About this Collection

I’ve decided to write-up a little biography for this collection of articles. The subject matter is the Philosophy of the Romantic – and this will take some explaining.  First off, what is philosophy?

Once upon a time some long forgotten man was having troubles in his life so he went to the wise man to ask advice.  He says, “What must I do to be happy?”  The wise man’s answer to this question was the birth of philosophy, so in a sense, philosophy is what today we would call self-help.
Before the wise man could answer this question he had to determine a context for the question and this led to the first two branches of Philosophy.  The first is Metaphysics which asks, “What is Reality?”  No matter your answer to this question, it spawns another question.  “How do you know this?”  That is the second branch of Philosophy called Epistemology, or “What is knowledge?”  Together, Metaphysics and Epistemology pose the question, “What is Truth?”  When we have an answer then we have a context for the question, “What must I do to be happy?”
The man’s question can be rephrased as “What actions must I take to flourish as a human being?”  This then is the third branch of Philosophy called Ethics and concerns itself with right action.  Since human beings are group animals we have to ask also, “What must we do to be happy as a society?”  This is the fourth branch called Politics.
Collectively the answers to all these questions are represented by human creation.  It’s in our art, our music, the stories we tell, and even the clothes that we wear.  This is the fifth and final branch which is called Aesthetics.
What makes philosophy important is that it is the driving force of our lives.  However you have consciously or unconsciously answered its questions guides you through life in all its joys, relationships, hardships, and conflicts. Your philosophy makes you who you are whether we choose to call it a philosophy, or a belief, or a feeling, or a religion it’s all the same thing.  People have their unique philosophies as do societies, and cultures.  It does not have to be codified in the writings of philosophers past or in holy scriptures to be a philosophy.  As thinking human beings we are all philosophers.
This does not mean that every answer to these questions is true or that every philosophy has been thought through or has merit.  Most are just a hodgepodge of ideas all mixed-up in the psyche, but this does not stop people from arguing, fighting, and even murdering or going to war in the name of their answers to these questions; all of which stem from one question.  What must I do to be happy?
This leads to the next point.  What is Romantic?  Academics have been arguing that question for centuries.  There is a philosophical school called Romanticism, but that is not what I am talking about here, so put it out of your mind so that I can freely use the word Romanticism without you thinking I mean that.  Rather than go into the debate and the cause for the confusion about the Romantic, please allow me to just give my perspective.
One of the things that makes human beings unique is that we are group animals who work best together and at the same time we all possesses a single and unique consciousness.  So we are neither hive minded ants or solitary tigers.  For most of human history people have been primarily group animals subjugating their individual consciousness to the group.  Some anthropologists go so far as to say that the concept of self is not only a recent development but also non-existent among modern primitive tribes.
In Europe as civilization emerged from the Dark Ages more opportunities arose for individualism to thrive.  There are many reasons for this.  Depopulation due to the Black Death made human life rarer and therefore more valuable, thus leading to the end of feudalism.  The Protestant Reformation called the Church into question.  The rise of republican politics changed the political landscape and the birth of Capitalism improved the individual’s living conditions.
Various scholars mark different dates for the Romantic Era in Western Civilization.  I mark 1776 until 1929.  It begins with the Declaration of Independence, the publication of The Wealth of Nations, and the first commercial steam engine going into operation.  All these factors, Classical Liberal politics, Capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution served to empower and drive individualism which I see as being at the core of the Romantic.  The era ends with the collapse of the stock market that ushered in a new era where people gradually became more dependent on the state than the individual with the pendulum swinging back towards social collectivism rather than individual freedom.
The early Romantic philosophers, artists, and writers did not identify Romanticism so there has never really ever been a widely accepted definition of the Romantic.  There was always just a list of features: a positive view of humanity as being basically good, emphasis on strong emotion, love of nature, individualism, and the value of the human imagination. 
