Last modified on 26 November 2014, at 15:32

R. W. K. Paterson

Ronald William Keith Paterson (born September 20, 1933, in Arbroath, Scotland) served as a senior lecturer in philosophy in the department of adult education and the department of philosophy at University of Hull.

QuotesEdit

The Nihilistic Egoist: Max Stirner (1971)Edit

  • The works of Sartre and Heidegger abound in description of the multifarious ways in which men seek to lose themselves in the protective illusions of their society and their age. 'Man', says Heidegger, 'can lose himself to what he meets in the world and be taken over by it'. (Being and Time, 1.1.3.16) As men-in-community, cherishing common institutions, revering the time-honoured procedures of society, and reassured by the approved forms and rituals of our collective being, we manage to deceive ourselves into believing that this retreat into comforting anonymity is a positive assent to hallowed and objective realities. We refuse to accept the mysterious and dreadful fact of our own contingency, and instead pretend that our lives are governed by impersonal and autonomous power, human or divine, deriving their incontestable authority from history or from nature. According to Sartre, the whole human pretence that values exist ‘as transcendent givens independent of human subjectivity’ is what constitutes ‘the spirit of seriousness’, which ‘it must be the principal result of existential psychoanalysis to make us repudiate’. (Being and Nothingness, 1.2.3)
    • p. 177.
  • Far from settling his interests on a single, fixed and final object, the nihilistic egoist preserves himself in a constant state of flux and dissolution, perpetually reviewing and modifying the heterogeneous objectives which he provisionally sets for himself.
    • pp. 232-233.
  • A world in to whose settled meaning he [the egoist] had committed himself would be a world to which he had alienated himself. His self-possession would be at an end, for the world which he had begun by possessing would at last have come to possess him.
    • p. 234.
  • On the one hand, the [[existentialism|existentialist] seeks to remain true to his original vision of the meaninglessness and futility of everything, since this fundamental cosmic honesty must be the basis of any attempt to live authentically; on the other hand, his stark personal reality is that he finds himself unable to appropriate the truth of nihilism existentially, unable to affirm it as his personal truth, the truth within which he will henceforth live: and it is at this point that he clutches at the artifice of commitment, hoping to save himself from nihilistic despair by a desperate leap towards a faith that will restore purpose and meaning to his shattered world.
    • p. 238.
  • The refusal to make the truth of nihilism one’s own and build one’s life entirely within its shadow is indeed a refusal of existentialism itself.
    • p. 238.
  • As proprietor of his beliefs, the egoist never allows them to grow into ‘fixed ideas’: he never allows them to grow into sacrosanct dogmas, which he must not question or alter and of which he would therefore have become the prisoner.
    • p. 292.

Values, education and the adult (1979)Edit

R.W.K. Paterson (1979) Values, education and the adult.
  • They are supposed to be mature, and it is on this necessary supposition that their adulthood justifiably rests.
    • p. 13.
  • Education refers to no particular process; rather it encapsulates criteria to which any one of a family of processes must conform."
    • p. 14-15.

