Philosophical Paradoxes - Part 5 - Transcript



0:00:22 Philosophical Paradoxes
0:02:48 Influential Novelists
0:39:32 Balancing Spontaneity and Morality

Long Summary

In this episode, we delve deep into the creative process and the struggle to balance liveliness and spontaneity with moral messages in writing. We explore the influence of various novelists on the speaker’s creativity, from Ayn Rand to Dostoevsky and Dickens. The speaker reflects on the tension between expressing vivid life experiences and conveying moral lessons through storytelling, drawing parallels between the challenges encountered in literature and in life.

The discussion touches on the importance of dreams as symbolic representations of inner conflicts and desires, aiming to unite the conscious and unconscious aspects of the self. The speaker shares personal experiences of dreams reflecting struggles with authenticity, morality, and the pursuit of truth. The link between dreams, social unity, and survival instincts is highlighted as a recurring theme throughout the conversation.

Additionally, the speaker reflects on the impact of famous writers like Dickens in reshaping societal views, emphasizing the significance of portraying childhood with sensitivity. The narrative extends to the complexities of familial bonds, moral dilemmas, and the pursuit of creative integrity amidst societal expectations and personal growth.

As the exploration of creativity and morality unfolds, the episode navigates through philosophical concepts, personal anecdotes, and literary influences to illustrate the intricate balance between spontaneity, moral purpose, and enjoyment in writing. The speaker's candid reflections on the creative process serve as an invitation for listeners to engage with their novels and delve into the nuanced layers of storytelling and moral expression.

Ultimately, the episode encapsulates a profound journey through the complexities of artistic creation, ethical considerations, and the eternal quest for truth and meaning in both literature and life. The speaker's vulnerability and passion shine through, offering a glimpse into the intricate dance between creativity and morality in the realm of storytelling.


balancing, liveliness, moral messages, writing, Ayn Rand, Dostoevsky, Dickens, dreams, symbols, inner conflicts, desires, societal views, childhood portrayal, familial bonds, creative integrity, spontaneity, moral purpose, enjoyment, creativity, ethics, truth


[0:00] Good morning, everybody. Hope you're doing well. Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain. slash donate if you could help out the show.
I would massively, massively appreciate it. slash donate.
And don't forget to check out the great community at or slash freedomain.

Philosophical Paradoxes

[0:23] slash freedomain. All right, let's get into our philosophical paradoxes. this is going to be an arty farty one.
Just so you know, if you don't particularly care about the creative process and art, you might want to skip the first part of this because this goes deep for me into the fantastic geyser lava wellsprings of my creativity and what a titanic wrestle I've had with it since I was, well, young.
I really started writing my first novel when i was 12 by the light of an alien sun and uh i guess it could have been the.

[1:02] Tagline for the show as a whole all right so here it is this is a quote on creativity, from john morley paraphrasing great writing dances at the border of mysterious and obvious too mysterious and you're inaccessible too obvious and you're boring so a.

[1:24] Number of writers have tugged at the edges of my creativity and listen for those of you who don't know about my creativity because you're here for the philosophy fantastic philosophy is great but that was not my original plan and of course there was no real original plan called be a philosopher before the internet that but i a novelist i think not i've never been particularly good at short stories i wrote like 30 plays hundreds of poems and i've written i don't know eight or so novels and you should really check them out they're free free slash books you should check them out if you're into a modern comedy the god of atheists is your thing historical fiction we've got just poor 18th century england we've got almost which is 20th century all of europe first world war to second world war that's a german family and a british family and their combat over time and of course i have my science fiction novel which is called the future very imaginative and then my contemporary novel which is sort of a prequel to the future called the present again i'm not particularly particularly fantastic titles but the contents are great and you should check out those, novels there's also my novel revolutions which you can get at

Influential Novelists

[2:49] So, there were really a number of novelists who influenced me enormously.
The top three are Ayn Rand, Dostoevsky, and Charles Dickens.
Particularly, I love the book Great Expectations.
Just had a huge, huge impact on me.
I mean, I also went through a fantasy science fiction phase and enjoyed a lot of that stuff.
Of course, Lord of the Rings, naturally, almost inevitably.
Incredibly and i was very much and it's funny because i just read about him the other day i was very much into ray bradbury but i found he pushed too much of an agenda as is kind of common in some science fiction writers he pushed too much of an agenda and it was not particularly organic.

