â€œThere is a certain sense of satisfaction that can only be found in sharing it with another.â€
This statement might be taken to offer support for Aristotleâ€™s theory; back in his days people lived in city-states on top of mountains; the acropolis. The inhabitants knew one another personally, and there was not yet such a thing as a nation-state. This is why Aristotle conducted philosophy about the â€˜good lifeâ€™ within an environment to which the individualism/collectivism twofold did not yet apply. Contemporary political discourse has drifted further away from occupation with the content of the good life, and is instead focused on how to distribute the means of living.
This debate of wealth-distribution is in turn held hostage of by the selfishness (liberalism)Â versus altruism (socialism) dichotomy, signifying an impoverishment of the domains of life concerning ethics, morality, philosophy and awareness in the political discourse of the postmodern world. Aristotle would not waste his effort on a fruitless discussion between realism (â€˜the rightâ€™) and utopianism (â€˜the leftâ€™). He would recognize society needs a goal, a guiding principle, no matter how far removed, and simultaneously emphasize that one should look for workable solutions and keep in touch with reality as he goes about taking the necessary steps to fulfilling his goal.
The â€œselfishness versus altruism dichotomyâ€ would be irreconcilable with Aristotleâ€™s philosophy â€“ he will say that it is as unjust to give a thing to a person who will not be able to use that thing in accordance with the purpose for which it is most suitable to be used, as it is unjust to withhold the thing from the person who would be able to use it in accordance with the purpose for which it is most suitable to be used. Simply put: it is unjust to accept a position if you are not capable of usingÂ it well, and it is unjust toÂ makeÂ resources available to people who are unableÂ to utilize these properly.Â Itâ€™s not about what you earn or havenâ€™t earned, itâ€™s about your potential as human being to make the most out of what youâ€™ve got.
There is a certain sense of satisfaction that can only be found in sharing it with another, and this is why one has to see the interests of his friends and dear ones as integrated parts of his interests.
The atomism of the modern economic mindset, however, invites us to see every goal which is not our own as a potential loss of energy and time. For that reason, the interests of friends come to be seen not as extensions of, but as interests opposed to those of the self. Since every individual human has only a limited amount of available energy, and energy spent on the goals of friends go at the cost of the own.
The economic mindset marks every aspect of life as means that can be used towards a variety of ends, with the restriction that it can only be spent once at a time. This calls for priorities â€“ for example if you have a piece of land, you can allow your friend to make a living from it, but then you wonâ€™t be able to use it at the same time. You canâ€™t eat your cake and have it too, and in this way even time, every second, is designated as an economic unit by the atomistic frame of mind.
As Western society became more organized this economic mindset started to take over every aspect of our lives: this begins at school, in which we ultimately partake to obtain a degree and enter a job with access to plenty of money for acquiring goods and services. Everything we do in our lives, so the economic mindset invites us to think, is supposed to be an investment to further our own ends as an individual. This, however, has consequences for each bit of time and energy we are willing to spend on someone else.
This mindset is â€˜atomisticâ€™ because through this economic mode of reasoning the individual becomes like an atom, which has a limited amount of energy that can either be spent on others or on the trajectory of the self. So when one chooses to spend this energy on others the economic mindset wants this to be profitable. This explains why people stop responding to emails and letters the moment something more interesting catches their eye; basically people break off a contact the moment itâ€™s not convenient anymore. This is a symptom of the atomistic mindset; one is an individual with goals, you have a limited amount of energy available to spend on fulfilling those, and as you go about pursuing your self-designated trajectory you stumble across others, who are either obstacles or assistants. So, a girlfriend no longer becomes a person you have an intimate connection with, but becomes a person from which you can derive fun. The relationship is brought back from being about who you are to being about what you are for one another; each otherâ€™s assistants.
The atomistic mentality penetrates every aspect of our lives, including the personal aspects, eventually. A person considers for everything how it can benefit him. This is good, because it makes people successful if they think that way; you can achieve a great deal with your energy and time if you prioritize. However it is also calculative, opportunistic and manipulative. Our ability to manipulate is what brought the Western civilization progress; we learned to control the forces of nature and to use these for our own benefit.
Now, let us take this whole picture into consideration and apply it to the domain of a relationship. We want the other person to spend his or her energy on us. But on the other hand because we ourselves are entangled into many obligations, such as school and work, we cannot always spend energy on the other person. Yet that person does want us to. So when we donâ€™t have the time and energy to spare for him or her, that person will tell us that we need to make a sacrifice, and that we will be selfish if we do not. Yet this is merely a strategic narrative to get us to sacrifice some of our time and energy, and to give this as a tribute to that other person. The other atom wants to pull into its orbit our atom, so that we will follow his/her trajectory and prioritize his/her goal over our own. To get us to do something that benefits the goals of the other, at the cost of energy we can spend on our own goals.Â Â
Although the true motivation behind the narrative of sacrifice has now been revealed, as a concept it can still have positive effects. A sole man couldnâ€™t have built the pyramids, nor could he have erected the Chinese wall. But what he could do was to extend the scope of what he could accomplish through synchronization of the labour power of others to his will. Perhaps he convinced them that he was a more worthy person, more heavenly and special, so that these others gave up their own goals and instead adopted as their goal the emperorâ€™s will. In this way, a lot more productive results could be achieved as any man ever singlehandedly could. In a relationship it is the same thing; a man might achieve so much more goals in his life if he convinces his wife that if she really loves him, she must make a sacrifice and bring their children to school. But it canâ€™t work if both simultaneously adopt this mindset; that results is an exchange of mutual emotional blackmail. What is required is genuine belief (at least on one side of the exchange).
