Infomotions, Inc.Issues in Ethics / Vaknin, Sam, 1961-

Author: Vaknin, Sam, 1961-
Title: Issues in Ethics
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): sam vaknin; moral; president; contract; social
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Title: Issues in Ethics

Author: Sam Vaknin

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Issues in Ethics


Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

Editing and Design:

Lidija Rangelovska

Lidija Rangelovska

A Narcissus Publications Imprint, Skopje 2003

Not for Sale! Non-commercial edition.

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Visit the Author Archive of Dr. Sam Vaknin in "Central Europe Review":

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Philosophical Musings and Essays

Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited

Created by:        LIDIJA RANGELOVSKA



I. Morality as a Mental State

II. Affiliation and Morality

III. Nature, Aesthetics, Pleasure, and Ethics

IV. On Being Human

V. And Then There Were Too Many

VI. Eugenics and the Future of the Human Species

VII. The Myth of the Right to Life

VIII. The Argument for Torture

IX. The Aborted Contract

X. In Our Own Image - The Debate about Cloning

XI. Ethical Relativism and Absolute Taboos

XII. The Merits of Stereotypes

XIII. The Happiness of Others

XIV. The Egotistic Friend

XV. The Distributive Justice of the Market

XVI. The Agent-Principal Conundrum

XVII. Legalizing Crime

XVIII. The Impeachment of the President

XIX. The Rights of Animals

XX. The Author

XXI. About "After the Rain"

Morality as a Mental State

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin


Moral values, rules, principles, and judgements are often thought of as
beliefs or as true beliefs. Those who hold them to be true beliefs also
annex to them a warrant or a justification (from the "real world").
Yet, it is far more reasonable to conceive of morality (ethics) as a
state of mind, a mental state. It entails belief, but not necessarily
true belief, or justification. As a mental state, morality cannot admit
the "world" (right and wrong, evidence, goals, or results) into its
logical formal definition. The world is never part of the definition of
a mental state.

Another way of looking at it, though, is that morality cannot be
defined in terms of goals and results - because these goals and results
ARE morality itself. Such a definition would be tautological.

There is no guarantee that we know when we are in a certain mental
state. Morality is no exception.

An analysis based on the schemata and arguments proposed by Timothy
Williamson follows.

Moral Mental State - A Synopsis

Morality is the mental state that comprises a series of attitudes to
propositions. There are four classes of moral propositions: "It is
wrong to...", "It is right to...", (You should) do this...", "(You
should) not do this...". The most common moral state of mind is: one
adheres to p. Adhering to p has a non-trivial analysis in the more
basic terms of (a component of) believing and (a component of) knowing,
to be conceptually and metaphysically analysed later. Its conceptual
status is questionable because we need to decompose it to obtain the
necessary and sufficient conditions for its possession (Peacocke,
1992). It may be a complex (secondary) concept.

Adhering to proposition p is not merely believing that p and knowing
that p but also that something should be so, if and only if p (moral

Morality is not a factive attitude. One believes p to be true - but
knows p to be contingently true (dependent on epoch, place, and
culture). Since knowing is a factive attitude, the truth it relates to
is the contingently true nature of moral propositions.

Morality relates objects to moral propositions and it is a mental state
(for every p, having a moral mental relation to p is a mental state).

Adhering to p entails believing p (involves the mental state of
belief). In other words, one cannot adhere without believing. Being in
a moral mental state is both necessary and sufficient for adhering to
p. Since no "truth" is involved - there is no non-mental component of
adhering to p.

Adhering to p is a conjunction with each of the conjuncts (believing p
and knowing p) a necessary condition - and the conjunction is necessary
and sufficient for adhering to p.

One doesn't always know if one adheres to p. Many moral rules are
generated "on the fly", as a reaction to circumstances and moral
dilemmas. It is possible to adhere to p falsely (and behave differently
when faced with the harsh test of reality). A sceptic would say that
for any moral proposition p - one is in the position to know that one
doesn't believe p. Admittedly, it is possible for a moral agent to
adhere to p without being in the position to know that one adheres to
p, as we illustrated above. One can also fail to adhere to p without
knowing that one fails to adhere to p. As Williamson says "transparency
(to be in the position to know one's mental state) is false".
Naturally, one knows one's mental state better than one knows other
people's. There is an observational asymmetry involved. We have
non-observational (privileged) access to our mental state and
observational access to other people's mental states. Thus, we can say
that we know our morality non-observationally (directly) - while we are
only able to observe other people's morality.

One believes moral propositions and knows moral propositions. Whether
the belief itself is rational or not, is debatable. But the moral
mental state strongly imitates rational belief (which relies on
reasoning). In other words, the moral mental state masquerades as a
factive attitude, though it is not. The confusion arises from the
normative nature of knowing and being rational.

Normative elements exist in belief attributions, too, but, for some
reason, are considered "outside the realm of belief". Belief, for
instance, entails the grasping of mental content, its rational
processing and manipulation, defeasible reaction to new information.

We will not go here into the distinction offered by Williamson between
"believing truly" (not a mental state, according to him) and
"believing". Suffice it to say that adhering to p is a mental state,
metaphysically speaking - and that "adheres to p" is a (complex or
secondary) mental concept. The structure of adheres to p is such that
the non-mental concepts are the content clause of the attitude
ascription and, thus do not render the concept thus expressed
non-mental: adheres to (right and wrong, evidence, goals, or results).

Williamson's Mental State Operator calculus is applied.

Origin is essential when we strive to fully understand the relations
between adhering that p and other moral concepts (right, wrong,
justified, etc.). To be in the moral state requires the adoption of
specific paths, causes, and behaviour modes. Moral justification and
moral judgement are such paths.

Knowing, Believing and their Conjunction

We said above that:

"Adhering to p is a conjunction with each of the conjuncts (believing p
and knowing p) a necessary condition - and the conjunction is necessary
and sufficient for adhering to p."

Williamson suggests that one believes p if and only if one has an
attitude to proposition p indiscriminable from knowing p. Another idea
is that to believe p is to treat p as if one knew p. Thus, knowing is
central to believing though by no means does it account for the entire
spectrum of belief (example: someone who chooses to believe in God even
though he doesn't know if God exists). Knowledge does determine what is
and is not appropriate to believe, though ("standard of
appropriateness"). Evidence helps justify belief.

But knowing as a mental state is possible without having a concept of
knowing. One can treat propositions in the same way one treats
propositions that one knows - even if one lacks concept of knowing. It
is possible (and practical) to rely on a proposition as a premise if
one has a factive propositional attitude to it. In other words, to
treat the proposition as though it is known and then to believe in it.

As Williamson says, "believing is a kind of a botched knowing".
Knowledge is the aim of belief, its goal.

Affiliation and Morality

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also Read:

Morality as a Mental State

Nature, Aesthetics, Pleasure, and Ethics

What should prevail: the imperative to spare the lives of innocent
civilians - or the need to safeguard the lives of fighter pilots?
Precision bombing puts such pilots at great risk. Avoiding this risk
usually results in civilian casualties ("collateral damage").

This moral dilemma is often "solved" by applying - explicitly or
implicitly - the principle of "over-riding affiliation". We find the
two facets of this principle in Jewish sacred texts: "One is close to
oneself" and "Your city's poor denizens come first (with regards to

One's affiliation (to a community, or a fraternity) is determined by
one's position and, more so, perhaps, by one's oppositions.

One's sole organic position is the positive statement "I am a human
being". All other positions are actually synthetic. They are subsets of
the single organic positive statement "I am a human being". They are
made of couples of positive and negative statements. The negative
members of each couple can be fully derived from (and are entirely
dependent on) - and thus fully implied by - the positive members. Not
so the positive members.

Consider the couple "I am an Israeli" and "I am not an Indian".

The positive statement "I am an Israeli" implies about 220 CERTAIN
(true) negative statements of the type "I am not ... (a citizen of
country X, which is not Israel)", including the statement "I am not an
Indian". But it cannot be fully derived from any single true negative
statement, or be entirely dependent upon it.

The relationship, though, is asymmetrical.

The negative statement "I am not an Indian" implies about 220 POSSIBLE
positive statements of the type "I am ... (a citizen of country X,
which is not India)", including the statement "I am an Israeli". And it
can be fully derived from any single (true) positive statement or be
entirely dependent upon it (the positive statement "I am an Indian"
being, of course, false).

Thus, a positive statement about one's affiliation ("I am an Israeli")
immediately generates 220 true and certain negative statements (one of
which is "I am not an Indian").

One's positive self-definition automatically yields multiple
definitions (by negation) of multiple others. Their positive
self-definitions, in turn, negate one's positive self-definition.

It is possible for more than one person to have the same positive
self-definition. A positive self-definition shared by more than one
person is what we know as community, fraternity, nation, state,
religion - or, in short, affiliation.

One's moral obligations towards others who share with him his positive
self-definition (i.e., with whom one is affiliated) overrides and
supersedes one's moral obligations towards others who don't. As an
Israeli, my moral obligation to safeguard the lives of Israeli fighter
pilots overrides and supersedes (subordinates) my moral obligation to
save the lives of innocent civilians, however numerous, if they are not

The more numerous the positive self-definitions I share with someone
(i.e., the more affiliations) , the larger and more overriding is my
moral obligation to him. My moral obligation towards other humans is
superseded by my moral obligation towards other Israelis, which, in
turn, is superseded by my moral obligation towards the members of my

But this raises some difficulties.

It would appear that the strength of one's moral obligations towards
other people is determined by the number of positive self-definitions
he shares with them (i.e., by the number of his affiliations). Moral
obligations are, therefore, not transcendent - but contingent and
relative. They are the outcomes of interactions with others - but not
in the immediate sense, as the personalist philosopher Emmanuel Levinas

Rather, they are the solutions yielded by a moral calculus of shared
affiliations. The solutions are best presented as matrices with
specific moral values and obligations attached to the numerical
strengths of one's affiliations.

Some moral obligations are universal and are related to one's organic
position as a human being (the "basic affiliation"). These are the
"transcendent moral values". Other moral values and obligations arise
as the number of shared affiliations increases. These are the
"derivative moral values".

Yet, moral values and obligations do not accumulate. There is a
hierarchy of moral values and obligations. The universal ones - the
ones related to one's organic position as a human being - are the
WEAKEST. They are overruled by derivative moral values and obligations
related to one's affiliations - and are subordinated to them. The
imperative "thou shall not kill (another human being)" is easily
over-ruled by the moral obligation to kill for one's country. The
imperative "though shall not steal" is superseded by one's moral
obligation to spy for one's nation.

This leads to another startling conclusion:

There is no such thing as a self-consistent moral system. The
derivative moral values and obligations often contradict each other and
almost always conflict with the universal moral values and obligations.

In the examples above, killing (for one's country) and stealing (for
one's nation) are moral obligations, the outcomes of the application of
derivative moral values. Yet, they contradict the universal moral value
of the sanctity of life and the universal moral obligation not to kill.

Nature, Aesthetics, Pleasure, and Ethics

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

The distinction often made between emotions and judgements gives rise
to a host of conflicting accounts of morality. Yet, in the same way
that the distinction "observer-observed" is false, so is the
distinction between emotions and judgements. Emotions contain
judgements and judgements are formed by both emotions and the ratio.
Emotions are responses to sensa (see "The Manifold of Sense") and
inevitably incorporate judgements (and beliefs) about those sensa. Some
of these judgements are inherent (the outcome of biological evolution),
others cultural, some unconscious, others conscious, and the result of
personal experience. Judgements, on the other hand, are not
compartmentalized. They vigorously interact with our emotions as they

The source of this artificial distinction is the confusion between
moral and natural laws.

We differentiate among four kinds of "right" and "good".


There is "right" in the mathematical, physical, or pragmatic sense. It
is "right" to do something in a certain way. In other words, it is
viable, practical, functional, it coheres with the world. Similarly, we
say that it is "good" to do the "right" thing and that we "ought to" do
it. It is the kind of "right" and "good" that compel us to act because
we "ought to". If we adopt a different course, if we neglect, omit, or
refuse to act in the "right" and "good" way, as we "ought to" - we are
punished. Nature herself penalizes such violations. The immutable laws
of nature are the source of the "rightness" and "goodness" of these
courses of action. We are compelled to adopt them - because we have no
other CHOICE. If we construct a bridge in the "right" and "good" way,
as we "ought to" - it will survive. Otherwise, the laws of nature will
make it collapse and, thus, punish us. We have no choice in the matter.
The laws of nature constrain our moral principles as well.


This lack of choice stands in stark contrast to the "good" and "right"
of morality. The laws of morality cannot be compared to the laws of
nature - nor are they variants or derivatives thereof. The laws of
nature leave us no choice. The laws of morality rely on our choice.

Yet, the identical vocabulary and syntax we successfully employ in both
cases (the pragmatic and the moral) - "right action", "good", and
"ought to" - surely signify a deep and hidden connection between our
dictated reactions to the laws of nature and our chosen reactions to
the laws of morality (i.e., our reactions to the laws of Man or God)?
Perhaps the principles and rules of morality ARE laws of nature - but
with choice added? Modern physics incorporates deterministic theories
(Newton's, Einstein's) - and theories involving probability and choice
(Quantum Mechanics and its interpretations, especially the Copenhagen
interpretation). Why can't we conceive of moral laws as private cases
(involving choice, judgements, beliefs, and emotions) of natural laws?


If so, how can we account for the third, hedonistic, variant of "good",
"right", and "ought to"? To live the "good" life may mean to maximize
one's utility (i.e., happiness, or pleasure) - but not necessarily to
maximize overall utility. In other words, living the good life is not
always a moral pursuit (if we apply to it Utilitarian or
Consequentialist yardsticks).  Yet, here, too, we use the same syntax
and vocabulary. We say that we want to live the "good" life and to do
so, there is a "right action", which we "ought to" pursue. Is hedonism
a private case of the Laws of Nature as well? This would be going too
far. Is it a private case of the rules or principles of Morality? It
could be - but need not be. Still, the principle of utility has place
in every cogent description of morality.


A fourth kind of "good" is of the aesthetic brand. The language of
aesthetic judgement is identical to the languages of physics, morality,
and hedonism. Aesthetic values sound strikingly like moral ones and
both resemble, structurally, the laws of nature. We say that beauty is
"right" (symmetric, etc.), that we "ought to" maximize beauty - and
this leads to the right action. Replace "beauty" with "good" in any
aesthetic statement - and one gets a moral statement. Moral, natural,
aesthetic, and hedonistic statements are all mutually convertible.
Moreover, an aesthetic experience often leads to moral action.


It is safe to say that, when we wish to discuss the nature of "good"
and "right", the Laws of Nature serve as the privileged frame of
reference. They delimit and constrain the set of possible states -
pragmatic and moral. No moral, aesthetic, or hedonistic principle or
rule can defy, negate, suspend, or ignore the Laws of Nature. They are
the source of everything that is "good" and "right". Thus, the language
we use to describe all instances of "good" and "right" is "natural".
Human choice, of course, does not exist as far as the Laws of Nature go.

Nature is beautiful - symmetric, elegant, and parsimonious. Aesthetic
values and aesthetic judgements of "good" (i.e., beautiful) and "right"
rely heavily on the attributes of Nature. Inevitably, they employ the
same vocabulary and syntax. Aesthetics is the bridge between the
functional or correct "good" and "right" - and the hedonistic "good"
and "right".

Aesthetics is the first order of the interaction between the WORLD and
the MIND. Here, choice is very limited. It is not possible to "choose"
something to be beautiful. It is either beautiful or it is not
(regardless of the objective or subjective source of the aesthetic

The hedonist is primarily concerned with the maximization of his
happiness and pleasure. But such outcomes can be secured only by
adhering to aesthetic values, by rendering aesthetic judgements, and by
maintaining aesthetic standards. The hedonist craves beauty, pursues
perfection, avoids the ugly - in short, the hedonist is an aesthete.
Hedonism is the application of aesthetic rules, principles, values, and
judgements in a social and cultural setting. Hedonism is aesthetics in
context - the context of being human in a society of humans. The
hedonist has a limited, binary, choice - between being a hedonist and
not being one.

From here it is one step to morality. The principle of individual
utility which underlies hedonism can be easily generalized to encompass
Humanity as a whole. The social and cultural context is indispensable -
there cannot be meaningful morality outside society. A Robinson Crusoe
- at least until he spotted Friday - is an a-moral creature. Thus,
morality is generalized hedonism with the added (and crucial) feature
of free will and (for all practical purposes) unrestricted choice. It
is what makes us really human.

On Being Human

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also Read:

The Aborted Contract

In Our Own Image - Cloning

Turing Machines and Universes

Death and the Question of Identity

The Shattered Identity

Are we human because of unique traits and attributes not shared with
either animal or machine? The definition of "human" is circular: we are
human by virtue of the properties that make us human (i.e., distinct
from animal and machine). It is a definition by negation: that which
separates us from animal and machine is our "human-ness".

We are human because we are not animal, nor machine. But such thinking
has been rendered progressively less tenable by the advent of
evolutionary and neo-evolutionary theories which postulate a continuum
in nature between animals and Man.

Our uniqueness is partly quantitative and partly qualitative. Many
animals are capable of cognitively manipulating symbols and using
tools. Few are as adept at it as we are. These are easily quantifiable
differences - two of many.

Qualitative differences are a lot more difficult to substantiate. In
the absence of privileged access to the animal mind, we cannot and
don't know if animals feel guilt, for instance. Do animals love? Do
they have a concept of sin? What about object permanence, meaning,
reasoning, self-awareness, critical thinking? Individuality? Emotions?
Empathy? Is artificial intelligence (AI) an oxymoron? A machine that
passes the Turing Test may well be described as "human". But is it
really? And if it is not - why isn't it?

Literature is full of stories of monsters - Frankenstein, the Golem  -
and androids or anthropoids. Their behavior is more "humane" than the
humans around them. This, perhaps, is what really sets humans apart:
their behavioral unpredictability. It is yielded by the interaction
between Mankind's underlying immutable genetically-determined nature -
and Man's kaleidoscopically changing environments.

The Constructivists even claim that Human Nature is a mere cultural
artefact. Sociobiologists, on the other hand, are determinists. They
believe that human nature - being the inevitable and inexorable outcome
of our bestial ancestry - cannot be the subject of moral judgment.

An improved Turing Test would look for baffling and erratic patterns of
misbehavior to identify humans. Pico della Mirandola wrote in "Oration
on the Dignity of Man" that Man was born without a form and can mould
and transform - actually, create - himself at will. Existence precedes
essence, said the Existentialists centuries later.

The one defining human characteristic may be our awareness of our
mortality. The automatically triggered, "fight or flight", battle for
survival is common to all living things (and to appropriately
programmed machines). Not so the catalytic effects of imminent death.
These are uniquely human. The appreciation of the fleeting translates
into aesthetics, the uniqueness of our ephemeral life breeds morality,
and the scarcity of time gives rise to ambition and creativity.

In an infinite life, everything materializes at one time or another, so
the concept of choice is spurious. The realization of our finiteness
forces us to choose among alternatives. This act of selection is
predicated upon the existence of "free will". Animals and machines are
thought to be devoid of choice, slaves to their genetic or human

Yet, all these answers to the question: "What does it mean to be human"
- are lacking.

The set of attributes we designate as human is subject to profound
alteration. Drugs, neuroscience, introspection, and experience all
cause irreversible changes in these traits and characteristics. The
accumulation of these changes can lead, in principle, to the emergence
of new properties, or to the abolition of old ones.

Animals and machines are not supposed to possess free will or exercise
it. What, then, about fusions of machines and humans (bionics)? At
which point does a human turn into a machine? And why should we assume
that free will ceases to exist at that - rather arbitrary - point?

Introspection - the ability to construct self-referential and recursive
models of the world - is supposed to be a uniquely human quality. What
about introspective machines? Surely, say the critics, such machines
are PROGRAMMED to introspect, as opposed to humans. To qualify as
introspection, it must be WILLED, they continue. Yet, if introspection
is willed - WHO wills it? Self-willed introspection leads to infinite
regression and formal logical paradoxes.

Moreover, the notion - if not the formal concept - of "human" rests on
many hidden assumptions and conventions.

Political correctness notwithstanding - why presume that men and women
(or different races) are identically human? Aristotle thought they were
not. A lot separates males from females - genetically (both genotype
and phenotype) and environmentally (culturally). What is common to
these two sub-species that makes them both "human"?

Can we conceive of a human without body (i.e., a Platonian Form, or
soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas think not. A soul has no existence
separate from the body. A machine-supported energy field with mental
states similar to ours today - would it be considered human? What about
someone in a state of coma - is he or she (or it) fully human?

Is a new born baby human - or, at least, fully human - and, if so, in
which sense? What about a future human race - whose features would be
unrecognizable to us? Machine-based intelligence - would it be thought
of as human? If yes, when would it be considered human?

In all these deliberations, we may be confusing "human" with "person".
The former is a private case of the latter. Locke's person is a moral
agent, a being responsible for its actions. It is constituted by the
continuity of its mental states accessible to introspection.

Locke's is a functional definition. It readily accommodates non-human
persons (machines, energy matrices) if the functional conditions are
satisfied. Thus, an android which meets the prescribed requirements is
more human than a brain dead person.

Descartes' objection that one cannot specify conditions of singularity
and identity over time for disembodied souls is right only if we assume
that such "souls" possess no energy. A bodiless intelligent energy
matrix which maintains its form and identity over time is conceivable.
Certain AI and genetic software programs already do it.

Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of a "person" as a
"primitive". Both the corporeal predicates and those pertaining to
mental states apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to all the
individuals of that type of entity. Human beings are one such entity.
Some, like Wiggins, limit the list of possible persons to animals - but
this is far from rigorously necessary and is unduly restrictive.

The truth is probably in a synthesis:

A person is any type of fundamental and irreducible entity whose
typical physical individuals (i.e., members) are capable of
continuously experiencing a range of states of consciousness and
permanently having a list of psychological attributes.

This definition allows for non-animal persons and recognizes the
personhood of a brain damaged human ("capable of experiencing"). It
also incorporates Locke's view of humans as possessing an ontological
status similar to "clubs" or "nations" - their personal identity
consists of a variety of interconnected psychological continuities.

