PART ONE: ESSAYS ON A DUALISTIC PHILOSOPHY
THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF OPPOSITES: Work and play, love and hate, day and night, up and down, north and south, big and small, high and low, pleasure and pain, man and woman, sun and moon, yes and no, right and wrong, good and evil, health and sickness, in and out, hard and soft, hot and cold, old and new, war and peace, quick and slow, young and old, life and death, awake and asleep, rich and poor, tragic and comic, for and against, truth and illusion, etc.
The duality of life would seem to be an indisputable fact, a condition not permitting any serious refutation. For what happens when we isolate the word 'big', say, from the existence of its antithesis, 'small'? - Simply that the word in question ceases to be meaningful. By itself and totally isolated from the word 'small', our adjective is reduced to a sound, the simple basis of a new word. We could speak of a big bird, a big house, or a big garden but, not knowing what 'big' meant, we would be none the wiser.
Thus we can see how absolutely interdependent the words 'big' and 'small' really are, how they can only serve a useful function when used in a mutual relationship. Once the polarities have been established, however, it is then possible to conclude a bird 'big' in relation to a speck of dust but 'small' in relation to a man; 'small' in relation to a house but 'big' in relation to a moth, and so on.
It should therefore follow that unless we accept the dualities of life as being interrelated, part of a larger whole, and even, in a limited sense, the key to the metaphysical nature of reality, we shall be perpetually deluding ourselves. In other words, without hate there can be no love, without death no life, without sadness no happiness, without pain no pleasure, without evil no good, without illusion no truth, without realism no naturalism, and without materialism no idealism.
Thus it can be assumed that a society which strives to remove what it regards as a detrimental or undesirable antithesis to a given ideal condition or concept ... is inevitably letting itself in for a lot of futile and pointless labour. A tolerable world isn't a place where things don't go wrong or where conditions are always pleasant, people happy, work agreeable, and health unimpaired; for that, believe it or not, would soon prove to be quite an intolerable one. But in order that people may experience pleasant conditions, a degree of happiness, a sense of purpose, and the joys of good health, a tolerable world will also include correlative experience of unpleasant conditions, sadness, absurdity, and sickness - to name but a handful of possibilities.
Hence when a person is feeling sad, he ought to face-up to the reality of his situation by accepting its rightful place and thereby bearing with it as a sort of passport to the possibility of subsequent happiness. Indeed, if he is something of a philosopher, and can sufficiently detach himself from his immediate sadness for a few seconds, he may even think along such lines as: 'Without this moment or hour of sadness, what happiness could I possibly expect today?' In doing so, he will be acknowledging the validity of what might popularly be described as a means to a desirable end.
Naturally, I don't mean to imply that people should think like this when inflicted with depressing circumstances, but simply that they should learn to acquiesce in their various uncongenial moods without vainly endeavouring to fight shy of them. For the trickery too often advocated by people who foolishly strive to rid themselves of an unhappy mood, as though secretly afraid to 'pay their dues', strikes me as little more than a species of intellectual perversion. If we were really supposed to lead one-sided lives, life would have been considerably different to begin with, and it is doubtful that man would have conceived of the dual concepts of Heaven and Hell, concepts which, on a more concrete level, are clearly relative to life on this earth, and to a life, moreover, which prohibits man from ever dedicating himself to the one at the total exclusion of the other!
Therefore it can be deduced from the aforementioned contentions that man's fundamental nature is typified by its capacity for experiencing seemingly contradictory phenomena, viz. happiness and sadness, good and evil, truth and illusion, which, if he is to do justice to both himself and his kind, should be accepted and cultivated according to his individual or innate disposition.
An author, for example, who may well be 'great' by dint of the fact that he accepts himself as a whole man, should reconcile himself to the logical contradictions, cynical statements, brash generalizations, callous accusations, superficial appreciations, cultivated vanities, dogmatic assertions, etc., which frequently appear in his writings (and constitute manifestations of his negative, or evil, side), in order to safeguard his integrity as both a man and a writer.
THE CONFLICT OF OPPOSITES: My philosophy is neither optimistic nor pessimistic but a subtle combination of both optimism and pessimism. Perhaps this respect for duality, this acceptance of polarity, entitles it to be regarded as a metaphysics drawn primarily from life itself rather than imposed upon it by the whims or perversions of the human mind. Of course, its author is aware that he may think optimistically whilst experiencing a good mood and pessimistically whilst in the grip of a bad mood. But these separate inclinations are well suited to the purposes of this philosophy.
For example, if he should one moment secretly pronounce, after the fashion of Schopenhauer, that life is inherently bad because there is too much suffering and not enough pleasure in it, he will subsequently reflect, when the time and mood are propitious, that his previous oracular pronouncement was largely attributable to the persistence of a bad mood and/or uncongenial circumstances; that life was only 'bad' because he had been in a negative frame-of-mind, had set up a chain of negative reactions and accordingly dismissed optimism in the name of suffering, thereby passing judgement in a thoroughly one-sided manner.
If, however, he should sometime pronounce, after the fashion of Gide, that life is inherently good and bubbles over with joy, pleasure, intelligence, etc., he will later reflect, doubtless when the time and mood have shifted down a gear or two, that his previous oracular pronouncement was largely attributable to the prevalence of a good mood and/or congenial circumstances; that life was only 'good' because he had been in a positive frame-of-mind, had set up a chain of positive reactions and accordingly dismissed pessimism or, rather, affirmed optimism in the name of wellbeing, thereby passing judgement in a no-less thoroughly one-sided manner.
The claim that life is therefore both good and bad, according to the context of the occasion or circumstances of the individual, is doubtless a proposition that most fair-minded people would be prepared to accept. But to proclaim, like some philosophers, that life is either good or bad is surely to misrepresent or slander it in such a way as to render oneself contemptible to the more realistic spirits of this world! Let it be hoped that we dualists can see life on fairer terms than they did.
THE NECESSARY ILLUSION: Just as one must know one's truths if they are to remain valid as truths, so one must remain ignorant of one's illusions if they are to remain illusions. Whenever the spell of an illusion is broken one automatically becomes disillusioned, which is to say somewhat saddened by the realization that what one formerly took to be the truth wasn't really true at all but, rather, a misconception on one's part. Thus, by way of compensation, the shattered illusion then becomes a kind of negative truth, in that one can now see through it and thereby establish a truer opinion on the subject. So, in a sense, one's illusions are all sham truths until one becomes disillusioned.
