This article will discuss some philosophical arguments made in “The Seawolf” by Jack London, “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand and “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk in chronological order of publishing.
The Seawolf (1904)
“It gives a thrill to life,” he explained to me, “when life is carried in one’s hand. […] The greater the odds, the greater the thrill. […] He is living more royally than any man for’ard, though he does not know it. For he has what they have not — purpose, something to do and be done, an all-absorbing end to strive to attain, the desire to kill me, the hope that he may kill me.”
“Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself? And it is of course overestimated, for it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds of rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself? Yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. […] The supply is too large.
He was worth nothing to the world. To himself only was he of value, and to show how fictitious even this value was, being dead he is unconscious that he has lost himself.”
I chose this quote instead of the one talking about how supply and demand mean that life must be the cheapest thing in the world. Sooner or later, usually with or some weeks after one’s death all significance one had in life will disappear. If you go far enough into the future, all effects of your existence will be neutralized. This means that your goal can not be “changing the world”, it must simply be something that allows you to go through life with orientation and whose achievement might inspire some of the people you care about.
“Like the savage, the attitude of these men was stoical in great things, childish in little things. I remember, later in the voyage, seeing Kerfoot […] lose a finger by having it smashed to a jelly; and he did not even murmur or change the expression on his face. Yet I have seen the same man, time and again, fly into the most outrageous passion over a trifle.
He was doing it now, […] and all because of a disagreement with another hunter as to whether a seal pup knew instinctively how to swim. He held that it did, that it could swim the moment it was born. The other hunter […] held that the seal pup was born on the land for no other reason than that it could not swim, that its mother was compelled to teach it to swim as birds were compelled to teach their nestlings how to fly.”
This reminds me of the definition of “hypermasculinity” I read on Wikipedia writing about how men are judged by whether they have character, which means “composure and impassiveness in times of great stress or emotion”.
Here’s another, unrelated quote from the article: “In a similar study of affective communication behaviours, gender contrast – the deliberate or subconscious negation by one sex of the behaviours of the other – was far more evident within the young boys used as test subjects than of the girls.”
Now, doesn’t this just say that boys and girls behave differently? How can they conclude that gender contrast is more evident in boys when you could just as well say that girls reject male behaviors? Makes no fucking sense, that’s why I chose this paragaraph.
“They move in order to eat in order that they may keep moving. There you have it. […]”
“They have dreams” […]
“Of grub,” he concluded sententiously.
“Of a larger appetite and more luck in satisfying it. […] You have made no food. Yet the food you have eaten or wasted might have saved the lives of a score of wretches who made the food but did not eat it. […] But if we are immortal, what is the reason for this? To be piggish as you and I have been all our lives does not seem to be just the thing for immortals to be doing. […] The life that is in you is alive and wants to go on being alive for ever. Bah! An eternity of piggishness!”
Supposing that life were effectively piggishness, that it were unavoidable to be piggish, and that piggishness were something bad, then the only way to redeem yourself for it would be to have the means justify the end. Most people’s lives don’t even justify the air they consume. Similar point: If you want to save the climate, the best thing you can do is lie under a bridge and starve to death. Make sure not to wear plastic on you while you’re at it.
“There is no congeniality between him and the rest of the men aboard ship. His tremendous virility and mental strength wall him apart. They are more like children to him, even the hunters, and as children he treats them, descending perforce to their level and playing with them as a man plays with puppies. Or else he probes them with the cruel hand of a vivisectionist, groping about in their mental processes and examining their souls as though to see of what soul-stuff is made.”
People say: It’s lonely at the top. I say: The percentage of admirable people is tiny, whether you choose to get emotional about that is your choice.
“Concerning his own rages, I am convinced that they are not real, that they are sometimes experiments, but that in the main they are the habits of a pose or attitude he has seen fit to take toward his fellow-men.”
Real anger will cripple your mental abilities, fake anger won’t. A display of fake anger is thus better than getting angry.
What is the purpose of displays of anger? I have noted that a lot of people behave very submissively and even friendly after even moderate displays of anger, even though in the conventional moral system putting someone in their place should make you less respected for being a rude prick. This shows how hypocritical people are about their morals and how little self-respect they have, they actually treat you better for treating them worse.
“Might is right, and that is all there is to it. […] Just now the possession of this money is a pleasurable thing. It is good for one to possess it. Being able to possess it, I wrong myself and the life that is in me if I give it to you and forego the pleasure of possessing it.”
“But you wrong me by withholding it,” I objected.
“Not at all. One man cannot wrong another man. He can only wrong himself. As I see it, I do wrong always when I consider the interests of others.”
Genuine altruism doesn’t exist and any true intellectual knows that, it is a known fact in psychology, philosophy, biology etc.
If you help someone, you’re doing it to become popular and / or to feel good about yourself. If prosocial behavior doesn’t make you feel better about yourself or your environment incentivises “antisocial” behavior, you will not behave in a seemingly “altruistic” manner. There is no other valid opinion on that.
Wouldn’t recommend reading the book, as half of it is a shitty romance novel by a socialist simp (or is he a simping socialist?).
