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How unconscious forces control our actions

Are we controlled by unconscious forces? Today is Bloomsday, when people celebrate the life of author James Joyce, who pioneered the radical stream of consciousness writing style. "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed." So begins one of the most famous, and most difficult works ever written in the English language. When Irish author James Joyce published his dense 750-page novel UlyssesA legendary Greek king of Ithaca. Also known as Odysseus. in 1922, it revolutionised literature. It was also notoriously hard to finish. Even famed authors Philip Roth and Jorge Luis Borges admitted that they had never made it to the end. Still, almost 100 years later, it remains extremely influential. And today hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets around the world in celebration of the novel for Bloomsday, named after the novel's protagonist, Leopold Bloom. In Ireland, the UK and the USA as well as across Europe in Italy, Hungary and Latvia, fans of the author will dress up as characters from UlyssesA legendary Greek king of Ithaca. Also known as Odysseus. and stage dramatic readings. Joyce is best known as a pioneer of a unique style of writing known as stream of consciousness. Most writing describes a character's actions and thoughts from the perspective of an outside observer. But stream of consciousness works differently: it depicts a character's thought process as a kind of internal monologue, often rejecting ordinary grammar to create the sensation of ideas flowing from one topic to another. By writing in this way, Joyce helped transform our way of thinking about thinking. Partly through his work, people came to a new understanding of the human mind. Most people used to believe that conscious thought defined what it meant to be human. Unlike any other animal, we have the ability to perceive the world and order it rationally. But by Joyce's time, this idea had come under attack from psychoanalyst Sigmund FreudAn Austrian psychoanalyst who was one of the world’s foremost authorities on psychology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Although his ideas have been discredited in the scientific community, he remains influential for literary scholars.. Freud argued that most of what appears in our conscious minds is really a reflection of unseen forces in the unconscious, where our desires, animal instincts and childhood experiences are all secretly imprinted. Joyce expressed this idea in his writing, showing how the apparent order and discipline of the conscious mind was in reality a chaotic coming together of thoughts, feelings and instincts. It was these impulses that drove his characters - not their rational consciousness. Today, this same idea is held by devotees of the so-called nudge theory. It holds that human beings aren susceptibleLikely to be influenced easily. to unconscious manipulation. The theory argues that by making tiny, imperceptible changes in our environment, we can act on the unconscious mind and radically change people's behaviour. Others think this is wrong. Philosopher Jürgen Habermas believes that what separates human beings from all other animals is that we can use our consciousness to change our condition. He claims that we do not act according to unconscious rules. Instead, we consciously change the rules to live free lives based on our own will. Are we controlled by unconscious forces? Self-conscious Yes, say some. Human beings cannot possibly process everything we encounter in the conscious mind, so most of our thinking has to be done unconsciously. That means it is very easy to influence our behaviour just by changing things in our environment that we do not realise we observe, but that our unconscious picks up. As such, much of what we do in our lives is defined by habit and bias. Not at all, say others. Nudge theorists have consistently got things wrong. For example, during the pandemic, they argued that people would not accept lengthy lockdowns because their conscious minds would reject long-term restrictions on their freedom. Instead, they wanted to focus on small-scale measures like handwashing. But in reality, people proved willing to accept months-long lockdowns. KeywordsUlysses - A legendary Greek king of Ithaca. Also known as Odysseus.

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