Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Delusional Mind, the Inferiority Complex, the Actor Who Apes His Own Ideal

Or, to be pompous about it, an investigation of human character by using the concepts of Freud, Adler, and Nietzsche. The following, by A.J.P. Taylor, doesn't mention such concepts -- indeed Taylor uses a "Romantic" vs. "Classical" model to analyze Napoleon -- but his conclusion comports with them all the same:

[Napoleon] could have been genuine... only as a Corsican patriot; once he deserted his natural cause, he could only play parts and to do this he had to crush out his individuality. Sometimes, as when he played at being a French patriot or even a French Emperor, the part came off; at others, as when he played at being a Moslem in Egypt or wished to play at being liberator-general after Waterloo, the pretence was too blatant. But, for a man who claimed to possess a sense of reality, Napoleon's judgment was strangely unreliable from start to finish. The eighteenth of Brumaire was as wild an adventure as the Hundred Days; in neither case did Napoleon have any clear idea what he was doing -- he was simply "playing his role." For that matter Marengo was as much a gamble as Waterloo. It implanted in Napoleon the belief that he had truly mastered the external world; this gave him the necessary self-confidence for his career, though it ultimately brought him to disaster.