THE WILL TO BE HUMAN by Silvano Arieti


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Accessible in content and open in spirit, if pedestrian in tone, this essay on problems of human freedom draws upon Arieti's knowledge as a psychiatrist and a well-known theorist of schizophrenia. Exhibiting philosophical breadth without too many Mortimer Adler-style thumb-prints, the book as a whole elaborates a polemic against behaviorist reductionism: idea structures, Arieti insists, are important motivators, total freedom is an illusion but relative freedom is a possibility, and Skinnerian determinism represents ""before"" not ""beyond"" dignity. The book's central emphasis is on the negative and positive dimensions of socializing the individual. Not external authority but osmotic internalization of imperatives is all-important for the child; and this internalized ""oughtness"" produces both repressive conformity and possibilities for achieving self-control. In his discussion of contemporary youth Arieti uses the Pinnochio fable -- the choice between becoming a ""real boy"" or dallying with delinquency and infantilism. The counterculture's glorification of instinct is attacked, and the deformation of the self and conscious volition are further explored through a range of classical psychiatric disorders. The book places great emphasis on socio-political influences, but, with the partial exception of fascism, these remain excessively abstract. Its weakest parts offer mere platitudes about political power and creativity; but Arieti is sound in his view that more than mere ""psychological adjustment"" or vague ""social change"" is needed to ensure the will to be human.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1972
Publisher: Quadrangle