A Tiny Homage To Leo Strauss

Leo Strauss remains easily one of the most important philosophers of the last century. His acute critique of Modern Social Science, for instance — long before the emergence of the New Right — is paradigmatic is this area, displaying great intellectual courage & fortitude in calling out the ravages of behaviorism & a prejudiced, complacent liberalism lacking in basic self-awareness & intellectual probity.

Whether because he was just much more honest, or much more profound, than nearly all of his contemporary intellectuals or public intellectuals, his corpus contains just infinitely more wisdom, profundity, & nuance than almost anyone else, who appear as “lost children” by comparison (referencing a remark he once made himself about how the philosopher Husserl in comparison to his student, Heidegger).  The level of grossness in contemporary intellectual & media quarrels can only be properly seen by experience of the kind of noble restraint & impartial, loftier contemplation, & tentative probing, on display in the writings of such a genuine thinker; — a writer who foregrounds his all-encompassing indifference to petty-party squabbles & ability to sit effortlessly & totally unmoved by any sort of indignation to any possible, potential proposition; — thus teaching his readers the true stance of philosophy, the pre-requisite to any maturity of character or non-dupish or fair, genuinely justice-driven stance on anything.  Let us remember that it is not just or even primarily what a writer says that matters, but the way that he says it.In his writings, we see a serious, heartfelt compassion-driven consideration of the Political Problem, in a time, as he repeatedly said “such consideration was most unpopular”.As we see today, so far from being solved by the advent of mid 20th century Liberal Democracy, this political problem remains very much a “problem”, & the only philosophic & noble way to approach it, is, of course, not via partisan propaganda, — however attractive or even necessary —  but by an over-arching Olympian view of all the connected parts.Thus, the aim is not merely to argue which policies are “better” & point out the moral or logical failings of the opposition, but, for instance, to grasp such things as , why these opponents exist in the first place, & how they can be realistically synthesized into a greater unity.It means understanding what is Possible, not merely what is Desirable, & it means understanding how it might be achieved, & how it might begin to unravel.It means setting the current disputes in the context of the perennial affairs of mankind, and of Nature itself. 

As indication of Leo Strauss’s level of profundity & seriousness, this man dared to combine his Political interrogation with the question of Religion, & not only of religion, but of God; — even though he himself was publicly by no means a believer or faithful member of the flock.His political concern was thus informed & balanced by a metaphysical & spiritual world-view, fitting that of a real philosopher, as opposed to a mere compartmentalized, academic “political science” laborer.In his writings & lectures, there seems, indeed, to be a tacit acceptance of a world-view which might easily be called “Occult”; he did not assume that politics was merely “man made”.His thought was thus architectonic, or at least aspired to it, in the grandest sense. 

Everywhere, he decries the obvious in favor of the genuine & the profound.How easy: to simply combat the surface arguments of your opponents, as if it is what one says that matters, not what one thinks.Rather than adopt the loud-mouth put-down approach we see today all across the board, Leo Strauss’s attitude, — that of someone who actually gives at least half-a-fig about Truth — is to deliberately seek out his opponents, or rather the greatest proponents of opposing or unusual views,  & suspect that they know more than they are saying; it is to find the Will to interpret such as others hold forth their inner gems, rather than a Will to refute. A will to refute is utterly useless in a philosopher, or almost anymore, since anyone can refute anything in their own mind if they don’t understand it, & all arguments are easy to “refute” simply by interpreting them in an unfavorable light, since all words & even the best thoughts, when attempted to be expressed verbally, can always be interpreted in an unfavorable light & opposed by a facile counter-argument.  The aim of the philosopher, though, is not to “win” (which is a mark of personal insecurity), but merely to understand, & hopefully, pay homage to the truth & those relatively few who speak or recognize it. 

On Sam Vaknin

N.B.: One thing I liked or found interesting about Sam, (who I discovered over a decade ago at random, on the old internet, when we were still using modems! ) is the brash, ostensibly self-hating, masochistic irony & paradox, which was the foot he lead with in his foray into the world of professional psychology. He would boast quite loudly about how, he was himself a diagnosed narcissist, even though he maintains the condition is more or less incurable (&narcissists are said to be inveterate liars!) .

