Monday, August 18, 2014

Passion (Kamran K; Post 3 of 3): Ohh pessimism, my pessimism!

"whoever reflects on this becomes one of us, the free spirits" 
Nietzsche, Will to Power

"We must not simply grant that pessimism leads to a posture of resignation....In the right hands, pessimism can be- and has been- an energizing and even a liberating philosophy. It does indeed ask us to limit and eliminate some of our hopes and expectations, but it can also provide the means to navigate the bounded universe it describes."
Joshua Dienstag, Nietzsche's Dionysian Pessimism 

(1) We seemingly are free to become either optimists or pessimists. This choice is by no means insignificant and by no means a "slam-dunk" in favor of optimism regardless of optimism's present popularity: "we also desire precisely the opposite of an assimilation...we teach estrangement in every sense, we open up gulfs such as have never existed before." (Nietzsche, Will to Power) Naturally, we all have random good and bad days so the issue is much deeper and persistent than this. This adult, mature choice as to which orientation you will choose is one of the most important choices you will ever make as a mature (30+) adult. It is even more important than the spouse you choose because this orientation follows you everywhere, all the time. 

(2) Who are these strange creatures, the optimists and the pessimists?

(a) The optimist views the upcoming day positively, and believes something "good" will come of it "somehow or the other." The optimist also believes in some sort of relationship between individual effort, good will, rational prudence, and positive results. 

(b) The pessimist has no such positive expectation, denies any rational or just ordering of society or the events that transpire within it, and is fairly certain many bad accidents and other unfortunate developments will result every single day (despite our best efforts to avoid these things). Less dramatically, the pessimist may also simply "see" most days as presenting an endless procession of neutral events (e.g. chores like placing out the trash and buying groceries, small talk at work, paying bills). These "neutral" things aren't bad but they aren't good either; they simply don't have enough value in them to make a day meaningful, enjoyable, appreciable and for that reason can't be considered good. 

(3) Optimism appears to have the advantage of being socially popular (President Obama endlessly rode its waves to a HUGE victory in 2008), energizing bold action, and silencing the mental chatter of fear, anxiety, doom etc. that can be self-destructive. It presents someone seeking to status and social-popularity climb with an appealing "pre-packaged" personality to present to the world. We now live on a planet where millions perhaps soon billions of optimists will seek to take this "pre-packaged" personality of "hope" and "sunshine" as far as it will (monetarily) go: "not to tell ourselves the same old story, not to lie to ourselves." (Nietzsche)

(4) Optimism appears to have the disadvantage of often being "built" upon a foundation of deception, both self-deception and general deception or ignorance about reality. Optimism is often- though not always- an act of "active self-deception that makes life more tolerable but less genuine. It is a retreat from a real look at the abyss to a pleasing fantasy of progress and happiness." (Joshua Dienstag) As just one example, imagine a single 30s something male bachelor living in LA. For several years, he's had zero luck with the ladies; he can't seem to attract even a female mosquito: "you ought to learn to laugh, my young friends, if you are hell-bent on remaining pessimists." (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy) Yet this same person remains optimistic about his hopes of doing well within the LA dating scene!?!? Returning from our digression...

Optimism often takes human beings and human nature to be "totally good" and denies the laziness, stupidity, animality, cruelty, out-of-this world selfishness, and outright savagery inherent in human nature (man has been preached at, instructed, commanded for several thousand years to rise above these instincts but not a single human generation has achieved such transcendence, even for a single day). The certain belief that something good will happen may cause you to misinterpret and mistake neutral or even bad events as being good. 

To be more precise, the specific deception that optimism frequently engenders is the view that humans, society, our nation, you yourself are "progressing" (or are easily capable of progressing if just a few things are done differently) when the facts and information invalidate this assessment. From the mental momentum generated by decades of being optimistic, the optimist can become absolutely convinced things (or the self) have improved tremendously when things may have stayed more or less the same or even deteriorated. 

As an example, the optimist of today will surely point to unprecedented technological innovation as proof of human progress. The optimist will "see" the explosion of cellphones, LCD TVs, and social media as signs of progress and, for that reason, will ignore all of the facts and information that cause us to question whether this is progress at all. It does not seem implausible to suggest that for every one or two undisputed positive benefits from modern smartphones and LCD TVs (a smartphone permits the potentially life-saving convenience of calling 911 from literally anywhere, anytime) there have been some 10 to 20 negative consequences. The escalation of identity theft, pornography consumption, reduced attention spans, living in a "bubble" mentality, and encouragement of narcissistic tendencies and behaviors are but a few examples. 

