Why Groups Are a Form of Imprisonment for the Individual

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I don’t like groups. I don’t think I’ve ever liked groups. Groups are literally the anti-thesis of the individual. As a Radical Individualist, I strongly dislike groups because they are in every way, shape and form a weight and, in some cases, a prison for the individual.

In a group, a consensus must be created. An individual’s own opinion or preference may be discarded or ignored because it is not ‘in accord with everyone else’s’. In a group, people must make compromises – they must co-operate, and this of course means that ones individuality is sacrificed.

Most groups have a leader, but even a leader must be careful of what they do, because if their actions cause unfavorable results this could lead to their removal as leader. Thus, even the most authoritarian and dictatorial of leaders will at times compromise their true desires in order to remain in power. Compromises are abundant in groups – such as political parties, activist organizations, company boards and so on – if one wants to get even more personal, one must compromise in a family, a relationship, and with friends. Even though these ‘groups’ are not based on an ideological consensus, they still require co-operation, sacrifices and compromising.

Obviously, each individual has their own desires and opinions. In a group, you have several individuals, thus you inevitably have differing and opposing views. The only way you’d have a truly ‘unified, all-in-agreement’ group would be one in which every member is too stupid to think for themselves and, without any hesitation, these members unanimously agree with everything their leader says.

No two individuals are alike, and thus, in a group, the individual is suppressed and cannot live as they truly see fit. Groups are inevitably a threat to individualism. A true individual does not need a group to support him or herself. A true individual is fine on their own. A true individual then, is their own group.


On Misanthropy

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Misanthropy is the general hatred, distrust, or contempt of the human species and human nature. A misanthrope is a person who largely dislikes humankind, holding negative views on the species. As English writer Samuel Johnson wrote, “I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.” There could be numerous reasons why a person is a misanthrope. However, rather than discuss the numerous causes that could create a misanthrope, I will be examining the term and usage in a philosophical perspective.

The term ‘misanthrope’ originates from Greek (Misein ‘to hate’ and Anthropos ‘man’). Therefore, it seems fair to start with the Greek philosophers. Plato (who was very idealistic), believed that misanthropes were people who once trusted someone too much. Once their trust was broken, this person could no longer see the good in people, because they assumed every other person was the same as the one who had broken their trust. This created a misanthrope, a person who viewed all humans as evil and deceitful.

Plato, however, believed that misanthropes were over-exaggerating. Humans will always lie, cheat and deceive – its natural. A misanthrope is a person who takes the minor flaws in humanity too seriously. As Plato pointed out, very few people in a community are murderers, or rapists, or criminals. If the vast majority of people in the world were rapists or murderers, then it would be fair to say that all humans are ‘evil’. But, it is only a small minority of people who do these terrible acts. The majority of people will do bad things every now and then – but this is only because they are human. Thus, a misanthrope should not hate, but love other humans. In Plato’s view, love is the only thing that could fix the world.

To Aristotle, a misanthrope is either a beast or a god. Basically, a misanthrope may be a beast, some kind of monster perhaps – and this is why they hate humanity (perhaps like Frankenstein’s monster). However, a misanthrope may be a god instead. For anyone familiar with Greek Mythology (which was the religion during Aristotle’s lifetime), the Greek gods could be very cruel towards making on numerous occasions. Thus, Aristotle figured perhaps a misanthrope was similar to one of the gods, a being who hates mankind because they are superior to mankind.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was perhaps the most misanthropic of all. For starters, Schopenhauer was anti-natalist, meaning he assigned a negative value towards birth. There is nothing special about birth, in fact it is more of a cure. Being born simply means you now have to suffer this hellish life.

When you bring a child into this world you shouldn’t celebrate – you should cry because now another human has to suffer a lifetime of meaningless pain and torment. Therefore, you should probably feel contempt towards someone who has just given birth, because, in a sense – that person has brought in another innocent should to suffer.

Misanthropy, in my opinion, is not necessarily as negative as it seems. As a cynical person myself, there are many times when I would classify myself as a misanthrope. I understand that most people do good, are kind and don’t mean any harm. But at the same time, humans can be quite cruel. Misguided or simply ignorant.

For philosophers like Nietzsche and Heidegger, their dislike towards mankind was not because of man’s evil doings, but because of mankind’s stupidity. Many times, people will conform and follow the crowd, never thinking for themselves. Often, we find people following ‘trends’ or holding beliefs that are not really theirs. This is why Nietzsche and Heidegger had a strong dislike towards mankind – because man is easily fooled and deceived. Why should you have respect – or even love – for a species that cannot think for themselves?

