On Hearing A Brother’s Pain

This is not about anyone in particular, but is meant to portray a common theme of life.

He told me the story of what is happening in his life, and here I feel an emptiness in my stomach. I am no longer with him, but I am the only one here, solitary in my room, curled on the floor, wielding a wrath and grief against the Evil One who did this and the Divine One who allowed it. His words brought me some unspeakable anguish that raises a mountainous cry that can never be heard by men. It twists my soul into unretractable knots, surges of anger and pain and confusion and hatred and tormented helplessness and blazing hopelessness. My heart does not ache metaphorically. A passion rears large, then is turned to passionate defeat by the thought, “This passion can do nothing, and is felt in vain.” A tremendous, unconquerable spurning in my side to change the past, to pummel the evil thing that has happened until it is dead and then keep beating it over and over until my rage has passed in twenty lifetimes, and knowing I can’t do that and it will happen to millions of others until the End.

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Wisdom of the Moderns: The Will to Power

Many philosophers have searched for a single motivating factor in humans, or one foundational attribute of human psychology that can explain all of humanity’s actions. One possibility put forward is rational self-interest. This theory claims that a person always acts in their own self-interest, and they discern their own self-interest through their use of reason and rationality. This is an especially common assumption in economics. The theory can explain some phenomena, but it ultimately fails. It is apparent from everyday experience that people do not act rationally. Even if they know a certain path of action will benefit them the most, such as studying for an exam, people sometimes choose to go to a party instead. Furthermore, in Notes from the Underground, Dostoyevsky observes that people have a deep need to feel that they have free will. If a person’s rationality proves to him that he has no free will, then rationality and self-interest will be in direct conflict. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche calls free will, “The hundred-times-refuted theory” (§18). Therefore, a person is forced to reject either rationality or self-interest. This conclusively proves that people cannot be motivated by rational self-interest, as it results in a contradiction.

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Theories of Gender and Sexuality: The Combahee Contradiction

The Combahee River Collective is a group of black lesbian feminists operating in the mid to late 1970s (CRC 63). In “A Black Feminist Statement,” they remind the reader of the presence of black women in political activist movements throughout the history of America. They then describe the events and discoveries that led them to create the Collective. Finally, they describe their politics, which can be summarized in three principles. The Collective adheres to identity politics, resists fractionalization, and holds to Marxism. Despite the valuable contributions which the document provides, its adoption of identity politics leads to hypocrisy, as can be seen through their failure to mention disadvantaged groups other than themselves. Although this glaring silence does exist, the Collective itself would dispute any charge of hypocrisy.

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Wisdom of the Moderns: Smith and the Anguish of Being Evil

In Shakespeare’s Othello and Macbeth, and in John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, we find individuals face great anguish when they are faced with the question of the value of life. A solution to Shakespeare’s characters can be found in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith would say that Othello temporarily ignored his impartial spectator until he had committed an evil so great that he could not bear the accusation of his spectator once he again felt its force. Macbeth, on the other hand, continually insisted on self-deceit, though he could feel the force of his spectator weighing upon him. Smith can partially answer Mill. He would say that Mill’s spectator did not function properly because Mill could not imagine his case in someone else. However, Smith would not be able to answer the core of Mill’s problem.

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