Advice to a Young Moralist - Transcript

Pursuing virtue in modern society: incorporate reason, question programmed passions, break free from norms. Embrace true potential for fulfilling lives rooted in truth.

Chapters


0:00:01 Introduction and Initial Conversation
0:03:28 Age and admiration for Plutarch's Younger Cato
0:05:20 Leading People to Truth: Seneca and Plutarch's Admirable Devotion
0:07:06 Challenging the Belief in Unchanging Moral Character
0:08:56 Degradation and Corruption: The Influence of Vice
0:12:06 The Early Beginnings of Corruption: From Womb to Childhood
0:13:13 Importance of a Virtuous Tutor and a Strong Parental Bond
0:15:42 Pursuing Virtue: Private vs Public Sphere
0:17:45 The Idealistic Desire for Change
0:21:01 Focusing on personal improvement for a better life
0:21:26 Enhancing virtues in oneself and those around you
0:24:45 The Difficulty of Challenging Addictions in the Public Sphere
0:27:57 The Locked-In Addiction of Maintaining a Virtuous Image
0:31:13 The Challenge of Judging Others' Health
0:35:27 Seeking alternatives to indoctrination in the school system
0:38:18 Reflecting on the value of finding like-minded people in the trades
0:41:02 The rise of outspoken individuals with misguided beliefs
0:45:03 Split between Thinking and Feeling in the World
0:51:14 Balancing Reason and Passion
0:55:28 Authentic Passions vs. Programmed Passions
0:59:02 The Power of Government and Propaganda
1:02:48 Pursuing Truth and the Difficulty of Breaking Through
1:05:47 Embrace Ambition and Leadership in Philosophy

Long Summary

I recently had a caller who was interested in pursuing virtue in our modern society. They shared their inspiration from great philosophers like Plutarch and Seneca and their desire to achieve practical virtues in their own life. We delved into the challenges of living in a world driven by emotions and the importance of incorporating reason into our daily lives.

The caller expressed their ambition to make a difference and lead people towards truth. We discussed the role of education and cultural influences in shaping our morality, and the caller brought up an interesting point about fostering natural virtue in children and focusing on improving private virtues instead of trying to change the ways of power-hungry individuals. It's a thought-provoking perspective that challenges the traditional approach to societal change.

Another topic we explored was the difficulty of finding like-minded people and questioning the status quo in the education system. Breaking free from societal norms can be a lonely journey, and the caller highlighted the importance of balancing reason and passion along the way. We discussed how top athletes approach their training, using both their passion for the sport and a rational mindset to continuously improve. This combination allows them to excel while still enjoying what they do.

Choosing the right occupation also requires managing both passion and reason. We discussed how many people's passions are not truly their own but rather influenced by external factors such as societal programming or religious teachings. These programmed passions lack personal reasoning and often lead to aggressive and unstable behavior. Challenging these programmed beliefs can expose the hollowness and propaganda behind them, but it can also lead to pushback and aggression from those who have built their identity upon them.

The caller mentioned the importance of questioning narratives imposed by the government and education systems, even though it can lead to social isolation and anxiety. We explored the inherent human desire for truth and how encountering unanswered questions can unveil the fraudulent nature of our beliefs, causing anxiety. Unfortunately, many people rely on feelings and social approval to evaluate things, perpetuating the system of fraudulent beliefs.

Breaking free from this system requires a deep yearning for truth and a willingness to challenge the status quo. It requires dedication and sacrifice, similar to what elite athletes put into their training. We shouldn't limit our potential and instead embrace the divine light within us. By questioning programmed passions and pursuing our true potential, we can break free from the matrix of fraudulent beliefs and lead fulfilling lives.

In conclusion, passion and reason are intertwined, and it's crucial to question and examine the programmed passions imposed upon us. By doing so, we can break free from societal norms, uncover our true potential, and pursue a life rooted in truth and authenticity.

Tags

episode, challenges, pursuing virtue, modern society, incorporating reason, questioning programmed passions, caller, balancing reason and passion, breaking free, societal norms, questioning programmed beliefs, embracing true potential, fulfilling lives, truth, authenticity

Transcript

Introduction and Initial Conversation

Caller:
[0:01] Hello, Stef. Can you hear me?

Stefan:
[0:02] Yes, I can hear you. How are you doing?

Caller:
[0:04] Good. How are you today?

Stefan:
[0:05] I am pretty well. I am pretty well. So, how can I best help you?

Caller:
[0:11] So, I was curious in my letter, I was just asking where, because I've been into Plutarch and Seneca a lot lately, and Plutarch especially talks about being in a position where you you can do some virtue somewhere.
And he talks about civil service. And maybe that kind of inspired me to go down this route and justified this route for college.
But I'm just curious.
Obviously, I began watching you just recently as well.
And there's obviously a lot of flaws in our modern government that might hinder that virtue.
So I was just curious where Where virtue is now, where we can even do it, is it something that's just we have to do ourselves or if that makes any sense?

Stefan:
[1:05] Sure. Now, what kind of virtue are you looking to create or manage?

Caller:
[1:14] I think mainly just upright conduct, trying to do what's best and what's most good, moral, honorable character, I would say.

Stefan:
[1:28] Well you know with all due respect that's um mostly just but just a bunch of synonyms like if you say virtue good moral upright upstanding you know i mean that's what i want to do good what does that mean being virtuous what does that mean doing good so what do you mean in terms of practical virtues that you want to achieve in the world.

Caller:
[1:51] I think probably most important, if I can get away from the synonyms, is just trying to live as most according to reason.
As you, I believe that from what I understand that you talk about.

Stefan:
[2:10] Okay, so what does living, because you can live according to reason without being virtuous.
I mean, in terms of like you could be some hyper rational scientist or something like that. so tell me what you mean by listening to reason or living by reason, from what i understand it would be trying to discern the truth and then make a habit towards that and try to unlearn the habits that have led to vice or unhappiness in my own life, is what I would say.
And what are the vices that have led you to unhappiness in your own life?

Caller:
[2:51] Maybe an overindulgence into certain things, whether it be, for example, watching too much television or lustful thoughts or stuff like that.
I would say that. I'm sorry, what kind of thoughts? Lustful thoughts.

Stefan:
[3:10] Lustful thoughts, okay, go on.

Caller:
[3:13] Anything like that that, In the short term, it would lead to some pleasure, but in the long term, it leads to, overall, from what I understand, a guilt and general unhappiness.

