How to Keep the Tyrants of Reason


and Realpolitik in Check



By Gary Z. McGee



“Socrates created a tyrant out of reason.” ~Nietzsche


Before Socratic reasoning there was the amoral and Machiavellian realpolitik, which did not follow any ethical or idealistic rules. There was only the strong defeating the weak for no other “reason” than that it could and should.


As Thucydides said, speaking of the Peloponnesian War, “The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”


Tyranny was the rule. The strong held it over the weak. The rich held it over the poor. The healthy held it over the unhealthy. The smartest held it over the dumbest. Morality was not a reason outside the realm of “because I can,” but fully lodged within it.


But then came Socratic reasoning. Socrate’s turned the tables on realpolitik. He flipped the script of might makes right. He put the strong man’s foot to the fire. He burned a hole through the rich man’s coin. But in doing so, he inadvertently made a tyrant of reason.


When reasoning becomes tyrannical dogmas reign, dogmas clash, dogmas have us all chasing our own tails. We become rats caught in the cage of our own “higher” reasoning. Our reasoning becomes something “other than,” something outside of us, something “out there,” or something only found in another world, or in another life. We become divorced from truth. Reality becomes a burden we must toss off for the placation of our “higher reasoning.”


Though it is vital, reason is not the only path to truth. Reason necessarily should poke a hole in pride and power. But what pokes a hole is reason? In order for reason not to become a tyrant one must take it upon oneself to poke a hole in reason so that it does not fail and become dogmatic.


Realpolitik, politics based on practical objectives rather than on ideals, morals, or ethics, must be clipped by reason lest unbridled pride reign over a dog-eat-dog world. But then reason must be clipped by humor lest bridled egos reign in a dogma vis-à-vis dogma world.


The Overman is above the ordinary man because he is neither a slave to reason nor a slave to realpolitik. He is beyond “good” and “evil.” He is neither a beast caught up in the throes of mindless instinct, nor a God caught up in the throes of high-minded reasoning. He is a man—the pinnacle of man—caught up only in being and becoming the best version of himself.


Engrossed in post Socratic higher reasoning, Immanuel Kant said, “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” But that is patently false. There are (at least) two things higher than reason: humor and imagination.


An Overman strategically uses humor and imagination to keep reason and realpolitik in check.


A strategic will to humor:

“The law of levity is allowed to supersede the law of gravity.” ~R.A. Lafferty


Regarding realpolitik, an Overman uses his will to humor to get power over power itself.


Nietzsche’s Will to Power was a groundbreaking moment in philosophy. It paved the way for the future of self-empowerment and earth-based thinking. It built a bridge upon which we can at least begin the journey toward the ideal of the Overman (Übermensch).


But there’s a fly in Nietzsche’s ointment. It takes itself too seriously. It’s too rigid and attached to raw power. It’s too prideful and oriented with the bloodiness of realpolitik. It’s heavy-handed and heavy-hearted. Otherwise, it’s brilliant. Otherwise, it’s perhaps the most important idea in philosophy since Socrate’s higher reasoning.


But what if there was a way to take the fly out of the ointment? What if there was a way to take all the glorious empowerment of Nietzsche’s will to power but then leave all the self-serious attachment to pride and power behind? What if there was a way to practice self-empowerment with a good sense of humor? And what if we could use this heightened sense of humor as a launchpad for even higher humor, and even greater power?


That’s where the Will to Humor comes in.


The will to humor gives us power over power (realpolitik) because it keeps humility ahead of hubris. It is a way to resolve the dilemma of power—both the power of the authority that outflanks us and our own power to do what we feel like “because we can.” It turns the tables on might makes right with the realization that might is a joke at best, in the grand scheme of things, and that there is neither right nor wrong for the same reason.


Through the will to humor we discover our vital contribution to Cosmos: Presence. The will to humor engenders presence by prompting us to search for inner meaning. Not in a codependent way, rigid and clinging to some higher reasoning. Nor in an independent way, fierce and overwhelming the world “because we can.” But in a detached way, open and flowing. Meaning becomes an act of lighthearted creation rather than an act of raw power.


The will to humor is radicalized virtue. It radicalizes courage, moderation, wisdom, justice, curiosity, and honor. Through radicalized virtue comes a heightened state of lightheartedness, a sense of play so powerful it gains power over Power itself.


With this power over power, those practicing the will to humor are compelled to turn their power outward. First as laughter, second as expiation, and third as prestige.


A strategic will to imagine:

“All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.” ~Ambrose Bierce


Regarding reason, an Overman uses his will to imagine to get power over reason itself.


Reason is important. But it will never be more important than imagination. For reason without imagination has the tendency to fall in upon itself. It eats itself in the maw of its own perceived “truth.” Given enough rope, reason will hang itself in the shadow of its own unwavering ideal. Reason will drown in its own reasoning. That is, unless imagination can regain the upper hand and pull it out of deep water.


The will to imagine gives us power over reason because it is a way to transcend the dogmatic trap of our ideas and ideals. It’s a way to rise above the confusion of the religious blender. It is a way to detach ourselves from the cosmic joke. A way to rise above our mortal dread by assimilating it into our mortality. It’s a way to go meta over our self-seriousness, our higher reasoning, and our propensity to put all our eggs into one basket.


The will to imagine is a way of stretching reality beyond might or reason. It’s a way of transcending the human condition by fully immersing ourselves in it. Dipping our conceptual toes into the uncharted waters of ideas, some find a vast ocean of knowledge while others fall into the endless pit of fantasies (dogma).


An Overman uses a good Dionysian imagination as a lifeline out of the Apollonian pit of ideals. So as not to remain blinded by the light. So as not to get lost in the abyss of a thousand and one clashing dogmas. So as not to fall victim to the tyranny of reason.


Through a deep and curious imagination, he gets above it all—all the pettiness, the placation, the woe-is-me pity party, the codependent expectation—he becomes enigmatic, otherworldly, heroic. He’s able to untie Gordian Knot, flip scripts, turn tables, ditch dogma, reinvent God, and reimagine Imagination itself.


Through the will to imagination, he’s able to stay ahead of the curve. Bias is squashed. Circular reasoning is straightened. Cognitive dissonance is curtailed. Ideologies are flattened. The mind opens, and he is free to fly into the Mecca of going Meta.


If imagination is superior to reason, only a good sense of humor is superior to imagination. He who is flexible in imagination and humor molds the world to himself. He becomes an Overman. And he does so despite either the realpolitik or reasoning of other men.

Image source: Cathedral Halls by Stuz0r


About the Author:

Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.


This article (How to Keep the Tyrants of Reason and Realpolitik in Check) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.



Self-inflicted Philosophy  [email protected]