The New Patricians (1998)Edit

  • One of the most prevalent fallacies is the so-called genetic fallacy, which tempts men to argue that the first lowly origins of a thing demonstrate what it essentially is even in its most highly developed forms. Psychoanalysis and anthropologists have sometimes specialized in tracing the golden fruits to their grubby roots, and they have had some success in convincing the credulous that greatness is only triviality writ large. A kindred fallacy—which to state is to expose—teaches that the surest way of understanding a type is to inspect its poorest instances.
    • p. 2.
  • The direction in which to look for the patrician is always upwards. This is because his nature is to aspire, to rise always higher—not necessarily to rise above others but to rise above where he himself has been and above things as he finds them.
    • p. 2.
  • It is rare to find the ideal of the patrician standing alone, not joining hands, albeit unavoidably and sometimes most reluctantly, with the ideals of very different human types. Even Plato’s Guardians, who have had the vision of The Good, are presented first of all as ideals rulers of earthly men, although Plato will soon openly declare that the commonwealth of which they are master is ‘set up in the heavens for one who desires to see it, to found one in himself, and whether it exists or ever will exist is no matter, for this is the only commonwealth in who politics he can ever take part’.
    • p. 3.
  • The true patrician distinguishes always between what he has to concern himself with, from stark necessity or the dictates of duty, and what he (and everyone else) ought ideally to be concerning himself with, in the proper realm to which he rightly belongs.
    • pp. 3-4.
  • The patrician … can absolutely distinguish between ends, which are always and everywhere the same, and means, which we adopt only later to adapt, which we unhesitatingly alter and finally reject altogether when a more efficacious means presents itself, and which are thus of their nature expendable.
    • p. 4.
  • Let us now shrink from parodying Hegel, and state that for our patrician ‘the romantic is the real, the real the romantic’.
    • p. 5.
  • Political power, social prowess, monetary reward, mere physical well-being: towards these things he [the patrician] is indifferent, and perhaps contemptuous, for they have no part to play in a life well lived but can too readily become the food of souls starved of real meaning and achievement. No reasonable creature would waste a single hour of his life pursuing such things for their own sakes. When they figure in our attempts to see what shape our lives may take, they merely obstruct the view.
    • p. 5.
  • In a sense the plebeian has no history. He drudges, recruits his pathetic strength, and reproduces drudges. This is true whether the plebeian, man or woman, works in a field, factory, or office, … whether he continues his drudgery by tilling his meagre vegetable patch or decorating his suburban bungalow, and whether he takes his ease over a cock-fight, in a Victorian gin-palace, or somnolent before a colour television set in Wolverhampton. The fact that such activities and pastimes can be painstakingly recorded and taught as history does not mean that they are worthy of notice, except as warnings and admonitions.
    • p. 5.
  • The history of the plebeians’ ‘struggles’ … is largely a record of mankind’s struggle to obtain plebeian things. Better food and housing, better physical health, greater economic security— … none of this forms any part of real human living, but at most merely the means to real living, the inglorious subsoil, not meant to be seen, which we tolerate and accept as an unexciting necessity if worthwhile activities and modes of expression are to grow and blossom. … The patrician mind does not deny such necessities. What distinguishes the plebeian mentality is that it treats necessary things as if they were sufficient and treats means as if they were ends.
    • pp. 5-6.
  • Plebeians have in every period been treated as mere means, Their mute part is that of serfs, cannon-fodder, wage-slaves, ‘hands’, political tools as mobs or ‘votes’, economic puppets as potential consumers, purchasers, o borrowers. … The double irony is that those who have exploited and manipulated them have typically been no less plebeian of soul. … If their ends have been of the same kind as those of their victims or subjects their human reality has been the same. The greater scale off their activity makes not the slightest difference. Multiply zero by the greatest of numbers and the results is still zero.
    • p. 6.
  • For Marx the tragedy is that the wage worker does not consider the hours he spends ‘weaving, spinning, drilling, turning, building, shovelling, stone-breaking as an expression of his life, as life’. In other words Marx wants us to remain plebeians, only glorified plebeians, plebeians who glory in their status as plebeians, as producers of cloth, metal, and stones. We are to find ourselves, our true identity, not as consumers but as producers. We are indeed to find dignity in our ‘personal worth’ not just in our ‘exchange value’, but our personal worth is held to consist in moving bits of earth from one place to another or altering them in shape or composition. We are to take pride in our dirty hands. If the condemnation of Benthamism is that it preaches the gospel of the satisfied customer, … the condemnation of Marxism is that it teaches the doctrine of the self-satisfied workman.
