On Some Recent Inactivity

I’ve once more taken a step back from all things internet-related, though not for any reason related to my mental health. Indeed, I cannot pin down any reason why I’ve done so – the choice simply manifested as a consequence of my failure to do otherwise. What, then, lies behind it? What is underneath it? The answers to these questions I’d like now to share.

Prelude: The difference between thought and action

It should be clear that to think and to do are two entirely clear and distinct notions, at least so far we think of them. Whether or not these are “actually” the same or different isn’t a matter of concern for me. Out and about in this world of things, we know full well that merely to consider and to act are not the same thing, for any consideration is itself an act which defies itself. By this, I mean that, if we consider, we do something otherwise than the consideration – we sit and consider, or lay down and consider, or take a break and consider, and so forth. From the vantage of the physical, the realm in which action occurs, consideration is null, as it must take place along with some other physical act. What’s more, the consideration itself occurs in the mind and, therefore, is totally incommensurate with all activity as occurring physically. Thus, the so-called “act” of contemplation is at once an act (so far as it is along with something embodied and physical) and yet not an act (so far as it is mental and thus opposes all things physical).

Such is the well-worn distinction between the vita activa and the vita contemplativa, as discussed by Aristotle (Aristotle and Reeve 2017) and Hannah Arendt (Arendt and Baehr 2003), but also by Lenin (Zetkin n.d.), Marx (Marx n.d.), Hegel (Hegel 2018), and numerous other thinkers.

Action in society

Suffice it to say, this is not a novel distinction, nor can I claim it to be as such. What I would like to claim instead, however, is that society demands of us that we live more actively than contemplatively. By society, I don’t mean some abstruse concept of “human nature in groups” or the nebulous society in the phrase “we live in a society.” No, I do not mean “a society.” I mean, rather, society as a predicate, as something neither said of nor in a thing (Aristotle and McKeon 2001). When I am amidst a group of people, I am in their society. When I am among rich people, I am among “high society”. Thus, when I use “society” in this way, I don’t mean a definite “collective” over and above the individuals constituting it. Rather, I mean something predicated of those individuals as a group, but without committing to “society” as some stuff that controls them. No, the individuals taken together are society, as am I.

Thus, when I say that society demands of me action, I don’t mean that being in “a” society demands this but, rather, that the lived, embodied experience of being-around-others in a manner present to my mind as society demands this of me. To make this concrete: if I am among a group of people, I cannot introduce any theoretical ideas concerning something I’ve just read. Not only is the timing improper, the being-among-the-group necessitates and demands that I never, under any circumstance, introduce such ideas. It is simply, absolutely, completely, and without a shred of doubt as I write, wrong to do this. “Our society” does not dictate this to me; rather, it is the experience of being around others itself which does so. Thus, I dictate it to myself, but only because I as a finite knower am running up against other finite knowers and, experiencing this, I witness our collectivity as negating and doing violence against what is given purely and simply to my own awareness.

I must, instead, act outwardly as a speech-act, saying what is given to all of us so far as we are actors in the physical. This is the demand of society, of being-around-others: what you think be quashed so that what you do can prevail.

The judgment of action

But action as its own predicate is an evil, precisely because of the violence it does against me as a person. No one can act without their action being considered as a formal genus, or high-level group, under which all content of their action is situated. Thus, if I were to transgress the bounds of society and simply begin to speak of myself, I would be judged as finite speaker for using up the finite time allotted to us as a social group. Indeed, I dominate the group in this way.

How is this so? By genus, again, I mean a high-level group or, rather, a group with subgroups, species. Now, action as a genus comprehends two species, for-itself and for-others. Action for itself is action which is justified by the actor on his or her own terms, whereas action for-others is the physical appearance of the action – it is the sufficient condition for the action’s being an action. (Action being for itself is merely the necessary condition.) Thus, something considered is an action only if it appears as such; that is, something is only an action only if it makes an entrance onto the perceptual sphere. If something does appear as performed by an actor, though, it has grounds for being called an action. Thus, we arrive at this diagram:

Now, I claim that this is the essential, immanent constitution of action for all knowers. That is, we cannot conceive of action except as it is twofold, for itself and for others. No action at all can be considered as merely for itself – thus no woman wears lipstick purely “for herself” and no man works out purely “for himself.” These are sham lies each likes to tell themselves so as, on some level, to create an illusory sense of individuality. To that I say: farce! Each thing is also and cannot fail to be done for others – the woman wants attention for her red lips, the man wants attention for his muscles. Each wants to be seen, they want to appear, and this is the essential constitution of what it is to act at all. Show me the man in the street, and I will point to you the essential aspects of his acts constituted for others. Even this, dear reader, too is immanently constituted for you as well as for me. Yes, I admit it – I want you to read and think of me as I write! How dare I expect that we social beings want such attention from others!