But this realization, this process of creeping disillusionment, doesn't automatically mean that one is steadily getting closer to absolute truth, that one is 'cutting down' on one's illusions and consequently converting the knowledge of their fallacies into relative truth while simultaneously safeguarding one's inherent or acquired grasp of truth. For as everything exists in polarity, so must the newly acquired disillusionment subsequently make way for other illusions which replace those one possessed at the time of becoming disillusioned with a particular illusion, in order to maintain the balance of opposites.
A philosopher who categorically asserts his will to truth at any price, and thereupon declares himself to be the sworn enemy of illusion, is, unwittingly, the victim of an illusion which presupposes that truth can be acquired without a constant metaphysical price - namely of simultaneously maintaining and acquiescing in illusions which must, of necessity, enter into his work from time to time, thereby preventing the ultimate realization of his notably idealistic ambitions.
THE LEGITIMACY OF STUPIDITY: As each person retains his capacity for truth and illusion throughout life, so, likewise, does each person retain his capacity for cleverness and stupidity. That this is a just condition hardly needs proving; for were he not subject to the experience of both tendencies, he would have little or no prospect of maintaining either. Hence his illusion guarantees the continual existence of his truth, his stupidity the continual existence of his cleverness.
To lament, however, over the realization that even one's favourite philosophers, novelists, and poets display periodic manifestations of illusion or stupidity is, willy-nilly, to display one's own illusion or stupidity, since these authors must also be subject to the metaphysical coercion of the human spirit and therefore be equally incapable of ultimately transcending its dualism. Were a few of them to remain wholly consistent with one's own mode of thinking, were even one of them to do so, there would surely be reasonable grounds for assuming that the impossible had come to pass, that one had come face-to-face with one's double and somehow acquired exactly the same truths and illusions as had previously been recorded by a man who hadn't so much as even suspected one's existence.
Consequently, it will be no great surprise or hardship to an enlightened reader when he eventually comes to realize that his attitude towards each of his 'favourite' writers is bound to be ambivalent, to entail both agreement and disagreement, approval and disapproval, faith and scepticism. For as there has never been two people exactly alike in the world, so it is inevitable that one man's meat will continue to be another man's poison.
Even the greatest writers must, of necessity, be subject to the continuous prevalence of antithetical values, if they are to live as men and not degenerate into lopsided monsters! The pernicious idea of someone's being 'all too human' simply because he makes mistakes, acts stupidly, suffers from ignorance, fosters certain misleading arguments, etc., is clearly founded upon a superficial grasp of human reality (as though the person accusing another of being 'all too human' on account of such failings wasn't, in reality, 'all too human' himself for failing to detect their ultimate legitimacy!). But being 'all too human' is really an indication of human perfection rather than of imperfection. For a man who never made mistakes, never committed an illusion or absurdity to paper, would be highly imperfect - a sort of computerized robot, and therefore no man at all!
MORE POSITIVE THAN NEGATIVE: If illusions are only illusions insofar as man is basically unaware of their illusory nature, can it not be deduced from this that his real evil, stupidity, illogicality, injustice, etc., only come to the fore when he is basically unaware of the fact, not when he wills it? In other words, because the life-force is essentially positive, because everything arises in nature to fulfil itself, is not man's deepest inclination likewise to seek the positive rather than the negative, to aspire towards his individual truth, goodness, cleverness, profundity, logic, justice, etc. as an inherent inclination rather than towards their opposites which, being negative, are things that he is fundamentally unconscious of, i.e. in the sense that one is unconscious of an illusion until one becomes disillusioned with it?
Men aspire towards truth while still besotted with illusions, towards goodness while still fostered on evil, towards social order while still subject to the chaos of their individual lives. They often think they are doing the right thing when it subsequently transpires to being wrong; they often consider themselves to be acting justly when, to those upon whom they have acted, the consequences are manifestly unjust; they often imagine themselves to be doing good when, to those who are the recipients of their goodness, the main consequences are evil. It is only out of ignorance that they act wrongly at all, but it is a necessary ignorance which ultimately transpires to being justified, a fact which may well explain why the dying Christ gave utterance to the words: 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do', and why Nietzsche asserted: 'Man always acts rightly'.
Thus man is largely ignorant of his real evil, stupid, illogical, and superficial tendencies because his innate positivity generally leads him to treat every action as a good, no matter what its nature. He doesn't attack others, whether verbally or physically, simply for the pleasure of doing so but primarily because he feels justified in doing so, because, by a quirk of fate, context, experience, or life-history, he feels that to be the right thing to do under the prevailing circumstances.
From the viewpoint of the people he has attacked, however, his actions are almost certain to be condemned as evil. And for the very sound reason that whenever someone acts cruelly to us it offends our prevailing sense of goodness, causes us to feel outraged, engenders negative feelings, and is automatically translated into an evil act. Because it offends us we recognize it as an evil action, instinctively regard its perpetrator in a negative light, and straightaway succumb to a misconception, viz. that the aggressor is inevitably in the wrong. But even if it may appear so from our point of view, this is insufficient to make it so from his and, consequently, each side acting according to their lights, the antagonism continues.
If, therefore, man aspires towards goodness without ever becoming wholly good, whatever he does from ignorance or spite, wounded vanity or a sense of outraged innocence, the warrior impulse or self-defence, which can be interpreted as evil, can never make him wholly bad. And the same may be held true of all the other polar attributes as well. He will aspire to acquiring nothing but the truth without ever freeing himself from illusions. He will endeavour to boast of his cleverness without ever managing to completely rid himself of stupidity. But let us not add to that stupidity by bewailing the existence of these indispensable antitheses!
BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE: In speaking of antitheses we almost invariably put the positive attribute first and the negative one second, as the following short list should serve to confirm: good and bad, truth and illusion, pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, life and death, light and dark, love and hate, day and night, heaven and hell, man and woman, boy and girl, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, high and low, yes and no, etc. To say that man's nature is good would hardly constitute the truth; for in order to have any goodness at all he must have sufficient evil from which to create it, he must have one tendency balanced by another.
Granted that man is neither good nor evil but both good and evil (which should not be confounded with a combination of each), one can nevertheless assert that the positivity of goodness generally leads him to aspire towards the Good rather than towards its opposite which, being negative, can only take second place, as it were, to the 'leading string'. Thus, as an inherently positive phenomenon, life is geared towards goodness, but to a goodness which can only be maintained with the aid of evil.
Yes, Gide was right to contend that man was born for happiness, in that man's strongest predilection is to aspire towards the positivity of happiness rather than towards the negativity of sadness. Admittedly, this happiness ultimately depends upon the intermittent prevalence of sadness. But sadness can never become the 'leading string', or man's principal objective. For the essential positivity of our being does not induce us to pine for sadness when we are happy but, on the contrary, to immerse ourselves in happiness as if it were a natural condition, as if we had found our spiritual home. And this same positivity eventually goads us out of our sadness by causing us to pine for happiness.
