The Fallback Plan for Good vs. Right
The Fallback Plan is a weekly column, offering advice to those undergoing a second adolescence, written by Leigh Stein, author of The Fallback Plan, newly released from Melville House. For an illustrated fallback plan of your own, write to Leighstein@thefastertimes.com
I am just no longer confident in my ability to make decisions for myself. I consider myself to be a pretty rational, level-headed person but it seems like I’m either very very unlucky or…or…I actually don’t even know what I am anymore! I’m confused…I just don’t trust myself to make good decisions anymore- not good, but the right ones? I also don’t really know if I know the difference between what is good and what is right!! Can you help?
The French Canadian
To answer your question, I went back in time to the 18th century to hang out with a friend of a friend, Immanuel Kant (long story but basically he and my dad used to be in a band together). Kant has this concept of the categorical imperative, which goes like this: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”
Totally pretentious, right?
I was like, Hello, Kant, can you speak my Gen Y language? I only understand concepts of morality when sung by Kanye.
So then he was like, “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” He said “right” trumps “good.”
“Give me an example,” I said.
“OK,” he said. “Take slackers. Is it ‘good’ to sit around the fire, drinking ale with your bros and talking about boobs?”
“Yes,” Kant said, “’tis good. However, is it ‘right’? Would we want slackerdom to be a universal law, practiced by everyone?”
My mind flashed back to the time I had to move back home to New Jersey because my mom died and I just got stoned at parties all the time until I fell in love with an epileptic girl. Oh wait. That was Garden State. But I could relate.
FC, what I am trying to convey here is that you must ask yourself: is the choice I am making the one I would wish for the world? Do I wish for everyone to eat frites? Do I want everyone ruining their romantic relationships for a chance at a one-night stand with Ryan Gosling? Should we all hug our grandparents every time we see them?
You are making the world a better place every time you choose frites.
Signing off now. The jet lag from the time travel is srsly blowing my mind.
Illustration by Lauren Kaelin
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