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´╗┐Title: Determinism or Free-Will?
Author: Cohen, Chapman, 1868-
Language: English
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          Printed and Published by
             THE PIONEER PRESS
         (G. W. FOOTE & CO., LTD.),
    61 Farringdon Street, London, E.C. 4.




              CHAPMAN COHEN.

    New Edition. Revised and Enlarged.

            THE PIONEER PRESS,
       61 FARRINGDON STREET, E.C. 4.



  CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

     I.--THE QUESTION STATED                                   9

    II.--"FREEDOM" AND "WILL"                                 23





   VII.--DETERMINISM AND CHARACTER                            92

  VIII.--A PROBLEM IN DETERMINISM                            101

    IX.--ENVIRONMENT                                         117


The demand for a new edition of _Determinism or Free-Will_ is gratifying
as affording evidence of the existence of a public, apart from the class
catered for by more expensive publications, interested in philosophic
questions[1]. It was, indeed, in the conviction that such a public
existed that the book was written. Capacity, in spite of a popular
impression to the contrary, has no very close relation to cash, nor is
interest in philosophic questions indicated solely by the ability to
spend a half-guinea or guinea on a work that might well have been
published at three or four shillings. There exists a fairly large public
of sufficient capacity and education intelligently to discuss the deeper
aspects of life, but which has neither time nor patience to give to the
study of bulky works that so often leave a subject more obscure at the
end than it was at the beginning.

    [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

Nor does there appear any adequate reason why it should be otherwise. A
sane philosophy must base itself on the common things of life, and must
deal with the common experience of all men. The man who cannot find
material for philosophic study by reflecting on those which are near at
hand is not likely to achieve success by travelling all over the globe.
He will only succeed in presenting to his readers a more elaborately
acquired and a more expensively gained confusion. Nor is there any
reason why philosophy should be discussed only in the jargon of the
schools, except to keep it, like the religious mysteries, the property
of the initiated few. We all talk philosophy, as we all talk prose, and
doubtless many are as surprised as was M. Jourdain, when the fact is
pointed out to them.

So whatever merit this little work has is chiefly due to the avoidance,
so far as possible, of a stereotyped phraseology, and to the elimination
of irrelevant matter that has gathered round the subject. The present
writer has long had the conviction that the great need in the discussion
of ethical and psychological questions is their restatement in the
simplest possible terms. The most difficult thing that faces the
newcomer to these questions is to find out what they are really all
about. Writer follows writer, each apparently more concerned to discuss
what others have said than to deal with a straightforward discussion of
the subject itself. Imposing as this method may be, it is fatal to
enlightenment. For the longer the discussion continues the farther away
from the original question it seems to get. One has heard of "The
Religion of Philosophy," and its acquisition of obscurity in thought and
prolixity in language seems to have gone some distance towards earning
the title.

Being neither anxious to parade the extent of my reading, nor greatly
overawed by the large number of eminent men who have written on the
subject, I decided that what was needed was a plain statement of the
problem itself. My concern, therefore, has been to keep out all that has
not a direct bearing on the essential question, and only to deal with
other writers so far as a discussion of what they say may help to make
plain the point at issue. If the result does not carry conviction it at
least makes clear the ground of disagreement. And that is certainly
something gained.

Moreover, there is a real need for a clearing away of all the verbal
lumber that has been allowed to gather round subjects concerning which
intelligent men and women will think even though they may be unable to
reach reliable or satisfactory conclusions. And I have good grounds for
believing that so far this little work has achieved the purpose for
which it was written. If I may say it without being accused of conceit,
it has made the subject clear to many who before found it
incomprehensible. And, really, philosophy would not be so very obscure,
if it were not for the philosophers. We may not always be able to find
answers to our questions, but we ought always to understand what the
questions are about. That it is not always the case is largely due to
those who mistake obscurity for profundity, and in their haste to rise
from the ground lose altogether their touch with the earth.

    C. C.




At the tail end of a lengthy series of writers, from Augustine to
Martineau, and from Spinoza to William James, one might well be excused
the assumption that nothing new remains to be said on so well-worn a
topic as that of Free-Will. Against this, however, lies the feeling that
in the case of any subject which continuously absorbs attention some
service to the cause of truth is rendered by a re-statement of the
problem in contemporary language, with such modifications in terminology
as may be necessary, and with such illustrations from current positive
knowledge as may serve to make the issue clear to a new generation. In
the course of time new words are created, while old ones change their
meanings and implications. This results not only in the terminology of a
few generations back taking on the character of a dead language to the
average contemporary reader, but may occasion the not unusual spectacle
of disputants using words with such widely different meanings that even
a clear comprehension of the question at issue becomes impossible.

So much may be assumed without directly controverting or endorsing
Professor Paulsen's opinion that the "Free-Will problem is one which
arose under certain conditions and has disappeared with the
disappearance of those conditions;" or the opposite opinion of Professor
William James that there is no other subject on which an inventive
genius has a better chance of breaking new ground. If mankind--even
educated mankind--were composed of individuals whose brains functioned
with the accuracy of the most approved text-books of logic, Professor
Paulsen's opinion would be self-evidently true. Granting that the
conditions which gave rise to the belief in Free-Will have disappeared,
the belief itself should have disappeared likewise. Professor Paulsen's
own case proves that he is either wrong in thinking that these
conditions have disappeared, or in assuming that, this being the case,
the belief has also died out.

The truth is that beliefs do not always, or even usually, die with the
conditions that gave them birth. Society always has on hand a plentiful
stock of beliefs that are, like so many intellectual vagrants, without
visible means of support. Human history would not present the clash and
conflict of opinion it does were it otherwise. Indeed, if a belief is in
possession its ejection is the most difficult of all operations.
Possession is here not merely nine points of the law, it is often all
the law that is acknowledged. Beliefs once established acquire an
independent vitality of their own, and may defy all destructive efforts
for generations. One may, therefore, agree with the first half of
Professor Paulsen's statement without endorsing the concluding portion.
The problem has not, so far as the generality of civilized mankind is
concerned, disappeared. The originating conditions have gone, but the
belief remains, and its real nature and value can only be rightly
estimated by a mental reconstruction of the conditions that gave it
birth. As Spencer has reminded us, the pedigree of a belief is as
important as is the pedigree of a horse. We cannot be really certain
whether a belief is with us because of its social value, or because of
sheer unreasoning conservatism, until we know something of its history.
In any case we understand better both it and the human nature that gives
it hospitality by knowing its ancestry. And of this truth no subject
could better offer an illustration than the one under discussion.

Reserving this point for a moment, let us ask, "What is the essential
issue between the believers in Free-Will and the upholders of the
doctrine of Determinism?" One may put the Deterministic position in a
few words. Essentially it is a thorough-going application of the
principle of causation to human nature. What Copernicus and Kepler did
for the world of astronomy, Determinism aims at doing for the world of
psychological phenomena. Human nature, it asserts, is part and parcel of
nature as a whole, and bears to it the same relation that a part does to
the whole. When the Determinist refers to the "Order of Nature" he
includes all, and asserts that an accurate analysis of human nature will
be found to exemplify the same principle of causation that is seen to
obtain elsewhere. True, mental phenomena have laws of their own, as
chemistry and biology have their own peculiar laws, but these are
additional, not contradictory to other natural laws. Any exception to
this is apparent, not real. Man's nature, physical, biological,
psychological, and sociological, is to be studied as we study other
natural phenomena, and the closer our study the clearer the recognition
that its manifestations are dependent upon processes with which no one
dreams of associating the conception of "freedom." Determinism asserts
that if we knew the quality and inclination of all the forces bearing
upon human nature, in the same way that we know the forces determining
the motions of a planet, then the forecasting of conduct would become a
mere problem in moral mathematics. That we cannot do this, nor may ever
be able to do it, is due to the enormous and ever-changing complexity of
the forces that determine conduct. But this ought not to blind us to the
general truth of the principle involved. To some extent we do forecast
human conduct; that we cannot always do so, or cannot do so completely,
only proves weakness or ignorance. The Determinist claims, therefore,
that his view of human nature is thoroughly scientific, and that he is
only applying here principles that have borne such excellent fruit
elsewhere; and, finally, that unless this view of human nature be
accepted the scientific cultivation of character becomes an

So far the Determinist. The believer in Free-Will--for the future it
will be briefer and more convenient to use the term "Volitionist" or
"Indeterminist"--does not on his part deny the influence on the human
organism of those forces on which the Determinist lays stress. What he
denies is that any of them singly, or all of them collectively, can ever
furnish an adequate and exhaustive account of human action. He affirms
that after analysis has done its utmost there remains an unexplained
residuum beyond the reach of the instruments or the methods of positive
science. He denies that conduct--even theoretically--admits of
explanation and prediction in the same way that explanation and
prediction apply to natural phenomena as a whole. It is admitted that
circumstances may influence conduct, but only in the way that a cheque
for five pounds enables one to become possessed of a certain quantity of
bullion--provided the cheque is honoured by the bank. So the "Will" may
honour or respond to certain circumstances or it may not. In other
words, the deterministic influence of circumstances is contingent, not
necessary. Circumstances determine conduct only when a "free" volition
assents to their operation. So against the proposition that conduct is
ultimately the conditioned expression of one aspect of the cosmic order,
there is the counter-proposition that intentional action is the
unconditioned expression of absolutely free beings, and is what it is
because of the selective action of an undetermined will.

Further, against all deterministic analysis the Volitionist stubbornly
opposes the testimony of consciousness, and the necessity for the belief
in Free-Will as a moral postulate. Thus, even when the deterministic
analysis of an action--from its source in some external stimuli, to the
final neural discharge that secures its performance is complete, it is
still urged that no possible analysis can override man's conviction of
"freedom." The existence of this conviction is, of course, indisputable,
and it forms the bed-rock of all forms of anti-determinism. But the
scientific or logical value of a conviction, as such, is surely open to
question. Equally strong convictions were once held concerning the
flatness of the earth's surface, the existence of witches, and a hundred
and one other matters. Besides, a belief or a conviction is not a basal
fact in human nature, it is the last stage of a process, and can
therefore prove nothing save the fact of its own existence. Human nature
at any stage of its existence is an evolution from past human nature,
and many prevalent beliefs are as reminiscent in their character as our
rudimentary tails are reminiscent of a simian ancestry. I hope later to
make it clear that the much talked of testimony of consciousness is
quite irrelevant to the question at issue; and also that the assumed
necessity for the conception of "freedom" as a moral postulate is really
due to a misconception of both the nature of morality and of voluntary

Ultimately the question, as already indicated, resolves itself into one
of how far we are justified in applying the principle of causation. The
Determinist denies any limit to its theoretical application. The
Volitionist insists on placing man in a distinct and unique category.
But this conception of causation is in itself of the nature of a growth,
and a study of its development may well throw light on the present

A conception of causation in some form or other could hardly have been
altogether absent from the most primitive races of mankind. Some
experiences are so uniform, so persistent, and so universal that they
would inevitably be connected in terms of cause and effect.
Nevertheless, the primitive mind was so dominated by volitional
conception of nature that a sense of necessary connection between events
could only have been of a weak character. Experience may have shown that
certain physical phenomena succeeded each other in a certain order, but
the belief that these phenomena embodied the action of supernormal
conscious forces would break in upon that sense of inevitability which
is the very essence of scientific causation. Modern thought fixes its
attention upon a given series of events and declines to go further. With
us the order is inevitable. With primitive man the order, even when
perceived, is conditional upon the non-interference of assumed
supernormal intelligences. Each phenomenon, or each group of phenomena,
thus possesses to the primitive mind precisely that quality of "freedom"
which is now claimed for the human will.

How difficult is the task of establishing causal connections between
physical phenomena the whole history of science bears witness. To
establish causal connections between external conditions and subjective
states, where the forces are more numerous and immensely more complex in
their combinations, is a task of infinitely greater difficulty. Amongst
savages it would never be attempted. Feelings arise without any
traceable connection with surrounding conditions, nor does a recurrence
of the same external circumstances produce exactly the same result. A
circumstance that produces anger one day may give rise to laughter on
another occasion. Something that produces a striking effect on one
person leaves another quite unaffected. Numerous feelings arise in
consciousness that have all the superficial signs of being
self-generated. The phenomena are too diverse in character, and the
connections too complex and obscure, for uninstructed man to reach a
deterministic conclusion. The conclusion is inevitable; man himself is
the absolute cause of his own actions; he is veritably master of his own
fate, subject only to the malign and magical influence of other
extra-human personalities.

Primitive thinking about man is thus quite in line with primitive
thinking about other things. In a way man's earliest philosophy of
things is more coherent and more rigorously logical than that of modern
times. The same principle is applied all round. All force is conceived
as vital force; "souls" or "wills" govern all. The division between
animate and inanimate things is of the vaguest possible character; that
between man and animals can hardly be said to exist. Only very gradually
do the distinctions between animate and inanimate, voluntary and
involuntary actions, which are taken for granted by the modern mind,
arise. And it is easy to conceive that in the growth of these
distinctions, modes of thinking characteristic of primitive man, would
linger longest in the always obscure field of psychology. Broadly,
however, the growth of knowledge has consisted, as Huxley pointed out,
in the substitution of a mechanical for a volitional interpretation of
things. In one department after another purposeful action yields to
inevitable causation. In physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, and
kindred sciences this process is now complete. The volitional
interpretation still betrays a feeble vitality in biology; but even here
the signs of an early demise are unmistakable. Its last stronghold is in
psychology, and this because it is at once the newest of the sciences to
be placed upon a positive basis, and also the most obscure in its
ramifications. Yet there can be no reasonable doubt that the same
principle which has been found to hold good in other directions will
sooner or later be shown to obtain here also. Science is by its very
nature progressive; and its progress is manifested by the degree to
which phenomena hitherto unrelated are brought under constantly
enlarging and more comprehensive generalisations. Men were once
satisfied to explain the "wetness" of water as due to a spirit of
"aquosity," the movement of the blood as due to a "certain spirit"
dwelling in the veins and arteries. These were not statements of
knowledge, but verbose confessions of ignorance. To this same class of
belief belongs the "Free-Will" of the anti-determinist. It is the living
representative of that immense family of souls and spirits with which
early animistic thought peopled the universe. The surviving member of a
once numerous family, it carries with it the promise of the same fate
that has already overtaken its predecessors.