And Then There Were Too Many

By: Sam Vaknin

The latest census in Ukraine revealed an apocalyptic drop of 10% in its
population - from 52.5 million a decade ago to a mere 47.5 million last
year. Demographers predict a precipitous decline of one third in
Russia's impoverished, inebriated, disillusioned, and ageing citizenry.
Births in many countries in the rich, industrialized, West are below
the replacement rate. These bastions of conspicuous affluence are

Scholars and decision-makers - once terrified by the Malthusian
dystopia of a "population bomb" - are more sanguine now. Advances in
agricultural technology eradicated hunger even in teeming places like
India and China. And then there is the old idea of progress: birth
rates tend to decline with higher education levels and growing incomes.
Family planning has had resounding successes in places as diverse as
Thailand, China, and western Africa.

In the near past, fecundity used to compensate for infant mortality. As
the latter declined - so did the former. Children are means of
production in many destitute countries. Hence the inordinately large
families of the past - a form of insurance against the economic
outcomes of the inevitable demise of some of one's off-spring.

Yet, despite these trends, the world's populace is augmented by 80
million people annually. All of them are born to the younger
inhabitants of the more penurious corners of the Earth. There were only
1 billion people alive in 1804. The number doubled a century later.

But our last billion - the sixth - required only 12 fertile years. The
entire population of Germany is added every half a decade to both India
and China. Clearly, Mankind's growth is out of control, as affirmed in
the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.

Dozens of millions of people regularly starve - many of them to death.
In only one corner of the Earth - southern Africa - food aid is the
sole subsistence of entire countries. More than 18 million people in
Zambia, Malawi, and Angola survived on charitable donations in 1992.
More than 10 million expect the same this year, among them the
emaciated denizens of erstwhile food exporter, Zimbabwe.

According to Medecins Sans Frontiere, AIDS kills 3 million people a
year, Tuberculosis another 2 million. Malaria decimates 2 people every
minute. More than 14 million people fall prey to parasitic and
infectious diseases every year - 90% of them in the developing

Millions emigrate every year in search of a better life. These massive
shifts are facilitated by modern modes of transportation. But, despite
these tectonic relocations - and despite famine, disease, and war, the
classic Malthusian regulatory mechanisms - the depletion of natural
resources - from arable land to water - is undeniable and gargantuan.

Our pressing environmental issues - global warming, water stress,
salinization, desertification, deforestation, pollution, loss of
biological diversity - and our ominous social ills - crime at the
forefront - are traceable to one, politically incorrect, truth:

There are too many of us. We are way too numerous. The population load
is unsustainable. We, the survivors, would be better off if others were
to perish. Should population growth continue unabated - we are all

Doomed to what?

Numerous Cassandras and countless Jeremiads have been falsified by
history. With proper governance, scientific research, education,
affordable medicines, effective family planning, and economic growth -
this planet can support even 10-12 billion people. We are not at risk
of physical extinction and never have been.

What is hazarded is not our life - but our quality of life. As any
insurance actuary will attest, we are governed by statistical datasets.

Consider this single fact:

About 1% of the population suffer from the perniciously debilitating
and all-pervasive mental health disorder, schizophrenia. At the
beginning of the 20th century, there were 16.5 million schizophrenics -
nowadays there are 64 million. Their impact on friends, family, and
colleagues is exponential - and incalculable. This is not a merely
quantitative leap. It is a qualitative phase transition.

Or this:

Large populations lead to the emergence of high density urban centers.
It is inefficient to cultivate ever smaller plots of land. Surplus
manpower moves to centers of industrial production. A second wave of
internal migrants caters to their needs, thus spawning a service
sector. Network effects generate excess capital and a virtuous cycle of
investment, employment, and consumption ensues.

But over-crowding breeds violence (as has been demonstrated in
experiments with mice). The sheer numbers involved serve to magnify and
amplify social anomies, deviate behaviour, and antisocial traits. In
the city, there are more criminals, more perverts, more victims, more
immigrants, and more racists per square mile.

Moreover, only a planned and orderly urbanization is desirable. The
blights that pass for cities in most third world countries are the
outgrowth of neither premeditation nor method. These mega-cities are
infested with non-disposed of waste and prone to natural catastrophes
and epidemics.

No one can vouchsafe for a "critical mass" of humans, a threshold
beyond which the species will implode and vanish.

Luckily, the ebb and flow of human numbers is subject to three
regulatory demographic mechanisms, the combined action of which gives

The Malthusian Mechanism

Limited resources lead to wars, famine, and diseases and, thus, to a
decrease in human numbers. Mankind has done well to check famine, fend
off disease, and staunch war. But to have done so without a
commensurate policy of population control was irresponsible.

The Assimilative Mechanism

Mankind is not divorced from nature. Humanity is destined to be
impacted by its choices and by the reverberations of its actions.
Damage caused to the environment haunts - in a complex feedback loop -
the perpetrators.


Immoderate use of antibiotics leads to the eruption of drug-resistant
strains of pathogens. A myriad types of cancer are caused by human
pollution. Man is the victim of its own destructive excesses.

The Cognitive Mechanism

Humans intentionally limit the propagation of their race through family
planning, abortion, and contraceptives. Genetic engineering will likely
intermesh with these to produce "enhanced" or "designed" progeny to

We must stop procreating.  Or, else, pray for a reduction in our

This could be achieved benignly, for instance by colonizing space, or
the ocean depths - both remote and technologically unfeasible

Yet, the alternative is cataclysmic. Unintended wars, rampant disease,
and lethal famines will ultimately trim our numbers - no matter how
noble our intentions and how diligent our efforts to curb them.

Is this a bad thing?

Not necessarily. To my mind, even a Malthusian resolution is preferable
to the alternative of slow decay, uniform impecuniosity, and perdition
in instalments - an alternative made inexorable by our collective
irresponsibility and denial.

Racing Down

Eugenics and the Future of the Human Species

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

"It is clear that modern medicine has created a serious dilemma ... In
the past, there were many children who never survived - they succumbed
to various diseases ... But in a sense modern medicine has put natural
selection out of commission. Something that has helped one individual
over a serious illness can in the long run contribute to weakening the
resistance of the whole human race to certain diseases. If we pay
absolutely no attention to what is called hereditary hygiene, we could
find ourselves facing a degeneration of the human race. Mankind's
hereditary potential for resisting serious disease will be weakened."

(Jostein Gaarder in "Sophie's World", a bestselling philosophy textbook
for adolescents published in Oslo, Norway, in 1991 and, afterwards,
throughout the world, having been translated to dozens of languages)

The Nazis regarded the murder of the feeble-minded and the mentally
insane - intended to purify the race and maintain hereditary hygiene -
as a form of euthanasia.

German doctors were enthusiastic proponents of an eugenics movements
rooted in 19th century social Darwinism. Luke Gormally writes, in his
essay "Walton, Davies, and Boyd" (published in "Euthanasia Examined -
Ethical, Clinical, and Legal Perspectives", ed. John Keown, Cambridge
University Press, 1995):

"When the jurist Karl Binding and the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche
published their tract The Permission to Destroy Life that is Not Worth
Living in 1920 ... their motive was to rid society of the 'human
ballast and enormous economic burden' of care for the mentally ill, the
handicapped, retarded and deformed children, and the incurably ill. But
the reason they invoked to justify the killing of human beings who fell
into these categories was that the lives of such human beings were 'not
worth living', were 'devoid of value'"

It is this association with the hideous Nazi regime that gave eugenics
- a term coined by a relative of Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton, in
1883 - its bad name. Richard Lynn, of the University of Ulster of North
Ireland, thinks that this recoil resulted in "Dysgenics - the genetic
deterioration of modern (human) population", as the title of his
controversial tome puts it.

The crux of the argument for eugenics is that a host of technological,
cultural, and social developments conspired to give rise to negative
selection of the weakest, least intelligent, sickest, the habitually
criminal, the sexually deviant, the mentally-ill, and the least

Contraception is more widely used by the affluent and the well-educated
than by the destitute and dull. Birth control as practiced in places
like China distorted both the sex distribution in the cities - and
increased the weight of the rural population (rural couples in China
are allowed to have two children rather than the urban one).

Modern medicine and the welfare state collaborate in sustaining alive
individuals - mainly the mentally retarded, the mentally ill, the sick,
and the genetically defective - who would otherwise have been culled by
natural selection to the betterment of the entire species.

Eugenics may be based on a literal understanding of Darwin's metaphor.

The 2002 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say:

"Darwin's description of the process of natural selection as the
survival of the fittest in the struggle for life is a metaphor.
"Struggle" does not necessarily mean contention, strife, or combat;
"survival" does not mean that ravages of death are needed to make the
selection effective; and "fittest" is virtually never a single optimal
genotype but rather an array of genotypes that collectively enhance
population survival rather than extinction. All these considerations
are most apposite to consideration of natural selection in humans.
Decreasing infant and childhood mortality rates do not necessarily mean
that natural selection in the human species no longer operates.
Theoretically, natural selection could be very effective if all the
children born reached maturity.

Two conditions are needed to make this theoretical possibility
realized: first, variation in the number of children per family and,
second, variation correlated with the genetic properties of the
parents. Neither of these conditions is farfetched."

The eugenics debate is only the visible extremity of the Man vs. Nature
conundrum. Have we truly conquered nature and extracted ourselves from
its determinism? Have we graduated from natural to cultural evolution,
from natural to artificial selection, and from genes to memes?

Does the evolutionary process culminate in a being that transcends its
genetic baggage, that programs and charts its future, and that allows
its weakest and sickest to survive? Supplanting the imperative of the
survival of the fittest with a culturally-sensitive principle may be
the hallmark of a successful evolution, rather than the beginning of an
inexorable decline.

The eugenics movement turns this argument on its head. They accept the
premise that the contribution of natural selection to the makeup of
future human generations is glacial and negligible. But they reject the
conclusion that, having ridden ourselves of its tyranny, we can now let
the weak and sick among us survive and multiply. Rather, they propose
to replace natural selection with eugenics.

But who, by which authority, and according to what guidelines will
administer this man-made culling and decide who is to live and who is
to die, who is to breed and who may not? Why select by intelligence and
not by courtesy or altruism or church-going - or al of them together?
It is here that eugenics fails miserably.

Should the criterion be physical, like in ancient Sparta? Should it be
mental? Should IQ determine one's fate - or social status or wealth?
Different answers yield disparate eugenic programs and target
dissimilar groups in the population.

Aren't eugenic criteria liable to be unduly influenced by fashion and
cultural bias? Can we agree on a universal eugenic agenda in a world as
ethnically and culturally diverse as ours? If we do get it wrong - and
the chances are overwhelming - will we not damage our gene pool
irreparably and, with it, the future of our species?

And even if many will avoid a slippery slope leading from eugenics to
active extermination of "inferior" groups in the general population -
can we guarantee that everyone will? How to prevent eugenics from being
appropriated by an intrusive, authoritarian, or even murderous state?

Modern eugenicists distance themselves from the crude methods adopted
at the beginning of the last century by 29 countries, including
Germany, The United States, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Venezuela,
Estonia, Argentina, Norway, Denmark, Sweden (until 1976), Brazil,
Italy, Greece, and Spain.

They talk about free contraceptives for low-IQ women, vasectomies or
tubal ligations for criminals, sperm banks with contributions from high
achievers, and incentives for college students to procreate. Modern
genetic engineering and biotechnology are readily applicable to eugenic
projects. Cloning can serve to preserve the genes of the fittest.
Embryo selection and prenatal diagnosis of genetically diseased embryos
can reduce the number of the unfit.

But even these innocuous variants of eugenics fly in the face of
liberalism. Inequality, claim the proponents of hereditary
amelioration, is genetic, not environmental. All men are created
unequal and as much subject to the natural laws of heredity as are cows
and bees. Inferior people give birth to inferior offspring and, thus,
propagate their inferiority.

Even if this were true - which is at best debatable - the question is
whether the inferior specimen of our species possess the inalienable
right to reproduce? If society is to bear the costs of over-population
- social welfare, medical care, daycare centers - then society has the
right to regulate procreation. But does it have the right to act
discriminately in doing so?

Another dilemma is whether we have the moral right - let alone the
necessary knowledge - to interfere with natural as well as social and
demographic trends. Eugenicists counter that contraception and
indiscriminate medicine already do just that. Yet, studies show that
the more affluent and educated a population becomes - the less fecund
it is. Birth rates throughout the world have dropped dramatically

Instead of culling the great unwashed and the unworthy - wouldn't it be
a better idea to educate them (or their off-spring) and provide them
with economic opportunities (euthenics rather than eugenics)? Human
populations seem to self-regulate. A gentle and persistent nudge in the
right direction - of increased affluence and better schooling - might
achieve more than a hundred eugenic programs, voluntary or compulsory.

That eugenics presents itself not merely as a biological-social agenda,
but as a panacea, ought to arouse suspicion. The typical eugenics text
reads more like a catechism than a reasoned argument. Previous
all-encompassing and omnicompetent plans tended to end traumatically -
especially when they contrasted a human elite with a dispensable
underclass of persons.

Above all, eugenics is about human hubris. To presume to know better
than the lottery of life is haughty. Modern medicine largely obviates
the need for eugenics in that it allows even genetically defective
people to lead pretty normal lives. Of course, Man himself - being part
of Nature - may be regarded as nothing more than an agent of natural
selection. Still, many of the arguments advanced in favor of eugenics
can be turned against it with embarrassing ease.

Consider sick children. True, they are a burden to society and a
probable menace to the gene pool of the species. But they also inhibit
further reproduction in their family by consuming the financial and
mental resources of the parents. Their genes - however flawed -
contribute to genetic diversity. Even a badly mutated phenotype
sometimes yields precious scientific knowledge and an interesting

The implicit Weltbild of eugenics is static - but the real world is
dynamic. There is no such thing as a "correct" genetic makeup towards
which we must all strive. A combination of genes may be perfectly
adaptable to one environment - but woefully inadequate in another. It
is therefore prudent to encourage genetic diversity or polymorphism.

The more rapidly the world changes, the greater the value of mutations
of all sorts. One never knows whether today's maladaptation will not
prove to be tomorrow's winner. Ecosystems are invariably comprised of
niches and different genes - even mutated ones - may fit different

In the 18th century most peppered moths in Britain were silvery gray,
indistinguishable from lichen-covered trunks of silver birches - their
habitat. Darker moths were gobbled up by rapacious birds. Their mutated
genes proved to be lethal. As soot from sprouting factories blackened
these trunks - the very same genes, hitherto fatal, became an
unmitigated blessing. The blacker specimen survived while their
hitherto perfectly adapted fairer brethren perished ("industrial
melanism"). This mode of natural selection is called directional.

Moreover, "bad" genes are often connected to "desirable genes"
(pleitropy). Sickle cell anemia protects certain African tribes against
malaria. This is called "diversifying or disruptive natural selection".
Artificial selection can thus fast deteriorate into adverse selection
due to ignorance.

Modern eugenics relies on statistics. It is no longer concerned with
causes - but with phenomena and the likely effects of intervention. If
the adverse traits of off-spring and parents are strongly correlated -
then preventing parents with certain undesirable qualities from
multiplying will surely reduce the incidence of said dispositions in
the general population. Yet, correlation does not necessarily imply
causation. The manipulation of one parameter of the correlation does
not inevitably alter it - or the incidence of the outcome.

Eugenicists often hark back to wisdom garnered by generations of
breeders and farmers. But the unequivocal lesson of thousands of years
of artificial selection is that cross-breeding (hybridization) - even
of two lines of inferior genetic stock - yields valuable genotypes.
Inter-marriage between races, groups in the population, ethnic groups,
and clans is thus bound to improve the species' chances of survival
more than any eugenic scheme.

The Myth of the Right to Life

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

I. The Right to Life

Generations of malleable Israeli children are brought up on the story
of the misnamed Jewish settlement Tel-Hai ("Mount of Life"), Israel's
Alamo. There, among the picturesque valleys of the Galilee, a one-armed
hero named Joseph Trumpeldor is said to have died, eight decades ago,
from an Arab stray bullet, mumbling: "It is good to die for our
country." Judaism is dubbed "A Teaching of Life" - but it would seem
that the sanctity of life can and does take a back seat to some
overriding values.

The right to life - at least of human beings - is a rarely questioned
fundamental moral principle. In Western cultures, it is assumed to be
inalienable and indivisible (i.e., monolithic). Yet, it is neither.
Even if we accept the axiomatic - and therefore arbitrary - source of
this right, we are still faced with intractable dilemmas. All said, the
right to life may be nothing more than a cultural construct, dependent
on social mores, historical contexts, and exegetic systems.

Rights - whether moral or legal - impose obligations or duties on third
parties towards the right-holder. One has a right AGAINST other people
and thus can prescribe to them certain obligatory behaviors and
proscribe certain acts or omissions. Rights and duties are two sides of
the same Janus-like ethical coin.

This duality confuses people. They often erroneously identify rights
with their attendant duties or obligations, with the morally decent, or
even with the morally permissible. One's rights inform other people how
they MUST behave towards one - not how they SHOULD or OUGHT to act
morally. Moral behavior is not dependent on the existence of a right.
Obligations are.

To complicate matters further, many apparently simple and
straightforward rights are amalgams of more basic moral or legal
principles. To treat such rights as unities is to mistreat them.

Take the right to life. It is a compendium of no less than eight
distinct rights: the right to be brought to life, the right to be born,
the right to have one's life maintained, the right not to be killed,
the right to have one's life saved,  the right to save one's life
(wrongly reduced to the right to self-defense), the right to terminate
one's life, and the right to have one's life terminated.

None of these rights is self-evident, or unambiguous, or universal, or
immutable, or automatically applicable. It is safe to say, therefore,
that these rights are not primary as hitherto believed - but derivative.

The Right to be Brought to Life

In most moral systems - including all major religions and Western legal
methodologies - it is life that gives rise to rights. The dead have
rights only because of the existence of the living. Where there is no
life - there are no rights. Stones have no rights (though many animists
would find this statement abhorrent).

Hence the vitriolic debate about cloning which involves denuding an
unfertilized egg of its nucleus. Is there life in an egg or a sperm

That something exists, does not necessarily imply that it harbors life.
Sand exists and it is inanimate. But what about things that exist and
have the potential to develop life? No one disputes the existence of
eggs and sperms - or their capacity to grow alive.

Is the potential to be alive a legitimate source of rights? Does the
egg have any rights, or, at the very least, the right to be brought to
life (the right to become or to be) and thus to acquire rights? The
much trumpeted right to acquire life pertains to an entity which exists
but is not alive - an egg. It is, therefore, an unprecedented kind of
right. Had such a right existed, it would have implied an obligation or
duty to give life to the unborn and the not yet conceived.

Clearly, life manifests, at the earliest, when an egg and a sperm unite
at the moment of fertilization. Life is not a potential - it is a
process triggered by an event. An unfertilized egg is neither a process
- nor an event. It does not even possess the potential to become alive
unless and until it is fertilized.

The potential to become alive is not the ontological equivalent of
actually being alive. A potential life cannot give rise to rights and
obligations. The transition from potential to being is not trivial, nor
is it automatic, or inevitable, or independent of context. Atoms of
various elements have the potential to become an egg (or, for that
matter, a human  being) - yet no one would claim that they ARE an egg
(or a human being), or that they should be treated as such (i.e., with
the same rights and obligations).

The Right to be Born

While the right to be brought to life deals with potentials - the right
to be born deals with actualities. When one or two adults voluntarily
cause an egg to be fertilized by a sperm cell with the explicit intent
and purpose of creating another life - the right to be born
crystallizes. The voluntary and premeditated action of said adults
amounts to a contract with the embryo - or rather, with society which
stands in for the embryo.

Henceforth, the embryo acquires the entire panoply of human rights: the
right to be born, to be fed, sheltered, to be emotionally nurtured, to
get an education, and so on.

But what if the fertilization was either involuntary (rape) or
unintentional ("accidental" pregnancy)?

Is the embryo's successful acquisition of rights dependent upon the
nature of the conception? We deny criminals their loot as "fruits of
the poisoned tree". Why not deny an embryo his life if it is the
outcome of a crime?

The conventional response - that the embryo did not commit the crime or
conspire in it - is inadequate. We would deny the poisoned fruits of
crime to innocent bystanders as well. Would we allow a passerby to
freely spend cash thrown out of an escape vehicle following a robbery?

Even if we agree that the embryo has a right to be kept alive - this
right cannot be held against his violated mother. It cannot oblige her
to harbor this patently unwanted embryo. If it could survive outside
the womb, this would have solved the moral dilemma. But it is dubious -
to say the least -  that it has a right to go on using the mother's
body, or resources, or to burden her in any way in order to sustain its
own life.

The Right to Have One's Life Maintained

This leads to a more general quandary. To what extent can one use other
people's bodies, their property, their time, their resources and to
deprive them of pleasure, comfort, material possessions, income, or any
other thing - in order to maintain one's life?

Even if it were possible in reality, it is indefensible to maintain
that I have a right to sustain, improve, or prolong my life at
another's expense. I cannot demand - though I can morally expect - even
a trivial and minimal sacrifice from another in order to prolong my
life. I have no right to do so.

Of course, the existence of an implicit, let alone explicit, contract
between myself and another party would change the picture. The right to
demand sacrifices commensurate with the provisions of the contract
would then crystallize and create corresponding duties and obligations.

No embryo has a right to sustain its life, maintain, or prolong it at
its mother's expense. This is true regardless of how insignificant the
sacrifice required of her is.

Yet, by knowingly and intentionally conceiving the embryo, the mother
can be said to have signed a contract with it. The contract causes the
right of the embryo to demand such sacrifices from his mother to
crystallize. It also creates corresponding duties and obligations of
the mother towards her embryo.

We often find ourselves in a situation where we do not have a given
right against other individuals - but we do possess this very same
right against society. Society owes us what no constituent-individual

Thus, we all have a right to sustain our lives, maintain, prolong, or
even improve them at society's expense - no matter how major and
significant the resources required. Public hospitals, state pension
schemes, and police forces may be needed in order to fulfill society's
obligations to prolong, maintain, and improve our lives - but fulfill
them it must.

Still, each one of us can sign a contract with society - implicitly or
explicitly - and abrogate this right. One can volunteer to join the
army. Such an act constitutes a contract in which the individual
assumes the duty or obligation to give up his or her life.

The Right not to be Killed

It is commonly agreed that every person has the right not to be killed
unjustly. Admittedly, what is just and what is unjust is determined by
an ethical calculus or a social contract - both constantly in flux.

