Literally all of my people in my life study some permutation of: economics, computer science, philosophy, and English. Most of the friends I talk to study philosophy and English. I have a couple of exes that also study philosophy and English. But, I am always so careful whenever I meet someone who studies philosophy or English.
There is an argument that the humanities are there to cultivate empathy, but some of the least empathetic people I know in my life are people who study philosophy and English.
Let’s start with philosophy.
There is such a rich intellectual tradition within the field of philosophy of philosophers being complete assholes. Most of the time, I think philosophers are literally so full of it that they don’t see hypocritical and out of touch they actually are. When I read their writing, I just imagine that they probably just really want to hear the sound of their own voice inside their head.
To start, most early modern philosophers refer to people who don’t read philosophy for fun (a.k.a. 99 percent of literally everyone) as “the vulgar”. Like, obviously that’s pretty clearly wrong now, but they don’t even try to hide it! Philosophers relish in pretention because they don’t view it as a bad thing. They separate themselves because they believe their intelligence warrants belittling individuals who happen to not receive as much education as them. This effect is further emphasized by the community because, sometimes, philosophy is literally the most inaccessible shit you can come up with. Like, literally the entire field of metaphysics. Who cares!
Also, the moralizing! Oh my God. Most of the time, I feel like philosophers are so full of their own intelligence that they create these complex frameworks to justify actions that are literally just shitty. They view their own views as the truth because it is them who thought of it.
You can imagine this attitude of superiority really doesn’t translate well with the ladies. There are so many philosophers who had absolutely no game.
Newton died a virgin. Kant died a virgin. Nieztsche’s love life was an L.O.L.
A lot of philosophers were pretty misogynistic. And, they would create these complex metaphysical or ethical frameworks justifying ideas that are literally just prejudiced. I think Tolstoy is a good example. In “The Kreutzer Sonata” by Tolstoy, the protagonist goes off about how women exist to be the sexual pursuits of men. He creates this elaborate evolutionary framework explaining how the goal of life is to sleep with as many women as possible. I think, in general, when you base your life on evolutionary biology (regardless of the merits of the field), it is typically indicative of misogyny.
Tolstoy, from his portrayal of himself in his Childhood, Boyhood, Youth trilogy, was literally the angstiest kid ever. He claimed to be in love with women that he literally never talked to in his life. And then, he would hate them for not being into him. If this is not indicative of the beginnings of an incel, I don’t know what is. He also had no friends because he thought he was too smart for everyone else, and as a result, he had these angsty attitudes towards life that he confused with intelligence. This manz literally thought he was too intelligent for people around him, so he spent a lot of time by himself.
As you can imagine, this is probably not very good for challenging your assumptions about the world. Most of Tolstoy’s writing comes across as moralizing because he makes the prophetic claims about what is right in the world, mostly adhering to some backdrop of Christian ethics. He just said shit, and people ate it up. The thing was, he became famous enough from his writing that he had a considerable amount of clout at the time. People listened to him because they thought he was intelligent, which made him think that he could just say shit without justifying it.
In “The Kingdom of God is Within You”, he literally says that most Christians didn’t know what they were worshipping. Like, exCuSe mE. But, that’s just… I don’t even know. He makes equivalencies between promiscuity and immorality without justifying it, and he does so because he is so confident in his own world view that he views it as truth. His fetishization of peasant life creates this weird dynamic where he simultaneously thought peasants were virtuous but also thought they were stupid. Like, I’m sorry, Leo, but not everyone was born into an aristocratic family. This manz literally had slaves. His idealization of peasant life constitutes a fetishization of poverty.
Furthermore, for all Tolstoy talks about family values, he literally ran out on his wife and her 13 (read: THIRTEEN) children near the end of his life because he wanted to go be angsty in the woods like all of the other philosophers who ran out of the families to be angsty in the woods. Despite everything he claimed about virtue, Tolstoy did not follow his own ethics because his ability to abstract his thoughts allowed him to internalize contradictions to his own ethical framework using this intelligence that he overestimates. He exists in a state of exceptionalism because of his intelligence, and his overestimation of his own intellect allows him view all of his actions as moral because he is able to create a moral framework that would justify it and use a toxic argument scheme to justify it even when it’s in contradiction with his own life.
