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There is much to be said about the ‘Important Thinkers,’ about their legacy, how we’ve grown from their study, and so on and so forth. Happily, I shan’t be saying any of it, and will instead treat you all to a scathing report on my absolute least favourite products of their vaunted theories. Mankind is not meant to think so hard about these things, lest mankind fall into a depressive spiral and refuse to emerge from mankind’s collective Room of Despair for several decades. I will be accepting zero questions at this time, thank you.
#9: Constitutional Psychology
According to 1940s William Sheldon, not only is it not ‘what’s on the inside’ that counts, but it’s actually the outside that determines the inside. Making a case for different body types producing different personalities, he identified three and ascribed them traits. In case anyone’s looking for this week’s Weird Personality Quiz, here you go. If you’re round/soft, you’re an Endomorph— relaxed, tolerant, and extroverted. If you’re square/muscular, you’re a Mesomorph— dynamic, assertive, and aggressive. If you’re thin/delicate, you’re an Ectomorph— introverted, thoughtful, and sensitive. Obviously, the jury’s out on whether any of this is at all accurate; body chemistry probably does have some sort of impact on personality, but so does like a zillion other things. I can’t say if it’s scientifically wrong or not, but I absolutely can say I think it’s stupid and his later analysis of it for delinquency is absurd. Don’t typecast people based on their looks. 1/5 stars for lack of sociological awareness.
‘Meaningless! Meaningless!… Everything is meaningless.’ While the Ecclesiastes forerunner comes to a very different conclusion to possibly the most depressed of the 20th Century philosophical movements, it certainly sums it up well initially. What’s life without a greater religious or moral purpose, in the absence of those structures? Meaningless, says the Nihilist. Utter bullshit, says I. If your superiority complex is big enough to demand you have some sort of overarching cosmic plot for your life in order for it to mean anything, then I pity your friends and family. How shallow life must be, to value the people around you so little that you believe you have nothing of worth. Optimistic nihilism is a different ballgame, but the traditional version is the worst. 2/5 stars.
If you hate your fellow human beings, be it for their lack of knowledge, inexplicable but insufferable ways, or how they all seem awful, then congratulations— you are a misanthrope, and I don’t like you either. You will likely be unsurprised to learn that a lot of philosophers are said to be misanthropic— Emmanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre, for instance. What really gets me about this is not just the outright dismissal of the goodness of people, of family, or art, or culture, or literally anything else that we are privileged to experience as thinking beings (although that definitely grinds my gears). No, it’s that misanthropes are people too. Like, dude, how much do you have to hate yourself to create an entire branch of thought dedicated to it? 2/5 stars, incredibly obnoxious.
…architecture has theory? Yes, yes it does, and this one is the ugliest branch of concrete box design that you can imagine. The Cold War had a huge impact on the generations within it, and architects are no different. Brutalism took the uncomfortable, threatening air of the late 60s and 70s and turned it into buildings that reflected an underlying concern with exposure and society’s ugliness, long hidden away. Unfortunately, this was just popular enough (and cheap enough) to make it into a lot of Australia’s government-designed buildings, such as libraries, schools, hospitals, police stations, and universities. The infamously ugly UTS Tower is one of these and is a pebblecrete-clad blight on the general landscape of Sydney. I’m absolutely devastated that, as a country, we didn’t get the airy lines of Art Nouveau, or even the geometry of Art Deco, in favour of boxy concrete and a lack of windows. 2/5 stars.
#5: Radical Behaviourism
This is one of those big thoughts by an important man, this one by the name of B.F. Skinner. He states that free will is an illusion, and that all human behaviour is essentially the direct result of conditioning, either positive or negative. First of all, I’m going to point out that Skinner is a terrifying name for a psychologist. Second, I am absolutely enraged by this because while I disagree with it on a fundamental level, I can’t prove him wrong or anything else right. It’s just one of those things you can’t have a full answer to, like why a friend would get back together with an ex-boyfriend who’s clearly bad for her. There are a thousand possible answers, and they’re all up in the air because we can’t test them adequately enough, or we’re as confused about it as our friend is, despite being in the situation. Life, as it turns out, is troublesome to analyse. Mainly my offence at this boils down to the fact that I Am Not A Computer And You Cannot Simply Program Me. If I’m making decisions based on prior experience in an environment, either positive or negative, then that’s not a lack of personal choice or the illusion of free will on my part— that is choice. 3/5 stars, this theory makes me mad.
