An Aphorism

The only way to beat the system is to master the system; but as you master the system, the system masters you.


Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Arvind Iyer

    The only way to beat the system is to master the system; but as you master the system, another system can master you.
    Single-minded obsession over beating a system can result in unprincipled coalitions which may then ossify into the establishment. Iran 1979 and perhaps Tahrir too are somewhat recent instances.

  • mikespeir

    Oooh! There some deepth there. Sadly, some truth, too.

  • Elemenope

    Users of a system who are interested in mastering it must mold themselves to effectively and efficiently interface with that system; this means accepting its assumptions and internalizing its algorithms. The new shape that you take on in doing so is distinct from the shape you were in when you entered. Just as your brain extends your internal spatial concept of a body to include the screwdriver or hammer in your hand, so does your conceptual map to more abstract tools and techniques. Systems have a tendency to have ontological inertia, so a human that has perfectly molded themselves to use one will have probably assimilated also the assumption of the necessity of the perpetuation of that system; defeating it and cutting it loose would make as much sense to that person as choosing to amputate a healthy limb.

  • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    Sounds like you’re channeling the Sphinx.

  • Makoto

    I’d say understanding the system can still leave you disgusted with the system. Feeling wrong while making use of the system is perfectly understandable.

    If you master the use of the system, but still remind yourself of the problems with the system, you can feel terrible while making use of the rules. But you’ll still end up driving for a new system overall, I think.

  • (e)m

    Do you think that the system hasn’t already mastered you before you are even aware that the system is in place?

  • Richard Wade

    Don’t try to beat the system, bait the system. But when you become the master of the system you bait, the system master baits you.

  • Michael

    Fuck the system!

  • Chris

    The system does not master you if you’ve got a proper sense of irony and a little imagination.