Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Guessing Game: Objectivity of Self

I need to know two things - who wrote it and your opinion of his or her thoughts:

...she [felt that] she was approaching a sort of "objectivity of self. The day is fast upon me when I will be able to stand back and observe my former ways in the clear light of reason, when I will say 'yes, I see why this was done and why that was done.' I will not say 'what a fool I was' or ask how I could have created such a folly of my life, for the clarity of my vision will not permit bitterness. It will permit only the happiness which accompanies understanding, and is quite unlike happiness of an ordinary kind. For most people are content in seeing only what they wish to see, thinking only what they wish to think. They live on wishes, not reason. Pity mankind, that will not reason. I, too, once placed all my hope for the future in a single man. I twisted it to fancy I loved him, and perhaps I did, however little such love is worth. Love for a fellow creature cannot stand before that higher love of understanding toward which the mind is called, and at the feet of which our base affections must cower. Do not love your fellow creature but rather study him, and there will be no surprises; he is a poor vessel of hope indeed. Hope is a vanity, not a virtue, and all virtue is vain - save that which goes by the name of reason."

9 comments:

Kevin Jones said...

So grandiose a style and such dismissiveness towards one's past faults calls to mind Ayn Rand, as does the emphasis on a (crude) objectivity, the apparent female POV about having loved a man, and the idolatry of reason. However, there seems to be a bit more character development at work here than Rand could possibly achieve. A George Bernard Shaw character, maybe?

First, I'd reply that man cannot truly know himself, except in communion with others. Nietzsche has a line Walker Percy was fond of: "We are unknown, we knowers, to ourselves." Starting from my individual self, I can no more know myself than I can taste my tongue or see my eye.

To call reason a "virtue" is really stretching the term. It's a mode of understanding, a path which can be clouded by a lack of certain virtues, but it's not really a virtue in itself.

To claim that it is the only substantial virtue is monomaniacal.

William Luse said...

What a great response. I'll give the answer in a few days, in case anyone else wants to give it a shot.

TS said...

Kevin Jones is one of those guys whose commonness of name belies their uncommon intelligence.

William Luse said...

Can't argue with you there. I'll give the answer either tomorrow or Wednesday.

William Luse said...

All right, you two, offering this snippet was completely unfair of me (not to mention insufferably vain) because it is unanswerable. It is an excerpt from chapter seven of the novel I'm revising, in fact, an excerpt of an excerpt, a passage from the diary of a madwoman. Upon seeing it again after all these years, it caught my attention. I've always wanted to portray as a madman the man who makes of reason our highest faculty, and had forgotten I'd already done it. I especially appreciate Kevin Jones' estimation that "there seems to be a bit more character development at work here than Rand could possibly achieve." Damn straight, Kevin.

Kevin Jones said...

So is this your own novel you're revising? Best of luck!

You'll note that the first writers to come to my mind were early to mid-20th century. I tend to think rationalist insanity is a dead horse, having been beaten to death by Chesterton and Walker Percy among others, but perhaps I need to hang around my scientist friends more often.

William Luse said...

It may be dead but it won't stop kicking. The world hasn't changed much since those guys were on the job. And I do appreciate the good wishes; I'll need them.

TS said...

Everything's a dead horse. The challenge is to think up new ways to beat it.

William Luse said...

TSO's uncommonly intelligent as well. Must be the Guiness.