Nothing at all. Our relationship with death has profoundly shaped Western culture. A pervasive death consciousness has created religions, nourished philosophies and eventually stimulated scientific investigation, as well as fueled fanaticism, a brooding and melancholic pessimism, which resulted in nihilistic conclusions. Such nihilistic sentiments are far more than merely isolated occurrences, pervasive although manifesting in various guises. Continue reading In the beginning… there was Nothing.
Becoming a cynic is not an indication of a failure of character, or an anomalous individual event in today’s culture, for it is actually symptomatic of modern culture. Cynicism is essentially the result of the Enlightenment, which spelled the end of Christian dogma by destroying its ideals, absolutes, truths. As the Enlightenment progressed in its demystification of ideals, nihilism emerged form its wake. But one ideal was spared: the subject, which grounded all critiques and including positive ideas like Kantian ethics.
Prior to the Enlightenment, Christian metaphysics was true (i.e., the bible holds truths, the word of God, etc.). But the Enlightenment brought to the end to all that with critiques that decimated these aforementioned absolute truths. However, where the enlightenment has been a “melancholy science” (pace Adorno) it only exacerbates melancholy. We need something that doesn’t depress us and sinks us into cynical reasoning. We need a new critique that’s also a gay science, as opposed to the sad sciences of the enlightenment that took away all the ideals we used to believe in. Sure, this critique is also an attack, but it holds an attitude against making people miserable or depressed. Continue reading You don’t have to be a cynic
Elsewhere I’ve mentioned the Greek notion that more pain or suffering is caused by ignorance or stupidity than outright evil. Despite the inevitable objections from indignant moralists, pain and suffering encompasses far more than the mere violations of liberal justice.
Where animals have instincts that guide them, people employ rationality to balance themselves. Although people are also animals, the species instinct is terribly underdeveloped, and once a person abandons rationality, and careening down the slippery slopes of unreason, he or she becomes unbalanced.
One form of imbalance is the mummified concept, the preserved cadaver, the embalmed remains of what used to be a living idea, a tickling sensation, or a brilliant moment. An original insight is captured and mounted on the wall as a well-groomed “belief,” a freeze-fried snapshot of a rich experience, but one that tends to dominate everything else until it becomes the sacred “dogma.”
These comfortable dogmas are medications against anxiety and other uncomfortable moods of existential angst, and vanity and sloth keeps them in circulation.
Philosophy is the antidote to these dogmas, for it is strictly a tool of unlearning. See here and here and here for further explication.
One trick I used to avoid contentment was where a friend and I would take positions we ourselves did not hold and defend them rigorously against the attacks of the other. This was an excellent way of killing time until the women showed up.
Nonetheless, if one wishes to be mediocre, one is happy with his lot in life, and will not have anything to do with philosophy.
This short blog is an illustration of the contrast between two impulses: the religious and a very ancient one, the tragic. The religious impulse comes from a long and hard look into the depths of the human element – suffering – and in the process of doing so, a divine force is postulated, inferred, invented, or projected.To be religious is to see with the eyes of faith, which is the facility of seeing in the dark. Faith enables groping around in a pitch black universe. Having such eyes leads to the absence of expectation for evidence, assurance, or justification of any sort. Continue reading On the religious and the tragic impulses