Could This Be It?

I think I am finally beginning to understand why so many people have been drawn to Donald Trump, and it is not all about the economy. It has baffled me and I have worked through several possibilities, because I do think it important to know why so many people are willing to follow someone who is obviously a seriously flawed personality. Accordingly, I have enlisted the help of an unlikely source, Arthur Schopenhauer, a nineteenth century philosopher whose book The World As Will And Idea influenced, among others, Joseph Conrad and Sigmund Freud.

Schopenhauer is convinced that the will is the fundamental feature of the human animal, indeed of all animals. As he says in this regard:

“Rather it [the Will] retains everywhere its identical nature and shows itself in the form of great attachment to life, care for the individual of the species, egoism, and regardlessness of all others, together with the emotions that spring from these. Even in the smallest insect the will is present, complete and entire; it wills what it wills as decidedly and completely as a man. The difference lies merely in what it wills, i.e., the motives, which, however, are the affair of the intellect.”

The intellect seeks to control will (which is primary) and sits, according to Schopenhauer, like a lame man on the shoulders of a strong blind man whose direction the lame man seeks to point out — with differing degrees of success. The success of the lame man’s direction depends in large measure on education. As Schopenhauer tells us:

“Knowing. . . has multifarious functions, and never takes place without effort, which is required to fix the attention and make clear the object, and at a higher stage is certainly needed for thinking and deliberation; therefore it is also capable of great improvement through exercise and education.”

It follows from this that if a person fails to educate the intellect he is willful but blind.  He becomes, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “all body and no mind” (referencing Kings). It’s not so much that he will not think; he cannot think. There is clinical evidence in this regard that kids who play with electronic toys these days lose the ability to grasp a hypothetical sentence, among other things: they simply don’t see the connections. Seeing logical connections is central to analysis and synthesis, the basic elements in human thought.

And this is where we can begin to understand the success of a man like Donald Trump who is all will and weak intellect. His minions sense their kinship with this man and they ignore completely the warnings of those who know better, because they cannot grasp what the critics are pointing out; moreover, they fear and suspect anyone who is unlike themselves, especially those who use their minds and can grasp such fundamental distinctions as that between truth and falsity. Those distinctions do not exist for those who are simply the embodiment of pure will. Thus, Trump’s cavalier dismissal of “educated people.”

This may sound harsh and even a little bit self-serving. But consider the strange fascination this man holds for thousands. And consider how easily they dismiss the claims that the man is untrustworthy and a liar — since for them truth is defined by the will, it is whatever the will is drawn to instinctively. Thus, this man appears to them to be “honest,” in that his emotions are on the surface and available to all: he is embodied will.  Observations about the man’s shortcomings do not translate into words that can be comprehended by those who share those same shortcomings.

I have said all along that Trump’s success is an indictment of our educational system, but this goes even deeper. It goes to the fact that thousands of people in this country not only lack an education (and I am not speaking about schooling), but also have felt themselves excluded from the table of those whose reason directs them to goals the uneducated  simply cannot possibly be expected to understand, much less achieve.

Schopenhauer seems to be describing perfectly the man who is our president-elect:

“. . . we find in many men a strong, i.e., decided, resolute, persistent, unbending, wayward, and vehement will, combined with a very weak and incapable understanding, so that every one who has to do with them is thrown into despair, for their will remains inaccessible to all reason and ideas, and is not to be got at, so that it is hidden, as it were, in a sack, out of which it wills blindly.”

Those who “have to do with him” are those who would offer the man advice, not his mindless minions who also follow him (from a distance) “blindly.” We are talking about two distinct types of humans here, though this may sound harsh. There are those who have developed intellect to varying degrees, depending on “experience and education.” And there are those who are more or less the embodiment of will, undirected and filled with anger, hatred, and fear — the emotions that help define will for Schopenhauer. The two types are almost certainly incapable of fully understanding or communicating with one another: reasoning is lost on those with diminished  intellect,  just as those who can reason find it incomprehensible that so many could follow a man like Donald Trump.

Now, to be sure, this analysis leans heavily on the authority of a nineteenth century philosopher whom very few have read or even heard of. But if we take his deliberations as  a starting point we can begin to form a hypothesis that helps us to grasp the nature of human nature and the manifold differences there are among us all — and the fact that a great many people in this country do indeed follow blindly one of their kind who seems to them to be offering them hope and direction.

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19 thoughts on “Could This Be It?

  1. Perhaps we have not heard of Arthur Schopenhauer, but we can thank people like you who find sensitive ways to broaden our knowledge and perhaps help us in our own personal growth – if we are wise enough to listen! Thanks, Hugh..

