(a.) Is it as much of a mistake to define ‘right action’ as to define ‘good consequence’?
The above statement captures the essence of consequentialist and deontological approaches. Consequentialism talks of a good consequence regardless of whether the action was right or wrong. It say ends justify means. Deontological view talks of the right action regardless of the end consequence. Meaning, end is not important, it’s more important to follow the right path.
As an eg. – the Utilitarian perspective is consequentialist while Kant’s categorical imperative is deontological. Both theories have their flaws. Utilitarian perspective is only concerned with the greatest happiness of the greatest number. If killing a person gave happiness to 100 other people, it would be just to execute that one person. On the other hand, Kant’s categorical imperative would condemn lying but there are many instances where lying can save one’s life. So it cannot be universally applied.
From the above, we cannot say that defining ‘right action’ is a mistake and ‘good consequence’ should have primacy. There cannot be a narrative that can be universally applied. Their applicability depends on a case by case scenario. Gandhi was of the opinion that not only are the ends important but so are the means. It is not enough to fight for freedom, but to have Dharma on our side which means right action. This implies that right action and good consequence need not be in contradiction. They cannot be seen in dichotomous terms. A harmonious synthesis of the two is always possible and always think of solutions that do justice to both.
(b.)What is your conception of ‘the good life’? How can it be attained?
The conception of good life varies across time and space and cultures. The western idea of good draws from the liberal tradition focusing on individualism maximizing liberty, equality and freedom. For them, community values are secondary.
My conception of a good life differs from the above. For me, a good life should involve taking the best from everything – traditional and modern, east and west, liberal and communitarian, capitalism and communism.
Personally, I would want basic rights, liberties and freedoms to be protected and secured at all costs. Limitations, if rational and justified, are welcome. But arbitrariness and privileges are not. Today, we see many instances where basic rights are not protected and arbitrary use of force and authority is prevalent.
Socially, a good life would be if I am never isolated. I am a part of a community that provides me with a conducive environment. I feel a sense of security, a sense of belonging and have a fall-back option in case I need it. This community does not have a basis on identity markers like caste, religion, etc. but because of shared values and futuristic outlook. Cleavages on caste and communal lines are non-existent.
Politically, I look for very active engagement in my local affairs. There should be institutions and frameworks which allow me to be a part of decisions having a direct impact on me – a form of decentralization that truely ensures people’s participation. At the higher levels, the governments are responsive to people’s needs and ensures timely delivery of services.
Economically, a good life would be where I’m awarded for the hard work I put in. Where everyone who works hard has an equal chance of moving out of poverty and providing a better future for his kids and family. It would ensure opportunities for all and better opportunities for the ones who take risks. At the same time, it will go against the idea of disproportionate wealth accumulation. More than materialistic pleasures, what drives people is the will to advance, to change to move forward and to create a better world.
Technologically, I want to embrace state of the art technology and infrastructure but not at the cost of our environment.
Such a life would be a good life free from deprivation and most egalitarian in its approach.