(5) Pessimism has the certain advantage of preventing you from getting involved in many things from the very outset; the pessimist will generally not be eager to "do much" because he lacks the "emotional fuel" to get up and do them. And to the extent that "many things" DO IN FACT result in bad or trivial outcomes, the "on the couch" or "on his/her Tempur-Pedic" pessimist has been spared of these things. He ended up doing much better than the optimist that got involved only to experience the neutral or bad outcome. Do most human strivings result in bad or trivial outcomes? Simply look at all of the things you attempted to accomplish in the past week, month, or year. How many of those were you actually able to accomplish? Even when accomplished, how many of them actually did you any damn good? Was it not true that even those things you accomplished did not produce nearly as many desirable benefits as you imagined they would? 

(6) Pessimism also tames your expectations of what you and others can sensibly achieve or will be willing to sacrifice and thereby allows you to live your life not so much "expecting the worst" but able to take seriously possibilities for how things will develop that are sub-optimal. Pessimism has the huge disadvantage of being extremely unpopular these days; to be branded a "pessimist" is to have one's thought, character, personality almost totally rejected and attacked in literally "one word." And pessimism can quickly devolve into depression and a whole host of other mental health issues which we should rightly seek to avoid.

(7) Our position on pessimism is becoming more articulate with the passage of time. We believe that life, reality, Nature, human society present (a) infinite good, (b) infinite neutral, and (c) infinite bad for man to experience. Most people get stuck in infinite neutral and infinite bad. This is the factual material for justified pessimism as to the human condition. While the human condition is not utterly depressing, man does enter the world helpless and departs helpless. In between, many spend their entire lives doing work they despise so they can either buy things to impress people they don't even like or gather fleeting pleasures of the most trivial value, trying to prove their self-worth through their careers, families, or hobbies, obsessing all along the way about what "other people" think of them when, in reality, these other people spend almost zero time thinking about you. Somehow, there is something "here" in this banality for us to be wildly optimistic about??!?

Human life is time finite (and, even worse, uncertain as to duration) and so one's choices should gravitate as soon as possible toward the good and away from the neutral and the bad. For these decisions to be abiding, there must be some emotional fuel continually reaffirming the decision of the good over the neutral and the bad. When one is presented with sufficient facts, information, and reasoning to justify some human reality as either neutral or bad, then the job of pessimism immediately begins. Pessimism now has its "marching orders." Pessimism no longer gives this reality "a shot," does not allow it to motivate behavior any longer, and essentially closes this box forever: "they have gained knowledge and nausea inhibits action...Knowledge kills action...true knowledge, an insight into the horrible truth, outweighs any motive for action..." (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy)

The very thought or suggestion of this reality immediately triggers a pessimistic response to it in the same way that the introduction of a pathogen into the body triggers an immune response seeking to destroy the pathogen on the spot. Pessimism, likewise, destroys the viability of any reawakened desire to do the bad (or the neutral any more than one must to survive). It continues to create time and mental "space" for one's thoughts, actions, and behavior to continually orient toward the GOOD. Pessimism of this sort is indeed liberating and AWESOME INDEED!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Passion (Kamran K; Post 2 of 3): Sex-Obsessed. How the West Got Here, and Why its a problem.

"But it's precisely here that you should have started using your intelligence from the start, precisely here you should understand and- and act fairly and squarely with both sides..." Dostoevsky, The Idiot

"truly a case of a dog chasing his tail, a quintessential excercise in futility..." Jerome D. Levin 1991

"Success or failure in life does not depend on these, but human life, as we said, needs these as mere additions..." Aristotle, Ethics

(1) Totally blessed with copious time and freedom- mental freedom and the even better sort of freedom generated when one is "invisible" and has no followers nor audience- we now tackle and assume a definitive position on yet another hugely prevalent modern prejudice: "that humorous and pleasantly untidy state of affairs that he had enjoyed in the last quarter, once he had given up even trying and was able to laugh 'at the whole thing.'" (Thomas Mann, Magic Mountain) By prejudice we mean the belief in the goodness or (non-badness) of something without careful mental attention and bringing to bear information, facts, and persuasive reasoning to the matter.

(2) Our species is deeply and passionately divided as to the goodness of earnestly pursuing and satisfying biologically recurring hormonal impulses "demanding" sexual activity (no other species seems to share this preoccupation, preferring instead to simply act on sexual impulses as they arise). Religions and Eastern ideologies of all sorts have generally found these impulses to be bad and to be indulged in but rarely, within the context of marriage and family. These views were on the authority of divine revelation. Even the Western philosophic tradition- lead by Plato and Aristotle- largely accepted these views without question for several thousand years. Plato's Republic begins with the characterization of sexual impulses as "many mad masters" from which the only escape is old age and hormonal abatement. Plato and Aristotle's views were on the authority of human reason and its ability to determine human GOOD, however difficult, time-consuming, and tedious that process may be. For a very very long time, reason and divine revelation agreed on sexual matters that, essentially, they had a limited function and goodness.

