Selfish {self.E}

The Century of the Self

The Century of the Self is a 2002 documentary made and produced by Adam Curtis. It considers the rise of psychoanalysis as a powerful mean of persuasion for both governments and multinational corporations. It considers of four parts:

01. — The Happiness Machine
02. — The Engineering of Consent
03. — The Policemen Inside our Heads
04. — People Sipping Wine

The Trap…

what’s happened to our dreams of freedom?

“The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom” is a 2007 BBC documentary series directed and produced by Adam Curtis (think: Hypernormalisation). It consists of three one-hour episodes which explore the concept and definition of freedom. In short, Curtis argues that today’s idea of freedom is based on a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures.

Episodes

01. — “F**k You Buddy.”
In this episode, Curtis examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.
📹  watch episode 1

02. — “The Lonely Robot.”
The second episode underscores the first but develops the theme that the drugs such as Prozac — Happy Pills — are being used to normalise behaviour and make us behave more predictably… more like machines.
📹  watch episode 2

03. — “We Will Force You To Be Free.”
The final episode focuses on the concepts of positive and negative liberty that were introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin.* Curtis explains how negative liberty might be defined as freedom from coercion, and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one’s potential.
📹  watch episode 3


P.S.

* “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This ancient Greek aphorism, preserved in a fragment from the poet Archilochus, describes a thesis put forward by Isaiah Berlin regarding the philosophy of history. Although there have been many interpretations of the aphorism, Berlin uses it to mark a fundamental distinction between human beings who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things and those who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system. Berlin’s extraordinary essay offers profound insights about Tolstoy, historical understanding, and human psychology.


Isaiah Berlin’s essay:
📙 The Hedgehog and the Fox

According to Berlin, humans can be divided into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (he cites: Plato, Dante, Hegel, Nietzsche and Proust), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be summed up into a single idea (he cites: Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Joyce).

The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).
The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).

I perorate

to my sole-mate /

JUST WAR THEORY
Just war theory (Latin: jus bellum justum) is a philosophy (or ‘doctrine’) with a purpose to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: “right to go to war” (jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war, and the second the moral conduct within war. Just war theory postulates that war, while terrible, is not always the worst option.

ABSURDISM
Absurdism shares some concepts, and a common theoretical template, with existentialism and nihilism. It has its origins in the work of the 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. As a philosophy, absurdism explores the fundamental nature of the absurd — the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe — and how individuals, once becoming conscious of the absurd, should respond to it. Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence.

WESTERN PHILOSOPHY
Western philosophy refers to the philosophical thought and work of the Western world beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) and Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BC). Dear reader, as I’ve said many a time. the word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek philosophía (φιλοσοφία), literally, “the love of wisdom” (φιλεῖν phileîn, “to love” and σοφία sophía, “wisdom”).

AESTHETICS
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste, as well as the philosophy of art. It considers subjective values — at times referred to as judgments of sentiment and taste.

HEDONISM
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues pleasure and suffering are the only components of well-being. Ethical hedonism contends that what we should do depends exclusively on what affects the well-being individuals have. Ethical hedonists would defend either increasing pleasure and reducing suffering for all beings capable of experiencing them, or just reducing suffering in the case of negative consequentialism. Hedonism derives from the Greek word for “delight.”

EPICUREANISM
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. It sees the greatest good to be seeking modest, sustainable “pleasure” in the form of a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) and absence of bodily pain (aponia). Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, its advocacy of a simple life, make it rather distinct from “hedonism” ^ see up dear reader.

RENAISSANCE HUMANISM
Renaissance humanism was a response to what was subsequently labelled the “narrow pedantry” associated with medieval scholasticism. Let’s be clear, it was — wittingly or otherwise — the questioning of why one should put up with a life constrained and controlled by theocratic dogma. In essence is was was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.


In Greek mythology Sisyphus (Ancient Greek: Σίσυφος) was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandising craftiness and deceitfulness. His punishment wasbeing forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top; he was made to repeat this action for eternity. Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as being “Sisyphean.”

Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour

Vitruvian Man is Leonardo da Vinci’s own reflection on human proportion and architecture, made clear through words and image. Its purpose is to bring together ideas about art, architecture, human anatomy and symmetry in one distinct and commanding image.

