Evil and imitation
In yesterday’s daily note, I put forward an idea in my own words, an idea often found in Christian thought, that evil is an imitation and an inversion. I drew a parallel between Sartre and Heidegger—the former copied and inverted the latter’s philosophy, so it became solipsistic and atomised; and Sartre was on the left in the political realm, whereas Heidegger was on the right.
I then drew a techno-economic parallel to NASA: the agency was authentic and reality-adjusted for the moonshot, being mainly composed from formerly private companies or private companies slaved to a singular state project. After that achievement, the agency became a parody of space exploration—so that today it intends to send astronauts back to the Moon, an objective long-ago achieved, the point being political because these astronauts will be black and female (so that space exploration is not the point, so much as a political quota to be delivered—and even that very slowly). Real space exploration, meanwhile, devolves to SpaceX and its Mars project.
I then noted the connection to Schopenhauer: the tendency to imitate and invert is feminine, because women are driven by the will-to-life alone (the need to reproduce), whereas men are driven by what Schopenhauer refers to as “the intellect” (but we could call “an objective outlook”).
The person preoccupied with the will-to-life cannot create authentic projects in the world—they can only imitate what is real and, to gain attention from the authentic creator, invert it because the inversion simulates authentic creation and also act as a flirtation to draw attention to the imitator.
If you ever show a woman how to do an activity, you will notice that she will “play dumb” with you—she knows how to do it but pretends to be helpless to draw attention to herself or to activate your protective instincts (doubtless as some biological fitness test). Hence the inauthentic imitator thinks that an imitation that inverts the authentic constitutes genuine creation—except it does not.
Hence all the world’s religions, so far as I know, caution men against women—“they are after your barn” as Hesiod observed. Schopenhauer provides the reason: women are dominated by the sexual reproductive drive—as all religions say—and so cannot engage with reality in such a way as to create in a genuine way.
The accusation “men only think about sex” is projection from women—it’s because men don’t always think about sex that they can create authentic projects (don’t take sex in the strict sense here—also think about “just doing it to get your attention”, as an adjunct to flirtation, which could be a non-sexual act).
Feminine men are narcissistic like women. It is not that they literally want to have sex with authentic men—Sartre wasn’t “gay for” Heidegger. However, narcissism is a form of play-acting where you get people to “fall in love with” your image; and the image is often an imitation of what is authentic so tweaked (inverted) to be popular and seductive (in a broad, non-sexual sense).
Hence feminine men, being actors, are like women and are also liable to create inverted imitations—and that is what we call evil (i.e. in deviation from reality—which, notably, is “synonymous with the silent operation of the essential part”, otherwise known as “quality”, so that people who draw attention to themselves cannot be high quality; “prideful”, “pride parades”).
This is evident in figures like Robin Williams. He was a very popular comedian, very manic—and very unhappy. Comedy is a very low art form, among the lowest—but it is esteemed in the democracy because the democracy inverts and values what is low quality, and because comedy drags what is higher down to the lowest level.
Comedy is low quality because it imitates and inverts to draw attention to itself, to cause you to laugh—notably Williams was an impersonator. The impersonator copies the characteristics of a person and then exaggerates them to cause that person to be subject to ridicule.
You can see the impersonator’s manic energy, his tendency to invert, in the below clip—in which Williams also reveals “the tears behind the mask”, linked to the fact he self-abases himself as a career and does not receive real respect from other men (to destroy any childhood illusions about Williams, for those of a certain age—blue genies and Mrs. Doubtfire notwithstanding).
If comedy is among the lowest art forms, what is the highest art form? Schopenhauer is correct once again—music is the highest art form. This is because music is an objective impersonal force—the highest form being without lyrics at all—so that there is little scope to “draw attention to yourself” with it. Music reflects reality, it doesn’t imitate it—music is reality’s mirror; and we can draw a parallel to the Buddhist idea that enlightenment is to polish the mirror so that it reflects reality so well that the mirror vanishes.
The impersonal nature in music demonstrates a situation where Schopenhauer’s “intellect” predominates over “will”—and Schopenhauer would say a man like Beethoven would be 2/3 intellect and 1/3 will, whereas ordinary men are more like 2/3 will and 1/3 intellect (and women, I presume, are 1/1 will-to-babies).
A figure like Williams sought attention, like a woman, flirted with his audience, and so did not submit “will” to “intellect” to a sufficient degree to create beautiful art (only, really, entertainment—which, like woman and her chatter and sexual attributes, remains, in the final analysis, trivial; as it happens “Trivia” was a Latin name for the Moon—the lunar feminine is “trivial” by its very nature).
There is a craze for “empathy” on the left—and you might think that “empathy” is a moral category and very ancient. Empathy is not a moral category, nor is it ancient—the term was coined at the borderline of the 19th and 20th centuries by an American psychologist who wished to translate a German term—Einfühlung, popular in the early 19th century—for an American audience. The term referred to the way we appreciate art—it was not “moral” at all.
Empathy means that if you stand before a Doric column that you begin to imitate the column—perhaps you stand with your legs in a braced and solid position like the column, perhaps you stretch out so that you are tall and straight like the column. The idea is that when we appreciate art we imitate it to come into relation with it. So to be empathetic means that you copy other people—like a woman copies them, or a comic impersonator copies them.
To imitate is not the same as to reflect—the reflective act has no interpretative element, whereas “empathy”, as a theory of artistic interpretation, is so by its nature. To ask people to “have empathy” for others is the suggestion that it is “moral” to treat others as a work of art into which one must enter imaginative sympathy.
“Sympathy” is almost a synonym for “empathy” in the social realm—“with-feeling”, to have the same feelings as the other as they experience them; it’s just an older word that refers to the social act, and really the left does not mean we should have “empathy” for people—they mean “sympathy”. Yet if they put it like that people would react more strongly against it, because if I just went round saying “be more sympathetic” to people you’d pin me as very weak and mushy at once—whereas “empathy” has fewer negative connotations “tea and sympathy”, not “tea and empathy” (empathy is more psychological, more scientific—comes from psychology, not common usage; even if that is half-forgotten).
The idea that to empathise with a person is a moral act perhaps owes something to late 19th-century men like Nietzsche and Wilde for whom the aesthetic experience itself constitutes the highest value (and Victorians had already replaced religion, to a large extent, with art appreciation itself). Hence when the left asks us to have empathy I see a Nietzschean element there—it is to say aesthetic appreciation trumps moral laws; and that is in line with Nietzsche, a leftist thinker because he denied metaphysical reality and God (hence his influence on the left in this regard).
Empathy may or may not be an important component in the way we appreciate art—but it cannot be connected to the creation of art, since it is not objective (it’s consumer-centred, if you like); and it is doubtful that it can tell us much about how to treat each other or how to run society, for it encourages us to imitate, like women, and in that imitation there is interpretation and that interpretation can become a narcissistic inversion.
In conclusion, what is authentic and good will be found where the will-to-life has been suppressed—and that includes not just the suppression of anything feminine in the direct sexual sense but also any “flirtation” (comedy, journalism, entertainment) that might cause us to draw attention to ourselves and invert as we copy so as to be all the more “famous”.