Archive for September, 2011

Offended Child

September 18, 2011

Ulrich is pondering the source, range and meaning of the emotions. He understands the limits of a purely material explanation.

So if the scientific goal may be said to be a broad and wherever possible ironclad anchoring in the realm of nature, there is still blended with it a peculiar exuberance, which can be roughly expressed in the proposition: What stands low stands firm. In the overcoming of a theological philosophy of nature, this was once an exuberance of denial, a ‘bearish speculation in human values.’ Man preferred to see himself as a thread in the weave of the world’s carpet rather than as someone standing on this carpet; and it is easy to understand how a devilish, degrading desire for soullessness also rubbed off on the emptiness of the soul when it straggled noisily into it materialistic adolescence. This was later held against it in religiously straitlaced fashion by all the pious enemies of scientific thinking, but its innermost essence was nothing more than a good-natured gloomy romanticism, an offended child’s love for God, and therefore also for his image, a love that in the abuse of this image still has unconscious aftereffects today. (II,1245-1246)

It is then surprising if what comes to light behind the physiological explanations of our behavior is ultimately, quite often, nothing but the familiar idea that we let our behavior be steered by chain reflexes, secretions, and the mysteries of the body simply because we were seeking pleasure and avoiding its opposite? And not only in psychology, also in biology and even in political economy–in short, wherever a basis is sought for an attitude or a behavior–pleasure and its lack are still playing this role; in other words, two feelings so paltry that it is hard to think of anything more simple-minded. The far more diversified idea of satisfying a drive would indeed be capable of offering a more colorful picture, but the old habit is so strong that one can sometimes even read that the drives strive for satisfaction because this fulfillment is pleasure, which is about the same as considering the exhaust pipe the operative part of a motor! (II,1247)


The Do-Gooder

September 5, 2011

Lindner is a man who approached Agathe when she was distraught over her relations with Ulrich. She judged Lindner to be a good man. Lindner would have been pleased if she had said that directly to him. For he is a do-gooder, a pursuit he follows with great single-mindedness. (Think of the dedicated foot soldier of any leftwing party.) First, the do-gooder is the anti-Nietzsche:

As the pious soul of the Salvation Army employs military uniform and customs, so had Lindner taken certain soldierly ways of thinking into his service; indeed, he  did not flinch from concessions to the “man of power” Nietzsche, who was for middle-class minds of that time still a stumbling block, but for Lindner a whetstone as well. He was accustomed to say of Nietzsche that it could not be maintained that he was a bad person, but his doctrines were surely exaggerated and ill equipped for life, the reason for this being that he rejected empathy; for Nietzsche had not recognized the marvelous counterbalancing gift of the weak person, which was to make the strong person gentle. And opposing to this his own experience, he thought with joyful purpose: “Truly great people do not pay homage to a sterile cult of the self, but call forth in others the feeling of their sublimity by bending down to them and indeed, if it comes to that, sacrificing themselves for them!”  (II,1136-1137)

These ideas must have given him wings, for he had no idea who he had got the terminus of the trolley line, but suddenly there he was; and before getting in he took off his glasses in order to wipe them free of the condensation with which his heated inner processes had coated them. Then he swung himself into a corner, glanced around in the empty car, got his fare ready, looked into the conductor’s face, and felt himself entirely at his post, ready to begin the return journey in that admirable communal institution called the municipal trolley. He discharged the fatigue of his walk with a contented yawn, in order to stiffen himself for new duties, and summed up the astonishing digressions to which he had surrendered himself in the sentence: “Forgetting oneself is the healthiest thing a human can do!” (II,1139)

Against the unpredictable stirrings of a passionate heart there is only one reliable remedy: strict and absolutely unremitting planning; and it to this, which he had acquired early, that Lindner owed the successes of his life as well as the belief that he was by nature a man of strong passions and hard to discipline. He got up early in the morning, at the same hour summer and winter, and at a wash basin on a small iron table washed his face, neck, hands, and one seventh of his body–every day a different seventh, of course–after which he rubbed the rest with a wet towel, so the bath, that time-consuming and voluptuous procedure, could be limited to one eventing every two weeks. …and after Lindner had washed himself in the glow of stimulating examples he also took advantage of drying himself off to do a few exercises by skillful manipulation of his towel, but only in moderation. It is, after all, a fateful mistake to base health on the animal parts of one’s person; it is rather, intellectual and moral nobility that produce the body’s capacity for resistance; and even if this does not always apply to the individual, it most certainly applies on a larger scale, for the power of a people is the consequence of the proper spirit, and not the other way around. Therefore Lindner had also bestowed upon his rubbings-down a special and careful training, which avoided all the uncouth grabbing that constitutes the usual male idolatry but on the contrary involved the whole personality, by combining the movements of his body with uplifting inner tasks. (II,1140)

Truly, it shortly afterwards became one of the most popular human possibilities to subject oneself to a “regimen,” which may be applied with the same success to overweight as it is to politics and intellectual life. In a regimen, patience, obedience, regularity, equanimity, and other highly respectable qualities become the major components of the individual in his private, personal capacity, while everything that is unbridled, violent, addictive, and dangerous, which he, as a crazy romantic, cannot dispense with either, has its admirable center in the “regimen.” Apparently this remarkable inclination to submit oneself to a regimen, or lead a fatiguing, unpleasant, and sorry life according to the prescription of a doctor, athletic coach, or some other tyrant (although one could just as well ignore it with the same failure rate), is a result of the movement toward the worker-warrior-anthill state toward which the world is moving… (II,1145)