Here’s where I make the distinction between the Romantic Era and the Romantic Movement.  The Romantic Era is more of a cultural phenomenon identified by the zeitgeist, or Spirit of the Age, for that period in history during which the values expressed by the artistic Romantic Movement were taken to heart by the majority of people.
The characteristics associated with the Romantic Movement can be reduced to a singular philosophical concept: the individual is paramount over society.  The philosophical ramifications of this concept are far reaching and complex.  This is why I do not take the old Romantics as gospel.  I think they had the right ideas, but those ideas had to be tested in practice.  Some ideas succeeded and others failed.  From this we can devise essential principles that comprise the Philosophy of the Romantic.
This collection of articles is born of a lifetime of trying to understand the Romantic, though I did not always call it that.  I believe that is part of the problem.  I realised that there are many young people who, like me, are born Romantics, but they have no guidance.  There is no one telling them that what they feel to be true is valid and they often find themselves at odds with society.
Think of it this way.  If a group of individualists go out for a dinner together they all pay for their own meals.  There may be some confusion dividing the check and determining who had what, but all is well in the end.  If a group of collectivists go out for dinner, they look at the total for the bill, divide it by the number of people eating, and everyone is happy.  However, if there is an individualist, a Romantic, among the collectivist diners, then he starts wondering why he has to pay for someone else’s steak when he was watching his pennies and only ordered the soup.  Since he won’t chip-in like everyone else, well he just does not want to pay his share.  He is seen as being selfish, and yes, evil.
One defining characteristic of the Romantic is their passion.  Think of passion as a powerful emotional state of high-interest.  This can express itself as obsession, anger, or a complete disregard for others.  Whatever the object of his passion is his singular focus and this can often rub people the wrong way.  So historically the Romantic has been seen as evil because he will not always play by the rules of society or even recognise the authorities that others recognise as absolute.  He is a fierce individualist.
This collection is called “The Evil Thoughts of a Decadent Mind” for a few reasons.  The first has to do with the Romantic associations with evil.  The second is a reference to the Decadent Movement.  I divide the Romantic Era into three sections based on the major artistic movements of the era.   The first was the Gothic, followed by the Romantic, and finally the Decadent, the age of Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, and fin de siècle Paris.  Likewise, the poster from the Chat Noir is a reference to this period. 
The tagline, “When virtue becomes evil, then only the evil are virtuous” refers to the idea that the virtues of the Romantic Era are perceived as evil in this current era, which I call The Socialist Era because of its emphasis on collectivism and state control of society and economics.  To be truly virtuous we must be willing to be perceived as “evil”.
In terms of content, most of the articles pertain to a particular branch of philosophy, so you will find what I believe to be the Romantic approaches to Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics.  In terms of Metaphysics, there is my view of the Triune Nature of Reality, as for Epistemology I subscribe to Empiricism – in other words, try it and see if it works, if it does then it is most likely true.  Ethics draws heavily on Aristotle and Politics is Classical Liberalism.  The Aesthetic approach is derived from these and focuses on the glorification of humanity and the individual.  There are additional articles that can be described as “self-help” in the sense of how to apply these concepts in life.
Romanticism can mean different things to different people.  I once heard of a lecture that hijacked Romanticism for the environmentalist movement.  The problem here is how do you reconcile individual liberties and the strict environmental government economic policies advocated to “save the planet”?  You cannot, though you can reconcile Romanticism and Conservationism which seeks to preserve nature but not at the expense of people.  So there is no doubt that people with a very different concept of the Romantic, some of whom have more letters after their names, would disagree with my concept of Romanticism as presented here, but I think I have a defendable position.
Ultimately Romanticism is about the glorification of humanity in general and the individual in particular.  It is not a static philosophy but is constantly in flux as new understanding becomes available to us.  I would describe it as a set of principles rather than a fixed ideology thus leaving plenty of space for individual expression within its sphere.  This is what I hope to capture here.