Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the Worlds

A bunch of successful businessman and entrepreneurs and investors were asked about their favorite books, or recommended reading for the next generation of leaders.

Peter Thiel recommenced one book: Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

The central premise is that mimesis, or imitation, of ideas or behaviors or methods or whatever, is one of the central phenomena that explains the human condition, or why man does what he does.

And René Girard sees a cyclical procession between mimesis, scapegoating, and violence.

We imitate each other until we forget the point (learning for utility) and become absorbed with the people we are imitating, until progressive abstraction culminates into the worst of imitating man, and then man collectively creates a scapegoat to transpose this guilt to purge responsibility, and then inflicts/justifies violence.

Imitation is everything. It’s appropriation, it’s emulation, it’s representation. The mind perceives, then reproduces. It’s embedded in our brains, in our mirror neurons.

It’s central to social behavior. We imitate to learn, to acquire how and what others acquire.

And yet, in the western world, we’ve overlooked the grip of mimesis because it connotes a herd like mentality, which contrasts with idea of autonomy and individuality.

So rather than really take a look at the impact of mimesis, and how these behaviors of imitation drive our behaviors and values and structure society, we more or less suppress them, and pretend they don’t exist, and the consequence is we live like the herd.

Liberalism is the transformation of mankind into cattle.
—Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human (1878). I.67

What does this mean? Liberalism, in the philosophical sense that Nietzsche is using it, is an ethical framework in which man is free, equal, and autonomous. While this conception of man resonates with most as evidently true, I maintain that this is an illusory conception of man. Do we really believe that we are free? Equal? Autonomous? As with most comforting notions, we avow these ideals simply as a means of preserving the familiar, a mechanism of evasion that allows us to avoid the biting reality of our situation; namely, that we are not free, nor are we equal and autonomous.

What does Nietzsche mean when he says that liberalism is the transformation of mankind into cattle? It is the process in which individuality is smoothed over en masse, in which minds are watered down into a cloudy collective consciousness, where man is no longer a thinking spirit that possesses a unique soul but a mere facsimile. Being lead to believe that our thoughts are freely chosen, that we are as valuable as any man, that we can choose according to a unique volition, we cease to employ our internal reason, fail to reflect on our position, and assume that the ideals in which we derive our greatness are a right rather than a product.

In sum, by embracing these liberal ideals, we deny the keystone mechanism driving mankind: imitation, and therefore allow it to flourish.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes about the phenomenon in his essay Self Reliance, and why it’s so important to trust yourself, and experiment, and not take others word.

It’s the Matrix, which was inspired by Simulacra and Simulation, a 1981 philosophical treatise by Jean Baudrillard which explores the phenomena of abstracting signs and symbols (meaning) from reality, and then utilizing these signs and symbols to navigate socially, and abstracting them into meta signs and symbols, until they’re meaningless noise and jargon, not pointing or referencing any shared experience or meaning or reality, but nonetheless comprise the language constructing institutions and pass as truth.

“truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions, metaphors that have become worn-out and deprived of their sensuous force, coins that have lost their imprint and are now no longer seen as coins but as metal.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, born OTD 1844.

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