Category: Ideas and Reflections

Anti-Elitism

Hatred of “elitism,” with its inherent suspicion of anything that seems to imply a standard of human superiority, follows inevitably from long immersion in political and moral egalitarianism. Democracy, the political product of the principle of equality run amok, is the fertile soil of egalitarianism’s most spiritually invasive weeds, gradually fostering a general, almost instinctive anti-elitism. In practice, this anti-elitism constitutes a most...

On Envy

The envious.– He is envious; let us hope that he will not have children, for he would envy them because he cannot be a child anymore.  –Nietzsche, The Gay Science, ยง207 (Kaufmann translation) To envy is to judge the world, and your own life, prematurely and superficially. Envy takes root in an assumption that you know many things which you do not know,...

Soft Despotism 101: An Introduction for the Softly Despotized

Once, while discussing Brave New World with a Korean student, I introduced Alexis de Tocqueville’s incisive warning of a new political danger simmering within the age of modern liberalism, a tyrannical form of democratic paternalism which he evocatively named “soft despotism.” The aptness of this contextual discussion was obvious, for at its best, Huxley’s dystopian novel is little more than a progress report...

Living Against the Age

He sees that something may bring tangible benefits and boons, and yet lead to decay and deterioration in the long run — and he is therefore eager to retain at all costs the vantage point needed to discern the difference between short and long. He is suspicious of everyone inclined to speak of certain positive conditions arising in our times (such as the...

Philosopher’s Luck

The best things that could ever happen to a young person today: rejection, isolation, exclusion. To be left out is to be left alone, which is the most precious gift that can be bestowed in an age of suffocating social life. To be disliked or ignored is to be spared the horizon-limiting sameness of success, i.e., fitting in, thus preserving for him nature’s...

Theory of Recollection

You cannot do what you have never attempted. You cannot attempt what you have never imagined. You cannot imagine what you have never seen. You cannot see what your faculties have never sought out. You cannot seek out what you have never desired. You cannot desire what you have never thought of. You cannot think of what you have never experienced. You cannot...

The Reason to Philosophize

Stoicism and (to a lesser extent) Epicureanism, two late Greek philosophic schools often regarded as relatively minor movements during the intervening centuries, have become fashionable of late, primarily thanks to popular philosophy — the realm of touring lecturers and media stars — which is not really philosophy at all, but rather a quasi-philosophic posture assumed in the manner of a self-help strategy, specifically...

Contrasts in Living

Wanting to participate in the Great Conversation vs. wanting to be heard in the general chatter. Philosopher vs. professor, teacher vs. lecturer, epistolist or essayist vs. professional writer. Everything we do for pay or personal advancement is done with primary attention on the expressed wishes of our audience. Everything we do for the sake of the true, the good, and the beautiful is...

Helping

To the extent that we are social animals, we all have an urge to help. The problem is that we also have a common weakness — perhaps, paradoxically, an expression of our lust for power — for confusing helping with “making the problem go away.” Nietzsche observes, in The Gay Science, that the “religion of pity” thrives on the self-important air of the...

Equality of Opportunity, Part Two: Unfair Advantages

There is balance in the cosmos and in the soul. We humans call this cosmic balance “justice.” People who, through family prominence, good looks, good luck, or an attractively extraverted temperament, gain advantages and opportunities throughout their younger years, will likely pay for it later….