Passion. with Joshua Fox
Hi, Agnes, and hi!
So today, we have Josh Fox with us who is a philosophy grad student. Well, not
a grad student anymore. I still think of you as a grad student, but now
graduated PhD, Philosophy PhD from University of Chicago. And Josh wrote a
fascinating dissertation on pessimism. And I thought we could, we’re mainly
going to focus on a certain section of the dissertation, but I guess I kind of
did want to broaden a little bit into sort of three points from the
dissertation. So the first is just like the idea, the place, the jumping off
point of your dissertation is the thought that there might be a flaw in life
itself, that there’s a problem with human life. OK. And then the kind of
central section that we want to talk about is the role of passions in
addressing that problem. And then what I sort of hope we get to a little bit
at the end, which we might not, is just why art is important in allowing the
passions to address the problem of the flaw in life. OK, so those are like the
three, you know, that’s just like a framework. So maybe can we start by just
having you tell us what is the– what is or are the possible flaws in life
Right. I guess the one that’s most relevant for thinking about the sort of
passion as a solution to those flaws is a worry that sort of Schopenhauer
develops and highlights, just a theory about sort of structure of our desires.
Right. So Schopenhauer has this concern effectively about at bottom, sort of
all of our desires, are aversions that fundamentally what motivates human
beings is just the sort of push to escape the bad things that we find various
things distressing, and we sort of live our lives through running away from
those. And whenever we describe something, “it’s good”, sort of all we mean is
it relieves some distress, remove some bad feature of our lives. And so
Schopenhauer’s thought then is that if this is the case, then sort of the best
we can get is a life that’s, the life that would be basically harmless, right,
a life that’ll be not bad. That would be the best we could do if we, we’re
just only motivated by aversions. So our only way of valuing things was to
sort of take them as either bad, or not bad as a relief from the badness. And
again, I mean, Schopenhauer has some other reasons for also thinking that, in
fact, there were situations even worse than that, that it’s not even, like it
isn’t even possibly neutral. But we don’t necessarily need to get into that.
But the basic concern that he has, sort of the fundamental thought that sort
of makes him into a pessimist is the thought that all of our desires have this
aversive structure. And that because of that, all of our values are similarly
kind of aversively structured. They’re either judgments that things are bad,
or judgments that things are merely not bad, neutral. So the best we can get
away with feels neutral, harmless, but never genuinely positively good.
So can I give you like a super naive, like what my kids say when I bring this
up to them?
They say, “Look, sometimes I’m hungry, and I feel this pain of hunger, and I,
and I’m just eating to get rid of the pain. So there’s that. But then
sometimes I want dessert. And when I want dessert, I just want to have a
sweet, yummy thing. And there I’m getting like when I eat the dessert, I’m
feeling this pleasure.” And so there’s the difference between eating to
relieve the pain of hunger and eating when you’re eating for dessert’s sake.
And so how did– why does Schopenhauer think that there isn’t the second kind?
Right. Yeah. I mean, Schopenhauer, Schopenhauer’s thought has to be that he
can openly sort of explain all of the cases of like second time– second kind,
as sort of various potentially complicated ways of trying to relieve the
stress, that either there is actually still some desire you have, this desire
you feel to eat this specific thing, and you would be sort of bothered if you
weren’t able to get that thing. So there’s just this pain of desire and to
have this pleasant taste that you’re not able to fulfill. And as long as you
don’t fulfill it, it’s distressing to you. Or, so you’re sort of averse in
absence of this sort of taste. Or, although Schopenhauer doesn’t genuinely
talk about taste in these terms, he often, he as an idea that some things we
enjoy essentially because they distract us from other pains. And that sort of
rich representations, sensations that are kind of absorbing can be a source of
relief for us just insofar as they distract us from sort of all the other sort
of pains or desire and all that. And I think it should be open to him
potentially, a few sort of pleasures that we take in, taking certain kinds of
tastes and certain kinds of smell and those terms, that these are sort of
absorbing experiences that we sort of just think about the taste, and
therefore, aren’t thinking about whatever sort of background pains that we
would be thinking about if we weren’t absorbed, and just this nice experience
of taste. And so it feels good, just by contrast, by distracting us. Right. I
think Schopenhauer doesn’t talk about tastes in that particular way, because
he thinks that that’s sort of too bound up with desire. But I think he should
be able to. Anyway.
Robin, did you want to ask him about that? If not, I have one more question
about this before we move on.
I guess, I’m just not sure why I care, at a basic level that is. It seems OK
if our basic desires are aversion. That doesn’t seem like such a terrible
world. Or, OK if our basic attraction or repels, and I mean, you know, like,
in physics, some charges repel and others attract, I don’t see a great moral
virtue of the attract side of the equation versus repel side in
electromagnetic charges, for example. They’re both part of the mix, and they
both seem useful.
Yeah. I guess the thought is that if your question is sort of what gets people
moving, what gets them to do the various things that we need them to do, it
doesn’t really matter much, right? If the question is just, do we have a
motive to do things, attractions and aversions are just as good, right,
whether we’re pushed or pulled, we’re still moving. But the concern is that
they mean to sort of different experiences of sort of how we’re– of our life,
sort of, as we move about doing these things, right? That in the one case,
were moved by a feeling of distress. We’re distressed by something or we’re
concerned about becoming distressed by something, and we’re running away from
that. And so then we get to whatever state we’re running towards, sort of all
we appreciate about it, always sort of value it for is the fact that it
removes this distress. So we’re not really able to take any sort of active
sort of positive joy in it, or actively value it, or sort of appreciate it.
All we sort of like about the state that we’re aiming at, that we’re being
pushed toward by these motives is that it’s a state that’s free of some bad
thing. And the thought is that sort of, if that’s the best assessment you’re
ever making, sort of anything in your life of, you’re basically breaking your
life into states that seem bad to you, and states that seem free of badness.
Then sort of the overall character of your life is just bad on the whole,
because you have some control states and some bad states, you’re adding them
together overall, like down under.
It seems like we’re mix, we’re assuming there’s a connection between sort of
the origin of the motive force, whether it’s repulsion or attraction, and sort
of the overall top level of the emotion, whether it’s feels good or bad. I’m
not sure those two things have to go together. So, like if you think about,
say, somebody’s running a race, right, they want to win the race. And winning
is a great positive thing. But usually, say, for a car race, the main thing
you’re doing most of the way is trying not to make mistakes. The way to win a
race is just to make the fewest mistakes along the way, and then you will win.
