Website owner:  James Miller

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Cause of the personality trait of being unobservant

   The following excerpts come from Aristotle, "Ethics", Book X 
   (The Philosophy of Aristotle, p. 365, 366): 

   "Life is a kind of activity, and each person is active on those 
   objects and with those faculties that he most likes.  The 
   musician exercises the sense of hearing on songs;  the lover of 
   mathematics is active with his intellect on problems;  and so 
   with each of the others".       
   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   . 
   "This will be apparent, too, from the fact that each pleasure 
   is closely coupled with the activity it completes, and 
   increases that activity.  People who engage in an activity with 
   pleasure are better judges of each question in that kind of 
   activity, and more accurate too:  those who like doing geometry 
   become students of geometry, and are better at understanding 
   it.  Similarly, lovers of music and lovers of building and the 
   rest improve in relation to their particular field by virtue of 
   enjoying it:  the pleasures increase the activities, and what 
   increases something is coupled with it;  but things that are 
   coupled to things specifically different are themselves 
   specifically different. 

   This will be still more apparent from the fact that a pleasure 
   from another source is an obstacle to an activity.  Flute 
   lovers cannot attend to an argument if they suddenly hear a 
   flute playing, since they take more pleasure in flute playing 
   than in their present activity.  The pleasure that they derive 
   from flute playing ruins the activity of arguing.  This happens 
   similarly in other cases, when a man is doing two things at 
   once.  The more pleasant of the two drives out the other, and 
   the greater the discrepancy between the two pleasures  the more 
   it does so, so that it is not possible even to exercise the 
   other activity.  That is why people who gain intense pleasure 
   from something cannot really do anything else.  We do other 
   things as well only when we obtain moderate pleasure from an 
   activity.  People who eat sweets in the theater do so above all 
   when the actors are bad." 

   Now in connection with the above excerpts from Aristotle let me 
   make the following observation:  My mind has always had a 
   strong bent for reflection, thought, dreaming, musing, etc..  
   On the other hand I have always been unusually unobservant.  I 
   don't see the external world around me;  I am too preoccupied 
   with my own inner world.  Aristotle says different people take 
   pleasure in different activities.  Some people take pleasure in 
   "thinking". Others take pleasure in what their eyes see about 
   them in their physical surroundings.  Still others take 
   pleasure in music, etc..  Each person develops most in that 
   activity that gives him the most pleasure.  And if he gets a 
   very great deal of pleasure in one activity it is often at the 
   expense of other possibly competing activities.  If two 
   activities are competing for his attention the more pleasant 
   activity drives out the other. If, for example, he takes great 
   delight in reflection, this activity drives out the activity of 
   "observing the world about him" because both activities cannot 
   take place at the same time.  The same is true for dreaming.  

   Along the same line, when I was in high school and college I 
   used to have difficulty in reading.  Why?  Because I couldn't 
   keep my mind on what I was trying to read, I couldn't 
   concentrate on the subject matter.  My mind had such a strong 
   proneness to wander, such a strong tendency to daydream or to 
   turn to other things that I couldn't read.  I had great 
   difficulty disciplining my mind sufficiently to read.  My mind 
   was "drawn away" by other activities that it stubbornly wanted 
   to do instead of reading.  When one is upset or agitated about 
   something it is often hopeless to try to read.  At least it is 
   for me.  I just can't concentrate on what I am trying to read. 

   Feb 1984

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