Age and admiration for Plutarch's Younger Cato

Stefan:
[3:28] And what's your age range?

Caller:
[3:31] I'm 20, sir.

Stefan:
[3:32] You're 20, okay. And in terms of Seneca and Plutarch and others that you've read, what is it that you find most admirable about what they're doing?

[3:42] Well, I took to Plutarch reading through his lives, his biographies, and I'm particularly taken with the younger Cato and just how, in the Republic when it was falling at the time, just how strong he was in that adversity.
That uh he was able to help others in a time where he was completely uh where it seemed completely hopeless and uh that kind of inspired me to go well maybe i could be in a position as well uh down the line where i could help others i know this is as i'm saying it i'm kind of realizing how uh ambitious vainly ambitious it is but uh oh listen i'd be the last one to ever talk you out of ambition.

[4:30] I mean, that's sort of the definition of my whole life. So I really dislike the idea that who are you to, who am I to, and like, no, just, you know, do your best, give it a shot, and don't assume that there's any limit on what it is that you'll be able to achieve.
So no, I'm definitely one for, yeah, ambition is a great thing.
And ambition in the course of virtue is the greatest thing of all.
So I'm definitely down for all of that.
That um okay so i'm still trying to sort of figure out and you know it's not the easiest thing in the world to defend so i or to define so you know be patient with me as i sort of try and because i'm trying to sort of figure out what what it means to you right what it means to me is nearly as important as what it means to you so i'm still trying to you sort of mean helping others and so on um what does that mean.

Leading People to Truth: Seneca and Plutarch's Admirable Devotion

Caller:
[5:20] I would say in my first thing that I would say that comes out is just leading people to truth.
I think that's another thing that's very admirable that I find admirable in Seneca and Plutarch is that they seem at least very forward to lead people to truth and their devotion to it.
I mean, I mean, obviously, Seneca being exiled and trying to basically devote his entire life to philosophy and writing these letters and kind of giving something to the next generation, I think he says in one of his letters.
But that would be another thing that I said that I would think truly helps people.
People, and also just being a person of upright character.
I'm a little new to you, so I would say living according to, or trying to live, striving to live according to those first principles, and making that known.
I don't think we should entirely live in idleness, or I think we should be the light on the hill, as Christ says.

Stefan:
[6:36] Well, I agree with that. Leading people to truth, again, you could be a scientist and lead people to scientific truth, but it seems to me you're more concerned with morality, which obviously is a subset of truth.
You know, everything that is moral has to be true, but not everything that is true is moral.
So, leading people to truth, I suppose the question then becomes, what is the truth that you want to lead people to? Yeah.

Challenging the Belief in Unchanging Moral Character

Caller:
[7:06] Perhaps that people can live morally, that they can live according to reason instead of this confused state that we all live in, that we've at least in my church culture, they kind of accept it as, you know, we'll never really change.
We've been these sinners and we won't improve our virtue or improve morally.
That's what I hope that I would express. And also in a basic sense that people can actualize themselves in different ways, whether it be, you know, this is the right path for them, you know, whether it be, you know, a poet or something or a philosopher or something like that.

Stefan:
[8:00] That as you ask these questions, I must admit, it's kind of on the fly for me.
No, listen, it's great that you're asking these questions.
And, you know, I didn't have the answers to these when I was your age.
So, you know, this is more of a Socratic questioning rather than, it's no criticism at all.
For you to have these answers would be pretty spectacular and would indicate that you were touched by something truly divine.
So don't feel bad about that at all. I'm just trying to sort of make sure I understand.
So, in terms of the vices that you're concerned about, you mentioned laziness, lust, and obviously the addiction to falsehood, which leads people away from the truth.
What is your view of human nature as a whole, and why do you think people tend towards this kind of decadence or immorality?

Degradation and Corruption: The Influence of Vice

Caller:
[8:56] I think that people are capable of living according to the truth and that the reason that we've been drawn to this is, I think, just a gradual degradation.
We've learned evil when we were young.
We learned the habit of vice or these things of vice that I talk about, about the lusting, whether it be from movies or books or just the way, you know, our people around us when we're young behave, the laziness, the apathy.
I would say most of those things we've just kind of absorbed since we were young.

Stefan:
[9:37] And that's the reason why that, at least from myself, I have such difficulty getting out of them is because we've kind of built this habit it and we have a legion of people around us that also kind of behave the same way and it's tough to get out of so is it your view and i'm not arguing for or against it i just want to understand your perspective is it your view that we're born mostly good or with a thirst or drive towards towards goodness, but that we are corrupted by education or institutions or the culture?

Caller:
[10:22] I would say so, yes. I would say that we are, our souls are driven towards truth, yes.

Stefan:
[10:29] Okay. And what aspects of the culture do you think are the most corrupting, or what aspects of our childhood experiences are the most corrupting?

Caller:
[10:41] Well, I'll just say from experience, I'm in community college right now, and I just went through the ringer of public school, and I would say a lot of it has just been a, I don't know if I would call it a disdain for truth or just an ignorance.
But, you know, we've kind of been raised our entire lives by these teachers who have no idea what the good life is or don't even strive to understand or know what the good life is.
And as a result, we've kind of just festered in our own vice, I would assume. Yeah.

Stefan:
[11:23] So it's the education of the young, because it seems like if you're interested in curing an illness called sin, so to speak, or immorality, you first have to define where it comes from.
You know, like if you're a nutritionist and you want to figure out how to help people not be fat or to lose weight, you have to figure out where the fatness comes from, and excess of calories, or a deficiency of exercise, or both.
So, children are born with a drive towards a virtue or integrity, but they are corrupted by the institutions that they're placed in. Is that right?

Caller:
[12:03] I would say yes.

The Early Beginnings of Corruption: From Womb to Childhood

Stefan:
[12:06] Okay. So, and how early do you think this begins?
Well, I think it begins as early as babies are able to absorb information.
If it's something that's been going on this long and it's kind of, it's crept from generation to generation, and may start as soon as, you know, we were maybe even in the womb, maybe when we come out of the womb, we start absorbing things that are what I would assume to be vice.

Caller:
[12:43] It could be from our parents, from the doctors. I would say it begins very, very early. Yes.

Stefan:
[12:53] And what would you view as the ideal for a child to be raised or how would the child ideally be raised to maintain or i guess even grow the natural virtue that children are drawn to.

