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.

Our New Feudal Lords

“Let us not satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

At many times in history, a zeitgeist founded upon identity politics and manipulative linguistics has come into vogue. Now is one such time, but the effect and depth of the vitriol and intellectual dishonesty on all sides are exacerbated by our high speed, highly sophisticated communications technologies.

Western Civilization is in the second age of the printing press, in which each individual has immediate access to a means of information scribe and dissemination. And because anyone can access a platform, just about anyone does.

Once upon a time, arguments had to be tracked down and searched for, and the emotional drama earned by way of exacting or at least energetic face to face debate.

Now arguments seek us out, in fact, we are notified as conflicts arise, and our consumption and active participation in those conflicts are mapped, studied, analyzed and monetized.

Every click is a commodity, every article an argumentative hub, and every YouTuber a small demagogue. 

We are responsible as information distributors and consumers in so far as we hold ourselves to a self-created standard or are bullied by way of blowback to the standard of the mob.

Never before has humanity so often and with such gusto clustered into various angry mobs, each self-righteous and ready for if not violent at least coercive action.

The Internet has been compared to the Wild West, or Anarchy, a series of tribes like that of our Hunter-Gatherer ancestors.

But that phase has ended. The Internet, so fast to mature, is already in its middle ages. The greater proportion of users are subjects of feudal Lords who exact clicks and erect protective walls of unquestioning and polarizing belief.

We would do well to see who our Lords are, and question them with great vigor. The walls we strive to erect are not needed, and the darkest tendencies of the past need not be repeated.

The New Political Evil

What can be done when a form of mass insanity has become the new signal of virtue? When to oppose is to be evil, because that which deserves opposing has defined itself as the charitable and fair?

The depth of a society’s collective delusions can be measured by the intensity of vitriol in their response to uttered truth.

Political rhetoric and the Scientific method are not complementary or compatible. The two will oppose one another until one is destroyed, this war being decided by each side’s chosen weapon; for the former, coercive force and governmental growth. For the latter, technological innovation.

But technology only transforms our society to the degree in which it is adopted and allowed to function, whilst the state’s coercive power by definition affects even those who do not wish to be controlled.

The political evil we face today has a new face. It bears very little surface resemblance to that of the Middle Age’s feudal lords or the 20th Century’s despots. The greatest threats to Western Civilization can be seen on every street, in every University, and they believe themselves to be forward thinking, progressive, and subversive in the face of an oppressive and old fashioned value system.

But resentment and self-importance make despots of us all. No one is so capable of evil as the person who believes themselves a saint.

 

How to Spread Ideas

Ideas are viral and subject to many of the same rules as any other organism existing in a selective Universe. The primary rule of this selective process being that “Success” as it can best be defined for Organic systems, belongs not to the good, moral, or even the strong.

Success belongs to those ideas which by their very internal structure demand to be replicated and spread to other minds.

“No one should ever know what I think”

Isn’t a Viral idea in the slightest, because those who actually follow its message become unable to spread it to anyone else. No wonder very few people submit to this idea, and even fewer ever discuss it.

Now, an Idea such as:

“The human race will only avoid destruction if drastic action is taken to combat climate change”

is incredibly Viral, because it implies that humans(the viral host) will cease to exist unless the idea itself is shared and spread throughout the minds of millions.

It is fascinating to observe how many great ideas sets gain almost no ground in our culture, precisely because they contain no internal compulsion to spread the idea around to as many people as possible.

The most viral ideas imply rules and behaviors in their hosts that make even the uninfected more susceptible to infection. This effect compounds the more people come into contact with the idea, and so it spreads faster and faster until the pool of hosts is completely saturated. This phenomenon is well demonstrated by the spread of Christianity in medieval Europe. The more popular it became, the less secular thought seemed viable or shareable whatsoever.

This viral principle is consciously and unconsciously used by every authority and nearly every person who wishes to transform the beliefs and behaviors of others into something more similar to themselves and their ideal.

Is it distressing to know that morality and quality have no direct relationship with the effectiveness of an idea?

Or can we use this knowledge to mold great ideas into forms more accessible and shareable amongst the individual minds that make up collective culture?

The answers to those are of course, yes, and yes. But actually designing ideas so that they spread is incredibly difficult.

When was the last time someone unknown created a piece of viral internet content on purpose?

Manufacturing virality is challenging, but understanding how these forces play upon our psyche may help us to resist what would otherwise infect us, and forever alter our thinking.

 

Progressive Regression

What is evil?

Functionally, it tends to be that which we align ourselves against in terms of both our identity and responsibility.

We act as though evil is that which we are incapable of doing, and in no way responsible for making manifest in the world.

But of course, that’s not what evil really is. 

Evil is the initiation of force or deceit against others in pursuit of one’s own benefit.

