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Aprinism: A Worldview

“As mentioned, comparisons with other life-forms are often useful for understanding our human existence. Accordingly, I have derived the word ‘Aprinism’ from the Latin ‘aprinus,’ meaning ‘boar-like.'”


Aprinism is a synthesis of many thoughts I have developed in recent years. We can call it a mindframe. Perhaps it does not deserve to be called a philosophy. It is not terribly systematic, though the parts do fit together quite snugly. This essay seeks to convey its essentials. Toward the end, I will explain why I have coined the word “Aprinism” to describe it.

Essence Precedes Existence

“Existence precedes essence.” So goes the existentialist motto formulated by Jean-Paul Sartre. In human terms, one exists, but his nature is not predetermined. He is free to invent himself from the ground up.

While humans can voluntarily change, experience quickly shows this idea to be largely false. Our character generally shapes our choices, rather than vice versa. Likewise, a large part of one’s essence is genetically predetermined before one is even born, and much of the rest is solidified in early life. Overall, to say that essence precedes existence is more helpful than the reverse. Indeed, a person’s essence can endure even when the person has no (bodily) existence.

Given the fixity of one’s essence, one should choose one’s path in life based on one’s natural inclinations and especially one’s abilities. Fortunately, the two tend to coincide. Hans Morgenthau touches on this in a book chapter where he quotes from one of his high school essays. The youthful Morgenthau cites the proverb: “What one desires in one’s youth one has in abundance in one’s old age.” He supplements this with a passage from Goethe:

“Our desires are presentiments of the abilities that lie within ourselves, harbingers of what we shall be able to accomplish. […] If such a direction is decisively presented by our nature, every step in our development fulfills a part of the original desire, [though sometimes] by a detour[.]”

One can improve oneself, but the result will still be based on what one initially was. As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “thy true being lies not deeply hidden in thee, but an infinite height above thee, or at least above that which thou dost commonly take to be thyself.”

It is far more common that essence conditions actions, not only at the individual level, but also at, say, the national one. Today, the major players in world politics are largely acting just as they have always acted. Accordingly, the notion that each community, nation, and epoch has its own “spirit” was a valuable insight shared by many thinkers in the early 20th century.

Hard Borders

Ernest Hartmann’s concept of thick and thin “boundaries” is germane here. In one paper, Hartmann and two co-authors describe the ideal type of someone with thick boundaries. “This person,” they explain, “keeps thoughts and feelings entirely separate” and can neatly distinguish between waking and sleeping states. He does not confuse “past, present, and future.” He is keenly aware “of space around him/herself” as well as “of sexual identity [and] group identity.” He “will tend to see the world in terms of […] us versus them, good versus evil.”

Consistent with the importance accorded to the essences of things, Aprinism prefers to err on the side of thick-boundaried thinking. There are profound differences between individuals, families, sexes, continents, and so forth. History is full of moments of déjà vu: the same kinds of people behaving the same way, over and over and over again.

Aprinism is also aware of boundaries within people, between the competing urges in their minds. Human beings’ inner lives are split and disorderly, and they often do not know what they want. This is one reason why a guiding framework of culture and institutions is needed. T. E. Hulme was right to stress this, whatever else he got wrong. “Man is an extraordinarily fixed and limited animal whose nature is absolutely constant,” he wrote. “It is only by tradition and organisation that anything decent can be got out of him.” Given the power of culture to shape us, the first part is at least very misleading. But the second is almost exactly true.

A Chaotic World

“I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony,” says Werner Herzog, “but chaos, hostility, and murder.” That is quite close to true in the state of nature, as Hobbes discusses. Indeed, this point almost follows from the belief in hard borders. Entities are very distinct from one another. There is little overarching unity; thus, there is plenty of conflict.

Given that the world is chaotic, comparisons with nature are often useful for thinking about human interactions. Evolutionary psychology points to basic similarities between many of our inclinations and those of lesser creatures. Conversely, certain economic concepts can also be applied to groups of non-human animals. Analogies between societies and organisms are often helpful, too.