[3:36] And i mean he pushed racial tensions he pushed hostility between men and women and solitude and And yeah, it was sort of a weird and creepy agenda, but very good.
I remember the cinnamon winds of Mars. It's very good, but surreal.
And then he really fell off the cliff, I remember, with great enthusiasm, grabbing one of his last books of short stories and just being like, oh my gosh, this is absolutely terrible.
Not as bad as Paul McCartney and Sting's last albums, but pretty terrible.
So yeah, I had a number of influences. I was also, oddly enough, I was strangely influenced by a writer I don't particularly like, and who was only published because he was the first hint of anti-Catholic sentiment, anti-Christian sentiment, but James Joyce.
I really admired his wild bending of rules when it came to writing novels, his wild bending of rules.
The opening of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I actually reread it with my daughter some years ago, some parts of it, because of course, I mean, mostly for comedy, because it is so rankly incomprehensible.

[4:47] But I really did admire the fact that he started off the novel with a child's perception of the world and in the development of consciousness.
I did a tiny homage to this at the opening of Louis Staten's recovery in my novel, The Future, that he starts off with childhood and builds his consciousness brick by brick from virtually nothing.
So some of the real brain bending novelists were very impressive to me.
I suppose you could say it's the Russians and the British.
These are sort of the two poles, the Russian, obviously, Ayn Rand, and Dostoevsky, and the British writers.
I'm trying to think of others. Henry James could not, just too sludgy, too slow, too pedantic.
I really did like some of the sparkle and wit and relationship obsessiveness of Jane Austen, and I'm trying to think of sort of other, I said I have to sit down and go through my bookcase to get through all of them.
And Turgenev was hugely influential to me in intergenerational conflict.
Of course, I mean, almost nobody does intergenerational conflict better than Shakespeare and Turgenev combined.
I, in fact, took his novels called Fathers and Sons and rewrote it as a play called Seduction and produced that play in Toronto when I was young.

[6:12] And Tennessee Williams, as playwriting, found him to be great.
But the fragility of his characters was kind of exhausting because his characters are so neurotic.
You think of Laura from Glass Menagerie, Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire.
His female characters in particular are so neurotic and so fragile and so aggressive that they are exhausting.
Exhausting if you're around people who have a fragile grip on reality which is to say a fragile grip on identity it is very easy to be bled dry they are kind of vampires because you're constantly having to prop them up and you're constantly having to react and surf and roll with and punch back with and accept and absorb and deal with all of their no craziness and of course tennessee williams his original name was tom tennessee williams sister was i think diagnosed knows with schizophrenia and so on.
And so that was pretty, pretty rough.
I also remember looking at Tennessee Williams when he was younger and then when he was older and saying, boy, I hope that there's a way to age more gracefully than that.
I hope that there's a way to age more gracefully than that. There was also a French writer that, I can't remember his name.

[7:29] That was a French writer. I also saw a picture of him when he was younger and then when he was older.
And I'm I'm like, whatever I'm doing with my life, I'm not doing that.
I'm not going to do this decrepit older thing. Tennessee Williams also grossed me out after a while for some bizarre reason.
My mother had a book written by Tennessee Williams.
I think it was a novel, and he looked really bad on the back.
And the novel started off with two gay men using urination as a sexual tool.
And I was just like, I literally had to throw that book away.
Like, it scalded my hand. Like, that was just too gross for me.
So, yeah, I mean, that stuff is almost beyond words for me. So...

[8:10] There was a lot of wrestling in my brain about the purpose of art.
And so part of me really, really wanted to have the mechanical, laser-like precision of Ayn Rand.
I mean, every single word in every single one of her novels is there for a particular reason.
They are absolute labors of love and detail, almost OCD.
It's the one thing that the level of spontaneity in an Ayn Rand novel is similar to the level of spontaneity in the main character from The Shining, who kept writing all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy over and over in various ways.

[8:56] There's no play, there's no spontaneity, and the rigidity of Ayn Rand's control over her creative process was really quite staggering. I mean, she's fantastic at plot.
Actually, she's fantastic at plot based upon Atlas Shrugged.
She's not fantastic on plot based on The Fountainhead.
The Fountainhead, she did not know how to end.
And so she created this big dramatic thing.
Sorry, spoiler, book's 70 years old. But she created this big, fantastic second half, fantastical second half, where the architect basically becomes a terrorist and blows up his own buildings and there's a whole trial and it was insane.
I mean, it's completely hysterical. And the first part of the book, you know, growing up as a single mother, with a single mother, and seeing Peter Keating with his single mother and no father is wild.
I mean, I remember in the book thinking like, okay, so no parents are better than a single mother, because Howard Rourke, who is a shining beacon of robotic integrity, grew up with no parents, and Peter Keating grew up with a single, obsessive, ambitious mother, and he was destroyed by her.
So I was like, oh, so no parents are better in this universe.

[10:14] No parents is better than a single mother.
And that's the case that all of Ayn Rand's heroes without family.
All of Ayn Rand's heroes are without family.

[10:29] And that's because she can't have and she also said she doesn't understand psychology she never understood psychology even though she had an affair with Nathaniel Brandon who was a psychologist, but she can't have heroes who have families because she needs platonic souls sprung from the ideals of, her philosophy with no human dysfunction to taint their perfection.
And the fact that she couldn't write any heroes with parents was, to me, wildly anti-family.
That if you want to be perfect, you can't have parents. If you want to be moral, you can't have family, and you can barely have friends.
The splendid solitude of that was her life, her projection.
She never had kids and had bad relationships with her family, in particular her sister, who she went back to visit after the Soviet Union liberalized a little and found that her sister still missed Stalin, and it was pretty rough.

[11:36] So, all of Ayn Rand's novels are a form of platonic idealism, and she said the same thing herself.
She said, my characters are not prescriptions for action, they are romantic ideals.
So, she puts the fiction in fiction, right? Fiction is used to create a lucid dream to communicate ineffable truths about nature and human nature and life.
So we learn syllogistically and we learn through imagery.
And the imagery came first, right? Let's just get the purpose of fiction.
Why do people like it so much? Well, before we had reason, and before we had language, before we had arguments, debates, syllogisms, before we had language, we had dreams.
And you can see this. I mean, if you've ever had a dog, you know that dogs sit there twitching and you know they're twitching.

[12:33] Trying to catch a rabbit in their dreams, right? And that's because to practice hunting without expending calories is a great use of the need to sleep, right?
You can practice hunting in your dreams.
And those animals that practice hunting in their dreams expend fewer calories per animal they catch than those that don't, right?
So it's an evolutionary advantage to practice in your dreams.
Those who are learning the violin who dream about practicing the violin gain an edge over those who don't and dreams are recreations of survival lessons or essential lessons to instruct us when we are a captive audience right there's no more captive audience than the recipient of a dream who usually can't even wake up or get away right so if there's a scary person in your your environment, and you're not registering that consciously, your dream will instruct you about that scary person in your environment.

[13:36] If you are paralyzed in your life, you know, you can't get to the next step, you can't ask the girl out, you can't get the job, you can't move out from your parents' basement.
If you're stuck in your life, you'll have dreams about being paralyzed and how horrifying that is in an attempt to get you to shake off your torpor and break out of the the ice prison of low expectations and get the hell on with your life.
So the purpose of fiction is the transmission of educational imagery in a more consciously shaped form.

[14:16] It is a way of transferring dreams from one person to another, transferring educational imagery from one person to another.
And I think that certainly fiction, you understand, novel fiction is a very modern phenomenon.
Daniel Defoe, Pamela, it's really a late 18th century phenomenon.
Before that, there were plays, of course, poetry, epic poems, and so on, but there weren't novels.
In the same way, I remember it wasn't too long ago, I was looking at some Egyptian friezes with my daughter, and of course, you point out that the eyes, even though it's a profile, the eyes are looking straight at you.
And I said, you know, it's ridiculous how long it took for people who drew or painted to simply look at the world and paint what they saw.
I mean, it happened in sculpture, of course, earlier, but to simply look at people and paint, or look at the world and paint what you see, kind of a modern phenomenon.

[15:17] Sorry, I did this whole history of art course way back in the day, and it's just, it's a wild thing.
Look at the world and paint what you see was shockingly unthought of for, you know, 99% of human history.
And in the same way, novels are look at the world and write what you see.
So when people have a worldview, they prefer to recreate that worldview often.
They prefer to recreate that worldview in lucid dreams called novels in order to transfer the essential worldview from one person to another.
For better or for worse, right? Right.
For every Atlas Shrugged, it seems that there are a hundred three penny operas or anything by Bertolt Brecht, who was repulsively enslaved to the East German government.
Mother Courage and her children. Right. So for every, in a sense, fever dream of Ayn Rand, there is a fever dream of a socialist or a communist or a fascist for that matter.

