Toward a counterideology

(From chapter eleven of Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists)

The starting point in the ideology of romanticism needs to be a choice: it is left to each individual to decide whether they will identify with pragmatists or romantics. This means that people will be aware of a distinction rather than gravitating by nature to some position. This conscious decision will then have ramifications for your perception of being.

As we outlined in chapter one, there is a scale of 11 states ranging from -5 to +5: despair (-5), depression (-4), sadness (-3), frustration (-2), anger (-1), neutral (0), joy (+1), happy/fun (+2), love/in-love (+3), sublime (+4), nirvana (+5). Although both pragmatists and romantics are born with the ability to experience all these states and generally do so into young adulthood, physical ageing coupled with social expectations bring about a change in their twenties or thirties. Due to their lifestyle, a pragmatist will spend more time in the states of joy, happy/fun, love/in-love on the positive side as well as anger and frustration on the negative, whereas the divergent lifestyle of romantics causes them to primarily remain in neutral, but regularly jump to the extremes of sublime and possibly nirvana as well as fall into depression and despair. Naturally, romantics also experience the more moderate states, but to a lesser extent than their pragmatic counterparts.

A pragmatist is fated to live a life of greater moderation, above all, by social standards and expectations. These standards are learned and internalized in childhood before they are lived out in adulthood. The first and foremost factor shaping a pragmatist’s life is: activity coupled with appetence. Children want to be active, since activity entails enjoyment or pleasure; pragmatic parents consider activity to be unequivocally good and necessary to encourage; such parents are active themselves – having many obligations, responsibilities and interests keeping them busy at all times; children’s friends, their educational institutions and social circles encourage and adulate their activity. As a result, a pragmatic child is essentially brainwashed into assuming that activity is an absolute good.

While a child and even a young adult can maintain an active lifestyle without making any sacrifices, the body weakens over time. As we get older, a sacrifice is made: the activity keeps us energized so we often find ourselves in the states of joy and happiness, but the physical strain of this activity dampens any surge in our worn-out nervous system. That is, the extremes are cut-off. We are relegated to the moderation of slightly positive (and slightly negative) states, as we have sacrificed the mind to the body. Spiritual or metaphysical states such as the sublime are not even conceived of, let alone experienced. In chapter six, we mentioned music playing in the background of a dentist’s office (or store). Such music aims to keep people in this stimulative state of joy or at least give them an external impulse to return to it, the idea being that their performance at work will be better than if they remain in a neutral state (with the assumed risk of potentially drifting into negativity, which in turn would harm performance).[i]

A romantic child is raised and indoctrinated quite differently. Certainly, they are inclined to be active as well, but the authoritarian structures in which they live generally check their predisposition to some extent. This is especially true at home. In school, it is likely that activity will be encouraged as it is with pragmatic children, but the parents of romantic children – either overwhelmed by stress or work – require quiet obedience for their own peace of mind, curtailing any excessive energy. What initially appears to be dreadful, has a fortuitous conclusion: the lack of activity entails the assumption of a lifestyle that is consistently sustainable. The neutrality of childhood gives way to neutrality as an adult, while sustainable habits in childhood can be retained as an adult: a balance between activity and rest. This gives a romantic access to more extreme states in both youth and adulthood. And although a romantic experiences them all, they are more likely to experience the polarization described above, where they jump quickly from neutral to extremes, precisely because of this social training with both constrained energy and unconstrained freedom.

By drawing attention to this distinction, the ideology of romanticism would allow discerning adults to consciously choose or take corrective steps to change themselves or shift away from pragmatism or romanticism. Furthermore, it would allow both pragmatists and romantics to understand certain character traits in themselves. For example, a predisposition to extremely negative states could be viewed in light of extremely positive ones in the case of romantics. Or the boredom of moderation in pragmatists could be contextualized. If such a romantic or pragmatist understands the framework of their condition, they will also be able to cope with it. This is especially the case with romantics who may feel that something is wrong with them due to a tendency to drift into depression or despair.

Naturally, there are psychological, religious, historical, artistic and other social influences that determine each of our place on the spectrum of states. Socially embedded activity is just an example of a critical one. The important thing for the ideology of romanticism is to understand that a romantic’s position is not to be marginalized due to their failure to conform to the (leit)culture of pragmatism.

[i] Please note that no argument is being made in defense of this logic.