Now according to Schopenhauer - who is virtually antithetical to Gide - happiness is merely the absence of pain and thus a negative thing, whereas pain itself he saw as very positive, a thing upon which life mostly depends. To follow Schopenhauer's reasoning here isn't particularly easy, but it should be fairly apparent to most people that he was somewhat mistaken. For as the accepted antithesis to pleasure, not happiness, pain is really anything but a positive thing, since we aren't driven by our essential being to pain but to pleasure, so pleasure must be the positive attribute and pain the negative one. Not being content to muddle these antitheses, however, Schopenhauer also saw fit to reverse their qualities and thus invest pain with a positive attribute - a thing hardly guaranteed to enlighten one or advance truth in this respect!
So do I therefore advise people against reading Schopenhauer? No, I don't, since there is much value to be gleaned from a serious perusal of his major works, including The World as Will and Representation. What I do advise people against, however, is being put off philosophers like Schopenhauer on account of their logical fallacies. There is not a philosopher on earth who could escape criticism for one reason or another, since there isn't one whose integrity as a human being exempts him from error. Where one believes the contrary, it can be assumed that one has been deceived by the mistaken assertions of the philosopher concerned without in the least suspecting the fact. No man is born to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Yet no man is born subject to nothing but illusions, either!
A man who is prepared to give his favourite philosopher's principal target of abuse (Hegel in the case of Schopenhauer) a fair hearing or reading would strike this philosopher as more enlightened than one whose willingness to do so has been severely compromised, if not completely negated, by too slavish an adherence to him.
NEITHER ANGEL NOR DEMON: We are neither angels nor demons but that compromise between them which is called man. It is as impossible to prevent man from doing evil as it is to prevent him from doing good. Even those people who imagine themselves to be what D.H. Lawrence described as 'lopsided on the side of the angels' are undoubtedly deluded in supposing themselves to be wholly good. How can anyone living in this world be wholly good when our metaphysical condition requires that we function according to the dictates of polar influences, and not degenerate into some kind of moral eunuch hardly capable of killing a fly?
Indeed, when one realizes that not even the saints can have been wholly good, what chance does anyone else have of eliminating their evil tendencies and thereby transforming themselves into something which transcends our physiological coercion to accept both good and evil as equally important, equally interdependent, and, above all, equally inescapable? One might as well try squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle.
But how, then, do I define good and evil? Simply by relating that which proceeds from positive feelings to goodness and, conversely, that which proceeds from negative feelings to evil. Thus a genuine smile is a good, a genuine scowl an evil. Pleasure is good, pain evil. Love is good, hate evil. Hope is good, fear evil.
Incidentally, one is indulging in evil every time one complains about anything, since the tendency to complain inevitably engenders negative feelings: anger, resentment, fear, or hate. One drops a hammer on one's foot and one experiences pain. Pain is a physical evil which causes one to curse. Cursing is the inevitable mental evil which results from pain. One's evil is justified.
NO GOOD WITHOUT EVIL: Just take a look at the history of philosophy, at the number of philosophers from Plato to Kant who have designated men as either good or evil without apparently realizing that a 'good man' or a 'bad man' can never exist, never, that is, so long as men are compelled to conform to their individual standards of polar exchange, which is to say so long as they live.
Naturally, certain men appear good compared with lesser men, whose basic intellectual limitations, social hardships, and poor breeding lead them to commit actions which a more fortunate individual could only condemn. But this is far from saying that those greater men are not susceptible to evils themselves, and to evils, moreover, which conform to their class, occupation, age, and physiological coercion as men.
No man can call himself good simply because his higher intelligence, better standard of living, and finer breeding enable him to refrain from what might broadly be described as the evil tendencies of a lower class. It is not enough simply to avoid torturing or murdering people, openly ridiculing, cursing, raping, or fighting them; for one can usually do that without too great a strain upon oneself if one is of a sufficiently independent and noble turn-of-mind.
No, to become a 'good man' one would have to give-up reading certain books, say, murder mysteries; give-up listening to certain albums, say, hard rock; give-up watching certain films, say, horror videos; stop thinking certain thoughts, seeing certain people, taking certain sides, having certain beliefs, saying certain things, feeling certain emotions, dreaming certain dreams, indulging certain fantasies, etc., and one would have to give them up and/or or stop them to such an extent, to such a point of exclusivity, that there would be very little left one could do!
But would this drastic strategy for the eradication of personal evil in one's life really make one good, holy, saved? No, it wouldn't! For if one could get rid of all one's evil inclinations, there would be nothing good to fall back on, there would be no good left within oneself, since one's good inclinations only thrive with the assistance of their opposites, not without them! One would simply exist in a manner approximating to that in which certain Oriental sages have traditionally aspired to existing: neither a good man nor a bad man but effectively a thing, devoid of life, sitting under the branches of a tree all day with the imperturbability of a rock.
Thus wherever the healthy tendency of a will to life is concerned, there must always be varying degrees of good and evil. Conversely, wherever the unhealthy tendency of a will to antilife (death-in-life) is concerned, there can be neither good nor evil but an existence betokening death - a sort of blasphemy against life.
ONLY PARTLY WISE: The world has never produced a single 'wise man', since the world is not geared to wise men but to men, who can only be wise with the aid of their folly. In order for a man to be capable of wisdom at all, he must also be foolish. For unless he is, there will be nothing for him to create his wisdom from, since he will lack the polarity that guarantees it. Even Nietzsche, wise man that he seems to have been on various occasions, was also a fool.
Do you disbelieve me, you 'wise' ones, you who grew out of folly? No matter, your disbelief will reinstate it. I am foolish, you are foolish, we are all foolish, but because of this we are all intermittently wise as well!
Indeed, whenever I see men aspiring to be wiser than everyone else, men who are usually afraid to live ... from fear that they should somehow transgress their wisdom, I see them for the half-fools they really are. They would even go so far, some of them, as to pretend to having acquired a victory over folly, which, in reality, would also be a victory over wisdom; though they, being such half-fools, couldn't be expected to know that!
But there you are: that, in simple light-hearted language, is fairly typical of the human condition, of that very logical condition which induces us to be wise intermittently rather than permanently, so that, to revert to D.H. Lawrence again, we can avoid being at 'a perpetual funeral'.
PERFECT OR IMPERFECT: What, in the final analysis, is the chief distinction between a perfect and an imperfect man? Is any man perfect at all, or is human imperfection the eternal rule, the condition to which all men must be reduced if they are to survive?