The idea of the world as disordered leads to a recognition that order, imposed and maintained by humans, is crucial. Heraclitus of Ephesus, quintessential philosopher of chaos, describes this perfectly: “The people must fight for its law as for its walls.”

The world’s chaotic nature has other political implications as well. About foreign policy, Irving Kristol writes that “statesmen should, above all, have the ability to distinguish friends from enemies.” This is doubly wise. Firstly, it acknowledges the danger inherent in the international system’s chaos. Secondly, it puts a focus on actors’ essences. Countries are not amicable or antagonistic based merely on the expediency of the moment. Friends are friends, and foes are foes, usually for the long run. As Kristol notes, the Soviet Union was the United States’ enemy by “its own self-definition.”


Ayn Rand famously decried “altruism.” So far as I can tell, this refers not to kindness under any circumstances but specifically to the generalized belief that it is a person’s duty to help others—all others, no matter who they are, whether we like them or not. In her view, such morality reduced man to “a sacrificial animal.” There is much truth to this, though it may be overstated. Visions of universal mutual servitude do run counter to human dignity.

Egoism can be a scary idea, in that it sometimes leads to aggression and exploitation. But selflessness, and the lack of a healthy ego, can also lead to harmful behavior. Perhaps Nietzsche goes too far when he defines “evil” as anything that “springs from weakness.” Still, it is interesting that individuals with “Dark Triad” personality traits often lack a clear “sense of self” (though some forms of these traits show no such connection).

In any event, Rand held an overly narrow conception of self-interest, and one disconnected from how human evolution and human history have unfolded. Self-interest should be deemed to include concern for those like oneself—for example, one’s family, ethnic group, country, and species. These, in a way, form a larger self. One might think that such a statement conflicts with the idea of “hard boundaries” emphasized earlier, in that it blurs the boundary between self and other. On the contrary, it relies on seeing hard boundaries around an individual’s essence. Some qualities fall within it; others do not. The extended self comprises people and things that share parts of one’s essence.

This leads to a mindset of concentric moral circles. Roughly speaking, one ought to take greater care of oneself and those most like oneself than of those more different.

Such moral circles make sense pragmatically, as they bring order into a chaotic world. If everyone thought that everyone else’s affairs concerned him equally, people’s attempts to help each other would proceed in utterly chaotic and unpredictable ways. The model of concentric moral circles to whom a given person is generally deemed to be morally linked, namely to those closest to him. Our responsibility to one another diminishes as the distance increases. (For all his intellectual and moral faults, L. Ron Hubbard came up with something similar. No doubt others have, too.)

Another argument is this. If one does not like himself, he should work to improve himself. Once one does like himself, he should want himself to have greater influence in this deeply flawed world. Making the world a better place in a continuous way starts with taking care of oneself.


Aprinism highly values work. Work makes one’s surroundings more favorable to one’s life. It prepares one for hardship. And, in a chaotic world, one can never be too prepared. There are those who consider the world a fundamentally good, well-ordered place, and draw a sunny optimism from this belief. As suggested by the earlier section “A Chaotic World,” Aprinism does not consider the world an orderly or benign place. What is grounds for optimism is human action and its capacity to make the world livable. Still, going back to Hulme’s point, the right culture and institutions are needed to realize this potential.

In addition, work is a way of extending the self into the wider world, projecting one’s essence into the things which one’s work affects. The elements of oneself which one has projected into the external world will outlive the physical self. Also, insofar as the self is not thus extended, it is of little concern to the outside world. These are solid reasons for judging others (and oneself) by actions rather than by abilities.

This consideration relates to what has been said under “Egoism.” Work transfigures the external world, bringing it into accordance with one’s own essence. Unless one is irredeemably flawed, one should improve oneself to the point of being a positive element in the world. Then one should bring one’s positive essence to bear on the world through work.