      • You gave me a great chuckle, Hugh! Humbling, as well this morning as I try to reconciile the swirl of visuals here at the earthquake zone with the kindness of the locals… Many have so little, yet they are such great and humble people. Several posts are incubating…

  2. Hugh, nicely done. What resonates most with me are these two sentences.

    “And consider how easily they dismiss the claims that the man is untrustworthy and a liar — since for them truth is defined by the will, it is whatever the will is drawn to instinctively. Thus, this man appears to them to be ‘honest,’ …”

    We should not overlook his greatest skill and that is of marketing and merchandising himself. As a good marketer, he honed in on a large cadre of people who feel threatened by several factors, and boiled it down that he knew the solutions and said them simply in terms people could understand. Irrespective of whether he misdiagnosed the problems, he was speaking to their fears, which the “will” must address.

    The sad story that they do not realize yet, he has spent a career falsely promising things and exploiting people. The Scottish movie “You’ve been Trumped,” captures just one example of how he overpromised and vastly underdelivered to people. The Trump University class action suits that he settled for $25 million are yet another. But, these are only isolated examples from many.

    He uniquely conveys that he is the solver of all problems, even though his track record is spotty with multiple bankruptcies and business failures and 4,000 lawsuits. And, it is important that he portray wealth and power to be able to get things done. The Trump airplane is a prop in this regard. The Apprentice is another prop.

    So, if “will’ tells people that they have to address their fears first, then to me they can be drawn to a con artist who is very good at hiding that your best interests are secondary to his.

    This was excellent reading, Keith

    • Thanks, Keith. What worries me is that communication appears to be impossible between the two “types” of humans. They simply play by different linguistic rules and have totally different mind-sets.

  3. Yes, communication does seem to be impossible. I found out I was dating someone like this, and it was a shock. After calm explanations and conversations, there was still a staunch resistance in his voice and reasoning to actually see or understand where I was coming from. It was strange. And ultimately enlightening for me.

    This is a long comment but I felt compelled to share because your post resonated with me, as do a lot of your other writings. I was recently researching the art of the upper Paleolithic period and it led me to the different consciousness structures of Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal man. I think when some people hear the word Neanderthal, they think of a plodding, dim-witted idiot, but this was not the case. I think the general consensus now is that the stigma around Neanderthal should be lifted as he was, in fact, an intelligent being.

    But Neanderthal humans did not have the ability to imagine or create (and probably grasp other concepts) as Cro-Magnon did. Neanderthal could follow a set of instructions to make a tool, but most could not make art, etc. Anyway, I should probably write a post about it. I need to finish reading and gather more facts though… we’ll see.

    • Terrific comment, Jessica. Many thanks. And I hope you do write that post! I do think we have a large gap between the two “types” I described and that communication will become more and more difficult — like trying to fully understand a person who has been raised in another culture from ours (and vice versa).

  4. This is arguably the best explanation I have heard regarding the ‘reasoning’, if one can call it that, of the lemmings. Far better than my own explanation, that they traded their brains for a box of Cracker Jacks. 🙂 Seriously, though … good points and a good post. Some great thinking points, though I’m fairly certain those who need to read, understand and ponder these points will not be able to do so.

  5. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Blogger-buddy Hugh Curtler is a deep thinker … we need more like him … and I know that he has been pondering for quite some time now the burning question that many of us ask: How could so many people have voted for a candidate so flawed, so unqualified, so unprepared, and one with a proven track record of narcissism, debauchery, cheating and lying, to name a few. Hugh has drawn a conclusion that makes as much sense as any, more than most, and I wanted to share this today. So, thank you Hugh for the implied permission (I didn’t ask, but you always say ‘yes’) to share your words and thoughts with my readers. I hope you will all take a few minutes to read this post … it is truly food for thought!

  6. Definitely have heard of him! 😉 And yes, very interesting theory. If you know Schopenhauer, have you maybe also heard of Karl Kraus – not so much a philosopher as a very harsh critic of media/journalism and language? I don’t know if the English translatioan are any good, but what he wrote about the start of World War I and the things going on in people’s minds is very interesting!

  7. You may have Reversed the very meaning of your Intellectual Source here, Professor. It may well be that the Meaning is that: mankind has FORGOT intuition and natural sense, abandoning it for Science and for Reason, become confounded by the Rational Persuasion of objective mentation to abandon their former Self: intuitive, instinctual, punctual and direct (unreflective?) genius. Nature’s Genius. Of course: it’s the Style of modern man to abjure any allegiance to these Dynamics, like the Greeks who conquered the Pelasgian Civilization…forgetting Jason and Medea. Sooo may Books of Vision lost, because they these ‘books’ were monitzed by the conqueror, and exotericized by the vanquished. Haunting wisdom comes home to roost, these days, methinks.

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