Still, even if we assume an Archimedean immutable point of moral
reference - does A's right not to be killed mean that third parties are
to refrain from enforcing the rights of other people against A? What if
the only way to right wrongs committed by A against others - was to
kill A? The moral obligation to right wrongs is about restoring the
rights of the wronged.

If the continued existence of A is predicated on the repeated and
continuous violation of the rights of others - and these other people
object to it - then A must be killed if that is the only way to right
the wrong and re-assert the rights of A's victims.

The Right to have One's Life Saved

There is no such right because there is no moral obligation or duty to
save a life. That people believe otherwise demonstrates the muddle
between the morally commendable, desirable, and decent ("ought",
"should") and the morally obligatory, the result of other people's
rights ("must"). In some countries, the obligation to save a life is
codified in the law of the land. But legal rights and obligations do
not always correspond to moral rights and obligations, or give rise to

The Right to Save One's Own Life

One has a right to save one's life by exercising self-defense or
otherwise, by taking certain actions or by avoiding them. Judaism - as
well as other religious, moral, and legal systems - accept that one has
the right to kill a pursuer who knowingly and intentionally is bent on
taking one's life. Hunting down Osama bin-Laden in the wilds of
Afghanistan is, therefore, morally acceptable (though not morally

But does one have the right to kill an innocent person who unknowingly
and unintentionally threatens to take one's life? An embryo sometimes
threatens the life of the mother. Does she have a right to take its
life? What about an unwitting carrier of the Ebola virus - do we have a
right to terminate her life? For that matter, do we have a right to
terminate her life even if there is nothing she could have done about
it had she known about her condition?

The Right to Terminate One's Life

There are many ways to terminate one's life: self sacrifice, avoidable
martyrdom, engaging in life risking activities, refusal to prolong
one's life through medical treatment, euthanasia, overdosing and self
inflicted death that is the result of coercion. Like suicide, in all
these - bar the last - a foreknowledge of the risk of death is present
coupled with its acceptance. Does one have a right to take one's life?

The answer is: it depends. Certain cultures and societies encourage
suicide. Both Japanese kamikaze and Jewish martyrs were extolled for
their suicidal actions. Certain professions are knowingly
life-threatening - soldiers, firemen, policemen. Certain industries -
like the manufacture of armaments, cigarettes, and alcohol - boost
overall mortality rates.

In general, suicide is commended when it serves social ends, enhances
the cohesion of the group, upholds its values, multiplies its wealth,
or defends it from external and internal threats. Social structures and
human collectives - empires, countries, firms, bands, institutions -
often commit suicide. This is considered to be a healthy process.

Thus, suicide came to be perceived as a social act. The flip-side of
this perception is that life is communal property. Society has
appropriated the right to foster suicide or to prevent it. It condemns
individual suicidal entrepreneurship. Suicide, according to Thomas
Aquinas, is unnatural. It harms the community and violates God's
property rights.

In Judeo-Christian tradition, God is the owner of all souls. The soul
is on deposit with us. The very right to use it, for however short a
period, is a divine gift. Suicide, therefore, amounts to an abuse of
God's possession. Blackstone, the venerable codifier of British Law,
concurred. The state, according to him, has a right to prevent and to
punish suicide and attempted suicide. Suicide is self-murder, he wrote,
and, therefore, a grave felony. In certain paternalistic countries,
this still is the case.

The Right to Have One's Life Terminated

The right to have one's life terminated at will (euthanasia), is
subject to social, ethical, and legal strictures. In some countries -
such as the Netherlands - it is legal (and socially acceptable) to have
one's life terminated with the help of third parties given a sufficient
deterioration in the quality of life and given the imminence of death.
One has to be of sound mind and will one's death  knowingly,
intentionally, repeatedly, and forcefully.

II. Issues in the Calculus of Rights

The Hierarchy of Rights

The right to life supersedes - in Western moral and legal systems - all
other rights. It overrules the right to one's body, to comfort, to the
avoidance of pain, or to ownership of property. Given such lack of
equivocation, the amount of dilemmas and controversies surrounding the
right to life is, therefore, surprising.

When there is a clash between equally potent rights - for instance, the
conflicting rights to life of two people - we can decide among them
randomly (by flipping a coin, or casting dice). Alternatively, we can
add and subtract rights in a somewhat macabre arithmetic.

Thus, if the continued life of an embryo or a fetus threatens the
mother's life - that is, assuming, controversially, that both of them
have an equal right to life - we can decide to kill the fetus. By
adding to the mother's right to life her right to her own body we
outweigh the fetus' right to life.

The Difference between Killing and Letting Die

Counterintuitively, there is a moral gulf between killing (taking a
life) and letting die (not saving a life). The right not to be killed
is undisputed. There is no right to have one's own life saved. Where
there is a right - and only where there is one - there is an
obligation. Thus, while there is an obligation not to kill - there is
no obligation to save a life.

Killing the Innocent

The life of a Victim (V) is sometimes threatened by the continued
existence of an innocent person (IP), a person who cannot be held
guilty of V's ultimate death even though he caused it. IP is not guilty
of dispatching V because he hasn't intended to kill V, nor was he aware
that V will die due to his actions or continued existence.

Again, it boils down to ghastly arithmetic. We definitely should kill
IP to prevent V's death if IP is going to die anyway - and shortly. The
remaining life of V, if saved, should exceed the remaining life of IP,
if not killed. If these conditions are not met, the rights of IP and V
should be weighted and calculated to yield a decision (See "Abortion
and the Sanctity of Human Life" by Baruch A. Brody).

Utilitarianism - a form of crass moral calculus - calls for the
maximization of utility (life, happiness, pleasure). The lives,
happiness, or pleasure of the many outweigh the life, happiness, or
pleasure of the few. If by killing IP we save the lives of two or more
people and there is no other way to save their lives - it is morally

But surely V has right to self defense, regardless of any moral
calculus of rights? Not so. Taking another's life to save one's own is
rarely justified, though such behavior cannot be condemned. Here we
have the flip side of the confusion we opened with: understandable and
perhaps inevitable behavior (self defense) is mistaken for a moral

If I were V, I would kill IP unhesitatingly. Moreover, I would have the
understanding and sympathy of everyone.  But this does not mean that I
had a right to kill IP.

Which brings us to September 11.

Collateral Damage

What should prevail: the imperative to spare the lives of innocent
civilians - or the need to safeguard the lives of fighter pilots?
Precision bombing puts such pilots at great risk. Avoiding this risk
usually results in civilian casualties ("collateral damage").

This moral dilemma is often "solved" by applying - explicitly or
implicitly - the principle of "over-riding affiliation". We find the
two facets of this principle in Jewish sacred texts: "One is close to
oneself" and "Your city's poor denizens come first (with regards to

Some moral obligations are universal - thou shalt not kill. They are
related to one's position as a human being. Other moral values and
obligations arise from one's affiliations. Yet, there is a hierarchy of
moral values and obligations. The ones related to one's position as a
human being are, actually, the weakest.

They are overruled by moral values and obligations related to one's
affiliations. The imperative "thou shalt not kill (another human
being)" is easily over-ruled by the moral obligation to kill for one's
country. The imperative "thou shalt not steal" is superseded by one's
moral obligation to spy for one's nation.

This leads to another startling conclusion:

There is no such thing as a self-consistent moral system. Moral values
and obligations often contradict each other and almost always conflict
with universal moral values and obligations.

In the examples above, killing (for one's country) and stealing (for
one's nation) are moral obligations. Yet, they contradict the universal
moral value of the sanctity of life and the universal moral obligation
not to kill. Far from being a fundamental and immutable principle - the
right to life, it would seem, is merely a convenient implement in the
hands of society.

The Argument for Torture

By: Sam Vaknin

Also Read:

The Business of Torture

 I. Practical Considerations

The problem of the "ticking bomb" - rediscovered after September 11 by
Alan Dershowitz, a renowned criminal defense lawyer in the United
States - is old hat. Should physical torture be applied - where
psychological strain has failed - in order to discover the whereabouts
of a ticking bomb and thus prevent a mass slaughter of the innocent?
This apparent ethical dilemma has been confronted by ethicists and
jurists from Great Britain to Israel.

Nor is Dershowitz's proposal to have the courts issue "torture
warrants" (Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2001) unprecedented. In a
controversial decision in 1996, the Supreme Court of Israel permitted
its internal security forces to apply "moderate physical pressure"
during the interrogation of suspects.

It has thus fully embraced the recommendation of the 1987 Landau
Commission, presided over by a former Supreme Court judge. This blanket
absolution was repealed in 1999 when widespread abuses against
Palestinian detainees were unearthed by human rights organizations.

Indeed, this juridical reversal - in the face of growing suicidal
terrorism - demonstrates how slippery the ethical slope can be. What
started off as permission to apply mild torture in extreme cases
avalanched into an all-pervasive and pernicious practice. This lesson -
that torture is habit-forming and metastasizes incontrollably
throughout the system - is the most powerful - perhaps the only -
argument against it.

As Harvey Silverglate argued in his rebuttal of Dershowitz's
aforementioned op-ed piece:

"Institutionalizing torture will give it society's imprimatur, lending
it a degree of respectability. It will then be virtually impossible to
curb not only the increasing frequency with which warrants will be
sought - and granted - but also the inevitable rise in unauthorized use
of torture. Unauthorized torture will increase not only to extract
life-saving information, but also to obtain confessions (many of which
will then prove false). It will also be used to punish real or imagined
infractions, or for no reason other than human sadism. This is a genie
we should not let out of the bottle."

Alas, these are weak contentions.

That something has the potential to be widely abused - and has been and
is being widely misused - should not inevitably lead to its utter,
universal, and unconditional proscription. Guns, cars, knives, and
books have always been put to vile ends. Nowhere did this lead to their
complete interdiction.

Moreover, torture is erroneously perceived by liberals as a kind of
punishment. Suspects - innocent until proven guilty - indeed should not
be subject to penalty. But torture is merely an interrogation
technique. Ethically, it is no different to any other pre-trial
process: shackling, detention, questioning, or bad press. Inevitably,
the very act of suspecting someone is traumatic and bound to inflict
pain and suffering - psychological, pecuniary, and physical - on the

True, torture is bound to yield false confessions and wrong
information, Seneca claimed that it "forces even the innocent to lie".
St. Augustine expounded on the moral deplorability of torture thus: "If
the accused be innocent, he will undergo for an uncertain crime a
certain punishment, and that not for having committed a crime, but
because it is unknown whether he committed it."

But the same can be said about other, less corporeal, methods of
interrogation. Moreover, the flip side of ill-gotten admissions is
specious denials of guilt. Criminals regularly disown their misdeeds
and thus evade their penal consequences. The very threat of torture is
bound to limit this miscarriage of justice. Judges and juries can
always decide what confessions are involuntary and were extracted under

Thus, if there was a way to ensure that non-lethal torture is narrowly
defined, applied solely to extract time-critical information in
accordance with a strict set of rules and specifications, determined
openly and revised frequently by an accountable public body; that
abusers are severely punished and instantly removed; that the tortured
have recourse to the judicial system and to medical attention at any
time - then the procedure would have been ethically justified in rare
cases if carried out by the authorities.

This proviso - "if carried out by the authorities" - is crucial.

The sovereign has rights denied the individual, or any subset of
society. It can judicially kill with impunity. Its organs - the police,
the military - can exercise violence. It is allowed to conceal
information, possess illicit or dangerous substances, deploy arms,
invade one's bodily integrity, or confiscate property. To permit the
sovereign to torture while forbidding individuals, or organizations
from doing so would, therefore, not be without precedent, or

Alan Dershowitz expounds:

"(In the United States) any interrogation technique, including the use
of truth serum or even torture, is not prohibited. All that is
prohibited is the introduction into evidence of the fruits of such
techniques in a criminal trial against the person on whom the
techniques were used. But the evidence could be used against that
suspect in a non-criminal case - such as a deportation hearing - or
against someone else."

When the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi concentration camps were
revealed, C.S. Lewis wrote, in quite desperation:

"What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right
is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and
ought to have practiced? If they had no notion of what we mean by
Right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no
more have blamed them for that than for the color of their hair." (C.S.
Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, paperback edition, 1952).

But legal torture should never be directed at innocent civilians based
on arbitrary criteria such as their race or religion. If this principle
is observed, torture would not reflect on the moral standing of the
state. Identical acts are considered morally sound when carried out by
the realm - and condemnable when discharged by individuals. Consider
the denial of freedom. It is lawful incarceration at the hands of the
republic - but kidnapping if effected by terrorists.

Nor is torture, as "The Economist" misguidedly claims, a taboo.

According to the 2002 edition of the "Encyclopedia Britannica", taboos
are "the prohibition of an action or the use of an object based on
ritualistic distinctions of them either as being sacred and consecrated
or as being dangerous, unclean, and accursed." Evidently, none of this
applies to torture. On the contrary, torture - as opposed, for
instance, to incest - is a universal, state-sanctioned behavior.

Amnesty International - who should know better - professed to have been
shocked by the results of their own surveys:

"In preparing for its third international campaign to stop torture,
Amnesty International conducted a survey of its research files on 195
countries and territories. The survey covered the period from the
beginning of 1997 to mid-2000. Information on torture is usually
concealed, and reports of torture are often hard to document, so the
figures almost certainly underestimate its extent. The statistics are
shocking. There were reports of torture or ill-treatment by state
officials in more than 150 countries. In more than 70, they were
widespread or persistent. In more than 80 countries, people reportedly
died as a result."

Countries and regimes abstain from torture - or, more often, claim to
do so - because such overt abstention is expedient. It is a form of
global political correctness, a policy choice intended to demonstrate
common values and to extract concessions or benefits from others.
Giving up this efficient weapon in the law enforcement arsenal even in
Damoclean circumstances is often rewarded with foreign direct
investment, military aid, and other forms of support.

But such ethical magnanimity is a luxury in times of war, or when faced
with a threat to innocent life. Even the courts of the most liberal
societies sanctioned atrocities in extraordinary circumstances. Here
the law conforms both with common sense and with formal, utilitarian,

II. Ethical Considerations

Rights - whether moral or legal - impose obligations or duties on third
parties towards the right-holder. One has a right AGAINST other people
and thus can prescribe to them certain obligatory behaviors and
proscribe certain acts or omissions. Rights and duties are two sides of
the same Janus-like ethical coin.

This duality confuses people. They often erroneously identify rights
with their attendant duties or obligations, with the morally decent, or
even with the morally permissible. One's rights inform other people how
they MUST behave towards one - not how they SHOULD, or OUGHT to act
morally. Moral behavior is not dependent on the existence of a right.
Obligations are.

To complicate matters further, many apparently simple and
straightforward rights are amalgams of more basic moral or legal
principles. To treat such rights as unities is to mistreat them.

Take the right not to be tortured. It is a compendium of many distinct
rights, among them: the right to bodily and mental integrity, the right
to avoid self-incrimination, the right not to be pained, or killed, the
right to save one's life (wrongly reduced merely to the right to
self-defense), the right to prolong one's life (e.g., by receiving
medical attention), and the right not to be forced to lie under duress.

None of these rights is self-evident, or unambiguous, or universal, or
immutable, or automatically applicable. It is safe to say, therefore,
that these rights are not primary - but derivative, nonessential, or
mere "wants".

Moreover, the fact that the torturer also has rights whose violation
may justify torture is often overlooked.

Consider these two, for instance:

The Rights of Third Parties against the Tortured

What is just and what is unjust is determined by an ethical calculus,
or a social contract - both in constant flux. Still, it is commonly
agreed that every person has the right not to be tortured, or killed

Yet, even if we find an Archimedean immutable point of moral reference
- does A's right not to be tortured, let alone killed, mean that third
parties are to refrain from enforcing the rights of other people
against A?

What if the only way to right wrongs committed, or about to be
committed by A against others - was to torture, or kill A? There is a
moral obligation to right wrongs by restoring, or safeguarding the
rights of those wronged, or about to be wronged by A.

If the defiant silence - or even the mere existence - of A are
predicated on the repeated and continuous violation of the rights of
others (especially their right to live), and if these people object to
such violation - then A must be tortured, or killed if that is the only
way to right the wrong and re-assert the rights of A's victims.

This, ironically, is the argument used by liberals to justify abortion
when the fetus (in the role of A) threatens his mother's rights to
health and life.

The Right to Save One's Own Life

One has a right to save one's life by exercising self-defense or
otherwise, by taking certain actions, or by avoiding them. Judaism - as
well as other religious, moral, and legal systems - accepts that one
has the right to kill a pursuer who knowingly and intentionally is bent
on taking one's life. Hunting down Osama bin-Laden in the wilds of
Afghanistan is, therefore, morally acceptable (though not morally
mandatory). So is torturing his minions.

When there is a clash between equally potent rights - for instance, the
conflicting rights to life of two people - we can decide among them
randomly (by flipping a coin, or casting dice). Alternatively, we can
add and subtract rights in a somewhat macabre arithmetic. The right to
life definitely prevails over the right to comfort, bodily integrity,
absence of pain and so on. Where life is at stake, non-lethal torture
is justified by any ethical calculus.

Utilitarianism - a form of crass moral calculus - calls for the
maximization of utility (life, happiness, pleasure). The lives,
happiness, or pleasure of the many outweigh the life, happiness, or
pleasure of the few. If by killing or torturing the few we (a) save the
lives of the many (b) the combined life expectancy of the many is
longer than the combined life expectancy of the few and (c) there is no
other way to save the lives of the many - it is morally permissible to
kill, or torture the few.

III. The Social Treaty

There is no way to enforce certain rights without infringing on others.
The calculus of ethics relies on implicit and explicit quantitative and
qualitative hierarchies. The rights of the many outweigh certain rights
of the few. Higher-level rights - such as the right to life - override
rights of a lower order.

The rights of individuals are not absolute but "prima facie". They are
restricted both by the rights of others and by the common interest.
They are inextricably connected to duties towards other individuals in
particular and the community in general. In other words, though not
dependent on idiosyncratic cultural and social contexts, they are an
integral part of a social covenant.

It can be argued that a suspect has excluded himself from the social
treaty by refusing to uphold the rights of others - for instance, by
declining to collaborate with law enforcement agencies in forestalling
an imminent disaster. Such inaction amounts to the abrogation of many
of one's rights (for instance, the right to be free). Why not apply
this abrogation to his or her right not to be tortured?

The Aborted Contract And the Right to Life

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

The issue of abortion is emotionally loaded and this often makes for
poor, not thoroughly thought out arguments. The questions: "Is abortion
immoral" and "Is abortion a murder" are often confused. The pregnancy
(and the resulting fetus) are discussed in terms normally reserved to
natural catastrophes (force majeure). At times, the embryo is compared
to cancer, a thief, or an invader: after all, they are both growths,
clusters of cells. The difference, of course, is that no one contracts
cancer willingly (except, to some extent, smokers --but, then they
gamble, not contract).

When a woman engages in voluntary sex, does not use contraceptives and
gets pregnant - one can say that she signed a contract with her fetus.
A contract entails the demonstrated existence of a reasonably (and
reasonable) free will. If the fulfillment of the obligations in a
contract between individuals could be life-threatening - it is fair and
safe to assume that no rational free will was involved. No reasonable
person would sign or enter such a contract with another person (though
most people would sign such contracts with society).

Judith Jarvis Thomson argued convincingly ("A Defence of Abortion")
that pregnancies that are the result of forced sex (rape being a
special case) or which are life threatening should or could, morally,
be terminated. Using the transactional language: the contract was not
entered to willingly or reasonably and, therefore, is null and void.
Any actions which are intended to terminate it and to annul its
consequences should be legally and morally permissible.

The same goes for a contract which was entered into against the express
will of one of the parties and despite all the reasonable measures that
the unwilling party adopted to prevent it.  If a mother uses
contraceptives in a manner intended to prevent pregnancy, it is as good
as saying: " I do not want to sign this contract, I am doing my
reasonable best not to sign it, if it is signed - it is contrary to my
express will". There is little legal (or moral) doubt that such a
contract should be voided.

Much more serious problems arise when we study the other party to these
implicit agreements: the embryo. To start with, it lacks consciousness
(in the sense that is needed for signing an enforceable and valid
contract). Can a contract be valid even if one of the "signatories"
lacks this sine qua non trait? In the absence of consciousness, there
is little point in talking about free will (or rights which depend on
sentience). So, is the contract not a contract at all? Does it not
reflect the intentions of the parties?

The answer is in the negative. The contract between a mother and her
fetus is derived from the larger Social Contract. Society - through its
apparatuses - stands for the embryo the same way that it represents
minors, the mentally retarded, and the insane. Society steps in - and
has the recognized right and moral obligation to do so - whenever the
powers of the parties to a contract (implicit or explicit) are not
balanced. It protects small citizens from big monopolies, the
physically weak from the thug, the tiny opposition from the mighty
administration, the barely surviving radio station from the claws of
the devouring state mechanism. It also has the right and obligation to
intervene, intercede and represent the unconscious: this is why
euthanasia is absolutely forbidden without the consent of the dying
person. There is not much difference between the embryo and the

A typical contract states the rights of the parties. It assumes the
existence of parties which are "moral personhoods" or "morally
significant persons" - in other words, persons who are holders of
rights and can demand from us to respect these rights. Contracts
explicitly elaborate some of these rights and leaves others unmentioned
because of the presumed existence of the Social Contract. The typical
contract assumes that there is a social contract which applies to the
parties to the contract and which is universally known and, therefore,
implicitly incorporated in every contract. Thus, an explicit contract
can deal with the property rights of a certain person, while neglecting
to mention that person's rights to life, to free speech, to the
enjoyment the fruits of his lawful property and, in general to a happy

There is little debate that the Mother is a morally significant person
and that she is a rights-holder. All born humans are and, more so, all
adults above a certain age. But what about the unborn fetus?

One approach is that the embryo has no rights until certain conditions
are met and only upon their fulfillment is he transformed into a
morally significant person ("moral agent"). Opinions differ as to what
are the conditions. Rationality, or a morally meaningful and valued
life are some of the oft cited criteria. The fallaciousness of this
argument is easy to demonstrate: children are irrational - is this a
licence to commit infanticide?

A second approach says that a person has the right to life because it
desires it.

But then what about chronic depressives who wish to die - do we have
the right to terminate their miserable lives?  The good part of life
(and, therefore, the differential and meaningful test) is in the
experience itself - not in the desire to experience.