So each of the things you’re thinking about, you are being repelled away from,
you’re trying to avoid each of the mistakes. But then the thing you get from
all that is the great win, and that seems pretty positive.
Right. I guess the question is sort of, how is it that you’re able to
experience that win that’s so positive, sort of what is the– sort of
psychological resource you’re relying on to appreciate and enjoy this win? And
the thought is that, well, it would be, in some sense, the way that you’re
desiring to win, the way that you’re valuing this win. And if your desire to
win has this kind of aversive structure and sort of all you’re valuing about
winning, is that it sort of frees you from this distressing desire to win or
whatever else is sort of bothering you about not winning. And that, because of
that, you sort of don’t have a way to appreciate this win, even if it’s the
case that you sort of, will get to that win, regardless of what’s pushing you
there. The question is, sort of once you get there, how are you able to value
win, what sort of what resources do you have for taking this win to be
genuinely good for you if you’re interest in it wasn’t by way of sort of
representing it as anything more than just not bad?
So I mean, I guess to pull these two things apart, though. I mean, there’s
the, my mental focus during the race and during training is to identify
mistakes and try to reduce them. And so I’m constantly focusing on what are my
mistakes, and how can I reduce them, and what are the strategy to cut them?
But then my overall emotional engagement could be, I’m really excited that I
might win, and I’m getting a little closer. And this year, I have a better
chance than the last year. And I, I might just win, and my dad would be so
proud. And like, I will be so proud, and I’ll be better than those other
people who doubted me. And you know, you could have all what felt to you, like
very positive emotions associated with the process of slowly being, you know,
moving away from things.
Right. I guess it looks like the various sort of taking there to be sort of
two different kinds of motivations in the player. Like, there’s, on the one
hand, there’s this sort of attraction to winning, right? You think that you
have the sense that winning would be wonderful if something you wanted that
you view as good for its own sake. On the other hand, you have sort of, it’s
completely different sort of thing that’s pushing you towards pursuing your
best thing that happens to be, that you happen to think is good, namely, your
concern with avoiding all these flaws. And sort of Schopenhauer’s picture,
what he wants is just as that sort of, it’ll be a problem if we only have the
second set of flaws. But if we both had, like if you have a situation where
you’re sort of both having attraction and an aversion and focused on the same
object effectively, then it’s fine. You can be sort of move along mainly by
your aversion and then end up with something you’re still attracted to. But if
sort of all you have is the aversion, right, if you’re concerned about
avoiding those flaws with sort of the only motive that was playing your role
in your pursuit of the victory, then once you got there, you sort of wouldn’t
have any of that delight in sort of making your parents proud or what have
you, because that wasn’t sort of what was actually, that’s something that you
didn’t actually have in view. Right? The only thing that was making you care
about the victory was just “I’m very upset about these flaws in my racing
style or something like this.”
I wonder whether one way to get like the stakes of this question of “Is life
worth living?” it’s not immediately obvious that you get those stakes by
thinking about your own life, because there might be other reasons not to
commit suicide. Like, even if you thought your life wasn’t worth living, you
might think you have moral duties not to commit suicide for various reasons.
Right? But I wonder whether a thought about like having children, like you
might think like, if Schopenhauer is right, that’s an excellent argument not
to have children. If life isn’t worth living, then you shouldn’t bring these
people into being whose entire existence is just avoiding a bunch of pains
along the way. Like, a video game character that’s just trying not to die, and
there’s nothing they get by living, they just get to not die– avoid dying
longer or something. And if that’s what life was, like, it’s not that it would
be immoral exactly. Like, if all you’re saying is it’s not worth living,
you’re just saying it wouldn’t be worth bringing them into existence.
Right. Yeah. I mean, that is definitely one of the things that sort of
Schopenhauer takes to be an upshot of his view, right, is this thought that
sort of no one would rationally bring more people into being that if you were
sort of thinking philanthropically about will be good for the person you’re
bringing into being for the child rather than for yourself, then you would
have to conclude that insofar as there’s no real benefit to living, you’re
sort of effectively wrong getting someone by bringing them into life. Right.
And that, right there is nowadays, there’s sort of anti-natalist philosophers
who focus entirely on that question more than the question of sort of whether
life is actually good for the person who’s currently around sort of whether
questions about what lifestyle you as someone who’s currently around sort of
how that affects our practical choice to make more people or not.
Robin, do you want to ask anything more on this question?
I want to get to passion.
You want to get to passion. OK. So then, maybe, Josh, say something about why,
if you had the Schopenhauerian worry about the aversive structure of desire,
why you might be reassured by the existence of passion?
Right. So the way that I’m thinking about passion, sort of drawing from
Nietzsche, sort of what I take to be Nietzsche’s understanding of passion? But
Nietzsche understands the passion as essentially, a desire that’s strong
enough to sort of push you to pursue its object, sort of even at the cost of
comfort, right? So effectively, you have the passion, if you have a passion
for something, if you’re sort of willing to keep pursuing it, even at the cost
of sort of making your life more distressing, sort of potentially adding
additional bad things to your life, right. If you think it’s worth sort of
adding these additional bad things and additional sources of distress to your
life, in order to pursue the object of your desire. Nietzsche sometimes talks
about passion as, right, and he calls it an unconditional urge, in the sense
that it’s not limited by sort of concerns about sort of safety, about what
prevent you from undergoing kinds of harm. And the thought is that insofar as
passion sort of avoids, it involves this kind of willingness to undergo harm.
It involves sort of taking something other than avoidance of harm as your sort
of chief goal, or at least potentially does, right? That someone who’s just
sort of, there’s life to who lacks passion is living a life that sort of
dominated by the desire to obtain comfort, to avoid distress, to– within, like
it’s sort of as easy and sort of harmless as possible. They might have sort of
other desires of various kinds, but none of them are sort of strong enough to
overcome this sort of fundamental central concern, which is avoid distress.