(3) Recently, however, Western secular ideology (driven by capitalism) has embraced sex because it sells, is still somewhat "taboo," and has suggested that we should all have more of it, pursue it further almost without any limit, buy anything that will boost our "sexual image" and "sexual appeal," and abandon any and all shame and guilt associated with this "natural" activity. In this dominant Western secular ideology (there is obviously a small minority in opposition), the bare sexual act (even without love or commitment) is directly linked with happiness, a "vital and exciting" life, and self-fulfillment; lack of sex is directly linked with unhappiness and self-estrangement. Within this context, the real "loser" or "weirdo" today is not so much the liar or the thief or the idle good-for-nothing or the total idiot; the real "loser" is the sexless man or women. He or she is "that" guy or girl that no one really wants to be; we feel really "sorry" and "bad" for him or her. These beliefs are- of course- rarely expressed publicly for reasons of political correctness. But they are felt by everyone because they quite literally comprise the social environment.

(4) An entire generation of young adults (and children for that matter) now believes that sex- and lots of it (albeit not so much you develop a sex addiction)- can do almost everything. Read that sentence again and judge it against your experience of the world. 

Sex is becoming its own "religion," an ULTIMATE POWERFUL SMOTHER ERASER FORCE to "wipe out" all your problems. You may hate your career and co-workers, your family, your childhood, where you live, your social circle, your self, your financial condition, the weather outside, your old age and medical condition, and all the rest ("As usual, everyone was tired, everyone's eyes were heavy from a sleepless night, everyone was chilled to the bone, everyone's face shone with the yellow pallor of the fog" Dostoevsky, The Idiot); but if you have a great sex life somehow this will solve most if not all these problems (or at least make them much more tolerable). Sex is viewed as a "magic pill" of sorts; get lots of it and many to most of your problems won't seem that bad or will disappear altogether. Almost the only "fly in the ointment" in this viewpoint is the threat of STDs; but this too was quickly addressed through widespread access to condoms and the mind-blowing exponential proliferation of easy-to-access pornography of all sorts. Social judgments against premarital sex, mastrubation, strip clubs, and pornography also "flew out the window" with not much intelligent discussion or facts to support the change in viewpoint. Anyone that held onto the "old" judgments was viewed negatively, as a bigot, and so on. (Some such people were indeed bigots but not all)

(5) We must understand how this viewpoint developed. It was not a complicated path here. Western secular societies (and most societies outside the Middle East are trending Western secular) have effectively abandoned either moral virtue or intellectual wisdom as serious life-long pursuits. A few elite professors and a few amazing "humanitarians" can engage in these things and we salute them for it, give them Noble prizes, and listen to their TED talks for 8-10 minutes while doing 10 other things; but, for the rest of us, this mode of life can't work, seems somehow "lacking." Lacking in what? Excitement.

The "end result" or "payoff" of virtue or wisdom is deemed too speculative, too difficult and too long to obtain ("not worth the bother"), and with no "pleasurable" payoff in experience within reality. With both wisdom and virtue abandoned, immediately experienced INTENSE physical pleasures of all sorts become dominant pursuit points. These pleasures can be "felt" and "experienced" and are thus "real" even to the most skeptical materialist.

Although sex is not the only such pleasure coveted today, each of the other commonly coveted pleasures has some fairly direct relationship to sex for most people. Making lots of money, drinking and doing drugs, physical exercise, developing a great sense of humor, wearing expensive and fashionable clothes, career success, and even being popular and well-liked on social media all tend to increase sex appeal and many pursue these things (largely if not totally) for the expected sexual payoff or simply "sexual image" boosting. The example of clothes is illuminating. Increasingly women are displaying a race to the absolute bottom where they try to "outdo" each other, both online and in public, by purchasing ridiculously expensive clothes that show as much cleavage and butt as possible without violating public nudity laws. The thought seems to be: your self-worth = your sexual appeal: "living by passion they pursue their own pleasures and the means to them, and avoid the opposite pains, and have not even a conception of what is noble and truly pleasant..." (Aristotle, Ethics)

(6) One can hardly deny human DNA is configured so as to provide a healthy person with approximately 10-20 minutes of very intense pleasure from the sexual act. Unless we change our DNA or it mutates wildly, this is how our bodies will be for the next several million years. From a pure substance perspective, sex is merely the 10-20 minute interaction of human sexual organs in such a manner as to produce pleasurable brain activity that is somewhat more "intense" than most other activities: "for each activity there is a proper pleasure." (Aristotle, Ethics) The pleasurable brain activity tends to immediately terminate when the sex terminates. There is simply no reason to invest this activity with so much significance.

