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Of the essence; minds

Posted by R. Berg on April 13, 2003

In Reply to: More of the same posted by Word Camel on April 13, 2003

: : "The actual exercise of physical violence substitues for the psychological relation between two minds, which is of the essence of political power, the physical relation between two bodies, one of which is strong enough to dominate the other's movements."

: : This is another complicated sentence and I'll be much obliged to you if you can rephrase it or explain it more clearly.
: : "which is of the essence ..." I have a difficulty with this "of", can you rephrase it?
: : does mind refers to souls, consciousness, thoughts...?
: : "the physical relation between two bodies..." is it a definition of the political power?

: : Thank you very much
: : miri

: Where do you find these Miri? This is a diabolical sentence. It's very unclear and convoluted, however I'll have a try at interpreting it.

: It seems to me he trying to make a point about politics by comparing it to the relationship between individuals. When he says "which is of the essence ..." He's saying that the essence of political power is the ability to use physical violence to achieve one's aims rather than needing to rely on persuasion (the psychological relation between two minds), much in the way that one body, an adult for example, is able to dominate another person, perhaps a child, through overwhelmingly superior strength.

: I am thinking part of the confusion may stem from the fact that he wants to use the analogy of the relations between individual to explain a point about politics, but doesn't really feel confident that he can do this without implying some motive. So if, for example, he compared political power to a relationship in which a man physically dominates a woman, the reader might infer that he thinks political power is inherently oppressive. He tries to get around this problem by using the phrase,"the physical relation between two bodies..." because he thinks this is a more neutral way of making the point.

: That's my best pre-coffee effort, but I'd be very interested to see what others think.

: Best wishes,

: Camel

"A is of the essence of B"means "A is essential to B." Without A, B would not exist or would be very different.

The sentence says that the relation between two minds is essential to political power, but the writer may not have meant that. He or she may have meant that violence is essential to political power (a point that other writers have made) and may have used "which" in a way that makes the point unclear. The rest of the sentence suggests that this happened. I can't know without a larger quotation.

"The psychological relation between two minds" refers to whether, for instance, person A trusts person B, wants to please B, is easily persuaded by what B says, regards B as an authority figure, is inclined to follow commands from B. Suppose that B is the leader of a nation and A is one of the citizens. Then it's clear what this "psychological relation" has to do with political power. An extreme example would be brainwashing of the citizens by a government, by means of propaganda.