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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.