    • p. 7.
  • Our ridicule and disgust are in the end aimed at some unavowed part of our own selves.
    • p. 8.
  • We want to know not merely what men have been, even the best men of their day, but what men can and ought to be.
    • p. 9.
  • Men are admittedly social beings, language-using beings, tool-using beings, and so on. However, any serious philosophical anthropology has to recognize that first and foremost we are evaluating beings.
    • p. 9.
  • Endurance means that failures have to be both accepted and refused: accepted as a sign that fresh efforts now need to be made, and refused as a signal that we may now desist from effort altogether. … Courage means that the external risks and adversities we face (as distinct from or own moral and spiritual failures) are to be assessed at their true importance: that is, for the patrician, as being in themselves of no importance, as objects not of fear but of disdain.
  • (describing the two aspects of resoluteness), p. 11.
  • The fundamental optimism which is an element of all true nobility … is obviously related to courage since it refuses to be discouraged in the face of what sometimes seems overwhelming evidence.
    • p. 11.
  • Optimism draws its strength from what it perceives as the underlying themes of human life rather than from the incidental if frequent and hateful discords of particular notes—from the depth and persistence of dreams compared with the sheer meaninglessness of the miscellaneous evils which may mark our daily experience.
    • p. 11.
  • The patrician is recognizable by his passionate idealism. … The material content of our experiences and achievements has value for him only to the extent that it enshrines symbols of beauty and grandeur. He judges events and actions less by their material and social efficacy than by the qualities of mind and character to which they bear witness, because this is where he holds that their truth is to be found, in the romantic kingdom of irrevocable moral fidelities rather than in the calculating republic of material probabilities.
    • pp. 11-12.
  • Dear, very dear, to himself, he [the plebeian] would be hard put to say anything about this self which would explain why he, or anyone, should hold it dear, since he never does, says or thinks anything which might distinguish him from the millions of his fellow plebeians, whom he spends his life imitating and who in turn are spending their lives imitating one another. What he wants is for others to lead his life for him. Avoiding every occasion on which the finger of responsibility might point to him, he seeks what Kierkegaard calls ‘the most ruinous evasion of all … to be hidden in the crowd’.
    • p. 12.
  • The plebeian … will return [after a traumatic event] to his life of transient surface meanings, still deaf and blind to the deeper symbolisms with which his experience is fraught and to everything that does not thrust itself peremptorily upon his material senses.
    • p. 13.
  • The plebeian … absorbs himself in tasks, whether pleasant or tedious, and in the procedures, complicated or simple, needed to carry out these tasks, and he thinks of himself as busy, as usefully occupied. He tries not to think about the end purposes of his activities, where they are supposed to be ultimately leading him to, for he dimly surmises that they are leading him nowhere.
    • p. 13.
  • We need constantly to compare our evaluation of the patrician character with the portraits of him painted by others who have tried to show us how a patrician distinctively comports himself and especially, from within, what distinctive manner of consciousness he evinces; for it is in the analyses of philosophers, the parables of religious teachers, the perceptions of poets, novelists and dramatists, and indeed often in the songs and symphonies of musicians, that he can be made to arise and speak to us and can assure us that the concepts of nobility we have formed do full justice to the reality. And when we have found his speaking likeness, he will surely not fail to address us, reminding us of a world which we had half forgotten and in the existence of which, perhaps, we had almost come to disbelieve.
    • p. 15.
  • It is not difficult for a man to make a series of true statements, all unimpeachably correct, and yet to be hopelessly wrong. This is not just because there are nearly always many other facts, which he has not chosen to state, which would fill out and could utterly transform the description of reality he is trying to foist upon us. If our perceptions of reality depend on facts, they also depend on our values, for these determine not only how we see the facts but also which facts we shall see. To an embittered man, for example, nearly everything will taste bitter, but this is both because he infects each new experience with his own bitterness and also because he consistently reaches out, with uncannily sure instinct, for those types of experience which will give him fresh cause for embitterment.
    • p. 16.