Another variant says that a person has the right to life because once
his life is terminated - his experiences cease. So, how should we judge
the right to life of someone who constantly endures bad experiences
(and, as a result, harbors a death wish)? Should he better be

Having reviewed the above arguments and counter-arguments, Don Marquis
goes on (in "Why Abortion is Immoral", 1989) to offer a sharper and
more comprehensive criterion: terminating a life is morally wrong
because a person has a future filled with value and meaning, similar to

But the whole debate is unnecessary. There is no conflict between the
rights of the mother and those of her fetus because there is never a
conflict between parties to an agreement. By signing an agreement, the
mother gave up some of her rights and limited the others. This is
normal practice in contracts: they represent compromises, the
optimization (and not the maximization)  of the parties' rights and
wishes. The rights of the fetus are an inseparable part of the contract
which the mother signed voluntarily and reasonably. They are derived
from the mother's behaviour. Getting willingly pregnant (or assuming
the risk of getting pregnant by not using contraceptives reasonably) -
is the behaviour which validates and ratifies a contract between her
and the fetus. Many contracts are by behaviour, rather than by a signed
piece of paper. Numerous contracts are verbal or behavioural. These
contracts, though implicit, are as binding as any of their written,
more explicit, brethren. Legally (and morally) the situation is crystal
clear: the mother signed some of her rights away in this contract. Even
if she regrets it - she cannot claim her rights back by annulling the
contract unilaterally. No contract can be annulled this way - the
consent of both parties is required. Many times we realize that we have
entered a bad contract, but there is nothing much that we can do about
it. These are the rules of the game.

Thus the two remaining questions: (a) can this specific contract
(pregnancy) be annulled and, if so (b) in which circumstances - can be
easily settled using modern contract law. Yes, a contract can be
annulled and voided if signed under duress, involuntarily, by
incompetent persons (e.g., the insane), or if one of the parties made a
reasonable and full scale attempt to prevent its signature, thus
expressing its clear will not to sign the contract. It is also
terminated or voided if it would be unreasonable to expect one of the
parties to see it through. Rape, contraception failure, life
threatening situations are all such cases.

This could be argued against by saying that, in the case of economic
hardship, f or instance, the damage to the mother's future is certain.
True, her value- filled, meaningful future is granted - but so is the
detrimental effect that the fetus will have on it, once born. This
certainty cannot be balanced by the UNCERTAIN value-filled future life
of the embryo. Always, preferring an uncertain good to a certain evil
is morally wrong.  But surely this is a quantitative matter - not a
qualitative one. Certain, limited aspects of the rest of the mother's
life will be adversely effected (and can be ameliorated by society's
helping hand and intervention) if she does have the baby. The decision
not to have it is both qualitatively and qualitatively different. It is
to deprive the unborn of all the aspects of all his future life - in
which he might well have experienced happiness, values, and meaning.

The questions whether the fetus is a Being or a growth of cells,
conscious in any manner, or utterly unconscious, able to value his life
and to want them - are all but irrelevant. He has the potential to lead
a happy, meaningful, value-filled life, similar to ours, very much as a
one minute old baby does. The contract between him and his mother is a
service provision contract. She provides him with goods and services
that he requires in order to materialize his potential. It sounds very
much like many other human contracts. And this contract continue well
after pregnancy has ended and birth given.

Consider education: children do not appreciate its importance or value
its potential - still, it is enforced upon them because we, who are
capable of those feats, want them to have the tools that they will need
in order to develop their potential. In this and many other respects,
the human pregnancy continues well into the fourth year of life
(physiologically it continues in to the second year of life - see "Born
Alien"). Should the location of the pregnancy (in uterus, in vivo)
determine its future? If a mother has the right to abort at will, why
should the mother be denied her right to terminate the " pregnancy"
AFTER the fetus emerges and the pregnancy continues OUTSIDE her womb?
Even after birth, the woman's body is the main source of food to the
baby and, in any case, she has to endure physical hardship to raise the
child. Why not extend the woman's ownership of her body and right to it
further in time and space to the post-natal period?

Contracts to provide goods and services (always at a personal cost to
the provider) are the commonest of contracts. We open a business. We
sell a software application, we publish a book - we engage in helping
others to materialize their potential. We should always do so willingly
and reasonably - otherwise the contracts that we sign will be null and
void. But to deny anyone his capacity to materialize his potential and
the goods and services that he needs to do so - after a valid contract
was entered into - is immoral. To refuse to provide a service or to
condition it provision (Mother: " I will provide the goods and services
that I agreed to provide to this fetus under this contract only if and
when I benefit from such provision") is a violation of the contract and
should be penalized. Admittedly, at times we have a right to choose to
do the immoral (because it has not been codified as illegal) - but that
does not turn it into  moral.

Still, not every immoral act involving the termination of life can be
classified as murder. Phenomenology is deceiving: the acts look the
same (cessation of life functions, the prevention of a future). But
murder is the intentional termination of the life of a human who
possesses, at the moment of death, a consciousness (and, in most cases,
a free will, especially the will not to die). Abortion is the
intentional termination of a life which has the potential to develop
into a person with consciousness and free will. Philosophically, no
identity can be established between potential and actuality. The
destruction of paints and cloth is not tantamount (not to say
identical) to the destruction of a painting by Van Gogh, made up of
these very elements. Paints and cloth are converted to a painting
through the intermediacy and agency of the Painter. A cluster of cells
a human makes only through the agency of Nature.

Surely, the destruction of the painting materials constitutes an
offence against the Painter. In the same way, the destruction of the
fetus constitutes an offence against Nature. But there is no denying
that in both cases, no finished product was eliminated. Naturally, this
becomes less and less so (the severity of the terminating act
increases) as the process of creation advances.

Classifying an abortion as murder poses numerous and insurmountable
philosophical problems.

No one disputes the now common view that the main crime committed in
aborting a pregnancy - is a crime against potentialities. If so, what
is the philosophical difference between aborting a fetus and destroying
a sperm and an egg? These two contain all the information (=all the
potential) and their destruction is philosophically no less grave than
the destruction of a fetus. The destruction of an egg and a sperm is
even more serious philosophically: the creation of a fetus limits the
set of all potentials embedded in the genetic material to the one fetus
created. The egg and sperm can be compared to the famous wave function
(state vector) in quantum mechanics - the represent millions of
potential final states (=millions of potential embryos and lives). The
fetus is the collapse of the wave function: it represents a much more
limited set of potentials. If killing an embryo is murder because of
the elimination of potentials - how should we consider the intentional
elimination of many more potentials through masturbation and

The argument that it is difficult to say which sperm cell will
impregnate the egg is not serious. Biologically, it does not matter -
they all carry the same genetic content. Moreover, would this
counter-argument still hold if, in future, we were be able to identify
the chosen one and eliminate only it? In many religions (Catholicism)
contraception is murder. In Judaism, masturbation is "the corruption of
the seed" and such a serious offence that it is punishable by the
strongest religious penalty: eternal ex-communication ("Karet").

If abortion is indeed murder how should we resolve the following moral
dilemmas and questions (some of them patently absurd):

Is a natural abortion the equivalent of manslaughter (through

Do habits like smoking, drug addiction, vegetarianism - infringe upon
the right to life of the embryo? Do they constitute a violation of the

Reductio ad absurdum: if, in the far future, research will
unequivocally prove that listening to a certain kind of music or
entertaining certain thoughts seriously hampers the embryonic
development - should we apply censorship to the Mother?

Should force majeure clauses be introduced to the Mother-Embryo
pregnancy contract? Will they give the mother the right to cancel the
contract? Will the embryo have a right to terminate the contract?
Should the asymmetry persist: the Mother will have no right to
terminate - but the embryo will, or vice versa?

Being a rights holder, can the embryo (=the State) litigate against his
Mother or Third Parties (the doctor that aborted him, someone who hit
his mother and brought about a natural abortion) even after he died?

Should anyone who knows about an abortion be considered an accomplice
to murder?

If abortion is murder - why punish it so mildly? Why is there a debate
regarding this question? "Thou shalt not kill" is a natural law, it
appears in virtually every legal system. It is easily and immediately
identifiable. The fact that abortion does not "enjoy" the same legal
and moral treatment says a lot.

In Our Own Image

The Debate about Cloning

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

There are two types of cloning. One involves harvesting stem cells from
embryos ("therapeutic cloning"). These are the biological equivalent of
a template. They can develop into any kind of mature functional cell
and thus help cure many degenerative and auto-immune diseases.

The other kind of cloning is much derided in popular culture - and
elsewhere - as the harbinger of a Brave, New World. A nucleus from any
cell of a donor is embedded in an egg whose own nucleus has been
removed. The egg is then implanted in a woman's womb and a cloned baby
is born nine months later. Biologically, the cloned infant is a replica
of the donor.

Cloning is often confused with other advances in bio-medicine and
bio-engineering - such as genetic selection. It cannot - in itself - be
used to produce "perfect humans" or select sex or other traits. Hence,
some of the arguments against cloning are either specious or fuelled by

It is true, though, that cloning, used in conjunction with other
bio-technologies, raises serious bio-ethical questions.

Scare scenarios of humans cultivated in sinister labs as sources of
spare body parts, "designer babies", "master races", or "genetic sex
slaves" - formerly the preserve of B sci-fi movies - have invaded
mainstream discourse.

Still, cloning touches upon Mankind's most basic fears and hopes. It
invokes the most intractable ethical and moral dilemmas. As an
inevitable result, the debate is often more passionate than informed.

Right to Life Arguments

According to cloning's detractors, the nucleus removed from the egg
could otherwise have developed into a human being. Thus, removing the
nucleus amounts to murder.

It is a fundamental principle of most moral theories that all human
beings have a right to life. The existence of a right implies
obligations or duties of third parties towards the right-holder. One
has a right AGAINST other people. The fact that one possesses a certain
right - prescribes to others certain obligatory behaviours and
proscribes certain acts or omissions. This Janus-like nature of rights
and duties as two sides of the same ethical coin - creates great
confusion. People often and easily confuse rights and their attendant
duties or obligations with the morally decent, or even with the morally
permissible. What one MUST do as a result of another's right - should
never be confused with one SHOULD or OUGHT to do morally (in the
absence of a right).

But is the egg - alive?

This question is NOT equivalent to the ancient quandary of "when does
life begin". Life crystallizes, at the earliest, when an egg and a
sperm unite (i.e., at the moment of fertilization). Life is not a
potential - it is a process triggered by an event. An unfertilized egg
is neither a process - nor an event. It does not even possess the
potential to become alive unless and until it merges with a sperm.
Should such merger not occur - it will never develop life.

The potential to become X is not the ontological equivalent of actually
being X, nor does it spawn moral and ethical rights and obligations
pertaining to X. The transition from potential to being is not trivial,
nor is it automatic, or inevitable, or independent of context. Atoms of
various elements have the potential to become an egg (or, for that
matter, a human  being) - yet no one would claim that they ARE an egg
(or a human being), or that they should be treated as one (i.e., with
the same rights and obligations).

Moreover, it is the donor nucleus embedded in the egg that endows it
with life - the life of the cloned baby. Yet, the nucleus is usually
extracted from a muscle or the skin. Should we treat a muscle or a skin
cell with the same reverence the critics of cloning wish to accord an
unfertilized egg?

Is this the main concern?

The main concern is that cloning - even the therapeutic kind - will
produce piles of embryos. Many of them - close to 95% with current
biotechnology - will die. Others can be surreptitiously and illegally
implanted in the wombs of "surrogate mothers".

It is patently immoral, goes the precautionary argument, to kill so
many embryos. Cloning is such a novel technique that its success rate
is still unacceptably low. There are alternative ways to harvest stem
cells - less costly in terms of human life. If we accept that life
begins at the moment of fertilization, this argument is valid. But it
also implies that - once cloning becomes safer and scientists more
adept - cloning itself should be permitted.

This is anathema to those who fear a slippery slope. They abhor the
very notion of "unnatural" conception. To them, cloning is a
narcissistic act and an ignorant and dangerous interference in nature's
sagacious ways. They would ban procreative cloning, regardless of how
safe it is. Therapeutic cloning - with its mounds of discarded fetuses
- will allow rogue scientists to cross the boundary between permissible
(curative cloning) and illegal (baby cloning).

Why should Baby Cloning be Illegal?

Cloning's opponents object to procreative cloning because it can be
abused to design babies, skew natural selection, unbalance nature,
produce masters and slaves and so on. The "argument from abuse" has
been raised with every scientific advance - from in vitro fertilization
to space travel.

Every technology can be potentially abused. Television can be either a
wonderful educational tool - or an addictive and mind numbing pastime.
Nuclear fission is a process that yields both nuclear weapons and
atomic energy. To claim, as many do, that cloning touches upon the
"heart" of our existence, the "kernel" of our being, the very "essence"
of our nature - and thus threatens life itself - would be incorrect.

There is no "privileged" form of technological abuse and no hierarchy
of potentially abusive technologies. Nuclear fission tackles natural
processes as fundamental as life. Nuclear weapons threaten life no less
than cloning. The potential for abuse is not a sufficient reason to
arrest scientific research and progress - though it is a necessary

Some fear that cloning will further the government's enmeshment in the
healthcare system and in scientific research. Power corrupts and it is
not inconceivable that governments will ultimately abuse and misuse
cloning and other biotechnologies. Nazi Germany had a state-sponsored
and state-mandated eugenics program in the 1930's.

Yet, this is another variant of the argument from abuse. That a
technology can be abused by governments does not imply that it should
be avoided or remain undeveloped. This is because all technologies -
without a single exception - can and are abused routinely - by
governments and others. This is human nature.

Fukuyama raised the possibility of a multi-tiered humanity in which
"natural" and "genetically modified" people enjoy different rights and
privileges. But why is this inevitable? Surely this can easily by
tackled by proper, prophylactic, legislation?

All humans, regardless of their pre-natal history, should be treated
equally. Are children currently conceived in vitro treated any
differently to children conceived in utero? They are not. There is no
reason that cloned or genetically-modified children should belong to
distinct legal classes.

Unbalancing Nature

It is very anthropocentric to argue that the proliferation of
genetically enhanced or genetically selected children will somehow
unbalance nature and destabilize the precarious equilibrium it
maintains. After all, humans have been modifying, enhancing, and
eliminating hundreds of thousands of species for well over 10,000 years
now. Genetic modification and bio-engineering are as natural as
agriculture. Human beings are a part of nature and its manifestation.
By definition, everything they do is natural.

Why would the genetic alteration or enhancement of one more species -
homo sapiens - be of any consequence? In what way are humans "more
important" to nature, or "more crucial" to its proper functioning? In
our short history on this planet, we have genetically modified and
enhanced wheat and rice, dogs and cows, tulips and orchids, oranges and
potatoes. Why would interfering with the genetic legacy of the human
species be any different?

Effects on Society

Cloning - like the Internet, the television, the car, electricity, the
telegraph, and the wheel before it - is bound to have great social
consequences. It may foster "embryo industries". It may lead to the
exploitation of women - either willingly ("egg prostitution") or
unwillingly ("womb slavery"). Charles Krauthammer, a columnist and
psychiatrist, quoted in "The Economist", says:

"(Cloning) means the routinisation, the commercialisation, the
commodification of the human embryo".

Exploiting anyone unwillingly is a crime, whether it involves cloning
or white slavery. But why would egg donations and surrogate motherhood
be considered problems? If we accept that life begins at the moment of
fertilization and that a woman owns her body and everything within it -
why should she not be allowed to sell her eggs or to host another's
baby and how would these voluntary acts be morally repugnant? In any
case, human eggs are already being bought and sold and the supply far
exceeds the demand.

Moreover, full-fledged humans are routinely "routinised,
commercialized, and commodified" by governments, corporations,
religions, and other social institutions. Consider war, for instance -
or commercial advertising. How is the "routinisation,
commercialization, and commodification" of embryos more reprehensible
that the "routinisation, commercialization, and commodification" of
fully formed human beings?

Curing and Saving Life

Cell therapy based on stem cells often leads to tissue rejection and
necessitates costly and potentially dangerous immunosuppressive
therapy. But when the stem cells are harvested from the patient himself
and cloned, these problems are averted. Therapeutic cloning has vast
untapped - though at this stage still remote - potential to improve the
lives of hundreds of millions.

As far as "designer babies" go, pre-natal cloning and genetic
engineering can be used to prevent disease or cure it, to suppress
unwanted traits, and to enhance desired ones. It is the moral right of
a parent to make sure that his progeny suffers less, enjoys life more,
and attains the maximal level of welfare throughout his or her life.

That such technologies can be abused by over-zealous, or mentally
unhealthy parents in collaboration with avaricious or unscrupulous
doctors - should not prevent the vast majority of stable, caring, and
sane parents from gaining access to them.

Ethical Relativism and Absolute Taboos

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

I. Taboos

II. Incest

III. Suicide

IV. Race

V. Moral Relativism

I. Taboos

Taboos regulate our sexual conduct, race relations, political
institutions, and economic mechanisms - virtually every realm of our
life. According to the 2002 edition of the "Encyclopedia Britannica",
they are "the prohibition of an action or the use of an object based on
ritualistic distinctions of them either as being sacred and consecrated
or as being dangerous, unclean, and accursed."

Jews are instructed to ritually cleanse themselves after having been in
contact with a Torah scroll - or a corpse. This association of the
sacred with the accursed and the holy with the depraved is the key to
the guilt and sense of danger which accompany the violation of a taboo.

In Polynesia, where the term originated, "taboos could include
prohibitions on fishing or picking fruit at certain seasons; food
taboos that restrict the diet of pregnant women; prohibitions on
talking to or touching chiefs or members of other high social classes;
taboos on walking or traveling in certain areas, such as forests; and
various taboos that function during important life events such as
birth, marriage, and death."

Political correctness is a particularly pernicious kind of taboo
enforcement. It entails an all-pervasive self-censorship coupled with
social sanctions. Consider the treatment of the right to life, incest,
suicide, and race.

II. Incest

In contemporary thought, incest is invariably associated with child
abuse and its horrific, long-lasting, and often irreversible
consequences. But incest is far from being the clear-cut or monolithic
issue that millennia of taboo imply. Incest with minors is a private -
and particularly egregious - case of pedophilia or statutory rape. It
should be dealt with forcefully. But incest covers much more besides
these criminal acts.

Incest is the ethical and legal prohibition to have sex with a related
person or to marry him or her - even if the people involved are
consenting and fully informed adults. Contrary to popular mythology,
banning incest has little to do with the fear of genetic diseases. Even
genetically unrelated parties (a stepfather and a stepdaughter) can
commit incest.

Incest is also forbidden between fictive kin or classificatory kin
(that belong to the same matriline or patriline). In certain societies
(certain Native American tribes, or the Chinese) it is sufficient to
carry the same family name (i.e., to belong to the same clan) to render
a relationship incestuous. Clearly, eugenic considerations have little
to do with incest.

Moreover, the use of contraceptives means that incest does not need to
result in pregnancy and the transmission of genetic material.
Inbreeding (endogamous) or straightforward incest is the norm in many
life forms, even among primates (e.g., chimpanzees). It was also quite
common until recently in certain human societies - the Hindus, for
instance, or many Native American tribes, and royal families everywhere.

Nor is the taboo universal. In some societies, incest is mandatory or
prohibited, according to one's social class (Bali). In others, the
Royal House started a tradition of incestuous marriages, later emulated
by the lower classes (Ancient Egypt). The list is long and it serves to
demonstrate the diversity of attitudes towards this most universal

The more primitive and aggressive the society, the more strict and
elaborate the set of incest prohibitions and the fiercer the penalties
for their violation. The reason may be economic. Incest interferes with
rigid algorithms of inheritance in conditions of extreme scarcity (for
instance, of land and water) and consequently leads to
survival-threatening internecine disputes.

Freud said that incest provokes horror because it touches upon our
forbidden, ambivalent sexual cravings and aggression towards members of
our close family. Westermark held that "familiarity breeds repulsion"
and that the incest taboo - rather than counter inbred instincts -
simply reflects emotional reality. Both ignored the fact that the
incest taboo is learned - not inherent.

We can easily imagine a society where incest is extolled, taught, and
practiced - and out-breeding is regarded with horror and revulsion. The
incestuous marriages among members of the royal households of Europe
were intended to preserve the familial property and expand the clan's
territory. They were normative, not aberrant. Marrying an outsider was
considered abhorrent.

III. Suicide

Self-sacrifice, avoidable martyrdom, engaging in life risking
activities, refusal to prolong one's life through medical treatment,
euthanasia, overdosing, and self-destruction that is the result of
coercion - are all closely related to suicide. They all involve a
deliberately self-inflicted death.

But while suicide is chiefly intended to terminate a life - the other
acts are aimed at perpetuating, strengthening, and defending values or
other people. Many are appalled by the choice implied in suicide - of
death over life. They feel that it demeans life - i.e., abnegates its

Life's meaning - the outcome of active selection by the individual - is
either external (i.e., God's plan) or internal (i.e., the outcome of an
arbitrary frame of reference).

Our life is rendered meaningful only by integrating into an eternal
thing, process, design, or being. Suicide makes life trivial because
the act is not natural - not part of the eternal framework, the undying
process, the timeless cycle of birth and death. Suicide is a break with

Sidgwick said that only conscious (i.e., intelligent) beings can
appreciate values and meanings. So, life is significant to conscious,
intelligent, though finite, beings - because it is a part of some
eternal goal, plan, process, thing, design, or being. Suicide flies in
the face of Sidgwick's dictum. It is a statement by an intelligent and
conscious being about the meaninglessness of life.

If suicide is a statement, than society, in this case, is against the
freedom of expression. In the case of suicide, free speech dissonantly
clashes with the sanctity of a meaningful life. To rid itself of the
anxiety brought on by this conflict, society cast suicide as a depraved
or even criminal act and its perpetrators are much castigated.

The suicide violates not only the social contract - but, many will add,
covenants with God or nature. Thomas Aquinas said that - since
organisms strive to survive - suicide is an unnatural act. Moreover, it
adversely affects the community and violates the property rights of
God, the imputed owner of one's spirit. Christianity regards the
immortal soul as a gift and, in Jewish writings, it is a deposit.
Suicide amounts to the abuse or misuse of God's possessions,
temporarily lodged in a corporeal mansion.

This paternalism was propagated, centuries later, by Blackstone, the
codifier of British Law. Suicide - being self-murder - is a grave
felony, which the state has a right to prevent and to punish for.

In certain countries this still is the case. In Israel, for instance, a
soldier is considered to be "military property" and an attempted
suicide is severely punished as "a corruption of a army chattel".

