Philosophy ‘Puts Everything in Danger’

A commentator on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War writes,Everyone likes security and dislikes danger; everyone wants to live and fears death.” Nietzsche in Ecce Homo describes the philosopher — and here he is thinking of himself, of the Dionysian philosopher par excellence — as “a terrible explosive which puts everything in danger.”

There are hindrances to entering into war just as there are hindrances to entering into philosophy. We are naturally inclined to not want to die, to want to preserve ourselves, and so we quite naturally yen for safety, comfort, security, peace at a high premium. When we are in jeopardy of losing it, we grope for it; when we suspect it of fragility, we fear its loss. Similarly, we do not want to investigate ourselves for fear of what we might discover about ourselves. What ordinary lies could be disclosed, what self-deceptions unmasked? What ugliness could devastate us? What horror might unravel us? What truth, we fear, ultimately unwind us?

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‘How We Become who We are’: Part 3

Remember our guiding intuition, so basic as to be almost a second skin? It is that you and I want to make something of ourselves. We also say–and mean the same thing–that we want to do something with ourselves. An astonishing intuition!

Last time, I wrote about one assumption that rests quietly beneath this intuition. It is that we have lives to lead. This we believe as well!

But now imagine the strangeness of the other assumption you and I endorse: we do not begin our lives by being already fully realized. The strangeness does not result from the fact that human beings grow as most other things. Our physical form fills out, and we develop capacities for speech and laughter and other things. Nothing strange yet. The strangeness, instead, is to be felt in the idea that we want to realize ourselves, becoming more than we were at birth, becoming ‘who we are,’ says Nietzsche. And that is the paradox: namely, that we want to become who we are.

Continue reading “‘How We Become who We are’: Part 3”