Importance of a Virtuous Tutor and a Strong Parental Bond

Caller:
[13:13] Well, I could borrow from Plutarch, but I think he's right in this respect, that it would be through some tutor who's knowledgeable of, or at least seeking for the good life and has had the marks of attempting to be a virtuous person, to be a moral person.
And maybe in that birth, at least at the very beginning in the birth, it's where mother and father together and maybe away from this strange medical system that we have now with births, maybe at home.
I would say anything that would lead to a greater connection and bond with mother and father as well as trying to rear them with knowledge or develop in them a love for truth and virtue. virtue.

Stefan:
[14:13] So, I mean, that would be a fairly radical rewrite of our current system, which of course seems fairly hell-bent on getting children away from their parents as soon as possible and having parents chase money and status and possessions and things like that, and giving their children to strangers or babies to strangers to be raised.
Now, what do you think is the best way to facilitate facilitate children maintaining their natural bent towards virtue and integrity? What would you teach them?
I would hope to have them absorb the fruits of trying to live according to truth, of a virtuous life that it leads to.
From what I understand, the supreme happiness that we can achieve, on earth obviously there's going to be suffering and stuff that that occurs to us but it the reason the reasonable life allows us to deal with these things better than just being thrown around by our passions and by fortune so that's what i would say i would try to develop, something where the where the fruits were shown where there was an admiration, and something that would help spur them on to further study of philosophy.

Pursuing Virtue: Private vs Public Sphere

[15:42] Okay. Now, as far as virtue goes, there are two ways, I think, in general, to pursue virtue.
One is in the private sphere, and one is in the public sphere.
If you pursue virtue in the private sphere, that means that you are trying to be good within your family, within your community, among your friends.
And you might have a wider sphere or reach or influence, but it would mostly be about people's personal lives.
And that's the sort of private sphere. Again, it doesn't mean that you're not a public figure, but it means that your focus is mostly on childhood and parenting and virtues and maybe anti-spanking or whatever it is that you're doing that would conform to the non-aggression principle.
Now, the other is the public sphere, where you go out and try to change policy and alter things within the general political structure and so on.
The first one has, I mean, there's costs and benefits to both, of course, but the first one has the benefits that you probably won't have major institutions acting against you.

[16:57] And trying to do a Socrates or a Jesus towards you because you are mostly speaking to people in their private lives.
The challenge being, of course, that, as Plato says, that lack of involvement in politics means being ruled by those far less moral than you.
But if you go into the public sphere, then you have the challenge of attack, from the system, which has, of course, a lot of power and seems to have a very strong desire to martyr a wide variety of people who get in its way.
Do you have any particular thoughts about what the best route for spreading virtue would be?

Caller:
[17:36] Well, this is where I'm conflicted because I think...

The Idealistic Desire for Change

[17:45] Maybe you're more hot-headed, I would say, maybe when you're young and you want to make a bigger change or you think that you can naively make a better change.
And I thought about going through college and my reason for it would be to go into law and help people in that way, not not in this, you know, running for office or trying to gain a title type way, but just being in a position where people could be helped.
But I tried to find more videos that you had on it, and especially the one that you did with Jeffrey Tucker, I believe, 10 or 11 years ago, where you're talking about how law has definitely changed and that it's sending a lot of innocent people away to prison.
And so this is where I become conflicted. I understand that it's incredibly important for the private life to strive for that virtue and to represent it to our family, our community, our friends, as you say.
But I was just curious if there was more, if people can even do more, if this present state of things is even salvageable.

Stefan:
[19:06] Well, I mean, was Plutarch able to, was he able to do much to affect the decline in his day?

Caller:
[19:17] No.
Probably not.
I would say.

Stefan:
[19:25] Yeah.
I'm so sorry, could you just repeat that? I cleverly pulled out a cable.

Caller:
[19:35] Probably not.

Stefan:
[19:37] Well, we know. It's not a probably thing, right?

Caller:
[19:40] Yeah, okay.

Stefan:
[19:41] You know, this is one of the big challenges, of course, of looking at human history, is that you can see just how much people have suffered in their pursuit of virtue, and what change has it really made in the societies that they exist or live in.
And i'm sure that i mean plutarch it affected him for the better and those around him for the better and so on but when you think of course of the countless people who've poured heart mind body and soul and reputation and finances and everything into trying to change the world for the better, it seems that when you're on the downward slide of history which i know is a fun thing to hear when the age of 20 but i think at the moment we we can i think fairly recognized fairly well well-recognized that things aren't going in quite the best direction as a whole.
It's, well, although still better than the 20th century, at least we're not going after war every day.
So I think if we look at the people in the past, we can see that there hasn't been a lot of effect in terms of reversing decay.
Excuse me, in terms of reversing decay.

Focusing on personal improvement for a better life

[21:01] And I think what that says to me is that it probably is better to try and think of ways in which you can make things better in your own life or in the lives of those around you to improve the virtues that are possible in the person.

Enhancing virtues in oneself and those around you

Caller:
[21:26] Okay. Okay.

Stefan:
[21:28] Now, you're saying, okay, like I'm giving you orders or something.
These aren't conclusions. These are just possibilities.
Because it's really hard to think of people who've really reversed some significant social or civilizational decay.

Caller:
[21:42] Yeah. And that honestly confirms what even the person that I've been reading about the most, the younger Cato.
I mean, he tried so hard to reverse things, and it immediately fell to Caesar anyway.

Stefan:
[22:01] Right, right. And in terms of fruitless suffering, to me, I think it's quite important that we work as hard as possible to make virtue look like it can achieve something. thing.
Not to make virtue look helpless and hopeless and wrecked and unwise and self-destructive and so on.
And so if you had a great diet, you would want to get people to take your diet who were the most motivated to change their eating habits, not to people who were celebrating their bad eating or who were hedonists and so on.
Because if you try to sell your diet to people who had or tried to get your diet adopted by people who had no interest in changing their eating habits, then you would look like, your diet would look futile, if that makes sense.

Caller:
[22:59] Yes, that makes sense, yes.

