Philosophers have discussed at great length the ultimate goal, if any, of mankind, but they have reached no consensus, for that is the nature of philosophy. To be rational, a goal for mankind must be one that everyone could follow without conflict. Three plausible candidates are the survival of the human race, the greatest happiness for the greatest number and the pursuit of knowledge. Noe of them withstands scrutiny. If alien beings who were kinder, more intelligent and in every way superior to us landed on earth carrying a virus that we knew would wipe all of us out and if the only alternative to extinction were to kill them, we would undoubtedly do so: but that could be seen as a parochial and selfish act. In these circumstances some people might want to take into account goals other than the survival of the human race. As to happiness, how is it measured? How does one offset one person’s happiness against another’s joy? The pursuit of knowledge sounds very glorious, but why is it better than everyone striving to be good athletes or excellent chess players? Moreover, it could be self-defeating, since the unwise use of its technological spin-offs could result in there being nobody left on Earth to know anything. In thinking about ultimate goals, we are beyond the realm of rationality. A given goal can only be defended in terms of a superior goal: one cannot as the saying goes 'get an "ought" from an "is". In Pascal’s words, 'The heart has its reasons that reasons knows not of'. Hence, ultimate goals cannot be defended by their nature they have no superior goals in terms of which they can be justified. In practice it may be doubted if anyone has systematically pursued any such ultimate goals.
... to do with chess Index