Paternalism, a malignant mutation of benevolence, is about objectifying
people and treating them as possessions. Even fully-informed and
consenting adults are not granted full, unmitigated autonomy, freedom,
and privacy. This tends to breed "victimless crimes". The "culprits" -
gamblers, homosexuals, communists, suicides, drug addicts, alcoholics,
prostitutes - are "protected from themselves" by an intrusive nanny

The possession of a right creates a corresponding obligation not to act
to frustrate its exercise. Suicide is often the choice of a mentally
and legally competent adult. Life is such a basic and deep set
phenomenon that even the incompetents - the mentally retarded or
mentally insane or minors - can fully gauge its significance and make
"informed" decisions, in my view.

The paternalists claim counterfactually that no competent adult "in his
right mind" will ever decide to commit suicide. They cite the cases of
suicides who survived and felt very happy that they have - as a
compelling reason to intervene. But we all make irreversible decisions
for which, sometimes, we are sorry. It gives no one the right to

Paternalism is a slippery slope. Should the state be allowed to prevent
the birth of a genetically defective child or forbid his parents to
marry in the first place?

Should unhealthy adults be forced to abstain from smoking, or steer
clear from alcohol? Should they be coerced to exercise?

Suicide is subject to a double moral standard. People are permitted -
nay, encouraged - to sacrifice their life only in certain, socially
sanctioned, ways. To die on the battlefield or in defense of one's
religion is commendable. This hypocrisy reveals how power structures -
the state, institutional religion, political parties, national
movements - aim to monopolize the lives of citizens and adherents to do
with as they see fit. Suicide threatens this monopoly. Hence the taboo.

IV. Race

Social Darwinism, sociobiology, and, nowadays, evolutionary psychology
are all derided and disparaged because they try to prove that nature -
more specifically, our genes - determine our traits, our
accomplishments, our behavior patterns, our social status, and, in many
ways, our destiny. Our upbringing and our environment change little.
They simply select from ingrained libraries embedded in our brain.

Moreover, the discussion of race and race relations is tainted by a
history of recurrent ethnocide and genocide and thwarted by the dogma
of egalitarianism. The (legitimate) question "are all races equal" thus
becomes a private case of the (no less legitimate) "are all men equal".
To ask "can races co-exist peacefully" is thus to embark on the
slippery slope to slavery and Auschwitz. These historical echoes and
the overweening imposition of political correctness prevent any
meaningful - let alone scientific - discourse.

The irony is that "race" - or at least race as determined by skin color
- is a distinctly unscientific concept, concerned more with appearances
(i.e., the color of one's skin, the shape of one's head or hair),
common history, and social politics - than with heredity. Most human
classificatory traits are not concordant. Different taxonomic criteria
conjure up different "races". IQ is a similarly contentious construct,
although it is stable and does predict academic achievement effectively.

Thus, racist-sounding claims are as unfounded as claims about racial
equality. Still, while the former are treated as an abomination - the
latter are accorded academic respectability and scientific scrutiny.

Consider these two hypotheses:

I. That the IQ (or any other measurable trait) of a given race or
ethnic group is hereditarily determined (i.e., that skin color and IQ -
or another measurable trait - are concordant) and is strongly
correlated with certain types of behavior, life accomplishments, and
social status.

II. That the IQ (or any other quantifiable trait) of a given race or
"ethnic group" is the outcome of social and economic circumstances and
even if strongly correlated with behavior patterns, academic or other
achievements, and social status - which is disputable - is amenable to
"social engineering".

Both theories are falsifiable and both deserve serious, unbiased,
study. That we choose to ignore the first and substantiate the second
demonstrates the pernicious and corrupting effect of political

Claims of the type "trait A and trait B are concordant" should be
investigated by scientists, regardless of how politically incorrect
they are. Not so claims of the type "people with trait A are ..." or
"people with trait A do ...". These should be decried as racist tripe.

Thus the statement "The traits of being an Ashkenazi Jew (A) and
suffering from Tay-Sachs induced idiocy (B) are concordant" is true 1
of every 2500 times.

The statements "people who are Jews (i.e., with trait A) are
(narcissists)", or "people who are Jews (i.e., with trait A) do this:
they drink the blood of innocent Christian children during the Passover
rites" - are vile racist and paranoid statements.

People are not created equal. Human diversity - a taboo topic - is a
cause for celebration. It is important to study and ascertain what are
the respective contributions of nature and nurture to the way people -
individuals and groups - grow, develop, and mature. In the pursuit of
this invaluable and essential knowledge, taboos are dangerously

V. Moral Relativism

Protagoras, the Greek Sophist, was the first to notice that ethical
codes are culture-dependent and vary in different societies, economies,
and geographies. The pragmatist believe that what is right is merely
what society thinks is right at any given moment. Good and evil are not
immutable. No moral principle - and taboos are moral principles - is
universally and eternally true and valid. Morality applies within
cultures but not across them.

But ethical or cultural relativism and the various schools of
pragmatism ignore the fact that certain ethical percepts - probably
grounded in human nature - do appear to be universal and ancient, if
not eternal. Fairness, veracity, keeping promises, moral hierarchy -
permeate all the cultures we have come to know. Nor can certain moral
tenets be explained away as mere expressions of emotions or behavioral
prescriptions - devoid of cognitive content, logic, and a relatedness
to certain facts.

Still, it is easy to prove that most taboos are, indeed, relative.
Incest, suicide, feticide, infanticide, parricide, ethnocide, genocide,
genital mutilation, social castes, and adultery are normative in
certain cultures - and strictly proscribed in others. Taboos are
pragmatic moral principles. They derive their validity from their
efficacy. They are observed because they work, because they yield
solutions and provide results. They disappear or are transformed when
no longer useful.

Incest is likely to be tolerated in a world with limited possibilities
for procreation. Suicide is bound to be encouraged in a society
suffering from extreme scarcity of resources and over-population.
Ethnocentrism, racism and xenophobia will inevitably rear their ugly
heads again in anomic circumstances. None of these taboos is

None of them reflects some objective truth, independent of culture and
circumstances. They are convenient conventions, workable principles,
and regulatory mechanisms - nothing more. That scholars are frantically
trying to convince us otherwise - or to exclude such a discussion
altogether - is a sign of the growing disintegration of our weakening

The Merits of Stereotypes

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also Read:

The Science of Superstitions

The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know
so much that ain't so.

 -- Henry Wheeler Shaw

Do stereotypes usefully represent real knowledge or merely reflect
counter-productive prejudice?

Stereotypes invariably refer in a generalized manner to - often
arbitrary - groups of people, usually minorities. Stereotypes need not
necessarily be derogatory or cautionary, though most of them are. The
"noble savage" and the "wild savage" are both stereotypes. Indians in
movies, note Ralph and Natasha Friar in their work titled "The Only
Good Indian - The Hollywood Gospel" (1972) are overwhelmingly drunken,
treacherous, unreliable, and childlike. Still, some of them are as
portrayed as unrealistically "good".

But alcoholism among Native Americans - especially those crammed into
reservations - is, indeed, more prevalent than among the general
population. The stereotype conveys true and useful information about
inebriation among Indians. Could its other descriptors be equally

It is hard to unambiguously define, let alone quantify, traits. At
which point does self-centerdness become egotism or the pursuit of
self-interest - treachery? What precisely constitutes childlike
behavior? Some types of research cannot even be attempted due to the
stifling censorship of political correctness. Endeavoring to answer a
simple question like: "Do blacks in America really possess lower IQ's
and, if so, is this deficiency hereditary?" has landed many an American
academic beyond the pale.

The two most castigated aspects of stereotypes are their generality and
their prejudice. Implied in both criticisms is a lack of veracity and
rigor of stereotypes. Yet, there is nothing wrong with generalizations
per se. Science is constructed on such abstractions from private case
to general rule. In historiography we discuss "the Romans" or "ancient
Greeks" and characterize them as a group. "Nazi Germany", "Communist
Russia", and "Revolutionary France" are all forms of groupspeak.

In an essay titled "Helping Students Understand Stereotyping" and
published in the April 2001 issue of "Education Digest", Carlos Cortes
suggest three differences between "group generalizations" and

"Group generalizations are flexible and permeable to new,
countervailing, knowledge - ideas, interpretations, and information
that challenge or undermine current beliefs. Stereotypes are rigid and
resistant to change even in the face of compelling new evidence.

Second, group generalizations incorporate intragroup heterogeneity
while stereotypes foster intragroup homogeneity. Group generalizations
embrace diversity - "there are many kinds of Jews, tall and short, mean
and generous, clever and stupid, black and white, rich and poor".
Stereotypes cast certain individuals as exceptions or deviants -
"though you are Jewish, you don't behave as a Jew would, you are

Finally, while generalizations provide mere clues about group culture
and behavior - stereotypes purport to proffer immutable rules
applicable to all the members of the group. "Stereotypes develop
easily, rigidify surreptitiously, and operate reflexively, providing
simple, comfortable, convenient bases for making personal sense of the
world. Because generalizations require greater attention, content
flexibility, and nuance in application, they do not provide a
stereotype's security blanket of permanent, inviolate,
all-encompassing, perfectly reliable group knowledge."

It is commonly believed that stereotypes form the core of racism,
sexism, homophobia, and other forms of xenophobia. Stereotypes, goes
the refrain, determine the content and thrust of prejudices and propel
their advocates to take action against minorities. There is a direct
lineage, it is commonly held, between typecasting and lynching.

It is also claimed that pigeonholing reduces the quality of life,
lowers the expectations, and curbs the accomplishments of its victims.
The glass ceiling and the brass ceiling are pernicious phenomena
engendered by stereotypes. The fate of many social policy issues - such
as affirmative action, immigration quotas, police profiling, and gay
service in the military - is determined by stereotypes rather than
through informed opinion.

USA Today Magazine reported the findings of a survey of 1000 girls in
grades three to twelve conducted by Harris Interactive for "Girls".
Roughly half the respondents thought that boys and girls have the same
abilities - compared to less than one third of boys. A small majority
of the girls felt that "people think we are only interested in love and

Somewhat less than two thirds of the girls were told not to brag about
things they do well and were expected to spend the bulk of their time
on housework and taking care of younger children.  Stereotypical
thinking had a practical effect: girls who believe that they are as
able as boys and face the same opportunities are way more likely to
plan to go to college.

But do boys and girls have the same abilities? Absolutely not. Boys are
better at spatial orientation and math. Girls are better at emotions
and relationships. And do girls face the same opportunities as boys? It
would be perplexing if they did, taking into account physiological,
cognitive, emotional, and reproductive disparities - not to mention
historical and cultural handicaps. It boils down to this politically
incorrect statement: girls are not boys and never will be.

Still, there is a long stretch from "girls are not boys" to "girls are
inferior to boys" and thence to "girls should be discriminated against
or confined". Much separates stereotypes and generalizations from
discriminatory practice.

Discrimination prevails against races, genders, religions, people with
alternative lifestyles or sexual preferences, ethnic groups, the poor,
the rich, professionals, and any other conceivable minority. It has
little to do with stereotypes and a lot to do with societal and
economic power matrices. Granted, most racists typecast blacks and
Indians, Jews and Latinos. But typecasting in itself does not amount to
racism, nor does it inevitably lead to discriminatory conduct.

In a multi-annual study titled "Economic Insecurity, Prejudicial
Stereotypes, and Public Opinion on Immigration Policy", published by
the Political Science Quarterly, the authors Peter Burns and James
Gimpel substantiated the hypothesis that "economic self-interest and
symbolic prejudice have often been treated as rival explanations for
attitudes on a wide variety of issues, but it is plausible that they
are complementary on an issue such as immigration. This would be the
case if prejudice were caused, at least partly, by economic insecurity."

A long list of scholarly papers demonstrate how racism - especially
among the dispossessed, dislocated, and low-skilled - surges during
times of economic hardship or social transition. Often there is a
confluence of long-established racial and ethnic stereotypes with a
growing sense of economic insecurity and social dislocation.

"Social Identity Theory" tells us that stereotypical prejudice is a
form of compensatory narcissism. The acts of berating, demeaning,
denigrating, and debasing others serve to enhance the perpetrators'
self-esteem and regulate their labile sense of self-worth. It is
vicarious "pride by proxy" - belonging to an "elite" group bestows
superiority on all its members. Not surprisingly, education has some
positive influence on racist attitudes and political ideology.

Having been entangled - sometimes unjustly - with bigotry and
intolerance, the merits of stereotypes have often been overlooked.

In an age of information overload, "nutshell" stereotypes encapsulate
information compactly and efficiently and thus possess an undeniable
survival value. Admittedly, many stereotypes are self-reinforcing,
self-fulfilling prophecies. A young black man confronted by a white
supremacist may well respond violently and an Hispanic, unable to find
a job, may end up is a street gang.

But this recursiveness does not detract from the usefulness of
stereotypes as "reality tests" and serviceable prognosticators. Blacks
do commit crimes over and above their proportion in the general
population. Though stereotypical in the extreme, it is a useful fact to
know and act upon. Hence racial profiling.

Stereotypes - like fables - are often constructed around middle class
morality and are prescriptive. They split the world into the
irredeemably bad - the other, blacks, Jews,

Hispanics, women, gay - and the flawlessly good, we, the purveyors of
the stereotype. While expressly unrealistic, the stereotype teaches
"what not to be" and "how not to behave". A by-product of this
primitive rendition is segregation.

A large body of scholarship shows that proximity and familiarity
actually polarize rather than ameliorate inter-ethnic and inter-racial
tensions. Stereotypes minimize friction and violence by keeping
minorities and the majority apart. Venting and vaunting substitute for
vandalizing and worse. In time, as erstwhile minorities are gradually
assimilated and new ones emerge, conflict is averted.

Moreover, though they frequently reflect underlying deleterious
emotions - such as rage or envy - not all stereotypes are negative.
Blacks are supposed to have superior musical and athletic skills. Jews
are thought to be brainier in science and shrewder in business.
Hispanics uphold family values and ethnic cohesion. Gays are sensitive
and compassionate. And negative stereotypes are attached even to
positive social roles - athletes are dumb and violent, soldiers
inflexible and programmed.

Stereotypes are selective filters. Supporting data is hoarded and
information to the contrary is ignored. One way to shape stereotypes
into effective coping strategies is to bombard their devotees with
"exceptions", contexts, and alternative reasoning.

Blacks are good athletes because sports is one of the few egalitarian
career paths open to them. Jews, historically excluded from all
professions, crowded into science and business and specialized. If gays
are indeed more sensitive or caring than the average perhaps it is
because they have been repressed and persecuted for so long. Athletes
are not prone to violence - violent athletes simply end up on TV more
often. And soldiers have to act reflexively to survive in battle.

There is nothing wrong with stereotypes if they are embedded in reality
and promote the understanding of social and historical processes.
Western, multi-ethnic, pluralistic civilization celebrates diversity
and the uniqueness and distinctiveness of its components. Stereotypes
merely acknowledge this variety.

USA Today Magazine reported in January a survey of 800 adults,
conducted last year by social psychology professors Amanda Diekman of
Purdue University and Alice Eagly of Northwestern University. They
found that far from being rigid and biased, stereotypes regarding the
personality traits of men and women have changed dramatically to
accurately reflect evolving gender roles.

Diekman noted that "women are perceived as having become much more
assertive, independent, and competitive over the years ... Our
respondents - whether they were old enough to have witnessed it or not
- recognized the role change that occurred when women began working
outside the home in large numbers and the necessity of adopting
characteristics that equip them to be breadwinners."

The Happiness of Others

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Is there any necessary connection between our actions and the happiness
of others? Disregarding for a moment the murkiness of the definitions
of "actions" in philosophical literature - two types of answers were
hitherto provided.

Sentient Beings (referred to, in this essay, as "Humans" or "persons")
seem either to limit each other - or to enhance each other's actions.
Mutual limitation is, for instance, evident in game theory. It deals
with decision outcomes when all the rational "players" are fully aware
of both the outcomes of their actions and of what they prefer these
outcomes to be. They are also fully informed about the other players:
they know that they are rational, too, for instance. This, of course,
is a very farfetched idealization. A state of unbounded information is
nowhere and never to be found. Still, in most cases, the players settle
down to one of the Nash equilibria solutions. Their actions are
constrained by the existence of the others.

The "Hidden Hand" of Adam Smith (which, among other things, benignly
and optimally regulates the market and the price mechanisms) - is also
a "mutually limiting" model. Numerous single participants strive to
maximize their (economic and financial) outcomes - and end up merely
optimizing them.

The reason lies in the existence of others within the "market". Again,
they are constrained by other people's motivations, priorities ands,
above all, actions.

All the consequentialist theories of ethics deal with mutual
enhancement. This is especially true of the Utilitarian variety. Acts
(whether judged individually or in conformity to a set of rules) are
moral, if their outcome increases utility (also known as happiness or
pleasure). They are morally obligatory if they maximize utility and no
alternative course of action can do so. Other versions talk about an
"increase" in utility rather than its maximization. Still, the
principle is simple: for an act to be judged "moral, ethical, virtuous,
or good" - it must influence others in a way which will "enhance" and
increase their happiness.

The flaws in all the above answers are evident and have been explored
at length in the literature. The assumptions are dubious (fully
informed participants, rationality in decision making and in
prioritizing the outcomes, etc.). All the answers are instrumental and
quantitative: they strive to offer a moral measuring rod. An "increase"
entails the measurement of two states: before and after the act.
Moreover, it demands full knowledge of the world and a type of
knowledge so intimate, so private - that it is not even sure that the
players themselves have conscious access to it. Who goes around
equipped with an exhaustive list of his priorities and another list of
all the possible outcomes of all the acts that he may commit?

But there is another, basic flaw: these answers are descriptive,
observational, phenomenological in the restrictive sense of these
words. The motives, the drives, the urges, the whole psychological
landscape behind the act are deemed irrelevant. The only thing relevant
is the increase in utility/happiness. If the latter is achieved - the
former might as well not have existed. A computer, which increases
happiness is morally equivalent to a person who achieves a
quantitatively similar effect. Even worse: two persons acting out of
different motives (one malicious and one benevolent) will be judged to
be morally equivalent if their acts were to increase happiness

But, in life, an increase in utility or happiness or pleasure is
CONDITIONED upon, is the RESULT of the motives behind the acts that led
to it. Put differently: the utility functions of two acts depend
decisively on the motivation, drive, or urge behind them. The process,
which leads to the act is an inseparable part of the act and of its
outcomes, including the outcomes in terms of the subsequent increase in
utility or happiness. We can safely distinguish the "utility
contaminated" act from the "utility pure (or ideal)" act.

If a person does something which is supposed to increase the overall
utility - but does so in order to increase his own utility more than
the expected average utility increase - the resulting increase will be
lower. The maximum utility increase is achieved overall when the actor
forgoes all increase in his personal utility. It seems that there is a
constant of utility increase and a conservation law pertaining to it.

So that a disproportionate increase in one's personal utility
translates into a decrease in the overall average utility. It is not a
zero sum game because of the infiniteness of the potential increase -
but the rules of distribution of the utility added after the act, seem
to dictate an averaging of the increase in order to maximize the

The same pitfalls await these observations as did the previous ones.
The players must be in the possession of full information at least
regarding the motivation of the other players. "Why is he doing this?"
and "why did he do what he did?" are not questions confined to the
criminal courts. We all want to understand the "why's" of actions long
before we engage in utilitarian calculations of increased utility. This
also seems to be the source of many an emotional reaction concerning
human actions. We are envious because we think that the utility
increase was unevenly divided (when adjusted for efforts invested and
for the prevailing cultural mores). We suspect outcomes that are "too
good to be true". Actually, this very sentence proves my point: that
even if something produces an increase in overall happiness it will be
considered morally dubious if the motivation behind it remains unclear
or seems to be irrational or culturally deviant.

Two types of information are, therefore, always needed: one (discussed
above) concerns the motives of the main protagonists, the act-ors. The
second type relates to the world. Full knowledge about the world is
also a necessity: the causal chains (actions lead to outcomes), what
increases the overall utility or happiness and for whom, etc.

To assume that all the participants in an interaction possess this
tremendous amount of information is an idealization (used also in
modern theories of economy), should be regarded as such and not be
confused with reality in which people approximate, estimate,
extrapolate and evaluate based on a much more limited knowledge.

Two examples come to mind:

Aristotle described the "Great Soul". It is a virtuous agent (actor,
player) that judges himself to be possessed of a great soul (in a
self-referential evaluative disposition). He has the right measure of
his worth and he courts the appreciation of his peers (but not of his
inferiors) which he believes that he deserves by virtue of being
virtuous. He has a dignity of demeanour, which is also very
self-conscious. He is, in short, magnanimous (for instance, he forgives
his enemies their offences). He seems to be the classical case of a
happiness-increasing agent - but he is not. And the reason that he
fails in qualifying as such is that his motives are suspect. Does he
refrain from assaulting his enemies because of charity and generosity
of spirit - or because it is likely to dent his pomposity? It is
sufficient that a POSSIBLE different motive exist - to ruin the
utilitarian outcome.

Adam Smith, on the other hand, adopted the spectator theory of his
teacher Francis Hutcheson. The morally good is a euphemism. It is
really the name provided to the pleasure, which a spectator derives
from seeing a virtue in action. Smith added that the reason for this
emotion is the similarity between the virtue observed in the agent and
the virtue possessed by the observer.

It is of a moral nature because of the object involved: the agent tries
to consciously conform to standards of behaviour which will not harm
the innocent, while, simultaneously benefiting himself, his family and
his friends. This, in turn, will benefit society as a whole. Such a
person is likely to be grateful to his benefactors and sustain the
chain of virtue by reciprocating. The chain of good will, thus,
endlessly multiply.

Even here, we see that the question of motive and psychology is of
utmost importance. WHY is the agent doing what he is doing? Does he
really conform to society's standards INTERNALLY? Is he GRATEFUL to his
benefactors? Does he WISH to benefit his friends? These are all
questions answerable only in the realm of the mind. Really, they are
not answerable at all.

The Egotistic Friend

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

What are friends for and how can a friendship be tested? By behaving
altruistically, would be the most common answer and by sacrificing
one's interests in favour of one's friends. Friendship implies the
converse of egoism, both psychologically and ethically. But then we say
that the dog is "man's best friend". After all, it is characterized by
unconditional love, by unselfish behaviour, by sacrifice, when
necessary. Isn't this the epitome of friendship? Apparently not. On the
one hand, the dog's friendship seems to be unaffected by long term
calculations of personal benefit. But that is not to say that it is not
affected by calculations of a short-term nature. The owner, after all,
looks after the dog and is the source of its subsistence and security.
People - and dogs - have been known to have sacrificed their lives for
less. The dog is selfish - it clings and protects what it regards to be
its territory and its property (including - and especially so - the
owner). Thus, the first condition, seemingly not satisfied by canine
attachment is that it be reasonably unselfish.