Moreover, work is itself a means of self-improvement and flourishing as a person. As one character says in Anton Chekhov’s Swan Song, “Where there is art and genius there can never be such things as old age or loneliness or sickness…and death itself is half” Work is a great source of dignity. Alexandre Kojève opines in his commentary on Hegel:

“And by working, the Slave becomes master of Nature. […] In [so doing], the Slave frees himself from his own nature, from his own instinct that tied him to Nature and made him the Master’s Slave. Therefore, by freeing the Slave from Nature, work frees him from himself as well, from his Slave’s natre[.] In the technical world transformed by his work, he rules[.]”

Through its labors, as Kojève illustrates, the human spirit can uplift not only the surrounding world, but also itself. We can see this in the civilizing power of art, captured in Goethe’s words:

“Who braids the noteless leaves to crowns, requiting
Desert with fame, in Action’s every field?
Who makes Olympus sure, the Gods uniting?
The might of Man, as in the Bard revealed.”

And here, the labor in question is poetry, meaning that the power which work has to civilize people is not confined to those efforts which manipulate nature—at least, nature in some strict sense. Even the labor of arranging words in a novel way can have a civilizing effect. So Kojève’s formulation may even be too narrow.

Thomas Carlyle is right to depict the ennobling effect of work in religious terms, given its downright spiritual significance:

“On the whole, we do entirely agree with those old Monks, Laborare est Orare. In a thousand senses, from one end of it to the other, true Work is Worship. He that works, whatsoever be his work, he bodies forth the form of Things Unseen; a small Poet every Worker is.”

But work must truly be aimed at achieving transformation and not merely performed for its own sake. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain partly because the people of other areas were too willing to use human labor instead of machinery and did not bother to strive for more efficient solutions.


Power should be sought because it increases one’s influence on the world (see “Egoism”). It enables one to do good. This thought is captured by Alexander’s dialogue with the rabbis of Jerusalem, as Nathan Ausubel recounts it:

“‘What should a man do who wants to win friends?’

‘He should flee from glory and despise dominion and kingship.’

‘That is a very foolish answer!’ cried Alexander. ‘It is precisely he who wants to win friends that must strive for glory. Then he will be in a position to do good to people.’”

In one of his more insightful texts, Immanuel Kant describes people’s “unsocial sociability”—their social nature coupled with their desire to control one another. This results in “extreme ambition, imperiousness, and cupidity,” the very forces that overcome man’s “laziness” and enable the full development of human “talents” as well as the gradual development of morality to regulate the conflict which ensues. This, then, is another reason for power-seeking and “Egoism.” These forces fuel “unsocial sociability.” They, therefore, conduce—when tempered by morality—to the general good.

However, it should be added that too much power should never be centralized in one person or other entity, else the competition which Kant describes could break down. The division of power is also important for other reasons. For instance, it guards against intellectual ossification. For instance, because Europe was divided into states, Voltaire could flee to Britain when he was prosecuted in France, to return later.

The division of power also has a protective effect. In David Landes’s view, one reason why Europe was not conquered from without (for instance, by the Mongols or Ottomans) was its disunity. Had it been united under one empire, only the single imperial government would have had to fall for any invader to capture the whole continent. As things stood, conquerors had to defeat one Eastern European country after another, and their forces were exhausted.

In summation, one ought to strive for power. Naturally, that tends to involve competing with others; many power games are zero-sum. Yet one should only wish to be primus inter pares, never absolute ruler.


Aprinism includes natalism. Having children is the most direct and effective way to reproduce oneself, to extend the self. It is also a crucial means for exercising a positive influence on the world.

Scholars can, at least in some vague and bloodless way, quantify the amount of one’s essence which passes on to one’s offspring. In On Genetic Interests, Frank Salter informs us that “[a]n individual shares half his or her genes with each offspring.” Consequently, if a couple produces three children, those children “will contain 1.5 copies of each parent’s genes (3 x 0.5).” So, in some sense, the parents’ genes will be more than completely reproduced in their progeny. This shows that the family acts as an extension of the self in a very real way. And that is without even considering how parents often shape their children intellectually.

