Thymos

A brief recount of the philosophical motivations of man: Hobbes – self-preservation, Locke – property, Rousseau – liberty, Marx – equality, Mill – individual self-development, Nietzsche – master: power, slave: ressentiment

Deriving his philosophy from Hegel and Kojeve’s interpretation of Hegel, Fukuyama attributes man’s motivation to self-fulfillment in the form of thymos: similar to Nietzsche’s idea of exertions of energy or power, but more accurately translated as passionate anger or righteous upheaval against injustice caused by enemies of a given city-state (as best exemplified by Plato’s guardian class, whose warriors were compared to loyal dogs). In its extreme form of megalothymia (as discussed by Marx and Hegel) is the acknowledgement by the slave that the  master deserves recognition, where the slave does not, out of fear for his own life. On the other end of the extreme is isothymia, which demands utter equality of recognition, which can lead to the undermining of human distinction as some exhibit more talents than others, such as the case in Orwell’s 1984, where the character’s intelligence is parred (or impaired) with others by a earpiece that emits a high-pitched frequency, disturbing higher functions of thought.

Understanding recognition or thymos as the fundamental satisfaction of man’s nature contributes to our understanding of how liberal democracy is the best outlet or moderator of man’s capacities in the world as a being with Kantian asocial sociabilities. It is the balance of the need to distinguish oneself above others, yet carries the necessity of having others around to bestow that distinction. For instance, competition in the free market economy of a capitalist democracy provides the individual with the chance to earn recognition for himself, besides accumulating wealth and prestige, while at the same time forces him to rely on his clients or consumers who are his base and to compete with other businessman who are or may be his equal in market activities. There are even those businessmen who practice business, not for any gain that they may enjoy at present or in the future, but merely for the sake of the work itself (which explains the “workaholic” attitude of many free market economies).

More striking for my comprehension, recognition is a neutral term, contrary to a Hobbesian or realist view of man as evil and self-(pre)serving. If man were only concerned with his survival and relied on game theory and self interests to overpower his potential, human civilization would not have come so far. It may have been the case in earlier ages of the world that security was a top priority and to a certain extent, it is for many states on the international scene, but when humans are able to create conditions of peace, other issues such as human welfare, concerning liberty and equality, rise to the forefront. After all, it is far nobler to count self-preservation as nothing if it a slavish and demeaning one under oppression and injustice. Threats to existence are nothing when one’s existence is counted as nothing at all, especially within the human species.

On another note, Fukuyama’s introduces an interesting point that it is thymos, at its peak development in liberal democratic (albeit capitalist) societies, which puts aside our animal passions and ends them. Once ended, then truly distinct and human activity begins – that is, human activity which is not done purely for instintual, utilitarian, or animalistic (survival) reasons, but only for its sake. Here we may cite the liberal arts, technological advances, cutting edge scientific research, political activity, or the fine arts. I dare not make claims to speciesism, but I have yet to see a revolution among dogs against their masters, who have enslaved them in”pethood”.

Plato's Division of the Soul

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