William James’s Prophecy

In 1910, the year he died, the American philosopher William James issued a prophecy: masculinity would no longer know itself.

He foretold of the great losses to men who’d henceforth struggle being masculine while forging a brotherhood with other men once the arena in which they’d traditionally exercised the masculine virtues had become unjustified. World War I, then World War II, then Vietnam sounded the death of the legitimacy of war. No more would war be a rite of passage for young men, no longer a time for them to experience the terror of death, the face of the enemy, the embrace of brotherhood, the feast after victory.

Did the death of war spell also the death of masculinity? James foresaw too that, after the delegitimation of war, men would either lack vitality, hardiness, and grit, succumbing to wispiness and “flat degeneration” or would resort to rage, sexual conquest, and brutal violence. Weaklings or brutes: here in the twenty-first century are the twin fates of the political left, with its self-righteousness, subtle arguments, desire for protection, and long-held resentments, and of the political right, seething with hatred, feeding its contempt, boiling over with boundless rage.

Though Every Prophet is Partially Blind

What James couldn’t have foreseen, though, was the feminization of modern culture, the wholesale loss of male heroes (from Hector and Odysseus in Homer’s The Iliad to rugged cowboys and stolid Native Americans starring in American Westerns), the vanity of gym culture evident in men performing in front of mirrors, the failure of sport to be a substitute for war, the rise of commercial culture and the flatness of professionalization, mass migration from country to city, the bloated intellectualization and disembodiment effected by institutionalized education, the unfulfilling triviality signaled by pickup and hookup culture, the all-pervasive cult of safety: these and countless other forces have thrown into doubt what masculinity is today. What wildness is. What self-power is. What ferocious expression is. What risk, what danger, what drive!

‘A Moral Equivalent of War’

What therefore is, James asked, a “moral equivalent of war,” and what can masculinity be for us today? Honesty demands admitting that we don’t really know what it is while refusing both to go back to manhood before all this, to some fanciful, nostalgic restoration of bygone terms, and to go forward with things as they are: with the choice between sensitive, fragile creatures susceptible to harm and foolish brutes callous and contemptuous of all they encounter. No, a rough and wiser beast, tested by conflict, hardened by contest, hungry for truth, yearns to be born.

That Rough Beast is Philosophical Fight Club

PFC works by turning that war inward. It’s an arena in which we engage in loving combat in search of the truth. A forum where status, position, and wealth are checked at the door in favor of posing dangerous questions whose rough and sharp point is to make us harder, hardier, tougher. A ruthless fight in words, punching into the bowels of life and death and terror. A home for the level-headed yet passionate exploration of masculinity that’s not just livable but actually lived in our time. It’s full-blooded without being bloody, forceful yet not cruel, a shout pressing you to stand up for yourself in lieu of limply tapping out.

Through the brotherhood of PFC, we rediscover that masculine power within us, transforming it into truthful speech expressing bigger, vaster life.

Are you ready to fight for the truth?