a more perfect world

From the comments on a previous post. It had a simple expression that please me:

A more perfect hell would still be hell, and there is a legitimate concern that a better future in which hell was less hellish is too remote to be motivating. The scale of a movement is beyond the scale of a human life.

If we emphasize the chemical nature of emotion we must also emphasize the chemical nature of meaning. The dysphoric condition is one in which the world is stripped completely of any meaning at the level of what is felt and intuited. What is a more perfect world in this condition? It is inconceivable, perfectibility being some mythic image of things belonging to a world of grandiosity regarding the qualities of this little ape.

The same problem is presented with joy. It is hard to think of joy as affirmation ever pushing one on to the desire for a more perfect world. The role of amor fati is to have us accept the world as it is, and in fact to love it.

The emotions seem like bad guides for politics, except as sites of manipulation. We have them and they get played. This is part of our puppet-condition, and Ligotti makes this clear in a number of stories.

At any rate, the question of “why should I care?” rears itself up again to block all movement. This time in the guise of the realization that immediatism-localism fails, while the futural realization of movement building has nothing to do with me. If you aren’t motivated by abstractions and hypotheticals like saving the environment for future generations, if you don’t care about generations to come but who do not exist, it’s pretty difficult to care.

Likely the only answer is a purposeful self-deception: I care about this future because only through caring about this future can I effect the present- my present and the present of those still living. I care about the future as my future and have nothing to do with the absurd demand to bear responsibility for every life that is yet to come.

A theoretical antinatalism that says it is wrong to invoke the future abstracted from our present. The future is a feedback loop and nothing more.

The potentially keeps us in the realms of a depressive realism but corrects the failure of that condition which is it’s tendency to be over-confident in assertions about the future.

At least we’d live in hell, instead of the hell in our minds.

I think we should acknowledge that pessimism is temperamental. It’s a question of character. But many utopias exist and the capitulation of utopia as a piece of weaponry in the armoury has simply resulted in a social machinery that increases suffering. The ethics of pessimism, insofar as pessimists have such an ethics, is centred on the reduction of suffering and the dictate not to cause suffering. It is impossible to withdraw from the machinery of suffering, and if it were wouldn’t this just be a turning away? A copping-out. The pessimist is in no way allowed off the hook, unless he is a misanthrope like the guy in The Sunset Limited who hates the others because they remind him of himself.

Of course what makes that film so interesting in the dialectic that goes on between the two characters as essentially the cognitive chatter in the pessimist’s own head. That the pessimist wins the argument means nothing. He merely wins the right to die. And this is the right to end his suffering. He merely reaps the very compassion he repudiates, even as he leaves his “keeper” in tatters.


A final comment: the idea that pessimistic views and optimistic views are chemical and so deserve no more weight one than the other is precisely the problem I have been floating around here.

For us who say such neurologically reductionist things- what is there to drive a person to value or to do *anything*. It is all chemicals. Everything loses its coherence and depression sets in. A structure is required and there are visions proffered: left and right; progressive and reactionary. One dreams of an integration but doubts the possibility.

A more perfect world? What is that. A world without suffering. This means one of two things: a world in which the capacity to suffer has been overcome, or a world in which there are no humans. Either insane transhumanism or an equally insane engineered extinction. My own favourite insanity is a combination of these. But come on, let’s admit it these are all insane!

A more perfect world belongs to people full of visions and dreams they cannot fully distinguish from reality. The condition of politics is psychosis. So is that our job? Do we accept our lunacy? Okay. Yes. We’re madmen! Our voices conjure realities out of the materials of hell!

It has nothing to do with perfection or perfectibility.

2 responses to “a more perfect world

  1. This is actually a response not specifically to this post but to another which I can’tell find right now. Someone posted it on Facebook and I made an initial rather inept response but have now revised it. Here it is. Make of it what you will:

    Interesting that you put forward manic and normal as the alternative positions rather than manic and depressed. Is describing the world as a cold dead corpse really getting at the scientific image or is it rather just another version of the manifest image, albeit a darkly poetic one? Aren’t both positions (manic and normal)equally the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain? Why privilege one over the other? I’m not sure that depressive realism is any closer to the real than the manic leftist illusions that you tacitly downgrade by opposing them to the ‘normal’ depressive realism. A depressive realist is less likely to suffer the inevitable gut wrenching disappointments but doesn’t that speak to a lack of courage more than anything else? It can of course be argued that those who reject depressive realism are the cowards because they can’t face the bleak reality, but how are we to judge which of these dispositions is normal and which is pathological? Is the True Detective compassionate nihilist position not paradoxical in that the desire for justice undermines the coherence of the nihilist worldview? Is Rust Cohle not really a beaten down leftist using the nihilist pose as a protective shell? I guess what I am trying to get at here is what depressive realism is or can be. I am skeptical as to whether it stands up as an ontological position for the reasons given above but maybe it can be an ethical standpoint, a defensive approach to political praxis that deploys the protective shell as a shield. But I’m not sure how far pessimism of the intellect and nihilation of the will is going to get us.

    • A depressive realism is a position that makes an accurate assessment of the present. But yes, it is bad at understanding the future because depression makes global judgements on the future. The future is just an orientation though. It isn’t real. It’s a fiction. There is only ever this moment.

      I have said elsewhere that the death of the future is its liberation. It becomes open again, and therefore contestable, while the present settles back into place as the point at which our assessments have to take place. And when I say assessment I mean something like a clinical assessment of need. In fact I don’t mean “something like”- I literally mean exactly that.

      The position of Rust in TD isn’t that of a nihilist, although he does have some nihilism in him. Rust’s compassion is also fully consistent with pessimism, a philosophy for which suffering is the great evil and the only motivator. On this point Rust is simply a manifestation of Schopenhauer’s ethics.

      Ultimately you’re right about the ontological value of pessimism. But it isn’t an ontology. It is an aesthetics. There is no other way to think of it. Whether one is an idealist or a materialist, pessimism is a dark poetry of being. It does not itself describe being.

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