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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, January 11, 2014


When I use the term "might" in the formula "might makes ego," I use it not in the sense Kant (in translation) used the term, as a level of power that evokes the sublime. I am obliged to use it in the same way it's used in the famous aphorism, "might makes right," where "might" denotes any kind of energy, or what I have called "dynamicity." For this essay it should be understood that the word "might" denotes all three of the dynamicity-levels that I have worked out in earlier essays-- "basic strength," "might," and "dominance."

According to this Wikipedia entry the aphorism "might makes right" was first coined by an American "pacifist and abolitionist," Adin Ballou. The article also comments that Abraham Lincoln once reversed the formula, asserting that "right makes might." But Ballou's saying remains a touchstone for the sort of grievances Nietzsche would call "ressentiment." Such grievances, when politicized, lead to the assumption, mentioned in Part 1, that all entities that represent a disproportionate level of "might"-- as with the so-called "status quo"-- always deserves to be overthrown, and that to defend any of them is to prove oneself a reactionary.

While it is true that there are circumstances in which an entity of "greater might" subdues one of "lesser might," these circumstances obscure the greater reality: that everything we do, every act of self-determination we take, is an act of "might" in this generalized sense.  Dressing well for a job interview.   Driving to work.  Getting your car tuned up so that you can drive to work without an unhappy incident.  Writing essays for a blog.  All of these forms of "lesser might" are mundane and very un-spectacular. Nevertheless, one's (perceived) success in performing them builds one's ego, one's sense of self, while failing to perform them invalidates the ego.  This remains an exact parallel to success and failure in more spectacular undertakings.

It's easy to sling out a pat phrase like "might makes right" in order to make some critique of conservatism, the status quo, etc.  It's much more demanding to realize the extent to which the supposedly disproportionate forms of might-- the ones that are said to be curtailing the freedoms of those who possess only "lesser might"-- are not different in kind, only in degree.  In WATCHMEN, Rorschach is implicitly condemned for using his disproportionate physical toughness to intimidate others-- both those who are unquestionably guilty and those who are comparatively innocent of wrongdoing.  Yet his more mundane act of keeping a journal-- even though it is a journal filled with bilious ultra-conservative rants-- is an act of "lesser might" that will prevail over the "greater might" of Ozymandias.

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