[16:19] So, what was it? It took the fascists in Italy were the ones who created a movie of, it's actually not a bad movie, of We the Living.
So novels in particular are a way of transferring the lucid dreams of creativity from one person to another so that you don't have to rely on your own dreams and your instincts in order to, understand essential truths or at least be pointed towards essential truths about your life my dreams are very instructive to me very helpful to me very powerful to me but I can't transfer them to you except I can I can write poems I could write plays of course but I can write novels to transfer my dreams to you now that aspect of a fiction has always been very powerful to me but that aspect of fiction requires creativity and spontaneity so your dreams are creative and spontaneous however if all you do is for me if If all I did was transfer my dreams, my writing would be very spontaneous and powerful, but it would not be vetted for a moral purpose.

[17:38] Artists are very treasured by totalitarians because art has this incredible ability to program people. people.
Art is perceived as entering the lucid dreaming of another person, which is one of the reasons why novel reading in particular helps grow empathy.

[17:58] But it's a way of transferring dreams from one person to another, and deep in your unconscious, living inside another person's lucid dream.
The reason I say lucid is you still control to some degree what you write, certainly in the editing process.
So the hostility that I faced in the publishing world, where people just didn't say, oh, you know, it's not particularly good.
People in the publishing world, they absolutely loved or or absolutely loathed and hated my work.
There was nobody in between that I could recall.
My novel, The God of Atheists, was called by a PhD literature student the great Canadian novel that has finally arrived, the best thing he's ever read, and it was also absolutely loathed by my first writing teacher and also by other publishers.
Publishers, because what I write is a dream to the virtuous and a nightmare to the corrupt.

[18:56] Those with a ghastly view of life have themselves terrible dreams, and they don't want to combat those terrible dreams, right?
So if you have a ghastly life, you will have terrible dreams, and those terrible dreams are there to get you to wake up to the horror of your life.
But instead of your dreams being able to tell you that you could live and do better, What you often prefer to do is to fill your waking world with other people's ghastly dreams in the form of consuming, you know, horror novels, horror stories, dysfunctional, dystopian, whatever, whatever, whatever, to try and convince your dreams that the world is horrible, you're just being accurate and honest.
Like if if the world is horrible then you having a horrible life if all that is possible is a horrible life then you having a horrible life is simply an acceptance of the facts of reality, i mean i used to have dreams years ago about being chased by some monster and then i would try to run away from the monster but the the monster would be subject to gravity and would would be able to lumber along fairly fast, but every time I took a step, I floated up into the air and couldn't move.
I was like doing this mad swimming in the air, but because I was not really subject to gravity, I could not escape.

[20:18] And this, of course, was that I was not foundationally thinking for myself.
I was not grounded. I was not grounded.
Gravity. I wasn't taking things seriously enough. Gravity, of course. Language.
The unconscious is a great place center for language, and I'm lacking gravity I'm lacking gravity so I can't escape well that was me being embedded and enmeshed in morally questionable or corrupt relationships and not taking philosophy seriously enough other people were taking their corruption seriously so the monster had gravity I was not and therefore being weightless I could not escape.

[20:58] So, if the world is horrible, and you see this all the time, shiny, happy people holding hands, right?
If the world is horrible, then those who are happy and optimistic are fools.
He who increaseth in wisdom also increaseth in sorrow.

[21:16] Well, only if you believe you are your brother's keeper, which is something that, of course, I've wrestled with my whole life.
Given my abilities, am I there to serve humanity? and if so, am I not then enslaved to the average or the low or am I there to manifest as much intelligence and creativity as I can?
The world be damned, right? These are all interesting tensions that make the ride of life well worthwhile and ever-changing.
So if we view the world as miserable and we have a miserable life, then our dreams will torture us with misery in order to get us to run away from misery and to shake that off.
But now, of course, what we have is the ability to go from our nightly dreams into other people's waking dreams.
And we do that, of course, through the consumption of media.
And the consumption of media is absolutely massive in the world as it stands.
And people are hours and hours and hours a day on screens.
And, of course, I know some of its documentaries, which is just a different kind of fiction. fiction, all documentaries have a fictional element to them because they're choosing to focus on things A and not things B or Z or Q or whatever, right?
Or they are the avoidance of depth. You know, you look at some, it looks to me, half-coked up.