(7) The dimensions of the problem have now been revealed. A human generation is being raised today with FALSELY high expectations of what sex can "deliver." This generation (mainly males, at this point) wildly swings between highs and lows, depending upon how well one is doing on the "sexual activity" report card; there is an "oscillation between the 'Great I am and Poor Me' between reactive grandiosity and empty depression, both characteristics of pathological narcissism." (Jerome D. Levin 1991) The pleasure, fulfillment, and problems sex provides/solves is several orders of magnitude exaggerated from that which many take it to be today. The tremendous effort, expense, and resources devoted to sex today are similarly several orders of magnitude exaggerated, with great consequence to the environment in the process: "it would indeed be strange were to take trouble and suffer hardship all one's life in order to amuse oneself." (Aristotle, Ethics)

(8) Although it appears to be a powerful smother force that can blast out many of your problems, sex never does this, even temporarily, and particularly outside the context of love or a very committed relationship. Not a single character defect is solved by the bare sexual act. Not a single human relationship is repaired by the bare sexual act. Not a single false view of the world is corrected by the bare sexual act. Not a single human being is helped out of poverty or other misery through the bare sexual act. None of your financial problems, family conflicts, or deepest fears are solved by the bare sexual act. One literally enters and exists the bare sexual act without much enduring change whatsoever. All of this must be personally learned and experienced by the current generation (and perhaps succeeding ones). There is no quick mental shortcut to get "here" given the current social environment: "For he who lives as passion directs will not hear argument that dissuades him, nor understand it if he does..." (Aristotle, Ethics)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The GOOD (Kamran K; Post 3 of 13): Self-Esteem, self-worth, and the GOOD.

"Our choices are, in essence, definitions of ourselves. Consequently, one must have a self in order to chose. not have a firm sense of self..."Jerome D. Levin, 1991

"the self is seen as a complex achievement dependent on the successful transversing of a treacherous developmental course." Jerome D. Levin, 1991

(1) Self-esteem, self-worth, and the GOOD are all closely linked, very closely linked, much more closely linked than we often appreciate. Without appropriately high self-esteem and self-worth, one is inevitably sucked back (for one thoughtless reason or another) into the neutral or the bad. There is simply not enough strength of character (or fear of self-esteem mutilation) to resist the often overwhelming pull of the neutral and the bad, particularly where most everyone is "doing" the neutral and the bad all the time. One inevitably goes "along for the ride" doing the neutral and the bad; one's personal GOOD is ignored and, gradually, totally forgotten.

(2) Neither the past nor the future exist within reality. All we can ever experience is the present. Although the past and the future never exist within reality, they are almost always on the MIND (including the unconscious) and are vitally important to self-assessment.

(3) It is quite obviously true that MIND governs the evaluation of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect. And it does so by virtue of an examination of past deeds and, secondarily, future trending directions of the self. If MIND can look back on the overwhelming behavior/achievements of the self with pride, joy, and satisfaction then self-esteem will be very high and achievement of the GOOD should naturally follow. If MIND looks back on the overwhelming behavior of the self and only finds failures, errors, missteps every step along the way, then self-esteem must be very low (or literally, 0) and failure to reach the GOOD should naturally follow: "The self is experienced as unattractive, and contact with others is avoided to protect against their expected rejections." (Mardi Horowitz, 2001) If MIND looks back on the overwhelming behavior of the self and finds neither achievements nor failures, self-esteem will be in some low, though not 0, state: "the person feels like an automaton, carrying out habitual patterns in a devitalized and joyless manner." (Mardi Horowitz, 2001)

It bears emphasis: by virtue of self-deception and self-lies, MIND can engage in the entire process described above falsely and "short-cut" its way to very high self-esteem: "You understand that my personal advantage in this affair has long been guaranteed; one way or another I shall settle it in my favor." (Dostoevsky, The Idiot) This can only be accomplished through a denial of reality which- somehow or the other- is corrected UNLESS one resorts to extreme social isolation and fact-denial.

(4) It appears there is not one conception of self nor one sense of self-esteem: "An important aspect of person schemas is their multiplicity: each person has a repertoire of different possible selves..." (Mardi Horowitz, 2001) One can have a very high athletic self-esteem while having a very low intellectual self-esteem. And vice versa. One can have a very high career self-esteem while having a very low social self-esteem . And vice versa. There appear to be some 5-10 dominant areas of self-esteem that MIND "deals in," including physical fitness, beauty, intellectual ability, social dominance, ability to relate and bond with other persons, proficiency in various interests and hobbies outside of one's career, moral goodness, and so on. Each is important although some seem to contribute to OVERALL self-esteem more than others.

(5) Because of the dominant importance of self-esteem, it would be totally foolish for all of us not to factor it into most of our major life decisions (and even some not so major ones but not extending so far as to govern whether we will eat shrimp or crab cake tonight). Once the decision is made and the (bad or neutral) behavior- of whatever sort- follows, it is usually too late; the damage to self-esteem has already been done and can't be "erased" without a violation of self-honesty, a core duty to the self.

