Well, you’re asking like we’re choosing a fridge and we’re comparing the pros and cons of different makes and models. Are we shopping around for worldviews? In that case, the choice would be superficial since we’d be presupposing neoliberalism or consumerism (the infiltration of economic categories into daily life decisions).

But I think there’s a slight misunderstanding here. When you say this existentialist fretting about the world’s monstrousness has got me all worked up, I think you’re missing the sort of conclusions I draw. I posit the inhumanity of nature, for example, to explain what’s actually happened in human history. As I say in The Spectrum of Collective Escapes from Reality, we’ve coped with that inhumanity by imagining the ideal, immaterial world featured in our religions, and by building our artificial refuges to block out nature’s indifference.

So I stress the point about monstrousness not because I think we should be reflecting on that unpleasant fact all the time, but because that point helps us understand what’s going on in history and culture.

You say, “I can’t think of any purpose that your perception serves. Is there an upside to using your point of view?”

The upsides would be the ingraining of humility and intellectual integrity (what existentialists call “authenticity”), as well as the freedom from popular delusions. The downside, as you suggest, is that it’s harder to be happy with such dark foundations of a worldview.

This is just to say that philosophy is the bearer of bad news. Mind you, that’s a descriptive rather than a prescriptive point. Again, in my writings I often just mean to lay out what I think the general facts are. That’s different from arguing that we all ought to be “authentic” or free from all delusions.

To put it in neoliberal terms, I’m doing a cost/benefit analysis of the philosophical and the mainstream/normie perspectives. The former gives you a clear overview of the human existential predicament, but can alienate you from society and from life in general. The latter lets you get on with your life, but at the costs of fooling yourself and underestimating the likelihood of various types of disasters.

For example, I’d explain the way the Democrats were blindsided by the rise of Trump by saying their neoliberal, normie perspective led them to be overly rosy about democracy and American culture. To understand that nature is monstrous is to recognize how that monstrousness can infiltrate our mentality and behaviour, as when a psychopathic leader becomes, in effect, an avatar of nature’s inhumanity, and when the herd is subdued by that leader’s cons, because the herd is locked into a position in the underlying dominance hierarchy. I go over some of these social implications in Some Basics of Cynical Sociology.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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