The origin of the belief in free-will once understood, the reasons for
its perpetuation are not difficult to discover. First comes the
obscurity of the processes underlying human action. This alone would
secure a certain vitality for a belief that has always made the
impossibility of explaining the origin, sequence, and relation of mental
states its principal defence. Beyond offering as evidence the
questionable affirmation of consciousness volitionists have been
unanimous in resting their case upon their adversary's want of
knowledge. And it is further characteristic that while holding to a
theory on behalf of which not a single shred of positive evidence has
ever been produced, they yet demand the most rigorous and the most
complete demonstration of determinism before they will accept it as
true; this despite the presumptive evidence in its favour arising from
the fact of its harmony with our knowledge in other directions.

Secondly, the human mind does not at any time commence its philosophic
speculations _de novo_. It necessarily builds upon the materials
accumulated by previous generations; and usually retains the form in
which previous thinking has been cast, even when the contents undergo
marked modifications. Thus the ghost-soul of the savage, a veritable
material copy of the body, by centuries of philosophizing gets refined
into the distinct "spiritual" substance of the metaphysician. And this,
not because the notion of a "soul" was derived from current knowledge or
thinking, but because it was one of the inherited forms of thought to
which philosophy had to accommodate itself. The result of this pressure
of the past upon contemporary thinking is that a large proportion of
mental activity is in each generation devoted to reconciling past
theories of things with current knowledge. In our own time the number
of volumes written to reconcile the theory of evolution with already
existing religious views is a striking example of this phenomenon. And
beyond the philosophic few there lies the mass of the people with whom
an established opinion of any kind takes on something of a sacred
character. Unfortunately, too, many writers work with an eye to the
prejudices of this class, which prejudices are in turn strengthened by
the tacit support of men of ability, or at least by their not openly
controverting them. It is, however, of the greatest significance that
since the opening of the modern scientific period, wherever qualified
thinkers have deliberately based their conclusions upon contemporary
knowledge the theory of determinism has been generally upheld.

A third cause of the persistence of the belief in "Free-Will" is its
association with theology. For at least four centuries, whenever the
discussion of the subject has assumed an acute form, it has been due to
theological requirements rather than to ethical or psychological
considerations. True, many other reasons have been advanced, but these
have been little more than cloaks for the theological interest. Apart
from theology there does not seem any valid reason why the principle of
determinism should rouse more opposition in connection with human
character than it does in connection with the course of physical nature.
Or if it be pointed out that the establishment of the principle of
universal causation, as applied to nature at large, was not established
without opposition, then the reply is that here again it was the
religious interest that dictated the opposition. It was felt that the
reduction of all physical phenomena to a mechanical sequence was
derogatory to the majesty of God, excluded the deity from his own
universe, and generally weakened the force of religious beliefs. And, as
a mere matter of historic fact, the establishment of the scientific
conception of nature did have, with the bulk of mankind, precisely the
consequences predicted. And when in the course of events theological
considerations were banished from one department of science after
another, it was only natural that theologians should fight with the
greater tenacity to maintain a footing in the region of human nature.

Although the subject is in origin pre-Christian, it was in connection
with Christian theology that it assumed an important place in European
thinking. The development of monotheism gave the problem a sharper point
and a deeper meaning. The issue here was a simple one. Given the belief
in God as sole creator and governor of the world, and he may conceivably
be related to mankind in one of two ways. Either he induces man to carry
out his will by an appeal to human reason and emotion, or he has so
arranged matters that certain events will inevitably come to pass at a
certain time, human effort being one of the contributory agencies to
that end. The first supposition leaves man "free"--at least in his
relation to deity. The second leads straight to the Christian doctrine
of predestination. Either supposition has, from the theological point of
view, its disadvantages. The first leaves man free as against God, but
it limits the power of deity by creating an autonomous force that may
act contrary to the divine will. The second opens up the question of
the divine wisdom and goodness, and by making God responsible for evil
conflicts with the demands of the moral sense. Evil and goodness are
made parts of the divine plan, and as man must fit in with the general
pre-arranged scheme, personal merit and demerit disappear. These
considerations explain why in the course of the Free-Will controversy
official Christianity has ranged itself now on one side and now on the
other. It has championed Determinism or Indeterminism as the occasion
served its interest. To-day, owing to easily discoverable reasons,
Christian writers are, in the main, markedly anti-deterministic.

The first clear statement of the Christian position, if we omit the
Pauline teaching that we are all as clay in the hands of the potter,
appears in the writings of Augustine. In opposition to the Pelagians,
Augustine maintained a doctrine of absolute predestination. No room was
allowed for human self-determination to anyone but the first man. Adam
was created and endowed with free-will, and chose evil--a curious
verification of Voltaire's definition of Free-Will as a capacity by
means of which man gets himself damned. And as in Adam there were
contained, potentially, all future generations, all are pre-destined to
eternal damnation except such as are saved through the free gift of
divine grace. This theory of Augustine's, carried to the point of
asserting the damnation of infants, was modified in several respects by
that great medieval Christian teacher, Thomas Aquinas, who held that
while the will might be "free" from external restraint, it was
determined by our reason, but was reinstated in full force by John
Calvin. He denied that the goodness or badness of man had anything
whatever to do with the bestowal or withholding of grace. God dooms men
either to heaven or hell, for no other reason than that he chooses to do
so. Most of the leading Protestants of the early Reformation period were
strongly opposed to "free-will." For instance, Zwingli asserted that God
was the "author, mover, and impeller to sin." Still more emphatic was
Luther. The will of man he compared to a horse, "If mounted by God it
wills and wends whithersoever God may will; if mounted by Satan it wills
and wends whithersoever Satan may will; neither hath it any liberty of
choice to which of the riders it shall run, or which it shall choose;
but the riders themselves contend for its acquisition and possession."
Among the most powerful essays ever written in defence of Determinism
was Jonathan Edwards's, the famous Protestant divine, "Inquiry into the
Modern Prevailing Notions respecting that Freedom of Will which is
supposed to be essential to moral agency, virtue and vice, reward and
punishment, praise and blame," and to which I shall have occasion to
refer later. Finally, the explicit declarations of the Westminster
Confession of Faith and the Articles of the Church of England, that
man's will,--in the absence of grace,--cannot accomplish good works,
throw a curious light on the theological opponents of Determinism who
denounce it as anti-Christian and immoral.



To David Hume the dispute between the advocates of "Free-Will" and the
advocates of "Necessity" was almost entirely a matter of words. The
essence of the question, he thought, both sides were agreed on, and
consequently expressed the opinion that "a few intelligible definitions
would immediately have put an end to the whole controversy." That Hume
was over sanguine is shown by the controversy being still with us. Yet
his recommendation as to intelligible definitions, while pertinent to
all controversy, is specially so with regard to such a subject as that
of "Free-Will." For much of the anti-Determinist case actually rests
upon giving a misleading significance to certain phrases, while applying
others in a direction where they have no legitimate application.
Consider, for instance, the controversial significance of such a phrase
as "Liberty _versus_ Necessity"--the older name for Determinism. We all
love liberty, we all resent compulsion, and, as Mill pointed out, he who
announces himself as a champion of Liberty has gained the sympathies of
his hearers before he has commenced to argue his case. Such words play
the same part that "catchy" election cries do in securing votes. Such
phrases as "Power of Choice," "Sense of Responsibility," "Testimony of
Consciousness," "Consciousness of Freedom," are all expressions that,
while helpful and legitimate when used with due care and understanding,
as usually employed serve only to confuse the issue and prevent

Not that the dispute between the Volitionist and the Determinist is a
merely verbal one. The controversy carries with it a significance of the
deepest kind. Fundamentally the issue expresses the antagonism of two
culture stages, an antagonism which finds expression in many other
directions. We are in fact concerned with what Tylor well calls the
deepest of all distinctions in human thought, the distinction that
separates Animism from Materialism. Much as philosophic ingenuity may do
in the way of inventing defences against the application of the
principle of causation to human action, the deeper our analysis of the
controversy, the more clearly is it seen that we are dealing with an
attenuated form of that primitive animism which once characterised all
human thinking. The persistence of types is a phenomenon that occurs as
frequently in the world of mind as it does in the world of biology. Or
just as when a country is overrun by a superior civilisation, primitive
customs are found lingering in remote districts, so unscientific modes
of thinking linger in relation to the more obscure mental processes in
spite of the conquests of science in other directions.

It is well to bear these considerations in mind, even while admitting
that a great deal of the dispute does turn upon the fitness of the
language employed, and the accuracy with which it is used. And if
intelligible definition may not, as Hume hoped, end the controversy, it
will at least have the merit of making the issue plain.

What is it that people have in their minds when they speak of the
"Freedom of the Will"? Curiously enough, the advocates of "free-will"
seldom condescend to favour us with anything so commonplace as a
definition, or if they do it tells us little. We are consequently
compelled to dig out the meanings of their cardinal terms from the
arguments used. Now the whole of the argument for "free-will" makes the
word "free" or "freedom" the equivalent to _an absence of determining
conditions_; either this, or the case for "free-will" is surrendered.
For if a man's decisions are in any way influenced--"influenced" is here
only another word for "determined"--Determinism is admitted. I need not
argue whether decisions are wholly or partly determined, the real and
only question being whether they are determined at all. What is called
by some a limited free-will is really only another name for unlimited

"Freedom," as used by the Volitionist, being an equivalent for "absence
of determining conditions," let us ask next what this means. Here I am
brought to a dead halt. I do not know what it means. I cannot even
conceive it as meaning anything at all. At any rate, I am quite certain
that it is outside the region of scientific thought and nomenclature.
Scientifically, atoms of matter are not _free_ to move in any direction,
the planets are not _free_ to move in any shaped orbit, the blood is not
_free_ to circulate, the muscles are not _free_ to contract, the brain
is not _free_ to function. In all these cases what takes place is the
result of all converging circumstances and conditions. Given these and
the result follows. Scientifically, the thing that occurs is the only
thing possible. If the word "free" is used in science, it is as a figure
of speech, as when one speaks of a free gas, or of the blood not being
free to circulate owing to the existence of a constricted artery. But in
either case all that is meant is that a change in the nature of the
conditions gives rise to a corresponding change of result. The
determination of the gas or the blood to behave in a definite way is as
great in any case. From the point of view of science, then, to speak of
an absence of determining conditions is the most complete nonsense. All
science is a search for the conditions that determine phenomena. Save as
a metaphor, "freedom" has no place whatever in positive science.

Are we then to discard the use of such a word as "freedom" altogether?
By no means. Properly applied, the word is intelligible and useful
enough. When, for instance, we speak of a free man, a free state, a free
country, or free trade, we are using the word "free" in a legitimate
manner, and can give to it a precise significance. A free state is one
in which the people composing it pursue their way uncoerced by other
states. A free man is one who is at liberty to exert bodily action or
express his opinions. We do not mean that in the first instance the
people are not governed by laws, or that physical conditions are without
influence on them; nor do we mean, in the second instance, that the
actions and opinions of the free man are not the result of heredity,
bodily structure, education, social position, etc. The obvious meaning
of "freedom" in each of these cases is an absence of external and
non-essential coercion. It does not touch the question of why we act as
we do, or of why we please to act in this or that manner. As Jonathan
Edwards puts it: "The plain, obvious meaning of the words 'freedom' and
'liberty' is power and opportunity, or advantage that any one has to do
as he pleases." Or as Hume put it more elaborately:--

    "What is meant by liberty when applied to voluntary actions? We
    cannot surely mean that actions have so little connection with
    motives, inclinations, and circumstances that one does not
    follow with a certain degree of uniformity from the other. For
    these are plain and acknowledged matters of fact. By liberty,
    then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting,
    according to the determination of the will--that is, if we
    choose to remain at rest we may; and if we choose to move, we
    also may."

The ultimate significance of "liberty" or "freedom" is thus
sociological. Here it expresses a fact; in positive science it is a mere
metaphor, and, as experience shows, a misleading one. Its use in
philosophy dates from the time of the Greeks, and when they spoke of a
free man they were borrowing an illustration from their social life.
There were slaves and there were free men, and in speaking of a free man
people were not so likely as they were at a later date to be misled by
a metaphor. Unfortunately, its use in philosophy has continued, while
its limitations have been ignored. To ask if a man is free is an
intelligible question. To ask whether actions are free from the
determining associations of organization and environment admits of but
one intelligible reply. Personally, I agree with Professor Bain that the
term "is brought in by main force, into a phenomenon to which it is
altogether incommensurable," and it would be well if it could be
excluded altogether from serious discussion[2].

    [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.

Now let us take that equally confusing word "will." Unfortunately, few
of those who champion the freedom of the will think it worth while to
trouble their readers with a clear definition of what they mean by it.
The orthodox definition of the will as "a faculty of the soul" tells us
nothing. It is explaining something the existence of which is
questioned by reference to something else the existence of which is
unknown. Or the definition is volunteered, "Will is the power to
decide," a description which only tells us that to will is to will.
Professor James tells us that "Desire, wish, will, are states of mind
which every one knows, and which no definition can make plainer." This
may be true of desire and wish; it certainly is not true of "will."
There is no question as to "will" being a state of mind, but as to every
one knowing its character, and above all possessing the knowledge
enabling him to discriminate between "will" and "desire" and "wish,"
this is highly questionable. One may also be permitted the opinion that
if advocates of "free-will" were to seriously set themselves the task of
discovering what they do mean by "will," and also in what way it may be
differentiated from other mental states, the number of the champions of
that curious doctrine would rapidly diminish.

What is it that constitutes an act of volition, or supplies us with the
fact of will? The larger part of our bodily movements do not come under
the heading of volition at all. The primary bodily movements are reflex,
instinctive, emotional, the action following without any interposition
of consciousness. Of course, an action that is performed quite
automatically at one time may be voluntarily performed at another time.
I may close my eyelid deliberately, or it may be because of the approach
of some foreign object. Or an action, if it be performed frequently,
tends to become automatic. To come within the category of a voluntary
action, it must be performed consciously, and there is also present
some consciousness of an end to be realized. Every voluntary action is
thus really dependent upon memory. A newly-born child has no volitions,
only reflexes. It is only when experience has supplied us with an idea
of what _may_ be done that we _will_ it shall be done. This
consideration alone is enough to shatter the case for the supposed
freedom of the will.[3]

    [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

If we analyze any simple act of volition what has just been said will be
made quite clear. I am sitting in a room and _will_ to open a window; it
may be to get fresh air, to look out, or for some other reason. Assume
that the first is the correct reason, the room being close and "stuffy."
First of all, then, I become aware of a more or less unpleasant feeling;
my experience tells me this is because the air in the room needs
purifying. Experience also tells me that by opening a window the desired
result will be obtained. Finally, I open the window and experience a
feeling of relief and satisfaction. Now had the room been without a
window, and the door bolted from the outside, or had the window been too
heavy for me to raise, no "volition" would have arisen. I should still
have had the desire for fresh air, but not seeing any means by which
this could be obtained, I should have had no _motive_ for action, and
should have remained perfectly passive. In order that my desire may
operate as a motive there must be not only a consciousness of a need,
but also a mental representation of the means by which that need is to
be gratified. I _will_ to do a thing, when allied to the desire for that
thing there is a conception of _how_ it is to be done, of the means to
be employed. Without this I have no motive, only a desire; without a
consciousness of the nature of the desire, there is nothing but pure
feeling. "Willing terminates with the prevalence of the idea...."
"Attention with effort is all that any case of volition implies." (Prof.
W. James, _Princip. of Psychology_, II. 560-1.)