But this is essentially evil, so far as it avoids or violates the essential being of each individual actor. What do I mean? Action is the only location for knowledge of the actor. By this I mean that actors cannot be known on their own terms – this is the essential suspicion all men (and women) have for each other. No one can know what another is thinking (obviously). Instead of being content to live in ignorance of what surrounds us, each of us looks for signs of what men and women are thinking, hence such common and blasé phrases as “body language” and “chemistry”. These euphemisms hide and conceal a dirty fact about each of us – we are constantly on the prowl for certitude about others, and none of us wants to admit it. We look into each other’s eyes and slightly change their intensity, glancing this way or that so as to signify a thought or emotion. We are acting on this, the great stage of life, performing for others what we feel inside.

The structure of the judgment discussed above takes the form of this semiotic behavior, as mediated through the genus “action” and its species for-itself and for-others. We can think of this as a process in several steps. First, someone sees another do something. Immediately and without thinking, the seer presumes that the action was carried out by the doer for himself; that is, the seer assumes the doer intended the action. Then, he considers what this intention might be, a consideration so rapidly following from the first that the two may well be said to occur at the same time. The intention is sought out through a dialectic, or a “back and forth” between what the seer witnesses in the action for-itself and for-others. How? Having presumed intention, the seer calls to mind a list of all prior intentions and their related appearances through action and, finding one that appears to agree with what he has just seen, he suspects the actor of intending something, but only because he remembers other actors having intending it when performing the same action elsewhere. This “calling to mind” presumes that the action is done for-others in society. That is, it presumes that the actor not only intends for himself, but that he wants others to know his intention. Presuming this, he is secured in his search for previous actions and intentions, because he is confident that the appearance of the action is a thing which can be considered alongside previous acts. The final judgment, then, says something like – “This actor intended this thought because I saw him do this thing.”

Thus, the judgment entails a relation of appearance to essence, where the “essence” here understood is the mind of the actor as the ground upon which action became possible. We’re interested in this precisely because, once the mind has been accurately circumscribed, we can prevent ourselves from the traps and snares, to use the language of Pslams, of those around us. Social semiosis and its consequent judgments are, in this way, an essentially anxious and protective process – when we are sure that what appears derives from its grounds of appearance, we can attempt to predict what will follow.

The evil of action

But why is this judgment evil, if its practice is essentially protective? Easy: it is nothing other than a protection of the self. Let the evils of fear and anxiety speak for themselves – I need only point to medieval pogroms, witch-burnings, government propaganda from throughout the entirety of the 20th century, and so on. Every act a man carries out is essentially of this character for those who see it. Each act a man takes thus has, if only latently, the same character for those who witness it as those acts witnessed by those in support of Nazi Germany. As a threat to life, it essentially engages the semiotic impulse and demands a recoil of the self into itself and away from its potential threats.

The semiotic impulse is, then, essentially evil, because it demands and is predicated entirely on a system of information-production whose duty is to do violence against the references through which it operates. The demand of the semiotic impulse is to put all men into the box of the action as a predicate – to say “he has done this”. Having done so, we already have scrutinized the act and put it into our own terms and from our vantage point (hence the superiority of the via negativa in describing God for Pseudo-Dionysius (Pseudo-Dionysius 500AD)).

When we put what is essentially a manifold and many-sided thing, the appearance, in terms of a proposition, we neatly package it and enable its quality as ready-made for the semiotic impulse to begin its work. Most of the time, we will be correct enough in our packaging, but never will our statement be entirely commensurate with the act (or else the act itself would be nothing but the statement, and this is an absurdity!) Indeed, language will always fail to capture that towards which it refers and, failing thus, the semiotics between the appearance and its essence (the mind of the doer) will be forever impoverished in attempting to circumscribe intentions. Again, the impulse would not exist if it did not enjoy some kind of success – we can predict others motives, and do so often. Yet, this is precisely what makes semiotics of this sort evil – it violates the essence of the doer. It cannot achieve the doer’s essence, yet it behaves as though it could. It is this essential self-enclosure of mind in saying “Yes! I have figured him out! He’s nothing but a phony!” which constitutes evil which forever typifies and makes generic what is essentially something specific and unique to him alone.