There are some good movies about it, mainly the old one with Edward G. Robinson and the later one with Charles Bronson. Both of those are good, although for different reasons. They have little of the Rom Com bullshit and are rather faithful to the plot, only leaving some stories from the book out.
Atlas Shrugged (1957)
“Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live–that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, […] that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others–that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, […] that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live–that your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your road.”
Objectivism, the philosophical system created by Ayn Rand and first explained in her novels possesses the following axioms:
1. Reality exists as reality regardless of our perception. Anyone who disagrees with that is either a delusional retard, a subjectivist (read: delusional retard) or a 2-week old child.
2. Humans can attain objectice knowledge. Proof: I have 2 arms, I know that much for sure.
3. An individual should live his life according to his knowledge in order to maximize his own happiness. What’s the alternative? Living according to what randomly falls in your lap? Living in order to maximize your misery?
These 3 axioms seem very logical, but apparently she didn’t enjoy a great reputation. One problem I see is that logic can´t answer all philosophical questions in a lifetime.
“There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win.”
I always scoff at people who call something radical. Radical solutions are often times the only good ones. Furthermore, if you know something, you don’t half-know it, you know it for sure. Anything else is sophistry, semantics and excuses for cowardice.
“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants.”
Money is not required for happiness, but everyone with at least a shred of ambition needs some goal or value that they can work towards. Money would be a possible value. It’s not a goal, since money can be made in near endless amounts, while a goal can be reached. The only limit would be if you owned all the money and all the property in the world, until the central banks created new money, but no one is going to achieve that. If you have a better value than money, sure choose that.
“Those who tell you that man is unable to perceive a reality undistorted by his senses, mean that they are unwilling to perceive a reality undistorted by their feelings. “Things as they are” are things as perceived by your mind; divorce them from reason and they become “things as perceived by your wishes.”
I still don’t understand how anyone could even get the idea that we can’t see reality, I mean just open your eyes and it’s right fucking there! Nevertheless, these people exist.
“He was a man who had never accepted the creed that others had the right to stop him. “
Do others have the right to stop you? Unless you are physically harming someone, stealing or destroying property or causing a traffic jam, why would they?
“Did you really think we want those laws observed? […] There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. […] [J]ust pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt.”
Bureaucratic governments pass all kinds of laws, most of which do more harm than good. Fortunately, the situation we currently have isn’t as bad as the one in the book. Here’s a good time to explain why the Illuminati don’t exist: It’s hard enough to find one person who can create a proper plan and act on it, but a whole group that at the same time manages to remain secret? If the Illuminati still existed, they wouldn’t be too dangerous.
“It’s not that I don’t suffer, it’s that I know the unimportance of suffering. I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one’s soul and as a permanent scar across one’s view of existence.”
If people understood this, we wouldn’t have depression and we wouldn’t have so many people bitching. As cliche as it sounds, learn to control your emotions if they´re hindering you.
A long book, difficult to read, so you gotta be into that stuff. Has nice and long quotes, but the main female character whores around and there is no need for writing about thart in a philosophical novel. You can find Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism on Wikipedia or read one of her essays on Laissez-Faire Capitalism (which I haven’t done yet).
Fight Club (1996)
“I’ve met God across his long walnut desk with his diplomas hanging on the wall behind him, and God asks me, “Why?”
Why did I cause so much pain?
Didn’t I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness?
Can’t I see how we’re all manifestations of love?
I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God’s got this all wrong.
We are not special.
We are not crap or trash, either.
We just are.
We just are, and what happens just happens.
And God says, “No, that’s not right.”
Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can’t teach God anything.”
This passage is just hilarious.
“Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer, maybe self-destruction is the answer.”
According to (the near-pseudoscience) psychology:
“Whatever stance one adopts regarding the self’s ontological status, there is little doubt that the many phenomena of which the self is a predicate—self-knowledge, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-enhancement, self-regulation, self-deception, self-presentation—to name just a few, are indispensable research areas.”
The things named here that start with “self-” are useless or even harmful. What is self-enhancement supposed to be, Biohacking?
Stop all of that, instead tell your instinct to act in the right way and it´ll attempt its best do so. Learn to command yourself when the task asks for it and then get out of your own way. Thus, you have to “destroy your self”, drop your pretenses and live according to your full potential for intelligence. Your brain works wonders if you let it and it is a very complex system. If a normal person tried to improve upon a rocket, the result propably wouldn’t be good, so why do you think you can improve upon your brain, which evolved over billions of years of evolution? By definition, you can’t outsmart yourself.
There is no free will, all your conscious processes such as thoughts, observations and decisions are just the tiny minority of instinctive processes that become visible to you. If you have a computer, all kinds of algorithms run in the background. If you now chose to mine bitcoins or play a videogame, that would decrease the RAM available, conscious processes being the gaming or mining in that case.
“If you lose your nerve before you hit the bottom, Tyler says, you never really succeed.”
