If there is no summum bonum... there is no point of orientation that can endow human action with rationality. Action, then, can only be represented as motivated by passions, above all, by the passion of aggression, the overcoming of one's fellow man. The "natural" state of society must be understood as the war of all against all, if men do not in free love orient their actions to the highest good.
This is a perfect summary of the state of play in Blood Meridian in which, as the judge tells us, 'War is the ultimate because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.' McCarthy, then, in true gnostic fashion, is revolting 'against the world as it has been created by God' and in so doing 'arbitrarily omits an element of reality [the summum bonum] in order to create the fantasy of a new world.' In order to promulgate his world view he has created, in Blood Meridian, a society where the highest good does not exist as a concept. This follows the approach of Hobbes in Leviathan, but it is a significant failing. However, there is a further, even more significant failing. Voegelin continues:
The only way out of the warfare of this passion-conditioned state of nature is to submit to a passion stronger than all others, which will subdue their aggressiveness and drive to dominate and induce them to live in peaceful order. For Hobbes, this passion is the fear of the summum malum, the fear of death at the hands of another, to which each man is exposed in his natural state. If men are not moved to live with one another in peace through common love of the divine, highest good, then the fear of the summum malum of death must force them to live in an orderly society.
Not only does McCarthy create a world where violence and warfare are the only currency and the highest good is an unconsidered option, he further manipulates his characters and situation. Hobbes was clear that, in the absence of the summum bonum, men would be motivated by an aversion to the summum malum, and that the subsequent fear of death would result in civilised society. But McCarthy omits even this regulating factor: there is no fear of death in Blood Meridian. The novel is characterised by brutality and fatalism and, despite living amongst so much bloodshed, its characters remain wholly unmoved by it. This is most memorably the case in the ending of the book. What happens? The kid goes voluntarly to the jakes and allows himself to be enfolded in the deadly embrace of the judge. He submits. He finally accedes to nihilism and goes willingly to his death. Where, here, is the fear of the summum malum of death?
And so we have a situation where McCarthy manipulates his plot so that his characters can be motivated neither by the highest good nor the fear of death. And in such a circumstance only one thing can prevail: the anarchic nihilism of the judge. But this is not a fair or credible representation of reality. This is propaganda.