(6) The above discussion should cause all of us to view decisions that result in mere immediate pleasurable states of feeling (and importantly, nothing else) very differently than we frequently do. Yes, we will GET the pleasure NOW but we will suffer the self-esteem injury later and THAT injury may dwarf the fleeting pleasure we receive now. Similarly, a whole host of GOOD decisions causing GOOD behavior may require short-term painful emotional and other consequences, sacrifices, discomfort, uncertainty, doubt. In these cases, we TAKE some pain, discomfort now in order to experience higher self-esteem and self-worth later. We further know that elevated self-esteem and self-worth in the future will tend to cause us to value things differently, and, as a direct consequence, make better decisions. This should also be "factored in."

(7) Nations, societies, and communities everywhere are DESPERATELY in need of some motivational reward to get more persons to act for the GOOD of themselves, other persons, and the Earth as a whole. The problem today is that the dominant societal motivational rewards (largely money and fame which, in turn, produce access to various sorts of pleasures, comforts, and security) overwhelm nearly all other motivational rewards. Worse still, these motivational rewards are offered in exchange for behavior that is not at all tied to the GOOD.

This need NOT be the case. There is copious information now available highlighting the supreme significance and importance of human self-esteem, self-worth and self-regard. The "word" must be spread that elevating these things honestly, in a GOOD way, through objective achievements, and without injury to others is BAR NONE the best thing you can do for yourself and the loved ones that care about you: "Living up to one's ego-ideal increases self-esteem and that feels good; hence it is a behavior that one tries to maintain." (Jerome D. Levin)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Practical Wisdom (Kamran K; Post 2 of 3): On Literacy

"Knowledge we regard as a fine and worthwhile thing..." Aristotle, On the Soul 

"you will not follow the practice of most men, who drag words this way and that at their pleasure..."
Plato, Theaetetus

"if your words convinced everyone as they do me, there would be more peace and less evil on earth."
Plato, Theaetetus

"So since there is true and false speech, and of the processes just mentioned, thinking appeared to be the soul's conversation with itself, belief the conclusion of thinking..." Plato, Sophist

(1) On a very rare doubleheader day- blessed as we increasingly are with boatloads of freedom and time on our hands- we present a radically new conception of literacy: "We have no jury and no audience." Plato, Theaetetus

(2) As a first cut, we can divide human beings into the FORMALLY LITERATE and the FORMALLY ILLITERATE. The formally literate person has learned a written alphabet and can read, write, speak it fluently, all the way to the level of individual words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, and entire books/treatises.  Even a high-school graduate is formally literate; a lawyer with a JD from Yale is yet more formally literate by virtue of being exposed to a greater variety of written instruction over decades. Most lower-middle class to above citizens of "developed world" countries have attained formal literacy.

(3) Formal illiteracy is largely confined to Third World and other money poor countries as well as the poorest areas of the "developed world" countries. Such persons can't understand any aspect of a written alphabet. They can neither read nor write it although sometimes they can speak a few words and "get by" in everyday life. As a general rule, the formally illiterate have developed a much stronger reliance on their senses, feelings, and intuition about things.

(4) Our species has a duty to ensure everyone has attained formal literacy in one dominantly used language. Through no fault of their own, persons lacking such formal literacy have too many avenues of mental and formal development totally closed shut to them given the present circumstances of modern life.

(5) The problem today in most developed countries is not formally illiteracy. Most citizens of such countries are, as we said, formally literate. The HUGE GORILLA-SIZE problem in these countries is EFFECTUAL ILLITERACY. Such a person is highly literate, eloquent, "educated," and even a somewhat voracious reader at times. YET nothing this person reads sticks, is comprehended/absorbed, changes persons behavior. Such a person is not using the words read for the GOOD of him/herself:

Socrates: And if a man fails to get at the truth of a thing, will he ever be a person who knows that thing?
Theaetetus: I don't see how, Socrates.

Plato, Theaetetus

The effectually illiterate person reads the words but its as if he didn't or couldn't read them. In practical reality, this makes such a person no different than the formally illiterate.

(6) The following example of effectual illiteracy should prove illuminating. Nearly all US women in their 20s-40s were (at some point) educated of the evils of segregation/racism which caused such atrocities in America as the KKK, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, unequal education for blacks and other minorities for decades, and so on. These women read textbooks and other things that clearly described the evils of racism and its devastating consequences for the people that experienced it. They read that racism is immoral and wrong and that this country does not "stand" for it. They read- and perhaps briefly memorized- MLK's "I have a Dream" speech.