  • The version of reality a man adopts will depend largely on his values.
    • p. 17.
  • The version of reality a man adopts will depend largely on his values. … It is therefore possible for a learned man, who has conscientiously acquired a vast, carefully organized, and scrupulously representative mass of historical, sociological, and psychological knowledge, to be nevertheless disastrously wrong about its human meaning.
    • p. 17.
  • It is possible to expose cowardly and degenerate hypocrisy in the name of true heroism and purity of spirit. But it is also possible to spatter mud on genuine heroes out of hatred for heroism.
    • pp. 18-19.
  • His [the plebeian’s] aim is not to teach, to correct error, but to disturb, to unsettle, to sow disillusioning seeds in the hope of spreading disillusionment as a rooted attitude of mind.
    • p. 19.
  • Although he [the plebeian] cannot deny that selfless courage and unswerving rectitude—indeed all the qualities of the patrician—exist as dreams in men’s minds, his mission is to destroy any belief that they have ever influenced, or ever could influence, the motive, character, and conduct of actual men and women. Whenever such ideals are put before us, he wants us to react to them as simply unbelievable.
    • p. 19.
  • Here, then, we are being given a glimpse of one version of reality. According to this version heroism is an illusion. … The qualities of the patrician are fool’s gold, and a reasonable human being, a clear-sighted realist, will seek what is attainable—what other realistic people have already attained and are enjoying—physical security and comfort, social esteem, a changing variety of dependable pleasures, and the money or status which will ensure that all of these remain with reach.
    • p. 19.
  • The version of reality [of the plebeian] is odiously wrong, because it reeks of disbelief in anything which cannot be construed as intrinsically base or shabby. … Even if Gordon had been all that legend has made him, the only effect this would have would be to make his critic less bland and more venomous in his unshakeable hostility.
    • p. 19.
  • The question of whether an ideal has frequently, or ever, been acted upon by men is totally irrelevant. The only relevant question is whether a proposed ideal is one which ought to be acted upon, one which legitimately claims a place in our souls, whether or not we do in fact admit it into our souls and try to live up to it. Justice is not metamorphosed into injustice because there are men who habitually act unjustly. A moral claim, if authentic, does not lapse merely because it is denied, however widely and flagrantly. On the contrary, the very nature of a value implies the possibility that men may fail to comply with it, since a ‘value’ which had legitimacy only if men accepted it but was automatically nullified whenever rejected it could not properly be said to constitute a value at all, that is, something which distinctively seeks to guide and direct our motives and conduct and not just passively reflect what we are already doing or have decided to do. The nature of values is to command or entreat us, to alter and redress our character, not just superfluously to describe it as it already anyway is.
    • pp. 19-20.
  • Far from invalidating the ideal, the fact that men’s behaviours is in opposition to it invalidates their behaviour. We measure the cloth by the yardstick, not the yardstick by the cloth.
    • p. 20.
  • Ideals are not summaries of the empirical facts about human personality and behaviour: they are the standards by reference to which we pass judgment on the facts. Since ideals are not empirical generalizations, to cite counterinstances, however plentiful, would merely be to betray one’s total failure to understand the nature of the subject-matter under discussion.
    • p. 20.
  • When those around us perceive the world as if it were a narrow and humdrum shopping precinct, in which the best life possible consists in avoiding all risk and striking bargain after bargain in order to multiply and spin out a succession of manageable pleasures, all else being folly, we can easily come to doubt any version of reality in which there is space for grandeur.
    • p. 22.
  • Ultimately, instead of inspecting life to see what we can find to suit us, we inspect ourselves to see what we can find that fits us to receive the standardized packages in which our life-experience is going to arrive.
    • p. 27.
  • The plebeian asks himself, ‘What type of person am I?’, and he seeks the answer by comparing the self he believes he is with the norms enshrined in the manufactured packages on public offer.
    • p. 27.
  • If we live in a plebeianized world, it is because so many human beings have busied themselves making a world fir only for plebeians to live in.
    • p. 31.
  • When we entrust the domain of values to those whose intellectual concerns are essentially centred on empirical facts, and whose conceptual frameworks are inevitably constructed around sets of empirical facts, we need not be surprised if the result is moral confusion.
    • p. 31.
  • Sociologists, economists, and anthropologists, who notoriously decline to distinguish between the value judgements men make and the moral realities about which men make these judgments, are occupationally prone to treat all value judgements, however sharply opposed, as if they were of equal merit.