When it comes to conformity, there is no denying that this is something that effects all humans. I myself have conformed on numerous occasions to, so to speak, ‘fit in’. Everyone does, but it becomes a problem when people conform and never even realize that they are conforming. For Nietzsche and Heidegger, most people conform to levels that are quite shocking. Honestly, I am bother by how easily deceived people are. It also bothers me when people valiantly defend their beliefs, but when you ask them why they hold those beliefs – they usually cannot answer. I am sure everyone has met a person who simply repeats some socially acceptable or popular opinion, but has no idea what it means or why they even support it.

Thus, in my opinion., if you’re going to hate mankind, it shouldn’t really be because of mankind’s evil doings – it should be because of mankind’s ignorance and gullibility. In fact, it is usually mankind’s blind conformity which leads towards massive acts of atrocity and destruction. As John Lancaster Spalding said, ‘since the mass of mankind are too ignorant or too indolent to think seriously, if majorities are right it is usually by accident.’

Nietzsche: Eternal Recurrence (Part 3)

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Eternal Recurrence is the idea that time is a flat circle. History is not linear, rather it is cyclical, meaning that it repeats itself exactly again and again. Imagine a wheel that is constantly turning. The wheel is time. It will eventually repeat itself f- over and over and over again. There is no beginning and no end. Our universe and existence is not the first, and it is not the last. For those of you familiar with the Hindu concepts of reincarnation, Eternal Recurrence is pretty much the same the cycles of Samsara – except there is no ‘liberation’, you’re stuck in this loop forever.

Let’s say that you have an iPod with 200 songs, and you press the shuffle button and put it on repeat. For a long time the songs will appear random, and their order will surprise you. But eventually, if you leave it on long enough, the songs will repeat in a particular order. That is because there is only a finite number of songs and a finite number of combinations. Eventually, the randomness will end and it shall repeat. This is what cyclical time means. That eventually, everything will repeat in an exact order because there are only so many different combinations.

The Eternal Recurrence is basically the theory that there is infinite time and a finite number of events, and eventually the events will recur again and again infinitely, hence the name ‘Eternal Recurrence’.

If Eternal Recurrence is true, then that would mean this isn’t the first tie you’ve read this post. You’ve read this post numerous times in your past lives. And this isn’t the last you’ll read this post either. Eventually, time will repeat, and you will read this same post again, and again, and again – for all eternity. The same thoughts occurring to you right now, the same physical movements, the same confusion or fascination with this subject – all of this has already happened before and will happen again – forever and ever. I have been condemned to write this essay again and again – for all eternity, and you have been condemned to read it again and again – for all eternity.

Eternal Recurrence is nothing new. The Hindu’s and Egyptians believed that time was a flat circle too – always going through cycles, eventually repeating itself. The Ancient Greek philosophers were also fascinated with the idea of reincarnation an eternal universe; this they question how they might be condemned to repeat their lives again and again. Nietzsche, who was an avid reader of Ancient Greek and Easter mythologies, soon brought the topic of Eternal Recurrence to a modern-day audience. He didn’t necessarily believe in it, but he was fascinated with the topic.

So, how does the Eternal Recurrence relate to the Ubermensch? Well, as you may recall, an Ubermensch must be willing to accept suffering, to accept pain and displeasure. But what if the pain you suffer will forever happen to you. What if every struggle, heartbreak, loss, depression – what if all of these pains are condemned to happen to you again and again, in the same way, at the same time – for all eternity? Does this thought scare you, or please you?

For Nietzsche, Eternal Recurrence was a test. It was a test of a man’s character, and of his strength. If you truly fear and despise life, then the thought of Eternal Recurrence will frighten you. It will seem like a form of torture, an endless cycle of suffering and torment. However, if you truly love life, then Eternal Recurrence will not be a curse – it will be a joyous gift. You will rejoice knowing that this life will repeat – again and again for all eternity.

As I mentioned in my last post, an Ubermensch must love life. They must be willing to accept this life and live it to the fullest. An Ubermensch loves life because it is full of suffering and pain – and this suffering is what gives us our strength. So, an Ubermensch should rejoice at the idea of Eternal Recurrence – because this means that their life will never end. It shall repeat, and with its repetition will come the same struggles and obstacles.

To quote Nietzsche “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”

Nietzsche also tied Eternal Recurrence with the Latin phrase, Amor fati – literally meaning ‘love of fate’. Amor fati is when one accepts the events (both good and bad) in life, deems them necessary, and does not wish to change them. In other words, if someone were to ask ‘if you could go back in time and change anything about your life, what would you change?” The appropriate response would be ‘nothing’. There should be nothing in the past that you wish to change, because you have accepted that these events have happened, and you are grateful for them. A desire to change the past means that you are not happy and not grateful for previous events.

