John Carroll

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John Carroll (born 1944) is Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University, and author of Puritan, Paranoid, Remissive, Guilt, Ego and Soul, Humanism: The Rebirth and Wreck of Western Culture, and Intruders In The Bush: The Australian Quest For Identity.

Sourced[edit]

Break-Out from the Crystal Palace (1974)[edit]

  • Utilitarianism had found [in Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help] its portrait gallery of heroes, inscribed with a vigorous exhortation to all men to strive in their image; this philistine romanticism established the bourgeois hero-prototype—the penniless office-boy who works his way to economic fortune and this wins his way into the mercantile plutocracy.
    • p. 12
  • [Marx] explicates ideology as socially determined, [Stirner] as psychologically determined: both accuse it of remaining oblivious to its own determinations.
    • p. 17
  • The egoist … destroys the universal importance accorded to moral law by showing that life independent of it is possible. Secondly, and even more intolerably to the pious, he manages to do so with shameless enjoyment.
    • p. 33
  • In so far as the intention of education is to train the child for a vocation it is a millstone around his neck.
    • p. 34
  • The attachment to a rationalistic, teleological notion of progress indicates the absence of true progress; he whose life does not unfold satisfyingly under its own momentum is driven to moralize it, to set up goals and rationalize their achievement as progress.
    • p. 34
  • Education is the strongest weapon available for restricting the questions people ask, controlling what they think, and ensuring that they get their thoughts ‘from above’.
    • p. 34
  • By punishing the criminal the moral man hopes to dissuade the evil imprisoned in his own breast from escaping. Fear of self is projected in hatred of the immoral other.
    • p. 35
  • The real task is not to rid life of ethics but to rid ethics of its ideological content.
    • p. 38
  • Stirner and Nietzsche … reveal how prone morality is to being used as a means of rationalization, a cloak for concealing violent and brutish passions, and making their sadistic expression a virtue.
    • p. 38
  • Nietzsche himself was a great moralist; his writings abound with value judgments about individuals, character types, modes of thinking, and national traits. It is as if he develops immoralist psychology in order to tame his own nature, to keep his own greatest vice in check.
    • p. 38
  • There is a strong strain of Protestant masochism in this [Nietzsche’s] assault on morality and ideology. … Framing this perspective is the Protest image of the utterly self-reliant, responsible individual.
    • p. 39
  • The ‘I think, therefore I am’ of Descartes, the ‘I feel, therefore I am’ of late eighteenth century Romanticism, and the ‘I possess therefore I am’ of bourgeois man are dogmas, partial at that, incorporated to define a being that is incapable of defining itself.
    • p. 40
  • The act of greatest subversion … is the one of indifference. A man, or a group, finds it unbearable that someone can be simply uninterested in his, or its, convictions. … There is a degree of complicity, or mutual respect, between the believer and the man who attacks his beliefs (the revolutionary), for the latter takes them seriously.
    • p. 53
  • The enemies of Christ … could not bear his independence; his “Give the emperor that which is the emperor’s” showed a contempt for the affairs of state and its politics—for the moral order—that their self-respect would not let them tolerate.
    • p. 53
  • Politics and the affairs of State are dissociated from the orbit of the individual, and in so far as they cannot be repossessed as his living private property they must be rendered impotent.
    • p. 54
  • For Stirner, the social axiom of conservative, liberal, and socialist schools of political thought alike is in itself repressive: it disguises as potentially redemptive an order whose central function is inhibitory of the individual’s interests.
    • p. 55
  • … the bourgeois, who is not a real owner, but the servant of his avarice
    • p. 62
  • The estranged ego projects its own disorder on to society and expects the restructuring and integration of the self writ large, the society, to reflect back on to the source of consciousness. Stirner regards this flight from self as a form of suicide, the dissolution of identity and uniqueness.
    • p. 79
  • Whereas Marx’s vision of homo faber becomes inoperative within social chains, Stirner’s man makes his own freedom.
    • p. 79
  • There is a strain in Marx of the cleric, of the vulgar moralist. He paints the capitalist and the bourgeois as incarnations of evil; it is they who are responsible for the woes of mankind. The dismissal of the individual’s responsibility for his own misery is the quintessence of clericalism.
    • p. 79
  • The virtual suppression of ethical discussion after 1845 produces the semblance of purely descriptive analysis, dressed in the mantle of positivist objectivity, analysis which is, in fact, strung to a framework of crude, because unexplicated, moral assumptions.
    • p. 80
  • The original of morals lies with the thought that ‘the community is more valuable than the individual’ (Menschliches 2.1.89)
