Neophobes and Neophiles

In Illuminatus, Shea and Wilson divided the world into cool people and wussies, or as they put it, neophiles and neophobes. Greek roots, people: neophobe means “total wuss”, or, as a Greek teacher would put it, “one who fears the new.” “Neophile” means “stone-cold stud hombre,” or as a Greek teacher would put it, “one who loves the new.” As one of the characters in that great work of literary genius put it—I’m paraphrasing—“We neophiles seek out and embrace new ideas. Ninety percent of the things we try are mistakes, but we move so fast our mistakes never catch up with us. And the other ten percent is responsible for all the progress that has ever happened on this rock.”

Extreme examples of neophobes: Fidel Castro, who proudly boasted on his 75th birthday or thereabouts that he still believed exactly what he believed when he was twenty. Jerry Falwell. Etc. Best example of a neophile that I can think of up the top of my head: Phoebe from Friends: Weird, unconventional, unintentionally messes with your head. Your chance of predicting what she’ll say or do next is the same as the chance that Jabba the Hutt will become a spokesbeing for Slim-Fast. Another good one: Camille Paglia. Completely undoctrinaire, allies herself with no pre-existing political or intellectual movement.

The best intellectual: A neophile disciplined by logic.