Sophomore Philosophy, Part 1

I’ve been pondering this exchange between Corwin and Hugi the nihilistic crow, who keeps encouraging him to give up. To call my knowledge of philosophy or psychology skin-deep would be an exaggeration, but I still find them interesting, especially in small doses like Zelazny works in here. (If you’re worried that it’s a whole series of this, don’t; the books are much more Mike Hammer than Jung.)

Hugi: “The whole problem lies with the self, the ego, and its involvement with the world on the one hand and the Absolute on the other.”

Corwin: “Oh, is that so?”

“Yes. You see, we are hatched and we drift on the surface of events. Sometimes, we feel that we actually influence things, and this gives rise to striving. This is a big mistake, because it creates desires and builds up a false ego when just being should be enough. That leads to more desires and more striving and there you are, trapped.”

“In the mud?”

“So to speak. One needs to fix one’s vision firmly on the Absolute and learn to ignore the mirages, the illusions, the fake sense of identity which sets one apart as a false island of consciousness.”

“I had a fake identity once. It helped me a lot in becoming the absolute that I am now — me.”

“No, that’s fake, too.”

“Then the me that may exist tomorrow will thank me for it, as I do that other.”

“You are missing the point. That you will be fake too.”


“Because it will still be full of those desires and strivings that set you apart from the Absolute.”

“What is wrong with that?”

“You remain alone in a world of strangers, the world of phenomena.”

“I like being alone. I am quite fond of myself. I like phenomena, too.”

“Yet the Absolute will always be there, calling to you, causing unrest.”

“Good, then there is no need to hurry. But yes, I see what you mean. It takes the form of ideals. Everyone has a few. If you are saying that I should pursue them, I agree with you.”

“No, they are distortions of the Absolute, and what you are talking about is more striving.”

“That is correct.”

“I can see that you have a lot to unlearn.”

“If you are talking about my vulgar instinct for survival, forget it.”


“I will admit to a certain small admiration for your persistence,” Hugi said, ” and even for what you implied when you spoke of ideals. But that is about it. Earlier, we were talking about the futility of desire and of striving–”

“You were. It is not a major concern of mine.”

“It should be.”

“I have had a long life, Hugi. You insult me by assuming I have never considered these footnotes to sophomore philosophy. The fact that you find consensus reality barren tells me more about you than it does about that state of affairs. To wit, if you believe what you say I feel sorry for you, in that you must for some inexplicable reason be here desiring and striving to influence this false ego of mine rather than free of such nonsense and on your way to your Absolute. If you do not believe it, then it tells me that you have been sent to hinder and discourage me, in which case you are wasting your time.”

Hugi had a gargling noise. Then: “You are not so blind that you deny the Absolute, the beginning and end of everything?”

“It is not indispensable to a liberal education.”

“You admit the possibility?”

“Perhaps I know it better than you, bird. The ego, as I see it, exists at an intermediate stage between rationality and reflex existence. Blotting it out is a retreat, though. If you come from that Absolute–of a self-canceling All–why do you wish to go back home? Do you so despise yourself that you fear mirrors? Why not make the trip worthwhile? Develop. Learn. Live. If you have been sent on a journey why do you wish to cop out and run back to your point of departure? Or did your Absolute make a mistake in sending something of your caliber? Admit that possibility and that is the end of the news.”

Hugi glared at me, then sprang into the air and flew off. Going to consult his manual, perhaps…

Although it’s not quite the same thing, those last few paragraphs reminded me so much of many atheists, who seem determined to spread their faith to others, and who take rejection personally. If nothing matters — if striving is meaningless — then why would you waste time trying to convince anyone of anything? For that matter, why would you take another breath? In good times, maybe you’d go with the flow and enjoy the imaginary ride while it lasted; but everyone has bad times. When those come along, why not flip the switch and turn off the bad movie? So like Corwin here with Hugi, I don’t believe those people really believe what they’re peddling.

My favorite line here is, “You insult me by assuming I have never considered these footnotes to sophomore philosophy.” That’s so common with SJWs, aspie atheists, and other leftists: if you don’t agree with them, it must be that you’re too dense to understand their brilliant points, or that they just haven’t explained it loudly or often enough. It couldn’t be that you’ve considered the same ideas that converted them, and decided they were lacking. I assume most people can look back at times in their lives — especially the teenage years — when they had firm beliefs that they’d be embarrassed to admit now. These people don’t seem to be able to do that. Either they can’t remember believing anything else, or their beliefs have never changed since they read that one book that or watched that one movie that set their worldview in stone at age 14.

Part 2 to come.


2 thoughts on “Sophomore Philosophy, Part 1

  1. Eh, what about atheists who don’t try to convert you? Are you sure that vocal ones are a majority? What about atheists who aren’t solipsistic nihilists? There are things to look forward to, even for atheists. Those with an interest in science have better things to ponder than ‘footnotes to sophomore philosophy’. Life is too short to familiarize oneself with 1/10 of all readily available knowledge that one would like to.

  2. It’s true that the inevitable end of the atheist’s chain of reasoning is suicidal nihilism. It’s possible to arrive at that conclusion and not off yourself on your first bad day, though, as logical as that would be. The instinct to keep breathing tends to trump intellectual frippery about the meaninglessness of existence. Still, I think a lot of atheists DO eventually decide to check out.

    Speaking for the argumentative atheists, I think many of us are secretly hoping someone will respond with a strong rebuttal and pull us out of the nihilistic spiral, but no one ever does. There are quite a few atheist arguments that are simply impossible to refute, at least as far as I’m aware. When you argue about these online, you don’t meet people who have considered them and dismissed them on rational grounds as teenagers, only the same dumb, ubiquitous sophistries. It’s enough to turn anyone into a frustrated aspie.

    Hugi sounds like a Buddhist to me. Isn’t he basically laying out the four Noble Truths?

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