    • p. 80, note
  • Stirner’s political praxis is quixotic. It accepts the established hierarchies of constraint as given. … Not liable to any radical change, they constitute part of the theatre housing the individual’s action. … The egoist uses the elements of the social structure as props in his self-expressive act.
    • p. 85
  • Nietzsche … explicates his preferred distinction between good and bad individuals as non-condemnatory of the latter. A ‘bad person’ is merely devoid of what Nietzsche personally considers to be noble or virtuous qualities; he is not morally evil. Nietzsche’s aim is … to defuse morality of reactive emotion. … It would be futile, tactless, and cruel, he suggests, to try to change a bad person, one with whom one does not empathize; his formula advises: ‘Where you cannot love, pass by’. No on should be blamed for what he is; there is no point in lamenting fate.
    • p. 91
  • Man is more than an animal only in that he finds expression for the beautiful.
    • p. 92
  • The ugliness of the ideological lies in its legitimating the pursuit of the trivial.
    • p. 92
  • The garden [of Eden] is the realm of pure beauty from which man is expelled when he becomes interested in ethics, in the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The return into paradise, the homecoming, depends on him penetrating the veils of morality to glimpse again the lineaments of lost beauty.
    • p. 92
  • Nietzsche … argues that all that passes in the life of a society is ephemeral and banausic except for the presence of great personalities, of men like Goethe … who seem to forge their own destinies, who seem to move unhampered by those burdens of existence which keep most men from rising above the vicissitudes of their daily toil.
    • p. 93
  • Nietzsche … criticizes Schopenhauerian aesthetics for not freeing itself from Kant’s moralistic: ‘that is beautiful which gives us pleasure without interest’.
    • p. 95
  • The priest who has lost the resilience of youth cannot be helped; his polymorphously playful and imaginative energies have been emasculated by a long conditioning to the ways of the old order; he would be liberated into a sea of undifferentiated boredom and anxiety. Only the man whose desires and passions are intact has a future.
    • p. 95
  • The schizophrenic is seen to be afraid of the nihilistic void that … will remain when a rigid world-view is discarded.
  • Any attempt to break with the past, or with existing social structures, is a failure if it leads to a bored, listless, and colourless style of life; assertive and enduring innovation, like the mastering of a new environment, requires the confidence and discipline which are founded on exuberant emotions.
    • pp. 95-96, note
  • Nietzsche saw in the Protestant ethic, in both its religious and secular (economic) forms, a final protest before the emergence into dominance of the ordered, bourgeois world of the ‘last man’—he who will pay any price in tedium for comfort and the absence of tension.
    • p. 96
  • Copernicus and Darwin undermined man’s image of himself as the ‘measure of all things’. Newton provided him with a new hope … that of ‘man as the measurer of all things’. Thus the possibility was revealed to man, who had been disinherited from being at the center of the universe, that he might be able know how to work himself back there. Science, at the same time it destroyed his ontological security, gave him the tools for reapproaching Eden.
    • p. 97
  • Nietzsche … combines, in effect, Christ’s harsh sayings: ‘let the dead bury their dead’ and ‘narrow is the way which leadeth unto life’.
    • p. 98
  • The possibility of a genuine metatheory of morality is not available. Even psychology has its ethical presuppositions. … A metatheory of morality would be legitimate only if the existence of a hierarchy of absolute, and hence unconditioned, truths were established. They would then provide a framework of supra-ethical categories. The primary ambition of Nietzsche’s critique of knowledge is to expose just such an exercise … as sleight of hand, an efficacious deception. This critique sets out to demonstrate that ‘truths’ are fictions masking moral commitments
    • p. 102
  • The primary ambition of Nietzsche’s critique of knowledge is … to demonstrate that ‘truths’ are fictions masking moral commitments.
    • p. 102
  • Life is more than thought: what a man feels, and what his senses awaken in him, are more indispensable to his life’s fullness than subsequent reflection on their significance. Both Stirner and Nietzsche have elaborated Faust’s opening speech in which he bemoans his wasted years in academia: this speech is Goethe’s own impeachment of Kant and Hegel. Philosophy proceeds always under the risk of making a fetish of thinking.
    • p. 105
  • Ownership of thought depends on the thinker not subordinating himself to a ‘ruling thought’. This is particularly difficult, argues Stirner, … for language itself is a network of ‘fixed ideas’. Truths emerge only when language is reworked and possessed individually.
    • p. 107
  • If man is to remain the creator and master of his world then, Stirner maintains, … all that has been accepted, that has taken on the secure guise of the ‘fact’, must be return to a state of flux, or be rejected.
    • p. 107
