The Pure Theory of Politics

By Bertrand Jouvenel De | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
ATTENTION AND INTENTION

Our thinking is actualized in our speaking: looking at our words therefore is a good way of looking at ourselves. The Latin tendo denotes both effort and orientation, that is, the basic properties of any living organism. A child knows that while a stone can be picked up in shallow water, a fish which the hand seeks to grasp will escape: it mobilizes its energy for flight. While energy is available in physical systems, only the living organism can be said to possess energy. The difference is striking: in the case of the former, stored energy can be released at the time and in the direction chosen by an outside operator; in the latter case the timing and orientation of the release come from within the organism, which also controls its degree, making a lesser or greater effort. Man is immensely superior to other living organisms in the control of owned energy: under the telling name of 'self-control', we praise a high capacity of refusing the release of energy under outside provocation and of administering this release purposefully.

Our generalship of energy release involves attention and intention. Lacking both, the human organism would be passively responsive to any pressure exerted upon it. Attention is a 'presence of mind' whereby we take cognizance of a situation, conceive it as a problem and try to solve it. Intention might be called a 'futurity of mind' whereby we picture a future situation and seek to actualize it. These attitudes pertain also, in far lower degrees, to animals. For instance, if we observe a sleeping dog bothered by a buzzing insect we first notice its merely mechanical reactions to each contact of the fly: but then the dog awakes, becomes attentive to the fly, and then becomes intent upon catching it.

While Man is eminently capable of attention and intention, these capacities are very unequally developed. Anyone who has raised children--or indeed looked at himself--knows the difficulty of steadying attention or intention: attention shifts or vanishes, intention flags. Men manifest great inequalities in these capacities, essential to achievement.

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The Pure Theory of Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I- Approach- Politics as History 1
  • Chapter 1- Configuration and Dynamics 3
  • Chapter 3- On the Nature of Political Science 29
  • Part II- Setting- Ego in Otherdom 41
  • Chapter 1- Of Man 43
  • Chapter 2- Home 48
  • Chapter 3- Otherdom 55
  • Part III- Action- Instigation and Response 67
  • Chapter 1- Instigation 69
  • Chapter 2- Response 83
  • Part IV- Authority- ''Potestas'' and ''Potentia'' 97
  • Chapter 1- On Being Heard 99
  • Chapter 2- The Law of Conservative Exclusion 109
  • Chapter 3- Place and Face 118
  • Part V- Decision 129
  • Chapter 1- The People 131
  • Chapter 2- The Committee, I (judicial or Political) 146
  • Chapter 3- The Committee, II (foresight, Values and Pressures) 157
  • Part VI- Attitudes 167
  • Chapter 1- Attention and Intention 169
  • Chapter 2- The Team against the Committee 176
  • Chapter 3- The Manners of Politics 187
  • Addendum the Myth of the Solution 204
  • Conclusion 213
  • Index 215
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