From Chapter 8 of my forthcoming book, The Myth of ‘Just do it’: Thought and Effort in Expert Action:
What is it for an action to be effortless? What are we appreciating when we admire Castiglione’s effortless courtier, a dancer’s effortless leaps, or a seagull’s effortless soar? For Castiglione as well as for the ancient Chinese thinkers, effortlessness was primarily a social value. According to Castiglione, effortlessness, or at least the façade of effortlessness enabled individuals to gain recognition, approval and promotion to higher political positions in the Royal Court, and according to the Daoist tradition it engendered, de, a type of charisma that allows rulers to persuade neither by force nor decree but merely in virtue of their magnetism. Though no less relevant to politics now than it was in the past, my focus is more on aesthetic rather than social value, and specifically with the aesthetic value of effortlessness in works of art.