Chapter 1: The Constant Influence of Manner of Use For Good of Ill

1. Why have we not given consideration to the question of the extent to which we are individually responsible for the ills our flesh is heir to?

2. Where have efforts gone wrong so far with regard to improving the conditions of factory workers?

3. What does Alexander indicate by the terms psycho-physical activity and psycho-physical mechanism?

4. What does Alexander mean by “mental” and “physical?”

5. How are all manifestations of human activity constantly influenced by manner of use?

6. How does Alexander see the difference between the manual worker and workers in intellectual fields?

7. Why have too few of the people who know Alexander’s work fully appreciated the nature of the influence of use upon functioning and upon reaction?

8. What is the vital point to consider regarding the influence of use upon functioning? Why?

9. What is Alexander’s definition of habit in this book? How does this definition correlate with that in MSI?

10. For what reason should we know and be able to employ the means whereby we can establish a good manner of use as a constant?

11. What do the terms “correct,” “proper,” “good,” “bad,” and “satisfactory” indicate?

12. Why is it important for us to know to what degree our functioning is being influenced and in what direction?

13. Instead of being able to know to what degree our functioning is being influenced and in what direction, what do most people notice?

14. Why is end-gaining a conception which implies subordination of the thinking and reasoning self to the vagaries of the instinctive guidance and control of the self?

15. What fact is recognized according to the “means-whereby” conception?

16. What does this indirect “means-whereby” procedure involve?

Thought Questions

1. Alexander claims that there is a preponderance of “mental” vs. “physical” in some activities, and uses these distinctions to characterize human development. To what extent do these distinctions serve in the modern world? Are these distinctions useful, or by making them do we fall into the very compartmentalized trap Alexander wanted to avoid?

2. Alexander writes (pp. 5-6) that “Every living human being is a psycho-physical unity, equipped with marvellous mechanisms though which, when set in motion by the stimulus of some desire or need, all reactions take place. Every reaction, therefore, is associated with a particular manner of use of these mechanisms, and it is because of this close association of manner of use and manner of reaction that all manifestations of human activity, whether labelled manual or mental, are constantly influenced by manner of use.” What are the “marvelous mechanisms” with which we are equipped? Are we equipped with mechanisms like a workshop is equipped with tools, waiting for a worker to come in and use them? If so, how are these mechanisms “stored” until we do use them? What does this metaphor say about the concept of psycho-physical unity?

3. What is the difference between our manner or use and our manner of reaction? Alexander writes (p. 7) that “It is surprising how few people realize that reaction is influenced, just as functioning is, by manner of use, and not many, even of these, are aware of how intimately the individual’s use of self modifies the functioning and reaction of his whole being….” and further on the same page “…the association of manner of use of the self and manner of reaction and conditions of functioning being so close that control of one depends upon control of the other.” If how I direct myself is my manner of use, and I direct myself to react to any stimulus, and if I am always reacting to stimuli (otherwise I would cease to be alive, as Alexander explains in The Use of the Self, pp. 42-43), then where do we draw the line between the manner of our use and the manner of our reacting? Is use a subset of reaction or reaction a subset of use? What other metaphor might explain their relationship?

4. Alexander posits a manner of use which constantly exerts a harmful influence as the source of “individual failings, peculiarities, wrong ideas and ills of all kinds….” (p. 13). What place do you think the the germ theory would have in Alexander’s view of health and disease?