There are, however, more important conditions:

a. For a real friendship to exist - at least one of the friends must be
a conscious and intelligent entity, possessed of mental states. It can
be an individual, or a collective of individuals, but in both cases
this requirement will similarly apply.

b. There must be a minimal level of identical mental states between the
terms of the equation of friendship. A human being cannot be friends
with a tree (at least not in the fullest sense of the word).

c. The behaviour must not be deterministic, lest it be interpreted as
instinct driven. A conscious choice must be involved. This is a very
surprising conclusion: the more "reliable", the more "predictable" -
the less appreciated. Someone who reacts identically to similar
situations, without dedicating a first, let alone a second thought to
it - his acts would be depreciated as "automatic responses".

For a pattern of behaviour to be described as "friendship", these four
conditions must be met: diminished egoism, conscious and intelligent
agents, identical mental states (allowing for the communication of the
friendship) and non-deterministic behaviour, the result of constant
decision making.

A friendship can be - and often is - tested in view of these criteria.
There is a paradox underlying the very notion of testing a friendship.
A real friend would never test his friend's commitment and allegiance.
Anyone who puts his friend to a test (deliberately) would hardly
qualify as a friend himself. But circumstances can put ALL the members
of a friendship, all the individuals (two or more) in the "collective"
to a test of friendship. Financial hardship encountered by someone
would surely oblige his friends to assist him - even if he himself did
not take the initiative and explicitly asked them to do so. It is life
that tests the resilience and strength and depth of true friendships -
not the friends themselves.

In all the discussions of egoism versus altruism - confusion between
self-interest and self-welfare prevails. A person may be urged on to
act by his self-interest, which might be detrimental to his (long-term)
self-welfare. Some behaviours and actions can satisfy short-term
desires, urges, wishes (in short: self-interest) - and yet be self-
destructive or otherwise adversely effect the individual's future
welfare. (Psychological) Egoism should, therefore, be re-defined as the
active pursuit of self- welfare, not of self-interest. Only when the
person caters, in a balanced manner, to both his present
(self-interest) and his future (self-welfare) interests - can we call
him an egoist. Otherwise, if he caters only to his immediate
self-interest, seeks to fulfil his desires and disregards the future
costs of his behaviour - he is an animal, not an egoist.

Joseph Butler separated the main (motivating) desire from the desire
that is self- interest. The latter cannot exist without the former. A
person is hungry and this is his desire. His self-interest is,
therefore, to eat. But the hunger is directed at eating - not at
fulfilling self-interests. Thus, hunger generates self-interest (to
eat) but its object is eating. Self-interest is a second order desire
that aims to satisfy first order desires (which can also motivate us

This subtle distinction can be applied to disinterested behaviours,
acts, which seem to lack a clear self-interest or even a first order
desire. Consider why do people contribute to humanitarian causes? There
is no self-interest here, even if we account for the global picture
(with every possible future event in the life of the contributor).

No rich American is likely to find himself starving in Somalia, the
target of one such humanitarian aid mission.

But even here the Butler model can be validated. The first order desire
of the donator is to avoid anxiety feelings generated by a cognitive
dissonance. In the process of socialization we are all exposed to
altruistic messages. They are internalized by us (some even to the
extent of forming part of the almighty superego, the conscience). In
parallel, we assimilate the punishment inflicted upon members of
society who are not "social" enough, unwilling to contribute beyond
that which is required to satisfy their self interest, selfish or
egoistic, non-conformist, "too" individualistic, "too" idiosyncratic or
eccentric, etc. Completely not being altruistic is "bad" and as such
calls for "punishment". This no longer is an outside judgement, on a
case by case basis, with the penalty inflicted by an external moral
authority. This comes from the inside: the opprobrium and reproach, the
guilt, the punishment (read Kafka). Such impending punishment generates
anxiety whenever the person judges himself not to have been
altruistically "sufficient". It is to avoid this anxiety or to quell it
that a person engages in altruistic acts, the result of his social
conditioning. To use the Butler scheme: the first-degree desire is to
avoid the agonies of cognitive dissonance and the resulting anxiety.
This can be achieved by committing acts of altruism. The second-degree
desire is the self-interest to commit altruistic acts in order to
satisfy the first-degree desire. No one engages in contributing to the
poor because he wants them to be less poor or in famine relief because
he does not want others to starve. People do these apparently selfless
activities because they do not want to experience that tormenting inner
voice and to suffer the acute anxiety, which accompanies it.

Altruism is the name that we give to successful indoctrination. The
stronger the process of socialization, the stricter the education, the
more severely brought up the individual, the grimmer and more
constraining his superego - the more of an altruist he is likely to be.
Independent people who really feel comfortable with their selves are
less likely to exhibit these behaviours.

This is the self-interest of society: altruism enhances the overall
level of welfare. It redistributes resources more equitably, it tackles
market failures more or less efficiently (progressive tax systems are
altruistic), it reduces social pressures and stabilizes both
individuals and society. Clearly, the self-interest of society is to
make its members limit the pursuit of their own self-interest? There
are many opinions and theories. They can be grouped into:

a. Those who see an inverse relation between the two: the more
satisfied the self interests of the individuals comprising a society -
the worse off that society will end up. What is meant by "better off"
is a different issue but at least the commonsense, intuitive, meaning
is clear and begs no explanation. Many religions and strands of moral
absolutism espouse this view.

b. Those who believe that the more satisfied the self-interests of the
individuals comprising a society - the better off this society will end
up. These are the "hidden hand" theories. Individuals, which strive
merely to maximize their utility, their happiness, their returns
(profits) - find themselves inadvertently engaged in a colossal
endeavour to better their society.

This is mostly achieved through the dual mechanisms of market and
price. Adam Smith is an example (and other schools of the dismal

c. Those who believe that a delicate balance must exist between the two
types of self-interest: the private and the public. While most
individuals will be unable to obtain the full satisfaction of their
self-interest - it is still conceivable that they will attain most of
it. On the other hand, society must not fully tread on individuals'
rights to self-fulfilment, wealth accumulation and the pursuit of
happiness. So, it must accept less than maximum satisfaction of its
self-interest. The optimal mix exists and is, probably, of the minimax
type. This is not a zero sum game and society and the individuals
comprising it can maximize their worst outcomes.

The French have a saying: "Good bookkeeping - makes for a good
friendship". Self-interest, altruism and the interest of society at
large are not necessarily incompatible.

The Distributive Justice of the Market

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Also Read

The Principal-Agent Conundrum

The Green-Eyed Capitalist

The Misconception of Scarcity

The public outcry against executive pay and compensation followed
disclosures of insider trading, double dealing, and outright fraud. But
even honest and productive entrepreneurs often earn more money in one
year than Albert Einstein did in his entire life. This strikes many -
especially academics - as unfair. Surely Einstein's contributions to
human knowledge and welfare far exceed anything ever accomplished by
sundry businessmen? Fortunately, this discrepancy is cause for
constructive jealousy, emulation, and imitation. It can, however, lead
to an orgy of destructive and self-ruinous envy.

Entrepreneurs recombine natural and human resources in novel ways. They
do so to respond to forecasts of future needs, or to observations of
failures and shortcomings of current products or services.
Entrepreneurs are professional - though usually intuitive -
futurologists. This is a valuable service and it is financed by
systematic risk takers, such as venture capitalists. Surely they all
deserve compensation for their efforts and the hazards they assume?

Exclusive ownership is the most ancient type of such remuneration.
First movers, entrepreneurs, risk takers, owners of the wealth they
generated, exploiters of resources - are allowed to exclude others from
owning or exploiting the same things. Mineral concessions, patents,
copyright, trademarks - are all forms of monopoly ownership. What moral
right to exclude others is gained from being the first?

Nozick advanced Locke's Proviso. An exclusive ownership of property is
just only if "enough and as good is left in common for others". If it
does not worsen other people's lot, exclusivity is morally permissible.
It can be argued, though, that all modes of exclusive ownership
aggravate other people's situation. As far as everyone, bar the
entrepreneur, are concerned, exclusivity also prevents a more
advantageous distribution of income and wealth.

Exclusive ownership reflects real-life irreversibility. A first mover
has the advantage of excess information and of irreversibly invested
work, time, and effort. Economic enterprise is subject to information
asymmetry: we know nothing about the future and everything about the
past. This asymmetry is known as "investment risk". Society compensates
the entrepreneur with one type of asymmetry - exclusive ownership - for
assuming another, the investment risk.

One way of looking at it is that all others are worse off by the amount
of profits and rents accruing to owner-entrepreneurs. Profits and rents
reflect an intrinsic inefficiency. Another is to recall that ownership
is the result of adding value to the world. It is only reasonable to
expect it to yield to the entrepreneur at least this value added now
and in the future.

In a "Theory of Justice" (published 1971, p. 302), John Rawls described
an ideal society thus:

"(1) Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total
system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of
liberty for all. (2) Social and economic inequalities are to be
arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the
least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b)
attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair
equality of opportunity. "

It all harks back to scarcity of resources - land, money, raw
materials, manpower, creative brains. Those who can afford to do so,
hoard resources to offset anxiety regarding future uncertainty. Others
wallow in paucity. The distribution of means is thus skewed.
"Distributive justice" deals with the just allocation of scarce

Yet, even the basic terminology is somewhat fuzzy. What constitutes a
resource? what is meant by allocation? Who should allocate resources -
Adam Smith's "invisible hand", the government, the consumer, or
business? Should it reflect differences in power, in intelligence, in
knowledge, or in heredity? Should resource allocation be subject to a
principle of entitlement? Is it reasonable to demand that it be just -
or merely efficient? Are justice and efficiency antonyms?

Justice is concerned with equal access to opportunities. Equal access
does not guarantee equal outcomes, invariably determined by
idiosyncrasies and differences between people. Access leveraged by the
application of natural or acquired capacities - translates into accrued
wealth. Disparities in these capacities lead to discrepancies in
accrued wealth.

The doctrine of equal access is founded on the equivalence of Men. That
all men are created equal and deserve the same respect and, therefore,
equal treatment is not self evident. European aristocracy well into
this century would have probably found this notion abhorrent. Jose
Ortega Y Gasset, writing in the 1930's, preached that access to
educational and economic opportunities should be premised on one's
lineage, up bringing, wealth, and social responsibilities.

A succession of societies and cultures discriminated against the
ignorant, criminals, atheists, females, homosexuals, members of ethnic,
religious, or racial groups, the old, the immigrant, and the poor.
Communism - ostensibly a strict egalitarian idea - foundered because it
failed to reconcile strict equality with economic and psychological
realities within an impatient timetable.

Philosophers tried to specify a "bundle" or "package" of goods,
services, and intangibles (like information, or skills, or knowledge).
Justice - though not necessarily happiness - is when everyone possesses
an identical bundle. Happiness - though not necessarily justice - is
when each one of us possesses a "bundle" which reflects his or her
preferences, priorities, and predilections. None of us will be too
happy with a standardized bundle, selected by a committee of
philosophers - or bureaucrats, as was the case under communism.

The market allows for the exchange of goods and services between
holders of identical bundles. If I seek books, but detest oranges - I
can swap them with someone in return for his books. That way both of us
are rendered better off than under the strict egalitarian version.

Still, there is no guarantee that I will find my exact match - a person
who is interested in swapping his books for my oranges. Illiquid,
small, or imperfect markets thus inhibit the scope of these exchanges.
Additionally, exchange participants have to agree on an index: how many
books for how many oranges? This is the price of oranges in terms of

Money - the obvious "index" - does not solve this problem, merely
simplifies it and facilitates exchanges. It does not eliminate the
necessity to negotiate an "exchange rate". It does not prevent market
failures. In other words: money is not an index. It is merely a medium
of exchange and a store of value. The index - as expressed in terms of
money - is the underlying agreement regarding the values of resources
in terms of other resources (i.e., their relative values).

The market - and the price mechanism - increase happiness and welfare
by allowing people to alter the composition of their bundles. The
invisible hand is just and benevolent. But money is imperfect. The
aforementioned Rawles demonstrated (1971), that we need to combine
money with other measures in order to place a value on intangibles.

The prevailing market theories postulate that everyone has the same
resources at some initial point (the "starting gate"). It is up to them
to deploy these endowments and, thus, to ravage or increase their
wealth. While the initial distribution is equal - the end distribution
depends on how wisely - or imprudently - the initial distribution was

Egalitarian thinkers proposed to equate everyone's income in each time
frame (e.g., annually). But identical incomes do not automatically
yield the same accrued wealth. The latter depends on how the income is
used - saved, invested, or squandered. Relative disparities of wealth
are bound to emerge, regardless of the nature of income distribution.

Some say that excess wealth should be confiscated and redistributed.
Progressive taxation and the welfare state aim to secure this outcome.
Redistributive mechanisms reset the "wealth clock" periodically (at the
end of every month, or fiscal year). In many countries, the law
dictates which portion of one's income must be saved and, by
implication, how much can be consumed. This conflicts with basic rights
like the freedom to make economic choices.

The legalized expropriation of income (i.e., taxes) is morally dubious.
Anti-tax movements have sprung all over the world and their philosophy
permeates the ideology of political parties in many countries, not
least the USA. Taxes are punitive: they penalize enterprise, success,
entrepreneurship, foresight, and risk assumption. Welfare, on the other
hand, rewards dependence and parasitism.

According to Rawles' Difference Principle, all tenets of justice are
either redistributive or retributive. This ignores non-economic
activities and human inherent variance. Moreover, conflict and
inequality are the engines of growth and innovation - which mostly
benefit the least advantaged in the long run. Experience shows that
unmitigated equality results in atrophy, corruption and stagnation.
Thermodynamics teaches us that life and motion are engendered by an
irregular distribution of energy. Entropy - an even distribution of
energy - equals death and stasis.

What about the disadvantaged and challenged - the mentally retarded,
the mentally insane, the paralyzed, the chronically ill? For that
matter, what about the less talented, less skilled, less daring?
Dworkin (1981) proposed a compensation scheme. He suggested a model of
fair distribution in which every person is given the same purchasing
power and uses it to bid, in a fair auction, for resources that best
fit that person's life plan, goals and preferences.

Having thus acquired these resources, we are then permitted to use them
as we see fit. Obviously, we end up with disparate economic results.
But we cannot complain - we were given the same purchasing power and
the freedom to bid for a bundle of our choice.

Dworkin assumes that prior to the hypothetical auction, people are
unaware of their own natural endowments but are willing and able to
insure against being naturally disadvantaged. Their payments create an
insurance pool to compensate the less fortunate for their misfortune.

This, of course, is highly unrealistic. We are usually very much aware
of natural endowments and liabilities - both ours and others'.
Therefore, the demand for such insurance is not universal, nor uniform.
Some of us badly need and want it - others not at all. It is morally
acceptable to let willing buyers and sellers to trade in such coverage
(e.g., by offering charity or alms) - but may be immoral to make it

Most of the modern welfare programs are involuntary Dworkin schemes.
Worse yet, they often measure differences in natural endowments
arbitrarily, compensate for lack of acquired skills, and discriminate
between types of endowments in accordance with cultural biases and

Libertarians limit themselves to ensuring a level playing field of just
exchanges, where just actions always result in just outcomes. Justice
is not dependent on a particular distribution pattern, whether as a
starting point, or as an outcome. Robert Nozick "Entitlement Theory"
proposed in 1974 is based on this approach.

That the market is wiser than any of its participants is a pillar of
the philosophy of capitalism. In its pure form, the theory claims that
markets yield patterns of merited distribution - i.e., reward and
punish justly. Capitalism generate just deserts. Market failures - for
instance, in the provision of public goods - should be tackled by
governments. But a just distribution of income and wealth does not
constitute a market failure and, therefore, should not be tampered with.

The Agent-Principal Conundrum

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI

In the catechism of capitalism, shares represent the part-ownership of
an economic enterprise, usually a firm. The value of shares is
determined by the replacement value of the assets of the firm,
including intangibles such as goodwill. The price of the share is
determined by transactions among arm's length buyers and sellers in an
efficient and liquid market. The price reflects expectations regarding
the future value of the firm and the stock's future stream of income -
i.e., dividends.

Alas, none of these oft-recited dogmas bears any resemblance to
reality. Shares rarely represent ownership. The float - the number of
shares available to the public - is frequently marginal. Shareholders
meet once a year to vent and disperse. Boards of directors are
appointed by management - as are auditors. Shareholders are not
represented in any decision making process - small or big.

The dismal truth is that shares reify the expectation to find future
buyers at a higher price and thus incur capital gains. In the Ponzi
scheme known as the stock exchange, this expectation is proportional to
liquidity - new suckers - and volatility. Thus, the price of any given
stock reflects merely the consensus as to how easy it would be to
offload one's holdings and at what price.

Another myth has to do with the role of managers. They are supposed to
generate higher returns to shareholders by increasing the value of the
firm's assets and, therefore, of the firm. If they fail to do so, goes
the moral tale, they are booted out mercilessly. This is one
manifestation of the "Principal-Agent Problem". It is defined thus by
the Oxford Dictionary of Economics:

"The problem of how a person A can motivate person B to act for A's
benefit rather than following (his) self-interest."

The obvious answer is that A can never motivate B not to follow B's
self-interest - never mind what the incentives are. That economists
pretend otherwise - in "optimal contracting theory" - just serves to
demonstrate how divorced economics is from human psychology and, thus,
from reality.

Managers will always rob blind the companies they run. They will always
manipulate boards to collude in their shenanigans. They will always
bribe auditors to bend the rules. In other words, they will always act
in their self-interest. In their defense, they can say that the damage
from such actions to each shareholder is minuscule while the benefits
to the manager are enormous. In other words, this is the rational,
self-interested, thing to do.

But why do shareholders cooperate with such corporate brigandage? In an
important Chicago Law Review article whose preprint was posted to the
Web a few weeks ago - titled "Managerial Power and Rent Extraction in
the Design of Executive Compensation" - the authors demonstrate how the
typical stock option granted to managers as part of their remuneration
rewards mediocrity rather than encourages excellence.

But everything falls into place if we realize that shareholders and
managers are allied against the firm - not pitted against each other.
The paramount interest of both shareholders and managers is to increase
the value of the stock - regardless of the true value of the firm. Both
are concerned with the performance of the share - rather than the
performance of the firm. Both are preoccupied with boosting the share's
price - rather than the company's business.

Hence the inflationary executive pay packets. Shareholders hire stock
manipulators - euphemistically known as "managers" - to generate
expectations regarding the future prices of their shares. These snake
oil salesmen and snake charmers - the corporate executives - are
allowed by shareholders to loot the company providing they generate
consistent capital gains to their masters by provoking persistent
interest and excitement around the business. Shareholders, in other
words, do not behave as owners of the firm - they behave as free-riders.

The Principal-Agent Problem arises in other social interactions and is
equally misunderstood there. Consider taxpayers and their government.
Contrary to conservative lore, the former want the government to tax
them providing they share in the spoils.

They tolerate corruption in high places, cronyism, nepotism, inaptitude
and worse - on condition that the government and the legislature
redistribute the wealth they confiscate. Such redistribution often
comes in the form of pork barrel projects and benefits to the

This is why the tax burden and the government's share of GDP have been
soaring inexorably with the consent of the citizenry. People adore
government spending precisely because it is inefficient and distorts
the proper allocation of economic resources. The vast majority of
people are rent-seekers. Witness the mass demonstrations that erupt
whenever governments try to slash expenditures, privatize, and
eliminate their gaping deficits. This is one reason the IMF with its
austerity measures is universally unpopular.

Employers and employees, producers and consumers - these are all
instances of the Principal-Agent Problem. Economists would do well to
discard their models and go back to basics. They could start by asking:

Why do shareholders acquiesce with executive malfeasance as long as
share prices are rising?

Why do citizens protest against a smaller government - even though it
means lower taxes?

Could it mean that the interests of shareholders and managers are
identical? Does it imply that people prefer tax-and-spend governments
and pork barrel politics to the Thatcherite alternative?

Nothing happens by accident or by coercion. Shareholders aided and
abetted the current crop of corporate executives enthusiastically. They
knew well what was happening. They may not have been aware of the exact
nature and extent of the rot - but they witnessed approvingly the
public relations antics, insider trading, stock option resetting ,
unwinding, and unloading, share price manipulation, opaque
transactions, and outlandish pay packages. Investors remained mum
throughout the corruption of corporate America. It is time for the

Legalizing Crime

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also Read:

Narcissists, Ethnic or Religious Affiliation, and Terrorists

The state has a monopoly on behavior usually deemed criminal. It
murders, kidnaps, and locks up people. Sovereignty has come to be
identified with the unbridled - and exclusive - exercise of violence.
The emergence of modern international law has narrowed the field of
permissible conduct. A sovereign can no longer commit genocide or
ethnic cleansing with impunity, for instance.

Many acts - such as the waging of aggressive war, the mistreatment of
minorities, the suppression of the freedom of association - hitherto
sovereign privilege, have thankfully been criminalized. Many
politicians, hitherto immune to international prosecution, are no
longer so. Consider Yugoslavia's Milosevic and Chile's Pinochet.

But, the irony is that a similar trend of criminalization - within
national legal systems - allows governments to oppress their citizenry
to an extent previously unknown. Hitherto civil torts, permissible
acts, and common behavior patterns are routinely criminalized by
legislators and regulators. Precious few are decriminalized.

Consider, for instance, the criminalization in the Economic Espionage
Act (1996) of the misappropriation of trade secrets and the
criminalization of the violation of copyrights in the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (2000) - both in the USA. These used to be
civil torts. They still are in many countries. Drug use, common
behavior in England only 50 years ago - is now criminal. The list goes

Criminal laws pertaining to property have malignantly proliferated and
pervaded every economic and private interaction. The result is a
bewildering multitude of laws, regulations statutes, and acts.

The average Babylonian could have memorizes and assimilated the
Hammurabic code 37 centuries ago - it was short, simple, and
intuitively just.

English criminal law - partly applicable in many of its former
colonies, such as India, Pakistan, Canada, and Australia - is a
mishmash of overlapping and contradictory statutes - some of these
hundreds of years old - and court decisions, collectively known as
"case law".

