We come now to what the Scholastics call the second of the "spiritual faculties" of the human soul, and which they name the "will." As I said, I don't think of this as a separate faculty (a kind of "spiritual appetite"); and I think, particularly in the case of choosing, assigning it to an appetitive faculty can lead to serious problems with human freedom.
It is here that what I said in Chapter 10 of Section 5 of the first part on goodness and badness fits into the ontological structure of the human being 1.5.10; and so let me approach the subject of choosing by saying first what I think is wrong with the Scholastic view, and then get into certain of the other views that either explicitly deny freedom of choice or deny it by implication.
To clear out the underbrush, there are various senses of "free" that we have to distinguish.
A person or animal is free if its acts are spontaneous, and not constrained or determined from outside.
An act is determined if it is not possible (for whatever reason) for it to be anything but some given act.
An act is influenced if something made it probable that the act would be performed.
So in this sense of "freedom," an animal that is not tied up is free; and it is free within the limits of its tether even if it is tied up. If I take your hand and make it move, then your hand is moving, but not moving freely.
This sense of freedom is not what we are interested in. All living beings are free to some extent with this freedom, because the initiation of their acts comes to some extent from inside and is not a mere reaction to the environment's energy. But plants and animals are determined to act by their genetic structure as it responds to the situation they are in; and hence, even though the dog might not be tied up, the strongest impulse in its instinct will determine the action.
As to the meaning of "determine," it is what we ordinarily think of as "force," except that "being forced" has negative connotations which are not necessary to being determined. For instance, your liking for chocolate would determine you to buy a Hershey bar if your liking was so strong that you couldn't (in practice) not buy the bar at that time.
"Influence," on the other hand, does not necessarily determine; but it does incline an animal or a person in a given direction. Usually, we (and animals too) are not subject to one single influence at any given time, but a whole set of them, which incline us in many different directions. Any determining that would be going on would be that the weight of the influences is toward a given action, such that this sum of influences overcomes influences in any other direction and makes any other act impossible.
The question before us is really that. Are human beings so constructed that, taking all the influences on a person at any given time (whether or not we know them all and weigh them correctly), we are determined to choose and do what the weight of the influences inclines us toward?
But, having discussed influences somewhat, let me now mention another sense of "free":
A person is free if he is not constrained by a threat.
A threat is a promise of harm if some act is (or is not) performed.
This sort of "freedom" is called "liberty." Its point is that a threat is a moral constraint (i.e. one recognized mentally, but not a physical something) that tends to make it very unlikely that the person will do the act that is threatened. (Of course, if the threat is against not doing some act, then then act will very likely be performed.)
Threats are regarded as a different sort of thing from promises of reward. A person feels "freer" in giving up a reward than he does in doing something he wants to do and taking a threatened punishment along with it. And I think the reason lies in the fact that the threat means that you will be worse off from the way you are now, while missing the reward simply leaves you where you are.(1)
In any case, threats or punishment (some kind of harm) are what give laws their "force." And the freedom called "liberty" is freedom (to the extent possible with public order) from this kind of threat.
But here, the threat is an influence, which is not necessarily determining, because there can be other influences in other directions that can offset the threat--even if the weight of the influences determines what a person will choose and do.
So the sense of freedom we are interested in is this:
Freedom of choice means that the weight of the influences does not determine the choice.
That is, those who hold freedom of choice do not hold that we are not influenced, but that it is always possible to choose against the weight of the influences. Radical free-choice theories would hold that it is always possible to act against the weight of the influences; while more moderate free-choice positions (among which I include mine) hold that the choice is never determined, but it might not always be able to control the act the person performs (meaning that the overt act or the behavior is determined in these cases by the weight of the influences, even though the choice isn't--and the choice may in fact be made in the opposite direction).
Obviously, it is going to be a tall order to prove this. All I am saying is that this is what the issue is.
Now then, why don't I like the Scholastic position? Because I think that, for all its assertions of freedom of choice, it is basically a deterministic position. I think that any position that holds that (a) the "will" (or the choice, if you prefer) is "by its nature attracted to 'the good,'" and (b) "the good" is objective, is a deterministic position.
And this is the Scholastic position. The will, as the intellectual appetite, is attracted to "the good" as such: i.e. "the good" as understood by the intellect. Since this is what it is oriented toward, then it is not possible for it to choose what is bad rather than what is good, if taken in that abstract sense. The will, for the Scholastic, can only choose something which is bad, but it can't choose it as bad, but only some good in it. Thus, if you choose to steal a thousand dollars, you aren't choosing it because it is bad to steal a thousand dollars, but so that you can have a thousand dollars that you don't now have (which is good), or that you can feel a sense of power (which is good), or that you can get even with someone who cheated you (and correcting an injustice is good), and so on. The problem is, according to the Scholastics, that these "goods" are connected with something which as a whole is worse than its alternative. You choose it because either you don't know this fact, or because you deliberately choose not to think of it.
But in the second case, if the will is automatically attracted to the good, then you are in an impossibility. This "automatic attraction to the good" has to mean an automatic attraction to the greater good when faced with alternatives, since nothing is absolutely and totally evil (as we saw, evil as such doesn't exist). There can't meaningfully be an "automatic attraction" toward something that doesn't have any alternative; all the "automatic attraction toward the good" would mean if it didn't involve the greater good of two alternatives is that the will is "automatically attracted toward" anything at all, and wouldn't automatically distinguish between the most depraved and horrible act (which has something of goodness in it) and the most noble and glorious one. In fact, what "attraction" would mean is questionable in this case, because all it would mean is that the will triggers action, not any particular action (since for it all would be equal).
But if the "attraction" is really toward the "greater good," then how could you put facts indicating lesser goodness out of your mind? You would know that these facts you are deliberately putting out of your mind tip the scales in the direction of the act's being less good (i.e. less attractive to the will) than the alternative; but then how can you deliberately ignore them? The choice to ignore these facts would have to be made by the will, which is, as we just said, automatically attracted to the greater good. It couldn't be done.
Hence, the only thing that would allow you to choose what is in fact less good than the alternative would be, as Plato held, ignorance. You might do what is less good for one of two reasons: (a) ignorance, or (b) inability to make your body do what you choose; but you couldn't make a less good choice if you were aware that it might be less good (because the ignorance would be recognized as a less desirable state, and a deliberate refusal to find out the truth would be impossible). Hence, even to suspect that you might be doing what is worse would be enough to make the will stay the act until you found out the facts. This is confirmed by the fact that it certainly is enough to stay those who are trying to do what is best--which itself implies that the whole theory has something wrong with it, because it implies that we can't do anything but try to do what is best.
This is why I call the Scholastic position a determinist position sub rosa.
It is also true of any position where the result of reasoning about goodness and badness (even if this reasoning is held to be spiritual) determines the will. Here again, the Scholastic position fails. The deliberation process is supposed to weigh the pros and cons of a given action (the "goods" as opposed to the "bads"), and finally reach "the last practical judgment" ("This is better for me to do now than that") which determines which act will be performed. For the will now to say, "But I will do that one nonetheless" would be for the will to act against reason, which for the Scholastic is not possible. It is possible to act praeter rationem (apart from reason) but not contra rationem (directly counter to reason). If the will, after all the deliberation, could then throw its results aside and do the opposite, then the whole deliberative process would be in fact useless, because it would make no difference to the will; and obviously in this case, the will would not be "attracted to the good" but merely capricious.
There are qualifications that the Scholastics make, but they don't really get around the problem, I think. Any attraction to a partial good would involve deliberately ignoring the repulsion this partial good has in the context; but you can't deliberately ignore it if good attracts you and evil doesn't, because you know that it is better not to ignore, and you can't ignore that.
The Scholastic position does have this going for it: it recognizes as a fact that our choice is free; it is its explanation of how we can choose freely that I have difficulty with.
And as I see it, the real problem in theories like this lies in the knowledge of what it means to say that something is "good." If what I said in Section 5 of the first part is true, then all "X is good" means is that the object matches some arbitrarily ideal I have freely set up, and, the problem is solved.(2)
The "will" is not attracted to something objective called "the good" at all; the human spirit creates the good of something by choosing that something as its goal (or at least its ideal).
Before getting into a defense of why I think the position I take is not canonizing caprice (in a sense it is, of course), I think we should look at the evidence which would indicate whether our choices are free or not. After all, it's certainly thinkable that they could be determined; and God knows there have been plenty of philosophers throughout the ages who have explicitly said they are.
The primary evidence for the choice's freedom is, as I see it, the same as the Scholastics' primary evidence: that the choice is a conscious act, and so immediately aware of itself, as containing its whole self within itself; and the choice carries with it a conviction that it could have been different (i.e., that it is not determined). Even when a person says, "I couldn't help myself," he will be found, if pressed, to mean that he couldn't control his act, or even that he acted against his choice ("I did it in spite of myself"). The same is true of "You leave me no choice." The person realizes that he could choose to take either alternative, but that one of them has been made completely unreasonable.(3)
Even those like B. F. Skinner, who hold that the choice as well as the act is determined, admit that we have this conviction that our choices are free; but these people think that that we are deceived. As Skinner's alter ego in Walden Two says, "The illusion of freedom should fool no one." Well, it fools me if it is an illusion. I don't see how a conscious act can be deceived about one of its own dimensions. This would be tantamount to saying that what seems red to you "really" seems green (i.e. not that a green object looks red, but that the way you see it is not really the way you see it). There is nothing between the act and its consciousness of itself that could get in the way of its knowing itself. We discussed this, if you recall, back in Section 1 of the First Part, in connection with our absolute certainty that there is something.