This is, however, a foremost locus for self-clarification and self-understanding, so far as action constantly triumphs over the limits of the observed and suspected. For those of you in my audience who watch anime, this is the essence of such moments where a character’s expectations are broken and he or she blushes before his or her crush or friend – it is a feeling of comfort in a loving world, wherein the density of semiotic prediction has collapsed and proved futile, only for love and joy to enter onto the scene instead.

If not now, when?

The essential lesson of the above, if we can call it a lesson, is that the semiotic impulse is a bit too heavy-handed. Instead, our task is to go out into the world and live with others! To enjoy this great gift of life which has been bestowed on us, with faith that all will work out in the end. After all, if not now, when will we do so?

To this I say: not quite. Nothing is so simple as such an unreflective answer, though at some level it is correct. Yes, the semiotic impulse is heavy-handed and improperly applied in such areas, and it certainly does do evil when we enact it. But this leaves unresolved the following problem: why is it there at all?

Indeed, if thinking through things on these terms is enough to “correct” an allegedly barren impulse, shouldn’t evolution have corrected for it long ago? If that is too fanciful an argument, then shouldn’t we in our own mental evolution have outgrown semiosis as a means to valid information gathering? Clearly, neither I as an abstract human nor as a concrete-sensuous person have abandoned semiosis, so I must continue to live with it. The problem now is: what do I make of it?

Action for who?

The semiotic problem is a rich one, but it illustrates a chief tension concerning public action the likes of which I haven’t yet entirely figured out. Not only had my actions in the past conformed to an agenda, they had also done so because I was certain of the validity of this agenda. Such certitude is rather easy when most of your reading is quick skim-throughs of encyclopedia articles — very little critical reflection on anything is required, as all ideas are quickly spoon-fed to my mind in rapid succession. But, once one has begun to read and think critically, in a sense beyond that banal “critical thinking” so often heard about in the media, what becomes of all that he was certain of? All that he had concocted in his agenda?

Clearly, it collapses, not only because he critically realizes the shoddy patchwork in his own thinking, but that, having encountered the greatest ideas in the history of thought, such encounters have shown so brightly that all he thought himself he now sees darkly in comparison, lit up only by that superior brightness which he only sees outside of himself. The only result can be a complete lack of certainty and confidence in one’s own agenda, a thing that I have desperately struggled with over the past few months. This is not a depressive or anxious struggle, but a struggle for the sobriety of my mind over and against all that it sees before it – genius and poverty, greatness and suffering. For whom, then, do I act?

On one hand, I deeply want to continue work as a scholar – there is so much I now want to say which can only be said in the dense jargon of academia, the inner necessity of which I now see. Its external necessity is, however, certainly barren — academic work is for academics, the likes of which need to be digested by mediators between academia and the so-called “real world,” which really only ought to be called the world of appearances, where academia is perhaps a world of essences. “Homo academicus” lives the vita contemplativa and, as such, his concerns can only be contemplative both in their objects and their method.

Yet, this is still externally barren, so far as we are, in fact, embodied and, in fact, require ideas to make sense of our embodiment. Indeed, the reality of the semiotic impulse is case and point – we cannot simply rely on our own reasoning – we require others to supplement us and make for us better what we could not ourselves more completely fashion. This, however, means that, at some level, we prioritize the power of the group to think over and above that of individuals, something which I’m loathe to admit. Indeed, I value my individuality as a thinker more than almost anything else. Yet, I have not clearly and concretely outlined what it is I think! I have intuitions of such things but, if pressed, I would again fall into the slipshod sham-work that I generated before – this is something I am committed to avoiding. Jordan Peterson is a good example of what happens when you don’t make such a commitment.

But this is a deep problem, as the immanent commitment towards being-for-others in a manner exactly commensurate with being-for-self is something of an illusory demand for consciousness. How? To act is to open up the self and consciousness to something beyond it — the world of finite knowers acting together in physical space. Again, the sum of all these knowers will supersede the knowledge had by any one and, in this way, to act in this sphere is always, so far as knowledge is considered, to expand consciousness beyond itself and into this beyond. Thus, one cannot be imminently committed to his action as for-itself and for-others, but only transcendentally committed to it, or committed to it so far as he knows and is assured of the necessary consequences of the act. This is different from an immanent commitment, as it disregards necessary consequences and, instead, is self-confident that its constitution is commensurate with reality. Being so sure, it can orient all consequences towards itself, as it has comprehended enough in its own thought to warrant its constantly being extended beyond itself. Thus, it is not committed to anything that follows from itself, because it is so self-assured that whatever does follow can immediately be fitted to whatever has been posited.

