Profit by curing foulness.
This brings us back to the question: do we have free will? Hume says that all events have causes and, therefore, cannot be free from those causes.1 I suppose this would include both cultural and genetic causes, as well as physical laws. However, I think that, because of the complexity of those causal relationships, we act as if we were free. All things seem free when they cannot be easily traced to their causes, just as when complexity goes beyond our analytical abilities it seems to be chaotic.
The Great Belly cuts off its thighs,
Renounces the knight,
And severs inferior people by moving.
Lucretius believed that the smallest particles or atoms had free will.2 Quantum Physics cannot predict the behavior of a single photon so it seems to go where it "wants" to go. Even Richard Feynman anthropomorphizes the photon this way.3 Scientists can calculate accurate probabilities of the behavior of many photons, and much more accurately than marketing experts can predict consumers responses to a new product. Large groups of people act more unpredictably than photons and are probably freer. Anything that acts unpredictably is often said to have "a mind of its own" or, in other words, free will. I will qualify that statement by saying that this assumes these events occur within a logical structure because there is a certain predictability to something that is totally random. We expect the same sort of randomness to continue.
Cutting off is not cutting off;
Your enemy is not indulging;
So posterity will possess a halberd.
Free will implies consciousness, whether real or imagined. Does this mean that, if we could understand all of one person's causes to the point where we can predict everything s/he does, s/he will be no longer conscious? That is probably an absurd question, but we would probably describe that person's behavior as being "like a machine." "S/he has no soul" is a criticism that musicians use for those they think perform merely correctly.
Personally, I think that one would get more understanding of complex systems (i.e. humans, eco- systems, etc.) by shifting back and forth between both ways of seeing; mechanistic (reductionistic) and anthropomorphic (holistic). I enjoyed, in Timaeus, Plato describing the world as intelligent.4 It is easy for me to see us as parts of the Earth's body and need to cooperate with her rather than manipulate her.
My heart is like a peacock,
Full, with resplendent beauty.
We humans control machines but we tend to cooperate with other humans. We have to cooperate with those things which behave in unpredictable ways. A thorough understanding of the causes of human behavior is a great power which has often been used by advertisers to manipulate their consumers. As we understand human behavior more mechanistically it becomes the responsibility of humans to develop that understanding in order to free themselves from other's conscious manipulations. Concerning this, I believe that our ability to change is what makes us free. As we free ourselves from those causes that can be used to manipulate us, we become more "conscious" and, therefore, more "human." However, I do not deny that animals or machines can have this quality also.
The direction of virtuous fortitude;
So therefore, in daring to act,
This element symbolizes such determination.
The bosom is stern; satisfaction is empty.
The way to virtue is lost.
Also, our freedom is bound by our concerns for others as well as our physical limitations. Our wills become trained by our environments. We may be free to do as we wish, but we all seem to want to participate in the society in which we live. In other words, most of us are bound by the duties and responsibilities we have earned or have been passed down to us from our parents. I will explore these ideas in relation to my work in more detail in the following chapters.
Fortitude in the heart and vitals.
I, in no way, wish to imply that there should not be societal pressures which influence us toward some agreed upon "correctness." However, our ideas of correctness come from several influences which often conflict. The situation has become too complex to be dominated by the morals of a single religious institution or political party.
Crowned by severity, fully satisfied,
The knight does not have enough,
The inferior man has too much.
Conservative elements in our country come short of imposing Orwellian "thought police." I believe that we should be considerate and yield to concerns for other's feeling but those concerns should also include a healthy respect for each individual's freedom to work on what Hillman calls "soul-making."
1 Hume, David. Treatise on Human Nature; n.d.; rpt. 1989; Oxford University Press.
2 Lucretius. On the Nature of Things;
3 Feynman, Richard. The Character of Physical Law; MIT Press; 1967.
4 Plato. Timaeus; n.d.; rpt. 1973; Arno Press.