In that sense, the burden of proof (and it is a very heavy one) rests on those who think that our choices are determined. Still, to say that our choices are not determined is so foreign to the way things at least seem to behave in our world, that a case really has to be made for freedom, too. To a rationalist, freedom of choice is absurd, and amounts to randomness.
And as a matter of fact, this is what is behind Skinner's determinism. He thinks that if a choice is not determined by the influences acting on it, then it is uncaused, and therefore unpredictable. This would make a science of human behavior impossible, because there would be no way to predict it. But there is a science of human behavior, which means that human behavior is predictable, and therefore, it is determined.
There are all kinds of flaws in the logic here, of course. First of all, human behavior is only predictable statistically, and statistics (as we will see considerably later) are the inverse of probability, which deals with what is random. That a coin comes up, in the long run, heads half the time when you flip it doesn't mean that the flips were not random; in fact, it is when they are not random that heads does not tend to appear half the time. Hence, that human behavior is statistically predictable (but that individual acts aren't) is rather evidence that human behavior is random than that it is determined--although actually, it doesn't prove anything one way or the other.
Secondly, "to cause" does not mean "to determine," but "to make not contradictory what would otherwise be a contradiction." Hence, it does not follow that if an act is not determined by the events that influence it, it is uncaused; the influences are parts of the cause of it (i.e. they help explain why it is what it is), but they are not a determining cause of it.
No, Skinner's position is really that "it just stands to reason" that since influences influence, then the strongest influence prevails; and his explanation of why human behavior is only statistically predictable is that in a given case, the influences are so complex that we can't know all of them, and so we can't actually tell where the weight of the influence lies until after the fact. He also has the scientist's notion that you can't take anything as scientifically true unless it is repeatable under the same conditions. And to "prove" that you are free by going back and making the opposite choice in the same circumstances is impossible, because the mere fact that you made the one choice before and now you want to prove that you can make the other one is an influence that wasn't there before, and makes the second time round not a repetition of the first one.
True, if the conviction of freedom is an illusion, then there is no way to prove that it isn't after the fact (or to prove that it is, either). But this doesn't mean that "you pays your money and you takes your choice"; there is evidence that is relevant to the issue.
First of all, we can take it as a fact (since it is admitted even by determinists) that we have the conviction that our choices are free. Any theory of human choice has to make sense out of why we think our choices are free. The problem is that making sense out of this is quite difficult, since on the one hand if you say that it is true, your description of what is going on seems, as in Scholasticism, to imply determinism; and on the other, if you deny it because it affronts reason, you have to deny something that is immediately evident.
Let me first take up a view that is not in vogue today, but which you still sometimes see in some articles: what has been called "Theological determinism," which sometimes goes under the name of "predestination" in the Calvinistic sense.
The idea here is that if God has absolute knowledge of what I am going to choose and absolute control over it, then in point of fact I can't choose anything except just what God wants me to choose; and since he has this knowledge from all eternity, it follows that all my choices are "predestined," and I can't do anything about them. I don't have any real alternative. There is a choice I will make tomorrow about getting up out of bed; and however much I may not know what it will be, and however much at the time I may seem to have the alternative of choosing to stay in bed, I will in fact make the choice God has eternally caused me to make, and I will not be able to make any other.
This mistakes three things: God's eternity, his causal activity, and his "stake" in what happens with his creatures--all of which we have discussed earlier at length.(4)
First, as I said in Chapter 6 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.6, the eternity of God's causing me to choose something does not mean that he either knows or causes the choice before it happens; he knows and causes it eternally, and this does not imply before, during, or after. God's eternal knowledge of what I will choose tomorrow does not determine the act any more than my knowledge now of what I chose this morning determines my choice this morning.
That is, "determined" as opposed to "free" doesn't have to do with the "necessity" involved in the Principle of Identity(5)
that what is what it is must be what it is while it is what it is. All that this says is that a fact is a fact. But a fact is determined if the agent is incapable of doing anything else; and so this "necessity" deals with power over what the fact is to be, and not that, when it is what it is, it is what it is. God's knowledge, then, of the choice I make tomorrow to get up is simple factual knowledge, and is the same as his (and my, for purposes of this discussion) knowledge of the choice I made to get up today and the choice I made yesterday, and so on.
But, of course, since God is simple, his knowledge of my choice is also his act of causing the finite act which is my choice, and isn't it here where the problem comes in? Only if you interpret "to cause" as "to determine." I discussed this under Conclusion 30 of Chapter 9 of Section 4 of the First Part 1.4.9, where I was speaking of how God cannot "permit" a sin, but must actively cause it. No finite act is possible without God as its cause, because by itself it would be a contradiction (it is less than itself), and only God can resolve this contradiction. But God, in resolving the contradiction, accounts for the act's being what it is, and if the act is self-determining, this obviously does not take away the act's freedom (or what was supposed to make it not self-contradictory would make it self-contradictory). So God's removing the contradiction in a free act's finiteness does not by that fact remove its freedom. Of course, the act can't happen if God withholds his causality from it, so he has control over whether it will (freely) be done or not (and presumably if he wants some definite act--such as Mary's free consent to his offer to sire a son by her--he could simply withhold causality from anything else but the free choice to give the consent). So he has control, without determining the act; since the causes what you might call the "generic finiteness" of the act; but the agent is the one who chooses which (finite) act the act the act is to be, and the agent has the power to choose the opposite; it is just that the agent in fact makes the choice in question. In Mary's case, for instance, God made his offer in circumstances in which he knew she would freely accept, and when he choice was being made, he caused the choice to be the free choice which it was.(6)
The third misunderstanding deals with God's "purpose" for his creatures. As I said in Chapter 4 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.4, God has no purpose in creating other than that what he creates be what it is; and not even this is a purpose in the strict sense; but in any case, it implies nothing with respect to what any creature does. And in Chapter 12 of Section 5 of the First Part 1.5.12, in discussing the problem of evil, I pointed out that God, as absolutely unable to be affected by anything in the universe, has no "stake" at all in what happens, in the sense that he "wants" something that does not in fact happen, or "would be disappointed" if it didn't, because from God's point of view, nothing is good or bad.
Hence, predestination, properly understood, doesn't have anything to do one way or another with a choice's being free. The "predestination" from God doesn't happen beforehand, God's knowledge of the act chosen includes the knowledge that it was chosen freely (if it was), which means that the finite agent had real power to choose otherwise, but only in fact chose the way he chose, and God's causal "help" making that act possible only removes the contradiction in its being finite, but does not by that fact determine it or remove the finite agent's power over what the act is to be. Therefore, we can dismiss any kind of Calvinistic fatalism (which if it wasn't in Calvin, was certainly in some of his followers) as a misunderstanding of what God's knowledge and causality is.
We come finally to the issue as it stands today. Present-day psychological determinists like B. F. Skinner say that the sum of conscious and unconscious influences determines in every case what you choose and what you do.
How then do they account for the conviction that choices are free? By saying that not all the influences on any given choice or act are known, either by anyone from outside or by the agent himself.
Here, I want to strengthen the determinist position beyond what Skinner says, because he isn't a very good philosopher, really, and his position as he states it is open to refutations that could have been avoided.
Sophisticated determinism, then, explains the conviction of a choice's being free on these grounds: When the weight of the influences is not known, the act seems to be free. When it is known that the weight of the influences are determining the act, it is felt not to be free--and we say, "I couldn't help it" afterwards. The conviction of freedom is strongest when the weight of the known influences is in one direction, and the actual choice and/or act go in the opposite direction. How could we not think we were free in this case? But the secret here, according to the determinist position, is that unknown influences are actually tipping the scales so that the total influence is more in the direction of the act you do choose; and so you really couldn't help doing what seemed to you so free--because you did what you were really most attracted towards, even though it was against what you consciously seemed to be attracted towards.
This theory explains, on the supposition that we are always determined by the weight of the actual influences, (a) why we think we are free, (b) why we sometimes think we "couldn't help it" and feel not free, and (c) why we can "fight temptation" and sometimes win over what seemed to be the strongest urge.
And if this theory accounts for all the facts, then it is to be preferred over one that supposes freedom, since by Occam's razor, freedom is less likely on the face of it, and so this explanation leaves the act as not something mystical or esoteric. If the only thing against it is the supposition that the conviction can't be mistaken because it is a knowledge of the act by the act itself, then you must remember that this "fact" is actually a conclusion from the whole theory of consciousness we developed earlier, and not of itself evidence as such. In fact, if the theory above turns out to explain all facts that everyone admits are facts except this one, then it calls into serious question everything about the theory of consciousness which would imply that it is impossible for the conviction of freedom to be an illusion.
So the issue is serious; and we can't use the conviction itself as evidence against it, because it gives at least a plausible reason for why the conviction could be an illusion. And the theory, in fact, is further strengthened by the fact that we can actually provide an experiment in which a person thinks he has freely chosen to do something, but we know that he was forced to do it by something he was unaware of.
