Mind control in days of yore

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Mon May 19 15:17:50 EDT 2003


Robyn:
 If you
> don't have a concept of "mind" and a firm sense of individual identity
> which is controlled by said mind, how can you be threatened by having it
> taken over?

Fair question, but I'm not sure that this 'mind' was such an alien concept
in the Renaissance. I think Descartes had a pretty modern concept of mind
when he wrote _Discourse on Method_, for example. And Montaigne spent a lot
of time exploring the contours of his own mind and sensibility.

 I think there is also
> a distinction between being made to forget, and being made to act as a
> puppet by someone taking over your mind.

Absolutely. That was a distinction I made in my original post.

I do have a
> strenuous objection to the way that modern people tend to overwrite
earlier
> sensibilities by saying, "well, we think this way, so even if they didn't
> use the same words, it must still have been pretty similar".

Me too. That's why I said 'might' rather than 'must'.

I don't think
> there is any evidence at all to support this kind of an attitude.

Well, I wouldn't say no evidence at all, because after all we like they are
human beings, biologically wired up the same way, and able it seems at least
partially to relate something of their experience to our own (or we wouldn't
spend so much time reading their literature). Of course our understanding of
the past will always be imperfect, but like you (I think?) I'm not convinced
by the idea that the past is radically unknowable. It's another culture than
our own, that's all, and we're more likely to make mistakes in reading it
than in reading our own (just as I'd be more likely to misinterpret the
signals if I found myself in a Muslim country), but it's not totally
different in kind.

Much
> better to go with the original contention that "mind-control" is a concept
> which developed in the late-nineteenth century.

I'm beginning to think I might steer clear of the whole question! It was
only for a footnote in the first place... :-)

Charlie

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