At one point a friend of mine speculated (in response to my constant endorsing of unselfishness), that since animals are selfish, and humans are indistinct from animals except in that they alone create problems, selfishness might be good. A quick note here: I’m not actually interested in considering the relationship between humans and animals in its own right. I’m interested in considering the speculation my friend made, and its implications for selfishness and for naturalism. Considering humans naturalistically, it is very true that humans are indistinct from animals. But I entirely deny that they are specially problematic. On the contrary, they are among the better expressions of life in its true, unashamedly cannibalistic form. The impression that they are specially problematic (not an unreasonable one, I might add), arises from applying the distinctly non-naturalistic standard of morality to humanity’s existence in nature, rather than applying to human existence in nature the wildly divergent standard set by nature itself. To put it simply, all that matters in considering the question of one’s relationship to what objectively exists is what one, in fact, does. There is no “ought” to be considered in that question; furthermore its answer has no bearing on the ought. As soon as you begin talking about what should happen, as distinct from what does happen, you are asking an entirely different question, one which concerns the relationship of subjective experience to itself.
There really has been enough of this sentimentality about affirming all of nature. Nature is self destroying. If we are to affirm any of it, then we must deny those parts of it which deny itself. You cannot affirm the existence of wolves by affirming whatever wolves do. You certainly cannot do this, and simultaneously affirm the existence of sheep. Introduce a few wolves to a new island, and they will kill all the sheep and then starve to death themselves. If you want to affirm the existence of wolves, you have to deny the short sightedness of wolves. If you are unwilling to affirm the existence of wolves while denying their short sightedness, perhaps because they exist only as short sighted things, then you can only affirm the brutality of nature. And this is exactly what I do- I affirm not nature in itself but the self-destructiveness of nature. And I value not stasis but change, not conservation but evolution; in particular the undirected evolution, now simplifying, now recomplexifying, now simplifying again, which results in and from patterns of mass extinction. Not constant improvement but constant war between the competitive forces of grand strategy and primitive strategy; sometimes rising, even rising very high, but always falling in the end. Humanity is one of the most nature-affirming things which has ever existed, precisely because it is brutal, short sighted, narcissistic, polluting, destructive, cannibalistic, exploitative, and irrational. And better at being these things than most other animals- a classic animal. A shining example of an animal. A human, a wolf, and the aids virus are all equally egoistic, but the human has the grander strategy. And sometimes it can be otherwise: this, too, is nature. The two forces will always be in conflict. The grand strategy cannot exist without contending for existence against the primitive strategy. These are the terms of our existence in nature whether or not we recognize them to be such, and it is entirely predictable that many would fail to recognize them, and not entirely unpredictable that some would not.