The stages of the process are, feeling rising into consciousness as
desire, the perception of the means to realize an end which raises the
desire from the statical to the dynamic stage of motive, and finally a
voluntary or intentional action. Now at no stage of this process is
there room for the intervention of any power or faculty not expressed in
a strictly sequential process. Of course, the action I have taken as an
example is an exceedingly simple one, but the more complex actions only
offer greater difficulties of analysis without leading to any different
result. This will be seen more clearly when we come to deal with
"choice" and "deliberation." From the moment that a certain stimulus
creates a desire in an organism, to the time that desire expresses
itself in action, there is no gap in the chain through which a
"Free-Will" may manifest its being. The physiologist points out that at
the basis of all our feelings and ideas there lie certain neural
processes. The psychologist takes up the story and from the dawn of
desire to action finds no break--or at least none that future knowledge
may not reasonably hope to make good. Want of knowledge may at present
prevent our tracing all the details of the process, but this is surely a
very inadequate ground on which to affirm the existence of a power at
variance with our knowledge of nature in other directions.[4]

    [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.

Now in thus tracing the course of a voluntary action are we doing any
more than observing the action of desire in consciousness? If, yes, the
writer is quite unaware of the fact. If I remove all feeling, all
desire, all motive, "the will" disappears. Excite feeling, generate
desire, and there is the occasion for a voluntary action. Multiply the
number of desires and the operation of "will" becomes evident. Thus when
a writer like Professor Hyslop says, "If two motives offer different
attractions to the will," the reply is that the "will" is not one thing,
and motives other things, but two aspects of one fact. The "will" is not
something that decides or chooses between motives; the "will" is nothing
more than the name given to that motive or cluster of motives which is
sufficiently strong to overcome resistance and to express itself in
action. I emphasize the expression "overcome resistance" because without
competing motives and a sense of resistance we have no clear
consciousness of volition. Where only one desire is present in
consciousness, or where it is of overwhelming strength, feeling is
succeeded by action without any recognizable hiatus. It is the sense of
conflict, the break, that is essential to creating a lively sense of
volition, and also, as shall see later, to the sense of choice and
deliberation. But in speaking of an action as the expression of motives,
or as an expression of "will," both statements are identical so far as
the fact is concerned. We have not desires, motives, and "will," there
is simply a desire or desires that assume the quality of a motive by
being strong enough to result in action. As Spencer has put it, "Will is
no more an existence apart from the predominant feeling than a king is
an existence apart from the man occupying the throne."

All that is to be found in any act of "will" is a desire accompanied by
the consciousness of an end. To put the same thing in another way, we
have a desire, the consciousness of an end and the means of realizing
it, and, finally, action. To the physiological and psychological
processes that culminate in action we give the name of motive. Properly
speaking a motive that does not issue in action--or inhibition--is not a
motive at all, it is a mere desire. And apart from the presence of
desire, or of desires, "will" does not exist. It is a pure abstraction,
valuable enough as an abstraction, but having no more real existence
apart from particular motives, than "tree" is a real existence apart
from particular trees. Physiologically, says Dr. Maudsley:--

    "We cannot choose but reject _the_ will.... As physiologists we
    have to deal with volition as a function of the supreme centres,
    following reflection, varying in quantity and quality as its
    cause varies, strengthened by education and exercise, enfeebled
    by disuse, decaying with decay of structure.... We have to deal
    with will not as a single undecomposable faculty unaffected by
    bodily conditions, but as a result of organic changes in the
    supreme centres, affected as certainly and as seriously by
    disorders of them as our motor faculties are by disorders of
    their centres."

And, says Professor Sully, referring to _the_ will:--

    "Modern scientific psychology knows nothing of such an entity.
    As a science of phenomena and their laws, it confines itself to
    a consideration of the processes of volition, and wholly
    discards the hypothesis of a substantial will as unnecessary and

Neither physiology nor psychology, neither a sane science nor a sound
philosophy, knows anything of, or can find use for, an autonomous
"will." "Will" as the final term of a discoverable series may be
admitted; "will" as a self-directing force, deciding whether particular
desires shall or shall not prevail, answers to nothing conformable to
our knowledge of man, and is plainly but the ghost of the wills and
souls of our savage ancestors. If instead of speaking of the freedom of
the will, we spoke of uncaused volitions, the position of the
volitionist would be clear, and its indefensible character plain to all.
But by giving the abstraction "will" a concrete existence, and by taking
from sociology a word such as "freedom" and using it in a sphere in
which it has no legitimate application, the issue is confused, and a
scientifically absurd theory given an air of plausibility. The dispute
between the Determinist and the Indeterminist is certainly not one of
words only, but it is one in which the cardinal terms employed need the
most careful examination if we are to clear away from the subject the
verbal fog created by theologians and metaphysicians.



The one argument used by the Indeterminist against the Deterministic
position with some degree of universality is that of the testimony of
consciousness. It is the one to which practically all have appealed, and
which all have flattered themselves was simple in nature and convincing
in character. Professor Sidgwick, although he admitted that this
testimony might be illusory, yet asserted "There is but one opposing
argument of real force, namely, the immediate affirmation of
consciousness in the moment of deliberate action." And by the testimony
of consciousness must be meant, not, of course, a consciousness of
acting, but that at the moment of acting we could, _under identical
conditions_, have selected and acted upon an alternative that has been
rejected. I emphasize the phrase "under identical conditions," because
otherwise nothing is in dispute, and because, as we shall see, this
important consideration has not been always or even frequently borne in

The question is, What does consciousness really tell us, and how far is
its testimony valid? In some directions it must be admitted that the
testimony of consciousness is absolute. In others it cannot, without
verification, claim any authority whatever. When I say that I have a
feeling of heat or coldness, of pleasure or pain, there is here a
direct deliverance of consciousness against which there is no appeal.
But consciousness does not and cannot tell me why I feel hot or cold, or
what is the cause of a pain I am experiencing. In this last case the
testimony of consciousness may be distinctly misleading. As it tells us
nothing of the existence of a brain, a nervous system, viscera, etc.,
its testimony as to the cause of pain is obviously of no value. We are
conscious of states of mind, and that is all. A man seized with sudden
paralysis may be conscious of his power to move a limb, only to discover
by experience his impotence. In short, consciousness cannot, indeed does
not, tell us the causes of our states of mind. For this information we
are thrown back upon observation, experiment, and experience. We must,
then, make quite sure when we interrogate consciousness, exactly what it
is that consciousness says, and whether what it says is on a subject
that comes within its province.

What is, then, the testimony of consciousness? When it is said that we
are conscious of our ability to have selected one alternative at the
time that another is chosen, I think this may be fairly met with the
retort that consciousness is unable to inform us as to our actual
ability to _do_ anything at all. I may be quite conscious of a desire to
jump a six foot fence, or lift a weight of half a ton, but whether I am
actually able to do so or not, only experience can decide. What I am
really conscious of is a desire to vault a given height or lift a given
weight, and it is surely an inexcusable confusion to speak of a desire
to do a particular thing as the equivalent of an ability to do it. If a
consciousness of desire equalled the ability to perform failure would be
but little known among men.

All that consciousness really tells us is of the existence of passing
states of mind. It can tell us nothing of their origin, their value, or
their consequences. In the particular instance under consideration
consciousness informs us of the fact of choice, and this no Determinist
has ever dreamed of denying. He does assert that choice, as the
Indeterminist persists in using the term, is a delusion, but otherwise,
as will be shown later, he claims that it is only on deterministic lines
that choice can have any meaning or ethical significance. In any
voluntary action I am conscious of the possibility of choice and of
having chosen, and that is really all. What is the nature of that
possibility, and why I choose one thing rather than another--on these
points consciousness can give us no information whatever. One might as
reasonably argue that a consciousness of hunger gives us a knowledge of
the process of digestion, as argue that a consciousness of choice
supplies us with a knowledge of the mechanism of the process. We are
conscious of the presence of several desires, we are also conscious that
out of these several desires one is strong enough to rank as a motive,
but it tells us absolutely nothing of the causes or conditions that have
resulted in the emergence of that motive. Instead of telling us that we
could have acted in opposition to the strongest motive--which is really
the indeterminist position--consciousness simply reveals which desire is
the most powerful. We are conscious that other desires were present, we
are also aware of the possibility that another desire than the one that
actually prevailed might have been the most powerful; but when we admit
this and say that we _could_ have acted differently, we have really
displaced the actual conditions by imaginary ones. We _might_ have
preferred to act differently. This is not denied. It is not questioned
that we do choose, or that the same person chooses, differently or
different occasions. The question really is, Why have we chosen thus or
thus? And so far as consciousness is concerned we are quite in the dark
as to why one choice is made rather than another, what are the
conditions that give rise to our conscious desires, or why one desire is
more powerful than another.

Consciousness, then, can testify only to the reality of its own states;
no more. It can tell us nothing of their causes. It cannot tell us that
man has a brain and nervous system, and can tell us nothing of the
connection between mental states and the condition of the bodily organs.
The chief factor in conduct (habit) lies outside the region of
consciousness altogether. In most cases we act as we have been in the
habit of acting, and our present conduct expresses the sum of our
previous actions and inclinations. Every action we perform assists the
formation of a habit, and with every repetition of a particular action
we find its performance easier. Indeed, a very powerful criticism of the
trustworthiness of consciousness is found in the fact that the
determining causes of conduct lie largely in the region of the
unconscious or subconscious, and of this territory consciousness can
tell us no more than a ripple on the surface of a river can tell us of
its depths.

Next to the emphasis upon the testimony of consciousness the
Indeterminist lays special stress upon the facts of choice and
deliberation. Can we really say, it is asked, that man chooses and
deliberates, or even that in any genuine sense he does anything at all,
if all his actions are pre-determined by his constitution and
environment? If every act of man is determined and man himself a mere
stage in the process unending and unbroken, is it not idle to speak of
man deliberating on alternatives and choosing that which seems to him
best? We continue using words that on deterministic lines have lost all
meaning. And if Determinists do not realise this, it is because the
logical implications of their doctrines have never been fully explored.

Well, it entirely depends upon the sense in which one uses the cardinal
terms in the discussion. If deliberation and choice when applied to
mental processes are used in the same sense as when these terms are used
as descriptive of the proceedings of a committee, then we can all agree
that deliberation would be as great a sham as it would be if the members
of a committee before meeting had determined upon their decision. But,
we may note in passing, that even here, when the deliberations are
genuine, the votes of each member are supposed to be decided by the
reasons advanced during the discussion--that is the decision of each
individual member is determined by the forces evoked during the

The scientific method, and it may be added, the sane and profitable
method, is not to come to the study of a problem with ready-made
meanings and compel the facts, under penalty of disqualification, to
agree with them, but to let the facts determine what meaning is to be
attached to the words used. It is mere childish petulance for the
Indeterminist to say that unless certain words are used with _his_
meaning they shall not be used at all, but shall be expelled from our
vocabulary. When gravity was conceived as a force moving downward
through infinite space, the existence of people on the other side of the
earth was denied as being contrary to the law of gravitation. A more
correct knowledge of the phenomena did not lead people to discard
gravity; the meaning of the word was revised. And really neither
language nor morality is the private property of the Indeterminist, and
he is, therefore, not at liberty to annihilate either for not coming up
to his expectations. He must submit to such revision of his ideas, or
his language, or of both, as more accurate knowledge may demand.

The question is not, then, whether Determinism destroys deliberation and
choice and responsibility, but what meaning Determinism can legitimately
place upon these words, and is this meaning in harmony with what we know
to be true. With responsibility we will deal at length later. For the
present let us see what is really involved in the fact of choice.
Determinism, we are advised, must deny the reality of choice, because
choice assumes alternatives, and there can be no genuine alternatives if
events are determined. Let us see. If I am watching a stone rolling down
a hillside, and am in doubt as to whether it will pass to the right or
to the left of a given point, I shall not recognize any resident
capacity in the stone for choosing one path rather than the other. The
absence of consciousness in the stone precludes such an assumption. But
suppose we substitute for the stone a barefooted human being, and assume
that one path is smooth while the other is liberally sprinkled with
sharp pointed stones. There would then be an obvious reason for the
selection of one path, and no one would hesitate to say that here was an
illustration of the exercise of choice. Choice, then, is a phenomenon of
consciousness, and it implies a recognition of alternatives. But a
recognition of alternatives does not by any means imply that either of
two are equally eligible. It is merely a consciousness of the fact that
they exist, and that either might be selected were circumstances
favourable to its selection. Without labouring the point we may safely
say that all that is given in the fact of choice is the consciousness of
a choice. There is nothing in it that tells us of the conditions of the
selection, or whether it was possible for the agent to have chosen
differently or not.

So far there is nothing in Determinism that is discordant with the fact
of choice, indeed, it has a perfectly reasonable theory of the process.
Why is there a choice or selection of things or actions? Clearly the
reason must be looked for in the nature of the thing selected, or in the
nature of the agent that selects, or in a combination of both factors.
Either there is an organic prompting in favour of the thing selected, as
when a baby takes a bottle of milk and rejects a bottle of vinegar, or
there is a recognition that the selection will enable the agent to
better realize whatever end he has in view. The alternatives are there,
and they are real in the only sense in which they can be real. But they
are not real in the sense of their being equally eligible--which is the
sense in which the Indeterminist uses the word. For that would destroy
choice altogether. Unless a selection is made because certain things
offer greater attractions than other things to the agent, no
intelligible meaning can be attached to such a word as "Choice." We
should have a mere blind explosion of energy, the direction taken no
more involving choice than the stone's path down a hillside. And if the
"Will" chooses between alternatives because one is more desirable than
the other, its "freedom" (in the Indeterminist sense) is sacrificed, and
the selection is correspondingly determined. There can be no real choice
in the absence of a determinative influence exercised by one of the
things chosen.

