in power. To maintain and grow as a civilization, non-lawyers, honorable lawyers not part of the law’s 1984 Outer Party, and those not part of any given system of justice/injustice must acknowledge and be guided by the rule of power to fight and minimize as much as possible the law’s expansion and magnification in any form: Jim Crow laws are as evil as civil rights laws; legally enforced integration is as bad as legally enforced segregation; and so forth. Social bonding; communities of cooperative individuals; and creating empathetic communities of diverse individuals but not communities of different colors, races, and sexes who think and act the same and hate all who think differently require the absence of the rule of law as a secular religion not its presence. From the Roman plebes to the present working classes, it is only their knowledge of the rule of power and their acting upon it that creates civilization.

AN EXISTENTIALIST THEORY OF JUSTICE

Existentialist thought as a philosophy has primarily served substantively and practically as a personal philosophy dealing with the meaninglessness of life and the moral decision of suicide. When it tries to deal with social or ethical concepts beyond the needs of an individual, it becomes primarily a means for French dudes to get laid and makes little sense either in theory or in practice. Such result is predictable given its premises and conclusions that all is meaningless and that all social and ethical concepts are equal in the end. Don Juan, the Actor, and the Conqueror are all equally moral individuals when all is meaningless. However, I do not believe that this is a necessary result of Existentialist thought. This is the necessary result and truth when one faces the choice of suicide, however, once one has made the choice to live and to reject suicide, this choice makes possible an Existentialist theory of social ethics or justice that must be systematically studied. It is not necessarily true that Existentialist thought must accept the Conqueror whose strength is his will to conquer as morally or ethically equal to those whose strength is their will not to conquer. An Existentialist theory of Justice is possible.

Once one chooses to live, the second unavoidable realization after ‘I think therefore I am’ is that ‘I think therefore I need power to continue thinking.’ Living requires power. Though life may be gifted to us at conception without our choice, one who wants to live must get the power to continue staying alive from the moment the choice to continue living is made. The individual born rich or an ascetic surviving on small needs may not need to acquire further or much power to live but regardless of how little power one needs to acquire, living does not occur naturally. If we let Nature or Natural Law have its way, both the individual and any society of individuals would die of ‘natural causes’ quickly and most likely painfully and miserably. I refer to this need as ‘power’ or in the classical sense the ‘Will to Power’ because such choice of words best describes the various forms of work and effort in which human life engages in order to survive. This is true of all life. Animals and plants spend their whole existence hunting each other as food to get the power to live. The human need for power in life goes beyond just food: humans want the power to control their lives and thus eventually, once one starts interacting with at least one other individual to form a society, the power to control the lives of other humans (whether real or imagined). Thus, having survived the absurd reality that life is meaningless, the Absurd Man must now face the absurd reality that life is meaningless and unjust. Not only will one never naturally get what one needs to live, survive, and to have some fun and passion in life, but one’s attempts to live, survive, and have some fun will unavoidably be conflicting with and most likely will be threatening to someone else’s attempts and need to do the same.

Furthermore,the need for power and the ability to satisfy the need for power are never in balance. A poor man who is lazy and uneducated and a captive of his vices will most likely always remain poor both materially and in spirit. However, a rich man who is lazy, ignorant, and a captive of his vices will become, with a little bit of luck, a President of the United States and rich in all things. Though hard work may get the poor out from poverty, the cost of such success will be either destroying their spirit by such hard work or the selling of their spirit to the needs of the rich. Either way the poor have lost and sold themselves to those rich in power. The only way a poor man can keep his virtues is to remain poor and surrender hope for a better material life. In short, there is no justice in life; this is not a contingent fact but a necessary fact of life. As the Good Book says,the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet.

As with suicide, in standard Existentialism there are two ways for the Absurd Man to respond.

One can respond with the ‘Leap of Faith’ prescribed by the first Existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard: if there is no justice in this life, believe there is justice in the next. Secular existentialists are too quick to reject this option and such quickness shows an irrational bias and prejudice that should not be present in a philosopher. Religion has faced and dealt with the injustice of life for millennia; there is no justification to reject such experienced thought outright without at least understanding or at least trying to understand its complexities and subtleties. The Christian answer is very brilliant, powerful, and has served the Western World successfully and pragmatically for two thousand years now and is best summarized in the Parable of the Workers’ in the Vineyard. This simple yet intense and profound parable dismisses injustice in life because love exists between God and Man. It in no way attempts to hide the true nature of God as the ultimate Power that can do as It pleases with nature and the humans It created. It shows ‘justice’ to be a human concept; an all-powerful Being who created nature can do whatever It wants with it. Trying to attach the term unjust to such a Being as God that in essence defines the Natural Order or Divine Order of existence is meaningless and exhibits only the arrogance and stupidity of humanity.

God is defined as the reason there is something instead of nothing. Christianity offers us union with such power through God’s manifesting itself by becoming human in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is quite an amazing conceptual structure and thought. It turns the arbitrary power of God from being the source of injustice into the negation of the concept. The reward for such a Leap is incredible and it is very tempting to jump if one views it objectively. If faced with a beautiful woman who may be a bitch, a man is still very attracted to her and wants to fornicate with her as long as her beauty lasts regardless of the bitch factor. With God, you know the beauty will never fade and the union will always be  great, so why not put up with the bitch factor especially when by doing so you are essentially becoming One with all of nature and humanity and thus ending all the conflict that is the source of injustice? Christianity has even developed the concept of the Holy Spirit to act essentially as a marriage counselor between God as a Man and God as the supreme Deity the Father.