That’s kind of the structuring the dominant concern of someone who lacks
passions. And so the thought is that, at bottom, the life of the passionate
person sort of has to be dominated by kinds of aversions by efforts to avoid
bad things. Whereas passionately sort of opens the possibility of being
concerned about something other than avoiding bad things. But you’re at least
willing to pursue something at the cost of adding more bad things to your
life. And if you’re willing to pursue it, that’s possible that thing you’re
pursuing in this way is something that you view as genuinely positively good,
rather than just as, it’s also another bad you’re trying to avoid or something
Can I just, to clarify, I take it, it won’t count as a passion if you’re
adding a form of distress, or discomfort that is aimed at the overall relief
of distress and discomfort, right? So if I decide to exercise in order to be
healthy, and exercising is painful and distressing to me, that’s not going to
count. So maybe it has to be a net, is the idea that has to be a net addition
I mean, I think it has to, I guess it’s a little tricky, exactly in a way that
in some cases, sort of the way Nietzsche seems to present it. The issue was
sort of whether you’re willing to sort of add certain kinds of distress in
some ways, but his thought is just that there’s a certain kind of distress
that we sort of describe the sort of discomfort of, that you have– the sort of
an idea of kind of a comfortable life. And the passionate person is someone
who is sort of willing to pursue some object that renders their life less
comfortable on the whole, where that sort of can involve. So sort of there’s a
net assessment sort of with regard to sort of comfort, sort of this narrow set
of sort of the kind of harms that you sort of ordinarily, you’re sort of
trying to avoid. But I guess where there– where it’s a little complicated,
it’s just that Nietzsche think that you could have a passion that essentially
is just a really, really strong aversion, that there’s something I’ve…
Yeah, that I’m bothered by, say, I’m bothered by laws.
I think we can find concrete examples of those. So I think, you know, they
talk about fiction and the joy and the catharsis of fiction of tragedy. Think
of horror movies, like, say, the movie Alien, right? You really get the viewer
into the passion of not wanting that machine to go into your belly and, you
know, take you over. It’s a very strong driving passion to avoid the monster.
I think it counts as a passion, and as literal and direct and strongest sense
as you can. But it’s clearly, extremely aversive.
Right. Yeah. So I think that’s why sort of just having passions doesn’t
necessarily get you all the way to sort of not being dominated by aversion.
Right? It’s only if those passions are sort of attractions that, if not, it’s
still possible to say that sort of no longer dominated by some tiny fraction
So passions are not sufficient to produce attraction rather than aversion.
They’re also not necessary, that is, it’s quite possible to imagine non-strong
controlled emotions that are also attractive as opposed to aversion. So the
fundamental question might be, if we’re trying to establish attraction, rather
than aversion, and in principle, passions could be either way, too, how do
passions argue for the existence of attraction any more than anything else?
And all we need is just a concrete example of attraction to make the case that
it’s not all aversion. We could pick that from passion, we can pick it from
anything else, though. All we need is one example, right?
Right. I mean, Nietzsche is, I think the concern to be that even if you say
sort of have this one kind of dim attraction, there’s one thing you sort of
have a mild positive assessment of what sort of always are less concerned
about than you are with avoiding discomfort. The thought is that you’re still
sort of leading a life that’s very much dominated by aversion, right? That the
sort of overall character of this life, that sort of thing, the biggest role
in determining your experience of it and sort of how you assess it are these
aversive desires. And so passion, sort of an attractively structured passion,
sort of gives you the hope of something, of living your life where sort of the
dominant motivations of your life, sort of the ones that sort of the biggest
role in coloring your experience of it are going to be some things that
On reflection of what I read and thinking about this, it seems to me, there’s
another similarly strong consideration, which is why passions might be more
reassuring about attraction, which is the idea that just passions are harder
to lie about, or are harder to cover up, or that you can be more sure that
they’re there, in some sense. So I think a lot of people, you know, they know
that early on in life, they had things they cared about. And then with time,
they learned self-control and learned to follow social pressure and to be the
sort of person people wanted them to be. And then later on, they’re not so
sure, what of this self they’ve constructed is something they really care
about, as opposed to constructed it in order to get along, and to conform. And
so I think passions are a thing that people can feel better, “Ah.” Like, that
isn’t just social conformity. That’s real, because the very idea of a passion
is something that’s hard to control. So it highlights two levels of the thing
and our controlling it. And so if you’re afraid of over-controlling, you want
to like, look for the control element and set it aside and say, “Is there
something else I can see here other than my self-control?” And for the
passion, you can say, “Aha, yes, because I see that I’m barely controlling
it.” So I can see there’s a difference between my control and the it. And so I
can say there’s a thing I really want, I really believe that it’s a value I
have. And then I can be if it’s a value that’s attractive, then I can be more
sure that I have an attractive value because I’m more sure that this is one of
my values. Whereas, values for things that we’ve acquired through education or
culture, et cetera, we’re just less sure that we value them.
Right. I mean the– I mean, there’s still, it seems like there’s still with
regards to passion right there sort of epistemic questions you could still
have here about, if sort of on this definition of passion, right, what makes
something a passion is that it’s strong enough to get you to sort of sacrifice
comfort, and sort of expose yourself to distress in various ways. You don’t
necessarily know whether you have something like that unless it sort of
happens to be the case that you’ve sort of actually encountered a situation
where there is sort of a conflict between whether your passion is pushing you
towards and what your, and what would be the most comfortable or something
like this. So I don’t know if it’s sort of necessarily the case that…
So if you remember the horror movie thing. In the horror movie, you’re running
away from the monster. You are suffering a lot of discomfort in the running
away, right? You’re not running away leisurely and carefully, and making sure
you’re all dressed and warm enough and everything else. In a horror movie,
you’re often sticking your foot on a nail and just doing all this running,
jumping out of a building and hurting yourself in a lot of ways in order to
run away from this bad thing. So merely the fact that you put a high priority
on the passion relative to other comforts doesn’t assure that, in fact, it’s
an attractive as opposed to aversive passion.
Right. Yeah. I was just thinking, what sort of what is yours that you have a
passion at all? Right, that you could sort of have a passion, but just sort of
getting really lucky. I have something that I would sacrifice comfort for. But
fortunately, I’ve never been called to. They’ve ended up aligned with each
other. So the thought was that passion sort of doesn’t necessarily give us
that kind of epistemic confidence.
Well, think of like going to grad school say, something relevant few, right?
Recently, right? People have often asked themselves, “Did I really want to go
to grad school? Was that, was that just something I did for my family or
expectations, or because I was too chicken to go out and get a job?” I mean,
they have those doubts. The fact that they sacrificed a lot for grad school,
it’s not terribly reassuring. I mean, grad school was uncomfortable in many
ways. And then the, you know, their office was cold, and they weren’t getting
respect. And they were eating ramen, right? I mean, you can list the
sacrifices, but that doesn’t necessarily assure you that you actually had a
passion for that.
Right. Yeah, I mean, the question again, there’s this question of what’s the
actual object of your desire there? Is it that you were extremely passionate
about your subject, and so you’re willing to accept all of that for, all that
sort of discomfort for the sake of learning about philosophy or economics, or
what have you? Or, write in your mod– in your sort of your way of putting it
like, I’m just so passionate about not displeasing my parents or something
like this? Like that. Yeah. So there’s sort of passion doesn’t, it seems like,
it doesn’t seem like passion necessarily gives us a clear sort of epistemic
edge in these cases.
