What would it be acceptable for a society to sacrifice in order to achieve a utopia? Does this utopia exist, and if so, is it even possible to achieve it? Is it possible to build paradise from concrete? Arthur Koestler, in his novel Darkness at Noon , demonstrates the impracticality of using utilitarian logic to create a theoretical better society. Utilitarian logic, based on John Stuart Mill's principle of utility described in his philosophical treatise Utilitarianism , essentially states that the sole criterion for a moral action is that the balance of total happiness to unhappiness be maximized. Theoretically speaking, the argument is not easy to refute; however, there is a major difference between being theoretically sound and practically sound. The large timescale, the uncertain realization of the utilitarian ends, and the millions of people involved and subsequently hurt by the government's quest for utilitarian ends shows the fallibility of utilitarian logic in real world political systems.
[...] Furthermore, it is much safer to be feared than loved, as “Love is held by a chain of obligation, which because men are wicked, is broken at every opportunity for their own utility, but fear is held by a dread of punishment that never forsakes No and the Party certainly are not loved by the populace; however, the fear of death or imprisonment leads everyone to behave in line with party policy. Koestler notes the example of how Rubashov is forced to throw a man named Richard the wolves” because he distributed pamphlets that contained ideas that differed slightly from those of the Party. Machiavelli states that any dissidents must be dealt with to maintain power, and the Party brings this belief to the extreme. [...]
[...] Whether they live in fear and despair is relatively irrelevant; surely Machiavellian ethics do not benefit the populace nearly as much as the leader himself. Koestler depicts the horror and hardships millions of people have to go through under the Party (the government) for a theoretical utilitarian end. One could ask whether a utopian utilitarian end could still be achieved if one does not adopt a Machiavellian ruling system. Unfortunately other ruling styles will always fall victim to leaders following a Machiavellian style. [...]
[...] However, Gletkin cruel, unfeeling man with total loyalty to the Party) works his way through logical deductions, filling the blanks in where need and arrives at the preposterous conclusion, eventually leading to the execution of Rubashov. Rubashov isn't the only one to fall victim to the wrath of the Party; rather, the Machiavellian tactics employed by the Party, wherein millions of people suffered pain and hardship, led to millions of similar executions. These crude tactics, discussed by Machiavelli in The Prince, are necessary to maintain power. [...]
[...] The consequences will be seen in the short term, and as Mill points out, we will intrinsically know that the action of murder will result in far more unhappiness than happiness. However, this logic flies out the window with the creation of the utopian socialist state. It is not easy to judge the net ratio of happiness to unhappiness for the socialist state. For one thing, unlike Mill's examples where the result of an action is immediate or will be seen in a short time, the Party's utilitarian end could not be vindicated for years or even decades. [...]
[...] That is, for the populace to have a high esteem of the ruler (providing the ruler with glory), it is necessary that the ruler hide his true character from the populace. How can a dissembling ruler, who uses cruelty to maintain his power and would rather be loved than hated, create a society with a utilitarian end? Inherent in the idea of a utilitarian end is the idea that the ratio of unhappiness to happiness for everyone is maximized. A Machiavellian ruler would only maximize this quantity for the principality and himself, ignoring the populace in the calculation. Thus, the principality and the populace are disparate terms. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee