THE DETELEOLOGIZATION OF JOSEPH McMILL
(Rodrigo Peñaloza, May 9th, 2016)
Why did I choose this weird word in the title?, you might ask. Because I have just remembered of a great little book by George G. Simpson called “The Dechronization of Sam Magruder”. Sam is a paleontologist who goes back in time to the age of dinossaurs only to never be able to return. In a similar vein, Joseph McMill in my story makes a leap not from one time to another, but from teleological ethics to deontology. This is were similarities end, in spite of the fact that both end up alone, like everybody else in my story of three. Ok, I am a spoiler. In my defense, the end is not important in this story, only what leads to it in the process. Contradictorily, the “process” which is the means which I use of to achieve the end of showing that deontology is tragedy compared to teleology is in itself the goal of my text.
Is a moral action an end in itself or a means to an end? In other words, should Ethics be deontological or teleological? Imagine the following situations:
SITUATION 1. Johann von Kant consciously hates Mary Lou, but behaves well with her because being kind is Johann’s moral duty. Unconsciously he loves her.
SITUATION 2. Joseph McMill consciously loves Mary Lou and behaves well with her because being kind is what Joseph wants. He truly loves her.
In both situations, both behave likewise from Mary Lou’s perspective.
If we assume moral action should be taken as an unconditional requirement justified as an end in itself, like, for instance, Kant’s (not Johann’s, Immanuel’s but also Johann’s in spite of the previous “not Johann’s” and the fact that Johann is von Kant, but not Immanuel’s, in spite of the first Immanuel’s…, I could go on forever with this play of genitives unless you realize it is just an equivocal term anyway) categorical imperative, then Johann von Kant clearly and consciously complies with the deontological ethics. (Please, disregard my interchangeability between morality and ethics, I know the difference, it just doesn’t matter for the argument). Joseph McMill, however, does not comply with the moral duty, because he behaves well not for the sake of duty in itself, but taking his moral actions as a means to his personal ends. To Joseph McMill, being kind is a means to achieve his goal: to love Mary Lou.
Johann von Kant, on the other hand, clearly conflicts with his inner feelings and is unhappy, since, for him, there is no sense in fulfilling a duty if it doesn’t come together with a sense of inner conflict. Indeed, if there is no inner conflict, then the action is taken for the sake of feeling well. We might then even say that Johann von Kant gets, nevertheless, happy for having the chance of facing his inner evils and behave against his primitive instincts. However, there is clearly no alignment anyway between Johann’s sentiments, at least consciously, and that which he considers to be his moral duty. This is all that matters for us to agree on the observation that Johann von Kant behaves morally because he is actually forced to do so and that his end is nothing but complying with certain kind of behavior, at least consciously.
Joseph McMill worries about his teleologicism, because he knows he is different from the deontological world he lives in. In order to make him behave well for the sake of well-behaving only, no matter what he feels for Mary Lou, he is forced by the Intelligentsia to enter into a deteleologifying machine capable of transforming his love for Mary Lou into hatred as a means to achieve the end of finishing with Joseph McMill’s teleologicism and make a deontologicist out of him. It is no surprise that the contradiction is that the deontological Intelligentsia needs teleology to achieve its end of making deontology prevail over teleology. Let us continue… Once Joseph McMill comes out, he starts to hate Mary Lou and continues to be kind with her, but his kindness now fully complies with the deontological precept of being kind because being kind is good in itself, no matter what he feels for Mary Lou. The problem is, the qualification “no mater what he feels for Mary Lou” is actually meaningless. Indeed, if he hates her, the deontological precept works fine. If he actually loves her, which is the case (or was), then his behavior will by necessity be moved by the teleological precept of loving her. Ecce! Love brings more contradictions! It suffices for him to love her for him to violate the deontological precept of behaving well “no mater what he feels for Mary Lou”, due to the fact that what he feels for her actually matters for the very meaning of the qualification.
In the end of the story, deontologicism only took away from Mary Lou the only two men who loved her in different ways: Johann von Kant for not understanding that his hatred was actually love, that is, that his means were an expression of his latent ends, though this part of the story is irrelevant for Joseph McMill’s and Mary Lou’s fate; Joseph McMill for not understanding that his behaving well was part of his love, that is, that his means was also an end in itself. It should be clear this would not be the case under the teleological view.
The lesson is, we cannot separate means and goals as two distinct and disjoint sets only to make means ends in themselves. Ends and means can be means and ends from distinct perspectives, but only ends matter for action.
Only Mary Lou, on her turn, knew that only Love is both a means and an end to justify any action. Bur her knowing it did not help her not becoming alone in the end, just like Johann von kant and Joseph McMill, in spite of the fact that she didn’t care at all for Johann von Kant and Joseph McMill in the first place.