Life at № 42
The seismic events of 2016 have revealed a world in chaos – and one that old ideas of liberal rationalism can no longer explain
“Writing in the 1860s, during the high noon of 19th-century liberalism, Fyodor Dostoevsky was one of the first modern thinkers to air the suspicion, now troubling us again, that rational thinking does not decisively influence human behaviour. He pitted his Underground Man – the quintessential loser dreaming of revenge against society’s winners – against the idea of rational egoism, or material self-interest, then popular in Russia among eager readers of John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Dostoevsky’s protagonist obsessively assaults the shared rationalist assumptions of both capitalists and socialists: that human beings are logically calculating animals, driven by perceived incentives:
Oh, tell me who was it first announced, who was it first proclaimed, that man only does nasty things because he does not know his own interests; and that if he were enlightened, if his eyes were opened to his real normal interests, man would at once cease to do nasty things, would at once become good and noble because, being enlightened and understanding his real advantage, he would see his own advantage in the good and nothing else?”
Full text: Welcome to the age of anger, The Guardian
Outstanding writing in today’s Guardian, very much worth reading. But to end on a more pleasant note, here’s our Christmas card for this year. Consider yourselves greeted.
And here’s Morgan in ecstasy having found a stick that will keep him busy all day.