But this immanent commitment negates the beyond of society and takes it up within itself as something completely accounted for before the act as conceived for itself and for others. Hence why this commitment is illusory — we know that the beyond is for consciousness something which appears in its own right and, therefore, cannot simply be taken up beneath an immanent commitment. If it is, it does violence against the beyond in an egoistic way, asserting itself as the truth in a messianic way which borders on cult-like direction (see: the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Robespierre, Lenin, Jordan Peterson for more on this). Such messianism ignores the necessity of the beyond for consciousness and, indeed, it is such ignorance that attracts the rabid following that the alleged messiah makes for himself.

But no one can perform a speech-act of any worthwhile attention unless he has committed imminently to his own thought. Anyone who commits to his thought transcendentally claims and thinks banalities — “I just saw the funniest thing!” “Can you believe what she said?” “This is the worst day of the year so far.” Each of these speaks only of the material, physical scene—hence why society loves and is indeed built upon them. The semiotic procedure is absent and, instead, merely physical posits are presented. There is no room here for immanent commitment—hence why so many say that you can never Have a sane conversation in religion or politics with a stranger: too much depends on what men immanently commit to. It is too hard for most of us to translate what we imminently believe to what we can say, hence such conversations devolve into heated arguments. Thus, when one does perform this well, he commands attention so deftly — he has done just what it is expected most cannot do. This builds a self-enclosure of confidence, wherein the presuppositions of the would-be messiah are unquestioned, and the man himself falls into self-gratulation and ego-stroking (again, see Jordan Peterson, but also Robespierre, Napoleon, Franz Liszt, Savonarola, and so many other charismatic leaders).

Again, all of this is built on the semiotic impulse. As essentially anxious, the impulse is quashed by the messiah, whose theory of the beyond allows him power over his followers. He gives them confidence in the beyond, confidence to act. For Peterson, this is in self-help. For Christ, it was in the “world beyond” of the Kingdom of God. For Kant, the “kingdom of ends.” For Marx, communism. For Freud, the unconscious. For Peirce, the sign. And on and on. Each moment where the beyond might appear is closed off by a theory accounting for and taken up into a theoretic mold, a “mindset” or as the sigma males like to say, “grindset.” Those of “common sense” ignore this altogether and keep to physical space, hoping that the world of appearance is sufficient unto itself for all action and all thought. Their semiotic impulse is at the ready and unquestioned — it is entirely uncritical and thoughtless, operating without reflection in complete autonomy.

These common-sense folk imbibe the status quo and manipulate it to their own ends. Instead of allaying anxiety in the sublimation of the beyond into a mindset, they use humor as a tool towards sublimation. Encounters of the beyond are the essential point of departure for humor, as the beyond strikes in each of us the deepest knowledge of our insecurity as a knower. A sense for the beyond is “awkwardness” in everyday life, a moment where a man who endeavored to “shoot his shot” and fell flat on his face when the woman entirely rejected him. Her reaction coupled with his sense of the beyond closed off to him creates the sense of awkwardness, for his desire has been thwarted, and her sense of him has become entirely clear. She sees through him, and he has no room to stand for himself, being seen through so completely. This is awkwardness par excellence, as it is a liminal space between the purely physical, transcendental commitments of common sense and the immanent commitments of consciousness. (The latter occurs only in true love.) Most of us, instead of incurring this awkwardness, tend towards humor, taking up this liminal space into a joke which hides and annuls the deep anxieties each of us feels. Acting together, all hearing the joke return to their private commitments and allow the course of merely physical, transcendent commitments to continue — “OMG that was so funny!” “You’re like, totally cool!” “I’m so tired rn” and so on.

There is an all this a status quo procedure of human activity. A man acts transcendentally, folly leaves his expectations quashed, and others laugh at the finiteness of his thought and powers. “Haha can you believe they did this? That was so crazy, I could never.” This is an entirely circular process, and it leaves no room for change. It is inevitable. But as Marx says — the point is to change it.