But I was thinking there’s this other way in which passion does give a clear
epistemic edge, which is this idea that when you see people barely able to
control their passions, then it looks credible that they aren’t constructing
this whole appearance and barely able to control it, that it, you’re actually
seeing an actual barely able to control it. And that’s compelling on the
screen for a movie or whatever that we believe that a barely controlled
passion is a real passion, in a way that a more controlled thing, we have more
doubt. So, since your take– getting into grad school was such a controlled
thing, you weren’t out, you know, you weren’t resisting it very much. We’re
less sure that it wasn’t being done for– to please your parents or something.
So… sorry, go ahead, Josh.
Oh. No, I just want to say right, that, yeah, I think that is the case that
sort of issue do have that case, where there is sort of a clear conflict
between your pursuit of some object of your desire and comfort, right? Then it
is really, it is easy to tell what, you have a passion there. Whereas, so I
agree that that sort of, if you have a situation like that, then you do have
that kind of…
And if you don’t have such situations, we don’t so much call it a passion,
that is we use the word passion when we see some evidence of it being hard to
Right. Yeah. I mean, at least… I’m sorry, go ahead.
Sorry. But like that just, that includes Robin’s horror movie running away
case, right? Because it’s like, they might find it in some ways hard to
control. Like, they’re like running, you know, crazy like, where that’s fully
Right. Yeah. I mean, again, it is, it’s still possible to have fully aversive
passion. I think that the more troubling thing about the horror examples, that
it’s one of the cases where you could still view it as a desire for sort of
safety and comfort easily, right? But what you’re trying to do is sort of
escape a very big harm that’s coming in from the Alien. And you’re willing to
accept sort of small harm. So that’s sort of more like the case you had
mentioned earlier, Agnes, but kind of the net versus the, you know.
I am personally more interested in the topic of how sure we are, can we sure
be are– what we want and our desires? That is, that actually seems to me more
fundamental and interesting topic than whether our desires are fundamentally
aversive or attractive. Because that, I can see the world being fine that way.
But I do think many people after sort of achieving some success in a career or
something, then ask themselves, “Did I really want this? How sure am I that I
do want these things that I am, I seem to have been pursuing?” And you know,
Agnes is very animated by just the question of how can we know what’s good?
You know, if I make that personal, how can I know what’s good for me? This
seems like a central question. Like, how do I know what I really want? And
passion seemed to be an especially, you know, open window, perhaps that at
least some things you want, because of this nature of their more credible
demonstration, due to often being out of control.
I guess, maybe just to sort of take another stab potentially at motivating a
thought, but it also doesn’t matter, not just what we want, but sort of how we
want it. That, suppose I do get what I want, and I’m correct, it was what I
wanted. There’s still this question and sort of say, I’ve gotten to the top of
my career. Is actually being at the top of my career now, some sort of a joy
for me? Or, am I just kind of bored and indifferent to the state that I’m in
now, right? That, that’s sort of the problem, but at least Schopenhauer wanted
to suggest we get into what we’re moved by aversion is that we get what are
our, what we desire. We get exactly what we desired. But because all we wanted
about it was to escape other bad things, now that we’re there, sort of, even
though it was what we desired, we don’t have any interest in it. It’s just
something that we’re indifferent to it on its own. We’re only, we only care
about it, sort of because of the contrast with other bad things that it gets
rid of. Right, so the thought is that for someone who’s sort of pursuing one
of these goals, sort of even if you are correct in what you’re after, it still
is going to be sort of matter a lot whether you’re sort of what way you’re
after it. Because if not at all, sort of changing the character of what
actually achieving what your desire is like. Sort of whether it actually was
beneficial to you, or it’s just something you’ve sort of checked off a box,
and now there’s nothing beyond that, that you’ve gotten out of it.
But is there any guarantee that if something is such that I’m willing to
sacrifice for it and endure distresses and become less comfortable, that when
I have that thing, I’ll somehow be happy or satisfied? It’s like those seem to
me like independent questions, and yet the criterion that you gave on the
passions is like, the sacrifices that were willing to make for it.
Right. Yeah, I mean, I don’t think there is. But that’s why it still matters,
whether the passion is an attractive passion or an aversive passion. That if
your passion is reversibly structured, if it’s just a really strong form of
distress, then there’s no guarantee that sort of, even if you get sort of the
full realization of what you’re passionately desiring, you can still just be
completely indifferent to it, because all you cared about was escaping the bad
things that were contrasting it with. That’s why it sort of matters both that
we have passions, and that they are passions that have a particular character.
So that was one of the passions or sort of a precondition to having a life
that’s not dominated by aversion, but that they don’t get us anywhere near all
the way. Or, we also have to make sure their passion is with the right
How can we know if they have the right structure?
I’m not sure the structure is necessarily the only kind of evidence you could
have. That is, if you think of the standard advice, “Follow your passion,” I
think the intuition is if you’re there at law school and you also like
sometimes do art on the side. And if you find that, when you’re doing law,
you’re not actually very passionate about it, but you are driven in pursuing
it. And when you do art, you’re very passionate, and just really what makes
you alive, feel alive and full of energy, and focused. Then the claim is,
well, that second thing is an attraction. The first thing may not be, so you
should take that as a clue how to live your life. You should, that is, the
idea is we can just see sometimes when there’s an attraction, and we should be
looking for when we can see an attraction, and we should take that as the life
clues. So it’s less, it’s less about looking at the structure of the context
of art or law, and more just looking at how does it feel.
Right. And I think it’s sort of those are cases where you’re sort of are able
to sort of actively gratify the passion, right? You’re able to engage in the
art activity. And so then you can see sort of what engaging in that is like
for you, right? You can see, does engaging with art just sort of put me in a
position where I’m no longer sort of bothered by my pressure to engage, to
produce art or something like this. But then I immediately become bored by it.