But it is urged that this line of reasoning does not explain the feeling
of possibility that we have at the moment of action. I think it explains
possibility as it explains choice, provided we allow facts to determine
the meaning of words instead of torturing facts to suit certain forms of
language. If by possibility we mean that under identical conditions,
other things than those which actually occur are possible, then this may
be confidently met with a flat denial. If, on the other hand, it is
meant that by varying the conditions other possibilities become
actualities, this is a statement that to a Determinist is self-evident.
As a matter of fact, there are only two senses in which the word
"possibility" may be rightly used, and neither sense yields any evidence
against Determinism.

One of these meanings is simply an expression of our own ignorance on
the matter that happens to be before us. If I am asked what kind of
weather we are likely to have a month hence, I should reply that it is
equally possible the day may be dry or wet, bright or dull. I do not
mean to imply that had I adequate knowledge it would not be as easy to
predict the kind of weather on that date as it is to predict the
position of Neptune. It is simply an expression of my own ignorance.
But, as Spinoza pointed out, possibility narrows as knowledge grows. To
complete ignorance anything is possible because the course of events is
unknown. As a comprehension of natural causation develops, people speak
less of what may possibly occur, and more of what will occur.
Possibility here has no reference to the course of events, only to our
knowledge, or want of knowledge, concerning their order. To say that it
is possible for a man to do either this or that is, so far as a
spectator is concerned, only to say that our knowledge concerning the
man's whole nature is not extensive enough, or exact enough for us to
predict what he will do. Nor is the case altered if instead of an
outsider, it is the agent himself who is incapable of prediction. For
all that amounts to is the assertion that the agent is ignorant of the
relative strength of desires that may be aroused under a particular
conjuncture of circumstances.

The second sense of "possibility" depends upon our ability to imagine
conditions not actually present at the moment of action. By a trick of
imagination I can picture myself acting differently, or, on looking
back, I can see that I might have acted differently. But in either case
I have altered in thought the conditions that actually existed at the
moment of action. Generally, all it means is that with a number of
conflicting desires present, I am conscious that a very slight variation
in the relative strength of these desires would result in a different
course of conduct. And the conditions affecting conduct are so complex
and so easily varied that it is small wonder there is lacking in this
instance that sense of inevitability present when one is dealing with
physical processes. But the essential question is not whether a slight
change of conditions would produce a different result, but whether under
identical conditions two opposite courses of action are equally
possible? And this is not only untrue in fact, it is unthinkable, as a
formal proposition. Even the old adage, "There, but for the grace of
God, go I," while recognizing a different possibility, also recognized
that a variation in the factors--the elimination of the grace of God--is
essential if the possibility was to become an actuality. That the sense
of possibility implies more than this may be safely denied, let who will
make the opposite affirmation.

This discussion of the nature and function of choice will help us to
realize more clearly than would otherwise be the case the nature of
deliberation. This question has always played an important part in the
Free-Will controversy, because it has stood as the very antithesis of a
reflex or obviously mechanical action. Deliberation, it has been argued,
does very clearly point to a determinative power exercised by the human
will, and a power that cannot be explained in the same terms with which
we explain other events. One anti-determinist writer remarks that "if a
volition is the effect of a 'motive,' it should follow immediately upon
the occurrence of the motive. But if there is deliberation between
motives, they do not seem to have casual power to initiate a volition
until a prior causal power directs them, and this would be the
deliberating subject."

Now there are numerous cases, the majority probably, where action does
follow immediately upon the presence of desire. And in such cases we are
not aware of any process of deliberation, although there may be a truly
intentional action. And from this single case we have a whole series of
examples that will take us to the other extreme where the desires are so
numerous and so conflicting that an excess of deliberation may prevent
action altogether. Let us take an illustration. Sitting in my room on a
fine day I am conscious of a desire for a walk. Provided no opposing
feeling or desire is present I should at once rise and go out. But I may
be conscious of a number of other feelings based upon various
considerations. There is the fact of leaving the task on which I am
engaged, and the desire to get it finished. There is the trouble of
dressing, the consideration that once out I may wish I had stayed in, or
that it may rain, or that I may be needed at home: all these result in
a state of indecision, and induce deliberation. Imagination is excited,
ideal feelings are aroused, and eventually a choice is made. I decide on
the walk. What is it, now, that has occurred? My first desire for a walk
has been enforced by a representation of all the advantages that may be
gained by going out, and these have proved themselves strong enough to
bear down all opposition. Had any other desire gained strength, or had
the conviction that it would rain been strong enough, a different motive
would have emerged from this conflict of desires and ideas. No matter
how we vary the circumstances, this is substantially what occurs in
every case where deliberation and choice are involved. Not only is this
what does occur, but it is impossible to picture clearly any other
process. The only evidence we can have of the relative strength of ideas
is that one triumphs over others. To say that the weaker desire triumphs
is to make a statement the absurdity of which is self-evident.

This conclusion cannot be invalidated by the argument that a particular
desire becomes the stronger because the "will" declares in its favour.
One need only ask, by way of reply, Why does the "will" declare in
favour of one desire rather than another? There is no dispute that a
choice is made. Those who say that a man can choose what he likes are
not making a statement that conflicts in the slightest degree with
Determinism. The Determinist says as clearly as anyone that I do what I
choose to do. The real question is why do I choose this rather than
that? Why does the "will" pronounce in favour of one desire rather than
another? No one can believe that all desires are of equal strength or
value to the agent. Such an assumption would be too absurd for serious
argument. But if all desires are not of equal strength and value, the
only conclusion left is that certain ones operate because they are, in
relation to the particular organism, of greater value than others. And
in that case we are simply restating Determinism. The action of the
environment is conditioned by the nature of the organism. The reaction
of the organism is conditioned by the character of the environment. The
resultant is a compound of the two.

It is, moreover, an absurdity to speak of the "will" or the self as
though this were something apart from the various phases of
consciousness. In the contest of feelings and desires that calls forth
deliberation _I_ am equally involved in every aspect of the process. As
Professor James points out, "both effort and resistance are ours, and
the identification of our _self_ with one of these factors is an
illusion and a trick of speech." My self and my mental states are not
two distinct things; they constitute myself, and if these are eliminated
there is no self left to talk about.

Further, in the growth of each individual, conscious and deliberative
action can be seen developing out of automatic action--the simplest and
earliest type of action. Not only does deliberative action develop from
reflex action, but it sinks into reflex action again. One of the
commonest of experiences is that actions performed at one time slowly
and after deliberation are at another time performed rapidly and
automatically. Every action contributes to the formation of a habit, and
frequently repetition results in the habit becoming a personal
characteristic. Deliberation and choice are not even always the mark of
a highly developed character; they may denote a poorly-developed
one--one that is ill adapted to social requirements. One man, on going
into a room where there is a purse of money, may only after long
deliberation and from conscious choice refrain from stealing it. Another
person, under the same conditions, may be conscious of no choice, no
effort, the desire to steal the purse being one that is foreign to his
nature. In two such by no means uncommon instances, we should have no
doubt as to which represented the higher type of character. Morally, it
is not the feeling, "I could have acted dishonestly instead of honestly
had I so chosen," that marks the ethically developed character, but the
performance of the right action at the right moment, without a
consciousness of tendency in the opposite direction. But the aim of
education is, in the one direction, to weaken the sense of choice by the
formation of right habits, moral and intellectual; and on the other hand
by bringing man into a more direct contact with a wider and more complex
environment, deliberation becomes one of the conditions of a
co-ordination of ideas and actions that will result in a more perfect



Not the least curious aspect of the Free-Will controversy is that those
who oppose Determinism base a large part of their argumentation upon the
supposed evil consequences that will follow its acceptance. In a work
from which I have already cited, Mr. F. C. S. Schiller falls foul of
Determinism because, he says, while incompatible with morality, its
champions nevertheless imagine they are leaving morality undisturbed.
The real difficulty of Determinism is, he says, that in its world,
events being fully determined, there can be no alternatives. Things are
what they must be. They must be because they are. No man can help doing
what he does. Man himself belongs to a sequence unending and unbroken.
"To imagine therefore that Determinism, after annihilating the moral
agent, remains compatible with morality, simply means that the logical
implications of the doctrine have never been fully explored." And he
adds: "The charge against it is not merely that it fails to do full
justice to the ethical fact of responsibility, but that it utterly
annihilates the moral agent." This, he says, is the real dilemma, and
Determinism has never answered it.

It is curious that so clever a writer as Mr. Schiller should fail to
realize that taking Determinism in its most drastic form, and accepting
it in the most unequivocal manner, nothing can suffer, because
everything remains as it must be--including the facts, feelings, and
consequences of the moral life. Observe, it is part of Mr. Schiller's
case against Determinism that on determinist lines everything, down to
the minutest happenings, is the necessary result of all antecedent and
co-operating conditions. But this being the case, if Determinism leaves
no room for chance or absolute origination, how comes it that an
acceptance of Determinism initiates an absolutely new thing--the
destruction of morality? Surely it is coming very near the absurd to
charge Determinism with breaking an unbreakable sequence. It is surely
idle to credit Determinism with doing what is impossible for it to
accomplish. So far as morality is a real thing, so far as the facts of
the moral life are real things, Determinism must leave them
substantially unaltered. The problem is, as has been already said, to
find out for what exactly all these things stand. To read wrong meanings
into the facts of life, and then to declare that the facts cease to
exist if the meanings are corrected, is unphilosophical petulance.

It is, indeed, quite open to the Determinist to meet these grave fears
as to the consequences of Determinism with a denial that morality is
vitally concerned with the question of whether man's "will" be "free" or
not. The question of Determinism may enter into the subject of how to
develop character along desirable lines; and, apart from Determinism, it
is difficult to see how there can be anything like a scientific
cultivation of character. But the fact of morality and the value of
morality are not bound up with whether conduct be the expression of
theoretically calculable factors, or whether it is, on the one side,
determined by a self which originates its own impulses. Determinism or
no Determinism, murder, to take an extreme illustration, is never likely
to become an every-day occupation in human society. Neither can any
other action that is obviously injurious to the well-being of society be
practised beyond certain well-defined limits. The laws of social health
operate to check socially injurious actions, as the laws of individual
health operate to check injurious conduct in dietary or in hygiene.
Determinists and Indeterminists, as may easily be observed, manifest a
fairly uniform measure of conduct, and whatever variations from the
normal standard each displays cannot well be put down to their
acceptance or rejection of Determinism.

The real nature of morality is best seen if one asks oneself the
question, "What is morality?" Let us imagine the human race reduced to a
single individual. What would then be the scope and character of
morality? It is without question that a large part of our moral rules
would lose all meaning. Theft, murder, unchastity, slander, etc., would
be without meanings, for the simple reason that there would be none
against whom such offences could be committed. Would there be any moral
laws or moral feelings left? Would there even be a man left under such
conditions? One might safely query both statements. For if we take away
from this solitary individual all that social culture and intercourse
have given him--language, knowledge, habits both mental and moral, all,
in short, that has been developed through the agency of the social
medium--man, as we know him, disappears, and a mere animal is left in
his place. Even the feeling that a man has a duty to himself, and that
to realize his highest possibilities is the most imperative of moral
obligations, is only an illustration of the same truth. For very little
analysis serves to show that even this derives its value from the
significance of the individual to the social structure.

Morality, then, is wholly a question of relationship. Not whether my
actions spring from a self-determined "will" or even whether they are
the inevitable consequent of preceding conditions makes them moral or
immoral, but their influence in forwarding or retarding certain ideal
social relations. The rightness or wrongness of an action lies in its
consequences. Whether one is of the Utilitarian or other school of
morals does not substantially affect the truth of this statement. Action
without consequences--assuming its possibility--would have no moral
significance whatever. And consequences remain whether we accept or
reject Determinism. Determinism cannot alter or regulate the
consequences of actions, it can only indicate their causes and their
results. What a science of morals is really concerned with is,
objectively, the consequences of actions, and subjectively the feelings
that lead to their performance. When a science of morals has determined
what actions best promote desirable relations between human beings, and
what states of mind are most favourable to the performance of such
actions, its task as a science of morals is concluded. The genesis of
such states of mind belongs to psychology, just as to sociology belong
the creation and maintenance of such social conditions as will best give
them expression and actuality.

The question of the moral consequences of Determinism is not, therefore,
discussed because we believe there is any relevancy in the issue thus
raised, but solely because it is raised, and not to deal with it may
create a prejudice against Determinism. Many of those who quite admit
the scientific character of Determinism, yet insist on the necessity for
some sort of Indeterminism in the region of morals. Professor William
James, for instance, admits that a profitable study of mental phenomena
is impossible unless we postulate Determinism (_Prin. Psych._ ii. 573).
But having admitted this, and in fact illustrated it through the whole
of his two volumes, his next endeavour is to find a place for
"free-will" as a "moral postulate." The region of morals is thus made to
play the part of a haven of refuge for illegitimate and unscientific
theories, a kind of workhouse for all mental vagrants found at large
without visible means of support. The moral postulate which is to
reinstate "Free-Will," is that "What ought to be can be, and that bad
acts cannot be fated, but that good ones must be possible in their
place." In a writer usually so clear this somewhat ambiguous deliverance
is far more indicative of a desire to befriend an oppressed theory than
of the possession of any good evidence in its behalf.

The matter really turns upon what is meant by "ought" and "possible." It
has already been pointed out that if by "possible" it is meant that
although one thing actually occurs, another thing--a different
thing--might have occurred without any alteration in the accompanying
conditions, the statement is not only untrue in fact, but it is
inconceivable as possibly true. And if it does not mean this, then
Professor James is merely stating what every Determinist most cheerfully
endorses. But in that case the "possibility" gives no support whatever
to the Indeterminist. Further, Professor James says that Determinism is
a clear and seductive conception so long as one "stands by the great
scientific postulate that the world must be one unbroken fact, and that
prediction of all things without exception must be ideally, even if not
actually, possible." On which one may enquire, how prediction could be
at all possible unless, given the co-operating conditions, a definite
and particular result is inevitable? But if prediction be possible--and
the whole power of science lies in its power of prediction--what becomes
of the value of "possibility" to the Indeterminist? Is it any more than
an expression of our ignorance of the power of particular factors, and a
consequent ignorance of their resultant?

