A Good Reputation Is Bad For Revolutionary Thought


Spinoza was offered a top university professorship. He declined it, and kept at his job, grinding glass to make the world’s most advanced lenses. Spinoza, who had given away his family fortune, to be free of common life, prefered living like a loser… breathing silicon, which is not good for the lungs, he died from it.  Spinoza prefered to think great thoughts, rather than to succumb to the seductive songs of the establishment. So it is, and has to be, for most top thinkers. In other words, when totally ignorant individuals posing as “moderators” on the Internet, threaten much more advanced thinkers with various punishments, or insult what they imagine to be their backgrounds, they should remind themselves that human beings can be so different from one another, that those higher up in wisdom and creativity may as well be interacting with different species, when they interface with the vulgar majority.

Once, long ago, I had this dream that I was resting, in the form of a sort of seal, on a lonely ice floe floating in the middle of a pristine blue sea under an azure sky. There was no other seal anywhere in sight. It was lonely. Supposing that hell is others, does not mean that loneliness is paradise, apparently. When I checked the fishes, I realized that they were armored, and primitive, straight out of the Silurian. I felt very much alone, and why was it, I had no idea. But so be it: “All loneliness is guilt”–thus speaks the herd. [Thus Spoke Zarathustra, First Part, “On the Way of the Creator”.] But all and any herd is obsolete, as far as creation is concerned… And what is more human than creation as a crown?

Spinoza’s family was forcefully converted to Catholicism around 1536 CE, when the Inquisition started to torture Portuguese Jews, converting them to Catholicism forcefully. Spinoza’s grandfather fled to Nantes, France, but then was expelled in 1615, due to France being then ruled by a Medicis banker queen and her fascist goon, Richelieu (after the unfortunate assassination of henri IV in 1610 CE). The Netherlands welcomed Sephardic Jews, though (they converted back to Judaism). Spinoza’s father Miguel was a successful merchant and became a warden of the synagogue and of the Amsterdam Jewish school. A pillar of society.

However, on July 27, 1656, Spinoza was issued the harshest herem, ban or excommunication, ever pronounced by the Jews of Amsterdam; it was never rescinded.

The Lords of the ma’amad, having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Espinoza, have endeavoured by various means and promises, to turn him from his evil ways. But having failed to make him mend his wicked ways, and, on the contrary, daily receiving more and more serious information about the abominable heresies which he practised and taught and about his monstrous deeds” Spinoza no doubt denied the immortality of the soul; he rejected the notion of a transcendent, providential God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and claimed that the “Law” (i.e., the commandments of the Torah and rabbinic legal principles) was neither given by God nor binding on Jews. 

Spinoza’s masterpiece (published posthumously) was “Ethics”.  Happiness and well-being lie not in a life enslaved to the passions and to the transitory goods we ordinarily pursue, nor in the superstitions that pass as religion, but rather in the life of reason. To reach these ethical conclusions, Spinoza first demystified the universe. 

Representation of Johanne d’Arc rendered 73 years after her vicious, torturous execution. However retrograde some aspects of D’Arc philosophy were, she certainly made a point that women could be at the forefront of civilization, fighting for what they thought to be right. No reason to stay subjugated, humanity always said. She spoke truth to power (read her letter to the King of England!)… The essence of the human condition…

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Hegel said, “The fact is that Spinoza is made a testing-point in modern philosophy, so that it may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.”[31] Twentieth Century philosopher Gilles Deleuze named Spinoza “the ‘prince’ of philosophers.”

In his lifetime, Spinoza published just one book under his name.  His Theological-Political Treatise, was published anonymously to great alarm in 1670. A critic called it “a book forged in hell by the devil himself”.

Would Spinoza have become Spinoza if Spinoza had cared about his reputation among his god-given peers? The answer is obvious: no. Acquiring a bad reputation among cultural retards was crucial. The solution was to go somewhere else and find better peers.

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If one looks at the panorama of the top 100 thinkers of all times, as determined by the major ideas they contributed to civilization, one is struck by their maverick characters: nearly all of them were mostly very WEIRD (WEIRD in the usual and then technical sense). Top intellectual creators generally got entangled with authority, typically getting enormous support and enormous opposition from the establishments: the paradigm of this situation is Archimedes, financed by the Syracuse tyrant, and assassinated by a Roman soldier for the impertinence of drawing geometry in the sand. Even more so, 13 centuries later, Abelard found himself in combat against Catholic Fundamentalism of the mass lethal type, in a homeric struggle against “Saint” Bernard. Abelard’s allies were formidable, but the theocratic fascists won (at least until Luther, another four centuries). Buridan, an even greater giant of thought, had a life that was nearly as eventful.

Abelard, making my point: “Logic has made me hated in the world.”[17]

The key to wisdom is in doubting and questioning. In doubting we come to skepticism, and in skepticism we come to investigation, and via investigation we come to the truth.[18]  

That top thinkers are WEIRD, I have been saying this for decades, but now the subject is broached a bit, somewhat naively, and part wrong, in a book by Joseph Henrich the head of the department of evolutionary psychology at Harvard University:

The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous.