[22:36] Millennial screaming over reaction videos or hounding clicks by dissecting the latest useless internet beef and that's a way of avoiding depth and all right so the consumption of we we live most of our nights and half of our days enmeshed in the fever dreams of other people who are frantically trying to infect us with their own unconscious i'm trying not to do that obviously.
I'm trying not to do that.
So the challenge for me of creativity has been the more spontaneous I am, the more in danger I am of corrupting others, when I was young in particular.
So I had this, you know, of course, I have this great love of Dostoevsky.
I mean, in particular, Crime and Punishment and the Brothers Karamazov.
And, well, Solzhenitsyn as well, Well, Gulag Archipelago, which of course is non-fiction, but a horror story, a day in the life of Ivan Denisovich and so on.
The Russians, oh, those Russians.

[23:39] So the one thing that is true of, well, there are many things that are true, the one thing that is particularly relevant to this part of the conversation is the degree to which Dostoevsky was spontaneous in his writing.
There's some truth of that of course in dickens as well there's no truth of that in ayn rand who was never ever spontaneous in her writing everything went through a massive censorious filter of philosophical purpose which produces a particular kind of arid novel the problem is of course that dreams are spontaneous the more conscious you make your writing the more, purposed you make your writing, it has to achieve this particular good, the more purposed you make your writing, the.

[24:30] Less spontaneous and lifelike like it is. It's almost like your dreams are handing you detailed instructions on how to live that may be accurate, but aren't particularly vivid in the same way that a dream of beauty or of horror is vivid.
And it impresses itself on the mind, but not the unconscious, which means that it appeals to people who are keeping their own unconscious at bay.
And the lack of creativity in the objectivist community is notable.

[25:00] It is notable. The left, which embraces the unconscious and embraces media, is very creative.
Not usually for better, but definitely the degree is significant.
And so, objectivists and even libertarians do lack a certain spontaneity of creativity because, you know, we grow up in this being programmed by the leftists in media and in education and in just about everything that's around us.
And therefore, it feels like, and this was the case with me, it feels like any really genuinely spontaneous artistic production is going to veer left and do bad things in the world.
And this is the wrestling that I was sort of talking about earlier, that I've wrestled with my creativity because I very much want to be spontaneous and lively in my creativity.
But the The more spontaneous and lively I am, at least when I was younger, the more things would veer left because that's the gravity well, that's the rutted path, that's the train track that creativity has been programmed to go down.

[26:05] You either get kind of wooden, oh, also a Victor Hugo was quite important to me.
So you get either this wild creativity and spontaneity, which is exuberant in a way, but tends to veer towards madness and leftism, or you control your creativity and end up with pretty mechanical, unlively pedantic kinds of books.
Dostoevsky dictated his works. works he had a secretary and he would dictate his works and his works are full of wild chaos i mean when you look at the structure of crime and punishment the crime and punishment is really the unholy mashup of two novels that he was thinking about one of course is crime and punishment and the other one is the drunkard which was mama lardoff and the the problems with with alcoholism.

[27:01] And was he the first writer? He's the first writer that I recall to portray a pedophile, which is the terrifying nihilist Zdrydrygailov in Crime and Punishment.
Absolutely terrifying.
Who is creeping on Sonia, the girl, really.
And so Dostoevsky had wild creativity Creativity, because he was literally dictating the book and all of that, or his books, after Poor Folk, I assume Poor Folk was written out.
He has this wild creativity, and the books are blissfully chaotic.

[27:43] And largely without structure, but very alive.
They're very lively. I don't mean, of course, happy.
I just mean lively in that they're full of life and surprises and depth and segues and so on, right?
Now, he did, of course, have his moral purposes, but they were largely bowled over or subsumed by his wild creativity.

[28:07] So, you know, in the middle of Crime and Punishment, which is is supposed to be the story of the murderer you have marmalade of his family the party like stuff that it doesn't fit doesn't fit at all in the theme of the story but it's very vivid and then, the the chaos and multiplicity of the brothers karamazov is also again but you have this core right the grand inquisitor i have this core moral argument but it's really buried under all this wild creativity and i mean similar things are true even in hamlet you have was it polonius talking about laertes in these sort of completely useless scenes that don't don't fit at all in the story in dickens you have endless segues and sub characters and dickens can be like the tale of two cities i've never made it through i found that one of the most distracted and boring books around but again some of his other novels are just absolutely fantastic but very lively very lively but very chaotic, but his you know the great advantage of Dickens is that he was the first novelist that I can recall of I'm no expert in this I did take a whole full year course on the rise of the novel but.