To say that certain things "ought" to be, or that one "ought" to act in
this or that particular manner, are common expressions, and within
limits, relevant and intelligible expressions. But "ought" here clearly
stands for no more than ideal conception. Its reference is to the
future, not to the past. It does not imply a belief that things could
have resulted other than those which actually did result, but a belief
that given a suitable alteration in the conditions different results
might ensue in the future. When, for example, I say that men ought to
think wisely, I do not affirm either that all men do think wisely, or
that foolish men can do so without some change in their mental make-up.
I merely eliminate all those conditions that make for unwise thinking,
leaving wise thinking as the only possible result. That is, recognizing
that from different conditions different consequences will follow, in
imagination, all forces that are inimical to the ideal end are
eliminated. We say that no man ought to commit murder, and yet if we
take as an illustration the congenital homicide, no one can assert that
in his case, at least, anything but murder is possible, given favourable
conditions for its perpetration. Or if it is said that congenital
homicide is a purely pathological case, it may surely be asserted that
the same general considerations apply to cases that are not classified
as pathological. The more we know of the criminal's heredity,
environment, and education, the more clearly it is seen that his deeds
result from the inter-action of these factors, and that these must be
modified if we are reasonably to expect any alteration in his conduct.
In fact, the criminal--or the saint--being what he is as the result of
the inter-action of possibly calculable factors is the essential
condition towards making "the prediction of all things" ideally, if not
actually possible. In saying, then, that a man ought not to do wrong,
we are only saying that our ideal of a perfect man eliminates the idea
of wrong-doing, and that our imagination is powerful enough to construct
a human character to which wrong-doing shall be alien.

The fallacy here is due to a confusion of the actual with the desirable.
If we are looking to the past we are bound to say that "ought" is
meaningless, because what has been is the only thing that could have
been. Thus it is meaningless to say that a piece of string capable of
withstanding a strain of half a hundredweight ought to have withstood a
strain of half a ton. It is equally absurd to say that a man ought to
have withstood the germ of malarial fever, when his constitution
rendered him susceptible to attack. Both of these instances will be
readily admitted. Is it, then, any more reasonable to say that a man
ought to have withstood a temptation to drunkenness, or theft, or
cruelty--in the sense that given his nature he _could_ have withstood
it--when all the circumstances of character, heredity, and environment
made for his downfall? We say that certain considerations "ought" to
have restrained Jones because they were enough to restrain Smith. Are
we, then, to conclude that Smith and Jones are so much alike--are, in
fact, identical in character--that the same forces will influence each
in the same manner and to the same degree? The assumption is obviously
absurd. What ought to have happened with Smith and Jones, bearing in
mind all the conditions of the problem, is what did happen. What ought
to happen to Smith and Jones in the future will be equally dependent
upon the extent to which the character of the two becomes modified. In
this sense our conception of what "ought" to be in the future will guide
us as to the nature of the influences we bring to bear upon Smith and
Jones. We believe that good actions may be possible in the future where
bad ones occurred in the past, because we see that a change of
conditions may produce the desired result. The "moral postulate,"
therefore, does not contain anything, or imply anything, in favour of
Indeterminism. It does assert that certain things ought to be, but it
can only realize this by recognizing, and acting upon the recognition,
that just as certain forces in the past have issued in certain results,
so a modification in the nature or incidence of these forces will
produce a corresponding modification of conduct in the future. Whatever
else there appears to be in the "ought" is a mere trick of the
imagination; and the surprising thing is that a writer of the calibre of
Professor James should not have been perfectly alive to this.

A cruder form of the same position, although introducing other issues,
was upheld by Dr. Martineau in the categorical statement, "either
free-will is a fact, or moral judgment a delusion." His reason for this
remarkable statement is:--

    "We could never condemn one turn of act or thought did we not
    believe the agent to have command of another; and just in
    proportion as we perceive, in his temperament or education or
    circumstances, the certain preponderance of particular
    suggestions, and the near approach to an inner necessity, do we
    criticize him rather as a natural object than as a responsible
    being, and deal with his aberrations as maladies instead of

    [5] _Types of Ethical Theory_, vol. ii. p. 41.

Well, human nature might easily have been nearer perfection than it is
had moral aberrations been treated as maladies rather than sins, and one
certainly would not have felt greater regret had judges and critics
always been capable of rising to this level of judgment. Social,
political, and religious malevolence might not have received the
gratification and support it has received had this been the rule of
judgment and the guide to methods of treatment, but our social
consciousness would have been of a superior texture than is now the
case. And one may ask whether there is any human action conceivable for
which an adequate cause cannot be found in temperament or education or
circumstances, or in a combination of the three? It would tax any one's
ingenuity to name an action that lies outside the scope of these
influences. Temperament, education, circumstances, are the great and
controlling conditions of human action, and only in proportion as this
is recognized and acted upon do we approach a science of human nature
and begin to realize methods of profitable modification.

Against Determinism Dr. Martineau argues that "the moral life dwells
exclusively in the voluntary sphere," and also that "impulses of
spontaneous action do not constitute character." The first of these
statements is at least very debatable, although it may turn upon a
matter of definition. But the second statement is distinctly inaccurate.
One may assert the exact opposite, and instead of saying that the
impulses of spontaneous action do not constitute character, argue that
they are the truest indications of character. Of course, from one point
of view, all that a man does, whether it be spontaneous or reflective,
must be equally the expression of the whole man. But from another point
of view the more permanent and enduring characteristics of a man may be
overborne by a passing flood of emotion or by a casual combination of
unusual circumstances. By these means an habitually mean man may be
roused to acts of generosity, an habitual thief roused to acts of
honesty. Long reflection may cause a person to decide this or that, when
his spontaneous impulses are in the contrary direction. And while these
reflections and floods of emotion are equally with the spontaneous
impulses part of a given personality, yet it will hardly be disputed
that the latter are the more deeply seated, will express themselves in a
more uniform manner, and are thus a truer and more reliable index to the
character of the person with whom we are dealing.

How far we are to accept morality as dwelling exclusively in the
voluntary, that is the intentional, sphere, is, as I have said, largely
a matter of definition. We may so define morality that it shall cover
only intentional acts, in which case the statement must be accepted, or
we can define morality in a wider sense, as covering all action by means
of which desirable relations between people are maintained, in which
case the statement is not true. For we should then be committed to the
curious position that all moral development tends to make man less
moral. To have the quality of voluntariness an act must be consciously
performed with a particular end in view. But a large part of the more
important functions of life do not come under this category, while a
still larger portion are only semi-voluntary. The whole set of instincts
that cluster round the family, the feelings which urge human beings to
seek others' society, and which are the essential conditions of all
social phenomena, do not properly come under the head of volition. Our
conduct in any of these directions may easily be justified by reason,
but it would be absurd to argue that there is any intentional choice

Moreover, the chief aim of education, of the moralization of character,
is to divest actions of their quality of reflectiveness or intention.
Our aim here is so to fashion character that it will unquestioningly and
instinctively place itself on the right side. This is a force that
operates on all individuals more or less, and from the cradle to the
grave. Family influences curb and fashion the egotism of the child until
there is an unconscious and often unreasoning adherence to the family
circle. Social influences continue the work and train the individual
into an instinctive harmony, more or less complete with the structure of
the society to which he belongs. The mere repetition of a particular
action involves the formation of a habit, and habit is meaningless in
the absence of a modified nerve structure which reacts in a special
manner. Persistence in right action, therefore, no matter how
consciously it may be performed in its initial stages, inevitably passes
over into unconscious or instinctive action. And let it be noted, too,
that it is only when this change has been brought about that a person
can be said to be a thoroughly moralized character. It is not the man
who does right after a long internal struggle that is most moral, but
the one with whom doing right is the most imperative of organic
necessities. We praise the man who does right after struggle, but
chiefly because of our admiration at the triumph of right over wrong, or
because his weakness cries for support, or because he has in him the
making of a more perfect character. But to place him as the superior of
one whose right doing is the efflorescence of his whole nature is to
misunderstand the ethical problem. And equally to confine morality to
merely voluntary or intentional action is to truncate the sphere of
morals to an extent that would meet with the approval of very few
writers on ethics. In brief, one may not merely say with Lessing,
"Determinism has nothing to fear from the side of morals," one may add
that it is only on the theory of Determinism that the moralization of
character becomes a rational possibility.



We have seen in what has gone before how much of the case for Free-Will
is based upon the wrong use of language, and upon a display of petulance
arising from the degree to which it is assumed that the universe ought
to fulfil certain _a priori_ expectations. In this last respect the
Volitionist behaves as if he were on a kind of shopping excursion, with
full liberty to purchase or reject the goods brought out for inspection.
Both of these points are well illustrated in an apology for
Indeterminism offered by Professor William James, and although in
examining his argument it may be necessary to repeat in substance some
of the arguments already used, this will not be without its value in
enabling the reader to realize the shifts to which the defender of
Free-Will is compelled to resort. In justice to Professor James,
however, it is only fair to point out that it is not quite clear that he
is thoroughly convinced of the position he sees fit to state. Much of
his argument reads as though he were merely stating a speculation that
might prove valuable, but which might also turn out valueless. Still,
whatever conviction he has, or had, appears to lean to the side of
Indeterminism, and I shall accordingly deal with his argument as though
he were quite convinced of its soundness.

In his chief work, _The Principles of Psychology_, Professor James took
up the perfectly sane position that a man would be foolish not to
espouse "the great scientific postulate" that the prediction of all
things without exception must be possible, and drew a proper distinction
between what is ideally possible--that is to complete knowledge--and
what is actually possible to incomplete knowledge. In a later
deliverance he, for the time at least, forsakes this position and
champions a case which rests for its coherence very largely upon the
neglect of those precautions previously insisted on.[6] To suit the
necessities of the argument the Determinist is made to say things that I
think few, if any, determinists ever dreamed of saying, while certain
leading words are used with a meaning obviously framed to meet the
requirements of the case.

    [6] See the lecture on "The Dilemma of
    Determinism" in the volume _The Will to Believe,
    and other Essays_. London; 1903.

At the outset of his essay Professor James remarks that if a certain
formula--in this case the Determinist formula--"for expressing the
nature of the world violates my moral demands, I shall feel as free to
throw it overboard, or at least to doubt it, as if it disappointed my
demand for uniformity of sequence." And he proceeds to argue that all
our scientific "laws" are ideal constructions, built up in order to
satisfy certain demands of our nature. Uniformity in nature is thus as
much a formula framed to this end as is Free-Will. "If this be
admitted," he says, "we can debate on even terms."

Unfortunately for the Professor's argument the two instances are not
analogous--not, at least, in the direction required. The sense of
causality is not something that is innate in human nature. Children at
an early age hardly possess it, and primitive man has it in only a very
vague manner. The conviction that all things are bound together in terms
of causation is one that belongs, even to-day, to the educated,
thoughtful mind. At any rate it is a conviction that has been forced
upon the human mind by the sheer pressure of experience. It is a growth
consequent upon the mind's intercourse with the objective universe. And
its validity is not called into question. On the other hand, this
assumed "moral demand" for "Free-Will" is the very point in dispute.
Whether there is such a demand, and if so is it a legitimate one, are
the questions upon which the discussion turns. And it will not do for
Professor James to claim Free-Will in the name of certain "moral
demands" and reserve the right to throw overboard any theory that does
not grant them. Man's moral nature, equally with his intellectual
nature, must in the last resort yield to facts. It will not do to exalt
into a moral instinct what may be no more than a personal idiosyncrasy.
There is certainly no more than this in such expressions as "something
must be fatally unreasonable, absurd, and wrong in the world," or "I
deliberately refuse to keep on terms of loyalty with the universe," if
certain things turn out to be true. Such phrases are completely out of
place in a scientific enquiry. The universe will remain what it is
whether we call it absurd or rational, and may even survive the raising
of the standard of revolt by so eminent a psychologist as Professor
James, to whom we would commend, were he still alive, Schopenhauer's
profound remark that there are no moral phenomena, only moral
interpretations of phenomena.

What, now, is the insuperable dilemma which Professor James places
before upholders of Determinism? The whole of it turns out to be little
more than a play upon the words "possible" and "actual." Determinism, he
says, professes that "those parts of the universe already laid down
absolutely appoint and decree (Why 'appoint' and 'decree'? Why not the
impersonal word 'determine?') what the other parts shall be." The future
is determined by the past; and given the past, only one future is
possible. Indeterminism says that "the parts have a certain amount of
loose play on one another, so that the laying down of one of them does
not necessarily determine what the others shall be." Thus, still
following Professor James's exposition, given a special instance, both
sides admit the occurrence of a volition. The Determinist asserts that
no other volition could have occurred. The Indeterminist asserts that
another volition might have occurred, other things remaining the same.
And, asks the Professor, can science tell us which is correct? His reply
is, No. "How can any amount of assurance that something actually
happened give us the least grain of information as to whether another
thing might or might not have happened in its place? Only facts can be
proved by other facts. With things that are possibilities and not
facts, facts have no concern."

The position may be made clearer by taking the Professor's own
illustration. When, he says, I leave this lecture hall I may go home
_via_ Divinity Avenue, or traverse Oxford Street. It is a matter of
chance which route is selected. But assume that by some miracle, after
having walked down Divinity Avenue, ten minutes of time are annihilated,
and reaching the Hall door again Oxford Street is the route selected.
Spectators thus have two alternative universes. One universe with the
Professor walking through Divinity Avenue, the other with him walking
through Oxford Street. If the spectators are Determinists they will
believe only one universe to have been from eternity possible. But, asks
Professor James, looking outwardly at these two universes, can anyone
say which is the accidental and which is the necessary one? "In other
words, either universe _after the fact_ and once there would, to our
means of observation and understanding, appear just as rational as the
other." There is no means by which we can distinguish chance from a
rational necessity. A universe which allows a certain loose play of the
parts is as rational as one which submits to the most rigid determinism.

Before dealing with the above, it is necessary to take another phrase on
which much of the above argument depends. Professor James says that the
stronghold of the Determinist sentiment is antipathy to the idea of
"Chance," and chance is a notion not to be entertained by any sane mind.
And the sting, he says, seems to rest on the assumption that chance is
something positive, and if a thing happens by chance it must needs be
irrational and preposterous. But I am not aware that any scientific
Determinist ever used "chance" as being a positive term at all.
Certainly the last thing the present writer would dream of doing would
be to predicate chance of any portion of the objective universe
whatsoever. The only legitimate use of the word is in reference to _the
state of our knowledge concerning phenomena_. To say that a thing
chanced, or happened by chance, is only saying that we are not aware of
the causes that produced it. We say nothing of the thing itself, we only
express the state of our mind in relation to it.

