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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

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First Principles                 321

Where we have an opinion that assures us promptly which
way the balance of advantage will incline—whether it be an
instinctive, hereditarily acquired opinion or one rapidly and
decisively formed as the result of post-natal experience—
then our action is determined at once by that opinion, and
freedom of choice practically vanishes.

Ego and Non-Ego

You can have all ego, or all non-ego, but in theory you
cannot have half one and half the other—yet in practice
this is exactly what you must have, for everything is both
itself and not itself at one and the same time.

A living thing is itself in so far as it has wants and gratifies
them. It is not itself in so far as it uses itself as a tool for
the gratifying of its wants. Thus an amoeba is aware of a
piece of meat which it wants to eat. It has nothing except
its own body to fling at the meat and catch it with. If it had
a little hand-net, or even such an organ as our own hand, it
would use it, but it has only got itself ; so it takes itself by
the scruff of its own neck, as it were, and flings itself at the
piece of meat, as though it were not itself but something
which it is using in order to gratify itself. So we make our
own bodies into carriages every time we walk. Our body is
our tool-box—and our bodily organs are the simplest tools
we can catch hold of.

When the amoeba has got the piece of meat and has done
digesting it, it leaves off being not itself and becomes itself
again. A thing is only itself when it is doing nothing; as
long as it is doing something it is its own tool and not itself.

Or you may have it that everything is itself in respect of
the pleasure or pain it is feeling, but not itself in respect of
the using of itself by itself as a tool with which to work its
will. Or perhaps we should say that the ego remains always
ego in part; it does not become all non-ego at one and the
same time. We throw our fist into a man's face as though
it were a stick we had picked up to beat him with. For the
moment, our fist is hardly " us/' but it becomes " us " again
as we feel the resistance it encounters from the man's eye.
Anyway, we can only chuck about a part of ourselves at a
time, we cannot chuck the lot—and yet I do not know this,