The experiment involves hypnosis and posthypnotic suggestion, and is actually fairly commonly done in demonstrations of hypnotism. The experimenter hypnotizes the subject and tells him, "Exactly five minutes after I wake you up, you will remove this light bulb from its socket. But you will not remember that I told you to do this." He wakes up the subject, and four minutes later, the subject says something like, "That light is blinding me. Do you mind if it turn it off?" If the experimenter protests, the subject is apt to say, "Oh, come on. It's no big deal, and it really bothers me," and exactly five minutes after waking, he removes the bulb.
When questioned, he is very apt to think that he freely chose to remove the bulb, and could have left it there. He recognizes the influence the brightness had on his choice, but he wouldn't necessarily (and often in practice doesn't) think that influence was overwhelming, making it impossible for him to leave the light burning. But of course, the real reason he took out the bulb was the posthypnotic suggestion.
But was it? Perhaps the posthypnotic suggestion only produced the sensation of painful brightness (using instinct to create the illusion). After all, hypnosis has to be a taking control of instinct by the experimenter. If this is all that happened, then it is quite possible that the person freely chose to take out the bulb based on this misinformation, and the experiment is no argument for determinism.
To refute this objection, experimenters point to instances when someone has a posthypnotic suggestion to do something fairly neutral like removing a bulb, and then others try physically to prevent him. What normally happens is that the subject will struggle and fight to do what he was told in the suggestion, even though the act he is trying to do is not at all worth the struggle to do it.
This seems to indicate that this apparently free act was determined by the posthypnotic suggestion, and that the person thought he was free because he was totally unaware at the time of this overwhelming influence.
But it's not quite that simple. People who are prevented and then panic and struggle realize at that point that something funny is going on, and begin to think that they were not as free as they thought at first they were. They still don't know what is making it so desperately necessary to do the act, but they have lost the sense that they are free. Further, people who are given posthypnotic suggestions to do bizarre acts (even if innocent morally) or acts wildly foreign to their character--like standing on a chair, waving their arms, and shouting the Gettysburg address at the top of their lungs--don't tend to report afterwards that they felt free, but that they had an irresistible impulse to do the act.
And this is very instructive, and indicates that we should look more closely at the situation. You can't have it both ways: you can't say that the reason people feel free when they do is that they are ignorant of what is forcing them to do something, and then say that there are people in this situation who feel not free. That is, the theory advanced above predicts that any time a person is determined by the weight of influence that is unknown, he will have the conviction that he is free. Since this theory says that we are always determined, it claims that the cause of the "illusion" of freedom is nothing but the unknownness of some of the determining factors. But then, when this cause is present, the effect will occur. Hence, on this theory, it cannot be the case that a person is determined by something unknown and feels not free. But this seems to happen with some of the people given posthypnotic suggestions.
Hence, that experiment actually argues against the theory that the unknownness of the determinant produces the conviction of freedom, because it would have to happen in every case if it were true.
But then how can a person who holds freedom of choice account for the experiment, in which the person actually was determined to take out the light bulb and thought he was free to do it or not to do it? It doesn't make sense to say that the posthypnotic suggestion only provided information in this case, and is determining only when an attempt is made to prevent the act. That's playing fast and loose with common sense just to save the theory. If the suggestion determines the act in the one case, then it is determining it in the other.
So on this showing, this experiment now disproves both theories.
But actually, things aren't as bleak as all that. If we distinguish the freedom of the choice from the freedom of the act, then it is quite possible that the person thinks he is free if no resistance is offered because (a) the brightness of the light gives him a reason for choosing to do the act in question, and he has no conscious reason for not choosing to do it; and so he freely chooses to do it for this reason; and (b) the fact that he does what he chose to do makes him think that his act is determined by his choice, and so is free. When resistance is offered and he struggles against it, it now becomes reasonable not to do the act, but now he finds that even if he chooses not to do the act, he can't prevent himself from doing it; and so he feels that he is not free in his actions, though he still thinks his choice is free.
This is fairly complex, but it solves the problem. The idea behind it is that the choice uses information (facts known) as the reasons for which it freely chooses one act over another. Since the choice is conscious, it knows itself as well as the facts which it picks out as the reasons for the choice. In ordinary circumstances, this choice then directs energy in the brain into the appropriate motor nerves; and when the act chosen is the act performed, then the person feels free.
But sometimes, there is (as I said in the preceding section) so much energy in the instinct that the choice can't direct it to the behavior it wants; and so, even though the choice remains free, the person feels not free because he didn't do what he chose to do. He realizes that he is "out of control of himself," meaning that his (free) choice can't determine his act in this case (and so something else--known or unknown--is determining it.
That way looks rather promising, because it explains what we have seen so far. Let me now look a little more closely at the determinist theory and see what it entails, so as to be able to make some testable predictions about human behavior.
The theory obviously states that both our choices and our acts are determined by the weight of the (known + unknown) influences on us at the time. When enough of the influences are known that it is clear what act the sum of them is inclining the person to, the person feels not free; he feels free only if he does not know enough about the influences to realize which act they in fact are inclining him towards, especially if in his ignorance he thinks they incline him one way and he does the opposite.
Secondly, since the person states as reasons for his choice the same sorts of influences that also influence the actual act, then presumably the same influences influence both the choice and the act. That is, it would be odd indeed to find an influence that made you choose but had no effect at all on what you did, or something that made you act a given way and didn't incline you to choose to do that act. I don't, in fact, see how you could sustain a determinist theory with a set of influences that affect only the choice and another set that affect only the act.
Hence, we can make the following predictions from this theory: (1) A person will never feel unfree if he is determined by something he is not aware of (i.e. if as far as he knows, nothing is forcing him in a given direction). (2) A person who feels free will only begin to feel unfree by discovering something previously unknown that is forcing him in a given direction. (3) A person will never choose to act one way and actually act in a different way.
Now let us test this against the large number of cases of people who feel unfree: those who go to psychologists and psychiatrists for help, because they feel out of control.
As a preliminary here, I think we can take it as true that these people honestly think they are not free. Psychiatrists and psychologists charge a hundred dollars an hour and up for their services, and the sessions are apt to be weekly or even more often for years on end. You don't put out that kind of money to get yourself back into control if you really believe you're in control in the first place.
But the interesting thing for our purposes is that a very large proportion of these people do not know what makes them do what they feel compelled to do. They are going to the psychologist in part to find out what is making them behave the way they behave. Most of them can't give any real reason why they do what they do; and it is only after many sessions in therapy that they begin to discover with the therapist's help why they are doing the acts.
But this is directly counter to Prediction (1) above. These people, if anyone, would feel free if the determinist theory is true, because they are compelled to do something and as far as they know there is nothing compelling them to do it. They must spend weeks or years discovering what is tipping the scales to make them behave in this way. And in fact, very often no one knows what compels people like this. Why do alcoholics drink? Is it something organic in the brain? Is it a bad habit? Is it to overcome some unbearable memory? Is it all of these? There are all kinds of theories, but no hard evidence. It is also the case that most, possibly even all, of the people who come for help thinking that they are out of control come only after very extended periods of doing the compulsive act thinking that they were in control of it. One of the characteristics of this kind of person is that of "self-deception"; he will give all kinds of reasons for doing the act, as if to prove to himself that he is really free and not compelled at all. It is only when he "hits bottom" that he finally comes to realize that he needs help. This can almost be said to be a universal truth with respect to alcoholism; it takes some kind of crisis for a person finally to wake up to the fact that he is an alcoholic and can't just "take it or leave it alone."
Now what happens in this crisis which leads to discovery? Is it, as in Prediction 2 above, that the person discovers some new fact that he now realizes compels his choice-behavior? Almost never. As far as he knows, he is the same as he was before the crisis; he hasn't learned any truth about his unconscious; in fact, he seeks help now precisely because he doesn't know what he thought he knew about himself. All he really has discovered is that he thought he could control his acts, and now he realizes that (for some unknown reason) he can't. That is, he hasn't found the reason why he can't control himself; he has just been forced by some circumstance to admit the fact that he can't control himself.
But this again goes counter to the determinist theory. If you don't know what's doing this to you, how can you know that you can't help doing it? That is, you are the same today as you were yesterday; you know no more about your psyche. Yesterday you did this act and felt free doing it; today you do it and realize that both yesterday and today you aren't free doing it; but you don't know why you weren't free yesterday; you just know that the feeling that you did the act freely was an illusion.
But then what is this "crisis-circumstance" that creates such a change? Again, almost without exception, it is a situation in which the person finds a very good reason for not doing the act he thinks he can control, and decides not to do it, and then finds he can't. The alcoholic says, "All right, that's it; I'll have to stop this," in circumstances where, "Well, one more won't hurt" won't do (e.g. his employer has told him, "One more drink and you're fired").(7)
Sometimes the realization can come, as it did with my mother, in realizing that you now have an greater opportunity for the act than you had before. My father never let her have any money of her own, and she had a charge account at the grocer (who didn't sell liquor or wine) that my father would pay. She would scrounge pennies until she got together enough to go to the other store across the street and buy a bottle of wine, justifying herself with "It's only wine" (You should have seen--no you shouldn't--what "only wine" did to her!), and "I only do this every now and then; I just like to have some handy once in a while." One day, when she couldn't get any money and needed the wine, she called the grocer and asked if he would go across the street and buy her a bottle of wine and put it on her bill--and he did. She now realized that she could have it whenever she wanted, and now it was up to her to stop. That is, she realized now that the excuses she had before for thinking she was in control of her drinking wouldn't work; it was either stop altogether or wind up back in the hospital. That did it. She stopped.