I am not concerned with merely pointing out what always will be. I am concerned with human liberation, and it is this which stands for me as my personal means to “close off” the beyond. I call this closing off totalitarian thinking, in part from a superficial understanding of Popper’s “the Open Society and its Enemies.” Open society perpetuates the cycle of act-fail-laugh. Closed society attempts to overcome this, but falls into totalitarianism as a consequence — witness Stalinist Russia, Fascist Italy (and Germany and Spain), and Colonial India. Each of these societies was closed off to failure, as its commitments closed off the beyond, the sphere where failure becomes possible. Thus everything was retro-fitted to the previously established, as in Lysenko’s pseudo-science in Russia and the declaring of sociology and psychology as “bourgeois pseudo-science” in all of the Communist bloc. Lysenko tried to work only under the finite knowledge of the communist party and, in doing so, generated botanical theories of complete absurdity. The Bloc as a whole did the same and, when new thought superseding the finitude of Marx and Engels appeared, they closed themselves off to it as being a mere bourgeois “part” of the broader Communist theory. Of course, it wasn’t, as the Frankfurt Theorists knew well.

But this “closing off” of the beyond is still necessary, as it is the only means to breaking with the perpetual cycle of act-fail-laugh. Indeed, this cycle itself closes the beyond, because nothing lies beyond it! Nothing imminent to any actors ever appears; everything is taken up under the “common sense” closing off, laughter. Thus men laugh at Plato for working out; they make jokes along the lines of this:

IdiotfotheEast on Twitter: "Diogenes burning Plato #memesdaily #MEMES  #memes2021 #art #digitaldrawing #diogenes #plato #Philosophy #history  #historymemes #humor #LOL #art #artwork #Invinciblememes #thinkmark  #ThinkMarkThink #digitalart #dankmemes https ...

There is nothing wrong with these jokes. It must be said, however, that they are part of an ideology and a closing off of possibility. They limit what the subjects laughing can think because, instead of thinking, they simply laugh and forget what else could be thought. This is, to be sure, superior to a thoughtful closing off of possibility, as this itself engages the anxiety of semiosis deeply, by demanding that ideologues search their repertoire of mental tools derived from their ideology so as to retrofit all actions to the ideology. This is easy, as Catholic control over science in the Middle Ages demonstrates. It is equally easy, though, for free subjects to perpetuate the act-fail-laugh movement ad infinitum. So far as it enables something really enjoyable and fun for people, and so far as it diminishes semiotic anxiety, it is superior to the ideological languor imposed by totalitarian thought, however.

The essence of all my thought, however, wants to find an entrance into this cycle for the imminently committed. A process whereby I, as immanently committed, can open others up dialectically so that we all can bring ourselves to bear on our ideas in a robust way. Video is a moment of such a project, so far as it provides another means to open up the ideology of the status quo by moving consciousness towards what I believe. But herein messianism is easy, as the moment someone disagrees with me, I may either retrofit the agreement to my ideology or engage the criticism so completely that the ideology breaks down. This too is a problem with which I have been engaged and which has prevented me from action, as all action can in some way fall into the status quo ideology of act-fail-laugh. To laugh at one’s mistakes, this too closes off possibility — the possibility of improvement, of acknowledging real damage done, and so on.

A sense for these must be established, so as to laugh freely, for laughter is the best medicine for the disease of totalitarian thinking. Yet, the totalitarian impulse of mind is itself a medicine for the disease of do-nothing laughter.


I don’t know, other than to say that I hate to see others suffer while others live in opulence, and I see nothing for the allowance of this sham than the manipulation of consciousness. Perpetual cycles of activity are the loci making this consciousness possible, as they appeal to the impulse of the beyond. They close off reflection and absorb the self into the moment of its relations, destroying its focus on issues that deeply concern it and, instead, taking it up into the totality of social relations which it makes possible. When these relations become ideological, they form a party. When militant, a paramilitary. When religious, a cult. When merely self-enclosing, a coterie. All such things close off the beyond outside of the group, keeping the group in consciousness revered as its own totalitarian medicine for the do-nothing-ism of laughter. With anxiety allayed, men in groups can do together under the assurance that those around them will support what they do. Thus some men act under the aegis of a Catholic paradigm, others a communist paradigm, others still an anarchist, philanthropic, and activist paradigms. Each of these presupposes its own closing off of the beyond.

It is this tendency to close off possibility that is the essence of all totalitarianism, even that allegedly free totalitarianism that we in America ambiguously call “liberty.” It is the organic closing off and opening up at will of such possibility, the likes of which is its own closing off, as it assumes tacitly that closing off of this sort ought to occur without guidance.