Some people would have us believe in the moral imperfection of man as though it were an indisputable fact, one derived from his 'sinful' nature and consequent need of salvation.
Others would contend that man is mentally imperfect, and that his frequent mistakes, stupidities, superficialities, illusions, contradictions, deceptions, etc., emphasize this condition all too plainly.
Yet others, probably a minority, would contend that man is usually mentally perfect, but that only a small number of men are ever permitted to actually realize their perfection, the rest of mankind being reduced, through economic and political tyrannies, to a state of spiritual, moral, intellectual, and social deprivation.
Finally, there would be those who, whilst acknowledging that man is usually mentally and physically perfect, would contend that some men are either born or become mentally or physically imperfect: that a person with a spastic body, a crippled limb, a mental disorder, or a heart disease is undoubtedly imperfect when compared with somebody whose body and mind are hale.
Yes, this latter case is probably more relevant to most people living today than are any of the others. But let us take a closer look, if only from curiosity, at what these other cases are saying.
To begin with, the church in virtually all of its denominational manifestations, though especially the Catholic one, believes quite emphatically that man is a sinful and, hence, imperfect creature. The clerical servants of the church believe in the imperfection of man, in what they take to be his perpetual backsliding into sinful habits like sex and alcohol. Through regularly confessing these sins to a priest, a man may secure forgiveness from God. But, if he is to be logically consistent, he must confess everything, not forget to mention anything or allow himself to overlook something which he might foolishly regard as trivial and therefore hardly a sin at all. For God, being omniscient, can still see into his mind and will know if there was anything which should have been confessed to but which, for one reason or another, was overlooked.
However that may be, both the Catholic and, to a lesser extent, the Protestant clergy believe in man's imperfection and, thus, perpetual need of redemption. They have, it seems to me, a somewhat partial view of man. They do not want to accept him in the round but only in the part, with particular reference to his 'sinful nature'. For if they once accepted the dualistic integrity of man, their conception of his imperfection could soon dissolve under pressure of the following fact - namely that man can only be good because of his intermittent evil, since his sinfulness, whatever form it may take, is fundamentally the sole guarantor of his goodness.
But such an acceptance of man's whole nature would not be to the lasting advantage of the clergy! For if a man's good actions (those stemming from positive feelings) are fundamentally dependent upon the periodic manifestation of his evil actions (those stemming from negative feelings), how can one possibly maintain that he should strive to eradicate as many of the latter as possible or, alternatively, confess what wrong he has done in order to be forgiven? Undoubtedly a ticklish problem for the clergy to address, particularly since their justification as priests largely depends upon the contrary idea which, if pushed far enough, tends to divide a man against himself, making him hostile towards his dual nature.
However, it is not for us humble philosophers to attempt to change their views, since that would certainly be to overlook the power of tradition and entrenched dogma. As a freethinker living in a country which permits free thought, I shall simply put my case before the public tribunal and pass on.
Which leads me to our second conception of man's imperfection - namely to the assumption that his periodic mistakes, stupidities, superficialities, contradictions, etc., are all clear examples of it. Indeed, it is not only clergymen who maintain this belief, but people from just about every walk of life. If they are figure clerks, then a wrong addition or misplaced numeral is obviously, if regrettably, another instance of human imperfection. If they are teachers, then an inability to trace a certain date, name, or reference in their memories may subsequently lead them to draw similar conclusions, though not in front of the class! If they are philosophers, the assertion of a particular contention that they imagined was true, but which subsequently transpired to being false, will probably trigger off a similar barrage of self-condemnation. In truth, the numbers of possible instances are endless, though they all point in the same direction - namely, the assumption that our respective mistakes, failings, delusions, etc., are conclusive proof of human imperfection.
But is man a computer, we may object, that he should be exempted from error? Is his evolution directed towards some future mastery of himself, some grand epoch when the likelihood of a wrong addition, a memory failure, or a fallacious contention will be rendered impossible? If so, then I must confess to having serious misgivings about man's future! I can well appreciate his use and development of computers, but I do not believe that he should subsequently become computerized as well!
If a man makes occasional mistakes, then let us at least have the insight to assume that he didn't commit them on purpose (for no genuine mistake can be made intentionally) but, rather, that they happened in accordance with a deeper law of his being, which effectively proclaimed the justification of an occasional mistake as a means of maintaining his overall efficiency and general ability to avoid making mistakes at certain other times.
And the same may be held true, I suspect, of his many other failings, each of which exists primarily to protect and maintain his overall efficiency. So I do not believe that a man should necessarily be classified as imperfect because he makes mistakes from time to time. Classify him imperfect if he never makes mistakes, has no faults, is without stupidity, superficiality, illusion, or contradiction, if you like. But the condemnation of his natural condition is something of which I do not see the sense.
However, let us now progress to the third possibility which, as we saw earlier, concerns the alleged perfection of the Few and the imperfection of the Many. To some extent, it is of course fair to suggest that most people are crushed or moulded by fate into a particular way of life which can only be described as constrictive. They may be obliged to earn a living in uncongenial circumstances. Their health is gradually undermined, their imagination becomes increasingly circumscribed, their senses are dulled, their intellect becomes progressively more stultified, their opinions become stereotyped, their spirit atrophies, and their willpower, initiative, and self-confidence sustain an irrecoverable loss. Yes, it is probably fair to suggest that these sorts of misfortunes have befallen a great many people; though it is probably also fair to suggest that a majority of them don't seem to worry very much about it. After awhile they take their condition for granted, not really being in a position to do much else.
Indeed, for some people stultification of one degree or another isn't at all a bad thing; at least it prevents them from worrying or suffering too much in consequence of an acute awareness of their deprivation. But, for others, it is virtually the end of the road, a ghastly horror from which they recoil, as from a poisonous snake. Probably no-one can escape a certain amount of intellectual stultification, dulling of senses, atrophying of spirit, etc., even under the best of circumstances. Yet there are those who regard such a prospect or actuality with great dismay, much as though people were thereby rendered imperfect and consequently unable to live as they should. It is a great evil of society, they claim, that so many people should be crushed down for the sake of a minority who are enabled to live to the maximum of their ability. It isn't right, they say, that a majority of people should be compelled to live a sort of living death for the sake of a privileged few.
