Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tenth PDF Installment of RWUG and a Necronomicon

Here's the tenth eBook installment of this blog, collecting the last several articles in PDF format. The other installments are located here


P.S. I'm working now on a Necronomicon formulation of this blog's philosophy, somewhat like Cyclonopedia. The conceit is that the ultimate, horrific theory of the nature of reality might be scrawled on a wall by a madman, and the revelation is preserved and published in textbook form for your perusal (at the risk of the loss of your sanity). The result is a peculiar blend of fiction and nonfiction, secular science and religious megalomania, dry academic jargon and ecstatic poetry. I'll likely post this RWUG Necronomicon in individual chapters as I complete them, and afterward I'll anthologize them. 


  1. Grats. Are you surprised you've written so much? Did you expect to get this far when you started out?

    1. Graduate school prepared me to write a lot. Before I started this blog, I'd already written many academic articles plus a 220 page dissertation. These blog articles aren't as polished as that academic work, but I think they're more fun to read. Also, the more you write, the easier writing becomes.

      But I am pleasantly surprised that I figured out a coherent take on so many issues. I jumped into political, historical, aesthetic, ethical, psychological, and pop cultural issues, among others, and found that my take on them came from the same starting point. I think it was Daniel Dennett who said that you don't know what you believe until you try writing your beliefs down and you see whether you agree with what you've written. A blog is like a journal in that respect; sometimes, I outline the article before I write it, but many times I just trusted that I'd come up with the goods while writing the first draft. I'd have to think of something interesting to say about this or that which coheres with what I've already said.

      I suppose I'm surprised, then, that my subconscious has been able to keep track of all of these ideas. I remember that in the first year or two of writing this blog I had the whole blog in my head. I knew all the twists and turns of all the arguments in all the articles. But the more I wrote, the harder it was to keep them all in my head. Now there's no chance of that, but on the flip side, I've worked out a more or less coherent worldview, so I don't need to memorize all the steps in all the arguments as long as I see the big picture. I can deduce what I should say about this or that based on the assumptions I've worked out. The downside of this is that the writing isn't as exploratory. I used to write by way of exploring what I should say about some issue, without knowing in advance what I'd say. Now I know what should be said, based on this blog's worldview, so there's less artistic freedom in writing it all out. However, there are still endless issues I haven't touched on, so there are more mountains to explore. Plus, there are other modes of expression: novels, graphic novels, Necronomicon, raps.

  2. Hi there Ben. I've been reading your blog for the past few months and have found your articles very interesting and they've certainly influenced me a great deal. Though I may be missing something and a lot of these concepts go over my head, I am a bit confused on one thing. What's the end goal? I've seen a lot of talk of tragic heroism and aesthetic rebellion, but it all just sounds so vague. What is one actually to do here and now in light of our existential situation?

    1. Hi, Unknown. (Assuming none of us truly knows ourselves, I suppose we're all Unknown.)

      I've avoided specific questions about how we should live, for at least two reasons. First, I'm not a therapist, so I have no business trying to provide such advice. Second, even were I so qualified, that advice would be empty without background knowledge on the reader or the patient in question. How could even a therapist give useful, responsible advice on what a specific person in a particular culture and family and economic situation should do in light of the big philosophical problems? There may be answers, but why should they be the same for everyone? I'd have to know a lot about what, say, a particular reader has done and what sort of person he or she is before I could even begin to contemplate what that reader should do to be true to themselves and to the nature of reality. There is an existentialist tradition in Western psychotherapy (see the wiki link below), which is a nice start.

      But if my back were up against the wall and I were forced to put together some sort of answer to your question, What's the concrete (as opposed to a vague) end goal in life?, I would return to the concept of authenticity. First, we should avoid lying to ourselves. Be on guard for when you're taking the easy way out. When we're forced to lie to others, because the world is fallen and we're often helpless in light of our animal weaknesses, we can at least cultivate the discipline to evaluate our deeds afterwards without mercy and to mentally flagellate ourselves when we fail to act with the heroism that this abominable world calls for.

      Herbert says in Dune that fear is the mind-killer. I think it's specifically fear of the truth, so that the archenemy is delusion. In a sense, all "truths" and representations are false in light of their aesthetic status, which means that in the end we're always just telling stories to pass the time waiting for absolute answers that can never arrive. But it's our attitude towards our representations that counts. Do we rely on some stories as crutches so that we ought to feel ashamed, even while we puff ourselves up and pretend to deserve others' admiration? It's the annoying sort of commonplace arrogance and ignorance that offend those with heightened existential sensibilities.

      So given what the natural facts are, don't be a dick. Perhaps that's what it boils down to. Be true to yourself, given what you really are. You are an animal, as is every other creature on this planet; but we are animals that dream of being something more, and we're condemned to have the meaning severed from our achievements because we know too much to be proud without resorting to self-delusion. As Christians say, we're fallen creatures, but Christianity gets it all wrong by moralizing our fallibility and our awkward, pathetic limitations. Nevertheless, we're prone to perpetrating great foolishness. Is it so much to ask that in the midst of our daily nonsense, we once in a while reflect on how marvelous would be an original, inspired break from our animalism? Can we be disgusted by that which is metaphysically disgusting? And can we act out of pity and empathy towards all who are foolish (i.e. towards absolutely everyone)? No more vanity or megalomania or petty sadism (as in Trump). No more pretenses or commitment to anachronistic do-nothing myths (as in monotheism). No more egoism or sociopathy (as in oligarchic capitalism). Be grimly artistic in how you manage your daily absurdities (after first learning to see the world as mostly absurd, that is, as an outrage).

      But again, who am I to give life advice? Thanks, though, for the thought-provoking question.