Eternal Recurrence is a feeling of satisfaction with one’s life an acknowledge of it, such that one could live the very same life, in all its moments of sorrow and joy, again and again for all time everlasting.

So, on the quest to becoming an Ubermensch, perhaps this your final test (technically not final, seeing as it will be repeated again). Do you love life? Are you willing to repeat this life – forever and ever? In the exact same way for all eternity? If you truly love life (as an Ubermensch would) then the answer to this question should be yes. “Yes, I am happy that I shall repeat this life, I rejoice in this idea!” If you said no, then perhaps you are not ready to become an Ubermensch. But don’t worry – for if time really is a circle – eventually, in one life or another – you will say yes.

Nietzsche: The Ubermensch (Part 2)

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As I discussed in my last post, Nietzsche believed that nihilism was going to sweep across Europe following the ‘death’ of Christianity and objective morality. In order to prevent Europe from sinking into nihilism, Nietzsche believed that man must re-invent himself. Man must become an Ubermensch (German for Superman or Over-man).

An Ubermensch is a man who is able to overcome the herd perspective and is capable of creating a new perspective without dogmatically forcing his perspective on others. By herd perspective, Nietzsche is referring to dogmatic beliefs that are widely held and accepted by society. Many of these beliefs go unquestioned, and thus we live in a sort of ‘herd’ similar to sheep (the term sheeple is probably the best representation of this). By overcoming the herd perspective, a man can free himself and achieve new heights.

The Ubermensch is supposed to act as the answer to the problem of nihilism. Since God is dead, that means there is no objective truth or morality. Thus, an Ubermensch acts as his own ‘God’, abandoning the herd instinct and determining his own morality. He is neither slave nor master, as he does not impose his will on others. He is a master of self-discipline. He must be willing to embrace suffering and learn from it. In a way, the Ubermensch is the next step in human evolution. It’s a new intuition, perspective, and greatness for mankind.

As Nietzsche wrote ‘Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”

The Ubermensch does not focus on life after death or on other worlds. Rather, an Ubermensch focuses only on his current life. He loves life, and thus embraces it. Nietzsche believed that religion, specifically Christianity, was bad because it taught people to focus more on the idea of an afterlife than on their current existence. Thus, an Ubermensch is the opposite. He does not focus on the afterlife, he only focuses on his life now, on his current existence.

Despite the struggles and suffering that will inevitably come as a result of such an existence, the Ubermensch does not look for ways to ease his suffering. Instead, he embraces the suffering and uses it to his advantage. As Nietzsche said, ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger.’ An Ubermensch must use the pain and suffering they feel to better themselves. They cannot turn away or try to subdue the pain. Rather, they should use the pain they feel as motivation to take control of their lives.

We always try to give a meaning to our suffering. For example, a Christian will suffer and believe that once they die, the will go to Heaven – a place of eternal peace. Similarity, a Buddhist or Hindu suffers because they believe that eventually they will break samsara (the cycle of rebirth) and this ascent to Nirvana or Moksha (also a place of eternal bliss or peace). Basically, when we suffer we try to tell ourselves that it is for a reason. But with nihilism, it would mean that our suffering is meaningless. We suffer for no reason, and there will be no positive outcome from our suffering. We suffer and that’s that. There is no meaning, no end goal.

The idea of an Ubermensch was supposed to give meaning to suffering. In other words, mankind will suffer because by suffering they can become the Ubermensch. Thus, suffering no longer seems meaningless.

There is no objective way of achieving the Ubermensch. It is an individual process, and thus can differ from person to person. A person becomes an Ubermensch by themselves – they create their own path towards the overman. Personally, I like to image that there are two cliffs.

On one side is man, and on the other side is the Ubermensch. Below is a dark, seemingly endless abyss. The goal for the man is to reach the other side. How he does this up to him. Maybe he builds a bridge, or perhaps he attempts to jump. Perhaps he goes down to the bottom of the abyss and climbs back to the top on the other side. There are numerous ways to reach the other side – none of them are really ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It all depends on the individual. In order to become an Ubermensch, the individual must do it themselves.

Again, there is no ‘one’ way to become an Ubermensch, however Nietzsche did give some advice on how to achieve it. This included abstaining from alcohol and religion and accepting that our desires dictate our lives – and therefore we should use envy as a guide to try and get what we want. By abstaining from things that numb our pain (such as alcohol or religion), we can see the world as it truly is and thus overcome it.

