Axiarchism and Kakonarchism

“Axiarchism” designates the notion, propounded by the Canadian philosopher John Leslie, that the universe exists because it is good that it exists, and that it is governed by good abstract values or ideals. On this account of things, the universe would exist by ethical necessity. But insofar as this can be said to be the case, there manifests itself also the bad side, the à”Unethics” of this so-called ethical necessity: millennia of devouring and being devoured, merely so that, with the beginning of human history, rational beings could start to hunt, make war on, and destroy one another?

One would have at least as much reason to propound, then, instead of a doctrine of axiarchism, one of kakonarchism, whereby the universe exists because it is bad that it exists, and whereby the abstract values that govern it are all bad values, or “anti-values”: misfortune, disaster, distress, harm, perdition, ruin, evil, detriment (these are all meanings of the ancient Greek term to kakón). In his essay “The Theory That the World Exists Because It Should” Leslie acknowledges this reservation at least so far as to say that he can fully comprehend the view of those who hold that the universe exists not because its existence is ethically required to exist but rather “because it is an ethical disaster.”[1]

[1] Leslie, The Theory That the World Exists Because It Should, in: American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 7, Number 4, October 1970, p. 286–298, here: p. 292.

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