[FOUNTAIN]Spirited behaviorThe ancient Greeks were interested in how the mind and the body moved. In 260 B.C., Eristratus was the one who was able to come up with an answer. He said the soul of life, which he called “animal spirits,” is inhaled through the air and moves around empty neural tubes, which move the muscles. In modern terms, these are a kind of neurotransmitter. This kind of thinking continued until the birth of modern science. Scientists in the Middle Ages went through numerous experiments to find this mysterious substance of life, which enabled people to move and present various hypotheses.
Giovanni Borelli, an Italian scientist in the 17th century, conducted an experiment by putting a live animal in water and cutting its muscles to see if the substance was vapor or liquid. When no bubble developed, he concluded the animal spirit was liquid. Rene Descartes argued the mind interacts with the body through animal spirits. Isaac Newton introduced the hypothesis that nerve tissues move the animal spirits at the speed of light.
In the 18th century, when there was great development in physiology and psychology, the discussion of the animal spirit moved from scientific explanation to the fields of philosophy and metaphor in the study of literature.
In this case, “animal” was not a term used to depreciate a human being as a wild person, but, rather, it was used as meaning the base of life activities, such as vital power, energy and vitality. The dictionary still contains the idiom “full of animal spirits,” meaning vigorous and full of energy.
The term animal spirit appears once again in the field of economics with John Maynard Keynes. In his book, “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,” Keynes defined the investor’s positive attitude toward the future as the animal spirit. The desire of the investor jumping, even in an uncertain situation, is the prime factor in economic prosperity.
Recently, Bank of Korea Governor Lee Sung-tae said to businessmen they need the “animal spirit.” Governor Lee seems to have read the “General Theory” translated by Chung Woon-chan, former president of Seoul National University. Although the purpose is understood, that investment is needed immediately, he somehow seems like he is talking without thinking of any countermeasures.
Instead of simply urging an increase in investments without any incentive, it would have been much better if he had introduced another Keynesian idea, that the “business-friendly behavior of politicians is the decisive factor in economic prosperity.”
by Kim Jong-soo
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.