Here’s another fun fact: Tolstoy refuses to have sex with protection.
Boi was a Christian and beleived that condoms were murder.
Considering how Christian and against murder he was, this means:
Tolstoy never jacked off in his life.
Considering how angsty he was in his early life, I find this extremely. hard. to. believe.
Let’s move on to English.
English, allegedly, is all about studying subjectivities. But subjectivities is a post-Victorian idea, which makes it encompass very little of English literature actually about understanding perspective. Most of the English major is the study of pre-19th century literature. It is, after all, a very historically and canonically driven major. And, oh my God, it is only after I have finished the English major can I tell you how literally not diverse 19th century British literature is. Like, you would think there are only so many ways to create some shitty romance about some governess in the aristocracy, but no. There are so many ways. And it’s always about rich people.
If you think the American presidency is not diverse, try the English major curriculum outside of 20th century literature. Since I have completed the English major at this point, I have been exposed to quite a few English majors. And, sure, I find literature as a whole interesting, but I don’t really find English literature that interesting. Yet, in this not-very-diverse classroom, there is the constant study of the English “canon”, whatever that means.
So much of my education in English is being able to create these intricate theories about things I’m absolutely sure the author did not intend. For example, when I took a class on Victorian literature, I wrote this essay about how Jane and Mr. Rockafeller from Jane Eyre (or it might have been Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights) were a Victorian reinvention of the myth of Psyche and Cupid. I’m sure that Charlotte Bronte did not give a shit about Psyche and Cupid when she wrote Jane Eyre because she was busy getting romantically rejected by her teacher who was literally married. But, that’s what the major is: being able to extrapolate very obscure ideas in a way that is compelling from a completely abstract kind of way.
Sometimes, especially when I’m writing Marxist critique about something, I have to convince myself to get into another mode of thinking. I find Marxist critiques about culture and economics to be interesting, sure. There are some very valid criticisms out there. For the especially obscure shit, I find them interesting. However, I do not take them seriously.
I was exposed to this idea last semester: how corporations want us to have sex at home in order to be able to mollify class grievances and be more productive at work without rebellion, implicating sex as a mechanism of oppression, which invites the culture industry to sexualize media in order to appetize the population to have more sex and be better workers.
This is an interesting idea. It is an interesting idea. But there’s no way I would ever take that idea seriously.
Even as I wrote a five-page paper on it, there never was a point where I was actually convinced of my own argument. It’s so far-fetched from society that it depends on layers of abstraction to even exist. Similar to how I wrote my Jane Eyre essay tying together vague elements of literary theory through mythology, some PhD student probably wrote this idea in their thesis because they really needed something to write on an essay. The bottom line is that English is a major so far removed from reality that it values analysis as an ability to abstract literature and ideas so far from what they were intended to do in order to create some idea that is allegedly “deep”.
You can imagine how this translates into the English major. Oh my God, the softboys! It’s literally an epidemic. PSA: paraphrasing some obscure idea by Sartre after watching a School of Life video does not make you cool.
Like, shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up!
To a large extent, this attitude is developed by a couple of experiences. There was one girl I used to be really close to. She studied English, and at first, I thought her ideas were really interesting. She was able to create these complex frameworks that would apply topics in literature and philosophy to real life in a way that I never really thought about. And, for a long time, I really valued that in someone. I used to think that having a good understanding of literature was necessary for a well-rounded view of the world. But now, most of the time I think having a good understanding of literature usually just implies a high degree of being out of touch.
Somewhere down the line with her, I started to find some things off-putting. Like, she believed that reading self-help books was a sustainable means for class mobility. At first, I thought she was joking, but she was not joking. Slowly, as the friendship continued, I started to realize how out of touch with the world she was. Sure, she was able to offer very interesting insights on Walt Whitman, but she completely did not understand the student debt crisis in the US. When I attempted to explain that most students are incurring debt that they would not be able to pay off with the jobs they will get after they leave, she replied something along the lines of, “Why couldn’t they apply to more scholarships?”
So yeah, even though literally all of my friends are philosophy and English majors, I think the philosophy and English education are very dangerous in cultivating a self-aggrandizing attitude that excuses immoral behavior with a self-righteous equivalency between immorality and exceptionalism.