Or, rather, is it the case that I sort of remain in an active way, sort of
engaged and continue to sort of enjoy existing in this art activity, sort of,
even though I’ve already in some sense, sort of gratified this passion? The
idea that sort of cases like that, we sort of offer one way to sort of tell,
or we sort of get some hint about whether we’re being moved by an attraction
or an aversion is that if we’re being moved by an attraction, then we won’t
become immediately bored by whatever we achieved, right after we’ve achieved
it or something. That’s…
The practical question, I would say is, like, I think it’s probably is true
that our human motives are a mix of aversion and attraction. But almost
certainly, there’s some attractions out there to some degree. So then the
practical question is, how much do you want your life to be motivated by
attraction or aversion? And to the extent that you figure out it’s going to be
important that attraction is a big element, how do you identify those things
and support them? And that seems to me, like the practical question about
passions. How do you find your passions and how do you manage them? Or, can
they be misleading, for example? Can you have a passion that was very– or your
passion at 15 to be a sports star, and then by the time you’re 20, it’s all
gone? How can you figure out which of your passions will last?
I mean, Josh, it seems to me like Nietzsche assumes that we are quite hostile
to our passions. And so the idea of just like, follow your passion, he would
think of as hopelessly naive, because we have been acculturated in a world
where we are supposed to hate our passions. Is that right?
Right. Yeah. I mean, for Nietzsche, I guess the sort of practical question
about the passions, or it’s one of the practical questions is sort of how can
we maintain them in a state of attraction rather than aversion? And the
thought is that passions are sort of just by their nature, they’re a source of
distress, they’re a source of discomfort. Both just in sort of narrow sense,
as we talked about, they’re sort of what makes something a passion is that
it’s willing, like you’re willing to sort of put yourself in a very
distressing situations for its sake. And just in the sense of sort of,
generally speaking, it renders you kind of vulnerable in various ways, pushes
you to engage in various risks, and so on, and so forth. And so, insofar as
the passion is just often are sort of producing distress for us, Nietzsche
thinks we have sort of a tendency to develop a sort of hostility towards them,
right? And that’s also sort of enhanced, Nietzsche thinks by sort of very sort
of cultural religious teachings that are hostile to the passions in various
ways. And right, so his worry is that because of that, we sort of become
hostile to our passions, right? So then we sort of long to get away from our
passions, to escape them. And because of that, we again start doing sort of
the objects of our passions, the things that gratify them as things that are
valuable just insofar as they sort of free us from distress, namely, the
stress of having a passion.
What do we think? Aside from Nietzsche, what are the three of us think? Are we
hostile to our passions?
Well, so I’m, what strikes me is Robin, just right before we started this, did
a twitter poll asking people whether they more tended to want to, I’m sorry.
Regarding whatever are your strongest passions, are you more trying to
restrain and control them or inflame and release them? And I voted inflame and
release personally. And when I voted, I could see the results up till that
point. And most people had voted for restrain and control. But, oh, you could
say about equal. That’s another choice. But then I retweeted the poll, and
then once my followers got a hold of it, it switched to inflame. So now, it’s
at like 49% inflame and release, 31% restrain and control. In some sense,
contravening Nietzsche, right, here are lots of people, OK, it’s only 220
until now, but who seemed to think that they are more in the mode of trying to
inflame their passions than trying to restrain them.
But that does suggest that they think that society up until now has been
restraining them too much, right? That is, we are in a society that’s hostile
to passions. That would be support for that theory, that is they believe that
theory about the world they’re in.
Yeah. I mean, it’s also the case that sort of Nietzsche, is kinda right that
there’s kind of this pressure towards, possibly towards our passions, that
there are sort of due to the nature of passions and these various sort of
cultural forces? There is a tendency to become hostile to them. But that, it
could nonetheless be the case that there is sort of a fairly effective efforts
to sort of counterbalance that tendency going on, right? So that, in addition
to the obvious sort of pressure to view our passions hostily, we sort of, our
culture also contains a lot of sort of celebrations of the passions in various
forms. And so there is this sort of counter pressure that helps people
maintain an attachment to their passions, despite the fact that they do also
have this built in sort of source of hostility.
I did a tweet just before that, where I said, “People who say, follow your
passion, don’t seem to mean you should lean in on pleasures from horniness,
recreational drugs, or seeing your rivals suffer. They apparently have some
other passions in mind.” Highlighting the, perhaps there’s a bias about which
passions we pursue, you know, we seem to celebrate some of them and denigrate
others. Are we getting that right?
I don’t think that’s true of Nietzsche by the way. But I mean, like revenge
and lust, I don’t know if he doesn’t have recreational drugs. Does he? But
revenge and lust, I think Nietzsche is pretty positive about those like that.
Right. But our society today, even though it celebrates some passions, it
doesn’t celebrate others as much. Nietzsche is critical about those–
Right. And Nietzsche says that some passions are, he says that some passions
are contemptible, which not the ones not, not lust and vengance. But he still
thinks there are some that are base in some way.
But what do we think?
I’m the non-philosopher who wants us to step away from the text and look at
the world. And what do we see?
I mean, I think you’re right that, right, this account of sort of the value of
the passions suggests that it’s having an attractive leave out structured
passion, does something important for you, right? Enables you to sort of
appreciate your life in a positive way. And it makes it possible, but still
leaves open like a lot of questions about what else do you need for your life
to go well? Is it good? Is it in fact, good for you to sort of positively
appreciate everything? Or are there some things that would be– bad for you to
appreciate in this way, right? It’s a very least, it’s like a separate
question that passions enables us to feel that our life is beneficial. But
that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are enough to actually make them
So it seems like when people encourage you to find something larger than
yourself to become part of, they don’t tend to mean just larger peace and
prosperity. That is a basically aversive goal, a utilitarian goal of just
everybody being happy roughly, doesn’t seem to be the larger than yourself
sort of thing that inspires most people. They seem to want something a little
more active, with more conflict even.
Including Mill the utilitarian, I think. Right, Josh?
Yeah, right. That, there are, I mean, and that, in Nietzsche sort of, this all
gets sort of, the sort of comfort model that he was critiquing or dominated by
comfort. He sort of tends to associate that with utilitarianism, because he
sort of imagines utilitarians having this kind of negative view of happiness,
where happiness for them basically just means painlessness. But it’s probably
is unfair to the utilitarians. Like, Mill is, don’t– he sort of, painlessness
is the key thing for happiness. They potentially are much richer at this point
How about we invoke the concept of utopia, and note that people have found it
difficult to describe utopias of peace and prosperity and comfort. They, you
know, that seems paradoxical. It’s not a utopia if everybody isn’t struggling
to some substantial extent, right, having ambitions and further goals they’re
pursuing or something. And that seems related to the disapproval of, you know,
Right. Yeah, but I can sort of part of what goes into it as with aversively
structured desires, at bottom, what you want is just not to have a desire in
some sense. You want to escape having a motive, because the motive is itself
distressing it for you. So you’re relieving the mode. You’re sort of
gratifying your desire in order to get rid of that desire. That’s sort of the
state of just having no motives, is not tremendously appealing as a picture of
what would make an actually fulfilling life. Right? So that’s sort of part of
The state of having motives that you are not achieving is also not utopia. So
how do you describe a utopia that isn’t just avoiding bad things but it’s also
optimally or ideally pursuing things that you aren’t yet achieving?
