by Robert Sproule
The universe is eternal. It has always existed, and always will. But life is not.
It comes into existence, lives for a period of time, and then goes out of existence.
You and I had no choice about being born, and we have no choice about eventually
ceasing to exist. But between birth and death, there are a lot of choices to be made.
The purpose of morality is to guide us in those choices.
All life forms have one fundamental goal – to remain alive. And to remain alive
requires action – action to acquire those things which will sustain life. Those things
are values. A plant’s values include water and minerals, and it acts to acquire these
values, or it dies. A herbivore’s values include plants. A carnivore’s values include
meat. An omnivore’s values include both. All life forms must acquire values, or
cease to exist.
Different life forms have different abilities that enable them to acquire values.
The cheetah has the ability to run fast; almost all birds have the ability to fly. And
man – man has the ability to think.
In order to think, one must have something to think about – one can not think
about nothing. That something to think about is reality. We do not live in a void;
we live on earth in the real world. In order to survive, we must get a grip on reality.
It is our five senses – a belief in a sixth sense undermines the validity of the five
senses we do have – that provide us with the raw data. Our ability to think allows
us to integrate that data, draw logical conclusions, resolve contradictions – to reason.
And reason tells us that we must act in order to survive – act to create and maintain
those values that support man’s life on earth.
The pursuit and creation of values is good; their destruction is evil. This is the
standard by which to judge the moral from the immoral – all that which supports the
creation and maintenance of values is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.
Observe that the standard of good and evil is not derived from God, or Allah, or
society’s expectations – it is derived from the facts of reality – the fact that man must
pursue and create values.
Being reasonable, being productive, being responsible for one’s own life is being
good – is being virtuous. Rationality and productiveness are virtues. (That some
people obtain values by mooching off a socialist welfare state does not change the
fact that someone has to create values in the first place.) The ability to do a job well
is good – competence is a virtue.
Happiness, like food and shelter, is a value – happiness is a value worth pursuing.
Rationality and productiveness are indispensable virtues in the pursuit of happiness.
They are the two virtues that one must command in order to know one is a good
person. And the knowledge that one is a good person is the foundation of happiness.
One can not achieve any happiness and be a bad person – that is a contradiction.
Obviously, in order to be a good person, one can not lie, cheat or steal, but that can
be achieved in one’s sleep. One must do more than fall asleep to achieve happiness.
Being reasonable in all things and giving one’s best effort in all things are key to
knowing one is a good person and key to achieving happiness.
Observe that being moral, being a good person is a selfish pursuit. A man chooses
to be moral because he knows it is in his self interest, that like building the foundation
for a house, he must have a solid foundation upon which to build his happiness. He
takes pride in being a good person. He is rational and productive. He is honest –
does not lie, cheat or steal. He is responsible – does not expect others to pay for his
mistakes. He is reliable – does what he says he’ll do, when he says he’ll do it. He
is courageous – because life entails risks. He has perseverance – because the creation
of values is work. And he has integrity – he is loyal to his virtues and values.
The pursuit, achievement and maintenance of values is a life long pursuit, but
since man’s lifespan is limited, he must limit the number of values he will pursue –
he can not be everything there is to be nor possess all there is to possess. So, each
man must choose those values that hold the best promise in his pursuit of happiness.
He must choose a career – he can not pursue all careers. He must choose what food
to eat – he can not eat all the food on earth. It is the responsibility of each man to
choose the values he will pursue and his responsibility to prioritize them – from the
most important to the least important. Each man must get it clear in his own mind
the relative importance of each value to all others. For example: suppose a married
man likes fishing. His wife requires extensive dental work, but he refuses to pay for
it, and instead, buys a boat. It is clear that this man attaches more importance to a
new boat than he does to his wife’s health. If he had had the relative importance of
his values clearly in his mind when he was single, had prioritized his values, he
would not have proposed marriage – he would have gone fishing.
In the pursuit of happiness, it is only the pursuit of rational values, properly
prioritized, that can hold any promise of success. And each individual must make
his own choices – alone with his own thoughts. It is not to be left up to Jesus or
Muhammad, a teacher or a preacher, parents or friends, or what one might think others
think. Each individual must make his own choices. And they must stand to reason –
he must decide that his wife’s health requires attention now, and that the boat can
wait. And because each man must make his own choices, he must be free to choose.
He must have the right to his life and the right to his property – he should know that
capitalism is the only system that protects these rights.
What’s it all about? It’s about being a good person – rational, productive, honest,
responsible, reliable… It’s about building the foundation of happiness – about being
a person worthy of happiness. And making the effort to pursue, achieve, maintain,
and prioritize one’s values. It’s not always easy, but one makes the effort, makes it
each and every day because – happiness is a value worth pursuing.