Author's Note: Once again, I thank my betas for being so cooperative. I also appreciate the reviews a lot. They really help in shaping this story.
"According to the ethical egoist, a person is always justified in doing whatever is in his own interest, regardless of the effects of others." – James Rachels, author of Philosophy for the 21st Century
A chill from my open bedroom window awoke me. Getting up, I slammed the window shut. Through bleary eyes I checked the clock and groaned. Time for school.
I went through my morning routine—showered, dressed, and other mundane necessities. At last, I gathered up my bag and made my way downstairs to where my parents quietly sat together at the kitchen table.
Mom stared at me as I came in. Her blond hair made an angelic halo about her head, framing her round face. The color really made her hazel green eyes stand out, drawing attention to the secrets within them hiding just out of sight.
Dad wouldn't even look at me. He read the Japanese-printed newspaper as if it was the most interesting thing he had ever laid eyes on.
Maybe it was. I could speak and read dad's native language easily, but I didn't keep up with Japan's current events. We had lived in New Jersey all my life, although my parents met over in Germany, where Mom had grown up and lived before Dad came along on a business trip from his native Japan and swept her off her feet.
"Morning," Dad muttered, his tone light.
"Breakfast?" Mom asked me, a delicate smile frozen on her face.
Just another uncomfortable morning at the Akita household.
I shook my head and fled. I took my time walking to school. I didn't think about anything in particular, until I remembered meeting Ezra Young yesterday. I scowled.
Happy people like him just rubbed me the wrong way.
An elementary school kid ran up beside me. He had red hair, and when he smiled up at me he was missing a tooth.
"Hey, Sir!" He ran to keep up with me. "Hey! Do you want to buy some candy? I'm fundraising for a school fieldtrip!"
Disgusting, vile, sordid beings.
When I failed to respond, the little red furball jumped in front of me.
"Hey," he snapped. "I was talking to you!"
I finally looked down at him. "There is a group of kids standing behind that building," I said, pointing at the drugstore across the street. "They would love your candy."
The boy's eyes widened.
He scurried off before I could respond. Was there really a group of kids behind the store who wanted candy? I did not know. The blissful ignorance of small children. How truly disgusting.
The security guard nodded at me as I walked into Morris High. He was one of the few people in this cesspool of a school that acknowledged me. It had more to do with the fact that he and my mother knew each other. Other than that, he was normally a quiet individual who did nothing else than sit on the security desk playing the crossword puzzles.
My locker was at the very end of the hallway on the second floor, and so passing people was inevitable. Some received me without a care and others stared at me in curiosity and amusement.
To them, I was the loner. I did little to associate myself with everyone else. The real reason was that no one quite understood me. The high school surrounding was too suffocating and narrow for my ambitions and my proud behavior heavily reflected upon it. I didn't identify myself as a loner. My thoughts kept me company.
"Hey, geek." And of course, so did the occasional moron. I was not the target of much antagonistic remarks—at least not to my face—but sometimes they slipped from time to time.
Ignoring the taunt, I went to my locker and started to take my books out for my first class.
My locker slammed in front of my face, nearly ripping off my nose. I stared at the hairy hand before me. Then I sighed. This was going to be a long day.
"I was talking to you, little faggot," snapped a male voice. The boy beside me was huge. I coldly studied him and recognized him as the kid from my gym class. "I didn't like the way you were looking at me a minute ago, fucktard."
"Actually it was the atrocious mole on your forehead that just demanded my attention," I replied, enjoying how his fat face turned beet red.
And where did he get off calling me a faggot? I've endured some ridicule and lies in the past but I knew that I wasn't gay. My lack of interest in anybody, boy or girl, made me a unique species.
"Yo, Jake," said somebody else. "Mrs. Cartel."
The burly kid grunted. "You're lucky this time, fairy," he spat. Then he shoved me into my locker before leaving with his cronies.
When I spotted Mrs. Cartel headed right for me, I would have happily joined them. I was not looking forward to listening to the lady's insistent chirps.
Soon she was beside me, taking the bully's spot. "Hello, Ren," she greeted me cheerfully.
Ignoring her, I opened my locker again and started picking out books. Cartel didn't take the hint.
"Ren, I'm so glad that you're doing so well at the university! Now I know my efforts were worthwhile!"
"Mrs. Cartel," I sighed, "I know that you are my guidance counselor, but why do you insist on following me around?" I saw Mrs. Cartel at least once a day during the school week when she dropped me off at the university, but at the same time I had the feeling that she kept close attention to me every chance she could. How else could she know that I would be at my locker precisely two minutes before the first bell?
The woman wiped off some invisible dirt from her yellow blazer. "What do you mean, Ren?" Cartel asked, looking anywhere but at me. "Is it a crime to look out for your favorite student?"
"It's borderline stalking," I told her but she pretended not to hear.