I mean, I guess one thing that’s at least in principle possible with
attraction, with attraction, we start to desire is that you can still sort of
enjoy their object even after you have sort of realized that after if you have
attained or achieved it. Because what you, you’re interested in itself, you
viewed it itself as a sort of a wonderful thing, that you can sort of
potentially continue delighting in rather than just getting bored by. I mean,
there are, so your sort of motive doesn’t disappear once you’ve gratified it,
because your motive didn’t depend on just escaping the pain that you
eliminated by gratifying your desire. But, and you, what you wanted was to
enjoy the thing that you still have and continue to enjoy in there. So
there’s, yeah, right.
I kind of want to go back to Robin’s question about utopia. I think that’s a
good way to frame this. Because, though I am moved by the thought that we
wouldn’t want a world in which all our desires were aversively structured, I
actually think, it seems to me, we also don’t want a world in which none of
our desires is aversively structured. And that’s a little bit confusing. But
you know, William James has this paper, it was a lecture, What makes a life
significant? And in it he recounts this experience. Did we ever do a podcast
on this, Robin? Maybe we never did a podcast on utopia. Now, we have to do
another one, just, on utopia. OK. But he recounts his experience of going to
this sort of like planned community, maybe it’s in Chappaqua. I don’t know how
you say it, in New York, somewhere upstate New York, where there’s like,
academic lectures and boating, and it’s like this perfect little world. And
it’s like exactly the world he would have designed to live in. And after like
two days there, he just can’t wait to get away to like just dirty reality. And
in some sense, the point of this kind of community was allowing you to pursue
your positive desires without any restriction. And I’m sure James would say
that he wants more out of life than just to keep averting, but it somehow, it
somehow doesn’t feel like an actual utopia to be in a space without problems.
So the difficulty in even describing a coherent utopia is one of the things
that makes me agree with Agnes that we don’t know what we want very well, that
it’s, that we are really confused about what we see as good. And that’s one of
the reasons then I could get passionate about passions, because again, it
seems like at least for some passions, you can be just be more sure that is
something you want, because you see yourself failing to control it, and see
other people failing to control it. And it convinces me that well, there’s a
real force there. And it’s not something we’re making up or trying to tell a
good story about. It’s real.
I guess maybe, like there’s still, I guess we’re at the utopia case, right,
there’s still this sort of worry then about your passion. You can tell through
your passion that there’s something you want really, really badly, something
you want enough to sort of sacrifice various things for. But you could still,
it seems like, potentially, you’re wrong about what that is, right? You might
have, like we talked about earlier, thought we were really passionate about
philosophy, but really just been really passionate about not upsetting your
parents or something. And you could see sort of similar issues could come up
in the utopia case, right, where you thought you were really passionate about,
say, just enjoying the arts or something like this. But really, what you were
really passionate was sort of passion, that was sort of your competition with
others about sort of trying to be the best art critic or something. And so
that, removing that sort of tension and competition actually removed what you
truly enjoyed about the whole thing. And you wouldn’t necessarily be able to
tell just by seeing that you have a passion, that’s for some reason, pushing
you to engage with arts.
So you might think we’d get data about this from people who are near the end
of their lives, who had a whole experience of things they thought they wanted,
and then later on, figured out whether they did want it or not. You think that
would just be an important anchor for all of us to look at the things that
people near the end of their lives say are still their passions? That they
have been, even through a lot of varied circumstances, and perhaps loss of
approving parents and money or whatever else, they still are really passion
about it. But it feels like most people don’t actually feel– think that that’s
going to be very reliable data. I’m not sure why. But people aren’t very eager
to go get that data.
I feel that. I feel not very eager to get that data.
I feel like, like Aristotle says, “Well, young people are characteristically
sort of rash and imprudent. And old people are characteristically cowardly and
prudent. And it’s just about the time in their life.” And so if you talk to
the old people, you’ll just hear their cowardice speaking, which is their time
of life, right?
Maybe cowardice is our true passion. But nonetheless, the one that doesn’t go
away on examination, Maybe that’s what we learned with our lives is we really
are cowards, and that’s what we should be true to.
But why not just think it changes.
Then why be afraid that it will, it will change, right? And the whole story
here is I’m going to put all this effort into this passion. And then I’m going
to find it’s not very satisfying. You might think, well, you know, you’re just
changing. You can’t expect to know what your future self will be passionate
about. Just work on it, just what you’re passionate about right now, because
this is the time to act about your current passions.
I, Josh, I wonder what you think about aversion of Robin’s, where we hear
about, is this what we really want, where, in some sense, the problem with an
aversive desire is that we learn that we didn’t really want it? Like, “I’m
going after this thing. I’m going after this thing.” And then I get it, I’m
not happy, and like that an aversive desire is an illusory desire.
Right. And I think there’s a sense in which that’s correct, right? But there’s
a sense in which we want to say that really sort of at bottom, what you want
is the elimination of the distress or something like this. You don’t really
have any direct interest in the thing that eliminates the distress, right?
That if I’m feel like I have to go to grad school in order to please, in order
to sort of remove the disapproval of my parents or something like this, then
when I finish the process and this disapproval is removed, I find out that the
state I’m in is one that isn’t in itself at all interesting to me. All I cared
about was removing the pain of being disapproved of by my parents. But the
sort of state that actually achieved is that, namely, graduating from grad
school, doesn’t actually have any value. So sort of I was seeking the sort of
actual object of my desire in some sense, the thing that I was aiming at, was,
or at least I would have taken myself aimed out there was graduate from grad
school. But in fact, the sort of real motive, all sorts of actual force behind
it was just, escape this pain.
I wonder whether we can say something even stronger. Namely, you never even
wanted to escape the pain. You only wanted to escape it insofar as you were
feeling it, right? But actually, escaping that pain is not something that on
reflection you thought was like a valuable thing to do. That is the way you
understood it was like, “I’m going to, you know, I’m going to grad school and
I’m getting this thing.” You only were motivated to escape the pain under the
conceit that you were seeking this other thing. And so, in fact, you didn’t
really want any of it.