Again, reproduction is a crucial means of improving the world. Isaac Babel describes the stakes colorfully in one of his essays:

“Children must live. They must be born for the improvement of human life.


To toss a machine gun onto one’s shoulder and fire at each other—that may not always be foolish. But it is not yet the whole revolution. Who knows—perhaps it is no revolution at all.

One must make children the right way. And that—I know it for certain—is the real revolution.”

In part, such declarations can be founded on the rationale laid out above, under “Egoism.” If one likes oneself, one should wish to reproduce oneself, for the good of the world if for no other reason. But Babel’s rhetoric can also be justified in other ways, using more traditionally altruistic reasoning. A large population confers economic benefits. As economist Bryan Caplan contends, for instance, more people means more potential innovators. In another book, Landes spotlights Britain’s population growth as one cause of the Industrial Revolution. To the historian’s mind, “the absence of internal customs barriers or feudal tolls,” combined with a population that grew by half over a century, “created in Britain the largest coherent market in Europe.” The circumstance that those added people were steeped in Britain’s productive culture was an important factor as well. For all his Bolshevik errors, Babel was quite right in the passage quoted above. Masses of children, born and raised in the right way, helped to unleash the greatest economic revolution in centuries.

But let us return to children as a means of self-reproduction. If one’s descendants are to inherit one’s good qualities, one must take care to pick the right spouse. As Salter explains, “endogamy” is good for families,

“since it should help retain valued characteristics in the family lineage. Any characteristic with high heritability, such as racial characteristics, personality and intellectual ability, will be more reliably passed on when both parents come from the same stock.”

The point is intuitively easy to accept given the history of certain great families and other abominable ones. Moreover, Salter’s book discusses the undesirability of marrying outside one’s ethnic group, a proposition for which I provide ample evidence elsewhere.

The Term “Aprinism”

As mentioned, comparisons with other life-forms are often useful for understanding our human existence. Accordingly, I have derived the word “Aprinism” from the Latin “aprinus,” meaning “boar-like.”

Attention to essences implies attention to the essence of mankind, and human nature is fond of symbols. The boar is a fitting symbol of the values implicit in Aprinism—the toughness, the drive, the aspiration to power. The sow’s commitment to her young is impressive, too. Even the animal’s thick, bristly hide can represent the hard borders discussed earlier. And as for the commitment to order, the boar has appeared in many military insignia, including those of one Roman legion. Overall, it is—I believe—a fitting image.

Concrete Prescriptions

Based on what has been said so far, we can arrive at a few pithy prescriptions. As the popularity of one Jordan B. Peterson attests, there seems to be considerable demand for “rules for life.” The following is, of course, a non-exhaustive list of implications which can be drawn from the views outlined earlier.

  1. Pay attention to the essences of things and people.
  2. Have a sturdy door with strong locks.
  3. Have a clear sense of who you are and whither you are going in life. If this is not quite accurate, you can adjust it later. The priority is to have definite boundaries.
  4. Be the best possible version of yourself.
  5. Be ambitious, though this ambition need not assume the conventional forms.
  6. Seek power.
  7. Work hard and smart. Have the courage to innovate.
  8. Marry someone like yourself.
  9. Have as many children as you comfortably can.
  10. Naturally, all these guidelines ought to be implemented in accordance with rational reflection. For example: obviously, point IX applies especially to families and communities marred by sub-replacement fertility.


So that is Aprinism. Hardly any part of it is unique. But, on the whole, I find it original enough. After all, I felt the need to create this outlook because I had found nothing quite like it. I hope it helps.

Simon Maass is a writer living in Germany. He holds a degree in International Relations from the University of St Andrews and writes on various topics in politics, religion, and literature. 

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