    • p. 31-32.
  • When writers with the reputation of intelligent and perceptive critics of human life teach us, day in and day out, that vileness is distinguishable from decency only in respect of being less hypocritical , … it is small wonder that ordinary people come to disbelieve in any objective principles by appeal to which one form of conduct can be regarded as morally better than another.
    • p. 34.
  • The common result is … that the common man comes to feel vindicated in his commonness, and jeeringly turns his back on everything he apprehends as a summons to lift himself up to more challenging levels of personality.
    • p. 34.
  • Literature and drama, which ought to breathe life into our imaginings and stir us into a sense of unlimited possibilities, instead manage to convince us that all doors are closed and that in the end nothing is worth the effort. Instead of creating passion out of luminous vision, out of bewilderment they manufacture apathy.
    • p. 34.
  • … the plebeian tendency to become engrossed with the means and to avert one’s eyes from the end
    • p. 35.
  • For many years the best minds in moral philosophy have been less concerned with the content of morality than with its form, less with the actual truth of our many value judgements than with their logical standing.
    • p. 40.
  • Sceptics often make much of the alleged mysteriousness of values—by which, however, they mean little more than that they are claimed to be essentially different from all classes of physical objects and properties, mental states and properties, historical facts, mathematical theorems, scientific concepts, or whatever. In other words, their objection is simply that values are claimed to be of their nature different everything which is not of its nature a value.
    • p. 41.
  • The less familiar and more complex something is, the less we can rely on our immediate feelings, and the greater the risk of error in our ultimate moral judgements. … But equally the more remote or unusual some physical event, the less we can rely on our unaided senses. … The arguments which supposedly show that values are in some vitiating sense ‘subjective’ would also show that the physical world itself is essentially subjective.
    • p. 42.
  • Talk of the sublime, the exalted, the eternal, the passionate, of glory, challenge, or majesty fills some of us with bewilderment, discomfort, and embarrassment; others with sour resentment or scornful disbelief. To reinstate such values seems to us like trying to reinstate Ptolemaic astronomy—equally misguided, incomprehensible, and inimical to our perceived interests.
    • p. 45.
  • The consciousness of the patrician remains open to the symbolisms which surround him. He believes that they may be rungs on a ladder of being which he can ascend. … He has the courage to dwell in their midst and thus to form his life by reference to dimensions of significance which transcend his narrow mundane interests as a physical organism.
    • p. 56.
  • The situations we encounter in life can be subjected to the scrutiny of what we might call our administrative consciousness, which deals with those aspects of our existence which are overt, palpable, manageable by the well-tried techniques of our practical intelligence, and nearly always trivial when judged as elements in our ultimate well-being. Or they can be subjected to the more searching scrutiny of our fuller and more intense consciousness, which recognizes that … the data of sense for the most part function as cues soliciting our creative contribution as agents who schematize, conceptualize, and evaluate everything that lies before us; that we build our freshly given materials into a definite meaningful panorama by enfolding them within other, richer materials drawn from the many reservoirs of memory and structured by our ceaselessly effectual imagination; and that this whole creative activity can terminate either in a turning towards those experiences and images which symbolize possibilities of truer fulfilment at the cost of greater challenge, effort, and risk, or a turning away from these to seek refuge in the narrower but safer confines of standardized external meaning from which every reminder of existential depth and personal trial has been carefully pruned.
    • p. 56.
  • Self-distrustful and suspicious of life, the plebeian is nevertheless not wholly deaf to the fancies which rap and knock at his soul, though he forbids them entry. Focusing on what he regards as hard practical matters—his income, work, health, social position, housing, and the extent and security of his physical possessions—he nevertheless dimly feels that he has been cheated of something he cannot precisely define because it springs from values—sacrifice, endurance, commitment, responsibility, faith, a cleaving unto what is truly good and beautiful—which disturb him by the very magnitude of the horizons they unroll, and in which, fearfully, he cannot bring himself to believe. They demand from him a reversal in the whole course on which he has set his life, and it is safer and easier for him to thrust these ambiguous and uncertain promises and challenges into the far off limbo of his paraconscious, into the studiously forgotten regions of his self where they will not perpetually remind him of how little he has in fact gained and how much he may have lost. Yet here they are, and too often emerge as unwelcome visitants, for example when he reads of or perhaps actually meets some other human being who has surrendered material security for a life spent in the pursuit of knowledge, artistic creation, or adventure.
    • pp. 56-57.
  • There are two kinds of danger awaiting the individual who stakes his life on the conviction that the symbols of romance and grandeur which summon him express ultimate realities wherein he can truly find himself. It may be that our dreams are no more than the pathetic illusions of creatures who are driven by various biological, psychological, and social causes to deceive themselves about their actual status in the scheme of things, and therefore that the patrician’s commitments to ideals of glory and majesty are no better than empty posturings. He may be relinquishing this world’s goals for pathways which lead nowhere. Yet even if this were so, he could still give the reply made by Pascal in recommending his Wager: ‘if you lose, you lose nothing’; for the patrician has already judged that worldly pleasure and profit, if devoid of all higher significance, are not worth having.
    • p. 57.
  • There are hells into which we can fall, as well as heavens to which we can climb, when we take with absolute seriousness the invitations and avowals which are wafted to us across the paraconscious. And so the plebeian of soul, fearing what may befall him if he hearkens too closely, stops his ears to these siren enchanters calling through the mist. He might hear heavenly music, but he might be summoned to his death. Neither does Ulysses desire destruction, and he takes steps to guard against the entire bewitchment of his intelligence by the magic voices which are singing their song to him. We must preserve our critical faculties when we listen to the call of our dreams.
    • pp. 57-58.
  • The patrician … has the courage to listen to and retain whatever may be glorious in the ambiguous revelations that are being offered to him; he is resolved to miss nothing, to plumb every depth and scale every height, in the pilgrimage of his consciousness.
    • p. 58.
  • We cannot find out what a home is by looking at actual instances of homes, since we cannot even begin to pick these out as putatively instances of ‘homes’ unless we have somewhere in our minds an idea of what a ‘home’ is truly supposed to be. We can only recognize the false if we can compare it mentally with the true. Thus the average home cannot possibly be taken as a standard measure of what a home should be.
    • p. 59.
  • There are individuals … who propagate lessons inviting self-abasement, bitterness, self-waste, and cynicism; there are those who high pride, like that of Lucifer, is to dethrone everything they perceive as superior and summoning men to what lies above them.
    • p. 63.
  • There are individuals who are haunted by self-doubt, whose attitude to life is negative and distrustful, or who exist in a state of confusion about what they are and what they can become. … Unlike physical deprivation or obvious social injustice, evils like these strike at the very roots of human life. When men can no longer picture themselves as worthy of existing, it scarcely matters whether they have the means of existing.
    • p. 63.
  • Artist, philosopher, lover, mystic—these words name levels of consciousness which are accessible to all of us. It is not a question of training, education, or degree of sophistication. It is rather a question of openness, of courage and endeavour, of willingness to dwell elsewhere than in the midst of demeaning preoccupations with material fortune, status, and power.
    • pp. 73-74.
  • It is nether fortune, status, nor power, nor even intellect, which marks out the Patrician, but intensity of consciousness and the resolve to pursue only what is truly worth pursuing.
    • p. 74.
  • Rebellion is a way of being alive. A consciousness of evil, needful to be combated … is one of our most vivid forms of consciousness. If evil did not exist we should have to invent it, as indeed we do in works of the imagination. … A man who had never rebelled would be a man who did not know what it was to be alive.
    • p. 140.
  • The true rebel … may incidentally lend his support to this or that finitely realizable cause, but his unique vocation is to keep the rebellious consciousness alive. In his eyes the crucial feature of any cause is the degree to which it fosters the spirit of private defiance.
    • p. 141.
  • Success necessarily emasculates the spirit of rebellion. From the point of view of the true rebel the noblest cause is a lost cause.
    • p. 141.

About R. W. K. PatersonEdit

  • Scholars and philosophers frequently place additional limits to the definition [of education]. Paterson (1979) for example observes that education is clearly the concept of some kind of positive activity. It is an activity because it is perceived to be the kind of things that does not just happen to a person.
    • Huey B. Long (1987) New Perspectives On The Education Of Adults In The United States. Preface.