This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Atrophy of the critical faculty

It has been observed that “there is no such thing as a collective critical faculty.” As “man as individual” slowly disintegrates, losing himself to “man as teeming throng,” the less the critical faculty will be able to operate in any way. This is precisely the reason that men lose themselves during riots. Since the critical faculty can only operate on an individual level, and because the passions once inflamed can only be checked by that very faculty, when men de-individuate within the herd and the reason is suppressed, there is nothing left to check the passions. Thus, the same passion, which might have inflicted minimal damage through a man in isolation, becomes violent and catastrophic when that same individual is immersed within the collective. It is not so much that he takes on the passions of others, as you might expect, but that his aptitude for moderation becomes paralyzed, and so he becomes helpless before his very own passions—and that is more than enough.

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