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Thought in ActionExpertise and the Conscious Mind$
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Barbara Gail Montero

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199596775

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199596775.001.0001

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Effortlessness with Effort

Effortlessness with Effort

(p.166) 8 Effortlessness with Effort
Thought in Action

Barbara Gail Montero

Oxford University Press

Expert actions often appear effortless; they embody what the Italian Renaissance thinker Castiglione referred to sprezzatura, or what, as it is sometimes interpreted, the ancient Chinese referred to as wu-wei. How are we to understand this effortlessness given, as has been argued, such actions typical involve effort? By examining what it means for an action to be effortless and exploring—in light of both Henri Bergson’s and Edmund Spencer’s views of grace—what we find valuable about aesthetically effortless actions, such as those performed by ballet dancers, this chapter provides an account of effortlessness with effort. Just as Castiglione’s sprezzatura was more of a guise than an indication that an action was being performed without effort, it is argued that the effortlessness of great athletes and dancers may also be deceptive. And our admiration of effortless, it is suggested, is explained in part by the superfluity of fitness that effortlessness evinces.

Keywords:   Castiglione, sprezzatura, Bergson, Spencer, effortlessness, wu-wei, aesthetic value, ballet

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