Quite simple, really. The difficulty is in determining what constitutes deceit and the initiation of force. Recently, the belief that words themselves can be considered initiations of force has come into vogue. The names we call each other has for many eclipsed in importance the ways in which we behave. Justice has been perverted into a righteous euphemism for revenge.

Evil has become more a label for people, especially collective groups of people, more than it is a structured way of defining actions.

The result of such linguistic perversion is the current state of affairs, where political belief and cultural identity is considered the paramount marker for how someone ought to be regarded and treated.

Perhaps that is why a rather menacing word has come to describe the cultural climate in our modern era: Regressive. 

Nothing can be regressive without being destructive, and there is perhaps no greater sign of evil than a seemingly unstoppable, angry, unthinking, destructive force.

How can such a force be stopped?

By a sober consideration of what actually constitutes evil, and what principles if sustained for decades and centuries will lead to lasting progress. Angry mobs do not build great civilizations.

Angry mobs do not build great civilizations. They only tear them down.

Evil people never evaluate their individual actions on a moral basis. They only align themselves against an enemy and thus justify any opposing behavior. Beware of forming such an identity. It can easily land you on either unfortunate side of the torches and pitchforks.

 

 

Truth is Order

Truth is the only stable organizational principle.

It is the equivalent of “nature” in the realm of ideas, in so far as “nature” can be defined as what selects for survival and reproduction of biological entities.

The truth is what can be arrived at by differed peoples across time and space, and that does not change according to the beliefs of the preceptor.

“But matter itself is directly affected by measurement at the quantum level!”

Indeed, but isn’t that statement itself an expression of conclusions based on repeatable, measurable phenomena? Isn’t our understanding of quantum mechanics still contingent on Truth, even if only as a measure of contrast?

We are disinclined to place importance on objective truth to the exact degree that such a value system would erode our current mode of existence.

The Truth is destructive of all that does not adhere to it. Perhaps a healthy fear of tyranny is what averts our eyes from those facts and phenomena that would cause us pain and direct us to change.

So often, our relationship to the world is rendered toxic by a pathological definition of truth:

That Truth is whatever our individual mind possesses.

Such a definition is so flimsy that it either makes our behavior disorganized and chaotic or else our identities so rigid that we stagnate because any change would imply our previous presumption of the Truth was completely false, and thus contradict the very principle our definition of Truth is founded upon.

The Truth is not something you inflict on other people. If it must be inflicted, enforced, propagandized, it is likely not the truth.

Because if it were true, why would force be required to make it manifest in the world?

Empathy is Ugly

To practice empathy is to model in your own mind the experiences of another. It is the primary tool in human social interaction and thus is held as the utmost good. Empathy allows one to identify pain in someone else and by that identification presents us a choice of either remedying that pain, or ignoring it.

But human beings do not develop tools that work only for the benefit of others. Empathy exists because it has utility. What is this utility?

Of course, empathy is indispensable to the tribe, as it is the basis of social cohesion.

But what is empathy’s utility to the individual, apart from those benefits derived from the success of the group?

The answer begins with empathy’s ugly offspring; envy. For so far as empathy allows us to model another’s pain, it similarly allows for us to model their pleasure. The greater one’s capacity for empathy, the greater this effect.

What is the natural result of this, if one be at least marginally self-aware, or in another way of speaking, empathetic to one’s self?

The result is knowledge of the discrepancy in pleasure and joy between our inner state, and that of another. The smiles and casual grace of those higher on the dominance hierarchy stand as intelligible signs of the direction we must strive.

Of course, as in all social animals, that direction is up. Empathy is merely the precursor to the primary propellant, envy, that may serve to launch us upwards.

Those deficient in empathy will have little motivation to strive towards the top. Why should they strive, when the benefit is not apparent? When their minds are not capable of modeling the pleasure of dominance?

But those who do not perceive themselves as capable, or of possessing the potential to become capable, of climbing the dominance hierarchy will suppress their empathy. They will label it envy, placing it neatly within the category of sin. Such poor souls will have no interest in studying the great people of the past. All will search for malevolent tidbits in order to dismiss the powerful as evil, and high positions as intrinsically entailing cruelty. In doing so, their inner empathetic compass, the one designed to direct them upwards, will be rubbed clean of its magnetism. These, the unempathetic or incapable, will likely be miserable all their lives and have no understanding as to why.

How can one be happy when the utmost biological goal, a 300 million year inheritance, is conceived of as the realm of sinners?

If striving towards greatness is not good, then nothing is good. And if greatness is anything other than improving oneself, and rising upwards within the many nested dominance hierarchies that make up our society, then nothing is great.

Empathy’s utility is in telling us who the great people are, and how far from them we currently stand. Without it, we are confused and frustrated, unable to conceive of any concrete goals whatsoever. Without such concrete goals, and our struggle to progress towards their completion, there is no positive emotion. Without positive emotion, what is life?

Confusion. Chaos. Pain. And a continually confused organism can only do one thing; spiral downwards into death.