Free-Will and Determinism

Free-Will and Determinism

Free-Will and Determinism

Free-Will and Determinism

Excerpt

A dog, who, left to himself, might lie contentedly all day long in the shade of a tree, whines miserably if tied to the same tree for five minutes. Tom Sawyer's pals were willing to give up their most cherished possessions for a turn at white-washing his fence, but 'by jingo, they would wail like fettered injuns' if told they must do the same at home. The union steward, who, on holiday, will go tramping across country from dawn to dusk and then spend the evening in the pub, would call a strike if half that amount of energy were required at 'work'. All are protesting the same thing: compulsion, restriction of their freedom to choose what it is they want to do. As Mark Twain philosophized about what Tom could have learned from the white-washing episode: 'If he had been a great and wise philosopher like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a treadmill is work, while rolling ten pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement.'

Now while it takes a great and wise philosopher to express it so cleverly, or a great and wise psychiatrist to make full use of it therapeutically, we are all aware of this distinction between play and work and, at least occasionally, use it. If we are a good dog trainer we don't try to teach Imp to fetch the evening newspaper by dragging her on the leash to the letterbox, forcing her jaws open, and, pushing the paper in and forcibly keeping the jaws shut, drag her home again. Instead, chasing a dog biscuit as a game, becomes chasing a stick with the biscuit for reward as a game, and, with a few more steps, this evolves painlessly into the dog's automatically fetching our evening paper with no more reward than an approving pat on the head. When little Rory cannot be deceived into making games out of the drinking of his milk or the running of errands, at least we try to induce in him the feeling that he is choosing to do them for his own future good; that is, that doing them will help him to enjoy his play more at some later time. We must notice that two somewhat sinister elements have put in their appearance: In both the case of the dog and the child, the overt compulsion has been changed into the covert persuasion, and we see that Rory's 'choice' is largely an illusion.

If this is true for Rory mayn't it be true in general? When we as grown . . .

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