Right. So sort of if you understood, but it was just, but all, your only
motive was the effort to escape pain, then you, in some sense, the motive
would collapse or something like this.
So, there’s this classic structure of an adventure story, where the adventurer
is trying to get back home. And then usually, the story ends when we get back
home, because the viewer is not very interested in their life back home, and
far more interested in their life away. And then you show the same characters
years later, and it’s kind of pathetic, or whatever. There’s something, you
know, classically paradoxical about the adventurer trying to get home when
later on, this will be the best years of his life, that he looks back on these
wonderful adventures. Which is it? Do you want to get home? Or do you want to
be on the adventure?
Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things that Schopenhauer cites as evidence for
the aversive structure of desire is the fact that he, that literature has this
kind of structure generally, where we can be really engaged by this depiction
of the struggling hero, but then wants to hear who achieves their goal. Where,
sort of, if it keeps going, then we get bored, right? There’s sort of nothing
to hold us there anymore, because the sort of goal is just in and of itself
was no interest.
Why not a positive attraction to struggling?
Yeah, I mean, that’s also, I mean, that’s one, again, another sort of option
for what’s going wrong in sort of the utopia case and things like that, is
that if you have an attraction to the act of struggling itself, then, in fact,
if that’s what you’re passionate about, then sort of the structure of the
utopia as the one where your actual passions can’t be achieved or something
Because you’re not willing to admit that the passion is for the struggling
Right. Or in any case, I guess, I was sort of assuming that the utopia was one
in which there wasn’t struggling. But you could imagine that if you admitted
it to yourself, then maybe you could produce a struggle with utopia or
I want to ask, we only like have a few minutes left. So, I want to ask, I do
want to go to aesthetics. Because I think it’s a really striking feature of
your dissertation that you have sort of by way of Nietzsche, this really
robust defense of the aestheticization of life, of like living for art. And
the sort of key of that, as I see it, is that we have this problem about
valuing our passions, that as we habitually and characteristically devalue and
disvalue our passions, because they create all these problems for us and
introduce all these discomforts. And that art is what allows us to value them.
And I guess, I wonder why Nietzsche wasn’t worried that this was like a lame
way of rescuing passions, in the sense that it’s like, if the way that I can
experience ambition as good is by like watching Macbeth, without actually
making any of those real sacrifices myself for ambition, without getting my
hands dirty, right? That, what, I mean you call it, spiritualized passion. But
isn’t it kind of tamed passion, the kind of passion that art offers us,
I mean, I think Nietzsche’s thought is that you experience your passions sort
of through these works of art. And that changes the way you view them, right?
You’re, you sort of, are able to see them as a beauty– as an object of beauty
as something that’s wonderful and whatever way the art celebrates them as
being wonderful. But then after that, you sort of were able to, you continue
to view your actual passion, your sort of ordinary during life passion of
ambition in this new way that you’ve acquired through encountering it
represented in this artwork. So then, sort of in order to, sort of actually
have a life that’s kind of valuable to you because of the role of ambition in
it, you then have to sort of actually be motivated by ambition throughout the
rest of your life. But the thought is that, the reason you’re able to sort of,
in order to sort of keep engaging in, sort of keep being motivated by ambition
and continue valuing it, and therefore, having it sort of be attractively
rather than reversibly structured, you’re sort of going to need to sort of go
back to art in some ways to sort of refresh your attachment to it. So the art
will help you value the passion in a way that lets you keep valuing it, sort
of during your sort of actual, out of out of art state life.
I mean, from your thesis, I remember the quote, something like Nietzsche was
thinking that most people don’t, in fact, have these substantially positive
attractions. And most people are mainly aversive. For somebody who did have
substantial attractions, these fictions could affirm it for them, and help
them see it. But most people don’t have it. But most people do like these
fictions. So that suggests that Agnes is right that, in fact, for most people,
this is a substitute. And they do feel slightly the urge to having a passion
and sacrificing, but the fiction will be a substitute for them. And they’ll
get it, the feeling out of the way through the movie. And after that, they can
go back to a verdict.
Right. And I mean that is…
It’s the Aristotle’s the cathartic vision.
Yeah. I mean, Nietzsche does think that that’s the state that sort of most
people are in, and that’s sort of the result of bad art, right? That he thinks
that, generally speaking, people aren’t capable of passions. Again, that’s, he
has this sort of very elitist view of that, right. So in his view, most people
don’t have any passions. And therefore, they can’t really enjoy the sort of
celebration of their passions through art, because they just don’t have any
passions that are really in sight. But that there is something sort of similar
that art can do, which is it can kind of give you this feeling of having a
passion. What is Nietzsche sort of this is what pseudo art does on Nietzsche’s
view. And on his view, it sort of intoxicates you. It gives you this sort of
experience some sort of the affect, feeling as if you had a passion, even
though you lack it. And just this sort of excess of sentiment is kind of
valued as an anesthetic in a way he thinks, right, that you’re just sort of,
or something you enjoy being sort of distracted and sort of knocked over by
the sort of sentiments that this kind of pseudo art produces.
It seems less plausible that there are these two kinds of art. Art and pseudo
art, and not just two kinds of viewers who see the same art but have a
I mean, I think that there, I mean, it seems like there is, it is fair to say
awkward sort of there’s some works of art that just sort of seem like they’re
just escapist in some way, right, that they don’t really do any sort of
interesting celebration of anything. They sort of just fill an escapist role.
Like, I think it’s correct that there might be sort of different people who
engage with the same work of art and have this effect on them. But it seems
like there also might be sort of a legitimate distinction between, or the sort
of potentially purely escapist, and art that’s at least potentially more than
But like, take Macbeth, OK. Clearly, that’s going to be good for Nietzsche.
It’s going to like get a checkmark, right, of like, good kind of art. But,
like most people that view Macbeth, like, I think if you did some kind of
empirical study on whether it made them more ambitious or more inclined to
value their ambitions or whatever, I’d be surprised if it showed any effect at
all. And so, like, but people like it. I mean, that is OK. Maybe not in the
past 100 years, but I mean, Shakespeare was popular art. The ordinary people
went crazy for it, the people Nietzsche doesn’t like. So like, I mean, is that
the thought, is that just like, well, even good art can have escapist, can
have an escapist interpretation?