Despite the publishing of a Model Penal Code in 1962 by the American
Law Institute, the criminal provisions of various states within the USA
often conflict. The typical American can't hope to get acquainted with
even a negligible fraction of his country's fiendishly complex and
hopelessly brobdignagian criminal code. Such inevitable ignorance
breeds criminal behavior - sometimes inadvertently - and transforms
many upright citizens into delinquents.

In the land of the free - the USA - close to 2 million adults are
behind bars and another 4.5 million are on probation, most of them on
drug charges. The costs of criminalization - both financial and social
- are mind boggling. According to "The Economist", America's prison
system cost it $54 billion a year - disregarding the price tag of law
enforcement, the judiciary, lost product, and rehabilitation.

What constitutes a crime? A clear and consistent definition has yet to

There are five types of criminal behavior: crimes against oneself, or
"victimless crimes" (such as suicide, abortion, and the consumption of
drugs), crimes against others (such as murder or mugging), crimes among
consenting adults (such as incest, and in certain countries,
homosexuality and euthanasia), crimes against collectives (such as
treason, genocide, or ethnic cleansing), and crimes against the
international community and world order (such as executing prisoners of
war). The last two categories often overlap.

The Encyclopedia Britannica provides this definition of a crime:

"The intentional commission of an act usually deemed socially harmful
or dangerous and specifically defined, prohibited, and punishable under
the criminal law."

But who decides what is socially harmful? What about acts committed
unintentionally (known as "strict liability offenses" in the parlance)?
How can we establish intention - "mens rea", or the "guilty mind" -
beyond a reasonable doubt?

A much tighter definition would be: "The commission of an act
punishable under the criminal law." A crime is what the law - state
law, kinship law, religious law, or any other widely accepted law -
says is a crime. Legal systems and texts often conflict.

Murderous blood feuds are legitimate according to the 15th century
"Qanoon", still applicable in large parts of Albania. Killing one's
infant daughters and old relatives is socially condoned - though
illegal - in India, China, Alaska, and parts of Africa. Genocide may
have been legally sanctioned in Germany and Rwanda - but is strictly
forbidden under international law.

Laws being the outcomes of compromises and power plays, there is only a
tenuous connection between justice and morality. Some "crimes" are
categorical imperatives. Helping the Jews in Nazi Germany was a
criminal act - yet a highly moral one.

The ethical nature of some crimes depends on circumstances, timing, and
cultural context. Murder is a vile deed - but  assassinating Saddam
Hussein may be morally commendable. Killing an embryo is a crime in
some countries - but not so killing a fetus. A "status offense" is not
a criminal act if committed by an adult. Mutilating the body of a live
baby is heinous - but this is the essence of Jewish circumcision. In
some societies, criminal guilt is collective. All Americans are held
blameworthy by the Arab street for the choices and actions of their
leaders. All Jews are accomplices in the "crimes" of the "Zionists".

In all societies, crime is a growth industry. Millions of professionals
- judges, police officers, criminologists, psychologists, journalists,
publishers, prosecutors, lawyers, social workers, probation officers,
wardens, sociologists, non-governmental-organizations, weapons
manufacturers, laboratory technicians, graphologists, and private
detectives - derive their livelihood, parasitically, from crime. They
often perpetuate models of punishment and retribution that lead to
recidivism rather than to to the reintegration of criminals in society
and their rehabilitation.

Organized in vocal interest groups and lobbies, they harp on the
insecurities and phobias of the alienated urbanites. They consume ever
growing budgets and rejoice with every new behavior criminalized by
exasperated lawmakers. In the majority of countries, the justice system
is a dismal failure and law enforcement agencies are part of the
problem, not its solution.

The sad truth is that many types of crime are considered by people to
be normative and common behaviors and, thus, go unreported. Victim
surveys and self-report studies conducted by criminologists reveal that
most crimes go unreported. The protracted fad of criminalization has
rendered criminal many perfectly acceptable and recurring behaviors and
acts. Homosexuality, abortion, gambling, prostitution, pornography, and
suicide have all been criminal offenses at one time or another.

But the quintessential example of over-criminalization is drug abuse.

There is scant medical evidence that soft drugs such as cannabis or
MDMA ("Ecstasy") - and even cocaine - have an irreversible effect on
brain chemistry or functioning. Last month an almighty row erupted in
Britain when Jon Cole, an addiction researcher at Liverpool University,
claimed, to quote "The Economist" quoting the "Psychologist", that:

"Experimental evidence suggesting a link between Ecstasy use and
problems such as nerve damage and brain impairment  is flawed ... using
this ill-substantiated cause-and-effect to tell the 'chemical
generation' that they are brain damaged when they are not creates
public health problems of its own."

Moreover, it is commonly accepted that alcohol abuse and nicotine abuse
can be at least as harmful as the abuse of marijuana, for instance.
Yet, though somewhat curbed, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking
are legal. In contrast, users of cocaine - only a century ago
recommended by doctors as tranquilizer - face life in jail in many
countries, death in others. Almost everywhere pot smokers are
confronted with prison terms.

The "war on drugs" - one of the most expensive and protracted in
history - has failed abysmally. Drugs are more abundant and cheaper
than ever. The social costs have been staggering: the emergence of
violent crime where none existed before, the destabilization of
drug-producing countries, the collusion of drug traffickers with
terrorists, and the death of millions - law enforcement agents,
criminals, and users.

Few doubt that legalizing most drugs would have a beneficial effect.
Crime empires would crumble overnight, users would be assured of the
quality of the products they consume, and the addicted few would not be
incarcerated or stigmatized - but rather treated and rehabilitated.

That soft, largely harmless, drugs continue to be illicit is the
outcome of compounded political and economic pressures by lobby and
interest groups of manufacturers of legal drugs, law enforcement
agencies, the judicial system, and the aforementioned long list of
those who benefit from the status quo.

Only a popular movement can lead to the decriminalization of the more
innocuous drugs. But such a crusade should be part of a larger campaign
to reverse the overall tide of criminalization. Many "crimes" should
revert to their erstwhile status as civil torts. Others should be wiped
off the statute books altogether. Hundreds of thousands should be
pardoned and allowed to reintegrate in society, unencumbered by a past
of transgressions against an inane and inflationary penal code.

This, admittedly, will reduce the leverage the state has today against
its citizens and its ability to intrude on their lives, preferences,
privacy, and leisure. Bureaucrats and politicians may find this
abhorrent. Freedom loving people should rejoice.

AC/DC - a Deliberation Regarding the Impeachment

of the President of the United States of America

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Review the Responses of US Senators

In the hallways of the Smithsonian, two moralists are debating the
impeachment of the President of the United States of America, Mr.
William Jefferson Clinton. One is clearly Anti-Clinton (AC) the other,
a Democrat (DC), is not so much for him as he is for the rational and
pragmatic application of moral principles.

AC (expectedly): "The President should be impeached".

DC (no less expectedly): "But, surely, even you are not trying to imply
that he has committed high crimes and misdemeanours, as the
Constitution demands as grounds for the impeachment of a sitting

AC: "But I do. Perjury is such a high crime because it undermines the
very fabric of trust between fellow citizens and between the citizen
and the system of justice, the courts."

DC: "A person is innocent until proven guilty. No sound proof of
perjurious conduct on behalf of the President has been provided as yet.
Perjurious statements have to be deliberate and material. Even if the
President deliberately lied under oath - his lies were not material to
a case, which was later dismissed on the grounds of a lack of legal
merit. Legal hairsplitting and jousting are an integral part of the
defence in most court cases, civil and criminal. It is a legitimate -
and legal - component of any legal battle, especially one involving
interpretations, ambiguous terminology and the substantiation of
intentions. The President should not be denied the procedural and
substantive rights available to all the other citizens of his country.
Nor should he be subjected to a pre-judgment of his presumed guilt."

AC: "This, precisely, is why an impeachment trial by the Senate is
called for. It is only there that the President can credibly and
rigorously establish his innocence. All I am saying is that IF the
President is found by the Senate to have committed perjury - he should
be impeached. Wherever legal hairsplitting and jousting is permissible
as a legal tactic - it should and will be made available to the
President. As to the pre-judgment by the Press - I agree with you,
there is no place for it but, then, in this the President has been
treated no differently than others. The pertinent fact is that perjury
is a high misdemeanour, in the least, that is, an impeachable offence."

DC: "It was clearly not the intention of the Fathers of our
Constitution to include perjury in the list of impeachable offences.
Treason is more like it. Moreover, to say that the President will
receive a fair trial from the hands of his peers in the Senate - is to
lie. The Senate and its committees is a political body, heavily tilted,
currently, against the President. No justice can be had where politics
rears its ugly head. Bias and prejudice will rule this mock trial."

AC: "Man is a political animal, said the Greek philosophers of
antiquity. Where can you find an assembly of people free of politics?
What is this discourse that we are having if not a political one? Is
not the Supreme Court of the land a politically appointed entity? The
Senate is no better and no worse, it is but a mirror, a reflection of
the combined will of the people. Moreover, in pursuing the procedures
of impeachment - the Senate will have proved its non-political mettle
in this case. The nation, in all opinion polls, wants this matter
dropped. If it is not - it is a proof of foresight and civil courage,
of leadership and refusal to succumb to passing fads."

DC: "And what about my first argument - that perjury, even once proven,
was not considered by the authors of the Constitution to have been an
impeachable offence?"

AC: "The rules of the land - even the Constitution - are nothing but an
agreement between those who subscribe to it and for as long as they do.
It is a social contract, a pact. Men - even the authors of the
Constitution - being mortal, relegated the right to amend it and to
interpret it to future generations. The Constitution is a vessel, each
generation fills it as it sees fit. It is up to us to say what current
meaning this document harbours. We are not to be constrained by the
original intentions of the authors. These intentions are meaningless as
circumstances change. It is what we read into the Constitution that
forms its specific contents. With changing mores and values and with
the passage of events - each generation generates its own version of
this otherwise immortal set of principles."

DC: "I find it hard to accept that there is no limit to this creative
deconstruction. Surely it is limited by common sense, confined to
logic, subordinate to universal human principles. One can stretch the
meanings of words only thus far. It takes a lot of legal hairsplitting
to bring perjury - not proven yet - under one roof with treason."

AC: "Let us ignore the legal issues and leave them to their
professionals. Let us talk about what really bothers us all, including
you, I hope and trust. This President has lied. He may have lied under
oath, but he definitely lied on television and in the spacious rooms of
the White House. He lied to his family, to his aides, to the nation, to

DC: "For what purpose do you enumerate them?"

AC: "Because it is one thing to lie to your family and another thing to
lie to Congress. A lie told to the nation, is of a different magnitude
altogether. To lie to your closest aides and soi dissant confidantes -
again is a separate matter..."

DC: "So you agree that there are lies and there are lies? That lying is
not a monolithic offence? That some lies are worse than others, some
are permissible, some even ethically mandatory?"

AC: "No, I do not. To lie is to do a morally objectionable thing, no
matter what the circumstances. It is better to shut up. Why didn't the
President invoke the Fifth Amendment, the right not to incriminate
himself by his own lips?"

DC: "Because as much information is contained in abstaining to do
something as in doing it and because if he did so, he would have
provoked riotous rumours. Rumours are always worse than the truth.
Rumours are always worse than the most defiled lie. It is better to lie
than to provoke rumours."

AC: "Unless your lies are so clearly lies that you provoke rumours
regarding what is true, thus inflicting a double blow upon the public
peace that you were mandated to and undertook to preserve..."

DC: "Again, you make distinctions between types of lies - this time, by
their efficacy. I am not sure this is progress. Let me give you
examples of the three cases: where one would do morally well to tell
the truth, where one would achieve morally commendable outcomes only by
lying and the case where lying is as morally permissible as telling the
truth. Imagine a young sick adult. Her life is at peril but can be
saved if she were to agree to consume a certain medicine. This
medicament, however, will render her sterile. Surely, she must be told
the truth. It should be entirely her decision how to continue his life:
in person or through her progeny. Now, imagine that this young woman,
having suffered greatly already, informed her doctor that should she
learn that her condition is terminal and that she needs to consume
medicines with grave side effects in order to prolong it or even to
save it altogether - she is determined to take her life and has already
procured the means to do so. Surely, it is mandatory to lie to this
young woman in order to save her life. Imagine now the third situation:
that she also made a statement that having a child is her only,
predominant, all pervasive, wish in life. Faced with two conflicting
statements, some may choose to reveal the truth to her - others, to
withhold it, and with the same amount of moral justification."

AC: "And what are we to learn from this?"

DC: "That the moral life is a chain of dilemmas, almost none of which
is solvable. The President may have lied in order to preserve his
family, to protect his only child, to shield his aides from
embarrassing legal scrutiny, even to protect his nation from what he
perceived to have been the destructive zeal of the special prosecutor.
Some of his lies should be considered at least common, if not morally

AC: "This is a slippery slope. There is no end to this moral
relativism. It is a tautology. You say that in some cases there are
morally permissible reasons to lie. When I ask you how come - you say
to me that people lie only when they have good reasons to lie. But this
the crux of your mistake: good reasons are not always sufficient,
morally permissible, or even necessary reasons. Put more plainly: no
one lies without a reason. Does the fact that a liar has a reason to
lie - absolve him?"

DC: "Depends what is the reason. This is what I tried to establish in
my little sad example above. To lie about a sexual liaison - even under
oath - may be morally permissible if the intention is to shield other
meaningful individuals from harm, or in order to buttress the
conditions, which will allow one to fulfil one's side of a contract.
The President has a contract with the American people, sealed in two
elections. He has to perform. It is his duty no less than he has a duty
to tell the truth. Conflict arises only when two equally powerful
principles clash. The very fact that there is a controversy in the
public demonstrates the moral ambiguity of this situation.

The dysfunction of the American presidency has already cost trillions
of dollars in a collapsing global economy. Who knows how many people
died and will die in the pursuit of the high principle of vincit omnia
veritas (the truth always prevails)? If I could prove to you that one
person - just one person - committed suicide as a result of the
financial turmoil engendered by the Clinton affair, would you still
stick to your lofty ideals?"

AC: "You inadvertently, I am sure, broached the heart of this matter.
The President is in breach of his contracts. Not one contract - but
many. As all of us do - he has a contract with other fellow beings, he
is a signatory to a Social Treaty. One of the articles of this treaty
calls to respect the Law by not lying under oath. Another calls for
striving to maintain a generally truthful conduct towards the other
signatories. The President has a contract with his wife, which he
clearly violated, by committing adultery. Professing to be a believing
man, he is also in breach of his contract with his God as set forth in
the Holy Scriptures. But the President has another, very powerful and
highly specific contract with the American people. It is this contract
that has been violated savagely and expressly by the President."

DC: "The American people does not seem to think so, but, prey,

AC: "Before I do, allow me just to repeat. To me, there is no moral
difference between one lie and another. All lies are loathsome and
lead, in the long run, to hell whatever the good intentions, which
paved the way there. As far as I am concerned, President Clinton is a
condemned man on these grounds only. But the lies one chooses and the
victims he chooses to expose to his misbehaviour - reflect his
personality, his inner world, what type of human being he is. It is the
only allowance I make. All lies are prohibited as all murders are. But
there are murders most foul and there are lies most abominable and
obnoxious. What are we to learn about the President from his choice of
arms and adversaries? That he is a paranoid, a narcissist, lacks
empathy, immature, unable to postpone his satisfactions, to plan ahead,
to foresee the outcomes of his actions. He has a sense of special,
unwarranted entitlement, he judges his environment and the world, at
large, erroneously. In short: he is dangerously wrong for the job that
he has acquired through deception."

DC: "Through elections..."

AC: "Nay, through deception brought about by elections. He lied to the
American people about who he is and what he stands for. He did not
frankly expose or discuss his weaknesses and limitations. He sold his
voters on an invented, imaginary image, the product of spin-doctors and
opinion polls, which had no common denominator with reality. This is
gross deception."

DC: "But now that the American people know everything - they still
prefer him over others, approve of his performance and applaud his
professional achievements..."

AC: "This is the power of incumbency. It was the same with Nixon until
one month before his resignation. Or, do you sanction his actions as

DC: "Frankly, I will compare President Clinton to President Andrew
Johnson rather than to President Nixon. The shattering discovery about
Nixon was that he was an uncommon criminal. The shattering discovery
about Clinton is that he is human. Congress chastises him not for
having done what he did - in this he has many illustrious precedents.
No, he is accused of being indiscreet, of failing to hide the truth, to
evade the facts. He is reproached for his lack of efficiency at
concealment. He is criticized, therefore, both for being evasive and
for not being sufficiently protective of his secrets. It is hard to win
such a case, I tell you. It is also hypocritical in the extreme."

AC: "Do you agree that the President of the United States is party to a
contract with the American People?"

DC: "Absolutely."

AC: "Would you say that he is enjoined by this contract to uphold the
dignity of his office?'

DC:"I think that most people would agree to this."

AC: "And do you agree with me that fornicating in the White House would
tend to diminish rather than uphold this dignity - and, therefore,
constitute a violation of this contract? That it shows utter disregard
and disrespect to the institutions of this country and to their

DC: "I assume that you mean to say fornication in general, not only in
the White House. To answer you, I must analyse this complex issue into
its components. First, I assume that you agree with me that sex between
consenting adults is almost always legally allowed and, depending on
the circumstances and the culture, it is, usually, morally acceptable.
The President's relationship with Miss Lewinsky did not involve sexual
harassment or coercion and, therefore, was sex between consenting
adults. Legally, there could be nothing against it. The problem,
therefore, is cast in moral terms. Would you care to define it?"

AC: "The President has engaged in sexual acts - some highly unusual
-with a woman much younger than he, in a building belonging to the
American public and put at his disposal solely for the performance of
his duties. Moreover, his acts constituted adultery, which is a morally
reprehensible act. He acted secretly and tried to conceal the facts
using expressly illegal and immoral means - namely by lying."

DC: "I took the pains of noting down everything you said. You said that
the President has engaged in sexual acts and there can be no dispute
between us that this does not constitute a problem. You said that some
of them were highly unusual. This is a value judgement, so dependent on
period and culture, that it is rendered meaningless by its derivative
nature. What to one is repulsive is to the other a delightful stimulus.
Of course, this applies only to consenting adults and when life itself
is not jeopardized. Then you mentioned the age disparity between the
President and his liaison. This is sheer bigotry. I am inclined to
think that this statement is motivated more by envy than by moral

AC: "I beg to differ! His advantages in both position and age do raise
the spectre of exploitation, even of abuse! He took advantage of her,
capitalized on her lack of experience and innocence, used her as a sex
slave, an object, there just to fulfil his desires and realize his

DC: "Then there is no meaning to the word consent, nor to the legal age
of consent. The line must be drawn somewhere. The President did not
make explicit promises and then did not own up to them. Expectations
and anticipation can develop in total vacuum, in a manner
unsubstantiated, not supported by any observable behaviour. It is an
open question who was using who in this lurid tale - at least, who was
hoping to use who. The President, naturally, had much more to offer to
Miss Lewinsky than she could conceivably have offered to him. Qui bono
is a useful guide in reality as well as in mystery books."

AC: "This is again the same Presidential pattern of deceit, half truths
and plain lies. The President may not have promised anything explicitly
- but he sure did implicitly, otherwise why would Miss Lewinsky have
availed herself sexually? Even if we adopt your more benevolent version
of events and assume that Miss Lewinsky approached this avowed and
professional womanizer with the intention of taking advantage of him -
clearly, a deal must have been struck. "

DC: "Yes, but we don't know its nature and its parameters. It is
therefore useless to talk about this empty, hypothetical entity. You
also said that he committed these acts of lust in a building belonging
to the American public and put at his disposal solely for the
performance of his duties. This is half-true, of course. This is also
the home of the President, his castle. He has to endure a lot in order
to occupy this mansion and the separation between private and public
life is only on paper. Presidents have no private lives but only public
ones. Why should we reproach them for mixing the public with the
private? This is a double standard: when it suits our predatory
instincts, our hypocrisy and our search for a scapegoat - we disallow
the private life of a President. When these same low drives can be
satisfied by making this distinction - we trumpet it. We must make up
our minds: either Presidents are not allowed to have private lives and
then they should be perfectly allowed to engage in all manner of
normally private behaviour in public and on public property (and even
at the public's expense). Or the distinction is relevant - in which
case we should adopt the "European model" and not pry into the lives of
our Presidents, not expose them, and not demand their public
flagellation for very private sins."

AC: "This is a gross misrepresentation of the process that led to the
current sorry state of affairs. The President got himself embroiled in
numerous other legal difficulties long before the Monika Lewinsky story
erupted. The special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Whitewater
and other matters long before the President's sexual shenanigans hit
the courts. The President lied under oath in connection with a private,
civil lawsuit brought against him by Paula Jones. It is all the
President's doing. Decapitating the messenger - the special prosecutor
- is an old and defunct Roman habit."

DC: "Then you proceeded to accuse the President of adultery.
Technically, there can be no disagreement. The President's actions -
however sexual acts are defined - constitute unequivocal adultery. But
the legal and operational definitions of adultery are divorced from the
emotional and moral discourse of the same phenomenon. We must not
forget that you stated that the adulterous acts committed by the
President have adversely affected the dignity of his office and this is
what seems to have bothered you..."

AC: "Absolutely misrepresented. I do have a problem with adultery in
general and I wholeheartedly disagree with it..."

DC: "I apologize. So, let us accord these two rather different
questions - the separate treatment that they deserve. First, surely you
agree with me that there can be no dignity where there is no truth, for
you said so yourself. A marital relationship that fails abysmally to
provide the parties with sexual or emotional gratification and is
maintained in the teeth of such failure - is a lie. It is a lie because
it gives observers false information regarding the state of things.
What is better - to continue a marriage of appearances and mutual hell
- or to find emotional and sexual fulfilment elsewhere? When the
pursuit of happiness is coupled with the refusal to pretend, to pose,
in other words, to lie, isn't this commendable? President Clinton
admitted to marital problems and there seems to be an incompatibility,
which reaches to the roots of this bond between himself and his wife.

