Marx, Freud, Darwin and Stoicism

Biology and physics are the modern philosopher’s only hopes in the seeking of truth. Language games are no longer a valid or compelling means of arriving at the fundamental mechanical and moral systems of the Universe and Human society. I doubt they ever were.

And I doubt they ever were.

Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud are the two most important figures in the history of modern philosophy, and those who pontificate on the great mysteries without taking those two giants into consideration accomplish absolutely nothing.

I think Karl Marx himself would be horrified at what he has wrought, not only in terms of the formation of socialistic states but also in turning philosophy into a means of measuring pain and oppression.

“People were mean to me, and I am a victim of societal forces” has become a profound axiom, a cornerstone for discussions that lead nowhere but towards a spineless resentment towards the very laws that philosophy proclaims the objects of its speculations.

Perhaps the resurgence of Stoicism has occurred in opposition to this trend towards useless and disempowering philosophies. It makes the individual subordinate to nothing but the gods and the avoidable follies of the impulses.

In times when the most profound questions about the mechanics of reality are being answered by empirical science, perhaps the best philosophy is simply that which is most helpful in enhancing human happiness and performance.

The Magic of Principles

Without principles, life is a never-ending series of increasingly complex and exhausting decisions. If we do not recognize the categorical patterns common to our failures and successes, we necessarily lack the raw materials needed to construct a calibrated and effective strategy for future action.

If we do not recognize the categorical patterns common to our failures and successes, we necessarily lack the raw materials needed to construct a calibrated and effective strategy for future action.

In many cases, our time would be better spent in first extracting the lessons from the problems in our lives, before endeavoring to devise a solution. Before analyzing the origins and probable duration of a problem, finding a tenable solution is nearly impossible.

The mistake we make multiple times is like a thread waiting to be pulled, by which we can uncover uncomfortable but infinitely helpful defects in our own personalities. We can only hedge against our own bad habits and biases if those biases have been identified, and systems put in place to compensate for them.

It isn’t easy to study our personal histories with the critical and impersonal objectivity, but it is possible to a great degree, as evidenced by the many people who have overcome their worst tendencies and achieved incredible, almost unbelievable results.

To study your personal failures as economists analyze the Great Depression or military leaders dissect Napolean at Waterloo is at least as useful as it is difficult.

Faith in Creativity

Prioritizing creativity makes very little rational sense until your output can earn you an income, and significantly affect the lives of others. Yet artists toil in obscurity and poverty nevertheless, sometimes finding an eventual redemption, and sometimes not.

Above all else, creativity is an act of faith. A faith in one’s own ability and worth, in the face of years of past mediocrity, and a future containing even more. Artists go to their canvases like prospectors to a potential mining site. They try not to get their hopes up. They try not to despair when things begin to go wrong. They try not to give

They try not to get their hopes up as they search for gold. They try not to despair when things begin to go wrong. They try not to give up until they absolutely have to. But both artists and prospectors conceal a deep hope that the next attempt will be the supreme success that changes everything.

But if success is your only impetus to creative action, a prolific artistic life will be impossible. Your own imagination will seem a dark forest, full of wrong turns and predators waiting to arrest your movement towards a completed work.

Be prepared to wander, and excited to get lost. Understand though you possess a compass, it does not always point true north. Aimless circles are a necessary part of creative navigation, and we all must trace thousands before the correct path can be found.

Obsession and Success

Our minds are capable of obsession so potent that it can result in self-effacement, and even self-destruction of both the body and the mind.

Why is that the case?

Why are we not a moderate, even keeled, and emotionally mild species?

It would take contact with intelligent life to know if consciousness necessitates the existence of powerful and often self-defeating emotions. But if we take a look at the world in which we exist, the apparent utility in obsession and its accompanying emotion comes into view.

Obsession, more than any other mental state, bestows upon its object meaning and value so that all possible avenues of attaining that object can be explored. When something must be obtained, our minds strain and calculate ingenious strategies that anything less than obsession would not have brought about.

But for every scenario where obsession breeds innovation, there are more that result in destruction and pain of both the obsessed and the object.

Equally pernicious is the plight of those who have succeeded in their aims, and find an emotional and motivational void upon reaching the other side of obsession.

There is nothing so dangerous as failing to assess the worth of your aims, and the realistic outcomes of both failure and success upon achieving them.

Culture Heroes

The human mind left unattended is bound by its functional purpose to imagine, predict, and emotionally react to the worst possible outcome. But only at the scale of minutes or days.

In matters of months, years, and decades, our default prediction patterns are worse than worthless, always assuming things will continue to be good if they are good now, and seldom preparing for future days of want and scarcity.

But luckily, the human mind has a startling capability to attend to itself.

We can watch ourselves doing something wrong and even look back at the delusional thoughts that caused our past mistakes.

We are all fools, but we are not blind fools. Through system and strategy, as well as good old-fashioned moderation and discipline, our worst tendencies can be accounted for, and our greatest gifts exploited to the point of compensation for our errors.

Any look back at the plethora of modern cultural heroes shows how willing we are to forgive those who did a few great things.

Generally, we ignore the mediocre, ridicule the bad, briefly enjoy the good, and revere the great with almost religious fervor.

The good is found in the bargain bin, while images of the great are plastered on every tee shirt next to 50-year-old records still being sold as if they were new.

It would be a noble, near perfect meritocracy, if not for the questionable taste of the general public and its strange tendency to occasionally latch onto something truly bad and elevate it to a position of taste-making for popular culture.




Giving Up and Getting Out

How do you know when to quit?

Simple answer:

You don’t.

Every success story has years of toil, struggle, and failure before the redemptive ascendancy to the desired state of being.

Every failure has the same beginning, but with no redemptive end.

Strange to notice that failures are either those who quit too early and those who gave up far too late.

Perhaps no one factor determines our future success than our ability to select promising endeavors and abandon them before we fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy, without giving up just when a breakthrough is about to occur.

How high do you want to go?

How low are you willing to fall?

There is a point at which the pain of continuing is worse than that of giving up.

But is that at the point at which we should quit?


Everything is Hierarchy

Those who resent hierarchy resent the intrinsic structure of the Universe.

And to some degree, we all resent hierarchical systems. Even those who sit at the top of them, because there really is no such top. Each pyramid tip holds up the base of another structure, the pattern continuing up towards the galaxies and down towards the nucleus.

But so far as we know, atoms and galaxies are not capable of emotions like resentment. Such complexities are emergent properties arising only from biological systems.

Why this happens, we don’t know.

How this happens, we don’t know.

Philosophy is nothing more than trying to make out a pattern between the many dead ends. Our questions ping off the mysteries like radar beams, and perhaps is we send out enough of these beams, the shadows of an answer will take form.

However, we can make out one essential form; the hierarchical tree structure that is a representative abstraction of our genetic progressions, decision-making processes, as well as a real form we see in everything from the tree to the neuron to the river delta.

Such forms tell us this is not chaos that we live in. It is no more a chaos than a marching regiment of soldiers is a trail of ants in its path. The order is only meagerly intelligible. But unlike the ants, we may pass on the hints and discoveries of the present on the to the future, and in this way accumulate real knowledge.

It would be foolish for such a young species to throw its hands up in despair.