Professor James says all you mean by "chance" is that a thing is not
guaranteed, it may fall out otherwise. Not guaranteed by our knowledge
about the thing, certainly; in any other sense, his definition seems
invented for the express purpose of bolstering up his hypothesis. For,
he says, a chance thing means that the general system of things has no
hold on it. It appears in relation to other things, but it escapes their
determining influence, and appears as "a free gift." Thus whether he
walked down Divinity Avenue or Oxford Street was a matter of chance; and
the future of the world is full of similar chances--events that may take
one of several forms, either of which is consistent with the whole.

We now have the essence of Professor James's case, and can consider it
in detail. First of all we may note the curiously double sense in which
Professor James uses the word "fact" and the agility with which he skips
from one meaning to another, as it suits his argument. In a broad and
general sense a mental fact is as much a fact as any other fact. A man
riding on horseback is a fact. My vision or conception of a horse with
the head of a man is equally a fact, though nothing like it exists in
nature. We should discriminate between the two by saying that one is a
mental fact strictly relative to a particular mind, the other is an
objective fact relative to all minds normally constituted. Now science
does not deny possibilities as _mental facts_. But it would be a very
queer science indeed that allowed all sorts of possibilities of a given
group of phenomena _under identical conditions_. Like "chance," the
possibilities of the Universe are strictly relative to our knowledge
concerning it. If opposite things appear equally possible, it is only
because we are not sufficiently conversant with the processes to say
which thing is certain. A universe with Professor James walking down
Divinity Avenue appears as orderly and as natural as one with him
parading Oxford Street. But this is because we cannot unravel the
complex conditions that may determine the selection of one route or the
other. Or if it be said in reply, that the walker is unaware of any
choice in the matter, the answer is that there is present the desire to
get away from the lecture hall and arrive at home, and this is strong
enough to make the choice of means to that end unimportant. If the
choice lay between walking down a sunlit street or wading through a mile
of water, five feet deep, while the latter would still remain a
possibility, since it could be done were the inducement to do it strong
enough, there is not much doubt as to what the choice would actually be.

The complete reply therefore to Professor James's illustration is that
from the standpoint of mere possibility, bearing in mind the proper
significance of possibility, opposite alternatives may be equally real.
We can, that is, conceive conditions under which a certain thing may
occur, and we can conceive another set of conditions under which exactly
the opposite may occur. And either alternative presents us with a
universe that is equally "rational," because in either case we vary the
co-operating conditions in order to produce the imagined consequence.
But given a complete knowledge of all the co-operating conditions, and
not only do two views of the universe cease to be equally rational, but
one of them ceases to be even conceivable. For let us note that the
resultant of any calculation is no more and no less than a synthesis of
the factors that are included in the calculation. If we do not
understand the factors included in a given synthesis it will be a matter
of "chance" what the resultant may be. But if we do understand the
nature of the factors, and the consequence of their synthesis,
possibility and actuality become convertible terms. Finally, whether a
man on leaving a lecture hall turns to the right or the left appears,
under ordinary conditions, equally rational and natural only because we
are aware that it may be a matter of indifference which direction he
takes, and in that case his action will be governed by the simple
desire to get away, or to get to a particular spot. It is a simple
deduction from experience presented by Professor James in a needlessly
confusing manner.

The next, and practically the only example cited by Professor James to
prove that this world is a world of "chances," is concerned with a
question of morals. We constantly, he says, have occasion to make
"judgments of regret." In illustration of this, he cites the case of a
particularly brutal murder, and adds, "We feel that, although a perfect
mechanical fit to the rest of the universe, it is a bad moral fit, and
that something else would really have been better in its place." But
"calling a thing bad means, if it means anything at all, that the thing
ought not to be, that something else ought to be in its stead." If
Determinism denies this it is defining the universe as a place "in which
what ought to be is impossible," and this lands us in pessimism, or if
we are to escape pessimism we can only do so by abandoning the judgment
of regret. But if our regrets are necessitated nothing else can be in
their place, and the universe is what it was before--a place in which
what ought to be appears impossible. Murder and treachery cannot be good
without regret being bad, regret cannot be good without murder and
treachery being bad. As both, however, are foredoomed, something must be
fatally wrong and absurd in the world.

Now, I must confess all this seems a deal of bother concerning a fairly
simple matter. Indeed, Professor James seems to be engaged in raising a
dust and then complaining of the murkiness of the atmosphere. Coming
from a writer of less standing I might, in view of what has been said
elsewhere in this essay, have left the reply to the careful reader's
understanding of the subject. But from so eminent a psychologist as
William James, silence might well be construed as deterministic
inability to reply to the position laid down.

In the first place, I may be pardoned for again reminding the reader
that, in this connection, "ought" stands upon precisely the same level
as "possible." Whether we say that a man ought to do a certain thing, or
that it is possible for him to do a certain thing, we are making
identical statements, for no one would dream of saying that a man ought
to do that which it is impossible for him to perform. When we say that
murder and treachery ought not to be, we do not imply--if we use
language properly--that these are not as much part of the cosmic order,
and as much the expression of co-operating conditions, as are kindness
and loyalty. It is saying no more than that in our judgment human nature
may be so trained and conditioned as to practise neither murder nor
treachery. We are expressing a judgment as to what our ideal of human
nature is, and our ideal of what human nature should be is based upon
what experience has taught us concerning its possibilities. Man's
"judgment of regret" is justifiable and admirable, not because he
recognizes that the past could have been different from what it was, but
because it furnishes him with the requisite experience for a better
direction of action in the future, and because the feeling of regret is
itself one of the determining conditions that will decide conduct in
the future.

"The question," says Professor James, "is of things, not of eulogistic
names for them." With this I cordially agree; but in that case what are
we to make of the following:--

    "The only consistent way of representing ... a world whose parts
    may affect one another through their conduct being either good
    or bad is the indeterminate way. What interest, zest, or
    excitement can there be in achieving the right way, unless we
    are enabled to feel that the wrong way is also a possible and a
    natural way--nay, more, a menacing and an imminent way? And what
    sense can there be in condemning ourselves for taking the wrong
    way, unless we need have done nothing of the sort, unless the
    right way was open to us as well? I cannot understand the
    willingness to act, no matter how we feel, without the belief
    that acts are really good or bad. I cannot understand the belief
    that an act is bad, without regret at its happening. I cannot
    understand regret without the admission of real genuine
    possibilities in the world."

Eliminate from this all that is matter of common agreement between
Determinists and Indeterminists, and what have we left but sheer verbal
confusion? The pleasurable feeling that results from a sense of
achievement is real no matter what are the lines on which the universe
is constructed. One might as reasonably ask, Why feel a greater
interest in a first-class orchestral performance, than in the harmonic
outrages of a hurdy-gurdy, since both are, from the physical side,
vibratory phenomena? And is it not clear, to repeat a truth already
emphasized, that a most important factor in our condemning ourselves for
doing a wrong action is the fact that we have done so. It is one of the
determining conditions of doing better actions in future. Of course,
Professor James cannot understand the belief that an act is bad, without
regret at its happening. Neither can anyone else, for the simple reason
that one involves the other. The statement is as much a truism as is the
one that we can have no willingness to act unless we believe that acts
are either good or bad. Equally true is it that regret implies real
possibilities in the world--not always, though, for we may regret death
or the radiation into extra terrestrial space of solar energy without
believing that the prevention of either is possible. But our
possibilities in relation to conduct do not, as the argument implies,
relate to the past, but to the future. Indeed, the sense of possibility
would be morally worthless were it otherwise.

Finally, and this brings me to what is one of the cardinal weaknesses of
so much of the writing on psychology, Professor James's argument is
vitiated by non-recognition of the fact that regret and satisfaction,
praise and blame, with most of the cardinal moral qualities, are
_social_ in their origin and application. They represent the reaction of
our social feelings against anti-social conduct, or their expression of
satisfaction at conduct of an opposite character. They are consequently
the creations, not of an indwelling "will," but of an outdwelling social
relationship. They are not impressed by the "ego" upon the world, they
are impressed by the world upon the ego. Character is not something that
each individual brings ready fashioned to the service of society; it is
something that society itself creates. It has been fashioned by
countless generations of social evolution, and, in the main, that
evolution has of necessity placed due emphasis upon those intellectual
and moral qualities on which social welfare depends.



If Hume was not right in asserting that a few intelligible definitions
would put an end to the Free-Will controversy, his error lay in assuming
a greater receptivity of mind than most people possess. For it may
safely be asserted that once the legitimate meanings of the terms
employed are acknowledged, and they are properly applied to the matter
in dispute, it may be shown that the opponents of Determinism have been
beating the air. The Determinism they attack is not the Determinism that
is either professed or defended. The consequences they forecast follow
only from a distorted, and often meaningless, use of the terms employed.
Instead of the Determinist denying the moral and mental value of certain
qualities of which the Indeterminist announces himself the champion, he
admits their value, gives them a definite meaning, and proves that it is
only by an assumption of the truth of the cardinal principle of
Determinism that they have any reality. This has already been shown to
be true in the case of Freedom, Choice, Deliberation, etc.; it remains
to pursue the same method with such conceptions as praise and blame or
punishment and reward, and responsibility.

The charge is, again, that Determinism robs praise and blame and
responsibility of all meaning, and reduces them to mere verbal
expressions which some may mistake for the equivalents of reality, but
which clearer thinkers will estimate at their true worth. What is the
use of praising or blaming if each one does what heredity, constitution,
and environment compels? Why punish a man for being what he is? Why hold
him responsible for the expressions of a character provided for him, and
for the influence of an environment which he had no part in forming? So
the string of questions run on. None of them, it may safely be said,
would ever be asked if all properly realized the precise meaning and
application of the terms employed. For as with the previous terms
examined, it is an acceptance of Indeterminism that would rob these
words of all value. Rationally conceived they are not only consonant
with Determinism, but each of them implies it.

Of the four terms mentioned above--Praise, Blame, Punishment, and
Responsibility, the cardinal and governing one is the last. It will be
well, therefore, to endeavour to fix this with some degree of clearness.

To commence with we may note that in contra-distinction to "freedom"
where the testimony of consciousness is illegitimately invoked, a
consciousness of responsibility is essential to its existence. A person
in whom it was manifestly impossible to arouse such a consciousness
would be unhesitatingly declared to be irresponsible. There is here,
consequently, both the fact of responsibility and our consciousness of
it that calls for explanation. And both require for an adequate
explanation a larger area than is offered by mere individual psychology.
Indeed, so long as we restrict ourselves to the individual we cannot
understand either the fact or the consciousness of responsibility. By
limiting themselves in this manner some Determinists have been led to
deny responsibility altogether. The individual, they have said, does not
create either his own organism or its environment, and consequently all
reasonable basis for responsibility disappears. To which there is the
effective reply that the datum for responsibility is found in the nature
of the organism and in the possibility of its being affected by certain
social forces, and not in the absolute origination of its own impulses
and actions. It is playing right into the hands of the Indeterminist to
deny so large and so important a social phenomenon as responsibility.
And to the Indeterminist attack, that if action is the expression of
heredity, organism, and environment, there is no room for
responsibility, there is the effective reply that it is precisely
because the individual's actions are the expression of all the forces
brought to bear upon him that he may be accounted responsible. The
Determinist has often been too ready to take the meanings and
implications of words from his opponent, instead of checking the sense
in which they were used.

The general sense of responsibility--omitting all secondary meanings--is
that of accountability, to be able to reply to a charge, or to be able
to answer a claim made upon us. This at once gives us the essential
characteristic of responsibility, and also stamps it as a phenomenon of
social ethics. A man living on a desert island would not be responsible,
unless we assume his responsibility to deity; and even here we have the
essential social fact--relation to a person--reintroduced. It is our
relations to others, that and the influence of our actions upon others,
combined with the possibility of our natures being affected by the
praise or censure of the social body to which we belong, which sets up
the fact of responsibility. Conduct creates a social reaction, good or
bad, agreeable or disagreeable, and the reacting judgment of society
awakens in each of us a consciousness of responsibility, more or less
acute, and more or less drastic, to society at large. The individual
sees himself in the social mirror. His nature is fashioned by the social
medium, his personal life becomes an expression of the social life. Just
as the social conscience, in the shape of a legal tribunal, judges each
for actions that are past, so the larger social conscience, as expressed
in a thousand and one different forms, customs, and associations, judges
us for those desires and dispositions that may result in action in the
future. Responsibility as a phenomenon of social psychology is obvious,
educative, inescapable, and admirable. Responsibility as a phenomenon of
individual psychology, whether from the Determinist or Indeterminist
point of view, is positively meaningless.

Taking, then, responsibility as a fact of social life, with its true
significance of accountability, let us see its meaning on deterministic
lines. For the sake of clearness we will first take legal responsibility
as illustrating the matter. In law a man is accounted guilty provided he
knows the law he is breaking, and also that he is capable of
appreciating the consequences of his actions. A further consideration of
no mean importance is that the consequences attending the infringement
of the law are assumed to be sufficiently serious to counterbalance the
inducements to break the regulation. And as all citizens are assumed to
know the law, we may confine our attention to the last two aspects.
What, then, is meant by ability to appreciate consequences? There can be
no other meaning than the capacity to create an ideal presentment of the
penalties attaching to certain actions. Every promise of reward or
threat of punishment assumes this, and assumes also that provided the
ideal presentment is strong enough, certain general results will follow.
It is on this principle alone that punishments are proportioned to
offences, and that certain revisions of penalties take place from time
to time. Negatively the same thing is shown by the fact that young
children, idiots, and lunatics are not legally held responsible for
their actions. The ground here is that the power to represent ideally
the full consequences of actions is absent, or operates in an abnormal
manner. Moreover, the whole line of proof to establish insanity in a
court of law is that a person is not amenable to certain desires and
impulses in the same manner as are normally constituted people.

Substantially the same thing is seen if we take the fact of
responsibility in non-legal matters. A very young child, incapable of
ideally representing consequences, is not considered a responsible
being. An older child has a limited responsibility in certain simple
matters. As it grows older, and growth brings with it the power of more
fully appreciating the consequence of actions, its responsibility
increases in the home, in the school, in business, social, religious,
and political circles it is held accountable for its conduct, in
proportion as the power of estimating the consequences of actions is
assumed. In other words, we assume not that there is at any stage an
autonomous or self-directing "will" in operation, but that a particular
quality of motive will operate at certain stages of mental development,
and the whole of the educative process, in the home, the school, and in
society, aims at making these motives effective. That is, the whole fact
of responsibility assumes as a datum the very condition that the
Indeterminist regards as destroying responsibility altogether. He argues
that if action is the expression of character, responsibility is a
farce. But it is precisely because action is the expression of character
that responsibility exists. When the law, or when society, calls a man
to account for something he has done, it does not deny that had he
possessed a different character he would have acted differently. It does
not assert that at the time of action he could have helped doing what he
did. Both may be admitted. What it does say is that having a character
of such and such a kind certain things are bound to follow. But
inasmuch as that character may be modified by social opinion or social
coercion, inasmuch as it will respond to certain influences brought to
bear upon it, it is a responsible character, and so may be held
accountable for its actions.

