Love and Intellect II: For Blake, Against Nietzsche

Sunday, 10 November 2019

  1. Welcome to the 16th episode of “Studies in a Dying Culture”
    1. Your host: R. Dumain, broadcasting from Home of the Future, Buffalo, Nov. 10, 2019
    2. (No live video on Facebook this time)
    3. Audio on Think Twice Radio

  2. This show: Love & Intellect II: For Blake, Against Nietzsche
    1. Consult my web site,, “What’s New” page for description of Part I with background links, link to Think Twice Radio for Part I
    2. One reference page is already up for part 2, will add info within the next week to supplement this broadcast
    3. Will forgo my usual explanation of the meaning of “Studies in a Dying Culture”; you will find that in Part I

  3. Introduction [1:50 min]
    1. Begin with a quote:

      The Angel that presided oer my birth
      Said Little creature formd of Joy & Mirth
      Go love without the help of any King on Earth
            — William Blake, Poems from the Notebook, N 32, poem 98, circa 1808-1809

    2. Why love?
      1. Love & intellect are my guiding principles
      2. Love & intellect support one another & enhance quality of life
      3. When love & intellect clash, one must honestly accept the contradiction, not be afraid of it
        1. Love induces you to approach people
        2. Intellect most of the time induces distance
        3. Must live with both if you feel, & if you’re not about coldness & viciousness
      4. Intellect is not the property of the privileged
        1. It is even more important for those without elite connections immersed in a working class environment.
      5. The bottom line: If you are concerned only about human stupidity but not human suffering, then you’re of no use to anybody.

  4. Clarification of Part I [3:25]
    1. This is a follow-up to Part I. That was not so much a connected argument as a series of essential bullet points to lay the groundwork for thinking about the subject.
    2. There are of course compelling reasons for people to be bitter and pessimistic, especially when the prospects for a more satisfactory future seem or are dim or nonexistent. And what may not seem compelling to an observer is a horrible burden to the person suffering. I am not a preacher and I can’t tell people what to do.
    3. My podcast is geared towards encouraging a way of avoiding stagnation when the tendency is always towards pulling you down and adapting your psyche to the limitations of your society.
    4. I can’t properly address desperation, but because the theme is intellect, the subject here is fighting the stagnation of the intellect, for which there is no formula or formalism, only a way of thinking about it and only operable in the specifics of any given situation.  Like novelty itself, escape from one’s limitations is not predictable, and like originality, it can only be the outcome of what you do.
    5. I cited Theodor Adorno, because his greatest strength as a philosopher is to formulate just this (determinate negation), and his way of doing it needs to be extracted from the context of high German and high European culture and adapted to the working class intellectual who most needs to understand and effectuate the principle.
    6. Furthermore, as people turn to the intellectual heritage, the problem is being misled by alienated thinkers whose privileged misanthropy and nihilism lead one astray. For what seems to be insight may turn out to be just a more sophisticated form of stagnation. Hence for Blake, against Nietzsche.

  5. Alternatives discussed in part I & to be discussed here in part II [5:51]
    1. In part I mentioned that one route for escape from a limited environment historically is  literacy—READING.
    2. I also mentioned two areas of concern: religion, and New Age thinking as a popular alternative to traditional religions in our part of the world.
    3. Now I will discuss more of the issues connected with turning to other sources to develop an alternative perspective for people not content with what they were raised to think.