Stefan:
[23:00] And so in the public sphere, people are, in terms of power, right, they're power junkies, they're power addicts.
And the people in power don't, I think, don't have any interest at all in trying to control the system that gives them the very power.
Because it's an addiction that they don't recognize, I think, for the most. Like, you go to a cigarette smoker and he'll say, yeah, you know, I'm trying to quit, it's really bad for me, and so on.
And even then, you know, it's got a higher relapse rate than heroin.
So, for people who have addictions that they're willing to admit and acknowledge, those people have a very, very tough time getting rid of those addictions.
But of course, the people who are in the public square, the people who are sort of running the systems that we have some sort of moral doubts about, those people, they're doing good, they're moral people, they're helping society, they're doing all of these wonderful things.

[24:13] Things. And so for them to say, even that there's a problem is, I mean, wouldn't that be kind of impossible?
It'd be like going to the, you know, the fittest, like, it'd be like going to someone who's the fittest person that he knows, you know, like just, he can run a four minute mile, he can do, you know, a hundred pull-ups or whatever it is, and trying to convince that person that he's fat and unhealthy.
That would be kind of impossible, I think.

The Difficulty of Challenging Addictions in the Public Sphere

[24:45] And so for the people who think they're doing real good, it's hard enough to get an addict.
You know, most addicts, when they're serious addicts, they don't even really take much of a pushback against their addiction until they lose just about everything.
You know, like once you've lost your house and your wife and your kids and your health and so on, then you're like, wow, I should really do something about this addiction.
And that's when people know that it's a bad addiction.
I mean, I don't know know if you've ever talked to people in person or online about, say, marijuana.
I mean, but those people are, I mean, the real addiction is to the narrative.

[25:19] Of marijuana and this sort of perception that it's just so good for you and all this kind of stuff.
And so the people in power are, I think, pretty desperate addicts.
And they don't even recognize that they have an addiction.
In fact, they view their addiction as a great virtue.
And of course, they have everyone around them telling them that their addiction is a great virtue because everyone around them or everyone who depends upon them is constantly praising how virtuous and wonderful everyone is who's got to do with this stuff, right?

[26:02] It's sort of like, I think I had a Taylor Swift tweet some years ago that was kind of funny because it went kind of viral, and it seemed to have something to do with the fact that, you know, Taylor Swift, her last tour did like the GDP of, I didn't, the 50th, did more revenue than the bottom 50 countries in terms of GDP.
So, you know, so there's a lot of people who don't want Taylor Swift to, say, have kids, right?
Because they're really dependent upon her having those kids.
So not having those kids and being able to tour and do all of that, right?
So if you're some politician and you have all of this amazing ability to redirect hundreds of millions or billions of dollars towards your particular favorite group or constituents or whatever, when those people are constantly praising you, what a great statesman you are, how wonderful you are, and the press is telling you how wonderful you are and how you're a beacon of democracy and so on, And so...

[27:10] If you look at the people who are addicted and know it's bad, it's very, very hard for them to really challenge their addiction.
If you look at all the people who are really trying to be good, and they believe that they're being good, and everyone tells them that they're being good, and if they ever slow down or diminish any of their addictive behavior, everyone immediately screams that they're evil, that the poor are suffering, that kids are going hungry, that they're heartless and cold and mean and vicious, and all this kind of stuff.
It's wild. And so I can't imagine a more locked-in kind of addiction than that, if that makes any sense.

The Locked-In Addiction of Maintaining a Virtuous Image

Caller:
[27:57] Yeah, and really, from what you're saying, there's no room in there for somebody to act virtuously. They're kind of, like you said, locked down.

Stefan:
[28:09] Well, to me, it's kind of like, you know, slavery was a sort of constant factor throughout all of human history.
And you either were a slave or you own slaves.
I mean, because you'd either win the war, in which case you would take slaves, or you'd lose the war, in which case you'd become a slave.
And there really was no other alternative and because there was no labor-saving devices in the sort of Industrial Revolution and beyond kind of way, that was it, right?
And trying to talk people out of slavery before it became somewhat of a moral crusade as a result of mostly, of course, Christians from the sort of 18th century onwards.
Now, of course, everyone says, says, oh my gosh, slavery is a great evil, and of course it is.
But in the past, to tell people they shouldn't own slaves was just kind of incomprehensible, because of course a lot of armies were slaves as well, right?
You just enslave your army and force them to fight, or you put a sword between their ribs.
And so if you said, well, you know, we shouldn't own human beings, we shouldn't we shouldn't have slaves people would look at you like you were insane because it's like so you're telling me that we should become slaves we should just become slaves.

[29:38] Because if we don't own human beings we don't have an army and if we don't have an army, we're just going to get taken over by other people who do believe in slavery so if you say we shouldn't like slavery is immoral all you're doing is saying that everyone around you and everyone you love should become a slave, like it would be incomprehensible to them.

[30:04] And so the moral advance has to, you know, we're a long way from that moral advance.
I mean, with the internet, I think things are getting sort of better on the whole, but we're a long way from that moral advance.
There are some people beginning to sort of question the morality of the system that we labor under, but there's so many people profiting from the system, at least in the short run, that it's going to come as a deep shock when the system fails, and then when that deep shock hits there could be a chance for something to to improve but people will be deeply shocked when they think they're doing good and everything turns bad then maybe they're in a place open to instruction but i think trying to instruct people, who think they're doing good and who everyone is praising is doing good and they're being hit with with all of this wonderful dopamine about all the good they're doing and so on, and trying to tell them that they're doing evil or doing immoral things, is really challenging.

The Challenge of Judging Others' Health

Caller:
[31:13] Yeah, is it even... I mean, is it even possible, is it?

Stefan:
[31:18] Well, you're trying to tell someone who's got, I don't know, Brad Pitt's body in Fight Club, to take a slightly older reference, you're trying to tell someone who's, like, lean and muscular, and they look in the mirror and they see lean and muscular and they can run all they can four minute mile and all of their friends say wow you look so lean and muscular and you're going up to this person and saying you're fat and unhealthy, it's kind of incomprehensible I think yeah for them I mean especially, it's a.

Caller:
[31:58] Wouldn't it be kind of wrong to judge others and say that you're doing this wrong when you still have some imperfections in yourself, no?