[29:28] My memory he is the first novelist novelist to write with sensitivity about children and with sympathy towards children i still remember as a kid i was in the musical oliver can't city yourself at home consider yourself one of the family so i was in oliver and there's this horror of course that that oliver twist is returning some books but he gets grabbed by the crime gang and then Then everyone thinks he stole the books.
And so this idea that you're grabbed up by others, but it ruins your reputation and you're trying to do the right thing and you're a good person, but everyone thinks you're a bad person because you were interfered with by evildoers. It's almost like a foreshadow.

[30:11] But, you know, there's that pain. So he writes sensitively about childhood and with great scathing, sarcastic hatred to the pompous and the abusive, right?
The beetle and so on. you know these fine fellows who you know so great spontaneity great chaos great liveliness some moral message that merks through but not enough to change the world the idea that children aren't just little adults who need to be beaten until they obey first really shows up in dickens and dickens had a profound effect on reshaping societies i mean it's it's impossible for us to really imagine now how famous dickens was dickens was in certainly in the art world was the most famous person for many many years and he was famously fantastic at giving public readings very animated a great actor and you know when he came to america you know thousands greeted his ship when it came they were so touched by his stories uh it's it's impossible for us to really grasp just how famous dickens was not because we don't have famous people in the here and now of Of course we do, but largely because the idea of being famous for literary merit is incomprehensible to us.

[31:26] I mean, I guess there's J.K. Rowling, whose first couple of books were well-plotted and then things got just completely ridiculous and tragic and stupid.
Honestly, the last couple of books, oh man.
Well, I've talked about that before. So can you wrestle your creativity to a moral purpose and share your philosophy through fiction or share your worldview, share your arguments through fiction?

[31:57] Of course, all fiction, and particularly movies, but fiction as a whole, they're all arguments. Like, if you sort of break down fiction as a whole, they're all arguments.

[32:05] I mean, crime and punishment is an argument against leftism and intellectualism.

[32:12] That if you have a pragmatic plan that does not involve morality, you will slide down the slope to evil, murder, and hell itself.
Itself uh dickens work is is an argument towards say the sympathy for children i mean dickens work was so influential that when he satirized the system of law that was occurring in england to resolve disputes and that it would just go on and on and on that the system was actually reformed to be more efficient and to change things the multi-generational lawsuits and so on i mean mean he satirized those so well because he was a court reporter before he became a novelist or maybe at the same there was an overlap i don't know but so ayn rand of course took her philosophy and shaped it into characters and you know in movies the attractive characters are generally the good guys the unattractive characters are generally the bad guys and it has just become um that that level a basic level of propaganda that if you want a character you know this is an old acting trick right if you're if you're the king right a good director says if you're the king you don't play the king right you don't play the king everybody else on the stage plays the king right so if you're the king and you come in everybody kneels and bows and and stops talking king and so everyone else plays the king, you don't play the king.

[33:38] Right, you don't play asserting authority because that just looks shrill everyone else plays giving you authority and that's the way that the king manifests.

[33:51] Rand transferred syllogisms through characters, but not a lively, complicated, deep and rich human experience.
Other people do the deep and rich human experience stuff, but any of the morals are kind of murky.
So the more the morals of the story become clear, the less humanity there is in the story, because morality is complicated it is complicated by by family it is complicated by the propaganda masquerading as education it's complicated by the fact that we generally get embedded in non-moral relationships we always get almost always we get embedded in non-moral relationships before we can discover true morality right so our friends from school maybe our family our sibling like we get involved we are embedded in non-moral it doesn't mean anti-moral could be decent people but it's not fundamentally based on moral understanding we get embedded and fused with and bonded to non-moral relationships and then we have to fight our way to moral excellence often at the expense of those relationships which is a very difficult and challenging and and disorienting and horrible experience.

[35:16] Have to claw our way through error, moral error, to get to moral truth.
Generally, we have to claw our way through non-moral relationships to get to moral excellence.
And of course, because we're social creatures, it feels like we are abandoning that which gives us survival in order to pursue a purity which will kill us.
We are programmed to bond with those around us because that's our methodology for survival we can't usually hunt very productively alone we certainly need people to guide us when we sleep in the wilds and of course we need people to help us raise our children we need to get you know have a pair bond and reproduce and all that kind of stuff, and the luxury of being able to survive without the relationships you bonded with as a child is a modern trinket or toy that did not exist throughout almost all of our evolution evolution, the ability to move away, the ability to create your own tribe, your own group of people, your own friendships, your own relationships.