Yet the words read never really sunk in, never were absorbed, never were integrated into personality and behavior. Today, women in their 20s-40s make clear that their choice of romantic partners is often blatantly racist. They overwhelmingly continue to discriminate on the basis of race in their dating patterns despite reading so many things describing just how very bad of a thing racism is and how very good of a thing being race-blind is. You will see this at any bar or club or restaurant in America on a Saturday or Sunday night where you see few, if any, interracial couples. You will further see this if you look up statistics on the prevalence of interracial marriage and dating etc. Such women are effectually illiterate.

Lest one view this post or its author as indulging in a sexist attack on women we now offer a different example. Men constantly read articles describing the irrelevance of money to a happy well-lived life. They read constantly of celebrities with millions/billions that end up miserably depressed and unhappy, addicted to drugs, and even suicidal. They further read of persons living in very poor countries that are able to live wonderfully with very little money. Yet men act as if they never read these things, continuing to make money gathering the primary motivation of their lives...These men are also effectually illiterate.

(7) Why on Earth do the effectual illiterate continue to read if they won't allow what they read to change their behavior? Who knows and perhaps who cares? Perhaps they read out of boredom, out of habit, or simply out of the desire to appear "well-read." In any event, what results from such reading? NADA MUCHO ("nothing much"): "We can't call him wise, since we took him not to know anything." (Plato, Sophist)

(8) Persons pursuing the GOOD will be BOTH formally literate and effectually literate: "And he doesn't just name, but accomplishes something, by weaving verbs with names." (Plato, Sophist) It is the greatest of goods for a person to be both formally and effectually literate; such a person has the best chance of "getting it," of understanding and acting on the GOOD. In a secondary sense, persons that are formally illiterate can still reach the GOOD by understanding in some non-verbal way the concepts that comprise the GOOD. To understand the GOOD is not entirely dependent on formal literacy but formal literacy greatly accelerates the process in persons that are otherwise disposed toward the GOOD. 

Humility (Kamran K; Post 2 of 3): I AM Special because... ????

"In response to all such questions- assuming someone had posed them to him, which, however, no one did, not even he to himself, for he was probably afraid of posing them- Hans Castrop would have drummed his fingertips on his brow and most assuredly known no definite answer..." Thomas Mann, Magic Mountain

"What is it I protest against? That one should take this petty, peaceable mediocrity, this equilibrium of a soul that knows nothing of the mighty motivation of great accumulations of strength, for something exalted, possibly even for the measure of man." Nietzsche, Will to Power

"he can be compared, he has his equals" Nietzsche, Will to Power

"For he realized he had no right to grand words and gestures..." Thomas Mann, Magic Mountain

"I would describe myself as genuine, easy going, loyal, passionate, self-aware, sarcastic, silly at times....I like to stay active and strive for a balanced lifestyle. Enjoy the gym and outdoor activities....I genuinely like sporting events...I can be adventurous and open to new experiences...Also, love traveling and definitely want to do more of it."
Anonymous self-description of a 21st century human being

(1) Because we here on this blog "don't gotta be false or sugar coat it at all" (Eminem, The Real Slim Shady) we continue to tackle- one by one- some of the deepest most pernicious prejudices of modern man.

Man today goes wrong and makes errors everywhere, all the time. But a near universal error today is man imagining or flattering himself to be "special" when this is FLAT FALSE: "this is the most disgusting degeneration culture has yet exhibited." (Nietzsche, Will to Power) This universal prejudice that one is special is not an innocent error but a hugely costly one:

Socrates: Or are there always a number of failures?
Theodorus: It seems to me that there are failures.
(Plato, Theaetetus)

The too-early too-easy assumption that one is special prevents one from laboring LIKE A DOG to actually become special in some form or another. It also prevents one from befriending/loving others that are actually on "one's level" though one perpetually denies this solely because of the foolish prejudice of one's specialness. This "I'm special" is an overwhelmingly common prejudice today despite it never being expressed publicly for reasons of "political correctness" "decorum" and so on: "you will never get these men to give an account of themselves, willingly or unwillingly." (Plato, Theaetetus) You would have zero friends, zero job prospects, and zero reputation if you told people straight up that you believed you were a "genius" or "gifted and special."

(2) At minimum, for someone to be entitled to believe they were special they would have to complete the following test. They would have to answer the question "I am special because...?" in a coherent, articulate, convincing way in writing. This answer should then be presented to neutral third parties who could evaluate this statement honestly and disinterestedly: "We do not yet concede that every man is the measure of all things, if he be not a man of understanding." (Plato, Theaetetus) Einstein, Eminem, Sasha, Plato, Andy Potts, Nietzsche, and a few others could answer this question persuasively. Almost everyone else would fail by a country mile.