Stefan:
[32:07] Well, if you're talking about the political system, you know, I mean, the U.S. is now what, past $34 trillion in debt and, you know, $180 trillion in unfunded liabilities. And that was a couple of years ago.
So, I mean, you and I have, you know, we've made some mistakes in our life.
You're probably fewer than me.
But I've never put, you know, 10 generations in debt.
So you don't have to be perfect to give people moral advice.
Otherwise, we could never put a murderer in jail because every one of us has exceeded the speed limit in a car a few times in our life.
It's like, no, no, we don't have to be perfect to give people advice.
I mean, if my doctor who smokes tells me not to smoke, I should listen to him, right?
I shouldn't just say, oh my gosh, there's just no way I'm going to listen to you because you smoke. And he could say, don't end up like me.
Don't be a smoker. No, I don't think we have to be perfect.
The whole point of philosophy is you're making an argument. You don't have to provide yourself as a perfect example, if that makes sense.
Because if that's not theoretical, then that's more empirical. Okay.

Caller:
[33:25] Sure. And I guess it could even be in the personal sense, if I'm out there, you know, trying to make this change about something that's gone massively, in terms of the government, gone massively backwards in terms of everyone's well-being in the United States, you know, it's probably better to, like you said, focus on the private virtues.

Stefan:
[33:51] Well, if you don't, monstrosity is almost an inevitability.
And that, you know, that doesn't seem quite right or wise to me.

Caller:
[34:05] Okay.

Stefan:
[34:06] So, yeah, I think sort of the private virtues are good, and we can actually affect things in the private realm.
Going to power junkies who believe that they're shining paragons of virtue and trying to get them to change their ways, I think is not a productive course of action.
And what it does, of course, is it shows people that virtue is something to be avoided because it is both foolish and self-destructive.
And it's foolish or self-destructive. So if you try to lecture people who have a lot of power, that it's not right for them to have that power, they shouldn't actually use that power, either they laugh at you or ignore you in which case you look impotent or if you do make some big change they will then attack you and you have uh you know some fairly challenging times in your life so yeah it it's not i think a big it's not a big sales pitch for virtue to say well you're either incompetent and ineffective or you're effective and your life gets shaken apart if if that makes sense.

Caller:
[35:18] Yes, I think so.

Stefan:
[35:22] And I'm not...

Seeking alternatives to indoctrination in the school system

Caller:
[35:27] Obviously, this isn't empirical, but I would just ask after that, where is a young man to go, basically, if he's being, like you talk about, indoctrinated into the school system?
I did the trades for a while. I thought, there's not a lot of girls here. I'll go to college.
And then it ended up being that for this two semesters.

Stefan:
[35:56] Just kind of a general seems like it's been against everything that I've been trying to learn about in Plutarch and Seneca so I'm just trying to find a trajectory in a very confused state, Right and the girls at college?
I thought they would be a bit more friendly it's a lot of them on their phones throughout the time nobody talking in between the classes uh could have pursued more of course but uh it just uh i thought it was going to be a lot different and nobody it's a community college there's no groups or clubs people go to their classes and then they go home so oh wow okay so there's not really much of the campus experience right no not quite now what about uh church.

Caller:
[36:48] So I've been to some churches and I fell out of it.
I read some Tolstoy and didn't really enjoy a lot of the superstition that came with some of the college-age churches around here.
A lot of it just didn't seem to me to be based around any truth.
It just seemed to be more doctrine.
And this is what we believe. even I would go to church groups and try to ask people about things, and they had no reasoning for why they thought it.
It's just they'd been raised up around it, and they were just kind of perplexed when you would ask any questions.
So it kind of made me fall off, admittedly, from it. Maybe I, perhaps I should get back.

Stefan:
[37:33] Well, I'm sure that there are some churches that are a little bit more open to the kind of curiosity that you are posing, right?
And of course, Christianity really came about because of skepticism of existing religious norms and curiosity about extending the value of virtue in a universal fashion.
So I'm sure that there would be some churches somewhere that would be more open to these kinds of questions.
I mean, certainly organized religion can be a place where those who never want to ask anything substantial can hide out, but that's not the only people who are there.
And there are some people who are very curious about the nature of the divine and virtue and so on, and you just may need to beat the bushes a little, so to speak.

Reflecting on the value of finding like-minded people in the trades

Caller:
[38:18] Okay. Yeah. Admittedly, I got a little bit of that when I worked in the trades for a bit.
It was a small pop shop and a family group, and they were very devoted to studying the Bible and learning more about it.
Not necessarily about virtue but about kind of what it all meant the genesis stories and things like that kind of uh, I'm more historical and trying to understand how these things might have happened or occurred.
But that probably would have been a better group, now that you're saying that, to have been around consistently than the people who just go just to go and not think about it.

Stefan:
[39:01] Yeah, you shouldn't necessarily have to go back in time a couple of thousand years to find like-minded people.
I'm sure there are a few around somewhere, at least I hope so.
So I'm sure that there will be but I certainly and of course the other thing too is that if you can't find anyone like that then you're going to have to just create your own group which can have great value too of course, which you know that is, something that I thought of and it kind of fell away from me but that would probably be another good thing too is is trying to encourage at least asking more questions about the Bible and hopefully getting people to answer them.
Yeah, I mean, one of the great things is that if you can't find anything that you really want around, then you have no choice but to become a leader.
If you can't find anyone to follow, you've got to get out in front, right?

Caller:
[40:02] Yeah.

Stefan:
[40:02] And taking that as an opportunity is a great thing to hone leadership skills and all of that kind of stuff, which is going to serve you, I think, very well in life as a whole.
So it's a great thing to be quite discontented with everything that is because then you get to lead people to what should be.

Caller:
[40:22] Right. It's just, it's difficult going through that school system when it's kind of, you're questioning all these things, and then they say, this is this, and it's developing, especially with the more, you know, of course, the liberal arts type classes, where it's just, they're giving you a bunch of philosophical theories, and they don't really, it's just, it's more confusion than anything else, at least it seemed to me, of just trying to confuse and muddle you with a bunch of different, things that people believed.

Stefan:
[40:54] Well, I certainly sympathize with that. If it's any consolation, there were as many nutty people when I was young as well.

The rise of outspoken individuals with misguided beliefs

[41:02] It's just that now with the sort of uber-woke stuff, those nutty people are advertising themselves much more openly.
Like, you can look at it, it'd be like if everybody who couldn't think had a tattoo on their forehead, it would make our lives a whole lot easier.

Caller:
[41:21] Right.