If both simultaneously adopt the atomisticÂ mindset (which economic rationality invites us to do) the consequence is that true love canâ€™t exist. Because we wonâ€™t be able to genuinely connect to that other person at a fundamental level. In a hypothetical example when I want my girlfriend to spend attention on me, but she cannot because she has to work in a restaurant, I will be dissatisfied because she chooses to invest the attention into the restaurant and not in me. However when she wants me to give attention to her while I need to study, then she will feel resentful, and as a result not talk to me anymore for a few days, â€˜to punish meâ€™. That is, to condition me into abandoning my own trajectory and synchronizing with hers.
Someone might say that all of this would lead a man to abandon the fallacy of true love, but the truth is that the moment I think for myself â€œI want to be with that woman because it will give me a fun and cosy timeâ€ then I will no longer value that woman for who she is intrinsically. I wonâ€™t feel connected to her because she will be another atom locked to my atom for a temporary alliance of beneficial energy exchange. Ultimately my desire to be with her would be a love for pleasing my own desires.
The same person might remark that it can be nothing more than that. But accepting that would set me apart from the rest of the human race and fundamentally alienate me from them. Because if even love canâ€™t be true intimacy, what does the wellbeing of the rest of the human race ultimately bring me? From the atomistic frame of mind we could see them as tools to suit our goals, when needed, but then what sort of achievement could possibly feel pure or valuable? What satisfaction does it bring to be esteemed in the eyes of people who are nothing but tools to you? Or to work for their benefit? Or to even play a parlor game with them, let alone to have sex with one? If people were nothing but tools, every goal would lose its value. If even love couldnâ€™t feel true or pure, what kind of accomplishment could possibly feel true and worthwhile? Since the people who would appreciate any of it would be no intrinsic goals but only tools to further goals. You see, this eliminates that sense of satisfaction, which can only be gained, by sharing it with another. It is nihilism.
One could argue love is fleeting, not eternal, and that for it to be eternal, you would have to sacrifice all other desires and goals, to become a slave of your love. And the person your love went out to would have to do the same.
But is it slavery if the Will voluntarily accepts and embraces that? For example, the moment a great speaker points at me in an audience, and asks me directly if I am prepared to fight for our nation to be independent of some foreign king, to even die for it if necessary. The moment I accept that Destiny, it elevates me above myself. I become designated, Knighted, so to say. Because I embrace my life not as a goal in itself, but as a means to a higher goal. It is the highest state of mind a man can obtain. It is when the Will recognizes in itself the potential to value some goal, ideal or vision above the bodily needs.
To fight and die for an Idea, it is undoubtedly very noble. But how more noble and loftily would it be, if that Idea were True?
For this reason, the new philosophy must not put man in service of some deityâ€™s will, which is inevitably an interpretation of ancient tribal lore by mystic men, but in service of Philosophy itself â€“ to manâ€™s Character and Reason. It is also why the foreign fundamentalists must be feared â€“ because the mindset of the zealot is in many aspects more powerful than that of the atomistic Westerner.Â
The new philosophy is the highest good because it is the peak of fulfilling human potential. Since we are not speaking about â€˜a good lifeâ€™, but about â€˜a good human lifeâ€™. The best life is that which brings the elements to fruition which are most essentially human,Â thus allowing us to be human in the full sense. One cannot ask of what good this greatest good is; to do so would be an internal contradiction: one cannot decide the goodness of a building project by the impact it has on the tools that have been devised to build it. Asking for the good of the greatest good would lead to an eternal reduction of ends to means, and then there would be no goals to begin with, but instead we detect everywhere movements towards directions. Without a greatest good all these directions would be as empty and vain as any other, and thus there would be no movements. But there are movements, so there must be a greatest good.
Our goal is to improve the power of our minds, intellects and wills, and to make them as strong as they can be. Because this is what allows us to live an Epic life. To rise above ourselves does not necessarily mean to rise above self-interest. At that stage, the individualism/altruism dichotomy is no longer relevant. Self-interest and collective-interest are no longer two different edges, because a man who is Epic will naturally feel at home amongst others who are Epic too, and fundamentally alienated when he is not. Like you and me. Even if we are all from vastly different backgrounds, we all think the life of a truly human being is about making the most out of what youâ€™ve got. Goodness lies in using things in accordance with that purpose for which they are most suitable to be used, and this applies to humans too: our own perfectibility among human beings who aspire for the same. This all proves that Aristotle was right and that the freedom defined by Thomas Hobbes and Isaiah Berlin, the license of the individual to do whatever he has in mind without anyone bothering him, due to the fundamental emptiness it leaves, cannot be equated to True Liberty.