The first bell rang and I silently sighed in relief for the very welcomed interruption.
"It looks like you should be off, Ren. I really came here to tell you that I can't drop you off at the university today. But do tell Charles that I will stop by to pick up the progress report." Charles Buechner was my philosophy teacher at the university.
"Yes, Mrs. Cartel," I responded dismissively. That meant that I had to use the grimy public transportation. There was something too common about using them. Not to mention, the amount of people and contaminants I would come in contact with. Although Mrs. Cartel was infinitely annoying, her car provided a better alternative.
Mrs. Cartel smiled her knowing smile and walked away.
The rest of the school day was uneventful. After school, I found myself hurrying to leave. Usually, I took my time before arriving at my 3:30 philosophy class. That was because Mrs. Cartel was my designated driver and did not have to stop every half-a-block to pick up a commuter. A bus, however, does and so time was of definite essence.
My philosophy class was arranged to be every Tuesday and Friday. My math class was every Monday and Wednesday. I received a total of five credits from the math class and three credits from my philosophy class for each semester. Once a week on Thursdays, I tutored from 4:00 -5:30. My schedule left no room for anything else.
"Hey, kid, you coming or what?"
I hadn't realized that the bus was waiting for me to board. I got on and put two dollars in quarters into the coin slot. The twenty minute ride took me straight to the university gates. I had five minutes to get to class. If I was late then it was Mrs. Cartel's fault.
The university was a large public institution located in the middle of the city. It was a world apart from the high school, the atmosphere much more mature.
With a few exceptions.
Ezra Young waved at me as I walked into the classroom. Today he wore cargo shorts and a formfitting white tee shirt with some brand name on the front. His curly hair had a certain calm about it, though yesterday it had been unruly.
He stepped into my path after getting up from his seat to meet me.
"Are you going to keep staring at me, Akita?" Ezra commented. It had to be the imbecile to mistaken my critical examination of him as something more than it actually was. I was not staring but what I did observe was that he carried on his overtly happy aroma. He didn't seem bothered by my dismissive behavior towards him. Ezra smiled. "Not that I don't like the attention," he added.
Was he implying something? I chose not to indulge him and brushed past, heading for the back of the classroom.
Someone grabbed my arm. Instinctively I pulled it away. I didn't like to be touched.
Ezra chuckled behind me, saying, "Sorry, man. I didn't mean to startle you. I was just wondering if you'd like to sit up front with me, rather than wallow in your dark fortress in the back."
I turned my head around to glare at him. "No thanks, Young."
I was about to continue on my way when he said, "I know that you don't want me calling you by your first name, but you can call me Ezra."
I half-ignored what Ezra was saying because I was too focused on the back of the room. Seats were filling up fast. It was a personal preference of mine to sit in the back. In that way, I could watch everyone in front of me. It gave me a superior feeling.
"That's great, Young," I replied. "But I need to sit."
I left him standing there and went to the last seat available in the back row. Right as I took my seat, the door of the classroom opened and slammed closed. A man of medium height, a slightly malnourished build, and thinning brown hair rushed to the front of the class.
"Good afternoon, my young philosophers!" Professor Buechner began, voice electric with excitement. "I believe we started the study of ethics yesterday. We'll continue that discussion today."
The class fell silent as they waited for Professor Buechner to start his lesson.
"In Plato's Republic," Buechner began, "the character Glaucon recalls the legend of Gyges. Gyges was a shepherd who found a ring that once worn, would turn one invisible. Being that no one could see him under the ring's spell, he entered the Royal Palace, seduced the Queen, and killed the King. Let us assume that there are two types of men, virtuous and dishonorable. Obviously, given the power that Gyges had, a dishonorable man would go around rampantly doing misdeeds and of course, get away with it. What does Glaucon suggest of a virtuous man?"
"He'd use it for misdeed, too," a random person answered.
"Right!" Professor Buechner beamed, walking back and forth, tapping the ground with his wooden yardstick. He had a habit of brandishing it annoyingly at every class.
"Without the fear of reprisal," he continued, "what reason is there for a virtuous man, or any man, from acting 'moral' when it is not to his advantage to do so? What Glaucon has introduced to us are the skeptical views known as psychological egoism and ethical egoism. Psychological egoism is the belief that all men act out of self-interest. None are altruistic. Ethical egoism is that man ought to behave out of self-interest."
Professor Buechner suddenly stopped. He squinted around the room until his beady eyes fell on me. "Tell me, young protégé," he said, and there were a couple of snickers. "What say you of the matter? Do all men act or ought to act in their self-interest, or is there such a thing as the virtuous man, the concept called ethical altruism?"
I gave a half smirk. "Altruism is insufficient in this badly shaped society of ours. Everything we do is out of self-interest, even if it is sacrificing something important for another thing trivial. However, the ethics of egoism has more truth. In order to ensure one's survival and pleasure, one must do whatever it takes to exert his self-interest above all others."
