“Those who know but do not act simply do not yet know.” — Wang Yangming (1472-1529)
For centuries, Western philosophy has perpetuated one of Descartes’ errors: the false presupposition that we are led largely by our conscious reasoning.
In fact, as wise teachers in ancient traditions have known and psychologists in the past several decades have shown, we are largely ruled by our unconscious judgments and unconscious automatic processes, while our conscious reasoning serves as a rationalisation tool for our unconscious decisions. (Note: I’ve gone into more detail about this in longer essays.)
Once you understand and appreciate the central role of the unconscious, the real world (as opposed to the ivory tower) — the product of evolution, the world red in tooth and claw… where people struggle over love, power, sex, happiness, money, and all emotions — this real world becomes clearer and more navigable.
But most modern philosophers don’t get this.
Many of them complain bitterly about the perceived imbalances of power, sex, money… and how little they have of these things.
Instead of appreciating how the real world operates, they complain and whine about how they’re the victims of injustice.
Regrettably, they refuse to see that one of their field’s foundational assumptions is false. Too much is at stake for them psychologically. Their entire identities are wrapped up in this assumption.
The good news for them is that this rejection of the unconscious is actually not necessary for doing philosophy. Look at Nietzsche! And of course, look too at much of ancient philosophy, East and West.
The key to getting everything you want in life — happiness, love, money, power, sex, freedom, or whatever emotion — is mastery of the unconscious.
But until philosophers appreciate this fact of human psychology, they will be condemned to a life blind to their own unconscious drives… ignorant to how controlled they are by their own repressed emotions and how reactive they are to their unexplored and too easily triggered traumas.
I’ve got a more detailed paper coming up in my Medium account on the power of the unconscious. If you’re interested, look for it:
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