There is, therefore, nothing incompatible between Determinism and
Responsibility. The incompatibility lies between Indeterminism and
Responsibility. What meaning can we attach to it, on what ground can we
call a person to account, if our calling him to account is not one of
the considerations that will affect his conduct? Grant that a
consciousness of responsibility decides how a person shall act, and the
principle of Determinism is admitted. Deny that a consciousness of
responsibility determines action, and the phrase loses all meaning and
value. The difficulty arises, as has been said, by ignoring the fact
that responsibility is of social origin, and in looking for an
explanation in individual psychology. It would, of course, be absurd to
make man responsible for being what he is, but so long as he is amenable
to the pressure of normal social forces he is responsible or accountable
for what he may be. Whatever his character be, so long as it has the
capacity of being affected by social pressure, it is a responsible
character. And this is the sole condition that makes responsibility

Having said this, it is not difficult to see the place of punishment and
reward, or praise and blame, in the Determinist scheme of things.
Another word than punishment might be selected, and one that would be
without its unpleasant associations, but on the whole it is advisable
perhaps to retain the word in order to see the nature of the problem
clearly. Of course, punishment in the sense of the infliction of pain
merely because certain actions have been committed, no Determinist would
countenance. So far as punishment is inflicted in this spirit of sheer
retaliation it serves only to gratify feelings of malevolence. A society
that punishes merely to gratify resentment is only showing that it can
be as brutal collectively as individuals can be singly. And if
punishment begins and ends with reference to the past, then it is
certainly revolting to inflict pain upon a person because he has done
what education and organization impelled him to do. So far one can agree
with Professor Sidgwick that when a man's conduct is "compared with a
code, to the violation of which punishments are attached, the question
whether he really could obey the rule by which he is judged is obvious
and inevitable." But when he goes on to reply "If he could not, it seems
contrary to our sense of justice to punish him," the reply is, Not if
the code is one that normal human nature can obey, and the individual
one who can be modified in a required direction in both his own interest
and the interest of others. For if our punishment is prospective instead
of retrospective, or at least retrospective only so far as to enable us
to understand the character of the individual with whom we are dealing,
and using punishment as one of the means of securing a desirable
modification of character, then punishment is merged in correction, and
receives a complete justification upon Deterministic lines.

The problem is comparatively simple. Actions being decided by motives,
the problem with a socially defective character is how to secure the
prevalence of desires that will issue in desirable conduct. A man
steals; the problem then is, How can we so modify the character of which
stealing is the expression, so that we may weaken the desire to steal
and strengthen feelings that will secure honesty of action? On the lower
plane society resorts to threats of pains and penalties, so that when
the desire to steal arises again, the knowledge that certain measures
will be taken against the offender will arrest this desire. This is one
of the principal grounds on which a measure like the First Offenders Act
is based. On a higher plane the approval and respect of society serve to
awaken a positive liking for honesty and the formation of desirable
mental habits. Praise and blame rest upon a precisely similar basis. Man
being the socialized animal he is, the approbation and disapprobation of
his fellows must always exert considerable influence on his conduct. The
memory of censure passed or of praise bestowed acts as one of the many
influences that will determine conduct when the critical moment for
action arrives. Man does not always consciously put the question of what
his social circle will think of his actions, but this feeling rests upon
a deeper and more secure basis than that of consciousness. It has been,
so to speak, worked into his nature by all the generations of social
life that have preceded his existence, and to escape it means to put
off all that is distinctly human in his character. Every time we praise
or blame an action we are helping to mould character, for both will
serve as guides in the future. And it is just because at the moment of
action a person "could not help doing" what he did that there is any
reasonable justification for either approval or censure. Social approval
and disapproval become an important portion of the environment to which
the human being must perforce adapt himself.

What use could there be in punishing or blaming a man if his actions are
determined, not by realizable motives, but by a mysterious will that in
spite of our endeavours remains uninfluenced? If neither the promise nor
the recollection of punishment creates feelings that will determine
conduct, then one might as well whip the wind. Its only purpose is to
gratify our own feelings of anger or malevolence. It is equally futile
to look for the cause of wrong-doing in education, organization, or
environment. For in proportion as we recognize any or all of these
factors as determining conduct we are deserting the Indeterminist
position, and relinquishing the "freedom" of the will. If Indeterminism
be true we are forced to believe that although as a consequence of
ill-conduct evil feelings may arise with greater frequency, yet they
must be wholly ineffective as influencing action. It cannot even be
argued that certain motives offer stronger attraction than others to the
will, for this in itself would be a form of determinism. There is no
middle course. Either the "will" remains absolutely uninfluenced by
threat of punishment or desire for praise, serenely indifferent to the
conflict of desires, and proof against the influence of education, or it
forms a part of the causative sequence and the truth of Determinism is
admitted. You cannot at the same time hold that man does not act in
accordance with the strongest motive, and decide that the "will"
maintains its freedom by deciding which motive shall be the
strongest--its own determination not being the product of previous
training. One need, indeed, only state the Indeterminist position
plainly to see its inherent absurdity.

If ever in any case the argument _ad absurdum_ was applicable it is
surely here. It may safely be said that the larger part of the life of
each of us is passed in anticipating the future in the light of
experience. But if "Free-Will" be a fact, on what ground can we forecast
the future. If motives do not determine conduct, any prophecy of what
certain people may do in a given situation is futile. The will being
indetermined, what they have done in the past is no guide as to what
they will do in the future. If motives did not decide then they will not
decide now. Whether we read backward or forward makes no difference. We
have no right to say that the actions of certain statesmen prove them to
have been animated by the desire for wealth or power. That would imply
Determinism. We cannot say that because a murder has been committed a
certain person who bore the deceased ill-will is rightly suspected. This
is assuming that conduct is determined by motives. If we see a person
jump into the river, we have no right to argue that depressed health,
or financial worry, or impending social disgrace, has caused him to
commit suicide. The mother may as easily murder her child as nurse it.
The workman may labour as well for a bare pittance as for a comfortable
wage. A man outside a house in the early hours of the morning, armed
with a dark lantern and a jemmy, may have no desire to commit a
burglary. A person with a game bag and a gun furnishes no reliable data
for believing that he intends to shoot something. In all of these cases,
and in hundreds of others, if "free-will" be a fact we have no right to
argue from actions to motives, or infer motives from actions. Motives do
not rule, and we are witnessing the uncaused and unaccountable vagaries
of an autonomous will.

It is sometimes said that no matter how convinced a Determinist one may
be, one always acts as though the will were free. This, so far from
being true, is the reverse of what really happens. In all the affairs of
life people of all shades of opinion concerning Determinism really act
as though "Free-Will" had no existence. It would, indeed, be strange
were it otherwise. Facts are more insistent than theories, and in the
last resort it is the nature of things which determines the course of
our actions. Nature, while permitting considerable latitude in matters
of theory or opinion, allows comparatively little play in matters of
conduct. And it may be asserted that a society which failed to
acknowledge in its conduct the principle of Determinism would stand but
small chance of survival. As a matter of fact, when it comes to
practical work the theory of "Free-Will" is ignored and the theory of
Determinism acted upon. The unfortunate thing is that the maintenance of
"Free-Will" in the sphere of opinion serves to check the wholesome
application of the opposite principle. Theory is used to check action
instead of serving its proper function as a guide to conduct.

Still, it is instructive to note to what extent in the sphere of
practice the principle of Determinism is admitted. In dealing with the
drink question, for instance, temperance reformers argue that a
diminution in the number of public-houses, and the creation of
opportunities for healthy methods of enjoyment, will diminish temptation
and weaken the desire for alcoholic stimulants. In the training of
children stress is rightly laid upon the importance of the right kind of
associates, the power of education, and of healthy physical
surroundings. With adults, the beneficial influences of fresh air, good
food, well-built houses, open spaces, and healthy conditions of labour
have become common-places of sociology. In every rational biography
attention is paid to the formative influences of parents, friends, and
general environment. Medical men seek the cause of frames of mind in
nervous structure, and predisposition to physical, mental, and moral
disease in heredity. Statisticians point to absolute uniformity of
general human action under certain social conditions. Moralists point to
the power of ideals on people's minds. Religious teachers emphasize the
power of certain teachings in reducing particular habits. In all these
cases no allowance whatever is made for the operation of an undetermined
will. The motive theory of action may not be consciously in the minds
of all, but it is everywhere and at all times implied in practice.

In strict truth, we cannot undertake a single affair in life without
making the assumption that people will act in accordance with certain
motives, and that these in turn will be the outcome of specific desires.
If I journey from here to Paris I unconsciously assume that certain
forces--the desire to retain a situation, to earn a living, to satisfy a
sense of duty--will cause all the officials connected with boat and
train service to carry out their duties in a given manner. If I appeal
for the protection of the police I am again counting upon certain
motives influencing the official mind in a particular manner. All
commercial transactions rest upon the same unconscious assumption. A
merchant who places an order with a firm in Russia, America, or Japan,
or who sends goods abroad, counts with absolute confidence upon certain
desires and mental states so influencing a number of people with whom he
has no direct connection, that they will co-operate in landing the goods
at the point desired. Or if the goods are not transmitted as desired, it
is not because the principle upon which he relied is invalid, but
because other desires have operated in a more powerful manner. A general
commanding an army acts on precisely the same principle. The ideal of
duty, of the honour of the regiment, the desire for distinction, are all
counted upon as being powerful enough to serve as motives that will
cause men to join in battle, storm a risky position, or take part in a
forlorn hope. History is read upon the same principle. The statement
that Nero was cruel, that Henry the Eighth was of an amatory nature,
that Charles I. was tyrannical, or that Louis the Fifteenth was
licentious, could not be made unless we argue that their actions imply
the existence of certain motives. That the motive theory of the will is
true is admitted in practice by all. The Indeterminist admits it even in
his appeal to "Liberty." He is counting upon the desire for freedom
(sociologically) as being strong enough to lead people to reject a
theory which denies its applicability to morals.

Human nature becomes a chaos if Determinism is denied. Neither a science
of human conduct nor of history is possible in its absence; for both
assume a fundamental identity of human nature beneath all the
comparatively superficial distinctions of colour, creed, or national
divisions. The determination of the influence of climate, food,
inter-tribal or international relations, of the power of ideals--moral,
religious, military, national, etc.--are all so many exercises in the
philosophy of Determinism. In none of these directions do we make the
least allowance for the operation of an uncaused "will." We say with
absolute confidence that given a people with a military environment, and
either its discomforts produce an anti-militarist feeling, or its
glamour evokes a strong militarist feeling. So with all other
consideration that comes before us. And as Determinism enables us to
read and understand history and life, so it also provides a basis upon
which we can work for reform. In the belief that certain influences will
produce, in the main, a particular result, we can lay our plans and
work with every prospect of ultimate success. Instead of our best
endeavours being left at the mercy of an undetermined "will," they take
their place as part of the determining influences that are moulding
human nature. Every action becomes a portion of the environment with
which each has to deal. More, it becomes a portion of the agent's own
environment, a part of that ideal world in which we all more or less
live. And the heightened consciousness that every action leaves a
certain residuum for either good or ill, supplies in itself one of the
strongest incentives for the exercise of self-control and furnishes an
unshakable basis for self-development.



In spite of what has been said, it may be that a protest will still be
raised by some on behalf of character. A man's character, it will be
argued, is an alienable personal possession. What he does belongs to him
in a sense that is peculiar to his personality. In many important
instances his actions bear the stamp of individuality in so plain a
manner that while we cannot predict what he will do, once it is done we
recognize by the peculiar nature of the action that it must have been
done by him and by none other. In painting, in music, in literature, and
in many other walks of life, we are able to infer authorship by the
personality stamped upon the production. Moreover, nothing that we can
do or say will ever destroy the conviction that my actions are _mine_.
They proceed from _me_; they are the expressions of _my_ character; it
is this feeling that induces me to plead guilty to the charge of
responsibility, and this conviction remains after all argument has been
urged. But, it is further asked, how can this be aught but an illusion
if I am not the real and determining cause of my conduct? If I and my
actions are the products of a converging series of calculable or
indetermined forces, are we not compelled to dismiss this conviction as
pure myth? Must I not conclude that I am no more the determining cause
of my conduct than a stone determines whether it shall fall to the
ground or not? And is not the cultivation of character, therefore, an
absurd futility?

Now although the Determinist will dissent from the conclusions of those
who argue in this way, with a great deal of the argument he would agree;
more than that, he would enforce the same line of reasoning as a
legitimate inference from his own position. And he might also submit
that it is only by an acceptance of the deterministic position that such
reasoning can receive full justification.

What do we mean by character? Suppose we reply with T. H. Green by
defining character as the way in which a man seeks self-satisfaction.[7]
We are next faced with the problem of accounting for the different ways
in which self-satisfaction is sought. One man is a drunkard and another
temperate, one is benevolent and another grasping, one is cruel and
another kind; there are endless diversities of human conduct, and all
come within the scope of Green's definition of character. We have to
look farther and deeper. A satisfactory answer clearly cannot be found
in the assumption that each person's actions proceed from an unfettered,
autonomous will. The reason for the choice would still have to be
discovered. Nor will it do to attribute the difference of choice to
different environmental influences in which the "self" is placed. This
would indeed be reducing the man to the level of a machine, or to a
lower level still. And the same environmental influences do _not_
produce identical results. This is one of the commonest facts of daily
experience. Stimulus from the environment is the essential condition of
action, but the precise nature of the action elicited is an affair of
the organism. If I am courageous by nature I shall stay and face a
threatened danger. If I am cowardly I shall run away. Thus, while
circumstances are the cause of my acting, how I shall act is in turn
caused by my character, the net result being due to their interaction.
This seems so obvious that it may well be accepted as a datum common to
both parties in the dispute.