What Lenin, ironically, called “many-sided thought” is essentially what we need, though in another sense the libertarian status quo is precisely this, except as it creates implicit ideologies beneath itself as groups form and collapse. In a sense, then, I’m after exactly what Marx, Derrida, and Rorty were after — a completion of the past, an opening up of a new historical possibility. Yet this possibility is nothing other than Heideggerian aletheia, the disclosure of the truth of the self to others, a disclosure occurring on its own terms whenever it desires it. It is a method for emptying the self of its semiotic insecurity and, instead, searching for a paradigm about which the mind can operate in free love of itself and others.

Conclusion: Inactivity is easy

This is all well and good, but I hope you, dear reader, can see now why I’ve been so inactive online. All of these thoughts demand careful parsing and, should I act without immanent commitment to them, I know full well that I will fall into the traps of human social psychology which I am working so carefully to overcome. We cannot overestimate how difficult this work is. It is the essential means towards that which all the great minds of the past 200 years have desired.

It is the solution to poverty, to mass psychosis, to mental illness, to political turmoil. Indeed, the universal free love of self and other is the solution to all of man’s problems. I hope you see now why I call this thinking messianic and totalitarian! These are qualifiers, and not pejoratives. As the Pragmatist John Dewey pointed out, we cannot begin to do anything unless we intend it. I intend to solve the essence of mankind’s ills, and I can only do this if I attempt it. This is my attempt. That I can conceive of fulfilling it is justification enough, says Dewey, for its being attempted. It will be my life’s work, and this I am fine with. It is work I will not finish this year, in the next ten years, or even in the next 50. It will not be finished by the time I am dead, and this is something of a tragedy, though it need not be. It is a testament to the immensity of the task and the time and effort required to see it through. None of us will solve oppression tomorrow, but we can begin the concrete work to do so here and now, with full faith that it can be seen through, and that there is no mass cabal to prevent it. Indeed, if successful, it would only mean freedom for all. Even the most jaded of businessmen could not turn down such a proposition!

The essential problem to be dealt with here and now, though, is how to use my finite time and resources to make the most of my struggle for universal freedom, considered essentially from the standpoint of free disclosure.

I am working now on 3 projects for school: a senior thesis on Hegel and Dewey, a sub-project which specializes in Dewey’s psychology, and a tangential project which engages in semiotics as a teaching and communicative device. Each will be made into videos for the public. What is essential here is that my entire consciousness is oriented towards these projects. I have little space in my mind for what the internet has given to me, and I have little to say other than the judgmental premise that what it does give is not as important as my academic work. This isn’t exactly a great message for my audience!

Hence I’ve chosen to do nothing and keep my head squarely in my books, as everything else seems to me right now to be a trifle in comparison with the lofty task I’ve set before me. That’s not to say everything else really is this puerile—it just seems this way to me right now and, in some sense, I do think it really is, but that’s only because I’m actively looking for something better. Here is a case study in all I’ve just talked about — in saying this, I seem (because I signify in finite space) conceited, yet if I don’t say it I fail to disclose what I want to say (and thus avoid the practice of the very project I am attempting). All of this is many-sided, and I am attempting to focus now on those sides which can expand and bring this many-sidedness to the fore. Hence, argumentatively, the status quo really is quite horrible, and I do have adequate justification for this belief. A video on this will soon be made, though I haven’t yet completely gathered all my thoughts on the matter.

Suffice it to say, things are in the works. As my mind now stands, I don’t yet have enough in my conceptual repertoire to talk full well about all that concerns me, and I am more focused on building this repertoire than I am on speaking prematurely.


Arendt, Hannah, and Peter Baehr. 2003. The Portable Hannah Arendt. Reissue edition. London: Penguin Classics.

Aristotle, and Richard McKeon. 2001. The Basic Works of Aristotle. The Modern Library Classics. New York: Modern Library.

Aristotle, and C. D. C. Reeve. 2017. Politics: A New Translation.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Fredrich. 2018. The Phenomenology of Spirit. Edited by Terry Pinkard and Michael Baur. 1st ed. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139050494.

Marx, Karl. n.d. “Theses on Feuerbach.” Accessed June 24, 2021. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm.

Pseudo-Dionysius. 500AD. Dionysius the Areopagite, Works.

Zetkin, Clara. n.d. “Lenin on the Women’s Question.” Accessed August 16, 2021. https://www.marxists.org/archive/zetkin/1920/lenin/zetkin1.htm.

