Determinism or Free-Will?Chaptman Cohen

[1] When the Mss. of this work was submitted to a well-known firm of publishers, the reply came in the form of an offer to publish the work provided it could be expanded so as to admit of its publication at 7/6. It would have been quite easy to have done this; the difficulty is to compress, and the less a subject is understood the easier it is to write at length on it. But the offer, though financially tempting, would have defeated the purpose for which the work was written, and so was declined.

[2] “The subjective sense of freedom, sometimes alleged against Determinism, has no bearing on the question whatever. The view that it has a bearing rests upon the belief that causes compel their effects, or that nature enforces obedience to its laws as governments do. These are mere anthropomorphic superstitions, due to assimilation of causes with volitions, and of natural laws with human edicts. We feel that our will is not compelled, but that only means that it is not other than we choose it to be. It is one of the demerits of the traditional theory of causality that it has created an artificial opposition between determinism and the freedom of which we are introspectively conscious.” (Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic, p. 206.)

So also Wundt: “Freedom and constraint are reciprocal concepts; they are both necessarily connected with consciousness; outside of consciousness they are both imaginary concepts, which only a mythologising imagination could relate to things.” (Human and Animal Psychology, p. 426.)

[3] The essential issue is again confused by the language employed. If all volitional action is action performed with the view to an end, a quite correct and completely adequate word would be “intentional”! If we were to speak of an “intentional” action instead of a voluntary one, the nature of the act would be clear, the factors of experience, memory, consciousness of an end, would be indicated, and the misleading associations of “willing” avoided. It is difficult, however, to introduce a new terminology, and so I must beg the reader, in the interests of clarity, to bear in mind that whenever “voluntary action” is referred to, it is “intentional” action that is connoted by the phrase.

[4] Whether we work backward or forward the result is the same. Strip off from the mind all feelings, desires, all consciousness of ends and means to ends, and what there is left is not a “will” ready to throw the weight of its preference in this or that direction, but a complete blank.

[5] Types of Ethical Theory, vol. ii. p. 41.

[6] See the lecture on “The Dilemma of Determinism” in the volume The Will to Believe, and other Essays. London; 1903.

[7] Works, vol. ii. p. 142.

[8] Of course, the man and his character are not two distinct things. The character is the man. But it would involve needless circumlocution to insist on superfine distinctions, and it may even help to a comprehension of the argument to keep to familiar forms of speech.

[9] International Journal of Ethics, vol. iv. pp. 421-422.

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