Hubris and akrasia

Hubris is what I’ve called solipsism or “artificial autism” – the shutting out of other all other subjectivity except one’s own. It is possible, and in fact is even radically compatible with hubris to psychologize about other subjects, (even with the subjects, themselves in pseudo-intimate conversation) but the psychological practice insulates the hubristic soul from subjective involvement. Empathic objective modeling of motivational systems passes for sympathy (feeling-with); objective theorizing genuine synesis (sunesis, subjective co-understanding).

The hubristic eye is the gaze beneath which every entity is an object, and all knowledge is by definition objective.

History is filled with hubristic personalities, and in fact is dominated by them. For a vivid first-hand account of hubris, see Satan’s monologue in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.


Akrasia is what I’ve called inconstancy or “failure to hold a shape”, and it is commonly translated as moral incontinence. A vivid example of akrasia is the portrait of Adolf Eichmann in Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Many other examples are illuminated in the documentary The Sorrow and the Pity.

Some earmarks of akrasia: 1) A sense of corelessness that wishes to fill itself through surrender to another individual or to some collectivity; 2) an unnerving habit of serial conflicting narratives which carry (or are the manifestation of) equally conflicting value systems (today’s villain is tomorrow’s hero, and vice versa); 3) a deep dependence on other people to believe, reflect and reinforce the narrative of the moment, and in particular the self-characterization of the narrator, and this acceptance and reinforcement of the narrative is the ground of friendship; 4) a strong attraction to certainty, simplicity, non-ambiguity and concreteness; 5) a deep fear of responsibility, which it cannot distinguish from blame.

The akrasic being is a tangled mass of spirits that cannot unify itself as a soul, and feels this disunity as a missing core, which he seeks in a quest for his true self. He seeks himself and he finds himself as a reflected image in the gaze of the hubristic eye. Like the hubristic eye, he knows only  objects; he can only conceive himself as an image, a persona. What he wants to find and be is the best object.

Where the hubristic soul knows only himself as the sole subject, the akrasic being (a soul is precisely what he is not – he is protosoul) lacks all essential knowledge of being a subject. He blindly gropes for subjectivity in his world and feels it in the hypertrophied subjectivity of hubristic other. Now he feels himself to have a soul, but he is only had by a soul, and that soul is not his own.

The redhead dressed in red and green
Sees herself by being seen


What the hubristic personality loves most is the passivity of akrasia. What akrasia loves most is the simplified strength of hubris. Hubris and akrasia seek one another and combine to create what we recognize as evil.


Hubris unifies the world within its self, which appears to it as Principle (or as Atman/Center/Union/Enlightenment/Nirvana/Born-Againness/Authenticity, etc., etc., etc.,); but hubris cannot bear to participate in unification beyond self. It might acknowledge a “beyond”, or even claim to be oriented by it, but nothing above the self is permitted to impinge on its prideful autonomy. Hubris might change, but it will never be changed, nor will its world be changed. Hubris will not participate, because participation means being part within a surpassing, containing whole. Hubris is the totality. Hubris is the surpassing, containing whole.

Akrasia lives in an arbitrary flux of instincts, which appears to it as Freedom. It submits to dominance as long as the dominance can assert itself, but the minute the dominance lets up akrasia tells a new liberation story and finds a new dominating power to liberate it from its former tyranny. Each story is the true one. Each tyrant is the saviour.

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