Kellyism and Tak Kakle
Kellyism and Tak Kakle.
I do not wish to interfere with the athletes who are, or have been, wrestling in Liberty's arena over the questions of morality and Egoism. In truth, I am afraid to. I am no scholar; I have never read Stirner, and I know but little of Proudhon. Therefore, if I can but understand these men, let alone withstanding them, I shall do well.
Bat it may be a matter of curious interest to them, as well as to others, to review the possibly crude speculations of one who has looked into these questions with the directness of an independent mind, having but little aid from the voice or pen of his fellows. During the solitary musings of a rural and pioneer life, —in boyhood as I roamed the forests and mountains of the Middle States; in after years as I reposed 'neath the flashing stars of the arid, wind-swept prairies, or trod the mountain crags and gorges of Tennessee, or hunted in the moss-draped woods of the Oclawaha, — I have pondered on all these matters, and sometimes have reached conclusions in my own way that seemed satisfactory to me.
It appears to me, then, that this universe is but a vast aggregate of individuals; of individuals simple and primary, and of individuals complex, secondary, tertiary, etc., formed by the aggregation of primary individuals or of individuals of a lesser degree of complexity. Some of these individuals of a high degree of complexity are true individuals, concrete, so united that the lesser organisms included cannot exist apart from the main organism; while others are imperfect, discrete, the included organisms existing fairly well, quite as well, or better, apart than united. In the former class are included many of the higher forms of vegetable and animal life, including man, and in the latter are included many lower forms of vegetable and animal life (quack-grass, tapeworms, etc.) and most societary organisms, governments, nations, churches, armies, etc.
I am (at least in the ordinary, theological sense) atheist. I do not believe in any Supreme God, or Aggregate Intelligence, creatively antecedent to, or subsequently evolved from, the universe, supervising it. I see no use for such a power except at home; for outside of the universe there is nothing, therefore relations are impossible. And at home, in the universe, I see no evidence of such a power. Each individual takes care of itself as best it may. I see no evidence of the sweep of a broad comprehensive plan and the workings of an almighty hand. Everywhere in Nature I behold separate, finite, imperfect intelligences; toiling and stumbling along unknown paths, perhaps right, perhaps wrong, perhaps to success, perhaps to destruction. Everywhere I behold the monuments of folly, failure, ignorance, ruin. Seeing, then, no sign of a God, nor any use for one, if each individual could be perfectly intelligent, I infer Egoism as the Great Fact in Nature. Self-care, self-support, is the distinguishing mark of a complete individual, and intelligence is the agent for accomplishing this; and I furthermore assume that intelligence is the universal force, broken up and distributed among every form of matter and consequently possessed in some form and degree by everything. It is chemical force in the elements; it is reason in man ; and it is manifested in every grade and shade between. Self-good, then, is the universal desire, and, in the attempt to gratify this desire, the individuals sometimes cooperate with, sometimes battle with, one another, and sometimes, perhaps oftener, do both at the same time. Egoism, therefore, appears to me the one vital thread, the common point of sympathy, the great moving cause of the universe, and the simple explanation of all the harmonies and discords that make up all its phenomena.
That is good or right to each one which is beneficial to that one; and that is evil or wrong which is to that one harmful. Agreement as to what is good there is none. In fact, the very existence of one usually depends upon the injury of others. Absolute good is, therefore, impossible, and war is inevitable.
Perfect peace, harmony, and justice among all the differing individuals is an absurdly utopian dream. The most that can be hoped for is that individuals of a certain class or species will make common cause against those whose destruction benefits them, or whose differing development makes harmony between them impossible, as wolves band together against sheep and pursuing dogs.
Driven by Egoism and a constantly improving intelligence, the human species has thus united against all non-human individuals, and has reaped the greatest benefits yet obtained from so doing. But, unfortunately, its intelligence, or rather the intelligence of its individuals, has not so far evoluted sufficiently to perceive that the cooperation between these individuals should be made complete, and that all their battles should be with non-human Nature; that the Egoistic and continuous civil war now raging between them should cease, and give place to a still more Egoistic and perpetual peace. And the chief question between the moralists and the avowed Egoists is whether this contest between Individuals should, or should not, go on.
But the moralists usually obscure the issue by claiming that right is something aside from, or superior to, personal interests, and that Egoism is the cause of all evil. This seems to me absurd ; for what argument under heaven (that is to say, short of theological assumption) can a man bring to me to keep me from injuring him, except to show me that my doing so injures more than it benefits myself. Because that only is right to me which benefits me, I find in Egoism the basis of all scientific morality. But if the moralists, through too much tampering with theology, have fallen into this error, they have clearly perceived many higher relations of right and self-benefit which were ignored or denied by their opponents.
Egoists have ever been too ready to take coarse and, as the phrase is, "materialistic" views of what constituted self-benefit, reducing everything to dollars and cents, or judging everything by the standard of the less refined pleasures. Therefore their self-wisdom has continually degraded into mere selfishness. But the moralists have always been appreciative of the associative virtues, and Justice, or the harmony of the hominids, has always been their ideal. But their superstition and dogmatism weakened all their precepts. Not till the advent of the Anarchists, with their simple yet sublime doctrine of equal liberty, was it shown how Justice could be drawn from the clouds and made to dwell among men. Therefore I deem the Anarchists the most practical of moralists and the true reconcilers of Altruism and Egoism. Ignorance, partial knowledge, is the great cause of human wrong-doing, and almost all vice and crime and false moral teaching come from the startling fact—which I never knew a moralist to comment upon — that almost everything that ultimately injures and blights appears at the beginning, temporarily, and in a narrow circle, to be a benefit, and does actually yield pleasure. If I drink now, I get pleasure; but afterward comes disgust, debasement. If I gamble, I enjoy the risk; but in the end the risk ruins me. If I lie to my neighbor, it helps me today; but tomorrow he finds it out, and my loss in credit, etc., is immense. I pick his pocket, and for a time have wealth; but with detection come pain, and shame, and pecuniary loss. And, even if I escape these "material" consequences, there are other injuries, to the spiritual and mental nature, almost impossible to describe, but not less real, and bringing most surely a black harvest of unhappiness. All these things are the fruits of short-sighted, narrow-minded Egoism. Where the mind is broad enough to compare the smallness of the present gain with the magnitude of the future evil, there will be no more dissipation, lying, stealing, invasion of any kind. The hypocrite is a man who fails to perceive the truth of this, while professing to, and therefore we instinctively dread and hate him as an ambushed foe, a dangerous, treacherous fool. The selfish man is a fool of the same kidney, but less sly, not perceiving that his meanness, greed, and indifference are anti-Egoistic, and that an injury to his fellow, if only a sin of omission, is a tenfold injury to himself, by ligating the arteries that convey to him the rich social life-blood of reciprocal love, hearty good-fellowship, willing cooperation, and mutual defence.
We need a term antithetical to selfishness to describe the mental attitude of the enlightened Egoist, who clearly perceives the folly of selfishness, the self-wisdom of generosity and justice, who perceives that all crime is vice.
How would Auloism serve?
The fool hath said in his heart (ditto with his mouth): " My fellow's welfare is not my own."
J. Wm. Lloyd.