(3) Disconnected and discontented in the extreme with the knowledge that he/she is NOT "special" but rather completely "common" and "generic," man prefers NOT to pose this question directly to the self but instead prefers to cling to some unwritten "made in the mind" vague "sense" that he is special for some hodge-podge random reason or another. There are an infinity of ways men do this; but they are all wrong, however done.

(4) Let us clarify our ideas on this matter further:
  • NOT special by virtue of good looks. These are usually the product of a genetic windfall you blindly received and/or the application of pounds of make-up and/or some eating disorder and/or some random (often racist) societal beauty standard that you just happen to meet. In the case of women, you are NOT special because you have a large chest/ass or are willing to flaunt them in public or are tattooed all over or wear tight-fitting yoga pants and jeans.
  • NOT special by virtue of completing a few slightly out of the mainstream activities here and there in an average or below-average manner. As an example you aren't special if you ran a slow marathon in year 1, "tried" sky-diving in year two, and took a few painting classes in year 3.
  • NOT special by virtue of doing well in college and graduate schools. This usually just means you had no social life, studied 24-7, and then proceeded to spit out useless facts/stats on examinations.
  • NOT special by virtue of making lots of money, particularly if you inherited it. This usually just means you are money-hungry, have no social life, and view life as a "game" in which the winner is he or she who makes the most money. You aren't even a decent person for thinking this way, let alone "special." 
  • NOT special by virtue of anything you have purchased, despite all attempts of modern advertising to convince you otherwise: "and here one grasps that it is only coarse utility that has brought such an insufferable virtue into honor." (Nietzsche, Will to Power) By definition, all you did was give some money to someone in exchange for something THEY created/did. How could you possibly become special this way??? 
  • NOT special by virtue of some self-identity you've created for yourself that is- whether you know it or not- overwhelmingly common and generic. This means your being a fan of certain teams, liking to vacation in certain areas, liking certain types of foods or restaurants, or simply being a tolerant "open" "optimistic" "energetic" person does NOT make you special (but being a DEEP pessimist today may make you special because thoughtless optimism is all the rage). Neither does your being a competent doctor or lawyer make you special: "he is not a person but acquires his value by conforming to a pattern of man that is fixed once and for all. He does not possess his value apart: he can be compared, he has his equals..." (Nietzsche, Will to Power)
  • NOT special by virtue of where you live (unless you moved to somewhere totally remote (Antartica) to do something very special). Despite the virtues of your hometown, you individually contributed nothing to its uniqueness. It was all more or less there before you even got there. 
(5) A very useful exercise for all persons would be to try to answer- today with brutal honesty- the question of "I am special because..." This requires mental courage of an unusual sort:

when he is willing to stand his ground like a man for long enough, instead of running away like a coward, then, my friend, an odd thing happens. In the end the things he says do not satisfy even himself; that famous eloquence of his somehow dries up, and he is left looking nothing more than a child.
Plato, Theaetetus

If the answer is unconvincing (this should be presumed to be the result of such test), one should immediately desist from any further thought that one is special and accept one's generic commonness completely and totally. If one is so inclined, one should then put into place a PLAN TO BECOME special over the next several decades and stick to it with total dedication: (a) "Therefore an experimental morality: to give oneself a goal." & (b) "firmness of principle; the union of will and knowledge; respect for oneself." (Nietzsche, Will to Power)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The GOOD (Kamran K; Post 2 of 13): On Primary and Secondary Truths

"What dawns on philosophers last of all: they must no longer accept concepts as a gift, nor merely purify and polish them, but first make and create them, present them and make them convincing."
Nietzsche, Will to Power

The GOOD (Kamran K; Post 1 of 13): The Three Categories of Experience

"and while the precise definition of each individual's virtue applies exclusively to him, there is, at the same time, a common definition applicable to them all." Aristotle, Politics

"the desirability of the mediocre is what we others combat." Nietzsche, Will to Power

"it is in reality only his body that lives and sleeps in the city. His mind, having come to the conclusion that all these things are of little or no account, spurns them and pursues its winged way..." Plato, Theaetetus

(1) We are in the very "early days" of our 47 part series on the GOOD: "For he who would make a philosophical study...ought not to overlook or omit anything, but to set forth the truth in every particular." (Aristotle, Politics) And so we continue...

Total reality (Nature plus human society) presents man with three categories of experience: the bad, the neutral, and the GOOD. Each category is infinite. There are an infinity of routes to experience each.