In the case of most people, the realization that they have to stop comes together with the realization that they can't; they realize that they need help. And that is when they seek help.
The first thing to note here, then, is that these crisis circumstances don't involve knowledge about what is making you do the act; the feeling of helplessness comes usually just from having a very, very strong reason for not doing the act. The person then chooses to stop, and continues doing the act for some unknown reason.
But under the determinist theory, the person in these crisis circumstances would feel free in the face of this new reason unless he knew that the scales were tipped the other way. But he learns this only after the fact: by not stopping when he "has to" stop, and wanted to stop, and actually tried to stop.
But how, on the determinist theory, could he choose to stop? Obviously, the reason he now confronts ("One more drink and you're fired") is an influence inclining him to stop; but there are all the influences that incline him to drink, and (as his subsequent behavior shows) these are stronger than the sum total of what inclines him to stop. But if the weight of the influence is making him drink, then it will also, by Prediction 3, determine the choice, and so he will choose not to stop.
Well, but maybe he didn't choose to stop. Maybe the new reason was just enough to make him hesitate, but he actually chose to keep drinking. No, that won't wash; because he then (a) feels out of control, and (b) actually chooses to seek help and sometimes go to enormous expense to get it. If he is still choosing to keep with his compulsion, why is he choosing to root it out? Either one or the other of the acts is compelled by the weight of the influence; but it can't be forcing an act and forcing its opposite at the same time.
Well, but can't you be inclined in opposite directions at once? Yes, but you can't be overwhelmingly inclined in opposite directions at once. We are not talking here about ambivalent feelings about something; we are talking about the supposed cause of behavior, which is alleged to be that "the sum total of influences toward X is greater than the sum total of influences away from X," and so X inevitably will be done. But here, the person (a) drinks and (b) at the same time tries not to drink.
Well . . ."at the same time." The influences might at this point be so closely balanced that the slightest thing will tip the scales either way; and so now he chooses not to drink and moves away from the bar, and two minutes later some slight remark of someone makes him choose to drink and move to the bar.
This is possible, I suppose, except that it makes this sort of behavior the same things as vacillation between equally attractive alternatives, where you "can't make up your mind." The experience in that case is not knowing what to do, and in general is accompanied by the feeling of freedom to do either. Here, the person seems to think he knows very well what to do, and the inclination in the opposite direction is regarded as a "temptation" against what he knows he should do, and his experience in doing what he is tempted to do is in being "overcome" by the temptation, not in choosing the more attractive alternative. There is something about him that is trying not to do what he eventually finds himself doing.
That is, the experience of "fighting a temptation" is totally different from that of weighing alternatives. In the case of weighing alternatives, the person is willing to take either, depending on which one comes out on top. In the case of fighting a temptation, the person is unwilling to do one, and is afraid that he will do it "in spite of himself," and even when he "gives in," he still doesn't want, in some meaningful sense, to do it. "What I do isn't what I choose to do," says St. Paul in Romans, giving what he considers an experience common to everyone, "I do what I hate doing. And if I do what I don't want to do . . ."
The issue for determinism is how you can account for this conflict, and distinguish it from being attracted to a chocolate mousse or a raspberry torte, where neither is regarded as a "temptation" against the other, though in fact you will choose one rather than the other, and thus the desire for the other will remain unfulfilled. That is, it is not enough to say that the sense of "giving in" to the temptation is explained on the grounds that the temptation was stronger (the person admits that) and the other inclination lost out and remains unfulfilled, because that is exactly the situation in the case of the mousse, and there is no sense of "not wanting to do what I did."
And the situation of the compulsive is even stronger. Once he recognizes his compulsion, he not only doesn't want to do what he keeps doing, it is vitally important to him to stop doing it, and he takes steps to see to it that he stops. His experience is not just of vacillating between alternatives, but of a constant struggle within himself, so that no matter what he does, he feels bad for doing it. If he "wins" over the temptation, he ordinarily doesn't feel triumphant, because the temptation is still there, driving him ever onward; and if he "gives in," he feels terrible, for the reason St. Paul gave. And he really still does not know why it is that the inclination to do the act is so strong in him--which should, on the determinist theory, make him feel free.
Of course, the determinist could try to explain the struggle on the grounds that there are some influences which are stronger on the conscious choice to act and weaker on the act, and some that are stronger on the act and weaker on the choice. But that is grasping at straws. What influences the act also influences the choice to act, or the theory is gibberish.
Then what can we say? (1) The determinist theory predicts that what we call a compulsive ought to feel free, and he clearly doesn't. (2) The determinist theory predicts that the person should change from feeling free to feeling compelled by finding out what is overwhelmingly inclining him to do an act; but in fact most compulsives discover their compulsion by finding a reason not to do what they are compelled to do. (3) The determinist theory predicts that a person who is compelled to do a certain act will also be compelled to choose to do that act; but the evidence indicates (though it is not absolutely conclusive) that compulsives actually choose to do the opposite of what they do "in spite of themselves."
Hence, the determinist theory sounds quite unattractive as an explanation of compulsive behavior. How does it stack up against the behavior and experience of those few of us who are sane? If we consider the act of deliberation about what course of action to take, we find some interesting things:
First, it is most people's experience that the more facts they find pro and con, the more free they feel about what to do. That is, we try to find as much evidence on both sides when we are deliberating what to do, because we have the feeling that we need to know the information in order to make a good choice; and the more we know, the more in control of the situation we feel. That is, if you were thinking of buying a car, and you suddenly realized that one of the reasons you liked the Buick was that you thought that the girl in the commercials was prettier than the one in the Oldsmobile ads, you would feel more in control and freer by finding out what was inclining you toward the Buick.
But the determinist theory would predict just the opposite, since the reason you feel free is that you don't know what is inclining you this way or that; hence, the less you know, the freer you would feel. Notice also that when you discover that you were attracted to the Buick because the girl in the ads looked prettier, you would be inclined to say, "Well, I'm not going to let that sway my judgment!" and use it rather as a reason against the Buick than for it.
But this implies that when the inclination gets into consciousness, we think that we can control it insofar as it is to be a "reason" for or against the choice. We can even, apparently, make an attraction toward something a reason for choosing against what it attracts us towards.
But once again, the determinist theory predicts the opposite. On that theory, we have no control whatever over what inclines us, nor over how strong the inclination is, whether the inclination is conscious or not. Obviously. If we could control the strength of the inclination, then whatever controlled the strength would be what was doing the determining, not the inclination itself. Hence, for the determinist, whether an influence is conscious or not is irrelevant, except that when it is conscious, it would lead to the feeling of being compelled by it, not being free. The experience of deliberation is exactly the reverse of this.
Finally, when we have finished deliberating and made our choice, it sometimes happens that later we discover a fact that we had forgotten when we made the choice, and we say, "Darn it! If I'd only remembered that, I'd have done the other thing!" And sometimes, if the choice is revocable, we actually reverse the choice we made. For instance, you buy a cheaper computer because you wanted the more expensive one, but didn't feel that you wanted to go that deeply into debt. But later on in the day you buy the cheaper one, the mail comes with your tax refund, which brings the more expensive one into your reach. You knew that the refund was coming; but you think that if you had remembered, you would either have waited, or taken out the larger loan; and now that you have it, you try to take the cheaper computer back and exchange it for the other one.
Now, on the determinist theory, if that fact was forgotten at the time we made the choice, but is latent in the unconscious (i.e. it was not a fact we didn't know at all, but a fact we knew and just didn't remember), then this unconsciousness of the fact doesn't prevent it from being an influence on the choice; it is just as great an influence as if it were conscious. Hence, the determinist theory would predict that remembering the fact later (as long as the other influences didn't change) would have no effect on (a) what you think the choice would have been, and (b) no influence at all in making you change the choice. But people do in fact change their minds when they remember something; and this seems clearly to indicate that, as far as the choice is concerned, at least, it makes all the difference in the world whether the influences are conscious or not. And that, in fact, explains why we think that we had better deliberate carefully before making an important choice, and become conscious of all the relevant information. If the information's consciousness made no difference (as it wouldn't on the determinist theory), there would be no reason for this.
Another interesting experience about deliberation and choice is that we sometimes choose to postpone a choice, or even choose not to make one. That is, after deliberating, it is a fairly common thing for a person to be like Scarlett O'Hara and say, "I won't decide that now; I'll worry about it tomorrow." Here, you have come to the point of making a choice, and you choose, not one or the other alternative, but not to choose now. Or again, you finish deliberating, and you say, "I can't make up my mind. Forget the whole thing!" Here, you haven't postponed the choice; you have refused to make one. Of course, that refusal is a choice; but it is a choice not to make the choice you were deliberating about.