Right. I mean, I think that’s at least seems like the sort of best option for
Nietzsche there. Or at least a potentially a good option for him, right, is
that one thing that this work is doing is celebrating the passions,
celebrating the passion of ambition. And if you’re someone who is prone to
this passion, then seeing it depicted in this way, and feeling your passion
and ambition excited alongside it, potentially change the way you view your
passion of ambition. But nonetheless, they’re also sort of lots of other
things that this work is doing. But that’s not the only thing that Macbeth
does. And there’s sort of room for other people to hook on to sort of other
things that the work is doing, or, again, to sort of have various, on
Nietzsche’s view, potentially also just bad interpretations of what Macbeth is
I’d be willing to bet that most, you know, people who count as literary
critics in our society, say high school teachers teaching Macbeth, end up
presenting it as a critique of ambition as a warning against ambition, not a
celebration of ambition. In which case, Nietzsche has to have a very elitist
view of who even counts as the reviewers here if he’s going to say, but it
really promotes it.
Right. Yeah. I mean, I think that, I mean, Nietzsche does kind of have this
kind of revisionary interpretation of Macbeth, where he does want to say that
in this case, although we’re inclined generally, to think that this is a work
where Shakespeare’s condemning ambition and sort of poointing out, sort of how
horrible it is, in some sense. And most people appreciate the play, because
they do it in his terms. In fact, sort of the right understanding of Macbeth,
would show that, no, there’s something being celebrated here. It’s just that
most people, in Nietzsche’s view, sort of aren’t in a position to appreciate
the way it’s being celebrated. Because essentially, the good parts of ambition
that are brought out are ones that they’re just not sensitive to at all or
something like this. But, I mean, there’s a real question of sort of whether
this is correct as account of Macbeth, right, that Nietzsche could be
completely wrong about Macbeth, even if he’s correct about sort of how a
certain kind of artwork works, but.
Right. I think Nietzsche is very happy to dismiss just about everybody’s
interpretation, Robin, so, including all the high school teachers. There’s
something compelling to me about this thought that what Macbeth is really
doing is allowing you to ravel an ambition, while at the same time, morally
sanctioning it. So you feel OK about the reveling?
That it would, it just, we love looking at bad people doing bad stuff in art.
And almost all art contains something of that kind and plausibly, like, that’s
part of the point. And Nietzsche is sort of grabbing onto that, that seems
So, I mean, that’s also been say, like, novels with sex in them are like
they’re titillating. But in the old days, at least, they usually had to
disapprove of it, like the characters had to meet a bad end. But we could say
that people enjoyed those novels, because of the titillation, the showing the
sex, or you could say that about violence, right? And so, then we could say
art often pretends to disapprove of things that it actually celebrates in a
certain way, but not officially, right? It just lets people enjoy the
experience of feeling like they were involved, or seeing it, without actually
being inclined to do it.
Right. Yeah. I mean, Nietzsche’s thought is that there are some works that
show sort of the ruin of their characters. And that we sort of view still as
very clearly being a celebration of the thing that causes that ruin, like,
Romeo and Juliet is just generally viewed as a romantic play, right? It
celebrates love, even though it shows how well we install this destruction.
And so, then the question is, sort of why is Macbeth supposed to be something
different than that? That ambition in Macbeth leads to all these disasters,
but so does love in Romeo and Juliet. Why is it that one of these as a
celebration of love, and the other is a condemnation of ambition? Is it just
that more people are sort of sensitive to what’s valuable and not valuable
about love, or…
So, that’s an interesting way in which tragedy is robust to the changes in
time and what people will approve or not, right? You have a story where people
follow some value, and it goes badly. In the times when people value that
thing, they can see it as showing the sacrifice and how valuable this thing is
because people were willing to do it, even though it led to a bad end. And
then at a time when people disapprove of that thing, then they can show this
as a moral lesson. “See, you shouldn’t do this, because it leads to a bad
end.” I mean, you’re safe either way.
That’s why tragedy is universal?
Exactly. It’s, any culture can embrace a story where X leads to tragedy,
whether they like X or not.
Yeah, I mean, the great word becomes tricky sort of question sort of, is there
sort of a concrete way by, sort of looking at the particular work, sort of
give an actual answer to that question, whether it’s celebrating it or
critiquing it? And I guess that depends on the details of the past.
They don’t need to have had an answer. They could have just been, you know,
driven by the idea of depicting somebody in the thrall of a passion and just
showing vividly what that feels like, and looks like, without approving of
disapproving proving necessarily.
It still seems to me that the artist, like, the artist is taking this almost
shortcut, or I don’t know what the right word is. But like, insofar as we
think of the work of art, and at some points, when I was reading your
dissertation, I was thinking about it this way, that the fundamental person to
think about is the artist. Like, the artist producing it, and sort of the
experience of the work for the artist as being, them being the best touchstone
of what it’s about is, like the, you know, cherishing and reveling and
praising the passions in this mode does conveniently insulate you from a lot
of their worst effects. So, if instead of going off and doing a bunch of “I’m
Shakespeare,” instead of doing a bunch of ambitious stuff that can let me get
killed, I write a play, about a guy who does those things. Then it sort of
seems like the very thing that made the passions this candidate for the
avoiding the aversive structure, namely, you pay these costs for them, we’ve
now gotten rid of those costs, right? And that is we have, we’ve rehabilitated
or been made able to value the passions precisely by removing the costs, that
were supposed to be what ensured that they were non-aversive.
So maybe the artists main emotion really is to avoid being thought of as a bad
artist. The art is fundamentally aversive activity, where they get to depict
an embrace these attractive emotions, but they themselves aren’t driven by
Right. I mean, like its right that, I think, at least on Nietzsche’s view, he
wants to say that there is sort of a similarity between the work, sort of the
affect, that sort of motivates the author to produce the work. And the affect
that it communicates in some way, right? That in some sense, what you get out
of a work of art is sort of an image of what some, what sort of artist’s
object looks like through this particular affect that they feel towards it, or
something like this. And so, for Nietzsche, that’s why he sort of wants to
claim that sort of great artist, sort of generally motivated by fairly
positive affects by things like gratitude towards the thing being depicted or
so on. Right. But there might be a concern there about sort of whether there’s
a possible gap, whether there are, there is an option where the artist isn’t
in, isn’t sort of doing the– the artist doesn’t actually sort of relate to
their subject, in a way that constitutes sort of a genuine appreciation for it
or genuine attraction to it. But nonetheless, they’re just sort of technically
skilled or something in a way that lets them communicate that to you.
I think we will tend to credit the actor who plays Gandhi with some sort of
altruistic attitude toward the world, whereas they are evoking that feeling in
us. But the actor themselves may be very selfishly trying to be the best
OK, we should probably stop there because we’re over time.
All right. Nice talking to you, Joshua.
Oh, thank you. Thanks!