As a most appropriate literature for the period of the cornonavirus lockdown Dale Carnegie´s How to Win Friends and Influence People may come to mind. I have read it ten years ago or so, and now just read it again. Although written for another, and a positive purpose, together with the maximes of La Rochefoucauld it, inadvertently, is probably the bleakest and most uncanny literature around. It may serve as giving an answer to one of the most pressing questions in literature and in life in general: to the question about what is probably the most central motive behind man´s actions? As we know, there are many motives behind the actions of man, yet one would be curious to find out if there truly is a most central motive; and if that should be the case, what this central motive would be? Is it the desire to help starving children in Africa? Is it the desire to dive into an oceanic feeling of togetherness and connectedness between all man and all creatures and a transcendent experience of unity? Is it the obsessive desire to know what happens at the center of a black hole? – Not quite: according to both Dale Carnegie and Francois de La Rochefoucauld the human leitmotif is vanity. I.e. somthing that is unsophisticated, annoying and ridiculous. It is inherently neurotic and unelegant and a root cause for evil. It makes people (happily) fall prey to populists, demagogues, manipulative sociopaths and cult leaders. It is where the easy, transparent and crystal clear realm of philosophy ends and the dark and opaque and convoluted realm of psychology begins. It makes people unlogical and unreflected. As Carnegie notes, few people think logically. Most hold prejudices, are subjective, are led by opinionatedness, jealousy, suspiciousness, fear, envy and pride (as you can see, mostly negative qualities). People think unlogically not only because they are not good at thinking, but because of their egoism and their vanity that tries to convince themselves that they´re the bearers of truth. As far as I am concerned, qualities like vanity, jealousy, greed, hatred or hostility are alien to me, to a degree that I simply consider them as manifestations of a primitive psychology. I do not know how such things can arise in anyone and I cannot even communicate with such a psychology. I do not want to win their friendship and I do not want to influence it. If their pits should be bottomless, I will install an Apartheid regime against them. On p. 202 Dale Carnegie quotes La Rochefoucauld btw. Apart from that, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a book that greatly empowers the good in man and that everyone should have read. Dale Carnegie was a great humanist.
Happy ever after, although both the books of Dale Carnegie and Francois de La Rochefoucauld are very worthwhile reads, they are written for certain, and limited purposes, and as you reflect on them, you may find out that they are full of flaws, and every maxime of La Rochfoucauld can easily be disputed as well as it could be taken for granted. They are not fully to be taken seriously. I know this from myself (and, after all, making generalised statements upon the human realm is tricky per se). When I say something, it is also usually not to be taken completely seriously. The things I say are only to 93 percent meant to be serious, the rest is tongue-in-cheek and serves as leaving a room for doubt. If we assume that what is stated in the books of Dale Carnegie and Francois de La Rochefoucauld is only to 93 percent true, than the subjective overall conclusion about the true nature of man being his vanity is only to 93 percent true, reducing the truth of the original statements even further. That is sloppy maths, i.e. also not 100 percent true, etc. If we perform progressively such – sloppy as well as generous, yet, due to the flexibilty and influencability of man, justified – operations on the original assumption of vanity as the leitmotif of man, we can progressively diminish it and reduce it to a healthy degree inaswhich vanity would be reduced probably only to the degree of serving a legitimate purpose i.e. as a legitimate psychological self defense, and so could overcome endless seemigly unnecessary hardenings and conflicts between men as well as reaching a higher level of individual psychological gratification that is brought about by self-transparency, a lofty world could pop up and we could happily live ever after. The End.