This sort of thing doesn't seem possible on the determinist hypothesis. If you are deliberating about something, then some influence is making you deliberate toward some conclusion. But then what stops the deliberation? That it reached a conclusion, obviously. If it doesn't, then presumably it is like what happens when a computer does this, and gets into an "endless loop"; until something from outside turns it off, it just keeps going on and on over the same material. Here, the program itself would have to stop itself.
But notice that when you actually "make up your mind," it isn't generally some obvious conclusion you have come to that makes one course inevitable; you simply say, "Enough! I've got all the information I need; I'm going to buy this car, and that's that." You choose to stop deliberating, with the feeling that you could continue if you want to; but now you choose to choose rather than (a) continue deliberating, or (b) postponing the choice and "sleeping on it." But how can determinism make sense out of choosing to choose, choosing to choose (but later) and choosing not to choose at all? It might explain choosing not to choose as something that happens when an impasse is reached; but how can it explain postponing a choice, especially when you are pretty sure you are going to choose X, but just don't want to do so now for some reason? And, of course, the stopping of the deliberative process can't be something that is freely done; it has to be impossible in fact to go on, except that you don't realize what is making you stop at this point.
Given that Newton's Theory of Universal Gravitation collapsed as an explanation of the orbits of the planets based on one tiny discrepancy in the orbit of Mercury from the orbit the theory predicted, it would be hard to call the determinist theory an acceptable theory, when the more predictions we dig out of it, the more they contradict our actual behavior.
On the other hand, the free-choice theory is based on all the evidence that leads to consciousness' being an act that is not subject to the (deterministic) laws of energy, that contains itself within itself and so is immediately aware of itself, as well as being able to account for all these oddities that the determinist theory comes a cropper against.
Let us, therefore, draw the following conclusion:
Conclusion 9: Human choices are free, though we may or may not be able to perform the acts we choose to do.
This needs a more careful spelling out.
First, the choice itself is free in the sense that it is self-determining. There is obviously no problem in choosing to choose, choosing to postpone the choice, and choosing not to choose if the act contains itself within itself and chooses itself as well as choosing X. If understanding knows itself understanding, then what I am saying here is that choosing not only knows itself as choosing, it chooses itself.
Second, the choice chooses the reasons for the choice, and how much weight they have. That is, the choice can reject as a reason for the choice some fact it knows (like the attractiveness of the girl standing by the car), or it can make of little or great importance some other fact (such as the color of the car or the size of its motor).
This is consistent with what we said in Chapter 10 of Section 5 of the First Part 1.5.10 that "goodness" is not something objective, but an ideal we freely create and use as a measuring-stick to compare facts to. It obviously follows from this that how good something is depends on the ideal and where we choose to rank this ideal in relation to others; and this is the source of one ideal's being more "important" than another. Importance has no more objectivity than goodness. But this is something that we will have to leave till late in the next part, when we discuss axiology (the theory of values).
Obviously, if the choice did not have control over how much weight the information would have in influencing the choice, then it would be constrained to follow the greatest influence, and so would not be free. But since the choice is a spiritual act, then, just as understanding contains the conscious aspects the relevant sensations within its understanding of the relationship between them, so the choice contains within it the reasons for which it chooses; and since it is self-determining, it also determines how much these reasons are to influence it.
Of course, the choice's choosing itself and its reasons, together with whether any given reason is to be accepted or rejected and how important any one is going to be as an influence, is the explanation of how the deliberating process can stop. The choice is driving, as we will see in the next point, the deliberative process; and it simply chooses (for its own reasons) to stop it. Incidentally, you know the reason why you stopped deliberating, as well as the reason why (a) you choose at this point, or (b) you choose to postpone or forego the choice.
So far, then, the choice's freedom is consistent with what we know of a spiritual act.
Third, the choice is only influenced by what is conscious; and, in fact, only by facts understood at the time of the choice. Just as understanding is not aware of the energy-"dimension" of the sensations, so the choice cannot (a) opt for alternatives that it is not aware of or (b) use reasons for choosing that it is not aware of, even if these alternatives or reasons may be stored in the brain, and "exist" there below the conscious level.
The self-transparency of choice is, of course, the reason why we consider it so important to be conscious of all the relevant information when we make a choice. The choice itself realizes that only what is conscious can affect it; and so it tries to find in the brain's filing-system all the information that it thinks relevant before it "makes up its mind."
Notice that when an emotion is a reason for a choice, it is not the emotion itself that is the influence, nor how strong it is, but the fact that you have this emotion of this strength; and so the emotion becomes just another fact, in itself equal with any other fact you know as an influence on your choice. If you opt for the chocolate mousse, you may do so "because I really really love chocolate mousse," while on the other hand the fact that you have this same burning desire for chocolate mousse may be a reason for not eating the mousse, "because I don't want to become a slave to my palate."
My theory, then, says that Hume was dead wrong when he said that reason cannot move the will. My theory says that nothing but reason can move the will. We not only ought not to be the slave of our passions, we aren't.
And, in fact, Hume's own theory leads to this very conclusion, because he says that because reason can't move the will, sentiment (emotions) must; and, of course, this implies that the strongest sentiment is what does the moving. But then he distinguishes moral sentiments from selfish and base ones, and by implication says that the moral sentiments ought to move the will, because if they don't, then we don't approve of the act, and we say that the person ought not to have done it. Why ought he not to have done it if his selfish emotion happened to be stronger? Hume has no answer to this. He wants to have a theory of morality based on what is essentially a deterministic theory of the strongest emotion moving the will, and yet he obviously thinks that some emotions ought to be stronger than others. It sounds a good deal like Animal Farm's statement about all animals being equal, except that some are more equal than others.
Fourth, note that, just as "brainwashing" can make you think you understand things that didn't actually happen, because of misinformation or the blocking out of relevant information, the same thing can happen to a choice. Emotions, drives, habits, and so on can influence the choice in an indirect way, by controlling the information on which we base the choice. The emotion can't influence directly as such, because what influences is the fact that we know we have it, and we have perfect control over how much this fact is going to influence us (if at all), and in what direction. But the emotion itself--or rather, the drive of which the emotion is the conscious "dimension"--can influence the choice (as I said in the preceding section) by (a) blocking out facts from consciousness that would be known if it weren't operating to do so, or (b) creating illusions or hallucinations that are taken as facts.
It is here that the posthypnotic suggestion comes in as influencing the choice. In the example I gave, the subject chose to remove the light bulb because the light was blinding him. The suggestion undoubtedly enhanced the effect of the light on his consciousness to give him a reason for choosing to remove the bulb.
And this is what rationalization is. A compulsion is not recognized as such because it misinforms the person who has it. "When your heart's on fire/ you must realize/ smoke gets in your eyes," says the old song. The reasons for which the drinker has "just one more" are often perfectly valid; it is just that (a) he would realize better all the reasons for not having just one more if he didn't have the compulsion, and (b) that reason wouldn't even be there if he didn't have the compulsion. My brother, who is also a recovering alcoholic, says that one of the things that made it originally difficult to quit drinking for him was "the companionship" at the bar. He has since gone to bars occasionally for companionship and realized what terrible companions these people are, so absorbed in themselves they are and so stupid in their befuddlement.
Hence, this theory of freedom also explains how it is possible to control a person's behavior, and even to control his choice to behave a certain way by controlling the information he has access to. Only this information will influence him, and he has control over its influence; but if you can block out any reason for not choosing a certain act and make him conscious of a lot of reasons for it, then you can make it all but certain that he will choose the act. You can't make it certain, because he always can choose the very opposite of what reason says; but there's no reason to do so in this case.
That is, a person ordinarily will choose what the information reveals as the most reasonable act (the one that will get him to whatever goal he regards as important); but he can, since the choice is free, choose directly against the weight of all the reasons (and of all the unconscious influences too, since they can't affect the choice). Sometimes people do this. "I'll hate myself in the morning for this; but what the hell," a person will sometimes say. This does not mean, "The pleasure right now is so strong as to outweigh the pain in the morning," because he realizes right now that taking tonight and tomorrow together, he is worse off than he would be if he didn't do the act (otherwise, he would think that tomorrow he will also realize that it was worth it), and he simply chooses to make the pleasure more important than the pain.
And this solves the problem of how we can choose what is wrong. It is not that we choose the lesser good and put the reasons for the other's being a greater good out of our minds; it is that the other is not good unless we choose to make it so. So yes, we can choose evil as such; that is, we can choose to do something just because it is wrong to do so, and not for any other reason.
Saint Augustine, in fact, as much as says this in his famous discussion of stealing his neighbor's pears in the Confessions. He admits he didn't take them because they were better than the ones in his own yard, but because he knew that it was wrong to take them, and it was the wrongness that made them attractive. He tries to explain this (because his theory doesn't admit to choosing evil as such) by saying that it was the sense of power that was the good he sought in doing what was wrong because it was wrong. But while that may be true in many cases (and might have been true in his), I think it is still possible to choose something wrong just because it is wrong--or to choose evil for its own sake.(8)
You might say, though, that on my theory, this makes the evil good; and that is true. It can be your goal to do evil for the sake of its evilness; if you do, its evilness is what is good about it for you. I certainly have heard people talk that way. But that is self-contradictory. Yes; and it is choosing a self-contradictory goal that is the essence of immorality. You choose to do something that you know in fact can't be done by you in some respect; and yet you intend that it be done by you even though it can't be. You have an abortion in order not to be a mother, knowing (supposing you do know, and aren't simply mistaken) that you already are a mother, and being the mother of a dead child doesn't make you not a mother. Ask any mother whose child has died whether she isn't a mother. You divorce, knowing that you have promised to be married until death and nothing else parts you; and so you know that you are really still married. You steal to make what belongs to someone else belong to you while it still belongs to the other person. None of these are immoral unless you know that there is something self-contradictory about the act you choose and its goal, and you choose it anyway.