  6. But first, some points regarding the development of intellectual maturity & authority [6:25]
    1. No universal or final authority exists, but authority can be grown.
    2. A combination of autonomous thinking and drawing on the intellectual heritage is needed. Nobody can reinvent the wheel—the wheel being the entire history of thought—alone.
    3. Combining these two, going through a long process of partial understanding, one can grow.
    4. Hopefully one can develop a better intuitive basis for understanding one’s sources with time.
      1. For autodidacts, venturing out into the world of intellect begins in eclecticism—adopting various bits and pieces of different ideas, doctrines, or world views which appear to make sense.
      2. But developing intellectual authority is a slippery process for everyone, including academic specialists.
        1. Reconstructing intellectual history to develop a perspective in which everything attains a proper place is beyond the capacity of most specialists, not to mention amateurs, but it is essential to consider.
      3. One must not reduce oneself to what I call footnote-whoring.
      4. But as we shall see, the most talented of intellectuals throughout history have gotten sucked into wrongheaded world views.
      5. Critical thinking is content-driven. Principles can be formulated, but critical thinking in general does not exist; it occurs only with respect to given content and the unpredictable insight to challenge what is given.
      6. One will encounter various ideologies of experience; from Asian, Western, or other sources, that attract others because they at least partially respond to experience & existential needs.
      7. People are never content with immediate experience; they seek a stabilizing world view to make sense of it.
        1. They always do this, but also …
        2. The task of philosophy is to connect immediately experienced reality with the objective world, the understanding of which may be guided by science, religion, philosophy, or a combination of these. Even the denial of an objective world or the inability to understand it, is an assertion about it; even skepticism is an assertion.
      8. What is wrong with just taking what you need, and disregarding its context & meaning within the philosophy you found it in?
        1. You can use whatever philosophical fragments you need as long as you don’t identify them with their origins;
        2. You need to actually understand the meanings of ideas and the reasons they were put forward by their originators, or you don’t understand what you’re dealing with, who you’re dealing with, and what you’re assimilating.
      9. My experience and my observations of others over decades has led me to some conclusions about intellectual maturation:
        1. In a conceptually complex universe, one can adopt ideas that make sense on an immediately person-to-environment level, but one cannot truly know the import of inherited conceptual structures without widening and deepening the context in which they arise and the functions they serve and how they may eventually be subordinated to a more developed perspective.
        2. This was the case even in my personal experience of the ‘60s and ‘70s and the new trends that became popular in the USA in the ‘80s (postmodernism), but…
        3. Now the ideological noise level has made a qualitative leap in the age of cyberspace and social media: the noise is omnipresent.
        4. Various sources offer a choice of perspectives, mostly defective: Aeon, TED talks, etc.
          1. Many of these fragments seem plausible, but more often than not they simply confound the confusion.
      10. One final note: what was once a huge struggle to be thought, is now a commonplace. What once seemed plausible and profound may now seem shallow.
    5. In sum, these considerations are essential to the development of intellectual authority, counterpoising it to mental weakness, including the mental weakness of intellectuals.

  7. Now what about love? [12:00]
    1. Quote: “A poet once wrote, ‘In dreams begins responsibility.’ So too, perhaps, with love. Without dreams, without the hope of a better life, a brighter future, it is difficult for love to flourish. And without love... there are no dreams.” — “The Refuge,” The Outer Limits (second series), Season 2, Episode 11, Directed by  Ken Girotti, Written by Alan Brennert, Original air date 5 April 1996.
    2. I mention love because of the prevalence and the menace of authoritarianism, the lust for power, coldness, violence, hatefulness, and even exterminism in philosophies of both East and West.
    3. Let’s look at some historical examples.

  8. Eastern mysticism & New Age thought [13:05]
    1. Mentioned in part I. These ideas have been circulating for some time, from small numbers of intellectuals reading translations first becoming available in the 18th century, and gaining traction in successive waves; circulating most widely in popular culture in the 1960s & ‘70s, when they became readily available in various media, became part of popular culture, & looked attractive as an alternative to a mechanistic society & more appealing than the traditional Abrahamic religions (prior to postmodernism and neoliberalism).
    2. At best, there were formulations of the meeting of East &West—the very concepts of which are fictions.
    3. The history of the concerned civilizations and these ideas were erased, replaced by civilizational abstractions…
    4. And the authoritarianism of pre-modern world views retooled for consumer use was concealed, for example:
      1. The authoritarian and even pro-fascist views of gurus from India
      2. The support of Zen Buddhists for Japanese fascism and conquest in the ‘30s and ‘40s
      3. The use of these ideas by Westerners with agendas not immediately perceptible, e.g.
        1. The popularity of Hermann Hesse in the post-war generation: Siddhartha, Damien, Steppenwolf
        2. But a lack of context of Hesse’s hatred of modernity and essentially regressive views despite his dislike of Nazism
        3. Reference: Stanley J. Antosik, The Question of Elites: An Essay on the Cultural Elitism of Nietzsche, George, and Hesse.
      4. But we are modern people. In times of crisis a common practice is to turn to ideologies to regain what has been lost:
        1. Idealized past
        2. Religion
        3. Peasant societies
        4. Other cultures (Eastern mysticism, etc.)
      5. 2 bibliographies on this subject are on my web site:
        1. Holistic Thought, New Age Obscurantism, Occultism, the Sciences, & Fascism
        2. Occultism, Eastern Mysticism, Fascism, & Countercultures: Selected Bibliography

  9. Western authors [16:50]
    1. Postmodernism now
    2. Origins in Nietzsche, Heidegger
    3. Must combat the pernicious influence of both