Sometimes marriages start as one thing - passion, perhaps or self
delusion - and end up as another: mutual acceptance, a warm habit,
companionship. Many marriages withstand marital infidelity precisely
because they are not conventional, or ideal marriages. By forgoing sex,
a partnership is sometimes strengthened and a true, disinterested
friendship is formed. I say that by insisting on being true to himself,
by refusing to accept social norms of hypocrisy, conventions of
make-belief and camouflage, by exposing the lacunas in his marriage,
by, thus, redefining it and by pursuing his own sexual and emotional
happiness - the President has acted honestly. He did not compromise the
dignity of his office."

AC: "Dysfunctional partnerships should be dissolved. The President
should have divorced prior to indulging his sexual appetite. Sexual
exclusivity is an integral - possibly the most important - section of
the marriage contract. The President ignored his vows, dishonoured his
word, breached his contract with the First Lady."

DC: "People stay together only if they feel that the foundation upon
which they based their relationship is still sound. Mr. Clinton and
Mrs. Clinton redefined their marriage to exclude sexual exclusivity, an
impossibility under the circumstances. But they did not exclude
companionship and friendship. It is here that the President may have
sinned, in lying to his best friend, his wife. Adultery is committed
only when a party strays out of the confines of the marital contract. I
postulate that the President was well within his agreement with Mrs.
Clinton when he sought sexual gratification elsewhere."

AC: "Adultery is a sin not only against the partner. The marriage
contract is signed by three parties: the man, the woman and God between
them. The President sinned against God. This cannot be ameliorated by
any human approval or permission. Whether his wife accepted him as he
is and disregarded his actions - is irrelevant. And if you are agnostic
or an atheist, still you can replace the word 'God' by the words
'Social Order'. President Clinton's behaviour undermines the
foundations of our social order. The family is the basic functional
unit and its proper functioning is guaranteed by the security of sexual
and emotional exclusivity. To be adulterous is to rebel against
civilization. It is an act of high social and moral treason."

DC: "While I may share your nostalgia - I am compelled to inform you
that even nostalgia is not what it used to be. There is no such thing
as 'The Family'. There are a few competing models, some of them
involving only a single person and his or her offspring. There is
nothing to undermine. The social order is in such a flux that it is
impossible to follow, let alone define or capture. Adultery is common.
This could be a sign of the times - or the victory of honesty and
openness over pretension and hypocrisy. No one can cast a stone at
President Clinton in this day and age."

AC: "But that's precisely it! The President is not a mirror, a
reflection of the popular will. Our President is a leader with awesome
powers. These powers were given to him to enable him to set example, to
bear a standard - to be a standard. I do demand of my President to be
morally superior to me - and this is no hypocrisy. This is a job
description. To lead, a leader needs to inspire shame and guilt through
his model. People must look up to him, wish they were like him, hope,
dream, aspire and conspire to be like him. A true leader provokes inner
tumult, psychological conflicts, strong emotions - because he demands
the impossible through the instance of his personality. A true leader
moves people to sacrifice because he is worthy of their sacrifice,
because he deserves it. He definitely does not set an example of moral
disintegration, recklessness, short-sightedness and immaturity. The
President is given unique power, status and privileges - only because
he has been recognized as a unique and powerful and privileged
individual. Whether such recognition has been warranted or not is what
determines the quality of the presidency."

DC: "Not being a leader, or having been misjudged by the voters to be
one - do not constitute impeachable offences. I reject your view of the
presidency. It is too fascist for me, it echoes with the despicable
Fuhrerprinzip. A leader is no different from the people that elected
him. A leader has strong convictions shared by the majority of his
compatriots. A leader also has the energy to implement the solutions
that he proposes and the willingness to sacrifice certain aspects of
his life (like his privacy) to do so. If a leader is a symbol of his
people - then he must, in many ways, be like them.

He cannot be as alien as you make him out to be. But then, if he is
alien by virtue of being superior or by virtue of being possessed of
superhuman qualities - how can we, mere mortals, judge him? This is the
logical fallacy in your argument: if the President is a symbol, then he
must be very much similar to us and we should not subject him to a
judgement more severe than the one meted to ourselves. If the President
is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, or otherwise, superhuman - then
he is above our ability to judge. And if the President is a standard
against whom we should calibrate our lives and actions - then he must
reflect the mores of his times, the kaleidoscopic nature of the society
that bred him, the flux of norms, conventions, paradigms and doctrines
which formed the society which chose him. A standard too remote, too
alien, too detached - will not do. People will ignore it and revert to
other behavioural benchmarks and normative yardsticks. The President
should, therefore, be allowed to be "normal", he should be forgiven.
After all forgiveness is as prominent a value as being truthful.

AC: "This allowance, alas, cannot be made. Even if I were to accept
your thesis about 'The President as a regular Human Being' - still his
circumstances are not regular. The decisions that he faces - and very
frequently - affect the lives of billions. The conflicting pressures
that he is under, the gigantic amounts of information that he must
digest, the enormity of the tasks facing him and the strains and
stresses that are surely the results of these - all call for a special
human alloy. If cracks are found in this alloy in room temperature - it
raises doubts regarding its ability to withstand harsher conditions. If
the President lies concerning a personal matter, no matter how
significant - who will guarantee veracity rather than prevarication in
matters more significant to us?

If he is afraid of a court of law - how is he likely to command our
armies in a time of war? If he is evasive in his answers to the Grand
Jury - how can we rely on his resolve and determination when
confronting world leaders and when faced with extreme situations? If he
loses his temper over petty matters - who will guarantee his
coolheadedness when it is really required? If criminal in small,
household matters - why not in the international arena?"

DC: "Because this continuum is false. There is little correlation
between reactive patterns in the personal realms - and their far
relatives in the public domain. Implication by generalization is a
logical fallacy. The most adulterous, querulous, and otherwise
despicable people have been superb, far sighted statesmen. The most
generous, benevolent, easygoing ones have become veritable political
catastrophes. The public realm is not the personal realm writ large. It
is true that the leader's personality interacts with his circumstances
to yield policy choices. But the relevance of his sexual predilections
in this context is dubious indeed. It is true that his morals and
general conformity to a certain value system will influence his actions
and inactions - influence, but not determine them. It is true that his
beliefs, experience, personality, character and temperament will colour
the way he does things - but rarely what he does and rarely more than
colour. Paradoxically, in times of crisis, there is a tendency to
overlook the moral vices of a leader (or, for that matter, his moral
virtues). If a proof was needed that moral and personal conduct are
less relevant to proper leadership - this is it. When it really
matters, we ignore these luxuries of righteousness and get on with the
business of selecting a leader.

Not a symbol, not a standard bearer, not a superman. Simply a human
being - with all the flaws and weaknesses of one - who can chart the
water and navigate to safety flying in the face of adverse

AC: "Like everything else in life, electing a leader is a process of
compromise, a negotiation between the ideal and the real. I just happen
to believe that a good leader is the one who is closer to the ideal.
You believe that one has to be realistic, not to dream, not to expect.
To me, this is mental death. My criticism is a cry of the pain of
disillusionment. But if I have to choose between deluding myself again
and standing firmly on a corrupt and degenerate ground - I prefer, and
always will, the levity of dreams."

The Rights of Animals

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

"Animal rights" is a catchphrase akin to "human rights". It involves,
however, a few pitfalls. First, animals exist only as a concept.
Otherwise, they are cuddly cats, curly dogs, cute monkeys. A rat and a
puppy are both animals but our emotional reaction to them is so
different that we cannot really lump them together. Moreover: what
rights are we talking about? The right to life? The right to be free of
pain? The right to food? Except the right to free speech - all other
rights could be applied to animals.

Law professor Steven Wise, argues in his book, "Drawing the Line:
Science and the Case for Animal Rights", for the extension to animals
of legal rights accorded to infants. Many animal species exhibit
awareness, cognizance and communication skills typical of human
toddlers and of humans with arrested development. Yet, the latter enjoy
rights denied the former.

According to Wise, there are four categories of practical autonomy - a
legal standard for granting "personhood" and the rights it entails.
Practical autonomy involves the ability to be desirous, to intend to
fulfill and pursue one's desires, a sense of self-awareness, and
self-sufficiency. Most animals, says Wise, qualify. This may be going
too far. It is easier to justify the moral rights of animals than their
legal rights.

But when we say "animals", what we really mean is non-human organisms.
This is such a wide definition that it easily pertains to
extraterrestrial aliens. Will we witness an Alien Rights movement soon?
Unlikely. Thus, we are forced to narrow our field of enquiry to
non-human organisms reminiscent of humans, the ones that provoke in us

Even this is way too fuzzy. Many people love snakes, for instance, and
deeply empathize with them. Could we accept the assertion (avidly
propounded by these people) that snakes ought to have rights - or
should we consider only organisms with extremities and the ability to
feel pain?

Historically, philosophers like Kant (and Descartes, Malebranche, and
Aquinas) rejected the idea of animal rights. They regarded animals as
the organic equivalents of machines, driven by coarse instincts, unable
to experience pain (though their behavior sometimes deceives us into
erroneously believing that they do).

Thus, any ethical obligation that we have towards animals is a
derivative of our primary obligation towards our fellow humans (the
only ones possessed of moral significance). These are called the
theories of indirect moral obligations. Thus, it is wrong to torture
animals only because it desensitizes us to human suffering and makes us
more prone to using violence on humans. Malebranche augmented this line
of thinking by "proving" that animals cannot suffer pain because they
are not descended from Adam. Pain and suffering, as we all know, are
the exclusive outcomes of Adam's sins.

Kant and Malebranche may have been wrong. Animals may be able to suffer
and agonize. But how can we tell whether another Being is truly
suffering pain or not? Through empathy. We postulate that - since that
Being resembles us - it must have the same experiences and, therefore,
it deserves our pity.

Yet, the principle of resemblance has many drawbacks.

One, it leads to moral relativism.

Consider this maxim from the Jewish Talmud: "Do not do unto thy friend
that which you hate". An analysis of this sentence renders it less
altruistic than it appears. We are encouraged to refrain from doing
only those things that WE find hateful. This is the quiddity of moral

The saying implies that it is the individual who is the source of moral
authority. Each and every one of us is allowed to spin his own moral
system, independent of others. The Talmudic dictum establishes a
privileged moral club (very similar to later day social
contractarianism) comprised of oneself and one's friend(s). One is
encouraged not to visit evil upon one's friends, all others seemingly
excluded. Even the broadest interpretation of the word "friend" could
only read: "someone like you" and substantially excludes strangers.

Two, similarity is a structural, not an essential, trait.

Empathy as a differentiating principle is structural: if X looks like
me and behaves like me - then he is privileged. Moreover, similarity is
not necessarily identity. Monkeys, dogs and dolphins are very much like
us, both structurally and behaviorally. Even according to Wise, it is
quantity (the degree of observed resemblance), not quality (identity,
essence), that is used in determining whether an animal is worthy of
holding rights, whether is it a morally significant person. The degree
of figurative and functional likenesses decide whether one deserves to
live, pain-free and happy.

The quantitative test includes the ability to communicate (manipulate
vocal-verbal-written symbols within structured symbol systems). Yet, we
ignore the fact that using the same symbols does not guarantee that we
attach to them the same cognitive interpretations and the same
emotional resonance ('private languages"). The same words, or symbols,
often have different meanings.

Meaning is dependent upon historical, cultural, and personal contexts.
There is no telling whether two people mean the same things when they
say "red", or "sad", or "I", or "love". That another organism looks
like us, behaves like us and communicates like us is no guarantee that
it is - in its essence - like us. This is the subject of the famous
Turing Test: there is no effective way to distinguish a machine from a
human when we rely exclusively on symbol manipulation.

Consider pain once more.

To say that something does not experience pain cannot be rigorously
defended. Pain is a subjective experience. There is no way to prove or
to disprove that someone is or is not in pain. Here, we can rely only
on the subject's reports. Moreover, even if we were to have an
analgometer (pain gauge), there would have been no way to show that the
phenomenon that activates the meter is one and the same for all
subjects, SUBJECTIVELY, i.e., that it is experienced in the same way by
all the subjects examined.

Even more basic questions regarding pain are impossible to answer: What
is the connection between the piercing needle and the pain REPORTED and
between these two and electrochemical patterns of activity in the
brain? A correlation between these three phenomena can be established -
but not their identity or the existence of a causative process. We
cannot prove that the waves in the subject's brain when he reports pain
- ARE that pain. Nor can we show that they CAUSED the pain, or that the
pain caused them.

It is also not clear whether our moral percepts are conditioned on the
objective existence of pain, on the reported existence of pain, on the
purported existence of pain (whether experienced or not, whether
reported or not), or on some independent laws.

If it were painless, would it be moral to torture someone? Is the very
act of sticking needles into someone immoral - or is it immoral because
of the pain it causes, or supposed to inflict? Are all three components
(needle sticking, a sensation of pain, brain activity) morally
equivalent? If so, is it as immoral to merely generate the same
patterns of brain activity, without inducing any sensation of pain and
without sticking needles in the subject?

If these three phenomena are not morally equivalent - why aren't they?
They are, after all, different facets of the very same pain - shouldn't
we condemn all of them equally? Or should one aspect of pain (the
subject's report of pain) be accorded a privileged treatment and

Yet, the subject's report is the weakest proof of pain! It cannot be
verified. And if we cling to this
descriptive-behavioral-phenomenological definition of pain than animals
qualify as well. They also exhibit all the behaviors normally ascribed
to humans in pain and they report feeling pain (though they do tend to
use a more limited and non-verbal vocabulary).

Pain is, therefore, a value judgment and the reaction to it is
culturally dependent. In some cases, pain is perceived as positive and
is sought. In the Aztec cultures, being chosen to be sacrificed to the
Gods was a high honor. How would we judge animal rights in such
historical and cultural contexts? Are there any "universal" values or
does it all really depend on interpretation?

If we, humans, cannot separate the objective from the subjective and
the cultural - what gives us the right or ability to decide for other
organisms? We have no way of knowing whether pigs suffer pain.

We cannot decide right and wrong, good and evil for those with whom we
can communicate, let alone for organisms with which we fail to do even

Is it GENERALLY immoral to kill, to torture, to pain? The answer seems
obvious and it automatically applies to animals. Is it generally
immoral to destroy? Yes, it is and this answer applies to the inanimate
as well. There are exceptions: it is permissible to kill and to inflict
pain in order to prevent a (quantitatively or qualitatively) greater
evil, to protect life, and when no reasonable and feasible alternative
is available.

The chain of food in nature is morally neutral and so are death and
disease. Any act which is intended to sustain life of a higher order
(and a higher order in life) - is morally positive or, at least
neutral. Nature decreed so. Animals do it to other animals - though,
admittedly, they optimize their consumption and avoid waste and
unnecessary pain. Waste and pain are morally wrong. This is not a
question of hierarchy of more or less important Beings (an outcome of
the fallacy of anthropomorphesizing Nature).

The distinction between what is (essentially) US - and what just looks
and behaves like us (but is NOT us) is false, superfluous and
superficial. Sociobiology is already blurring these lines. Quantum
Mechanics has taught us that we can say nothing about what the world
really IS. If things look the same and behave the same, we better
assume that they are the same.

The attempt to claim that moral responsibility is reserved to the human
species is self defeating. If it is so, then we definitely have a moral
obligation towards the weaker and meeker. If it isn't, what right do we
have to decide who shall live and who shall die (in pain)?

The increasingly shaky "fact" that species do not interbreed "proves"
that species are distinct, say some. But who can deny that we share
most of our genetic material with the fly and the mouse? We are not as
dissimilar as we wish we were. And ever-escalating cruelty towards
other species will not establish our genetic supremacy - merely our
moral inferiority.

T H E   A U T H O R


Curriculum Vitae

Click on blue text to access relevant web sites - thank you.

Born in 1961 in Qiryat-Yam, Israel.

Served in the Israeli Defence Force (1979-1982) in training and
education units.


Graduated a few semesters in the Technion - Israel Institute of
Technology, Haifa.

Ph.D. in Philosophy (major : Philosophy of Physics) - Pacific Western
University, California.

Graduate of numerous courses in Finance Theory and International

Certified E-Commerce Concepts Analyst.

Certified in Psychological Counselling Techniques.

Full proficiency in Hebrew and in English.

Business Experience

1980 to 1983

Founder and co-owner of a chain of computerized information kiosks in
Tel-Aviv, Israel.

1982 to 1985

Senior positions with the Nessim D. Gaon Group of Companies in Geneva,
Paris and New-York (NOGA and APROFIM SA):

- Chief Analyst of Edible Commodities in the Group's Headquarters in

- Manager of the Research and Analysis Division

- Manager of the Data Processing Division

- Project Manager of The Nigerian Computerized Census

- Vice President in charge of RND and Advanced Technologies

- Vice President in charge of Sovereign Debt Financing

1985 to 1986

Represented Canadian Venture Capital Funds in Israel.

1986 to 1987

General Manager of IPE Ltd. in London. The firm financed international
multi-lateral countertrade and leasing transactions.

1988 to 1990

Co-founder and Director of "Mikbats - Tesuah", a portfolio management
firm based in Tel-Aviv.

Activities included large-scale portfolio management, underwriting,
forex trading and general financial advisory services.

1990 to Present

Free-lance consultant to many of Israel's Blue-Chip firms, mainly on
issues related to the capital markets in Israel, Canada, the UK and the

Consultant to foreign RND ventures and to Governments on macro-economic

President of the Israel chapter of the Professors World Peace Academy
(PWPA) and (briefly) Israel representative of the "Washington Times".

1993 to 1994

Co-owner and Director of many business enterprises:

- The Omega and Energy Air-Conditioning Concern

- AVP Financial Consultants

- Handiman Legal Services

   Total annual turnover of the group: 10 million USD.

Co-owner, Director and Finance Manager of COSTI Ltd. -  Israel's
largest computerized information vendor and developer. Raised funds
through a series of private placements locally, in the USA, Canada and

1993 to 1996

Publisher and Editor of a Capital Markets Newsletter distributed by
subscription only to dozens of subscribers countrywide.

In a legal precedent in 1995 - studied in business schools and law
faculties across Israel - was tried for his role in an attempted
takeover of Israel's Agriculture Bank.

Was interned in the State School of Prison Wardens.

Managed the Central School Library, wrote, published and lectured on
various occasions.

Managed the Internet and International News Department of an Israeli
mass media group, "Ha-Tikshoret and Namer".

Assistant in the Law Faculty in Tel-Aviv University (to Prof. S.G.

1996 to 1999

Financial consultant to leading businesses in Macedonia, Russia and the
Czech Republic.

Collaborated with the Agency of  Transformation of Business with Social

Economic commentator in "Nova Makedonija", "Dnevnik", "Izvestia",
"Argumenti i Fakti", "The Middle East Times", "Makedonija Denes", "The
New Presence", "Central Europe Review" , and other periodicals and in
the economic programs on various channels of Macedonian Television.

Chief Lecturer in courses organized by the Agency of Transformation, by
the Macedonian Stock Exchange and by the Ministry of Trade.

1999 to 2002

Economic Advisor to the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and to
the Ministry of Finance.

2001 to present

Senior Business Correspondent for United Press International (UPI)

Web and Journalistic Activities

Author of extensive Websites in Psychology ("Malignant Self Love") - An
Open Directory Cool Site

Philosophy ("Philosophical Musings")

Economics and Geopolitics ("World in Conflict and Transition")

Owner of the Narcissistic Abuse Announcement and Study List and the
Narcissism Revisited mailing list (more than 3900 members)

Owner of the Economies in Conflict and Transition Study list.

Editor of mental health disorders and Central and Eastern Europe
categories in web directories (Open Directory, Suite 101, Search

Columnist and commentator in "The New Presence", United Press
International (UPI), InternetContent, eBookWeb and "Central Europe

Publications and Awards

"Managing Investment Portfolios in states of Uncertainty", Limon
Publishers, Tel-Aviv, 1988

"The Gambling Industry", Limon Publishers., Tel-Aviv, 1990

"Requesting my Loved One - Short Stories", Yedioth Aharonot, Tel-Aviv,

"The Macedonian Economy at a Crossroads - On the way to a Healthier
Economy" (with Nikola Gruevski), Skopje, 1998

"Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited", Narcissus Publications,
Prague and Skopje, 1999, 2001, 2002

The Narcissism Series - e-books regarding relationships with abusive
narcissists (Skopje, 1999-2002)

"The Exporters' Pocketbook", Ministry of Trade, Republic of Macedonia,
Skopje, 1999

"The Suffering of Being Kafka" (electronic book of Hebrew Short
Fiction, Prague, 1998)

"After the Rain - How the West Lost the East", Narcissus Publications
in association with Central Europe Review/CEENMI, Prague and Skopje,

Winner of numerous awards, among them the Israeli Education Ministry
Prize (Literature) 1997, The Rotary Club Award for Social Studies
(1976) and the Bilateral Relations Studies Award of the American
Embassy in Israel (1978).

Hundreds of professional articles in all fields of finances and the
economy and numerous articles dealing with geopolitical and political
economic issues published in both print and web periodicals in many

Many appearances in the electronic media on subjects in philosophy and
the Sciences and concerning economic matters.

Contact Details:

My Web Sites:

Economy / Politics:




After the Rain

How the West

Lost the East

The Book

This is a series of articles written and published in 1996-2000 in
Macedonia, in Russia, in Egypt and in the Czech Republic.

How the West lost the East. The economics, the politics, the
geopolitics, the conspiracies, the corruption, the old and the new, the
plough and the internet - it is all here, in colourful and provocative

From "The Mind of Darkness":

"'The Balkans' - I say - 'is the unconscious of the world'. People stop
to digest this metaphor and then they nod enthusiastically. It is here
that the repressed memories of history, its traumas and fears and
images reside. It is here that the psychodynamics of humanity - the
tectonic clash between Rome and Byzantium, West and East,
Judeo-Christianity and Islam - is still easily discernible. We are
seated at a New Year's dining table, loaded with a roasted pig and
exotic salads. I, the Jew, only half foreign to this cradle of
Slavonics. Four Serbs, five Macedonians. It is in the Balkans that all
ethnic distinctions fail and it is here that they prevail
anachronistically and atavistically. Contradiction and change the only
two fixtures of this tormented region. The women of the Balkan - buried
under provocative mask-like make up, retro hairstyles and too narrow
dresses. The men, clad in sepia colours, old fashioned suits and turn
of the century moustaches. In the background there is the crying game
that is Balkanian music: liturgy and folk and elegy combined. The
smells are heavy with muskular perfumes. It is like time travel. It is
like revisiting one's childhood."

The Author

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for
Central Europe Review and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI)
Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and
Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101 .

Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of

Visit Sam's Web site at


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