The Danger of Philosophy


I read “Infinity” by Brian Clegg back in the early 00’s, and was struck by his observation that many of those who study it developed psychological problems.

Someone said to me last winter, that reading my work had turned humans into zoo animals for mere observation, and decreasing empathy with their experiences.

And it’s true that propertarianism reduces sociology and psychology and pretty much all human action into an analysis of acquisition and defense of property, and the various signals that we display to negotiate success at both.

I have always thought of most people as terribly dim creatures (i usually call them zombies) that I must ensure do not hurt me out of ignorance. As a child I though peers mere animals. Most adults dangerous idiots to be managed. In my teens, I thought everyone was just evil. Then in my twenties, to my horror, I understood that they were just incompetent, and I tried to become a teacher. In my forties I tried to be paternalistic, realizing that you cannot teach zombies many tricks. And in the past decade, it has become clear to me that I have lost a lot of empathy with people because I am now operating by cognitive rules that are as alien to the secularist, as superstition is the scientist, – and that my work has reduced my subconscious evaluation of most people to gene machines that I must just negotiate with. I am an alien now in this world.

I think this has dramatically influenced my moral intuitions.

Meanwhile, I still have human impulses for human contact and experience. I try to keep people at an emotional and intellectual distance.

And this leads me to an interesting conclusion: have I, for all intents and purposes, between tragic stresses the 00’s, and my reductionism of man, become victim to the same consequences as the authors of infinity?

I think this is not the right analysis. It’s rather this in both the case of infinity and propertarianism: have I managed to transcend? Have I gone mad in some poetic sense? Or is there really any difference between transcendence and madness other than the desire you feel to interact with others – such that you transcend if you do not care, and you go mad if you do?

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