Some thoughts on guilt

To all those whose company I unintentionally shirk:
What is it about being with you that strikes me so? Why is it when I am around you I feel false? Is it your power over me, or my desire for power over you? Is it neither of these, or both at the same time? How could I ever hope to answer such things in clear time when each of you stands before me in dense obfuscation, concretizing all that in me was heretofore diffuse and lofty? I feel dragged by your grins and stares, the raising of your eyebrows as I intone your glares. Each move of yours does violence against me, as I am stabbed in soul by the judgements undergirding each of your words to me. Only in brief moments do I escape the sentiment that you judge me, that I am no good, and that I must be something otherwise than I am.

Of course, such thoughts are a malingering, a story I tell myself to make me too sick to function. I am no such thing, nor is the intenseness of my being-with others so rigid and piercing as I’ve initially claimed. To say it is not there, though, would be to deny my ownmost feelings, that guterall “suchness” which crawls out from under covers and whispers in ears, bearing chthonic power as Proserpine towards Hades, beauty taken against her will.

So am I succored with each sound enunciated, felt to be something otherwise than I am. Such is the absolute fear of myself when I speak — though I intend this, I am understood as that. How could deny the brute reality of this fact? No one is ever understood as he intends. What a tragedy! And yet it is a fact of life.

What is more tragic about this, though, is that no one will ever be seen as he takes himself to be. Though I might have in my heart the greatest want of love and goodness for another, the facts of a situation will force my hand so that, like a Queen of Hearts, I rashly dash my babe against the rocks and sit sallow in sanguine virginity. I am nothing except as I have been seen and, being seen as such, I am only ever capable of being with respect to as I have been seen. Thus I must bear three things in mind — how I am seen now, how I was seen then, and how each of these relates. Now, none of these is real but, rather, stands as mental fiction, psychic posit, which enables my functioning within the confines of some social space. Thus, it is real so far as it functions, and false so far as it does not. (See: William James)

The tragedy herein is that if I propose myself to be in this way, I will as yet inevitably be taken in that way, so that the proposition as to how I seem is never commensurate with how I am seen (if such a thing can even be posited!). So much for this — it is the solipsistic breakfast re-hashed with new eggs, refried with new beans! What is tragic herein is the fact of action — if I want to be with anyone, either I must go on playing the game, or I must forget it altogether and hope for the best. In the first case I am squeezed as grapes beneath feet for wine, pressed firm against the feet of all who walk all over me, reading the signs of shame in everything I do, making me guilty as Augustine before his God. Hence through the grindstones of social taxation I Leninize myself, become proletarian before the bourgeois owners of social comfort, working forever to obtain it while never finding it. I merely ruffle around for the scraps of surplus love! Such is SOCIAL ANXIETY, and such is a sham will from disquietude which perpetuates itself as disquiet.

But whence cometh my anxiety? GUILT. “Guilt?” I hear you asking. Yes, guilt. But guilt of what, and for what? Guilt of myself for being myself over and against others. Yes, this is the guilt I feel. Let me explain it in this way—no one can feel the fantasy of his existence without presupposing himself as the summit thereof. That is, no one can attain the heights of those witches which Faust saw with Mephistopheles without first supposing that they have the power of attaining them — namely, MAGIC. What magic do I speak of? The magic of ownmost possibility for being (as Heidegger says), of the uniqueness of the self against all else (as Stirner says), of the power of the latent potentialities of the self to draw forth from all else around him a manifest condition commensurate only to whom as supreme artificer (as in Plato), supreme psychoanalyst (as in Freud), supreme magus (as in the Summa Perfectionis). What is magic but conformity of the world to the will, as Crowley has said?

The guiltiness herein lies in the recognition that no man is an island, and that all things stand before him given only as they have manifested to him in their his limitations as a finite knower (cf. Kant and Husserl). On such facts, man is left with two choices — either (1) repudiate the skepticism adduced from his finitude and recapitulate to his former magical grandiosity or (2) sober up, recognize the impotence of himself as a doer, and begin diminutive intercourse with men on the grounds that only all as collective can achieve anything whatever. If a man chooses (1), he will be forever marred by the scars of the Kantian realization — the empirical does not conform to the a priori categories of the understanding, nor can it. The empirical stands before him in itself and for itself as Nature, a real-category of the understanding (in Hegel, at least) whose supreme Objectivity must stand against him as a posit needed as a condition for the possibility of his own existence! Indeed, if a man could assert his will over Nature absolutely, then he would be that Nature, and there would no longer be any need of further assertion. Yet he cannot do this, for what is given a priori does not adequate to empirical reality, nor can it. Hence the empirical must forever stand bifurcated from man’s absolute grasp, and the man choosing (1) cannot help but be aware of this. If he ignores it, he has ignorantly submitted to the grandeur of youth and, on such terms, deserves all the ridicule he brings on himself. He stands alone in an empty room, having built an altar to himself and his reason, he is the worst kind of hermit.

