On the mind

In Musil’s very readable book, the man without qualities, he writes thus of the mind, and which I find both quite interesting and to provide some pause for though

[…] It analyses a substance and notes that it is a poison in large quantities, a stimulant in smaller ones….. To the mind, good and evil, above and below, are not skeptical, relative concepts, but terms of a function, values that depend on the context they find themselves in. The centuries have taught it that vice can turn into virtues and virtues into vices, so the mind concludes that basically only ineptitude prevents the transformation of a criminal into a useful person within the space of a lifetime.

It doesn’t accept anything as permissible or impermissible, since everything may have some quality that may someday make it part of a great new context. It secretly detests everything with pretentions to permanence, all the great ideals and laws and their little fossilized imprint, the well adjusted character. It regards nothing as fixed, no personality, no order of things; because our knowledge may change from day to day, it regards nothing as binding; everything has the value it has only until the next act of creation, as a face changes with the words we are speaking to it.

And so the mind is the great opportunist, itself impossible to pin down, take hold of, anywhere; one is tempted to believe that all of its influence nothing is left but decay. Man feels dangerously close to repeating the fate of those gigantic primeval species that perished because of their size; but he cannot stop himself.

Ulrich, the man without qualities, sees this whole thing in a comical light and concludes

there is certainly an abundance of mind around, the only thing wrong was that mind itself was devoid of mind.

Happy weekend everyone.