"Thank you—" Professor Buechner was cut off by the eager hand that shot into the air in the front row.
"Yes, Mr. Young?"
"I'd like to add something to the discussion," Ezra said.
"Please, go ahead."
From where I sat, I could only see Ezra's back and his profile. "I disagree with Akita," he stated matter-of-factly. I poised, ready to strike. He continued, "It is not the question of whether altruism is sufficient or not. Before accepting the conditions offered by the ethical egoist philosophy, you have to be aware of its inconsistencies."
"There is no inconsistency," I replied defensively. "Ethical egoism feeds in self-interest. A seemingly altruistic act of helping a person is self-interest because one receives pleasures from it. They want to do it, or else they would not have chosen to do so."
Ezra turned his head around to look at me. Even from this distance I could see the mocking twinkle in those eyes. "But you forget that ethical egoists believe that everyone ought to place their self-interests above all others."
I shrugged indifferently, biting back my temper. "And where is the inconsistency in that?" I asked.
"Ought assumes that everyone should become ethical egoists. If every person were to become one, personal interests would conflict. Now come on. How can an egoist keep to his or her own doctrine if a billion more egoists are battling to place their self-interest above everyone else's? There would be hell on earth and ultimately no one's self-interest would stand above the rest. So in truth, your philosophy would require that everyone except yourself be altruistic. That is where the inconsistency lies; you don't want everyone to be an egoist. Altruistic individuals give up their own self-interest and therefore allow the ethical egoist the advantage to have things his way. It is as simple as that."
There was a formidable pause after Ezra finished, but the countless stares directed at me were even more awkward. It wasn't that I didn't have a response, simply that I was a little shocked someone would dare challenge me. After months of gaining respect from the students at the university, Ezra was working to make me look bad—and with such ease.
My lips were pursed and I counted in my head to settle my nerves. Finally I continued with a calm voice, "While your story may seem convincing, there is no logical error in the ethical egoist. Theoretically speaking, in the world absent of law and absolute rule, tell me, Young, what is wrong with setting a school on fire?"
"It could kill people!"
There were a couple of guffaws at the obvious response. That only worked to make me angrier. These people were supposed to take me seriously. Ezra was making me look like a joke... Not that I cared. It was the control of respect that justified my existence; that I mattered and had influence.
"Everyone can still be egoistical, it just may mean being a little more aggressive. It's one man for himself. So why shouldn't I set the school on fire if it could kill people?"
Ezra looked at me carefully. "You're kidding me, right?" he asked.
I shook my head, dead serious.
"Because…" Ezra stuttered, "It's just wrong."
"Wrong? But the ethical egoist believes that doing whatever is in his self-interest is right, even if it means death for someone else. The means are justifiable to the end," I pressed, trying to prove my point.
Ezra refused to give up. "Well at the moment that the egoist must ask why killing people is wrong, it's useless to argue with him. The only way to persuade the egoist into throwing away his whack philosophies is by stooping to his level through deceit, bribes, threats, and all that undignified stuff."
"Are you saying that I am a dishonorable person?" I asked highly amused.
"That depends. Are you defining yourself as an ethical egoist?"
"Perhaps," I responded coolly. "Unless you can convince me otherwise, though I doubt it." The challenge was obvious.
"That would mean that I'd have to be the altruistic opponent. So I can't miss out the chance to help someone in need." Ezra smiled. I kept my smile on the inside. Who was Ezra kidding? I am Ren Akita. "I'll take you out tomorrow at the city carnival. How about it, Akita?"
I felt my brow wrinkle with my confusion. "Why?"
Ezra laughed, saying, "It's a challenge. Remember, I'm trying to prove you wrong."
How could I not accept? It was a chance to mess with Ezra's mind and show him who was the boss. He had to learn his lesson.
"Certainly," I replied unenthusiastically.
There was an uncomfortable lull in the classroom as everyone tried to take in what just happened. Finally Professor Buechner cleared his throat, breaking the ice. "A very enlightening conversation. Now class..."
Class continued as normal and soon everything was back to normal. However, I found myself staring at Ezra's back for the rest of the day. If looks could burn, he would have been ashes in a moment's glance.
After class, Ezra stopped me in the hall just as I crossed the threshold. He asked, "What's your address?"
"Why?" I shot back.
That irritating smile made yet another appearance. "Because," he said.
I told him out of pure curiosity, wanting to see where he was going with this. He could use the knowledge against me, but I doubted it. Ezra had been so objective to my setting the school on fire; he probably wasn't an evil genius.
"Great," Ezra said. "I'll pick you up at ten."
Then he was gone down the hall. I scowled after him.
AN: I took a summer's course on philosophy and know a little bit here and there about the subject. If you have any questions about the specific topic discussed in this chapter, just pm or e-mail me. Other than that, review for constructive criticism. Thank you!