The greatest good, which may be the greatest long-term good, is appraised differently by different subjects. But the greatest good is also appraised differently by different parts of the same subject (which may be evidence for “the” subject actually being merely the final calculation arising from multiple competing subjects).
Despite the discreteness of its parts, the body contains interior groups that are locally self-regulating. These are our interior city-states, the cells. But the level of zoom that picks out “the” functional unity is arbitrary, for there are lower and higher functional unities as well. Arthur Koestler called a zoom-based functional unity a holon. A holon is a something that is simultaneously a whole and a part.
Anyhow, we can picture it like this:
- Enzymes. An enzyme has a single concern or series of concerns, all very limited, all having to do with the same activity. The enzyme has a scope of concern limited to successfully executing tokens of its reaction type.
- Organelles. An organelle has a single concern or series of concerns, all very limited, all having to do with the same activity. The organelle has a scope of concern limited to successfully executing various actions and includes a decision matrix to handle competing tasks.
- Cells. A cell is like an organelle but many orders of magnitude more complex, with an equally elaborate decision matrix. It’s greatest good is the million and one tasks of survival. Yet the scope of this concern is limited to its lifetime.
- Cell cluster. A cell cluster is also self-concerned, but its temporal scope transcends that of its component cells.
… and so on with specialized tissue, sub-organ, organ, organ group, and finally the one single unity over of the matter under the skin.
Just for fun, a full list might look like this: string, elementary particle, atom, molecule, sub-organelle cluster, organelle, intra-cellular system or cycle (system of organelles), cell, cell cluster, specialized tissue, sub-organ, organ, organ group, organism, family unit, social group, species, biosphere, physiosphere (Strawson: physics-al nature), and Nature sive God (Strawson: physical nature, whose interior is experience-stuff).
I just wanted to point out (1) that different levels of zoom reveal different concerns and different goals or goods, and (2) that these differences are correlated with the temporal scope of the concerning system. Sub-systems want shorter-term goods. Super-systems want longer-term goods.
Short-term concern is the concern of a sub-system (or the organism when enthralled by a sub-system), and is a short-term good. Long-term concern is the concern of a super-system, and is a long-term good. The longest-term concern of an organism comes from its overarching executive function, which we term the volition of the organism as a whole.
What about that? Now the whole is looking, making decisions, weighing utility—seeking to maximize … what? Itself-as-a-unity? What unity? Now, finally, the soul is the criterion of utility. The value to work for is the maximum good of the soul. The ego may be an illusion, the last domino to fall in a mountain of material machinations, but this is not its experience. Self-conscious consciousness is aware of itself as pure spontaneity. It has power over the voluntary aspects of its embodiment and absolute power over its imagination. It is also continuous, in that it is aware of change and recognizes its own numerical identity despite the passing away of all experiential contents. And so it infers that it is potentially eternal.
What is the concern of an eternal subject? It’s concern is with itself. The ego can project its interest far, far into the future. It knows the body will die, so the issue becomes one of disembodied immortality. And the scope of this concern? Far from being merely interested in the longer-term good of the mortal organism, it is interested in a good that may have no bearing at all on any of the interests of its sub-systems.