Undoubtedly, this is the kind of viewpoint one would ordinarily associate with certain types of communist revolutionaries and social agitators. But I cannot personally grant it much credence. It seems to me that those who think like this are insufficiently aware of the temperamental, social, psychological, and intellectual differences between people. A person who does what you or I might regard as a dull job isn't necessarily worse off than one whose job is more exciting. It depends entirely upon the nature of the person concerned. For if one isn't very intelligent to begin with, then a dull job is not only the best thing, it is the only thing, and anything else would be unsuitable. But if one is pretty intelligent to begin with, then, conversely, a dull job would be unsuitable. Now one cannot seriously contend that a person born to a dull task has been deprived of an opportunity to realize his perfection through, say, one or other of the fine arts, higher sports, or professions, when it wasn't given him to realize his perfection in that way. Yet this is precisely what certain communist revolutionaries and social agitators are apt to overlook, whether intentionally or unintentionally, when they speak in terms of social inequality.
Frankly, one cannot really contend that a majority of men must lead imperfect lives for the sake of a lucky few, when the lives they lead are the only possible ones that they could lead anyway. Is a man to be pitied because he wasn't born with the potential of a poet, musician, writer, artist, or philosopher when, by accident or design, he was born with the potential of a carpenter, builder, plumber, tailor, or car mechanic instead? Would you demand of car mechanics that they become playwrights in order to realize their perfection to the full, irrespective of the fact that they may prefer being car mechanics and can better realize their perfection in that way?
No, nobody but the most unreasoning of persons would demand any such thing! For there are as many ways of realizing one's perfection as there are people, and what would suit one type of person could well prove the ruination of another.
So I do not believe that people who are unable to discover themselves in the more creative or authoritative spheres of life should be considered unfortunate for having to do comparatively mundane or servile things instead. Each man has his own problems to live with, whether he be a king or a beggar. Indeed, there is at work in this world a vast levelling process which adds something here only to subtract something there, which renders every occupation, no matter what its nature, subject to certain drawbacks, limitations, or hardships, and no-one in his right mind would really pretend otherwise, no matter how unfortunate he thought he was, or how many uncongenial experiences accrued to his particular occupation. Even in the most boring office jobs one may be able to converse with one's fellow workers on occasion - a thing an artist, writer, philosopher, or poet is seldom if ever in a position to do, bearing in mind his solitary circumstances. But even boring work is better than no work at all, and most people would rather be bored at work than bored or, worse still, lonely and without purpose from being out of work.
Thus, in returning to my original theme, I do not agree with the notion that society requires a large percentage of imperfect men in order that a small percentage of the total population should be able to develop their potential to the full and thereby realize their perfection. Where a man is insufficiently intelligent or talented to do a highly skilled or responsible job, he has absolutely no business doing it. Where, on the contrary, he is sufficiently intelligent or talented, then he will do his best to get himself accepted for it and, eventually, he will probably succeed. Whether he becomes a bookbinder, a sculptor, doctor, judge, architect, or novelist, whatever he does will be right for him. There could be no question of coaxing him out of it. For if all men were born to do the same thing, the world would collapse in no time. A few billion artists would spell the ruination of art, a few billion doctors the ruination of medicine, and nobody would be able to realize or even discover his perfection at all.
But that a man should consider himself a failure because he is not a poet or an artist or a musician ... is as stupid and illogical as, for the sake of argument, it would be for a tortoise to consider itself a failure because it is not a hare, or a mouse to consider itself a failure because it is not a cat! Let a man do what he can do as well as possible, let him live according to his capacity, and he will soon discover his true worth. A person can be as satisfied in the humblest or lowest-paid job as dissatisfied in the most exalted or highest-paid one. It entirely depends upon the nature and circumstances of the person concerned.
But let us now leave the above aspect of the problem and turn, finally, to the more obvious criterion of perfection and imperfection: the difference, namely, between a person with a sound, healthy body and mind, and one, by contrast, who is afflicted with some serious mental or bodily deprivation. Here we do touch upon the essential distinction, the glaring inequality, between the normal and the abnormal, the healthy and the sick.
The instances of human imperfection are numerous, but they all revolve around severe mental or physical anomalies. Schizophrenia, mental retardation, and various forms of advanced insanity are typical of the former; blindness, deafness, deformed or crippled limbs, obesity, and various internal malfunctions are typical of the latter. But, whatever the anomaly may happen to be, there lies the basis of human imperfection. It has nothing whatsoever to do with 'sinning against the Light' (unless, however, one's 'sins' are of such a grave and frequent character that there is a strong justification for regarding them as the direct consequence of some mental or physical disorder). Neither does it have anything to do with making mistakes (unless, however, one does little else). Still less does it have to do with the type of work one does (unless, however, one would rather not do any work at all and simply rot away in sordid isolation). No, the phenomenon of human imperfection is always chiefly characterized by such anomalies as those to which I have referred, never or rarely by anything else. For if you are reasonably sound in body and mind, you are as perfect as you need to be. And a 'perfect man' isn't usually the exception; he is the rule!
PERFECT AND IMPERFECT: You claim, my critical reader, that we are not perfect because we make mistakes, commit stupid acts, suffer from ignorance, succumb to the flesh, make war on others, twist truth into illusion, condemn others for things we sometimes do ourselves, fail to live up to our ideals, give way to sloth, contradict ourselves, forget what we ought to have remembered, and remember what we ought really to have forgotten. Why, then, do I pretend otherwise?
But I don't pretend, I know otherwise. I know, for example, that one cannot be good without also, though at other times, being bad, since one's goodness depends upon periodic evil (irrespective of the fact that one may often be quite unaware of exactly what this evil is or what form it takes). I know, too, how important stupidity is in maintaining my intermittent cleverness, how profundity only thrives because of superficiality, wisdom because of folly, truth because of illusion. Without my body I would have no spirit, and without food for this body my spirit would be sorely troubled; in fact, it would be sickly preoccupied with my body, and then, in a sense, I would be quite imperfect. For spirituality only thrives with the aid of its opposite, not without it!
Oh, you say, but there are ugly people, retarded people, spastic people, crippled people, stunted people, blind people, and many other kinds of unfortunate people who, even given your questionable criteria, are anything but perfect. What do I say to that?
Yes, I reply, you are right. And that is precisely where real human imperfection lies. It isn't so much in what one does as in what one is. A hunchbacked dwarf, for example, is clearly quite imperfect by normal standards, as is a cripple, a deaf-mute, or a spastic. We are usually somewhat disturbed by the imperfections of an ugly face or, alternatively, of a face covered in sores, boils, pimples, scars, etc., and, to be perfectly honest with ourselves, we have every reason to feel disturbed. But, since most of us have some failings along these lines, since most of us can point to some physical malady or deformity which regularly troubles us in life, is it not evident that a majority of us are both perfect and imperfect, and that our perfections, far from being completely independent of our imperfections, are dependent upon them for their continuous participation.