[36:19] That's a modern phenomenon. So we yearn for truth, we yearn for honesty, we yearn for goodness.
But that was impossible throughout almost all of human history.
If you tell the truth, you will get ostracized or killed, or nobody will pair bond with you, nobody will have children with you, nobody will protect your children, and your genes die out, right?
So we succeed by accepting and practicing universalism in the material realm, but as soon as we try to apply that to the social and moral realm, we die.
This is the tension. And this is still going on, right? This is still going on.
The very way in which all of this information is recorded, stored, transmitted, listened to, is all the result of following following engineering, physics, reality, material laws that are absolute, and so on.
So universalism, absolutism, and integrity are the way in which these moral arguments or these artistic arguments are transmitted.
But as soon as we try and take that exact same principle that gives us such great success in the material realm and apply it to the social or the moral realm, we are faced with great threats, great and grave threats.
And this drives some people kind of crazy.

[37:32] Leaders command us to be successful in the material realm so that we can produce the things they want to take from us.
But as soon as we try to be universal and successful in the moral or social realm, just about everyone and their dog attacks us.
And that's, I remember a family member saying to me with great caustic vengeance.

[37:52] When I first really began to get into philosophy in my mid-teens, I remember a close family member saying to me, oh, you're just drifting away from everyone off into nothing. think.
There was this rage. Now, of course, I mean, it basically was saying, I'll mess you up if you try to be moral, but the luxury of integrity is a modern invention, barely older than the airplane.

[38:14] And the value of integrity has risen with social media, because you can talk about integrity, and you can have a community that is virtual.
At least at the start, right?
Which is why Ayn Rand's heroes have no families.
They're like greek gods sprung from the forehead as adults and there is no path i mean there are a few paths to virtue in ayn rad i mean there's the wet nurse and there's a couple of transitional characters but for her heroes there's no path to virtue they're born virtuous they have no particular other choice and they have such intelligence and skill that they can survive on their own but of course the problem is if they're born virtuous then it's genetic if they're virtuous genetic it's not virtue and since they have no interest in family or children then, their virtues if they are genetic will die with them right so the sort of there is a certain amount of genetic determinism in Ayn Rand that is kind of creepy in my view all right so Howard at Roark and John Galt and so on, they're born virtuous.

[39:27] Born geniuses, born virtuous. Well, then it's not virtue if it's genetic.

Balancing Spontaneity and Morality

[39:32] Earn my intelligence i didn't earn my creativity when i first sat down to start writing a novel called the jealous war which i wrote in my teens late teens i think when i wrote the jealous war, i started writing descriptions of world war one and they just came pouring out and like it's all just been that way from the beginning right you know like sammy hagar just opens his mouth to sing along with the radio and people are like, damn, Roe can sing.

[40:01] So if they're virtuous genetic, it's not virtue and it doesn't get passed along to humanity because they don't have kids, right?
So I've always had this wrestle that I want my writing to be vivid and spontaneous and alive, but that often murks up the moral lessons.
And I think I I really, I was wrestling with that in my novel, Revolutions, with Sergei Nechayev, who was a revolutionary and based on a real historical character who was so charismatic that when he was arrested, he talked his guards into letting him go.
I mean, he was just wild as far as that stuff went.
Incredibly charismatic. Now, of course, I didn't want to make him so charismatic that he would lure the audience into praising him or cleaving to him.
So I wanted to make him charismatic enough to be a fascinating main character and his big wrestle is revolution or family how do you change the world revolution or family theory or practice, ideas or people and that's his big tension in the novel and I think that Dostoevsky wrote about him as well in The Possessed, fascinating character a man who grew up without a father and through finally meeting a father figure himself gains the capacity to become a father and therefore finds a way to let go of his murderous impulses towards those who have wronged him and the Russian people as a whole.

[41:30] So, that tension. I want morals, I want spontaneous, delightful life in the books, and the two are kind of at war with each other.
And it's not just, of course, in the novels, it's also in life as a whole, right?
In life as a whole, we want to be moral, moral, but at the same time, we don't want to be dull-plotting train tracks following moral absolutes to the exclusion of spontaneous and enjoyable life.
This is a tension not just in books or in art, but also in life.
I want my live streams to be foundationally moral, but frankly, also kind of delightful as best I can make them, right?
Snippets of song, a couple of jokes here and there, some self-mockery, some, you know, just.