Stefan:
[41:21] You know, like I remember when I was in sales way back in the day, sometimes I'd have to make like 100 phone calls to get a single meeting.
And I remember daydreaming even back in the day, it would be like, wow, wouldn't it be great if I just like the number just the number I'd call that would get the meeting would just be pulsing red on the piece of paper.
And that way I could skip all the others and just get to that one meeting.
Meeting and now of course people are advertising they're crazy i mean i don't know what the act like the number of people who can actually think and and or have the capability and the desire, to actually think for themselves probably not more than one in a thousand people, And the good news is that in the past, like when I was your age, you had to sift through a lot of normal looking people to try and find the few people who could think.
Whereas now, the sort of NPC is like, it's like a barcode on the forehead, you know, like at the moment someone starts talking, you know whether they can think or not.
And so they've actually done quite a favor for those of us looking for people who can think and that they've, in a sense, branded the people who can't think and made them very obvious to everyone else. So I think there's real pluses to it.

Caller:
[42:38] Yeah, no, that's true. It's just, you know, when you're going through it, you're, you know, the only reason that I switched from doing a decent trade job from community college was that I thought there could be eventually down the road, you know, you deal with all this, people trying to confuse you and I think trying to take you away from your love of truth and you get to the point where you can eventually, uh, help people and admit that I was a little gung ho about that.
But, um, you know, it, it, it just makes you question as you're going through it.
Uh, I think your, your gut, at least my gut when I'm in those classes is, you know, what am I even, what am I even doing here?

Stefan:
[43:23] Right. Right. And I, I mean, I remember doing courses on, um.

[43:30] Gosh, I did courses on Marxism and so on.
And, you know, I spent most of my time battling with the professor, battling with the Marxists and so on.
And some people would be like, yeah, I kind of see your point, and this, that, and the other. Other people were like, no, I think you're wrong.
But it was all just a bunch of opinions. People just say, they don't say what is true. They say, oh, this makes me feel good.
Or, oh, this makes me feel bad.
And that's really all that they uh that's all all their processing is is that and it's really it's really quite sad and tragic but uh that is just the way the way that uh that people process things they they only look at hedonism and that's wonderful of course that's absolutely wonderful for all of the people who want to lead humanity away from the truth because if they can get you to to think or to believe somehow that what is true is going to feel good or you should first consult your feelings rather than reason and evidence well then propaganda is that much easier to achieve and uh um you don't actually have to you know if you don't have a good case for the argument you're making then you can just apply a whole bunch of feel-good metrics to it and you know well good people would never believe this and bad people would would believe this and and just program people that way.
And so, yeah, it's...

[44:57] It's rough. It's rough. But nowadays, of course, the world has become, as you know, more split, right?

Split between Thinking and Feeling in the World

[45:03] And the split is much easier to ascertain who's on which side, you know, whether you think or whether you just feel.
And so I think that it's probably quite, I mean, I know it can be a little bit sad.
And you say, my gosh, there's so many people out there who don't think it's like, well, that's been kind of true for forever. But at least the people who don't think are advertising it with their loud opinions really well now.

Caller:
[45:29] Yeah, sure. Do you think that, because I've heard you say before that these people end up being more propagandized and they think less and they've been more imbued once they come out of university with this thinking less.

Stefan:
[45:47] Um is it worth somebody who is at least like myself trying to think now uh to go through this or would it just end up being more of a negative um sorry to be more like to go through college uh or would it just be kind of a demoralization or cause me to be even more confused.

[46:08] Well i mean if you're not learning anything that's very important for yourself and you're not having much of a social life, generally what I would look at is the opportunity costs.
Like, what are the opportunity costs of being in a college if you could learn better stuff online or just reading?
And if everyone's on their phone and nobody's really talking to you and there's not much of a social life and there's no real chance to network or chat with women or anything like that, then I think it would be pretty tough to make that justification.
Education yeah and i this is just something i've noticed is trying to figure things out but i, it's uh you know obviously i'm i'm a little bit uh disconnected from the real world i live with my parents at the moment um the community college is close and uh i'm in a band and i've had more female attention and more fun and more uh kind of an ultra entrepreneuristic uh, uh, fun with that in terms of getting gigs and going out and meeting people and trying to sell, our, uh, our shows, um, than I've had in college.

Caller:
[47:20] I mean, I think, I think I learned more, uh, doing that over the summer than I did, uh, these past two semesters that I've done.

Stefan:
[47:31] Yeah. I'm, I'm quite sure that that is a pretty good way to figure out how to provide value in in the marketplace is to is to be in a band and, I mean I'm not saying that there would be a whole lot more women around who can truly think but um there'll be a lot more fun than the girls at college right yeah that's fair that's fair yeah um.

Caller:
[47:55] I was going to ask you about where a young man can do virtue, and then it kind of devolved into this, but thank you very much for talking.
I'd love to ask some more questions, if you don't mind.

Stefan:
[48:12] Sure, I have time for one or two more.

Caller:
[48:14] Okay. When people are 20 or when they're very young, are they too young?
Do they lack any experience to make a big judgment about this life should go that way, your life should go this way, your life should go that way?
Or is it more you're kind of falling in line with your parents or what they want to do for you?
Is there such a thing as you have no experience and therefore you can't really make a right judgment about something?

Stefan:
[48:48] Well, I mean, the reason why we have principles is we don't have experience.
I mean, I've never been fat because I know a little bit about what to eat and what to do in terms of exercise. eyes.
So, I mean, an engineer who builds a bridge has never built that particular bridge before, but he doesn't have to build it and cross his fingers and hope that it holds up.
So the reason that we have principles is we don't have experience.
And so if you're going to guide your life, you would want to do it by some sort of principles and not just flail around until something fits, because I think that would be a pretty giant waste of time.
And certainly, that was my my experience when i was younger had a lot to do with flailing around until i found the right thing which i was lucky and somewhat skilled to do but yeah if and this is why i think it's very wise that you're asking these questions because you can try and figure out how to build and organize your life based on principles i'm sorry based on on yeah based on principles so that you don't have to just try a whole bunch of things and see what may or may not fit.

[49:59] Yeah, and it's, you know, there's such a big difference between after me reading or trying to read more philosophy and then the normal way of the world, which is, you know, do your passion or, you know, do what your passion is.

Caller:
[50:20] And is there any credence to that?
Or is it more so we are supposed to live according to these principles and to these principles alone?
You know, is it kind of a...

Stefan:
[50:34] You know, he was born to do this, he was born to do that type thing, or is it more these are our principles and we have to live to them?
Well, I mean, we can think of countless people who followed their passions, who did great evil.
Hitler was a pretty passionate speaker. Jack Ripper was very dedicated to hacking up prostitutes in Victorian England, right?
Or even if you look at like the 27 Club of rock stars who all died young, but they were following their passions. Unfortunately, their passions also included huge amounts of drugs and decadence and so on, right?
So, yes, following your passion often leads off a cliff.