But now I am confusing you, I hear you object. First I speak of human perfection, then of imperfection, and finally, to complicate matters still further, of perfection and imperfection. Surely there is a contradiction here? Surely there is some fundamental misconception here?
No, not at all! For if we have to pay for our truths with the coinage of illusion, can it not be contended that, except in those above-mentioned unfortunate instances where physical imperfection is too severe, our overall spiritual integrity, or perfection, must likewise be paid for with the coinage of physical imperfection, whether this imperfection be internal or external, transient or permanent, of the brain or of the body? If one man has an ugly face, another may have a handsome one riddled with spots, boils, sores, etc. If one man is short-sighted, another may be long-sighted. If one man has greasy hair, another may have greasy skin. If one man suffers from his lungs, another may suffer from his heart. If one man is too thin, another may be too fat, and so on and so forth. The instances of physical imperfection are many, but they all seem to point in the same direction - namely the overall integrity of the spirit.
According, therefore, to this contention we are both spiritually perfect and physically imperfect. When one is both clever and stupid, wise and foolish, profound and superficial, logical and illogical, etc., one is spiritually whole, integrated, perfect! When, however, one contemplates the anomalies of the body (of which the brain is effectively a part), it is patently obvious that, in a majority of cases, the body isn't perfect. For short-sightedness, B.O., greasy skin, obesity, boils, warts, moles, cysts, sties, headaches, bone diseases, bladder trouble, and the thousand-and-one other things which constitute physical imperfection can't exactly reflect the same kind of integrity as is to be found in the duality of the spirit, and so, not being able to establish the body's perfection by the very fact of their existence, these imperfections must indirectly contribute to the perfection of the spirit as the legitimate polarity to it.
So a 'perfect man' should be one whose physical imperfections contribute to his overall physico-spiritual integrity, rather than one without any imperfections at all. It is only when his physical imperfections are of such a magnitude as to detract from his overall physico-spiritual integrity - as, for example, in the case of spastics - that one is really justified in regarding him as 'imperfect'.
A NECESSARY DOUBT: When a person says: 'We can have no certainties, no-one can be certain about anything', he is unwittingly displaying his tendency to illusion, ignorance, and stupidity. For were he not inclined to this kind of self-deception, he would know that certainty and doubt are antithetical, that the one cannot exist without the other and, consequently, that there must be a degree of certainty in the world.
When I say: 'Mr Smith is a man and Miss Brown a woman', I am absolutely certain about the nature of their respective genders. Even if I didn't possess the concepts 'male' and 'female', I could still be confident that they looked fundamentally different, and that would constitute a certainty. Similarly, when I say: 'The sun provides the heat and light upon which the survival of natural life on this planet so heavily depends' I am again expressing a certainty. Were I to call it a doubt, other people would have sound reason to consider me mistaken.
But there are, of course, things about which it is impossible to be certain, like changes in the weather, who we will bump into on the pavement, what we will dream in our sleep, where we will be in ten years' time, how much money we will waste over the next six months, and so on. The doubts we have about these 'uncertainties' effectively enable us to be 'doubtless' about the various certainties about which it is absolutely imperative to be certain. Otherwise one may eat the poison berry.
NO SHAM WISDOM: This philosophy would indeed be vain, stupid, and meddlesome if, instead of putting me on the path to enlightenment, it goaded me towards a refutation of our natural tendencies, i.e. of being stupid, deluded, illogical, unjust, sad, evil, presumptuous, superficial, etc., when the need or inevitability of such tendencies was indisputably manifest. For me to set out on the path of endeavouring to eliminate whatever idiosyncratic predilections for folly I may possess would be the height of folly! To imagine myself on the road to profundity by making an earnest endeavour to eliminate what superficiality I may possess would likewise constitute a similar absurdity, making me superficial rather than profound.
If knowledge is to serve any useful purpose, it must free me from the constricting prevalence of false wisdom, render me increasingly aware of the obligations imposed upon a healthy life, and lift me above the intellectual fog invariably engulfing the technical nature of wisdom, morality, religion, politics, art, truth, metaphysics, etc., which blinds so many people to the essence of reality. It is all very well for a man to seek wisdom, to require of philosophy that it teach him how best to live. But if that wisdom subsequently conflicts with his deepest predilections as a human being and thereby transpires to being little more than a caricature of wisdom, a metaphysical misunderstanding, an inversion of terminology, a mere shadow play, a medicine where there was no sickness or, worse still, a sickness where there had been no ill-health, then it were better that he dispensed with philosophical formulae altogether and learnt to follow his natural inclinations again - the very inclinations which, in the final analysis, constitute the real sagacity of life.
ONLY ABSURD SOMETIMES: There are certain modern philosophers and writers, not least of all from the so-called 'existentialist' school of thought, who regularly conspire in contending life to be absurd and, consequently, an imposition one would be better off without - a contention which does, in fact, engender sympathetic connotations when, under the prevalence of various 'trying' circumstances, one genuinely feels oneself to be plagued by a farce and secretly longing for oblivion.
Regardless, however, of the periodic validity and current prestige of this philosophy, it nevertheless occurs to me that one doesn't normally feel life to be absurd when, for example, one settles down to listen to some choice record, read a highly engrossing book, eat a savoury meal, drink a delightful drink, watch an exciting film, sleep an eventful dream, ponder a selection of enlightening thoughts, kiss a pretty woman, or take a well-earned rest. For the mind is usually too preoccupied with what one is doing at such times to be in any way seriously concerned with the then-largely irrelevant notion of absurdity. As a standing maxim, one might conclude that when one is content, the notion of absurdity is strictly taboo!
But life does, however, seem absurd sometimes and, whether or not we like this fact, it is probably just as well. For without the intermittent prevalence of absurdity, how could one possibly be expected to take pleasure in life's reasonableness? Without absurdity, there would doubtless be no reasonableness, just as without illogicality there would be no logic, without illusion no truth, and without sadness no happiness. A book dedicated to the hypothesis of an absurd existence would appear to be a somewhat one-sided and essentially absurd book. Indeed, it might even suggest a distinct tendency, on the part of its author, to incorrect living!
NOT ENTIRELY SANE: Our sanity depends upon the regular support of insanity. Why, you may occasionally wonder, do we act as we do, rarely bothering to consider the essential nature of so many of our activities, but mostly pursuing them as though blinded to their consequences, unaware of their 'actualities', of how strange, diverse, and persistent they usually are? Clearly, because we are insane as well as sane, because it is natural for us to exploit our insanity in the interests of our sanity, our unconscious mind in the interests of our conscious mind. How on earth could we dare to call ourselves 'sane' in the first place, without its antithesis to support us and grant our sanity a reliable foundation? How could there possibly be any sanity in any of us, without the aid of its opposite? A 'sane man' per se can never exist.
