This excerpt from Stephen Vizinczey’s The Rules of Chaos provides a pointed reminder about discerning false assumptions, delusions, and general stupidity in others. If such discernment does little more than make us feel good about our own intelligence, then we have not penetrated deeply enough into the genuine point of recognizing false assumptions. I'm not sure about this being the only point, but it is a big one.
We often interpret our discernment of false assumptions and stupidity in others as confirmation of our own sagacity and wisdom when we ought to use such moments of clarity, understanding, and acuity to determine what they might contribute to revealing about our own lingering false assumptions, delusions, and stupidity – and then learning from this and taking responsibility for this learning.
Indeed, the ability to learn from the follies of others to recognize one’s own is another vital element of intelligence. Without this ability, one cannot hope to become as bright as one’s capacities would otherwise allow. The difficulty is that most of us tend to assume that seeing through someone else’s stupidity is proof of our own wisdom.
Vizinczey was an avowed atheist of the “could no longer bring himself to follow the hypocrisy of organized religion” variety. Rather than explore the possibility of believing in God beyond the context of churches and organized religion, Vizinczey chose the well-trodden path of the mid-to-late twentieth-century freethinking artist/intellectual. His motivations for doing so are likely complex, but I suppose they come down to simply going with the twentieth-century flow of secularization and despiritualization in the West.
Vizinczey offers some interesting points and insights, and I consider him an intelligent, albeit limited, writer. His motivations are often blurred, yet I believe he was essentially writing and thinking from a “good place,” or at least as good a place he could occupy given his materialism.
Having said that, I firmly believe that his metaphysical assumptions are false. The trick now is avoiding feelings of superiority and figuring out what this discernment may reveal about my metaphysical assumptions.
Lately, I have been doing the same with nearly all the nineteenth and twentieth-century writers and thinkers I have read or encountered, to say nothing of the endless parade of civilizational delusions we have all endured since 2020.