So it is not impossible to choose a goal for yourself that might be a consistent goal for some other kind of being, or in other circumstances, but which is not consistent for you, here and now, with the limitations imposed on your nature by your genetics.(9) Since the choice depends on facts known, and since it has control over these facts and their influence on it, you can deliberately ignore any facts you want to ignore. The Scholastics, then, are right when they say that in sinning, you at least sometimes deliberately ignore inconvenient facts and just focus on some others. Their problem is that it isn't clear how you can do this if the will is automatically attracted to some "objective good." Of course, the problem with deliberately ignoring facts you know is that they are still known, even if considered as not influencing the choice; and so when you make an immoral choice, you can't plead ignorance. You have just refused to consider them as relevant, or in other words have chosen in spite of them. Hence, choosing self-contradictory goals is possible.
Fifthly, this means, of course, that our choice is absolutely unrestricted in its scope. We can choose to be or do anything that occurs to us. The choice is, as I said in the third point, limited by the information in consciousness at the time; but there is no restriction on which conscious alternative you can choose or which reason you can choose it for. If you are thinking about God, you could say, like Nietzsche, "If there were Gods, how could I stand not being God?" and choose to be God, knowing that a finite being cannot actually be infinite--or, alternatively, you could (as many do) choose to be independent of God, even though you can't actually be independent of God in anything you do.
So, even though our choice has no limitations on it (whatever you can think of, you can choose to be), still, our nature has limitations on it, and we can only carry out the choices that are within the range of our genetic potential.
And this is the source of the moral obligation, which says "Limit your choices to within the range of what is in principle possible for you at the moment(10)"--in the case of humans, your genetic potential. The reason it is an obligation is, as we will see in the next section, that if you don't, you have made a goal for yourself that cannot in principle be reached as you intend it; and since the choice as a spiritual act cannot be erased once made (just as an act of understanding cannot be destroyed once formed), then after you die, this means eternally striving after an impossible goal, or eternal frustration.
Sixthly, our actions, in the sense of overt behavior (our properties, except for the spiritual acts of understanding and choosing themselves) are never free, and always determined. They are determined either by the choice or by various drives and and physical causes, or (generally) by all of them combined.
The Scholastics distinguish between the "elicited act" of the will itself (which is free) and the "commanded act" of the senses or body (which is in itself not free); and I have no quarrel with this distinction, except that I would add to "elicited acts" those of understanding, on the grounds that (a) they are also spiritual and so contain "willing" along with them, and (b) they in fact choose to pick out the particular concept to be understood. Of course, we can't choose to understand a relationship that's not implied in the sensations, and in this sense the choice is not free--in other words, we can't deliberately understand as true what presents itself to us as untrue.(11)
But the "commanded acts," insofar as they are the acts we freely choose to do are called by analogy (the "analogy of attribution") "free acts," because we as persons would not have done them if we had chosen differently, and we freely chose them. So when speaking of a "free act," it is a pedantic quibble to say, "Well, the actual act of kicking my little brother is not free, so you can't accuse me of freely doing it; I just freely chose to do this act, and the choice determined the act."(12)
But, seventhly, it is possible, as I said, for the energy in instinct to be so strong that the choice can't actually direct it away from the act, and here we have a compulsive act. If this happens frequently, then the person is compulsive, and can't control his actions; if it happens only once or rarely, then the person "was overcome by his emotions, and couldn't help himself."
And this, of course, explains compulsive behavior. The person actually chooses not to perform the act, but the drive or habit is so strong that he can't carry the choice through into overt behavior, because doing so involves directing the energy in the brain, and, as I said at the end of the preceding chapter, there can be so much energy in a given pattern that the spirit can't get it to go anywhere else. (13)
Thus, emotions, drives, and habits, can actually determine actions, and even determine them against the choice of the person who is trying to determine a different act. They are "temptations" when they are inclining toward an act and the spirit is directing energy elsewhere; and there is a struggle when they are at the limit of the amount of energy the spirit can control. When they are beyond this limit, the spirit fails to control the act, or alternatively, "gives in" to the temptation and actually chooses to do the act that is so attractive.
In the latter case, both the drive and the choice determine the act; and the person has no excuse for his choice in the fact that "The urge was so strong I would have done it anyway." That may be true, but the strength of the urge didn't make you choose to do it. So, even though the act was one which was determined in this case, it is also a free act, because the person freely chose to do it.
I hasten to add here something that comes from the fourth point. Emotions and drives can also control information, and it is very common, when struggling with a strong temptation, for you to be less and less aware of reasons for not "giving in" as time goes on; and it is apt to happen that when you finally do "give in," you don't think of it as "giving in" at all, because by that time, it seems the only reasonable act, and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it.
Of course, as soon as you do the act, then the drive is satisfied, and releases the energy in your brain, and, like Brünhilde after Siegfied was killed, you realize what you have done and are sorry.
This makes it hard, of course, to judge the freedom of a choice after the fact, when there has been a strong temptation present. After the fact, you are in command of information that you very well might not have been able to realize at the time; and so you can't judge your choice then on the information you now have, on the grounds that you "had it available" then. It may have been in your filing system at the time, but you might not have been able to access it because of the energy in the instinct blocking it out.
And if this is true of the person himself after the fact, it is even more true of someone else's assessment of whether the perpetrator of some horrible deed actually chose to do it, and how informed his choice was. "Judge not lest ye be judged" is a good rule of thumb. St. Paul even says, in First Corinthians, "I don't even evaluate myself."
In any case, if the choice is humanly irrevocable, it is otiose to try to evaluate it after the fact, as if "repentance" could remove it. You might be able to do something that lessens the damage you have done by the act, but there's nothing that can be done about the choice by anyone short of God Almighty, once you have made it, any more than Macbeth could have undone the killing of Duncan once he performed the act.
A person, then, "feels not free" when he has chosen to do something and can't carry out his choice. The choice is still recognized as free; it is the act that is known as not free, because it is not the act he chose to do. And this solves the problem of compulsive behavior.
You will recall that toward the end of the preceding chapter, I distinguished psychosis from neurosis on the basis of the fact that in psychosis the information was not under conscious control (i.e. the control of the spirit), and in neurosis, the behavior got out of control. What this means is that the psychotic can't deliberately access relevant information, or the instinct is creating hallucinations that are so vivid that they are taken for perceptions; the choice does not have the control over information that it normally does for purposes of deliberation. The neurotic's choice can't control his acts. As I mentioned there, it is ordinarily the case that both of these sorts of being out of control are going on at the same time, and the difference between neurosis and psychosis is really a question of emphasis. This theory of freedom of choice perhaps makes this a little clearer.
Let us take stock, then, and see if this theory of freedom explains all that it needs to explain.
First, it obviously takes care of the conviction of freedom nicely. It also, as we saw, accounts for when we feel not free, not that the choice is not still regarded as free, but that the choice can't control the act.
Secondly, it gets round the Scholastic difficulty in that the "will" is not automatically attracted to something objective called "the good," but that the goal the choice heads for is itself freely chosen, and therefore "the good" is created by the spirit rather than discovered by the intellect.
Thirdly, we have accounted for the difficulty of the posthypnotic suggestion better than the determinist theory could do it. The person freely chooses to do something when the suggestion produces reasons for it and there are no reasons against it; at the same time, the suggestion is both determining the act (as can be seen from the struggle when resistance is offered) and providing the (possibly false) information for the free choice. When the information is patently absurd or too weak then the person recognizes that he is not free.
Fourthly, the theory can easily explain rationalizations of compulsive behavior, and why the behavior is thought to be free, on the same grounds as the explanation of the posthypnotic suggestion above.
Fifthly, the theory explains, on these same grounds, the discovery of the compulsion by the compulsive. He finds a good reason for choosing not to do the act, chooses not to do it, and then can't carry out the choice. At that point he realizes that something unknown in his instinct is determining the act.
Sixthly, the theory explains the experience of fighting temptations, on the grounds that the spirit recognizes that the energy is getting toward the limit of the amount that it can control.
Seventhly, the theory explains why we feel freer the more information we are conscious of; it is because only consciously known facts are included in the choice as reasons for and against it.
Eighth, it explains why a choice is sometimes corrected when one was made and forgotten information is remembered. The new information is included in the choice, and it couldn't have been included when it was not conscious.
Ninth, the theory explains how we can choose not to choose or choose to choose later, and how we can stop deliberating at any time we choose.
So the theory is consistent with all the data dealing with choices and behavior, and the determinist theory isn't.
Now, as to freely creating goals not being mere caprice, let us look at what is actually going on in a choice.
