Even a creature that is weak, ugly, cowardly, smelly, and in no way justifiable still wants to stay alive and be happy after its own passion.
— George Orwell, “Such, Such Were the Joys”, p. 284 of “Facing Unpleasant Facts”, a collection of Orwell’s essays compiled by George Packer. Mariner Books: N.Y., N.Y. (2008).
John Rawls is one of the gods of 20th Century moralism and political liberalism. Having supposedly lost his Christian faith during World War II, he preceded to spend his whole life after the War recreating the Christian God in an image in which he could have faith through political liberalism. Born a Patrician, he worked his whole life after the War as a professor at Harvard. Rawls’ arguments for principles of “social justice as fairness” use a thought experiment consisting of a hypothetical veil of ignorance. Citizens making choices about what the attributes of a society are supposed to be ought to do so from an “original position” of a “veil of ignorance” in which they will not know such things as what gender, race, abilities, tastes, wealth, position, and so forth they will have in that society. Rawls claims this will cause them to choose “fair” policies. Nice idea, problem is he did not go far enough nor did he see that for this hypothetical to work it must actually consist of two veils: one veil for the society we create and one veil for the reality that created us. He did not continue this veil of ignorance into ignorance of who if anyone would be altruistically willing to engage in such reasoning or who if anyone would even care about fairness for anyone but themselves. He did not continue it into ignorance of truth overall or of knowledge of anything except our ignorance, including ignorance of such things as fairness, the nature of language, justice, supposed natural rights for all, and most definitely ignorance of whether there even are such things as equal rights for all and much else that moralists assume as the Good despite claiming subjectivity of values as the Good. He did not continue it into now knowing the meaning of life. If he had done so, he might have been on to something. Instead of just being a hypothetical game, this veil or more accurately these two veils of ignorance would be a really rational means for normative especially for nihilist normative decision making: decision making by which the individual person seeks power over reality, over society, and over the Other in order viably to give life meaning.
Rawls did not go further to assume a veil of complete ignorance and thus nihilism because though he pretended and doubtless meant to be talking to all participants in society regardless of their particular characteristics such as ethnicity, social status, gender, race, physical and mental abilities, conception of the Good, and so forth so as to enforce a universal standard of normative values, he was not really talking to all. In reality, such talk is meant for and has meaning only for the few in a given society who have the power to control its normative values as I have been arguing in all my writings. Most of humanity, regardless of poverty or wealth, is just trying to survive in their personal struggle against reality both existentially and socially created. Requiring or assuming that any significant portion or even a small portion of humanity will go through their daily lives making decisions by forcing themselves to think they are what they are not or to assume they might never be what they are is a serious delusion blind to our Heart of Darkness. Rawls was preaching to the few Powers with the time and power in life to concentrate on creating a world in their image hoping they will ignore their Heart of Darkness to create a Christian world without the Christ. Nice try but just as delusional. In the end, as with all delusional moralists varying from Aquinas to Nietzsche, he created simply another wordgame of techniques for social engineering to keep the Powers in power creating a world in their image.
Going further with Rawls’ hypothetical as required by Acceptance of Nihilism, the veil of ignorance must actually be two veils of ignorance: one over the reality that created us and one over the reality society creates. Further, for our nihilism, this technique cannot be said to deal with good, evil, fairness, justice, the Good, nor the other usual aesthetic dogmatic language of morality and ethics but with the only attribute and state of affairs that matters: power — how to achieve it and how to control it.
We have no idea why there is something instead of nothing. Life has no meaning other than existence and it exists for no particular or general purpose other than existence. The “No Miracles” argument for scientific realism is unsound and fallacious. It only works because the advocates and worshipers of science as religion use words such as “approximately”, “essentially”, “closely”, “most accurately”, and so forth to argue it. In practice, there are multiple contradictory assumptions and conclusions among scientific theories in those few sciences that are still trying to derive holistic explanations for reality. Contradictory assumptions can prove any argument true; contradictory conclusions disprove all arguments. Further, saying that scientific reality must be true because miracles cannot be true is begging the question. It is accurate to say that scientific realism offers the simplest explanation of why the laws of physics are the same in Tokyo as in London or on Mars and as to why certain theories “approximately”, “essentially”, “closely”, or “most accurately” align with certain experiments, but as to the life of an individual which is all that matters to individual life, no science can prove to the individual that we will see tomorrow, see the sun rise tomorrow, give life, or take life. The undisputed universal fact is that for those that will die during the night, the sun will not rise tomorrow. Seeing the sun tomorrow is as much a miracle for any individual waking in Technological Society as it was in the Stone Age regardless of whether we are the product of evolutionary genetic physical forces or by the design of an omniscient and omnipotent being. A miracle explanation of why science works is just as sound and valid as a “No Miracles” explanation. Regardless of the actual existence of the universe, we are ignorant as to whether this existence is necessary or contingent. We also most definitely know that my, our, and any individual’s existence are contingent — other than maybe taxes, death is the one certainty in reality. The individual life is a miracle to the individual and no one including science, science as religion, or religion has any rational basis to deny this existential miracle.
