Fighting for Life

Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness

Walter J. Ong
Copyright Date: 1981
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Fighting for Life
    Book Description:

    "Fighting for Life is a book about contest, the agonia of the Greek arena, and its roots in male life, especially academia. Ong describes this work as an 'excavation' which was prompted by his previous explorations of such areas as the characteristics of oral and literate cultures, Peter Ramus and his 16th-century intellectual milieu, and the early dominance and more recent decline of classical rhetoric in education. In Fighting for Life, he weaves the results of a year's study of agonistic structures running through the biological, social, and noetic worlds. Describing his text as an 'essay in noobiology,' the biological roots of human consciousness, Ong claims that 'contest has been a major factor in organic evolution and it turns out to have been a major, and seemingly essential, factor in intellectual development.' . . . The work is a valuable synthesis of a wide body of research and theory."-Rhetoric Society Quarterly

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6629-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-12)
    Walter J. Ong

    • 1 Contest and Other Adversatives
      (pp. 15-48)

      Contest is a part of human life everywhere that human life is found. In war and in games, in work and in play. physically, intellectually, and morally, human beings match themselves with or against one another. Struggle appears inseparable from human life, and contest is a particular focus or mode of interpersonal struggle, an opposition that can be hostile but need not be, for certain kinds of contest may serve to sublimate and dissolve hostilities and to build friendship and cooperation.

      Contest is one kind of adversativeness, if we understand adversativeness in the ordinary large sense of a relationship in...


    • 2 Contest and Sexual Identity
      (pp. 51-96)

      Need for the adversative is common to all human beings, male and female. But by and large through the entire animal kingdom, among infrahuman as well as the human species, conspicuous or expressed adversativeness is a larger element in the lives of males than of females, for reasons relating both to the development of individual males and to the evolution of species. Male combativeness is more marked among vertebrates than among invertebrates: it reaches its higher pitches higher in the evolutionary scale (Scott, 1958:69–70; see also Ewer, 1968, esp. Bibliography, pp. 371–92). It appears therefore as an advanced...

    • 3 Separation and Self-Giving: Pietà and Quixote
      (pp. 97-116)

      Masculinity for human males and, in ways explained earlier, even for infrahuman males engenders agonistic activity because it is something to be won, achieved, “always in a state of being earned” (Bardwick, 1971:204), not at all simply something one is born with . The genetic determinants of masculinity, notably for human beings, establish not so much a state of being as a program. A male finds his masculinity in some way outside of himself, especially in the higher animal species and most especially among human beings. Masculinity is difficult to interiorize, a kind of stranger to the human psyche. Since...


    • 4 Academic and Intellectual Arenas
      (pp. 119-148)

      The deep psychological and cultural changes that over the past few decades have come over the West and, to varying degrees, the entire globe register the basic sociobiological and noobiological patterns described in the foregoing chapters. Some of the most striking adjustments in agonistic behavior have appeared in the academic world. A few of these changes have been referred to in passing in earlier chapters, but we can look more directly here at the fuller academic pattern leading into the 1960s and 1970s. What we have thus far reviewed enables us to plot from one vantage point a good deal...

    • 5 Some Present Issues
      (pp. 149-183)

      The shift in agonistic structures within academia has not been a consciously managed change in strategies or tactics. For the most part, it took place without anyone’s understanding what was going on and even without conscious awareness that anything special was going on at all. The shift represents a deep, largely unconscious adjustment in psychic patterning, a new stage in the evolution of consciousness—for we must remember that by the evolution of consciousness we do not mean something consciously programmed or directed but rather unconsciously powered shifts that result in a new orientation of consciousness to the world around...

    • 6 Contest and Interiorization
      (pp. 184-210)

      This account of the prehuman and human history of contest does not provide a complete explanation of human nature or of sexuality or of the evolution of consciousness, or even of consciousness itself. By tracing the history of contest through some of biological and noetic history, it has merely brought attention to bear on otherwise neglected features of human existence. The density of existence cannot in whole or in part be forced into any simple, linear, total explanation. The present account has been “phenomenological” in a sense close to that explained by Lyman (1978:90–95). It has undertaken to order...

  7. References
    (pp. 211-222)
  8. Index
    (pp. 223-232)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-238)