In ordinary choices, what first happens is that some emotion attracts the person toward some act and makes him imagine himself as having done it (and having gained whatever it is that the act produces in him). It is for this reason that Hume thought that "sentiment" is the only thing that can move the will.
Hume was wrong, however, because (a) this does not actually move the will (as we will see in a moment), (b) this is not the only way, even though it is the most common way, for a person to imagine himself as different from the way he actually is; and (c) the choice can be initiated by imagining something else as different from the way it is because of what the person has done. The image can come, for instance, as the result of a reasoning process, or by someone's suggesting to him that he could be something he never thought of being. Anything that makes a person consider himself (or his world) as different from himself is sufficient for this first stage.
This image of oneself or one's world as different then initiates the deliberative process, which begins with the question, "Do I really want myself (or this thing) to be this way? Why?" And so the spirit then tries to find reasons for an against this as a goal for the choice. In other words, the spirit is trying to find being this particular way is good for the person as a whole here and now. Does it, for instance, fit in with other goals he has chosen? Does it contradict anything he now is? Is there something else that fits more closely with the set of goals he has chosen as his "real self"? Does he want to modify those goals, and add this to them or drop something and replace it with this? And so on.
Since neither the goal suggested nor any of the other goals is something absolute and objective (they are all subjective ideals, created either by emotions or suggestions or conclusions drawn from other ideals), then the question really before the person is, "What will this make me, and do I want to be that sort of person?" There is a certain objectivity here in that (a) it is a fact that this goal (if accepted) is or is not consistent with the other goals, or leads to one of the already accepted goals. Hence, if the act is regarded as a means of becoming what one has already chosen as his "true self," then there is objectivity involved. But when the question is one of what the "true self" should be, then fundamentally, as Hume pointed out, there is no fact that can be discovered which would answer the question.
Here is where the caprice comes in. But this is not to say that the choice of a goal for oneself is completely arbitrary, still less that it is emotions that pick it out. First of all, it is not completely arbitrary because it is a fact that certain acts are higher or less limited than others. Understanding and choosing, for instance, are spiritual acts, and are therefore higher or greater than sensations or vegetative acts, or acts we have in common with inanimate bodies.
I hasten to say that the fact that act A is higher than act B does not mean that act A is better than act B; because "better" implies that one has already adopted act A as fitting in more closely to one's chosen "true self" than act B does. So, for instance, the fact that studying now is a higher act than lifting weights now does not imply that studying now is better than lifting weights now.
They tell the story of how St. Ignatius discovered what amounts to this fact. He used to fall into ecstasy whenever--as I remember--the number three (God's number) was mentioned in the classes he was taking; and of course, he missed the rest of the lecture. He finally recognized that, though mystical contemplation was the highest act anyone could perform, (a) you couldn't be doing it all the time, or you'd die of starvation, and (b) it was not the better thing to do when you were taking a class and trying to hear what the professor was saying. And from then on, he deliberately tried not to succumb to the "temptation" to ecstatic contemplation of God in class.
He would say that the contemplation was "better in itself," but not "better in the concrete situation." But that position can't be sustained if you think it through. Since contemplation will always occur in some concrete situation, then judging it as "better" will always involve the situation, where it's always possible for it to be worse than some more lowly act. But for it "in itself" to be better, this means that it is better in the abstract, and, as we saw, this would mean seeing the relationship among all the concrete situations, and "picking out" what they have in common. But they don't have "betterness" in common. So really, all that "it is better in itself" means is that it is a higher type of activity, but this implies nothing about its being better to do it, because you can't do an act in the abstract; it always has to be a concrete act you choose and do. So "better in itself" is simply a misuse of "better" as meaning "less limited"; the implication that it therefore ought to be preferred is false, as Ignatius himself discovered.
Of course, Hume falls into the same trap, because for him, though no act is "better" based on reason, then "better" is supposed by him to be defined by "more pleasing": i.e. the one that has the strongest satisfaction attached to it. But since "moral sentiments," judging by the behavior of practically everyone, are the weakest ones we have (they almost always lose when it's a question of conflict with selfish ones), then you've guaranteed, not only that people will almost always act immorally, but that they ought to ("Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions").
All the attempts, since Hume, to base morality on sentiment suppose that satisfaction (of emotions) is what is "really good," and (as Utilitarianism holds) "the greatest satisfaction" is the "greatest good" and therefore--here's the contradiction--"the greatest satisfaction of the greatest number" is the greatest good of all, which ought to override all lesser satisfactions.
But how am I more in fact satisfied emotionally by doing something that satisfies the majority (who may be my enemies and oppressors) more than it does me? Obviously, this is bunk. What utilitarianism, in all its vagaries, has to be saying is that this "greatest satisfaction of the greatest number" ought to be what satisfies us most, even when it doesn't. "What's Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba that he should weep for her?" says Hamlet. What's the majority's satisfaction to me that I should do something for it if I personally am satisfied better by doing what satisfies Number One and doesn't satisfy the majority?
The only way you can make sense out of this is to say that reason says you should work for the satisfaction of more than just yourself. But (a) this contradicts the very reason for saying that "sentiment" and "satisfaction" and not reason motivates the will. Based on the fundamental principle underlying any form of Utilitarianism that has been advanced so far, then, we won't and shouldn't be expected to choose the "greatest satisfaction of the greatest number" whenever something else is more personally satisfying--as it almost invariably is. Furthermore, (b) reason precisely does not say that we ought to work for the greatest satisfaction of the greatest number except on the two self-contradictory premises that (1) only satisfaction (not abstractions) motivates action, and (2) we should ignore our satisfaction and follow the abstract "greatest satisfaction of the greatest number."
So the great proponents of sentiment as moving the will don't believe their own theory, or they would shut up about morality. Anyway, the notion that emotions rather than reason is what defines "the good" even in a concrete situation is silly. This would mean that it is better to leap out of the dentist's chair as soon as the drill comes close; it is better to eat yourself to death; it is better to smoke crack and take heroin (these certainly feel just wonderful, they tell me), and on and on. "If it feels good, it ought to be done" is propaganda that is ruining our people.
Well then, since neither the abstract fact that an act is objectively higher or less limited than another means that it is "better," and since what I just said obviously makes nonsense out of saying that what feels better is automatically better, then we are left with the fact that there is no objective way to define "better," and that this precisely does not mean a retreat into emotionalism. It just means that "better" is not a fact to be discovered anywhere.
So we are back to pure caprice in choosing your goals. Well, not pure caprice.
First of all, self-contradictory acts imply goals that are the opposite of themselves, and the spirit, while not determined by reason, still uses reason. So, for example, if you chose to define the feeling you get when smoking crack as your "good," you realize that this feeling is concretely inseparable from addiction, craving, and various other miseries; and so you realize that if you choose this as your goal for the sake of the satisfaction, you are also choosing greater dissatisfaction (the side-effects) along with it as your goal.
You can do it, and you can (since we have control over reasons) deliberately reject these other dissatisfactions as relevant to your choice--and in this sense the goal is capriciously chosen. You have deliberately chosen as a goal one that is the opposite of itself. And you can do this.
However, you realize that it is unreasonable to do this; and while you are free to be unreasonable, it does not make sense to be unreasonable, and therefore there's no reason for choosing such things and there is reason for choosing others.
Conclusion 10: The fundamental option underlying every choice is, "Do I want to choose what is reasonable or what is unreasonable?"
That is, there is nothing to prevent you from choosing what is unreasonable, because you are free; and so you have to implicitly make the choice of whether to follow reason or not in every choice.
There are degrees of this, of course; and sometimes we may opt to do what is less reasonable because it is more emotionally satisfying--even though the act does not really set up a self-contradictory goal (i.e. it's not morally wrong). Thus, a person may be tired and decide to watch TV rather than study for the exam tomorrow, knowing that he won't do as well on it as he otherwise wood. It would be more reasonable to give up The Simpsons for an A on the exam; but since there's nothing morally wrong here, the goal (enjoying television) that is ordinarily regarded as less important is deliberately shifted into the more important spot. This is a non-serious exercise of the fundamental option I was talking about.
But on the assumption that a person basically chooses to be reasonable, then it follows that on that assumption the higher act will take precedence over the lower act, except when (as you might possibly argue in St. Ignatius' case) the higher act now will prevent you from achieving as a goal a higher total self than otherwise.(14)
In actual practice, our goals are built partly on reason and what is higher, partly on what we see from people around us (what is "popular"), partly on emotions (what in the long run feels better or one likes more) and partly on sheer cussedness. If you look at the goals anyone concretely has, you can probably find all these elements mixed up in them in complicated ways; and I submit that my theory is the only one that can account for what is so abundantly verifiable.
At any rate, when one has seen the goal, and tried to find out by deliberating (a) what act or sequence of acts lead there, and (b) what other side-effects these acts have, and (c) whether in fact all of these are consistent with the goal one wants from this act and the rest of one's idea of himself as a person--one then chooses at some point to stop looking for more information and to "make up one's mind." Where this point occurs depends on reason, other people, emotions, and sheer cussedness, just like the goals themselves; and it varies from person to person and time to time with a given person. And at this point, one chooses to choose and this is the choice (and chooses to choose for a given set of reasons--which are chosen in this act to be the reasons--and not for the other reasons--which are rejected as reasons in the choice), or one chooses not to choose now, or even not to choose at all.