Marcel Proust

[French | 1871–1922]

Proust was a French critic, and essayist who is now best known for his monumental novel: In Search of Lost Time (sometimes known as: Remembrance of Things Past). This was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927. Today, Proust is considered by critics and writers — e.g., Melvin Bragg and guests — to have been one of the most influential authors of the 20th c.

Love is a striking example of how little reality means to us.

Nostalgia… do you want to be dragged there? Then read on.

Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

As Proust saw it:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

In Search of Lost Time — a novel of over 4,000 pages — is considered by many to be the definitive modern novel. This is not least because it has influenced directly and indirectly generations of writers, in 1922 Virginia Woolf said, “Oh if I could write like that!” Vladimir Nabokov — author of Lolita and himself considered one of Europe’s most talented writers of prose — said in a 1965 interview, that the greatest prose works of the 20th c. were “Joyce’s Ulysses, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Bely’s Petersburg (see Endnotes), and the first half In Search of Lost Time.”

Lost in Time isn’t exactly easy reading but somehow you can get carried along by them if you can allow yourself to fall int the flow or, you can begin by listening to it in this ten part, ten hour BBC dramatisation:

📻 — In Search of Lost Time

(listening to the radio’s easier on your green eyes Jay; yes Jay, it’s easier on your brown eyes too Jay.)

Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust: Gadfly? Man for the men? A reader of Ruskin

In Search of Lost Time, is compiled in a number of volumes:


And has been republished a great many times…

To somehow summarise the work, many describe it as something of a fictional autobiography by a man whose life almost mirrors that of Marcel Proust. The first forty pages of the novel describe the narrator as a young boy in bed awaiting, and as a middle-aged man remembering, his mother’s goodnight kiss. Though it is not obvious to the reader at the time, these first forty pages also establish most of the themes of the next seven volumes and introduce most of the major characters. The rest of the novel traces the chronology of Marcel’s life over the next fifty years and the lives of his family, friends, and social acquaintances. The novel concludes at a grand party in Paris attended by Marcel and most of the remaining characters.

Because the story is told with two “voices,” that of the narrator as a young boy and also as an older man recalling his youth, it is sometimes difficult to tell Marcel’s age at any particular moment in the novel. The reader must rely on the context of the action.

Two of the novel’s major themes concern Marcel’s frustrated desire to become a writer and his despair at the corroding effect of Time, which makes all human feelings and experiences fade into nothing.

Unhappy love affairs are a leitmotif of the novel.

The best known is that of Charles Swann, which could act as a template for all the rest and is described in “Swann in Love.” The tension and swing of power between lovers and the inevitable disappointment when we achieve the object of our desires is a constant theme throughout the book. (Swann’s love for and pursuit of Odette takes him from the pinnacle ofsmart society to the depths ofsocial rejection and eventual oblivion.)

All the book’s love affairs essentially describe:

the futility of trying to possess or even understand another person

Love is a metaphor for all human experience. According to Proust:

all man’s suffering is caused by his desires [and] achieving those desires only increases the suffering.


Endnotes

1. — Bely

Petersburg
— Andrei Bely

Andrei Bely (1880-1934) was educated at Moscow University where he studied science and philosophy, before turning his focus to literature. In 1904 he published his first collection of poems, Gold in Azure. Petersburg, was published in 1916.

Petersburg is Bely’s masterpiece and it is generally considered to be a vivid, striking story. Bely’s richly textured, darkly comic and symbolic novel pulled apart the traditional techniques of storytelling and presaged the dawn of a new form of literature. This book is considered to have heavily influenced several literary schools, most notably Symbolism, and his impact on Russian writing has been compared to that of James Joyce on the English speaking world.

The novel is set at the heart of the 1905 Russian revolution. In the book. a young impressionable university student, Nikolai, becomes involved with a revolutionary terror organization, which plans to assassinate a high government official with a time bomb. But the official is Nikolai’s cold, unyielding father, Apollon, and in twenty-four hours the bomb will explode. Petersburg is a story of suspense, family dysfunction, patricide, conspiracy and revolution. It is also an impressionistic, exhilarating panorama of the city itself, watched over by the bronze statue of Peter the Great, as it tears itself apart.

2. — Ruskin

The best thing in life aren’t things.

📙 The Magic of Reality

O. J. ( as in, “Oh, Jay!” )

This book really and truly fascinated me:

The examples and illustrations are mind opening and mind blowing, respectively.