Why, then, do we classify certain people as insane if, to a certain extent, we are all mad? Simply because we are largely ignorant of the matter? Possibly. But, more probably, because we habitually associate insanity with notions of incompatibility, irrelevance, superfluity, extreme eccentricity, unrelatedness, ostracism, delusions of grandeur, etc. A person who talks to himself is generally considered mad because custom and common sense normally prohibit us from following suit, since it would make us conspicuously anomalous in a world where most people talk to others. When a man persistently talks to himself in public places he not only draws attention to himself, whether compassionately or critically, but he makes it difficult for other people to communicate with him. Thus he is regarded as a madman for having employed his sanity/insanity relationship in a manner deemed to be incompatible with society's requirements, instead of keeping it moored to an established norm like normal conversation, thinking, reading, writing, humming, whistling, etc., according to accepted standards of procedure. Yet the man who talks to himself is probably no 'madder' than the one who thinks to himself; his 'madness' is simply more conspicuous on account of its audible nature, which might well indicate that the 'madman' in question is simply more extrovert or less intellectual than the habitual thinker.
However, as for those who generally do their best to 'keep in line' and remain fairly consistent with society's demands and standards, which includes the great majority of people, we shall continue to regard them as 'sane' without entirely believing it. For if they are to remain sane in the world's eyes, they must continue to cultivate their insanity as before, i.e. by taking things more or less for granted and keeping uncritical track of social requirement, as effecting and pertaining to both themselves and society in general.
As a sort of afterthought to the above, it ought to be clearly understood that insanity (as represented here by an unusual arrangement of the normal duality) and a mental breakdown are two entirely different things, since a mind which literally ceases to function - as in the cases of Baudelaire, Maupassant, and Nietzsche - should not be confused with a mind which continues to function, albeit in a highly personal and irregular way - as in the cases of Swift, de Nerval, and Pound.
NOT ENTIRELY INSANE: What is a 'madman' if not a being whose sanity/insanity duality has ceased to be of any use to society and become a hindrance rather than an aid? That we are all mad to some extent is, I trust, a proven if not self-evident fact. For even the most heroic of us are regularly susceptible to delusions, illogicalities, stupidities, idiosyncratic anomalies, obsessions, fears, perversions, passions, exaggerations, uncritical obedience, irrational conformity, etc., which rarely fail to puzzle or startle us when we regain our critical discernment.
Fortunately, however, we usually learn to live with our individual oddities, just as we learn to live with their several manifestations in other people's lives, to regard them as a fact of life, to forget about them whenever possible, and to get on with our daily tasks not only as a means of securing a living and keeping ourselves preoccupied, but also of regulating our actions and keeping ourselves on the rails, as it were, of society's track. The three things one doesn't do is to question their validity, worry about their consequences, or set about trying to regulate them in a manner guaranteed to disturb the natural polarity of sanity/insanity within. Living with the brakes on is like driving a car too slowly and carefully. Sooner or later there may well be a serious accident and a screaming neurotic will be dragged out from where, previously, there had been a stable, healthy and normal human being.
What, then, is this person who no longer is of any great use to society but must be kept under regular supervision or, alternatively, left to fend for himself in a world where, at best, he can only expect to do very menial jobs? Is he someone who is all insanity and no sanity, someone who has tipped the polar balance so far in favour of insanity that little or no sanity remains discernible? Could any man be all of one thing to the total exclusion of its opposite under any circumstances, that is to say under any permanent as opposed to transient circumstances? No, I do not believe so! For to be all of one thing would be to destroy it, to cancel the polarity and thereby render the remaining side without definition, substance, or reality as an integral component in a dual relationship.
Thus if, as generally understood, madness is essentially a question of degree, it is by no means a total obliteration of sanity but, rather, an expression of the basic duality in a manner deemed to be incompatible with average standards of behaviour. This, I believe, suffices to explain why those deemed to be insane are usually unaware of their madness, take matters for granted, and are more inclined to consider others insane by their standards than to accept the standards which have been imposed upon them by society at large.
Consequently, to remain sane in society's eyes one must play the game as broadly understood by the majority, no matter what that game may happen to be, in order to remain intelligible within the confines of a given context and thereby pass muster as a being related to others. A surrealist painter will be considered sane so long as he continues to function efficiently within his particular sphere of creative activity and doesn't foolishly encroach upon other, unrelated spheres. He may, for example, paint pictures of elephants with telephones on their heads, women with moustaches, beetroots with legs, or mice wearing pyjamas. But as soon as he seriously contends that people should dress their pet mice, bankers order telephones for lunch, or office clerks stand on their hands all day instead of doing any work, he is likely to be judged insane for having stepped out of his professional line and made a public nuisance of himself.
Now if it is perfectly natural to refer to a man who talks to himself or insults strangers in the street as a 'madman', it nonetheless ought to be understood that, in the final analysis, there is really no such thing as a mad man, any more than there is really such a thing as a sane man, a good man, an evil man, a happy man, a sad man, etc., since men are always a tension of polarities, a meeting-point of opposed though mutually interdependent tendencies, and therefore cannot be wholly one thing or another. Naturally, we are compelled to simplify things, to define them in a way that will be intelligible to the vast majority of people at any given time. But from a philosophical standpoint, wherein the mind is determined to make a conscious effort to get to the bottom of things, such pragmatic simplifications afford us a worthwhile vehicle for analysis - indeed, constitute the very justification behind our attempts, as philosophers, to investigate life in a more detailed, resolute, sincere, and profound manner. Consequently, we must not take them at face-value, like the majority of people, but should concentrate on digging beneath the objective surface of life, if only because we are intent upon 'unearthing' some unique revelation, lifting it clear of obscurity, and thereupon exposing it to rational investigation.
Now just as we contended that a man cannot be wise without also possessing a degree of folly, so we also contend, in inverting our thesis, that he cannot be mad without possessing a calculated degree of sanity, since a mad man per se is more a figment of the imagination than a genuine reality.
NO HAPPINESS WITHOUT SADNESS: On the subject of happiness, I believe John Cowper Powys, the exponent of what has been called 'elementalism', makes a serious mistake in regarding thoughts as highly as he seems to, both with regard to the struggle against sadness and the cause of its outbreak in the first place, as defined, for example, in The Art of Happiness, one of his most accessible books. For is it not regularly the case that a person feels sad without having particularly gone out of his way to think himself into it, or to involve himself in hostile circumstances. That he feels sad simply because our metaphysical condition as men requires a degree of sadness, in order that we may remain integrated as human beings?