Sam makes some insightful points about human relations, & how to potentially deal with them, but I believe the concept of a “narcissist” is a fairly debatable one, that probably shouldn’t claim to be “Science”. To me, it would be theory or philosophy, and seemingly not very good philosophy. On my experience with people who use it, it seems a fairly vague concept of dehumanizing abuse & unverifiable slander, often used by people with similar traits as often described of a “narcissist” (except with less charisma or attractiveness). Nietzsche’s concept of ressentitment tends to fit those who use the word, & as Nietzsche explained, such people are at least & probably more pathological and harmful both to themselves and others as the show boating person who bathes in his or her own glory & indulges himself & others in cruel gestures. I think that people fall into more various categories than simply “a narcissist”. In reality, what you usually will have is a multi-dimensional person who appears “narcissistic” to certain others in certain places and times, at a certain time in his or her life. I would also add that, as Sam says here, narcissism is in some ways a case of “arrested development”. Another way of saying that is, that people with growth and development potential, or young people, often go through a very “narcissistic” phase. Therefore , if you are derogatory towards “narcissism”, you are derogatory towards human growth. In my opinion, every young person should be allowed to have their “narcissism” satisfied and even encouraged, & using the (derogatory) term is often a form of quite damaging child abuse. Then, if the “narcissist” is himself or herself suffering from arrested development, possibly as a result of mistreatment earlier, what good does it do to slyly portray him or her as the bad guy, even when he or she wasn’t committing any violent, materially destructive crime against you, rather than mainly blaming yourself for getting involved with someone you weren’t actually suited for, and feeling perhaps a little sorry that you wasted someone else’s time as well, (who may or may not have been equally incompetent) ? I also point out that, there is no such thing as “normal” development, or uniform development among humans. In fact, many people never develop, & many other people develop much later than others. A person, like the Disciple Paul, may easily have a life-changing experience, only later in life. A person may often “come out of their shell” later in life. If they didn’t do this earlier, for whatever reason, this may involve a belated stage of “narcissism”, which is then extremely important & healthy, not necessarily pathological. Sam talks about people feeling a come-down after being with the “narcissist”, as if this is his or her fault! In my experience of people, a “come-down” is about the last thing you have to worry about. There is no come-up, & often they are physically attacking you. These are not “narcissists” — they are just violent, immoral, self-righteous imbeciles. As a Nietzschean, my thought goes in the exact opposite direction of Sam, in saying that people need to glory themselves more, & even attract devoted followers. This is in keeping with the natural inequality of human beings, and the mantra of self-love, character development, honesty, & splendor. The behaviors Sam associates with “narcissism” , I also believe are often largely petulant gripes, the very clinging to of which keeps so-called “victims” unwell, rather than the alleged affronts themselves, which in themselves are largely harmless, or unintentional, & probably both. My psychotherapist friend (who I won’t name, but who, as the field goes, is one of the best out there) also uses this term, & she sometimes thinks I am very narcissistic. She also says, that Jesus is the ultimate narcissist. I am not sure that Sam may not say the same, or would have to, to maintain his logic. We see here how ambivalent & unclear the term is, and potentially misleading. In my opinion, the Christian doctrines are themselves far better than most of modern psycho-therapy in actually improving people’s lives. I find it heavily ironic that a profession which uses violence, & billions of dollars of taxpayers money, to hold thousands, even millions, of people physically captive in so-called “hospitals”, would then have a clinical term that they seem to love, used mainly for designating ordinary members of the public who have never held anyone physically captive, even once in their whole lives, as “overly demanding of attention”. It seems to me, that what we have here, is a case of a Christian self-hatred & meekness before God, which, now, becomes the State, which demands EXCLUSIVE worship, such that, if any man (or perhaps woman) amongst you demands to be worshiped in his own private life, he is tantamount to a witch. Well , I have news for you: this is not what God, or Jesus, or true morality demands. The State & the Christ are not jealous in that way. They want you to worship Him & them through yourselves and one another, not against one another. They want you to become like “the ultimate narcissist” Himself, at least a little bit. Another point is this. People become “narcissists” for a reason: the reason is, that , as Sam says, this is an attractive way of being. Implication: if you have a good idea, or other good qualities, you need to become “a narcissist” in order to get attention for them — in a “culture of narcissism”, non-narcissists cannot compete! Since people are intelligent beings capable of self-creation, in reality, people flow in and out of “narcissism” at various stages in life in order to compensate for too much or too little, relative to what seems best. A humble, bashful child becomes a self-aggrandizing teenager or young adult, because he actually does have gifts to bestow from his period of intense introspection & modesty. A self-aggrandizing young adult, becomes a humble middle-aged man, because he has got it out of his or her System, “done that” , seen what its like, & has no more need to impress, reverting to his or her original character. A narcissistic culture is created precisely by the stifling of childhood & young adulthood narcissism, which creates bitter & resentful, truly “narcissistic” & damaged older adults. I think it would be kinder simply to say: this person is too demanding, I don’t have enough love for them, rather than throw mean latin names at people who are already damaged, neglected & abused. This often seems to slip into encouraging play-ground name-calling & bullying by adults invested with a position of trust & authority, on their less forunate, less-well-rewarded, already social outcast contemporaries. Judging by my experience of them, I would say that my own parents are about as narcissistic as human beings can get, at least in many ways. But, what I resent about them is not primarily their lack of empathy & other such traits, but their combination of these traits with extreme, yet legalized violence. 