The choice defines the basic goal of this choice, and also accepts the foreseen side-effects that will also occur because of it as included in the choice (because the spirit knows that they can be avoided by making a different choice, and when one chooses one chooses a concrete act which concretely has many effects and not just the one really "intended"--the goal as opposed to as side-effect).(15)
The motive of the choice is the goal chosen for the act.
The motive is also called the "reason," the "purpose," the "end," or the "goal" for choosing to do the act in question. (We will see shortly that it is not necessarily the purpose of the act in itself.) But it is worth noting that the motive is the effect foreseen and intended, and this is what "moves" the choice. But that allows us to distinguish motive from a different term:
The motivation for an act is anything that inclined the act in that direction.
Obviously, in a free act (one basically determined by the choice), the motive for choosing the act is the main motivation for the act; but, as we saw, the act itself can also be influenced by drives and habits, whether conscious or unconscious; and, of course, if the act goes against the choice, the motivation is totally on the sense level.
There is, then, a difference between the motivation of the act and what "moves the will"--which will be important later on for ethical purposes. At the moment, it is sufficient to note the distinction, and to point out that, since conscious control comes from the spirit, then you don't have personal responsibility (i.e. responsibility as a person, moral responsibility) for acts which were not chosen or whose motivations were not foreseen as side-effects.
But to return to the choice itself, simultaneously with the goal, the choice chooses the act which reason recognizes is the first step to the goal (and the side-effects) included in the choice. Basically, the choice is to do this act. But of course, one chooses to do this concrete act (i.e. this act in this situation) with these concrete effects for this reason (this goal). Since the choice is conscious, all of these are included in the one act of choosing, which, as I said, is also the choice to stop deliberating.
At this point, the choice, by controlling the conscious aspect of instinct, sets up an instability in the person whereby energy is put into the proper motor nerves causing the behavior that is the basic act chosen. (That act, of course, can be refraining from doing something as much as actually moving.) When this happens, the body (the person as a whole unit) is in an unstable, self-contradictory condition whose purpose is the equilibrium that is the end of the process started by this act.
Note that this equilibrium which is implied in the actual instability (the act chosen) may or may not be the same as the goal sought in the choice. The person chose this act because he understood that the act would lead to the chosen goal, and so the act was chosen "for the sake of" the goal.
But the act is a physical act, and it has it's own purpose; and if it doesn't by its nature lead to the chosen goal, the choice doesn't make it go there. You can't learn music by studying animal husbandry, because the subject you are studying doesn't have an instability whose purpose is that particular equilibrium.
Conclusion 11: The choice of an act as leading to a given goal does not give that act that purpose. Physical instabilities have in fact their own purposes, and if one wants a given goal, one must discover what acts (if any) lead there.
So while (a) the goal is freely chosen and (b) the act as leading to that goal is also freely chosen, what is not and cannot be chosen is the fact that the act leads to the goal. Either it does or it doesn't, based on its own structure and what instabilities it can be put into (and put into by the agent, of course. A four-ton weight might be able to be moved, but not by you with your bare hands).
Let me now define a term:
The value of any object or act is that aspect of it by which it can lead to a chosen goal.
So what I am saying is that while you can choose the goal for any act, your choice does not give it the value of leading to that goal; it either has the value or it doesn't, and the only way you can know this is by finding out the objective fact of whether it has it or not.
Our age has discovered that "the good" (the goal) is freely chosen, but it has thought that for that reason values are freely chosen--and in so doing has chosen all kinds of acts that lead directly away from the intended goals because it refuses to find out whether the acts chosen have the value it tries to impose on them or not.
For instance, tell a teen-ager that it's really undesirable to sleep around, but that here's a bunch of condoms if you do, then you're saying (a) there's nothing really against sleeping around (since the supplying of the condoms gives that signal) as long as it's "safe," but (b) "nice girls" aren't really promiscuous. The girl who wants to be a "nice girl" then doesn't take the condoms out on a date, because she has no plans on having sex on the date; but then when the boy stops the car on the lonely road and they've talked for a while and he suggests sex, she can't think of any reason not to.
Given the psychology of teen-agers, you could predict an increase in teen-age pregnancy from this advice; and yet those who advocate "health clinics" in schools are adamant that this very advice be given "because we've got to cut down on teen-age pregnancy." When you point out how teen-agers receive that advice, these people say "They don't!" because they want them to reason differently.
The fact that values lead to freely chosen goals means that values are personal; but it doesn't follow from this that the values are therefore subjective. Values are objective, but personal.
But this brings up the whole subject of axiology, which is to be treated in the next part.
This, then, is choice. It is the spiritual "dimension" of the human being as determining the whole human being. Understanding is the spirit as determining only the spirit, adapting it to the reality of the person himself and the world around him; choice is that same spirit as "spilling over" in its self-determination into modifying the self, and insofar as the self can modify other things by acting on them, into making over its world into its own image of what that word "ought" to be.
It is time, then, to look at the structure of the human being and the human soul, to see what these acts imply about the meaning of human life.Next
1. That is, when the promise of reward is not fulfilled, you are less well off than you would have been if it had been kept; but you didn't lose in the sense that now you are what you are, and are no worse than you are now. The future state that you "lost" was imaginary, not real.
2. I would also like to remind you that if you don't take this position, then the "problem of evil" is not soluble, as I said in Section 5 of the first part.
3. That is what the comedian Jack Benny used in one of his routines. He was supposed to be a miser, and when a thief confronts him with "Your money or your life," he says, "Wait a minute, I'm thinking."
4. In Chapter 6 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.6, and Sections 4 and 5 of the first part 1.4.
5. See Chapter 8 of Section 1 of the first part 1.1.8.
6. And thus do I solve the problem that has had the Jesuits and Dominicans at loggerheads for centuries. On the Dominican side, God must actively do something or Mary's finite act of choosing could not be made; but this "physical premotion" (which is not "pre-" but eternal) is not a determining causality. On the Jesuit side, since the act of causing her free choice leaves it completely free, he assures that the consent is given by arranging the circumstances in such a way that he knows (eternally) that in these circumstances her free choice is (in fact) what he wants it to be. None of this, of course, happens for God beforehand, during, or subsequent to her actual choice. I might point out in addition that, since Mary was conceived without the consequences of "original sin" (which I will discuss later), her emotions had no tendency to be out of control, and so she was completely free. It was for that reason mainly that she was so conceived, I believe; so that she could be a true "second Eve" and make her choice without any undue influence on it.
7. It is in forcing this recognition of helplessness upon a person that what is called "tough love" works. A compulsive person like an alcoholic can't get back into control unless he recognizes that he is out of control; and the only way he can have this recognition is actually to choose not to do what he then finds himself doing. The "one more won't hurt," or "I can begin tomorrow" rationalization can block this (because in fact one more won't make much difference, and it doesn't really matter if you stop today or tomorrow)--and hence this postponement is a choice which can be freely made without realizing that there is a compulsion underneath the behavior whose stopping is postponed. It is very, very difficult to make a person realize that his act is not subject to his choice, because the unconscious compulsion tends to block out information that would indicate it until a situation occurs where postponement is out of the question.
8. I would assume that the angels who became devils did just this, since they didn't have any emotions (or anything else) to blind themselves to what they were choosing.
9. The circumstances or the situation of the act can change the relation the act has to your reality. For instance, taking something that was John's is perfectly all right if John has said you could have it.
10. Not what is in practice possible for you at the moment; one of the ways we develop is by choosing as a goal something that we cannot now do, and work toward being able to do it. We may, of course, not succeed in this endeavor, but the goal is still in principle possible.
11. We can, of course, "lie to ourselves" by deliberately blocking out information that we recognize is there, or choosing deliberately to consider part of the data, or only one side of the story. But when we do this, we are aware that we are distorting the information--unless, of course, this distortion is due to emotions blocking out the information, and we are unaware of it. It's complicated, but it all fits in.
12. Karol Woytyla (Pope John Paul II) in his book The Acting Person states the distincion this way: acts a person does as such ("commanded acts" chosen by the will) and "acts that happen to a person (involuntary acts). He defines a person by saying that only persons do the "commanded acts," though he seems to imply that if someone can't do these acts, he's not a person., which would exclude fetuses and people in comas from personhood. Perhaps I missed this, but I think what he meant was only persons can do such acts, in a fundamental sense of "can," whether in the circumstances they are capable of doing so. I will talk about this later. If this is what he means, his definition of "person" would be very close to my definition of "self," which I will get to at the proper time.
13. Since it is always theoretically possible to carry out a choice ("if you are determined enough," or "if you care enough"), then there are those who say that no one is ever really out of control. Having been out of control myself, I am inclined strongly to doubt this--though it's always possible, I suppose, that I was lying to myself. I leave that to the Lord. Though, I should point out, I have St. Paul (in Romans) on my side.
14. The reason I say you might argue this way is that in his actual situation it is hard to see how it is objectively higher to be a more educated person who has practiced less contemplation than a less educated person who has contemplated Wisdom Itself more.
15. There is a situation, which we will discuss at some length in ethics, in which you can choose an act and reject some of its side-effects, when any of the other alternatives is because of its effects worse than the one chosen.