96
p. 96

Richard Dawkins (see full profile here) is an English evolutionary biologist, author and professor at Oxford University. His seminal work The Selfish Gene (1976), popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. Here are a few extracts from The Magic of Reality that I feel it is okay to share as editable .pdf files:

pp. 12-13 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)


pp. 32-52 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)


pp. 118-139 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)


pp. 246-265 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)

Friedrich Nietzsche

[German | 1844–1900]

The problem of how to live a life with meaning has puzzled philosophers since the days of ancient Greece, China, and India. Yet, for Nietzsche, the problem took on a new importance in the aftermath of the Enlightenment and what he saw this as resulting in; the death of god.

It is often said that Nietzsche is a nihilist but, it’s not so simple. In fact, much of his work is concerned with the problem of overcoming nihilism despite all the things (life problems) that drive people towards acting in a nihilistic way.

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster… if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Nietzsche’s was focused on this: in an increasingly secular and scientific society we humans could no longer turn to god/religion to find meaning. In the past (or for religious people today( the meaning of everything was assured by God. So, Nietzsche pondered, without the ability to turn to god, where could we find meaning?

Nietzsche argued that there were two fundamental types of morality: “master morality” and “slave morality”. Master morality values pride and power, while slave morality values things like kindness, empathy, and sympathy.

Key point:

Nietzsche believed that the Christian morality, with its emphasis on kindness, meekness, subservience to a greater good, and a focus on the afterlife rather than the present condition, did not reflect how the world actually works.

Instead of relativism, Nietzsche advocates for something that has been called “perspectivism.” Simply put, perspectivism means that every claim, belief, idea, or philosophy is tied to some perspective and that it’s impossible for humans to detach themselves from these lenses in order to learn about objective Truth.

According to Nietzsche perspectivism isn’t the same as relativism because unlike relativism (which says all views are equally valid because they’re relevant to each person) perspectivism doesn’t claim that all perspectives have equal value — some are in fact better than others.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

— my why is you J and that is how I can bear the now (which basically is hell).

La Ville Lumière

💀 The dead control the living.

There are various influential French philosophers and the following are amongst the most prominent /

In no particular order /

René Descartes
In his seminal work, Discourse on Method, Descartes defined thought as the essential human quality — “I think, therefore I am” — and sets out one of the key characteristics of the French style of thinking: the deductive mode of reasoning. That is, one which starts with a general, abstract proposition and then works towards a specific conclusion.

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.

The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues.

Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.

Voltaire
Voltaire was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. Voltaire believed above all in the efficacy of reason. He believed social progress could be achieved through reason and that no authority — religious or political or otherwise — should be immune to challenge by reason. Voltaire frequently made use of his works to criticise intolerance and religious dogma.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau’s writings on human freedom, equality, popular sovereignty and the return to nature challenged the social and political conventions of 18th‑century French society, and founded the radical republican tradition. His Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract are cornerstones in modern political and social thought.

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.

Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves.

Jules Michelet
Greatest French historian of his time, whose blistering account of the French revolution dwelled on the importance of emotions, myths and symbols; he championed the cause of “the people”, arguing that history is decisively shaped by the interventions of the masses.

He who would confine his thought to present time will not understand present reality.

Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre confronted all the powerful institutions of his time (the bourgeois state, the Communist party, the university system); his writings on existentialism and Marxism in the post-second world war decades marked the pinnacle of the French traditions of republican universalism and philosophical radicalism.

When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die.

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir was well versed in philosophy, politics and social issues. Her seminal work was The Second Sex (1949), which drew on existentialist philosophy to offer a ground-breaking account of women’s oppression. It is a pivotal contribution to modern feminism.

No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.

All oppression creates a state of war.

Claude Lévi-Strauss
An ethnologist who became the most important exponent of structuralism, a philosophical movement that challenged the linearity of Cartesian rationalism by questioning its assumptions about progress and the fixed nature of meaning, and stressing the importance of dissonances and the unconscious in human thinking.

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, [they are] one who asks the right questions.

Michel Foucault
Foucault’s theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. His work explored the ways in which modern societies imposed various forms of intellectual and physical control on their citizens, ranging from dominant norms and coercive state controls to medical and sexual practices.

What desire can be contrary to nature since it was given to [us] by nature itself.


Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité