Malevolent Universe Premise

  • The Virtue of Selfishness

    The altruist ethics is based on a “malevolent universe” metaphysics, on the theory that man, by his very nature, is helpless and doomed — that success, happiness, achievement are impossible to him — that emergencies, disasters, catastrophes are the norm of his life and that his primary goal is to combat them.

    As the simplest empirical refutation of that metaphysics — as evidence of the fact that the material universe is not inimical to man and that catastrophes are the exception, not the rule of his existence — observe the fortunes made by insurance companies.

  • Leonard Peikoff

    If you hold the wrong ideas on any fundamental philosophic issue, that will undercut or destroy the benevolent universe premise . . . . For example, any departure in metaphysics from the view that this world in which we live is reality, the full, final, absolute reality — any such departure will necessarily undercut a man’s confidence in his ability to deal with the world, and thus will inject the malevolent-universe element. The same applies in epistemology: if you conclude in any form that reason is not valid, then man has no tool of achieving values; so defeat and tragedy are unavoidable.

    This is true also of ethics. If men hold values incompatible with life — such as self-sacrifice and altruism — obviously they can’t achieve such values; they will soon come to feel that evil is potent, whereas they are doomed to misery, suffering, failure. It is irrational codes of ethics above all else that feed the malevolent-universe attitude in people and lead to the syndrome eloquently expressed by the philosopher Schopenhauer: “Whatever one may say, the happiest moment of the happy man is the moment of his falling asleep, and the unhappiest moment of the unhappy that of his waking. Human life must be some kind of mistake."

    Now there is certainly “some kind of mistake” here. But it’s not life. It’s the kind of philosophies used to wreck man — to make him incapable of living — philosophies, I may say, which are perfectly exemplified by the ideas of Schopenhauer.