Ethics in Society

When ethical principles are applied to people in society, their basic function remains the same as in any other context—namely, to enable individuals to distinguish those courses of action that will enable them to attain objective values, thereby furthering their lives (pp. 3.2:1-3). Ethics, in short, examines what actions individual human beings should take. One cannot validly ask what course of action "society" should take, because such questions rest on the false premise that society is some kind of independent organism that can act on its own. As we have seen, society is a collection of individuals, who act in cooperation if and when their individual value scales give rise to such possibilities (pp. 2.4:3-14). Collectivists, of course, depict society as an organism with its own ethical imperatives. (Because collectivism requires the sacrifice of the individual for the "good" of the whole, it is a species of altruism.) Since in reality human beings act as individuals, the imperatives defined by collectivistic schemes must be imposed upon them, either by force or else by asking them to accept those imperatives on faith, disregarding the conclusions of their own minds. Either way, individuals are effectively reduced to a subhuman level, no longer permitted to function in their full capacities as rational beings, but only as members of the herd or as cogs in the machine.      Next page
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