  10. Relevant books read lately [17:30]
    1. The Intellectuals and the Masses by John Carey (1993)
      1. Literary Modernism prejudiced against the masses
        1. great influence of Nietzsche
        2. on the right
          1. hatred of modernity, bourgeois life, rationality from the right
          2. hatred of bourgeois mediocrity: suburbs, advertising, pop culture
          3. Lawrence, Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Clive Bell, Wyndham Lewis, also Virginia Woolf
        3. on the left
          1. George Bernard Shaw
          2. H. G. Wells: contradictory: conflict between his socialism and authoritarianism, exterminationist tendencies, various prejudices
    2. Heidegger’s Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse by Richard Wolin (2001)
      1. Many anti-Heidegger books
      2. This one doesn’t just deal with Heidegger’s allegiance to the Nazi party, but...
      3. It provides a definitely detailed analysis of the content of Heidegger’s philosophy and its right-wing irrationalist basis...
      4. And also of the source of its appeal to the Jewish intellectuals in this book and ...
      5. How they reacted to the revelation of Heidegger’s Nazism
      6. Wolin has written several books on reactionary irrationalist philosophers
      7. Several authors have written on this
    3. Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right by Ronald Beiner (2018)
      1. Just read
      2. Published in the wake of Trump and the global fascist resurgence
      3. Leaves no doubt as to the right wing commitment of Nietzsche, embedded in his philosophy, not just in overtly political remarks
      4. Nietzsche whitewashed after World War II
        1. Yes, he rejected German nationalism, anti-semitism, but from the right
        2. but no doubt his philosophy was socially motivated
        3. a commonplace to find actual fascists inferior to intellectual fascists
          1. Nietzsche viz German imperialism
          2. Heidegger viz Nazis
          3. Yeats vs Irish Blue Shirts
        4. Characteristic hatred of bourgeois mediocrity, secular modernity, always from the right
    4. At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others by Sarah Bakewell (2016)
      1. Non-technical narrative of the basic ideas and the history of phenomenology & existentialism in the 20th century
      2. Covers a lot of ground, including Richard Wright
      3. Important for showing the appeal of these ideas for the intelligentsia in their historical moments.
      4. Why do most talented intellectuals get sucked into these ideas?
    5. The Question of Elites: An Essay on the Cultural Elitism of Nietzsche, George, and Hesse by Stanley J. Antosik (1978)
      1. Hard to find
      2. Especially revealing of Hesse
        1. Anti-modernity, pro esoteric aristocracy
        2. Eurocentrism combined with eastern mysticism
        3. Finally: total pessimism about modernity, but in favor of Nazism
    6. The Overman in the Marketplace: Nietschean Heroism in Popular Culture by Ishay Landa (2007)
      1. Perhaps the most important of these books
      2. Provides a definitive analysis of everything thoroughly reactionary in Nietzsche’s philosophy, even seemingly inspirational passages (cf. e.g. Thus Spake Zarathustra)
      3. Shows that Nietzscheanism is thoroughly embedded in popular culture,
        1. e.g. the original James Bond novels, sanitized for the movies.

  11. Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions (1973): one more surprising source [27:45]
    1. Not previously cited in the context of popular Nietzscheanism
    2. Vonnegut with the changing times voiced more explicit protests against American society [starting from Player Piano, 1952]. By 1973, he issued a full-scale indictmeent of American society, its pettiness, racism, etc.
    3. Vonnegut, without realizing it, pinpointed something essential about Nietzscheanism in the streets
    4. RECITE PASSAGE [29:30] (Dwayne breaks, goes on rampage)
    5. Analysis [30:40]
      1. I am the only conscious person, all others are robots:
      2. Not just the sentiment of bourgeois intellectuals
      3. A common feeling of modern urban people, even intellectually/critically inclined poor people
      4. A product primarily of modern bourgeois society (esp. urban)—isolated loners, those who rebel against their environment, etc.
      5. This is due to the fracture of public vs private life
      6. Individual character lives privately, underground from social conventions, robotic existence

  12. Ramifications & evaluation [31:59]
    1. How does one do an end run around stasis?
    2. Reject the examples of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, etc.
    3. These folks also appeal to the non-bourgeois, for reasons stated above
    4. The working class autodidact must beware.
    5. No time now to detail the philosophies of Nietzsche and Heidegger, but their importance is overblown and they are way too influential
    6. These philosophies are not as deep as they seem. What is deep to some becomes a very trivial matter.

  13. William Blake [33:05]
    1. Though at times his writings couched in impenetrable personal mythology (took a century to decipher), and while not favorably disposed toward the Enlightenment, Blake is not a counter-Enlightenment figure either. He was different…
    2. A radical artisan autodidact, “prophetically” leaped over stages of historical development, saw more deeply into the oppressive foundations of society than the others discussed, already in the decades before and succeeding the year 1800
    3. For universal emancipation, though radically individualistic himself
    4. The opposite of the coldness and elite ideological viciousness of Nietzsche & co.
    5. Comparing Blake to Nietzsche: Why makes the likes of Nietzsche so special? Debunking is not the most advanced stage of critique
    6. Blake’s quote on Swedenborg
    7. See my Comparative Studies of William Blake & Other Modern Writers & Thinkers: A Bibliography for a Study in Ideology: note the misguided linkages between Blake and Nietzsche

  14. Conclusion: Quotes: [37:00]
    1. C.L.R. James on What They Do (From Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways]
    2. Final Blake quote: “The Voice of the Ancient Bard[40:20]

[End 42:09]

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Uploaded 28 January 2020

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