I like Ayn Rand. I like her way of reducing things to their very basics.
What is truth? Well, first axiomatic premise: Existence exists. It’s hard to say that existence doesn;t exist, since the very word itself is existence. It’s like saying, “That which is, cannot be”.
Next: I exist. I know that I exist, even if “you” might be a figment of my imagination.
Next: consciousness exists. Why? because the very act of denying consciousness requires a conscious person to do the denying!
“Existence exists is a beginning axiom, but we can see undoubtedly that “I” must exist within that existence. Therefore, I am a small part of something known as existence, and since I am aware of this fact, actually conscious of it, I know, as a derivative of the first two statements, that consciousness must exist, because I exist, and I am conscious!
Using such thinking, however, I can;t be sure that “you” exist, since “you” might actually be a figment of “my” imagination! That is referred to, generally, as a form of thinking called solipsism.
I can be certain, as a result of my own self awareness, that I exist, but UNcertain that “you” exist.
It is that very uncertainty, however, that causes me to assume that “you” do in fact exist, the same as I do. I must also assume that “you” have the same needs for recognition and security that I do. The “Golden Rule”, therefore, is born of that uncertainty.
here is the problem: where there is uncertainty, and the issue cannot be resolved by exact definition, we must make general assumptions. We can’t know it to be true, but we must operate on the assumption that if something does exist, it can;t both “exist” and “not exist” at the same time, under the same conditions. If “you” exist, then the same rules of existence must apply generally to you as to me.
Here comes a big mistake: General rules. Laws, stuff like the Code of Hammurabi, or the Ten Commandments, things that we take generally as a truth, and then apply them equally in a one-size-fits-all prescription. All we have to do, is to simply reduce everybody to that same prescription of behavior! Sounds simple enough, right?
The problem is, as we see from history, there will be a few who don’t like the rules as “I” propose, and who better to propose those rules than “me” since i can’t really prove that “you” exist?
It seems self evident that “I” set the rules, and “you” go along. But if “you” don’t go along, then “you” can cease to exist.
You can see the problem here: “I”, after a while, becomes “we”. As in, “You’re not one of us”. Not “you” or “me”, but “you’ or “us”.
By defining “my” identity as “us”, I’ve already blurred the lines as to who “I” am. And really, how do I define who “I” am, except to say simply “I AM”.
If “I” become “we”, the rules work better, because we can define who “we” are in terms of expectations within the group. I know that I exist, but that ends suddenly with that certainty, because I just can’t define who I am. But f I define my existence in relation to your existence, then I can develop a whole set of expectations and make everybody more like me!
In science, we have discovered something called “mirror neurons” that help us in this social direction. You’re learning how to pick up a glass. You see another person pick up the glass. Scientists now know that the same neurons fire in your brain as you watch another person pick up that glass, as fire when you pick up the glass yourself! Same neurons, no difference! Whether “you” exist with certainty or not, “I” learn from watching “you”!
It would appear that in order to develop my own knowledge, “I” need “you” to exist.
But when we start developing collective rules that define “us”, this causes a big problem. Eric Hoffer, in studying cults and mass movements, called it “estrangement from self”.
Marshall McLuhan, in a book called “Understanding Media“, called it simply “numbing”. If I define “you’ in similar form to “me”, then I have “numbed” the feeling that separates you from me. In order to unite the two, I have eliminated a line that separates the two of us.
To the extent “you” and “I” are alike, I have become, as Hoffer calls it, “estranged from my self”.
The more I am estranged from myself, or “numbed” by the system of rules that make us more alike, the greater my ability to kill or destroy those who do not share “me”, and vice versa.
The more we bow to rules, the more we can sacrifice our individual humanness, and we are then “free” to kill, bully, torture, or intimidate all those who are not “us”.
If we can define ourselves in terms of the “self” we see in others, before long, we lose all ability to define human life in terms of individual meanings, hopes, and desires, and we feel “estranged” from everything, alienated, no matter how hard we try to achieve new meanings for ourselves.
Like a drug addict who needs larger doses of the drug to make him/her feel good, we seek more and more rules, laws, restraints, to control the very helplessness we increasingly feel as a result of those very laws!
Just like the drug addict, we seek to become numb to ourselves in order to enjoy ourselves! A total contradiction!
That is why drug addiction runs rampant in our society. We ourselves are addicts in the way we think.