A few years back, Jonah Goldberg wrote a pretty good piece about Nock, but I think he missed the Nockian essence.
“Nock’s greatest mistake,” wrote Goldberg, “lay in his fatalism . . . he in effect surrendered to the same consensus that [collectivism] was the ‘wave of the future.'” Goldberg further went on to say, “Retreating into the Nockian cocoon of the good life may be appealing, but it is morally defensible only if creeping collectivism is impervious to resistance.”
Such an assertion misses the bigger Nock.
It’s possible, of course, that futility played a role in Nock’s decision, but there’s something more to Nock than that. He cocooned because it is pointless to resist, perhaps, but more important, it would have been hypocritical for him to resist. Or maybe disingenuous to resist. Or most compellingly, self-defeating to resist.
For Nock to resist through political activism would have been like a pacifist resisting through violence. Nock believed that society would be best served by a populace whose individual members served themselves: profiting for themselves in the free market, yes, but (much, much) more importantly for Nock, improving themselves one unit at a time. Of everything I’ve learned from Nock, the one that resonates with me the most is this: A man’s only obligation to society is to present it with one improved unit.
Until that unit is improved immensely, it has no business trying to improve society, Of that, I am confident (which is why I despair for this country since the people in charge are, literally, criminals and adulterers and cheats and frauds). I suspect Nock knew he wasn’t at that level of improvement, and hence had no business telling society how to behave. If he did, he would’ve cut himself off at his knees.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList