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The logic of justifying utilitarianism actions in Koestler’s “Darkness at Last”

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Utilitarianism and machiavellianism.
  3. Koestler's exploration and struggle with the two ideologies in Darkness At Noon.
  4. The cornerstones of Machiavelli's argument.
    1. Qualities a prince needs to possess in order to gain and maintain control of a republic.
    2. The importance of a leader who is able to be deceptive.
    3. The Machiavellian principles of cruelty and deception.
  5. Two principle arguments for the utility of deductive reasoning.
    1. All who choose to utilize it must wholeheartedly believe in it.
    2. Deductive reasoning.
  6. Blind faith.
  7. The ideology of the 'Party'.
  8. Conclusion.

Arthur Koestler in Darkness At Noon, explores the utility of totalitarianism through the fictional life of Nicholas Rubashov, a lifelong, loyal member of The Party who has recently been hauled into jail under dubious charges. Rubashov has spent his entire life promoting the Utilitarian and Machiavellian ideals espoused by No. 1, the enigmatic leader of The Party. But now, ironically, Rubashov is being subjected to the same methods he used to use out of fervent devotion to The Party, a devotion that is not only questioned by officials of The Party, but Rubashov himself. He is now the current target of tactics he has previously used, including intense interrogation techniques, fear mongering, and manipulation. As he sits in jail, awaiting his hearing, Rubashov is forced to examine the decisions he has made in the name of promoting The Party ideals through a combination of flashbacks, journal entries, self-reflection, and interactions with his fellow prisoners. Utilitarianism and Machiavellianism are two theories that are both explicitly and implicitly explored throughout the text in Darkness At Noon. Through the various flashbacks, actions, and thoughts of Rubashov, Koestler wrestles with the myriad aspects of these two theories, which outline the proper ways in which a society should be constructed. Koestler's novel confirms the idea that the Utilitarianism is a principle which can be learned, yet only through the complete annihilation of the first generation of this supposedly evolved society, an idea explored in John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism.

[...] In order to avoid the emergence of questioning the morality of one's actions as Rubashov does, the Party advocates the use of deductive reasoning, blind faith, and self-deception, which supports the Party's emphasis on the ?collective to ensure that its members both support and carry out it's goals. These three methods of control are achieved by promoting the Utilitarian ideal of the ends justifying the means through the utilization of Machiavellian means; cruelty, the beastly arts, and deception. Yet, in the end, Rubashov, like Raskolnikov, the principle character in Crime and Punishment realizes ?that twice two are not four when the mathematical units are human beings.?[1] Koestler explores and struggles with the two ideologies he examines in Darkness At Noon. [...]


[...] Rubashov spends a portion of the novel denying the importance of the ?singular submitting himself to the ?collective of the Party and the logic of deductive reasoning through an attempt of the application of the technique of self-deception.[24] Self-deception is the idea that Rubashov can convince himself that he believes whatever it is he needs in order to remain within the Party lines. Self-deception is the answer to the dilemma of how to avoid questioning the morality of one's actions, a question the Party attempts to suppress in all of its members. [...]


[...] Otherwise, one might realize how completely absurd this method of thinking is, as Rubashov discovers during his third hearing with Gletkin, another official of The Party who is also responsible for interrogating Rubashov.[18] The second major argument against utilizing deductive reasoning is that this type of logic will prevent errors from occurring, a repercussion of someone's actions which The Party attempts to avoid.[19] However, Rubashov counters the idea that errors can be avoided by logically deducing the consequence of specific actions with a different interpretation than Ivanov of Crime and Punishment. [...]

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