Thanks to science, we have probabilistic and statistical methodology that allows us to create predictive value out of some of our theories about reality but that is it. And, that is enough. We want power over reality: power to live and to give life meaning. Looking through our veil of ignorance to this reality, regardless of whether we are “weak, ugly, cowardly, smelly, and in no way justifiable” or the most distinguished of academic elites creating wordgames that bind even God, we are entitled to choose and ought to choose that which gives us the most power over the reality from which we came and to which it is trying to get us to return: be it the Big Bang, evolution, physical matter, dirt, God, or whatever. The veil of ignorance by which we see this reality allows us and if we have made the leap to wanting to live even requires us to force or at least to try to force upon the reality that created us choices that give us the most power to control this reality so as to live and prosper in it. This is the first “original position” by which the nihilist makes normative decisions of ultimate evaluation and perspective value.
However, the veil of ignorance by which most of us view the reality created by society — most notably by its language — does not allow us to know the power by which we can control social reality; the opposite is the case, at any given time except for a small minority in society, we are at its control and under its power. For that small minority of Powers-that-be, during the time they are Powers, they create the normative wordgame that controls social reality and thus by definition they are not in an original position of ignorance but one of knowledge because they are the ones that define both and thus are irrelevant to this contemplation. Unless we become one of these few, our only control of social reality is by struggling against it. Thus, if we make a leap to life as a nihilist, the “original position” of our veil of ignorance rationally requires beliefs that would give us social power but then acts or doing the opposite required by those beliefs: the veil of ignorance by which we see social reality, again if we have made the leap to wanting to live, requires us to act upon this social reality, upon the Other, and upon ourselves not on the belief that gives us power to control it but less power so as to live and prosper in it. It is only by believing in what will achieve power and by then taking the opposite action can we control the few that seek and have power as an end-in-itself endangering my individual meaning and power for life.
Let me exemplify this technique using examples from my prior essay. Assume James Watson — a Nobel laureate who in 1953 co-created the double-helix structure of DNA thus giving us a lot of power over the reality of birth, physical health, forensic investigation, and much more — has offered to give you a seminar regarding molecular biology. Also, assume he is a fanatic racist advocating segregation of a supposed Aryan race from other races. Regardless of whether DNA may simply be an instrumental “Central Dogma of Molecular Biology”, from our original position of ignorance of natural reality, the nihilist choice is to accept his offer and actually to allow the seminar to try to gain some power over natural reality. Now, assume you are a fanatic racist nihilist yourself. In which case, to empower your racism you need to act upon and to empower his racism so all of you can act upon it. However, as a nihilist, you know that in the end regardless of racism or no racism, the end result will be the same with the Powers using your normative choices and acts to empower themselves over your individual life; so, despite your belief in the language of racism, you oppose giving yourself, Watson, or anyone any power affirmatively to act upon the language of racism. Assume you are not a racist; in which case, you will believe in the power to act against racism. However, again, as a nihilist, you know that in the end racism or no racism, the end result will be the same with the Powers using your normative choices and acts upon them to empower themselves over your individual life; so, despite your belief in language against racism, you oppose giving yourself or any others who are against racism any power affirmatively to act upon your language against racism. In the choices available, the end result is the same: Watson gives the seminar but is not allowed to act upon any racism (he can only speak about his beliefs) just as those against his racism cannot act upon it.
Another example is my CAT problem of the previous essay. At a certain point in our original position of ignorance of natural reality, CATs were the most powerful solution over the natural reality of smog and the nihilist rational choice through this veil of ignorance would be empower CATs and thus to empower our individual life over nature. However, through the veil of ignorance covering social reality, regardless of whether the nihilist supports CATs to thus believe in empowering them or opposed them so as not to believe in empowering, the required nihilist action is not to give anyone a monopoly on violence to enforce CATs.
Obviously, this “two veil” nihilist reasoning is at a very basic level and needs the details to be worked out. Rawls’ two books A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism working out his one veil of ignorance total about 1500 pages depending on the editions. I have to start somewhere. One more exemplification that may help to jump-start the working out is a contemplation of how these two veils may work out in a democracy.