Balancing Reason and Passion

[51:14] On the other hand, we're not programmable robots that we just insert our principles into and then our emotions immediately follow suit.
So to me, there's kind of a dance between the reason and the passions, right?
You have to allow your passions to be informed by reason, reason which is you know you have a lust and and so on and but you don't want to just pursue that like some rutting animal despite the fact that you're in a band which apparently seems to be a, prerequisite job but no i mean so you want to have your passions be informed by reason, and it's a dance between the two aspects of of life and i don't think either one can rule at at the expense of the other.
A life that is mere reason without passion tends to be kind of fragile and bloodless, and it's kind of programmed, and there's not much of you in it, because it's the uniting of your sort of built-in passions with abstract principles that is, I think, the most valuable way to progress.
On the other hand, of course, a life of mere emotion without reason is chaotic and random and kind of animalistic.
So I think in the dance between the two, it's important to give both credence.
And of course, if you can get your passion and your reason together.

[52:32] To go hand in hand in other words you're passionate about the rational and you love uh reasoning uh and and then then you have i think the best of both worlds and trying to get to that place, i think is the ideal but you don't get it by just dumping reason over the overboard like some recalcitrant uh stowaway right and even on the other side you'd say because Because Seneca's pretty against any passions at all and kind of bent on, from what I understand, reading his letters, getting rid of it completely.

Caller:
[53:05] You would say that there's a balance there.

Stefan:
[53:09] Well, of course. And a lot of the people who are against passions grew up with crazy emotional people. people.
I mean, Seneca, of course, would have seen the rhetoricians and sophists of his day, who could lie with great power and passion and tears streaming down their faces as they exhorted the masses to pursue some new self-destructive policy.
And so he would have looked at those passions in the same way when you look at Hitler screaming at the Germans in the 1930s and you say, say, well, that's a lot of passion.
And if you were to just extract that to passion, then we'd say, well, passion is bad, right?
So if you've grown up with a lot of really emotional and unstable people, then you would say that the passions are bad.
But these are passions unregulated by reason.

[54:03] These are passions unregulated by reason. You can't, like, if you look at that any really good athlete, any really good elite-level athletes, they obviously have a passion for the sport, but they also train in very fixed ways.
They train in ways that work on their weaknesses. They do particular exercises to strengthen.
You know, like in tennis, the serve and the backhand is usually the weakness, so you work on the serve and you work on the backhand.
Most people's forehand is pretty good. So you have a passion for the sport, and then you have a whole rational series of training exercises that you go through, and both are serving the other.
Because if you don't improve in the sport, you will lose your passion for it.
Whereas if you only train without enjoying it, you won't want to do it. You need both together.
You need a passion for it, which means that you have to train in some objective, usually kind of scientific manner.
And then you continue to improve. prove and so that kind of the passion and the reason go hand in hand there and so the people who are just emotionally chaotic well that's all passion and no reason and then what people do is they throw the baby out with the bathwater and they say well all passion is bad it's like you know but passion without reason is just chaos and and reason without passion is kind of mechanical so i think we need i think we need both.

Authentic Passions vs. Programmed Passions

Caller:
[55:28] Yeah, and in terms of people set so much emphasis on what their occupation is, it would almost be better, it seems that you're saying, that people had managed those things first, you know, obviously within the realm of reason, choosing whatever occupation that they wanted to do, and that made sense to them and that fit them.
But it would be better for them if they had managed it, managed the passion and the reason at the same time to push that occupation forward.
Is that kind of what you're saying?

Stefan:
[55:59] Well, I think, but most people, their passions are not their own.
I mean, this is kind of the woke social programming stuff that goes on.
That also happens in religion as well.
Their passions are not their own, right? So, I don't know, let's say that your passion is ending systemic racism, But that's not something that most people have empirically viewed and understood, or your passion is ending global warming, but that's stuff you've just been propagandized into.

[56:26] And so for most people, their passions are not their own.
Their passions are programmed for the convenience of those in charge, which is why their passions tend to be so aggressive and unstable.
Because if someone's been programmed into a particular cause or passion, but they haven't reasoned themselves into it, then that passion becomes a substitute for their natural or organic identity.
And propaganda really does rob people of their authentic identities.
And so when you question that passion, you're exposing a kind of verbal abuse, which is what propaganda really is, and you're exposing a kind of hollowness.
And so people get very volatile when, by asking some questions, they begin to get a vague sense that their entire life is kind of based on a lie or a falsehood or just accepting things because they're told while telling themselves that they're independent thinkers who just do massive amounts of good in the world.
So I think that's another reason why passion gets a bad name, because people get very defensive and aggressive when their passion is questioned.
And that's really tragic to see as well. So I think that's another reason why.

Caller:
[57:41] So you say those passions are not our own, but is it something that is almost like a virus that if out of order, if the passions are out of order and it's a virus and it gets attacked, like you say, it kind of revolts against everything. Is that what you're kind of saying?

Stefan:
[57:58] I'm not sure what you're asking. Sorry, if you could rephrase.
Um so you you were talking about how people get upset when you tell them that the the passions are out of order right well no i would say that the passions are just something that they've been told it's not something that they have uh absolutely understood right and and those passions it's not it's it's unregulated by reason and it's not not their own it's outside of them It's not really their true self.
Well, yeah, of course, as you know, for young people in particular, every passion that they have enhances the authority and legitimacy and power of the rulers, right?
So if you're like, oh, CO2 is really bad, it's like, okay, well, then you need a carbon tax and you need control over what people buy and sell and you need central bank digital currencies. season.
So everything that they're told to be passionate about is simply a cover for the expansion of power from those in charge.

The Power of Government and Propaganda

[59:02] And so they think that they're doing good in terms of, I oppose this or I support that, but this and that always turns out to be an expansion of the power of those in charge.
So they think they're doing good when in fact they're doing, well, quite the opposite of good.
And that's really, really tough for people to process, to think think that you're on the side of the angels when you're kind of in the opposite place is really tough and that's usually too it's too big it's too big i mean this is an old propaganda thing goes back to uh goering and uh and and other people from the nazi regime that if you tell a lie that's big enough people do end up believing it because it becomes the whole world, and and of course when you and this is a sort of government school thing too when And when everyone is kind of half, well, it's forced or coerced in a way to believe the same thing, then if you doubt it, if you doubt that thing, then what happens is all of your social world vanishes.
And this is, you know, it's tough for boys, but it's, I think, a little bit even tougher for girls.
So if you start to question any of these sort of narratives that are put into you by government systems, systems, like if you start to say, well, you know, I have some questions about global warming or whatever it is.
It could be systemic racism.
Yeah, I have questions. No questions. That's all just questions.

