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Fear and Dissembling

Philosophically, it is impossible to ground claims about the ultimate value or quality of living entities, e.g. genetic quality.

Such ways of speaking can make some sense, like when we say “this horse is higher quality than that horse,” because, for all of our practical intents and purposes, a strong and fast horse is preferable to a weak and slow horse.

But the fact that some horses—or some humans—have more or less of certain qualities generally preferred by most people has no ultimate philosophical or scientific significance greater than the fact that I prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate ice cream.

Evolutionary psychologists are occasionally liable to overconfidence in the philosophical or scientific validity of how they perceive biological quality.

Any criteria or principle by which one might try to justify such rank orderings of qualities suffers from the problem of infinite regress. One cannot fully justify the principle of justification without taking recourse to another principle, which would need another principle, and so on.

Here, it is only religious people who are honest in saying: Reason can take us no further, but we choose to believe—on faith—that this kind of human behavior is better than that kind of human behavior. And we try to live accordingly, but the faith-based aspect requires us to see that—ultimately—we are all in the dark, equally.

How many readers do you need? Kierkegaard only hoped for one

From Copenhagen on his 30th birthday (May 5, 1843), Kierkegaard wrote the following in the Preface for his first book, Two Upbuilding Discourses:

Although this little book… only wishes to be what it is, something of a superfluity, and only desires to remain in secret, as it came into existence in secret, I still have not said farewell to it without an almost fantastic hope. Insofar as it, by being published, is, figuratively speaking, starting out on a kind of journey, I let my eye follow it a little while. I saw, then, how it set out on its solitary way, or solitary set out along the highway. After one and another little misapprehension, when it was deceived by a fleeting resemblance, it finally met that individual whom with joy and gratitude I call my reader, that individual whom it seeks, toward whom, as it were, it stretches out its arms; that individual who is benevolent enough to let himself be found, benevolent enough to receive it, whether in the moment of meeting it found him happy and confident, or "melancholy and thoughtful." On the other hand, insofar as, by being published, it in a stricter sense remains quiet without leaving the place, I let my eye rest on it for a little while. It stood there, then, like an insignificant little blossom in its hiding place in the great forest, sought for neither for its showiness nor its fragrance nor its food value. But I saw also, or believed that I saw, how the bird whom I call my reader, suddenly fixed his eye upon it, flew down to it, plucked it off, and took it to himself. And when I had seen this, I saw nothing more.

Two Upbuilding Discourses

If one person reads your blog, that should be enough to keep you going.

If ten people read your blog, you should feel privileged and extremely motivated to give them better and better work.

If a few hundred people read your blog, this might seem like a trivially small audience relative to social media celebrities but it’s a large audience relative to many great thinkers in history! As I wrote about in Lessons from Nietzsche’s Awful Publishing Results, his book Human, All Too Human only sold 120 copies in the first year.

You don’t have writer’s block, you’re just being evil

“Boredom is the root of all evil―the despairing refusal to be oneself.” ― Soren Kierkegaard in Either/Or

If you are unable to think and express words, something is certainly wrong, but you are not “blocked.” Your brain is a ceaseless machine. It identifies and creates connections. When it gets blocked, we call that “a stroke.” If you’re not having a stroke, you are not blocked.

Without trying, you will always find yourself having observations, affects, ideas, emotions.

If you are not moved to write or speak about your observations and ideas, if you do not wish to express your affects or emotions, it is typically because you don’t want to share them. For instance, you find your ideas uninteresting or dumb. But how is that even possible? Having arisen in your mind, your ideas are the definition of what is interesting to you, and they arise at precisely your level of intelligence.

The underlying problem is that you lie to yourself about who you are.

You tell yourself you’re more profound than you are, so your actual ideas seem uninteresting.

You tell yourself you’re smarter than you are, so your actual ideas seem dumb.

Lying to yourself about who you are is no less evil than lying to a friend about something important.

An intellectual does not become unproductive because of some mysterious ailment called “writer’s block.” An unproductive intellectual is an intellectual lost in Evil. Many people think “writer’s block” is a real phenomenon and Evil is only a mystical superstition. In fact, “writer’s block” is the superstition, and Evil the real phenomenon.

To escape the sin of intellectual boredom―to think and write and speak with great motivation, no matter what―it is only necessary to affirm what you are, or as Nietzsche put it, to become who you are. When you stop lying to yourself about yourself, what were once dumb ideas and unsophisticated feelings become the most interesting questions you’e ever encountered. For it is only now that you are, in fact, encountering them.

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