Of course, the Absurd Man would protest that such a critique misses the point: accepting injustice as answer to the question of justice is the same as accepting suicide as the answer to the question of meaningless. This would be a correct critique if one were still debating the issue of meaningless and suicide. Once one accepts life, such a critique is no longer sound nor valid.

The other option is to go the opposite way and reject nature and the God Who created it. By rejecting such, I do not meet substituting it with another god as usually occurs. I mean nihilism and I mean it as a good. The Absurd Man instead of seeking the power to live by constantly seeking power should achieve such power by constantly fighting all others’ seeking of power without heightening the battle for power. We must remember that in this critique we are no longer dealing with morality or with just one individual’s battle with meaningless and suicide; when thinking of social concepts such as justice and ethics, there is always at least one other person out there trying to get or to share in the same power and thus inevitably trying to defeat us or to conflict with us in our Will to Power. Even if we were to reduce ourselves to the bare essentials of life living in a village of two people with all the resources in the world, unless we die of boredom there will come a time of conflict when the other will want to take power from us or power over us. When that moment comes, the options are either to choose to be a conqueror and fight over such power or to run away, in the end these options are the same because neither change the nature of life and the choices are morally equal.

However, I submit that the Absurd Man has a third option: he can spit in the face of destiny and fight not the conqueror but the fact that the conqueror holds such power. He can in defeat spit in his conqueror’s face. In the latter situation, the Conqueror, Don Juan, and the Actor are not equals. The first cannot but relish, seek, and enjoy power over others. Though the latter also enjoy such power, their enjoyment does not necessarily come from taking power away from others but in multiplying, magnifying, and sharing it. Of course, the latter’s means to power will in the end be defeated by a new or another conqueror just as in the end God will defeat all of us, but that is not the point. Having chosen life, the Absurd Man to exist as a social being must choose the path to power that is unnatural with the same passion that he chooses life. When finally beaten by the bitch factor in a beautiful woman, the Absurd Man will see it and recognize it and reject the whole beauty as unjust. In doing so, though one passion is being lost, a greater passion is gained by the knowledge that one has at least for the moment beaten the unjust nature of life. In this situation for example, the Don Juan who continues to seek dominating power over his woman is no longer ethically equal to the Actor but ethically worse because he does accept and uses the other as a source of power for him. This type of analysis can continue with the Actor and with all others.  I submit it is this power analysis that can be used to discern just and good individuals and acts from unjust and evil individuals and acts in an Existentialist world and in any supposed system of justice and law in it.

Obviously, there is a need to work out the details of such an Existentialist theory of Justice; however, it must first be recognized that such is possible.

THE REFUGEE by Philson Ong

I sit at a bench in the park. The sun is setting, staining the sky with beautiful red and gold. It is autumn and the leaves fall to the ground at the slightest wind. They are as colorful as the sky. I sit there admiring the view. Then I notice him. An aged man walks in my direction. He wears a black silk-lined coat and has black hair. He carries an ebony case, but his most distinguished feature is his eyes. They are the blackest I have ever seen, yet as dark as they are, they seem to have a glow about them. I think he is a European refugee, very wealthy, having to escape his country from conflict. The refugee sits next to me and views the sunset.

The silence is broken by him. In a deep, slightly accented voice he says, “I like music.”
Slightly startled by this question, I regain my composure and respond, “What kind?”
“This.” He waves his hands and cane indicating the scenery.
Finally I ask him, “You’re not from the US are you?”
“No, I am a displaced person.”
“I am sorry. Would you like to tell me about it?”
“I would be wasting your time.”
“Not at all, I have nowhere to be.”

With a sigh he begins to tell his story. “These days it is a familiar story. A leader so blinded by his own glory that he can no longer see his blunders. He developed delusions of greatness and posed as the final judge over everything from birth to death and therefore created seeds of his own destruction. It was inevitable under the circumstances.” Rage boils inside me. No man should have that much power. I see his views so vividly; I would have gladly fought this man, were I in his country. “The revolt didn’t succeed?” “No, it proved too weak, too early. It was crushed. Then came the purge. Nearly all of us died. I organized that opposition. I still think it was justified but I dare not go back.”

I try to comfort him. “You are in a free country now. You can call the president anything you want and nothing will happen.” He continues, “I am not welcome here either. No man can truly be free unless he is beyond his enemy’s reach. When one’s foe gains control of every channel of propaganda, uses them exclusively to present his case and suppress the mind and damns the truth as if it were lies, there is no hope for me.”

The sun has set and the moon is full. It shines in such a way as if it were focusing on him. He stands up and he seems enormous, almost as towering as the trees from my sitting position. He seems not of the world as the moon lights his face. He walks away, his coat in the night breeze resembling billowing wings. As he walks away, I ask his name.

He turns back and looks deep in my eyes, “my name,” he says softly, “is Lucifer.” He disappears into the darkness.