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Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness

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What accounts for the popularity of the macho image, the fanaticism of sports enthusiasts, and the perennial appeal of Don Quixote's ineffectual struggles? In Fighting for Life, Walter J. Ong addresses these and related questions, offering insight into the role of competition in human existence. Focusing on the ways in which human life is affected by contest, Ong argues that the male agonistic drive finds an outlet in games as divergent as football and chess.

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Overview

What accounts for the popularity of the macho image, the fanaticism of sports enthusiasts, and the perennial appeal of Don Quixote's ineffectual struggles? In Fighting for Life, Walter J. Ong addresses these and related questions, offering insight into the role of competition in human existence. Focusing on the ways in which human life is affected by contest, Ong argues that the male agonistic drive finds an outlet in games as divergent as football and chess.

Demonstrating the importance of contest in biological evolution and in the growth of consciousness out of the unconscious, Ong also shows how adversary procedure has affected social, linguistic, and intellectual history. He discusses shifting patterns of contest in such arenas as spectator sports, politics, business, academia, and religion. Human beings' internalization of agonistic drives, he concludes, can foster the deeper discovery of the self and of distinctively human freedom.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870236792
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 8/4/1989
  • Edition description: 1st pbk. ed
  • Pages: 232

Meet the Author

Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912–2003), was University Professor of Humanities at Saint Louis University, where he taught for thirty-six years. His books include Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness, Interfaces of the Word
Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture
, and Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture, all from Cornell; Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word; The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History; and Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason.

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