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Showing posts from December 9, 2012

from the will to control

In the early nineteenth century, there was a great romantic fashion for the   “will” in the moral, or ideological sphere. The will seemed like a way out of the dry materialism and sensualism of the 18 th century philosophes.Conveniently, it also had a hero – Napoleon. However, a curious thing happened as the century went by.   In the sphere of psychology, the will gradually lost any status it had as a psychological object. In the old rational psychology, it was one of the faculties of the intellect. But as psychologists began to measure things, experiment, and consider psychology as an adjunct of the entire biological system, it became clear that the will was a superfluous entity. I raise my arm, and by no train of introspection, and by no degree on   any measuring device, is there an intermediate moment where I will to raise my arm. At the end of the century, two philosophers – Nietzsche and William James – both took these findings at face value. Nietzsche took the absence o


Adam has no language at 7 weeks, but he has music:  burbles, humsm sighs, screams, cries, whimpers, and something like a yahoo. Some of this music is communicative, although on a low level. We react to the screams and cries – we transform them from music to something with meaning for us – and perhaps Adam notices. Certainly he has learned to ‘play’ us with some of his notes. Others, though, seem much more… aesthetic.  I find it intensely and curiously pleasurable, for instance, that, after having fed him and hushed him and soothed him in his bed, and having detected the slightest droopiness of his eyelids, he gives a sigh. It is not a sign, this sigh. And it is not subject to any rule of better or worse – in that sense, it is not aesthetic, as it doesn’t really have any social function. Adam certainly doesn’t do it to please his Dad. But he does it completely – it is a beautiful action, like some perfectly realized athletic movement. His whole body participates in that sigh, as much