Rimbaud on “Divine Madness”

“I say that one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, and keeps only their quintessences. This is an unspeakable torture during which he needs all his faith and superhuman strength, and during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – and the great learned one! – among men. – For he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his own soul – which was rich to begin with – more than any other man! He reaches the unknown; and even if, crazed, he ends up by losing the understanding of his visions, at least he has seen them! Let him die charging through those unutterable, unnameable things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where he has succumbed!”

● From letters by Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud
( 20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891

Mitchell Heisman, On The Problem Of Philosophy

“The Problem of philosophy is that the paradoxes of nihilism may constitute the most universal condition or “highest principle” that rational thought has “progressed”. At the very pinnacle of rational Western thought lays the proposition that life is meaningless. Is this the most comprehensive insight that human reason is capable of? Is this the fundamental conclusion that every experience, all knowledge, and every moment of living existence must come to terms with?”

This statement, which non-initiated readers may easily dismiss as the arbitrary musings of a “mentally ill” man, to those who are have been given a proper grounding in the recent history of our profoundest, most respected exoteric philosophy, i.e. thinkers such as Nietzsche & Max Weber, will appear an impressively apt & poignant summation of the situation all those who take thought itself seriously, but lack access to any esoteric knowledge or traditions beyond public Western philosophy that might decidedly overcome such horizons. I tentatively assert that the public mood itself has been colored or shaped partly by this situation among our most cerebral members for a few decades now, although this may now be on the wane as the minds of the population becomes more and more debased by chemical abuse & immoral, instant dissipation, & as existential & political emergencies become more and more pronounced, leaving people with little luxury for philosophical nihilism, for hesitation about “value” in a time in which basic survival instincts are being more strongly elicited.

On The Work Of E. Shorter , & The Book “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization Of The Western Mind” By Ethan Watters

How medical theories give rise to new ‘epidemics’. 

“As his (EShorter’s) body of research shows, history was full of ever-changing psychosomatic symptoms shaped in large part by the expectations and beliefs of the current medical establishment. ‘As doctors’ own ideas about what constitutes “real” disease change from time to time due to theory and practice, the symptoms that patient present will change as well,” he writes. ‘These medical changes give the story of psychosomatic illness its dynamic: the medical “shaping” of symptoms. ‘Shorter believes that is was Lasegue’s famous paper and the public interest in the medical debate surrounding the diagnosis of anorexia that forged a kind of template for self-starvation. As the medical establishment settled on the name, the agreed-upon causes and a specific symptom list for the disease, they were, Shorter argues, ‘disseminating a model of how the patient was to behave and the doctor to respond’. What was once a mishmash of conflicting medical theories surrounding self-starvation had now gained the appearance of a precise disorder with a specific at-risk population. That new conception of this illness took hold not only among women who had already manifested disordered eating but in the population at large. There are no broad epidemiologic studies of eating disorders from the time, but the anecdotal evidence for what happened next is persuasive: soon after the official designation of anorexia nervosa, the incidence of the disease began a dramatic climb. Whereas in the 1850s self-starvation was a rare symptom associated with hysterics, by the end of the century the medical literature was littered with references to full-blown anorexics. As one London doctor reported in 1888, anorexic behavior was ‘a very common occurrence’, of which he had ;abundant opportunities of seeing and treating many interesting cases’. In that same year a young medical student confidently wrote in his doctoral dissertation, ‘among hysterics, nothing is more common than anorexia. ‘ from “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization Of The Western Mind” by Ethan Watters The above quote is not surprising for anyone at all familiar with the nature of modern psychiatry.Dr.s generally see what they already expect, making little or no attempt to understand the patient on his own terms in the tiny slot of peremptory, 15 minute appointments (even your average bootlegging, moonshiner makes more attempt to get to know and empathize with his customers — since in his case, his freedom often depends upon it). On the other hand, the well known psychological ‘labelling theory’, together with related concepts, dictates that ppl will very often play up to expectations, and manifest their ‘diseases’ in socially mandated ways (this is never more the case with psychiatrists, who are people who one senses get very annoyed when you don’t conform to their exceptionally narrow expectations, so one easily allows oneself to be bullied into doing so) This illustrates the social nature of ‘mental illness’, with its innate quality being a form of communication, centered around certain semantic forms of distress related to suboptimum factors within one’s environment, rather than being primarily, or even in any way, a physiological brain abnormality.

A Brief Mission Statement

This site is designed for myself & people of shared interests to ruminate free of political correctness about the essential issues, both related to our own time & in general. The plan is to conduct it generally by over-views of philosophical or other cultural artifacts, usually books, that for whatever reason draw my interest. The aim is not just to survey the work of others, but hopefully to imbue the writings with a subtle mixture of ideas from the works I choose to pay attention to laced with my own philosophy of life & the Universe.

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