and of Life and Habit 53
equivalent to all the horse-power which they can influence;
but were we to go into this part of the question we should
never have done, and we are compelled reluctantly to leave
our dream in its present fragmentary condition.
Letter to Thomas William Gale Butler
MY DEAR NAMESAKE . . . February i8th, 1876.
My present literary business is a little essay some 25 or
30 pp. long, which is still all in the rough and I don't know
how it will shape, but the gist of it is somewhat as follows :—
1. Actions which we have acquired with difficulty and
now perform almost unconsciously—as in playing a difficult
piece of music, reading, talking, walking and the multitude of
actions which escape our notice inside other actions, etc.—all
this worked out with some detail, say, four or five pages.
General deduction that we never do anything in this
unconscious or semi-conscious manner unless we know how
to do it exceedingly well and have had long practice.
Also that consciousness is a vanishing quantity and that as
soon as we know a thing really well we become unconscious in
respect of it—consciousness being of attention and attention
of uncertainty—and hence the paradox comes clear, that
as long as we know that we know a thing (or do an action
knowingly) we do not know it (or do the action with thorough
knowledge of our business) and that we only know it when
we do not know of our knowledge.
2. Whatever we do in this way is all one and the same
in kind—the difference being only in degree. Playing
[almost ?] unconsciously—writing, more unconsciously (as
to each letter)—reading, very unconsciously—talking, still
more unconsciously (it is almost impossible for us to notice
the action of our tongue in every letter)—walking, much the
same—breathing, still to a certain extent within our own
control—heart's beating, perceivable but beyond our control
—digestion, unperceivable and beyond our control, digestion
being the oldest of the . . . habits.
3. A baby, therefore, has known how to grow itself in
the womb and has only done it because it wanted to, on a
balance of considerations, in the same way as a man who goes
into the City to buy Great Northern A Shares. ... It is only