(2) The key point: these sets of experiences never touch nor overlap. They are perfectly separate and distinct. There is no bridge between them and no "easy" transition between one category to the next. Orchestrated by correct mental valuing of each category of experience, only radical breaks with the bad and the neutral can afford one an opportunity to approach the GOOD. It is an error- each and every time, regardless of the specific circumstances- to value the bad AT ALL or to value the neutral highly. A MIND that is truly wise will value the neutral at a very low level and will value the bad as strictly bad: "the rule of the soul over the body, and of the mind and the rational element over the passionate, is natural and expedient." (Aristotle, Politics) At first, this will proceed on a trial and error basis as MIND is being programmed to understand common characteristics of the bad, the neutral, and the GOOD. Over time, MIND will certainly get better and better at this sort of thing such that it becomes almost second nature to make proper categorizations: "for a right election can only be made by those who have knowledge." (Aristotle, Politics) Over time, MIND will FEEL the difference between the bad, the neutral, and the GOOD and act absolutely accordingly: "Atavism: wonderful feeling to be able to obey unconditionally for once." (Nietzsche, Will to Power)

(3) Alcoholism is an example of the bad: "No better example of tragic man, the unactualized self, can be self-poisoned and self-defiled...the slow, relentless self-poisoning of a human being- that we call alcoholism...Alcohol addiction is indeed a deadend path..." (Jerome D. Levin, 1991) It is a devastating addiction that destroys the body and the mind, and causes dramatic stunting of human personality and potential. One does not GET from alcoholism to the GOOD while still stuck in alcoholism. One must totally break with alcoholism to even allow oneself the opportunity to approach the GOOD. No aspect of the GOOD can be genuinely experienced while one is still an alcoholic: "It is the tragedy of these attempts at self-cure that they cannot succeed... no psychic structure is built, the defect in the self remains." (Kohut 1977)

(4) Friendships that never or rarely rise above mundane everyday realities (the weather, sports, the stock market, property values, petty complaints about the "office", plans of how to "get rich" together) are an example of the neutral: "He had almost never had anybody really listen to him or treat him as an 'end in himself' rather than as an object to be manipulated for their gratification. His current human relationships could hardly have been more empty." (Jerome D. Levin 1991) These things are not so destructive of human body or mind or personality to warrant placing them in the bad. They present some trivial benefits to man (avoiding boredom and loneliness, a joke shared here and there); when he hears it, he rejects that these things offer anything but trivial benefits: "he thinks that such praise comes of a dim and limited vision, an inability, through lack of education, to take a steady view of the whole..." (Plato, Thaetetus) Yet they are SO FAR from the GOOD that they deserve their own category, the neutral.

The neutral serves as no bridge to the GOOD. One can easily get stuck in the neutral for decades and never approach the GOOD. The neutral is like a great whirlpool with the greatest gravitational force pulling downwards located at the center. The more one "does" the neutral the more one gets trapped within the whirlpool, ultimately landing in its very center where the gravitational force keeping one there is the absolute strongest: "his life became progressively narrower and emptier. His interests and ambitions fell by the wayside." (Jerome D. Levin 1991) THE GOOD is located so far above the center of the neutral whirlpool that one has no chance of getting there in one "leap." The less one does the neutral the more one escapes the center of the neutral whirlpool and approaches the outer edges where the gravitational force pulling downward is very minor. Total escape from the neutral is almost impossible given the current set-up of modern civil society: "For the best is often unattainable and therefore [we] ought to be acquainted with...that which is best relatively to circumstances." (Aristotle, Politics)

Attractive in theory, what makes it so difficult for almost everyone to escape the neutral? What is so seductive about the neutral is NOT that its good nor pleasurable but that almost everyone is doing it and so it appears that this is a proper way to consume time/one's life: "Man does not seek pleasure and does not avoid displeasure." (Nietzsche, Will to Power) Although men today largely are free to do as they wish, they do not follow freedom wherever she leads ("Because we are used to unconditional authorities we have come to need unconditional authorities" Nietzsche, WP) but rather look around to see what others are doing so that they can escape the demands of freedom and follow the easier path of conformism (largely in the service of money worship): "I see how the lower preponderate through their numbers, their shrewdness, their cunning..." (Nietzsche, Will to Power) Only "weirdos" or "loners" reject the neutral and a "respectable" person of today wishes to avoid- at all costs to MIND and human personality- being either a "weirdo" or a "loner." Once in a "blue moon," some fleeting good times are also provided by the neutral and if one's life is pretty miserable all in all well this appears like a beacon of hope in a parade of endless misery.

(5) Primary GOOD truth generation (alone or with others) is a shining example of the GOOD. Primary GOOD truth generation literally changes the trajectory or arch of an entire life for the GOOD. It then continues to refine the truths generated to ensure one is obtaining more GOOD. It is preposterous to believe this sort of truth generation can magically result while one is stuck in the neutral or the bad.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Freedom (Kamran K; Post 3 of 3): FREE to move beyond the animal instincts.

"and we said that they were prepared to stand upon their principle in almost every case- not least in questions of what is just and right." Plato, Theaetetus

"I fear the presence of a tendency that threatens to become an indelible trait of character unless one opposes it head-on." Thomas Mann, Magic Mountain