Friday, January 7, 2022

On Medium: Nicolas Cole’s Popular Sophistry

Read on about networked lemmings, power-law distributions, writing advice in the creator economy, art versus commerce, and the reality that undercuts self-help twaddle.


  1. I found an old thread on a philosophy forum that you might find interesting:

    The discussion touches upon aesthetics and the fundemental grounding of reality. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on it, particularly regarding the comments made by Schopenhauer1, an antinatalist (who seems to be a fairly active member on the forum).

    One thing I am especially struck by, and this is something that's becoming more apparent with time as I continue to read these antinatalist arguments, is the incessant emphasis on the negative. Their disdain for the positive aspects of life seems to preclude any discussion pertaining the essentiality of goodness. To put it simply, they always believe that one requires needs in order to be happy, but don't consider the fact that needs themselves could be a result of a privation of a previous state of satisfaction. Qua negatives, they still feel real of course. However, the important point is that the goods don't simply matter because they nullify a harm; they have as much intrinsic value as suffering has intrinsic disvalue.

    I also had a question regarding aesthetics (forgive me, by the way, for this somewhat lengthy comment. I just thought I might explicate my comments more). I've seen some people say that one could see the word aesthetically—in a negative light. In other words, it becomes a tool of negation rather than affirmation. Do you have any thoughts on that? Personally, I am inclined to think that the negative-leaning aesthetics is flawed, since it doesn't seem to possess the potency of affirmation that comes through openly "rebelling" against the absurd and the tragic. Negative aesthetics might be bolstered by the mindless and seemingly pointless nature of existence (although, I don't believe that contentment is either pointless or mindless), but it stops there. The positive aspect, however, finds the "invincible summer" that Camus had talked about. Instead of giving up, it leads to the genesis of an eternal flame that doesn't bow down to the void; it embraces it. I am not too well-versed with this, but I suppose the tragedy metamorphoses into a form of ... comedy? Or perhaps a higher kind of jubilation, a sort of celebration of being, if you will. At least, that's how I tend to see it. The point is, I believe that the affirmative side of aethsetics is more fulfilling, and thus is, in my view, ultimately more powerful and dynamic.

    As always, I hope that you have a wonderful day ahead!

    1. That debate seems specifically to be about Schopenhauer, but I don't have the time to read it in depth. Schopenhauer's pessimism takes us to Buddhism, Jainism, and Hindu monism, which I write about elsewhere.

      But sure, extreme pessimists focus on the negative. This is a mental condition, not a philosophy. The philosophy is often just a rationalization of certain antisocial character traits or personal failures.

      It's generally fallacious to reduce a viewpoint in this way, but sometimes it's obvious, as in Inmendham's case. There is such a thing as a mentally ill person's diatribe, after all, and we needn't treat such a rant as being philosophically respectable. I'm not saying the Schopenhauer discussion is so egregious, but defenses of antinatalism often aren't worthy of being philosophically scrutinized.

      Regarding aesthetics, I've emphasized the negative aesthetic assessment of nature, especially in my earlier writings on this blog. I call nature "monstrous," "inhuman," and so on, which is equivalent to highlighting nature's ugly side (links below). But I'm ambivalent about an overall judgment. What I suspect is that this kind of universal aesthetic appreciation hints at a transhuman perspective which is only barely in our grasp. The ultimate aesthetic judgment may transcend positive or negative values or it may be a bittersweet judgment that mixes the two.

      In any case, no I don't assume that nature is simply beautiful. The point of bringing in aesthetics is to get at nonsocial or neglected kinds of positive and negative reactions.

      And I've also considered the comedic aspect of life's absurdity (see the last few links below).

      By the way, your comments are going through. It's just that sometimes it takes a while for me to respond, especially if the comment is long.


    2. Thanks a lot for this thoughtful reply. My apologies for the late response—I have been busy with reading and discussions on the Philosophy Forum.

      I probably wouldn't have spent as much time debating antinatalists as I do if I didn't sense that some people are falling prey to its rhetoric quite easily these days. I think it's time that one makes it clear that efilism has not been ignored because it's impossible to debunk; it has been neglected because it doesn't deserve much attention in the first place.

      I agree that nature is both beautiful and ugly. Ignoring the ugly sides will only lead to harm in the long run when it comes face to face with us. If one doesn't have a balanced approach, there could be a risk of falling into a bottomless pit of misery and doubt. If one can avoid such holes, they would be able to bask in the light of that which is ineffably majestic.