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  1. #1
    blwings is offline Newbie
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    In other words consciousness is an illimitable power...

    "In other words consciousness is an illimitable power, and though at times it may seem to be all consciousness of misery, yet in the way it propagates itself from wave to wave, so that we never cease to feel, though at moments we appear to, try to, pray to, there is something that holds one in one’s place, makes it a standpoint in the universe which it is probably good not to forsake."

    This is from Henry James' letter to Grace Norton(https://lettersofnote.com/2012/03/20...and-we-remain/).
    It's so long and I get lost in the middle of interpreting it. Can someone make it easy to understand please?

  2. #2
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: In other words consciousness is an illimitable power...

    You're not the only one who gets lost in the middle of it.

    Is there a reason why you need to study this convoluted text?

  3. #3
    blwings is offline Newbie
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    Re: In other words consciousness is an illimitable power...

    There's no special reason to it. I'm just curious about what does it mean.

  4. #4
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    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Re: In other words consciousness is an illimitable power...

    Quote Originally Posted by blwings View Post
    There's no special reason to for it. I'm just curious about what does it means.
    Note my corrections above.

    Honestly, I don't have the time or the inclination to try and get to the bottom of that overlong sentence. If I were you, I'd move on to something else. Life's too short!
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. #5
    Phaedrus's Avatar
    Phaedrus is offline Senior Member
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    Re: In other words consciousness is an illimitable power...

    Quote Originally Posted by blwings View Post
    "In other words consciousness is an illimitable power, and though at times it may seem to be all consciousness of misery, yet in the way it propagates itself from wave to wave, so that we never cease to feel, though at moments we appear to, try to, pray to, there is something that holds one in one’s place, makes it a standpoint in the universe which it is probably good not to forsake."

    This is from Henry James' letter to Grace Norton(https://lettersofnote.com/2012/03/20...and-we-remain/).
    It's so long and I get lost in the middle of interpreting it. Can someone make it easy to understand please?
    Three observations:

    1) The sentence has two independent clauses. The second one follows the "and" after "power." "Though . . . yet . . ." is an archaic correlative conjunction.

    2) There is verb-phrase ellipsis after "appear to," "try to," and "pray to." After each, you can insert "cease to feel."

    3) "There is something" seems to me to be another iteration of the "so that"-clause: "[so that] there is something that holds on in one's place . . . ."

    Incidentally, Henry James was the brother of William James, a Harvard philosopher who wrote a great deal about consciousness and psychology.

  6. #6
    jutfrank's Avatar
    jutfrank is offline VIP Member
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    Re: In other words consciousness is an illimitable power...

    Which bit exactly is causing you problems?

  7. #7
    Phaedrus's Avatar
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    Re: In other words consciousness is an illimitable power...

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    3) "There is something" seems to me to be another iteration of the "so that"-clause: "[so that] there is something that holds on in one's place . . . ."
    I now perceive the "there is . . ." part of the sentence differently. It is actually the main (nonsubordinate) part of the second independent clause. "Pray to [cease to feel]" ends at once the second "though"-clause, the "so that"-purpose clause, and the relative clause, modifying "way," in which both the second "though"-clause and "so that"-purpose clause are embedded.

    The sentence has eight (8) finite clauses, only two of which are independent clauses, and six nonfinite infinitival clauses, for a grand total of fourteen (14) clauses. Stripped of all subordinate elements, the basic sentence is: "Consciousness is an illimitable power, and there is something." Below is my parsing. It doesn't address meaning, but if you understand the words, having the structure will help you to see the meaning.

    "In other words, [introductory phrase]
    consciousness is an illiminatable power, [first independent clause]
    and
    [coordinating conjunction]
    though
    [subordinating conjunction; first element of "though. . . yet. . ." correlative structure in the second independent clause]
    at times it may seem to be all consciousness of misery, [subordinate "though" concessive clause]
    yet [second element of "though. . . yet . . ." correlative structure]
    in the way [adverbial prepositional phrase; of a piece with the main/nonsubordinate part of the second independent clause]
    (that) it propogates itself from wave to wave, [relative clause modifying "way" within the aforementioned adverbial prepositional phrase]
    so that we never cease to feel, [purpose clause within the relative clause modifying "way" within the adverbial "in"-phrase]
    though [subordinating conjunction introducing a concessive clause within the "so that"-clause]
    at moments we appear to [cease to feel], try to [cease to feel], pray to [cease to feel], [the concessive subordinate clause introduced by "though"]
    there is something [the second independent clause, stripped of all subordinate elements]
    that [relative pronoun; subject of relative clause]
    holds one in one's place, [first predicate/verb phrase of the relative clause modifying "something"]
    makes it a standpoint in the universe [second predicate/verb phrase of the relative clause modifying "something"]
    which it is probably good not to forsake." [relative clause modifying "standpoint," embedded within the relative clause modifying "something"]

    If I had the time and the inclination, I'd construct a syntax tree or a Reed-Kellogg diagram.
    Last edited by Phaedrus; 18-Nov-2020 at 00:33.

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