Ah yes, the cesspit of ‘not all men’ and ‘but we men deserve rights too, minority groups!’ I’m all for equality, which is why I’m telling you in the absolute nicest of ways that Feminism advocates for equality for all genders. Meninism isn’t where you go to bring up serious issues that men face, like emotional, physical or sexual abuse, it’s where you go to whine about losing privilege that shouldn’t have been yours in the first place. I guarantee you Peter Pettigrew was a meninist. Rethink your choices. 3/5 stars.
Hysteria, though originally deemed a medical issue by Hippocrates way back in Ancient Greece, became viewed as a psychological disorder in the late 1800s. Though today we don’t acknowledge hysteria as a disorder in and of itself, instead identifying more specific disorders with similar symptoms, hysteria has its fingers in sooo many pies when it comes to how women are treated medically. The word itself means ‘uterus,’ is strongly associated with women, and its symptoms are pretty much ‘excessive or out of control emotionally charged behaviour’— you have intense pain, dear? You must be hysterical or making it up for attention. Shockingly, this still happens today, with many doctors dismissing symptoms such as heart pain or extreme stomach pain as ‘just anxiety’ or ‘probably not as bad as you think it is.’ One such case led to a woman’s death by stroke after a five hour wait for an ambulance, and in less severe cases has still had a long-term impact on the health of patients. There’s been a vast number of studies done on the gender inequality between medical treatment, so it’s not like we aren’t aware— but it’s the sort of pervasive narrative that floods our collective cultural consciousness, so you might not even notice yourself doing it, even if you ARE a woman. Take note, med students. It’s influenced by broader culture too, but medically I’m tracing it back to Hysteria. 4/5 stars for admitting we have a problem.
#2: Freud’s Oedipal Complex
Look, it’s not a serious social issue nowadays, but this one ranks up here for sheer squick factor. This guy is arguing that children from the ages of 3-5 experience possessive sexual desires towards their opposite-sex parent and want to ‘get rid’ of their same-sex parent to take their place. Freud’s theory was that if the child doesn’t resolve this properly, they would be influenced towards homosexual tendencies. Big Yikes. There’s also a weird emphasis on the penis and how it influences morality, which I’m not even going to address past Why and This Guy Needs Therapy, Ironically Enough. He has a sum total of one case study for this theory and is a raging misogynist. I hate that he’s not even the worst for his time period— he talked to people, instead of operating or prescribing hard drugs. It’s still a 5/5 stars for me.
#1: Genetic Determinism
You’d think, with Eugenics and associated theories being one of the main causes of WW2 genocide and US government sterilisation programs in the mid-20th Century, that we’d be over this by now. Genetic Determinism is the classic Nature vs Nurture, tipped towards the opinion that your genetics are the ultimate determining factor about who you become. Distressingly, I saw a TikTok comment section in the last month which wondered, under a video about how science has bred tamed foxes, why we don’t do this to people. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this theory opens doors to discrimination, racism, ableism, and so much more, with the tagline of ‘building a better human race.’ What, dear reader, counts as ‘better,’ and who decides it? Who implements it? As a child of a narcissist myself, would someone who ascribes to this theory kick me off the island for a trait that I don’t display? Genetic Determinism revokes the agency of the individual in choosing their own life, with horrifying implications if left unchecked. It’s also a dangerous theory, because it requires critical thinking to unpack, and I think we’ve all seen from the American elections how quickly people can be hypnotised by rhetoric. 5/5 stars. Leave it in the 20th Century.