plain text format....

Karey Perkins karey at
Fri Apr 26 17:28:14 EDT 2002's the plain text format, I think, should I submit my others this
way too?

Let me know if this works.



I get that Percy thinks mind and body are integrally intertwined, mostly
from "Is a Theory of Man Possible?" in _Signposts in a Strange Land_.
Some quotes from Percy's essay:

"What I am suggesting is that it is of little help to us scientifically to
regard man as composite of body, mind, and soul and that it is a positive
hindrance if we think this explains anything."


"The biologist and learning theorist can't get hold of mind and usually
don't want to.  The Freudian psychologist on the other hand has trouble
getting out of the psyche--his own psyche and that of his patients."


"The question am trying to raise with you is whether or not we have settled
for a view of man which is grossly incoherent by any scientific canon.  That
is to say, I wonder if through a kind of despair or through sheer weariness
we have not given up the attempt to put man back together again, if indeed
he was ever whole, or whether man isn't like Humpty Dumpty who fell off the
wall three hundred years ago, or rather was pushed by Descartes [dualism]
who split man into body and mind..."

What does this mean?  Obviously Percy is not dualist.  Is he saying that our
distinctions of mind and body are really artificial?  IE:  not just that
they relate and interact but are the same thing?

He also talks about his hospital where mental ailments are treated by
physical means and physical ailments treated by mental solutions.

Clearly against dualism:  "But the main error, it seems to me, of both the
armchair behaviorist [clearly Percy objects even to a physicalism as soft as
behaviorism here] and the armchair psychologist is not the quick
extrapolation from the simple hypothesis to complex human reality, but
rather the willingness of both to accept the age-old split of the human
creature into this strange Janus monster comprising body and mind [ie:
Descartes' dualism]."

He relates all of this to Charles Pierce and Noam Chomsky, both language

Any insights on all of this?  What "IS" Percy?  What is he saying?


-----Original Message-----
From: Wade Riddick [mailto:riddick at]
Sent: Friday, April 26, 2002 4:11 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: [percy-l] Re: Conscious Will

"Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers,
neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of
free will versus determinism.

To quote the indubitable philosopher, Forrest Gump, "I think maybe it's

If you've been breathing earlier in the day, chances are it was autonomic.

Likewise, if you've ever thought about having sex at some point in your
life, that is very definitely the rational influence of your genes upon your
mind as they try to reproduce half of themselves.

There are so many levels of rationality at work and in conflict within us,
it is almost stupid to get into this debate.

I thought Percy was all about stressing the importance of language having
both a physical and a spiritual component - sign, symbol and referent
existing in some sort of holy trinity. What did they call the heresy of
denying Christ's humanity?

There are literally a thousand and one chemicals I can inject in you to make
you psychotic, hallucinatory or put you in some other condition which denies
you conscious will. Diseases like Alzheimer's exist whether you chose to
believe in them or not and they do erode your ability to believe in things.
Whether it's God throwing the Book of Job at you or your fellow man or
mother nature, your body can still be broken. We are imperfect creatures
held up by myriad little braces and supports and knocked down by things
simply amazing in their simplicity.

The message of _American Beauty_ might have been that life is pretty good,
even as you're losing it, but gun control is a strong runner up. I don't
think the movie could exist without both. It needs that contradiciton
(contra = against; dicere = to speak).

Wade Riddick

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