The reason for the weirdness of superior creators is extremely simple: elaborating new thoughts, new ideas, new emotions, new ways, new technology, new science, new art, new critique, new language and new attitudes is the most human endeavor, but it requires walking on other souls, on common people’s minds, and kicking them around. So the commons kicked back, and since there are so many of them, the situation of edge thinkers is always difficult, brittle, uncertain, lonely and often painful and lethal. 

One can see this plainly with the Internet, and what I call COVIDIOTS, and Interbeciles: there are incredibly vicious, prompt to “cancel”, characters out there, in great hurry to find subjects to trash with their hatred. 

The mask masquerade was pretty stupid: it fully backfired, by making the pandemic way worse; I was only verbally threatened in the wilderness half a dozen times (I wear masks inside stores, of course)… but it is still the masks got politicized to the point, it is literally impossible to talk about it (“social” networks and some media block comments on it; meanwhile Europe, finally seeing the obvious, outlawed most masks…). 

If one gets incredibly stupid feedback, it does not just lowers the debate, it cancels the need of cultural transmission, a great, and characteristically human instinct. Imagine talking to a dog: do you feel motivated rolling out the most sophisticated arguments ever imagined? 

Now imagine the dog is vicious: what to do? As a mountain runner, I know the answer well: grab a stone… most vicious dogs are smart enough to understand that kind of argument. Another idea is to move away from where vicious dogs are. That’s exactly what  Spinoza did, he changed cities.

More generally doing less than state of the art meditation lowers a genius’ creativity. So Spinoza gifted the family business to his brother, and kept grinding his lenses, getting a very small income from it, much of it from friends. Yet, it was not just lens grinding, it was a state of the art of science activity. Spinoza, favouring small objectives, debated microscope design with Christiaan Huygens. He collaborated on calculations for a prospective 42-foot (13 m) focal length telescope, the world’s largest, which was realized ten years after his untimely death, using the lens he had worked on. 

Huyghens himself was the mathematical physicist who invented the pendulum clock, the dispersion-less telescope optics, elucidated the centrifugal force (1659 CE) and is the creator of the  wave theory of light (which has won, as far as I am concerned); he was financed by… the French dictator Louis XIV. (Louis loved to think of himself as an intellectual, and he was, just of the fascist type…) The fact Louis financed Huyghens illustrates the fact most of the geniuses did not have an academic career: universities existed for a millennium, but most top thinkers had troubled, or non-existent relationships with them. Actually just the opposite: universities often opposed intellectual progress. An amusing illustration is that Darwin had no academic position, evolution being outlawed in English universities: Darwin and Lyell had to go to Scotland to be taught Lamarck’s theory of biological evolution. 

Lamarck’s bad reputation was mostly due to his success: the hard core Christians hated him. Lamarck had demonstrated, thanks to mollusks and the microscope, that biological evolution happened naturally, and was many million years old. The god of the Bible, the Jews, and master terrorists Constantine, inventor of Catholicism, and Theodosius, inventor of the Inquisition, was definitely in contradiction with the facts.

Universities are crucial to civilization, but also to the establishment which rules said civilization. Universities naturally attract individuals more obsessed by their reputation relative to the universities’ sponsors, the establishment, than maverick thinkers keen to show that their predecessors did not know how to think optimally. 

One does not make omelettes without breaking eggs, and the bigger the omelette, the more eggheads have to be broken. Revolutionary thinking never has been, never will be, nor should it ever be, popular. This is the lesson of Socrates’ Death.

The greatest thinkers will study cockroaches, but won’t fall in love with them… nor should they.

Patrice Ayme

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Note: This essay honors two of my philosophical adversaries, implicitly raising them to the top 100, Johannes d’Arc, and Socrates.I disapprove of the blonde Pucelle for nationalism: a unification solution had been found to the “100 year war”; without that solution the war went on for another 4 centuries.  The world would have been very different if the united kingdom had been made of France and England, as it was twice, for centuries, prior. So I proposed uncharitably that it may have been better, had she been roasted earlier.

Yet, D’Arc carried a bigger message: anti-establishment, gender equality, and indominability of the human spirit serving justice… although here the justice served was debatable… 

The same applies for Socrates, in his judgment against Athenian democracy…Socrates, Plato and Aristotle served plutocracy, in the end: they destroyed democracy. Yet, that attack of Socrates was partly justified, from lack of democratic institutions moderating the people’s moods. 

Nevertheless Socrates should have been free to speak, be it only to offer the occasion to trash his point of view: Socrates was not the one who had acted the most nefariously… Just the one who had established the most vicious mood antinomic to democracy. Cancelling him with hemlock did not help Athens, because it deprived greater thinkers to rise to the occasion and demonstrate how to override Socrates (as the Roman Republic and the European Middle Ages did, by creating democratic institutions…) 

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2 Responses to “A Good Reputation Is Bad For Revolutionary Thought”

  1. Gmax Says:

    This Is a point you have long made, that geniuses are not popular in their lives, or at least hated. It conflicts with the mob effect of the Internet

    Like

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