[42:16] That is just nutritious is not particularly enjoyable the food that is enjoyable isn't particularly nutritious and finding that balance in life is important we should live for health but not to the point where we don't enjoy our lives you know this is the old thing it's like well i might live you know a couple years longer if i eat more healthily but i won't enjoy the years that i have nearly as much right so we have all of these tensions right we have all of these tensions in life i want to be productive in the realm of philosophy i seem to have been given a a certain gift of grace and genetics to explicate this stuff in a consumable format.

[42:52] And so I want to do good in the world, but I don't want to do good in the world to the exclusion of having a happy and enjoyable life myself.
And that's part of doing good in the world, right? Is to actually have a happy and enjoyable life.
Otherwise, philosophy is a burden which all but the most masochistic would flee from.
So yes, writing should be mysterious in the same way that dreams are mysterious.
They should in writing should not be so mysterious that nothing can be transmitted to others you have to find a way to shape your dreams into consumable lucid dreams for others right so you when you're reading a novel you're entering or watching a movie you're entering into somebody else's dream, dreams do have a moral purpose they have an instructive purpose dreams are the attempt if if you're unconscious, to unite the personality in the same universal principles that the conscious mind and the material body pursue in order to succeed, right?
So we have to accept that the deer is the deer and that the spear has a weight and that gravity affects it and throw accurately.
We've got to do all of that stuff in order to survive in the world.

[43:59] Real girl with a real egg we get real sperm real babies real raising right we have to survive in the world and that's universal principles and dreams are the unconsciousest way of struggling to unite the fragmentary and contradictory social world with the beautiful unity of the material world right how is it that we survive and flourish by accepting the universals in the material world but we try applying those same universals in the social world the religious world the political world, the family world, and we are attacked, ostracized, or killed.
Our dreams are constantly working with that. And they're trying to unite us, right? They're trying to unite us.
I mean, my dream about taking a step and bouncing up into the sky while being chased by predators, actually, and some of them would occur in the high school gym that I told jokes in.
I told jokes and did skits in and I danced in when there were high school dancers.
Has its origins in mid to late teens.
Well, that's a way of saying that if you don't take things seriously, if you're not grounded in your own thoughts, you can't escape the predators.
And why are the predators chasing you? Because you claim to have the truth, but you're not generating it from yourself.
The reason that you don't have gravity is your own feet aren't on the ground.
You are living in the minds and arguments of others.

[45:23] Right? I mean, I was so possessed of Nietzsche and Aristotle and Rand and others that I was reading a huge amount, consuming a huge amount, but not creating.
In philosophy, it took me, I mean, 20 years of studying philosophy before I came up with anything particularly original, which I don't, I'm not particularly complaining about. It's just sort of a fact of reality.
And maybe that's what's necessary, right?

[45:48] Is i mean especially if you're the you know if you're the first ship through the ice field it's pretty slow going the second ship has it a whole lot easier right i mean when i was uh working up north uh gold panning and prospecting we had to blaze our own trail sometimes which is you know i was the first guy going through the woods with a machete and that was pretty slow going second guy had a pretty easy so yes writing has to be it has to be spontaneous enough to be lively but not so spontaneous that any moral message or worldview reproduction is lost in the chaos.

[46:22] Let's just touch again on that quote. Great writing dances at the border of mysterious and obvious.
Too mysterious and you're inaccessible, too obvious and you're boring.
And the people who want more liveliness dislike Ayn Rand's pedantic structure.
And the people who want more morals dislike the subjectivist chaos of creativity.
And trying to wrestle these two into moral, lively stories has been, I mean, really one of the biggest challenges in my life outside of just sort of core philosophy, UPB and so on.
So anyway, I hope that this is sort of a cry for you to try and try out some of my novels.
I think that you'll be quite surprised. And especially if you're not much of a novel reader, you can listen to them.
I mean, remember, I'm a trained actor, so I kind of am pretty good at the audiobook stuff.
So I hope that you'll check them out, slash books.
Of course, slash donate to help out the show.
I'd really, really appreciate that. Have yourselves a wonderful, wonderful day.
Thank you so much for giving me the grace to do what I do. Love you guys. Talk to you soon. Bye.

Blog Categories

May 2024

Recent Comments

    Join Stefan Molyneux's Freedomain Community

    Become a part of the movement. Get exclusive content. Interact with Stefan Molyneux.
    Become A Member
    Already have an account? Log in
    Let me view this content first