If a man chooses (2), however, he finds himself once more as a proletarian before the bourgeois mass, always lying prostrate before it. That is, he will be as such if he is going to choose (2) honestly. He might choose it dishonestly, as most men do, and search for instances of will-assertion wherever he can find them. Thus, the CEO asserts himself over his workers as a leader of a collective, rather than merely asserting himself over the world as an “influencer” or a cult leader. Indeed, the cult leader is to (1) as the CEO is to (2), each dishonestly attempting to assert their wills over others. Thus, if one chooses (2) honestly, he becomes a pragmatist in the line of Dewey and Peirce and gives his instrumental reason up to the commens as a moment of its collective determinations. He lies prostrate, ashamed of his former magical intuitions, and aims to make good on all that he has done before by attending to group before him. The choice of (2) is the choice of social anxiety, in such away.

This is the supreme guiltiness of the would-be magus, he who would attempt to make others see as he does, who would try to proselytize his feelings and thoughts for all to see. “What is the guilt?” though, I hear you asking. It is on no uncertain terms the GUILT OF JUDGEMENT, of EMPIRICAL A PRIORICITY or, on a more Kantian phrasing, ANALYTIC A POSTERIORICITY. What do I mean by these terms? If a man is given over to the desire to his assert his will over others as a magician, as all men and women who have understood the world (so it seems to me) are inclined to do, then they will feel their guts churn at the opportunity to speak their mind. They will desire to say and convince, if only because they have seen and felt the Good and the True firsthand. Their hearts have been strangely warmed, as Wesley has said, and they have seen God face to face. They aren’t idiotic psychopomps in this, though, nor do they believe in the absolute grandiosity of their claims. No, such people, of which I am one, merely see and feel that what is before them either deserves repudiation or otherwise illocutionary activity, so that their words command an audience to listen and pay attention because they are convicted so. The speakers have no absolute grounds for this conviction — who does? Yet they cannot help but act as though they did, for the momentousness of the judgment gives itself to consciousness with such facility and completely that to speak in any other way except through deep and dense exhortation would be to do violence and injustice to the judgment.

Here is guiltiness — guiltiness of power, of conviction. Such men, before they have realized their density and stubbornness, are called “know-it-alls,” “argumentatives,” “obstinates,” “egotists,” and “chauvinists.” What horrible violence these terms have done against me! What cuts each has slashed at my wrists! What lacerations have I felt as my flesh was torn from me limb from limb when all I desired for others was that they saw Good as I did, and that I could not help myself from argument therefore because it so inspired me! Oh my God!

Again I speak hyperbolically, but shouldn’t it be a testament to my emotion that I write with such phrasing? As I attempt to speak each word turns my guts, and I feel my chest impound as it tightens and relaxes in turn. I am caught up in something beyond me, and I cannot help it! This is my tragedy—this is my guilt. That I should feel so much as to alienate others from my feeling, that I should want to say so deeply that I end up inspiring absolute ignorance of all that I had in mind. Saying, I never come across clearly. Remaining quiet, I do not come across at all.

But again, why am I guilty of this? Why don’t I simply embrace it? On one hand, Kantian skepticism denies its possibility. On another, as I have said above, the feeling finds its roots in its own presupposition — that is, it has no other ground than itself. If a thought comes to me and I am pressed to speak, I do so for no other reason than that I am so pressed and, being pressed, I either ejaculate what was on my mind or squirm and find my way outside of the pressure. Hence, the belief in my own magical power is nothing but a feeling, a feeling that I can make others feel as I do, and a desire to do so. There is nothing in the feeling which warrants itself, for the feeling is merely subjective. If I demand its Objectivity, as might Hegel, then I am left with nothing but the Hegelian-Marxist trope of “history’s end,” where my feeling is the True feeling, my thought the True thought, and so on. If I can be so typified, then I have attained nothing “True” at all. What’s more, I fall back into the violence of lacerated know-it-allism — who could know how to avoid a bloody death and yet enter into it anyway?

Here, then, is the guilt—what is given to me in consciousness demands of me that I attend to it, but what reason tells me about consciousness is otherwise. Perhaps I can strike a middle path and take Hegel more seriously, but with the sobriety of the second choice above. Let me be argumentative, but then let me apologize after. Am I not both conscious of feeling and capable of reasoning there-about? Surely. Perhaps that is my next line of action.