What does it mean to do the right thing? Follow three rules: do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care, this a powerful statement of my mother that I will always keep in my mind. Doing the right thing is a beautiful stating point but I am going to define it in a wonderful way according to what different philosophers have stated about it. This essay will express the ideas and statements of three famous philosophers: Jean Paul Sartre, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Hobbes.
Jean Paul Sartre was one of the most important and best philosopher of the twentieth century. His work was focused in a philosophy that has to do with existence, known as existentialism. Existentialism emerged from the slogan that existence leads to essence, meaning that when we remove all preconceptions about what does it mean to be a human, we find ourselves alone in the world.
Sartre’s belief was that people are forced in everything they do, like to choose what they will become in their life or to define themselves by their action that means: “all that is given is that we are, not what we are”. For Sartre everyone in this world have no essence. People exist encounter themselves, grow up in this world, and define themselves afterwards. If we recognize our freedom in every step of our life, or that we are the source of all values, we must also recognize our responsibility in what we do.
We are responsible for everything we do in this world. People have the right to choose, they have their subjectivity so this means that we are completely in control of our existence. Anyhow of what is right or what is wrong, what is good or what is bad and anyhow if these are absolutes or not, things are always as people decide them to be. So what happens, happens and humans are absolutely responsible for what it does. Sartre famous saying “We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact” shows us that he really was a humanist who wanted us to break free of our self-fastened fetters and attain our potential. He wanted people to acknowledge their freedom, not to be restricted by the popular definition of their reality and to live life as they wanted to live it.
And in spite of people uncovering several imperfection in the way he presented his ideals, his ideals themselves are certainly worth considering.
Ayn Rand was one of the most successful novelist of the twentieth century. She became well-known for her philosophy she called ‘Objectivism’. Rand said that everybody is a being of self- made soul. She believed that humans are not born in sin or with ruinous desires; nor do they necessarily acquire them in the course of growing to maturity. Instead humans are born morally but through different choices and actions one acquire one’s character traits and habits. Fundamentally, humans live in reason. According to Rand’s views, clarified in her work ‘Atlas Shrugged’, capacity for reason is what enables us to pull through and flourish. We are not born knowing what is good for us but we learn it throughout our life, as we grow up and understand what is the right thing to do and what is the bad thing we should not do. We learn how to achieve something that is good for us, so this is something we learn throughout our life. Rand also believed that by the use of reason we take into account all of the factors people can identify, we also estimate the consequences of actions, and then we adopt principled policies of action. These principled policies are otherwise called virtues. Virtue is a moral excellence, is a quality that has to be morally great and is valued as a base of principle great moral being (Rand, Ayn. ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Random House,1957).
Like Sartre, Rand also believed that people have their own life and they are responsible for sustaining and strengthening. It is up to them to determine what values their lives require, how best to achieve those values and for sure everybody should try and act to achieve those values. What she else stated was that leaving humans to pursue their own interests implies in turn that only a capitalist or free market economic system is moral. Free individuals will use their money, time and will interact with others just for mutual advantage.
Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher best known for his political thoughts. One of his main concerns was about how can people live together in peace avoiding the threat and panic of conflicts. Hobbes developed a conception that it is natural and rational for people to give up some liberty in order to gain security for themselves or self preservation. This condition where people give up some individual liberty for some common security is called “the Social Contract”. Hobbes defines this contract as “Enforced Cooperation’ otherwise ”the mutual transferring of right’.
“The Social Contract” is an agreement by which individuals decide to cooperate with each other just because they know they will have a long term self-interest. Hobbes believed that actions and what we do in this world are preferable. He stated that all individuals are naturally equal and that every person is free to do what he/she need to do to live and get through. He believed that what people should do, depends on the situation in which they find themselves. So where political authority is lacking, the elementary right for everyone is to save their life, and where political philosophy exist, the duty of people is to follow those in power.
Hobbes theory was that, morality is not a permanent feature of the nature of things, but it is just a conception of the social contract. Notions of right and wrong, justice and fairness are worthless. Shortly Hobbes theory is based on the pre-political state of nature for people, and this is a condition of mutual conflict that contains no objective moral values. Hobbes also believed that we achieve peace by cooperating with each other, so mutually agreeing to give up our rights to harm one another. And to ensure conformity, people create governments that punish those people who break the rules. As we can see Hobbes is a moral skeptic as he states that moral principles have no objective foundation independent of human society (Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), 3.2).
So, as we can see our three most outstanding philosophers of the twentieth century have stated that doing the right thing refer to how to live ethically and we are totally guilty for what happens in the world. Otherwise doing the right thing according to philosophers means to make a choice amidst possibilities in favor of something the cooperative wisdom of humanity knows to be the way to act. To conclude every single word , my personal opinion would be that, kindness is doing the right thing , for the right reason, at the right time, rooted in love, respect and peace.
- Alexvermeer.com (1986). Machine Intelligence Research Institute.
- Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. Random House, (1957).
- Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), 3.2.