Now if this is so, how much more so is it the case when a person feels sad because he has a damn good reason to, since he can point to the fact that the weather is depressing, or his financial circumstances are unfavourable, or his health is poor, or his hopes on a particular subject have been dashed? Yet in a world where dualities, disparities, conflicts, and tensions are the very stuff of life, it would seem plausible to contend that sadness plays as legitimate a part in the birth of happiness as happiness in the death of sadness, and that we can no more aim for the one at the total exclusion of the other ... than hope to stay awake without getting any sleep!
Instead, therefore, of waging an all-out war on sadness, as some people would seem only too foolishly inclined to do, would it not be wiser to accept the condition for what it really is - namely the obverse side of a dualistic coin and, hence, the price we pay for our happiness. 'Yes, I am sad,' you say, 'but this sadness will subsequently give way to a degree of happiness which, through an unwritten law of my being, is largely a consequence of it.'
NOTHING SUPERFLUOUS: That everything is interrelated, interdependent, interfused ... would appear to be the eternal rule of life, a rule which makes it necessary for us to despise here in order to admire there, to hate there in order to love here, to condemn here in order to praise there, to reject there in order to accept here, to scowl here in order to smile there, and so on throughout the entire range of human experience. When one realizes that everybody is a part of the whole, a consequence of the whole, and that to consider certain parts of the whole superfluous is effectively to turn against it, then one can only conclude the people, creatures, and things one dislikes to be of significance in so far as they make it possible to maintain the people, creatures, and things one likes.
Similarly, if one values admiration one can only conclude the people one despises to be of such significance to the welfare of one's admiration that one would never be able to admire anybody without them; that unless one despised, one would never be in a position to admire in the first place, so that the despising is forever justified, forever sanctioned by the lure of admiration.
But this is the case, it may be argued, for every single sentiment a man may have, a case which ordains the absolute legitimacy and necessity of his acting the way he does in order to maintain his opinions, his prejudices, his predilections, and, above all, his integrity. Let him curse this or that as much as he likes; for unless he does so, he will never have anything to bless. Even if you remove whatever he happens to be cursing, even if you do away with it altogether, don't let that beguile you into assuming that you are necessarily doing him a favour or improving his lot! On the contrary, would he not then have to find something else to curse, in order that he might continue to bless?
BETWEEN DAY AND NIGHT: Let us not delude ourselves into imagining, as too many philosophers have done, that life is either difficult or easy when, in reality, it is both difficult and easy, though, admittedly, not usually at the same time. Let us not delude ourselves either, in the manner of the most pessimistic stoics, that life is both war and suffering when, in reality, it is both war and peace and pleasure and pain. Still less do we wish to consider life an absurdity when we cannot help noticing its reasonableness too, and can only conclude those who can't to be either poor-sighted or the victims of rather serious mental aberrations.
No, we are not worshippers of the moon, we dualists, and neither are we worshippers of the sun! It doesn't become us to serve the one at the expense of the other but, rather, to serve or, at any rate, acknowledge them both. If we give a little more attention, as men, to the sun than to the moon, is it not because we are basically unable to do anything else, since something buried deep inside our dual natures responds to the ultimate sovereignty of the active over the passive, and thereby sets our bias in that direction?
Ah, but we do not pretend, for all our natural inclinations, that the moon is unworthy of our attention. We aren't sufficiently extreme, perverse, or deluded, in such matters, to suppose ourselves capable of thriving without them both, and, to be sure, we have never heard anything from either of them to the effect that we should. But when we temporarily turn our faces away from the light of the one, is it not in order that we may better learn to appreciate the light of the other, that we may so shine ourselves, and in such a way as to do absolute justice to each? Truly, it is not for us to detract from the positivity of the one by foolishly belittling the negativity of the other! There are quite enough misunderstandings in the world already.
A MISTAKE IN PLUTARCH: For those readers who may be interested in the possibility of my theory being mistaken with regard to the interrelativity and inevitability of both positive and negative antitheses within the individual, there is a strong attack on such a theory in Plutarch's dialogue The Cleverness of Animals, wherein the character Autobulus, cast as Plutarch's father, puts forward to his old friend Soclarus a refutation of the said theory by emphasizing what he takes to be the impossibility of two completely contradictory elements within the same person. Hence, according to Autobulus, the rational and the irrational cannot exist side-by-side, since the latter would eliminate the former or vice versa. 'If,' he goes on the say, 'to make sure that Nature is not curtailed in any way, someone maintains that the part of Nature which has a soul must comprise both a rational and an irrational element, then someone else is sure to say that what has a soul must comprise elements capable of imagination and incapable of imagination, capable of feeling and incapable of feeling. The idea would be that these opposites, these positive and negative antitheses about the same thing should be kept, as it were, in equilibrium. But when we consider that all things which have souls must necessarily be capable of feeling and of imagination, it will appear absurd to go looking, in this class of living things, for antitheses between the feeling and the unfeeling, the imaginative and the unimaginative. And in just the same way it is pointless to find in living things an antithesis between the rational and the irrational ...'
I have quoted the best part of the paragraph under surveillance in order to make quite clear to the reader just how Autobulus' reasoning is wrong. For, having come this far in my theorizing and placed more than a little confidence in the authenticity of my argument, it is not something that I would like to hide away, refer to obliquely, or leave myself in any doubt about, particularly in dealing with a master like Plutarch. The mistake, then, clearly lies in the coupling of elements which are in no way antithetical but, with the exception of the rational and the irrational (which is paralleled by me in the essays entitled NOT ENTIRELY SANE and NOT ENTIRELY INSANE, as well as having been dealt with in considerably more detail by Carl Jung in his analyses of the compensatory relationship between the conscious and the unconscious minds in the totality of the psyche), distinctly contradictory. Instead of forming durable antitheses, they would spell the elimination of each other. Thus to be 'capable of feeling and incapable of feeling' is tantamount to saying 'to be capable of truth and incapable of truth' or 'to be capable of love and incapable of love' or, again, 'to be capable of goodness and incapable of goodness' when, in reality, it is truth and illusion, love and hate, good and evil, which form the antitheses, not the direct contradiction of the positive element achieved through the total elimination of the negative one!
So Autobulus' reasoning, although it may seem feasible at first glance, is really specious, in that it posits false antitheses as real ones. Rather than the refutation of feeling by unfeeling, why not the coupling of sympathy and callousness? We are all sympathetic in some contexts and callous in others, as well we might be.