The Ubermensch is supposed to act as the cure for mankind’s current illness. Perhaps the greatest test for the Ubermensch is the Eternal Recurrence, which I will explain in part 3

Nietzsche: God is Dead (Part 1)

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In order to better understand Nietzsche’s ideas on the Ubermensch and Eternal Recurrence, we must first start with the phrase that precedes the conditions for an Ubermensch (God is Dead). The phrase ‘God is Dead’ is usually misinterpreted. Many people seem to assume that this implies God was once a living creature, and he has since passed away. But this is a misconception. Nietzsche was an atheist, and thus never believed that a God existed in any form except as a figment of the human imagination.

The phrase does not mean that God was an actual living creature who has now died. What it means is that the idea of “God” is now dead. We have realized that there is no God, and thus he is now ‘Dead’. His essence no longer has meaning to us. As we advanced and became less reliant on faith and more reliant on logic, we came to the conclusion that there is no God, and that there will never be a God. Since we no longer believe in God, he is therefore ‘dead’. He is no longer a part of our lives, he has faded away and can no longer hold influence over us.

As Nietzsche wrote ‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?’ Basically, Nietzsche is saying that since we no longer believe in God, we have metaphorically killed him.

Given Nietzsche’s strong animosity towards religion, you would think people realizing that ‘God is Dead’ would make him happy. After all, Nietzsche was dedicated in his quest to try and rid the individual of dogmatic and supernatural beliefs. Surely, people disregarding religion would be a comforting sight to Nietzsche. But this was not the case. Nietzsche was deeply troubled by the lack of a God, he feared that this may lead to the destruction of our society.

Since God never existed, that would imply that there is no afterlife and no soul. It would also mean that there is no objective morality. As Dostoevsky wrote ‘If there is no God, everything is permitted.’ Nietzsche feared that once Europeans abandoned their Christian faith, the world would sink into nihilism. By realizing that there is no God, this would cause individuals to lose all hope or any sense of respect or belonging. Humans would go mad and there would be chaos everywhere. The current structure of society would fall apart as nihilism swept across the continent. This is what Nietzsche feared. That the masses would not be able to handle the notion that there is no God, and thus would use their newly discovered freedom on harmful and destructive ways. The impending nihilism of the future appeared to be coming closer and closer. Thus, Nietzsche began to search for an answer to nihilism (without using religion). The answer was the Ubermensch.

On Creating a Personal Meaning to Your Life

Life probably doesn’t have an inherent meaning. But that doesn’t mean that life is meaningless. Most things in this world are inherently meaningless, but they still have ‘meaning’ in the sense that we give things meaning.

For example, the money you have, it’s meaning is determined by you. The friendships you have – again the meaning of these ‘bonds’ is determined by you. Things such as ‘love’, ‘hard work’, ‘ethics’ – they have meaning in the sense that they have a meaning to you.

Are any of these meanings objective, or spiritual, or inherent? The answer is likely no. Think about all the things that have ‘meaning’ in you life and you’ll realize that this ‘meaning’ is subjective – the value of things is determined by you (whether consciously or unconsciously).
In the same way that you give meaning to objects or feelings – so too can you give meaning to life. Create your own meaning in life. Why must the purpose of life be some kind of objective truth? Why is it so hard to think that we just live and die without being a part of any grand scheme?
Life has a meaning if you give it a meaning. Life is experienced by you – and you are you, so you will give life it’s meaning. Life, as you experience it, will have a meaning given to it by you – a meaning that will possibly be only relevant to you.

Pain, Suffering and Beauty

One must live in pain, and yet they must also learn to see the beauty in their suffering.

Imagine a marble statue for example. The marble statue is beautiful – but it wasn’t always like this. At one point in time this marble statue was merely a block of marble – indistinguishable from any other block of marble. But over time this block of marble was chiseled, sculptured, torn apart, broken, hit and damaged until it formed a shape – a particular identity.

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Likewise, your identity is largely formed through the struggles in your life and how you overcome them. Struggle is what defines you – its what motivates you. If you can learn to see the beauty in this struggle then the pain becomes bearable – to some extent it can even become desirable.

And of course, I am sure the realists will mention ‘But a block of marble has no consciousness – it cannot feel pain, unlike us humans’. They are right, a marble statue does not feel the pain and force being pressured against it. However, a marble statue is also not able to appreciate its own beauty. Consciousness of pleasure and peace requires a consciousness of pain and suffering. A person must have both – not one or the other.