[1:00:31] Then people react like you're roofying them. And in a way, you kind of are.
You're pulling them out of the matrix, in a sense, even just to have questions.
And I think you found this a little bit in the church. People kind of stare at you, give a thousand-yard stare, but you just have some questions.
But our questions are what make us human. Questions are how we've got everything, even remotely good, in the modern world, and certainly in terms of technology and the rights that we still possess. So it's...
Sorry, just one second. I'm just recovering from a cold, so I'm still having a little bit of sneezy stuff here.
Here hang on oh okay thank you coming or going no that's fine that's fine um that's why i can't do too long a show today because uh but yeah so so people will if you start to have questions they don't evaluate with them first of all they evaluate them just in terms of how they feel and they feel great anxiety because the anxiety comes like if somebody says to me why do you believe what you believe i'm thrilled with that question you know somebody somebody at some dinner party says, oh, you believe this.
Why do you believe what you believe? I'm like, oh, wonderful.
You know, I get to talk about metaphysics and epistemology. I love it, right?
But if somebody doesn't know why he or she believes what they believe, then they'll feel great anxiety.

[1:01:46] Because if you don't know why you believe what you believe, but you proclaim the accuracy of your belief with great fervor, you're lying and you're falsifying not just your virtues, but your entire existence.
Your entire identity is a fraud.
And people, they don't like that. But the more people you can get to believe in that fraud, and this is why government education is that one point of constriction, the more you can get people to believe in these frauds, the more they will evaluate things by how they feel and what other people will think.
How does this make me feel? Well, if it's a false belief but it's been programmed into you, it's going to make you feel great anxiety for the ugliness and violence that's been done to you.
And what will other people think? Well, we're social animals and.

[1:02:31] If everyone believes a lie, and you start to think about the truth, the great fear, of course, is ostracism, is isolation.
So, yeah, it's very tough to break through it, which is why you really can't make other people do this.

Pursuing Truth and the Difficulty of Breaking Through

[1:02:48] It has to be something that's got such a yearning from within, because it's so hard.
It's so hard to pursue and speak the truth. It's so hard to do any of that.
That it just has to be some yearning. Again, I sort of think of these elite athletes, like the people who are the top 100 tennis players or the top 100 skiers or long jumpers or whatever they are.
I mean, it's so hard to be a professional athlete. There's such a ridiculous amount of training and injury and poverty for a lot of times and so on that you can't just say to your friend next door, Or when you're six or seven, you can't just say, hey, let's go become elite tennis players.

[1:03:35] It has to be something like they end up meeting from around the world because they all had this peculiar mania to become tennis players or long jumpers or skiers or something, but they can't bring, how many people can they bring along with them?
Well, you know, if you come from a small town, you're probably one of two people in the whole state that's going to end up there, if you're lucky.
It could be just the only person, but then you end up congregating in some other place with all the other elite athletes and you can't really bring people along.
It seems to me that's kind of similar to thinking.
Somebody who's going to think is just going to, there's something within them that is just impatient and it doesn't sit well.
Or there's a natural drive to, I mean, to question things, right?
I mean, most people just go with the flow and some people swim against the current and that's where the progress comes from.

[1:04:31] You know, that's kind of how it works biologically. Most of our genes do the same thing, but there's sort of these random mutations, which is where evolution or progress comes from.
So I think rather than, I mean, you can certainly be a leader and you can try and get this kind of stuff cooking in your life, and it's certainly more common to think than it is to be an elite athlete, but in terms of being able to generate that in other people, most people won't evaluate an idea according to its argument.
They will evaluate an idea according to how they feel and what other people will think and if it feels bad and or other people will roll their eyes or look down on them if they even question something i mean we saw all this sort of stuff with trump and back in the day with ross perot and all this kind of stuff which is uh you know all the cool kids didn't like him and therefore everyone just went along with that for the most part so uh it's uh it is kind of tragic but But at least with the internet, we have a chance for better conversations, I think.

Caller:
[1:05:35] Yes, and I thank you so much for being patient with me, and especially coming out of a sickness, allowing me to talk with somebody who's a little bit younger and less developed, I'd say.

Embrace Ambition and Leadership in Philosophy

Stefan:
[1:05:47] Oh, no, listen, I'm happy to help. I mean, it was at your age when I was a couple years into philosophy, like you are, and I'm hoping that it's of some help.
But yeah, don't underestimate your own capacity to take a leadership role in these things, and for heaven's sakes, be as as ambitious as you want to be.
I mean, I find it a high act of extreme arrogance to place limits on my own capacities.
And you don't know what you're capable of. I still don't know what I'm capable of. And I've been into philosophy for over 40 years.
So I would say that, yeah, be as ambitious as you want.
And, you know, if you have a divine light within you, as I think most people do, certainly everyone who thinks for themselves, then, you know, don't prejudge how bright that that light can be or how far reaching it can be.
I mean, you can, we have capacities within us that I think by the time we die, we still have regrets of what we failed to do.
So I would certainly be as ambitious as you want and be more ambitious than you feel comfortable being. And I think you'll end up at a good place.

Caller:
[1:06:49] Well, thank you so much for that stuff.

Stefan:
[1:06:51] You're welcome, man. And yeah, drop me a line, let me know how it's going.
And I really appreciate your time today.
And uh stef where can i donate to you oh yeah if you want uh freedomain.com slash donate is a fine place to do it uh of course if you're a student and you're low on money please don't but yeah if you've got a couple extra bucks it won't do any harm i would certainly appreciate that but yeah freedomain.com slash donate and uh do you care if it's uh just bitcoin or just regular money or it's just uh whatever works best for you is totally fine with me i'm not going to dictate that so whatever works for you is much i'm greatly appreciated by me Okay, Stef, thank you so much.

Caller:
[1:07:27] Have a good rest of your day.

Stefan:
[1:07:28] Thanks, man. Take care. Bye.

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