  • This will of Stirner’s, this restless probing of all given knowledge, this endless questioning, and the continuous bending towards new understanding, …
    • p. 107
  • R. W. K. Paterson makes a central point of identifying Stirner with nihilism. His argument depends on a failure to distinguish between social values, which Stirner does reject, and personal values, to which he is more overtly committed than any other philosopher.
    • p. 108, note
  • Nietzsche [claims] that the scientist is at best an instrument, a useful slave: he does not command or decide, he is not a whole man.
    • p. 111
  • Stirner … holds to a joy-principle rather than to a pleasure-principle.
    • p. 143
  • Unless the fundamental categories of economics such as ‘property’ were to be redefined in a radically personal way the liberal rationalist curse which had established economics as a scientific discipline cut off from human interests would proliferate. Economic models … have failed to incorporate any meaningful index of individual benefit other than the original utilitarian one, … the index of increasing income or an increasing flow of commodities.
    • p. 145
  • Dostoevsky’s underground man … observes his contemporaries striving to establish false goals where there are no naturally generated ones. … He argues they should be conscious and honest enough to recognize that the goal itself is not an absolute, and probably not even important. A strong attachment to the telos indicates that the spontaneous enjoyment the child once took in road-building has waned.
    • p. 148
  • A teleology directed to material ends has been substituted for the lust for adventure, variety, and play.
    • p. 148
  • Men become utilitarian out of fear of the alternative—the chaos of tangled or tepid desires, of rootlessness and boredom.
    • p. 148
  • Dostoevsky believed that the gods of rationalism and materialist utilitarianism had joined in conspiracy against all other ethical systems. … The accumulation of capital, or the acquisition of money, are endeavors par excellence which establish a quantifiable goal: hence they are directly amenable to maximization formulae.
    • p. 149
  • Modern anthropology … opposes the utilitarian assumption that the primitive chants as he sows seed because he believes that otherwise it will not grow, the assumption that his economic goal is primary, and his other activities are instrumental to it. The planting and the cultivating are no less important than the finished product. Life is not conceived as a linear progression directed to, and justified by, the achievement of a series of goals; it is a cycle in which ends cannot be isolated, one which cannot be dissected into a series of ends and means.
    • pp. 150-151
  • For Dostoevsky, Fourier is one of the industrious ant-hill engineers, busy, protected by the delusion that his goal, the will-ordered society, is the summation of all his desires.
    • p. 152
  • Man at his best is a system-breaker, an iconoclast seeking not only variety, but destruction.
    • p. 152
  • The Inquisitor is the forgiving father, the scientific materialist, and the social engineer. He is the most compassionate, and honest, of politicians; he takes on great burdens of responsibility in order to protect his subjects from ethical doubt. But he also suppresses any attempt to expand their self-consciousness: he is the ‘great simplifier’, the shepherd to a flock of carefree children.
    • p. 153
  • Dostoevsky … impeaches Christ through the mouth of the Grand Inquisitor: ‘it was pitiless of thee to value man so highly’. This Christ has no answer to the world of politics, of rational action, of knowledge. He is utterly Nietzschean in his intention not to pity, but to respect.
    • p. 154
  • The dialectical critique of positivist habits of mind … is interested only in behaviour which is ‘important’ to the actor; that is, behaviour which is emotionally charged to the degree that it is either frequently recalled, reflected upon, or day-dreamed about. … That science which is less discriminating in the behaviour it chooses to investigate gains clarity and distinctiveness at the cost of confining itself to the trivial.
    • p. 168
  • Unlike Hegel’s progress model of history, which moves by stages, each containing its own logic of growth and decline, the economic model develops as the simple function of one money-variable over time, with a long-term trend which increases monotonically.
    • p. 168
  • Stirner and Nietzsche [adopt] a mode of thinking which is personal, introspective, and which while often operating on alternative systems of belief and action does so only as a means of better grasping one dominant goal—the patterns of individual redemption. Stirner and Nietzsche are not primarily interested in critique as such. … Their work is too egoistically compelled for them ever to employ the external world as more than the repository for a series of projections of their own.
    • p. 174
  • What stands most explicitly as critique in Nietzsche’s late work in not a development from earlier interests but a return to two problems of enduring personal involvement for him, those of Wagner and of Christianity. Der Antichrist, to take one case, is not a response to a resuscitating public interest in Christian religion; it is primarily a renewed attempt to resolve for himself the question of piety.
    • p. 174

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