I believe the Abyss, as described by Aleister Crowley, is an intriguing concept and it seems to somehow be connected to the search for answers to fundamental questions. Crowley himself wrote:
“This doctrine is extremely difficult to explain; but it corresponds more or less to the gap in thought between the Real, which is ideal, and the Unreal, which is actual. In the Abyss all things exist, indeed, at least in posse, but are without any possible meaning; for they lack the substratum of spiritual Reality. They are appearances without Law. They are thus Insane Delusions. Now the Abyss being thus the great storehouse of Phenomena, it is the source of all impressions.”
“An abyss is, by definition, a deep hole or gap. This could be a gap in knowledge that doesn’t allow you to continue on your path, like a canyon in the middle of a hiking trail. In the state of mind required to deduct solutions to all problems in a detached manner, regular human emotions and concerns are not a factor, thus “disturbing” thoughts and those usually frowned upon are possible. Because this process does not factor in human (your own) needs, you might have ideas that seem right to you, but that are fundamentally wrong and practically impossible. An impression is, by definition, one of the following:
“- An especially marked and often favorable influence or effect on feeling, sense, or mind
– An often indistinct or imprecise notion or remembrance
– A telling image impressed on the senses or the mind
– An effect of alteration or improvement
– A characteristic, trait, or feature resulting from some influence”
Entering the abyss is an experience that can fundamentally change your character and your perspectives. Concurrent with above definition, it leaves an indistinct impression on you. Even if it messes you up for years, the memory of it and the knowledge that you beat the greatest intellectual challenge you could conceive of at the time will remain and you will find yourself wanting to enter the abyss again, this time fearless and a lot less ignorant. To recycle the rocket analogy: No matter how hard it is to put a rocket together again, some people will still take it apart, and some will ultimately succeed. Lastly, I would like to mention that I am by no means an expert on the occult, spirituality, altered states of consciousness etc. I wasn’t balls deep in the abyss, yet that journey took me 3 years (entering, leaving and trying to fix my cognitive processes).
If my style of writing repels you, you now know the reason. Here’s a good interview about the self: https://samharris.org/the-illusion-of-the-self2/ Sources: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abyss_(Thelema) www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impression
“On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
Though banal at first sight, closely related to Absurdism and Nihilism if you draw conclusions.
Check quote II. for similarities. Your time is running out by the second and your instinct knows this, that’s why we are prone to seeking stimulation, as stimulation means something is going on, ergo time isn’t being completely wasted. People with a finer instinct will be able to differentiate between actionism (unreflected behavior aimed at creating the illusion of producticity, according to my translation from german “Aktionismus”) and moments that are valuable to you.
Your actions don’t matter, nihilism doesn’t have an answer to that, which is why I find Albert Camus’ Absurdism interesting: He focused on living an “unrefutable” life, meaning not chasing a foolish goal, but one that can exist while acknowledging the absurdity and meaningless of life. Don’t ask me about the details, the translation from french was way too confusing, it doesn’t just sound gay, but it makes getting the point across hard once you translate it.
Camus starts his philosophy at a point that most philosophers never reach or never fully believe in: Life is meaningless. He accepts this and asks: What now?
“Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat, it’s not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go. Let go.”
Compare quotes XVI. & XVII. for similarities, don’t skip it just because it’s long.
This letting go is not to be compared to the common Hollywood phrase “listen to your feelings” or the hippies telling you to “relax”. Again, it is a reference to trusting your instinct, letting go of the conscious processes that divide your attention. If you do hit rock bottom, just know that it will at some point be over, and if you die before things get better, it won’t matter anymore. If you accept that there is no free will, you will realize that having all the data in the universe would allow someone to predict your exact fate, thus it can be said that every human has a destiny. Just live according to the best of your knowledge and try to expand your knowledge, live according to truth and your goals.
“It’s so quiet this high up, the feeling you get is that you’re one of those space monkeys. You do the little job you’re trained to do. Pull a lever. Push a button. You don’t understand any of it, and then you just die.”
That is how most people spend their lives. Time passes way too fast if you waste it. I value my time so much nowadays that I would rather live without pleasure, working, so that my time is more efficient. Effort towards your goals is one of the keys, the others being learning constantly, teaching others and saving money by not blowing it on stupid shit such as unnecessary material goods and buying things just for pleasure. This way you can quit your job for a time and focus on the important things.
“That Saturday night, a young guy with an angel’s face came to his first fight club, and I tagged him for a fight. That’s the rule. If it’s your first night in fight club, you have to fight. I knew that so I tagged him because the insomnia was on again, and I was in a mood to destroy something beautiful.”
Pursuit of “beauty” and “aesthetics” might be nice, but they are not suitable goals for an intelligent man, more like the icing on the cake. Destroying meaningless art and vanity does more good than harm, hence the tradition of pouring acid on unfaithful or disrespectful women (and men) in many countries, although I personally think that’s not a good idea for legal reasons. Real art has a meaning apart from aesthetic stimuli.
The book is awesome, but the movie is the best movie I’ve ever watched, followed at moderate distance by Falling Down. Fight Club is a real page turner and I can watch the movie several times and still find it interesting, that’s how you recognize greatness.