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

We may, then, freely grant the Indeterminist--what he foolishly assumes
is inconsistent with the Deterministic position--that environment may be
modified by character, that a man is not the creature of circumstances,
if we restrict that word to external circumstances, as is so often done.
A man, we will say, allowing for the influence of external
circumstances, acts according to his character. The question then
becomes, "What is his character? How does he acquire it?[8] And whence
the varieties of character?" To these queries the only intelligible
reply is that a man's character represents his psychic heritage, as his
body represents his physical heritage, both of them being subject to
development and modification by post-natal influences. Each one thus
brings a different psychic force, or a different character, to bear upon
the world around him. He is thus the author of his acts, not in the
unintelligible sense of absolutely originating the sequence that
proceeds from his actions, but in the rational sense of being that point
in the sequence that is represented by his personality. And his actions
bear the stamp of his personality because had his antecedents been
different his actions would have varied accordingly. Each is properly
judged in terms of character, because it is the character which
determines the form taken by the reaction of the organism on the

    [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.

We may go even further than this and say that it is only actions which
proceed from character that are properly the subject of moral judgment.
Let us take a concrete illustration of this. A man distributes a large
sum of money among the inhabitants of a town, some of it in the form of
personal gifts among its needy inhabitants, the rest in endowing various
institutions connected with its social and municipal life. Twelve months
later he comes forward as candidate in a parliamentary election. The
question of his donations at once comes up for judgment, and in defence
he may plead that he was only invited to contest the seat after the
money was given. How shall we determine what his motives were? Obviously
by an appeal to his character. If he were well known as a wealthy person
of recognized benevolent disposition, it would be argued that while his
candidature would inevitably reap benefit from his donations it was
highly probable that in giving the money he was only acting as one would
expect him to act. If, on the other hand, he was well known as a person
of a mean and grasping disposition, it would be concluded that the
donation was an attempt to bribe the electorate, his giving the money so
long before being an intelligent anticipation of events. In either case
we should be appealing to character, and judging the man by what of his
character was known. Numerous instances of a like kind might be given,
but in every case it would be found that we infer from an action a
particular kind of motive, and that our judgment of the motive is
determined by the character of the individual. This is so far the case
that we are apt to mistrust our own judgment when we find a benevolent
person doing what looks like a mean action, or a brave person committing
what looks like an act of cowardice. While action is thus--so far as it
is intentional--always the registration of motive, and motive the
expression of a preponderating desire, the desire, whether it be
licentious or chaste, noble or ignoble, is the outcome of character.

Determinism thus finds a fit and proper place for character in its
philosophy of things. It does not say that the fact or the consideration
of character is irrelevant; on the contrary, it says it is
all-important. And in saying this it challenges the position of the
Indeterminist by the implication that it is only on lines of Determinism
that character is important or that it can be profitably cultivated. For
consider what is meant by saying that conduct implies and proceeds from
character. It clearly implies that a man acts in this or that manner
because he has been in the habit of acting in this or that manner. We do
not gather grapes from thistles, and we do not experience noble actions
from a depraved character. The actions of each are determined by the
character of each, and character is in turn the outcome of psychic
inheritance, plus the effects of the interaction of organism and
environment from the moment of birth onward. Personal characteristics,
honesty, courage, truthfulness, loyalty, thus imply strictly determined
qualities. They are qualities determined by the nature of the organism.
They could not be expressed unless the surrounding circumstances were
favourable to their expression; but neither could they be manifested
unless the character was of a particular order. Conduct is, in fact,
always a product of the two things.

Let us also note that it is this determination of qualities that is
implied when we speak of a good or a bad, a strong or a weak character.
We should not call a man a good character who to-day fed a starving
child, and to-morrow kicked it from his doorstep. We should describe him
as, at best, a person of an exceedingly variable disposition who
satisfied the caprice of the moment irrespective of the feelings and
needs of others. We should not call a person strong who withstood a
temptation one hour and yielded to it the next. He would be described as
weak, and lacking the compelling force of a stable disposition. It is
also true that the moralization of character is the more complete as the
determined nature of impulses is the more evident. Most people would not
only resent the imputation of having committed a mean action, they would
also resent the likelihood of their committing one. And in common
speech, and in fact, the highest tribute we can pay a man is to say
that a certain kind of action is beneath him. We say that we know A
would not have committed a theft, but we are quite willing to believe it
of B. In each case we make no allowance for the operation of an
undetermined will; such doubts as we have being connected with our
inability to completely analyze the character in question. But our
prognostications are strictly based upon our knowledge of character and
upon the conviction that given a certain character and the operation of
particular motives, specific action follows with mathematical certainty.

And this, as has previously been pointed out, gives the only reliable
basis for the cultivation of character. The whole aim of education,
whether it be that received in the home, in the school, or the larger
and more protracted education of social life, has the aim and purpose of
securing the spontaneous response of a particular action to a particular
stimulus, or on the negative side that certain circumstances shall not
arouse desires of a socially unwelcome character. The phrase
"Patriotism" thus serves to arouse a group of feelings that cluster
round the state and social life. "Home" awakens its own groups of
domestic and parental feelings. "Duty," again, covers a wider sphere,
but involves the same process. By instruction and by training, certain
conditions, circumstances, words, or associations are made to call up
trains of connected feelings which, culminating in a desire,
imperatively demand conduct along a given line. The more complete the
education, the stronger the desire; the stronger the desire, the more
certain the action. The more defective the education the less the
certainty with which we can count upon specific conduct. The man who
acts to-day in one way and to-morrow in another way is not a man of
strong desires, so much as he is a man whose desires are undisciplined.
The man who acts with uniform certainty is not a man of weak desire, but
one whose desires run with strength and swiftness in a uniform
direction. And it is a curious feature of indeterministic psychology
that it should take as clear evidence of the subordination of desire to
"will" the man whose desire is so strong as to preclude hesitation
between it and action.

The whole of education, the whole of the discipline of life, is thus
based upon the determination of conduct by circumstances and character.
If the principle of cause and effect does not fully apply to conduct,
all our training is so much waste of time. But it is because we cannot
really think of the past not influencing the present, once we bring the
two into relation, that we, Determinist and Indeterminist alike, proceed
with our deterministic methods of training, and in this instance at
least wisdom is justified of her children.

Finally, if the above be granted, can we longer attach meaning to the
expression that man forms his own character? Well, if it means that a
man has any share in his psychic endowments, or that they being what
they are at any given time he could at that time act differently from
the way in which he does act, the expression is meaningless. It is
absolute nonsense. But in another sense it does convey an important
truth. We must, however, always bear in mind that in speaking of a
man's character we are not dealing with two things, but with one thing.
The character is the man, the man is the character. Or to be quite
accurate, body and mind, physical and psychical qualities together, form
the man, and any separation of these is for purposes of analysis and
study only. If we say, then, that a man is master of his own character,
or that a man may mould his own character, we do not imply the existence
of an independent entity moulding or mastering something else. We are
saying no more than that every experience carries its resultant into the
sum of character. Action generates habit, and habit means a more or less
permanent modification of character. What a man is, is the outcome of
what he has been, and a perception of this truth no more conflicts with
the principles of Determinism as above explained, than a stone being
intercepted in its fall down the side of a hill by lodging against a
tree is an infraction of the law of gravitation. In this sense, using
figurative language, a man may be said to be master of himself. What he
does proceeds from himself; it is the expression of his character, and
his doing cuts deeper the grooves of habit, and so makes more certain
the performance of similar actions in the future. It is the fact of the
motive springing from character which determines the act that makes the
man its author. And the knowledge of this supplies him with, not alone
the most powerful incentive towards the determination of his own
character, but, what is equally important, the only method whereby to
fashion the character of others.



If human feeling followed logical conviction the discussion of
Determinism might, so far as the present writer is concerned, be
considered as finished. Ultimately this doubtless occurs; but in the
interim one has to reckon with the play of feeling, fashioned by
long-standing conviction, upon convictions that are of recent origin.
Thus it happens that many who realise the logical force of arguments
similar to those hitherto advanced, find themselves in a state of
fearfulness concerning the ultimate effect on human life of a convinced
Determinism. The conflict between feeling and conviction that exists in
their own minds they naturally ascribe to others, and endow it with a
permanency which mature consideration might show to be unwarranted. It
would indeed be strange and lamentable if the divorce between feeling
and conviction--to adopt a popular classification--was not simply
incidental to change, but was also an inexpugnable part of fundamental
aspects of human life.

Mr. A. J. Balfour has indeed gone so far as to suggest,[9] as a theory
to meet this phenomenon, that the immediate consciousness of our
actions being determined would be so paralyzing to action, that Nature
has by "a process of selective slaughter" made a consciousness of this
character a practical impossibility. But it would seem that the fact of
a consciousness of determination developing at all affords strong
presumptions in favour of the belief that no such selective slaughter is
really necessary to the maintenance of vital social relations. Mr.
Balfour's argument might have some weight against Fatalism, which says
that what is to be will be in despite of all that may be done to prevent
its occurrence; but we are on different ground with a theory which makes
what _I_ do part of the sequence that issues in a particular result.

    [9] _International Journal of Ethics_, vol. iv.
    pp. 421-422.

The problem is put very plainly in the following two quotations. The
first is from a private source, written by one who fears the
consequences of Determinism on conduct. The writer says:--

    "In a moral crisis, and with the consciousness of a strong
    tendency in the direction of what is felt to be wrong, is there
    no danger of this desire gaining further strength and becoming
    the predominant feeling by accepting Determinism, causing a
    weakened sense of responsibility, besides providing a convenient
    excuse for giving way to the lower instead of the higher? Thus
    in a question of alternatives is it not conceivable that by
    dwelling on this thought, the agent is resisting possibilities
    which might otherwise have a different effect had Determinism no
    advocacy and with a different competitive factor to oppose?
    This, it seems to me, is what the Indeterminist fears, and I
    think it must be admitted not without some reason."

The second comes from Mr. F. W. Headley's work, _Life and Evolution_.
Mr. Headley, after discussing the evolution of mind, and after admitting
the impregnable nature of the determinist position, says that
notwithstanding the evidence to the contrary we cannot help cherishing
the belief that we are in some sense "free," and adds:--

    "For practical purposes what is wanted is not free-will but a
    working belief in it. When the time for decision and for action
    comes, a man must feel that he is free to choose or he is lost.
    And this working belief in free-will, even though the thing
    itself be proved to be a phantom and an illusion, is the
    inalienable property of every healthy man."

Both these criticisms might be met by the method of analysing the use
made of certain leading words. For example, the Determinist would quite
agree that for conduct to be fruitful a man must feel that he is free to
choose. But unless his freedom consists in liberty to obey the dictates
of his real nature, the term is without significance. The fact of
choice, as has been pointed out, is common ground for both Determinist
and Indeterminist. The real question is whether the choice itself is
determined or not. What a man needs to feel is that his choice is
decisive, and that it is based upon an impartial review of the
alternatives as they appear to him. Determinism makes full allowance for
this; it is Indeterminism which in denying the application of causality
to the will substantially asserts that the whole training of a lifetime
may be counteracted by the decision of an uncaused will, and so renders
the whole process unintelligible. And as to Determinism causing a
weakened sense of responsibility, surely one may fairly argue that the
consciousness of the cumulative force of practice may well serve to warn
us against yielding to a vicious propensity, and so strengthen the
feeling of resistance to it. There could hardly be conceived a stronger
incentive to right action, or to struggle against unwholesome desires,
than this conviction. Moreover, the practical testimony of those who are
convinced Determinists is all in this direction. The fears are expressed
by those whose advocacy of Determinism is at best of but a lukewarm

But in order that the full weight of the difficulty may be realized let
us put the matter in a still more forcible form. Determinism, it is to
be remembered, is an attempt to apply to mind and morals that principle
of causation which is of universal application in the physical world,
and where it has proved itself so fruitful and suggestive. On this
principle all that is flows from all that has been in such a way that,
given a complete knowledge of the capacities of all the forces in
operation at any one time, the world a century hence could be predicted
with mathematical accuracy. So likewise with human nature. Human conduct
being due to the interaction of organism with environment, our
inability to say what a person will do under given circumstances is no
more than an expression of our ignorance of the quantitative and
qualitative value of the forces operating. The possibilities of action
are co-extensive with the actualities of ignorance. There is no break in
the working of causation, no matter what the sphere of existence with
which we happen to be dealing.

It is at this point that Determinism lands one in what is apparently an
ethical _cul-de-sac_. If all that is, is the necessary result of all
that has been, if nothing different from what does occur could occur,
what is the meaning of the sense of power over circumstances that we
possess? And why urge people to make an effort in this or that direction
if everything, including the effort or its absence, is determined? I may
flatter myself with the notion that things are better because of some
action of mine. But beyond the mere fact that my action is part of the
stream of causation, all else is a trick of the imagination. My conduct
is, all the time, the result of the co-operation of past conditions with
present circumstances. To say that praise or blame of other people's
conduct, or approval or disapproval of my own conduct, is itself a
determinative force, hardly meets the point. For these, too, are part of
the determined order.

It might be urged that the knowledge that by exciting certain feelings
others are proportionately weakened operates in the direction of
improvement. Quite so; and as a mere description of what occurs the
statement is correct. But to the Determinist there is no "I" that
determines which feeling or cluster of feelings shall predominate. "I"
am the expression of the succession and co-ordination of mental states;
we are still within a closed circle of causation. Whether I am good or
bad, wise or unwise, I shall be what I must be, and nothing else; do as
I must do, and no more.

This is, I think, putting the Indeterminists' case as strongly as it can
be put. How is the Determinist to meet the attack? A common retort is
that all this being granted things remain as they were. If the criminal
action is determined so is that of the judge, and so no harm is done. We
shall go on praising or blaming, punishing or rewarding, doing or not
doing, exactly as before, simply because we cannot do otherwise. This,
however, while effective as a mere retort, is not very satisfactory as
an answer. For it neither explains the sense of power people feel they
possess, nor does it meet the criticism raised. On the one hand there is
the fact that character does undergo modification, and the conviction
that _my_ effort does play a part in securing that modification. And
with this there goes the feeling--with some--that if everything, mental
states and dispositions included, is part of an unbroken and unbreakable
order, why delude ourselves with the notion of personal power? Why not
let things drift? And on the other hand there is the conviction that
scientific Determinism holds the field. The state of mind is there, and
it is fairly expressed in the two quotations already given; particularly
in Mr. Headley's statement that we ought to act as though Free-Will were
a fact, even though we know it to be otherwise. The difficulty is
there, and one must admit that it is not always fairly faced by writers
on Determinism. An appeal is made to man's moral sense, and this, while
legitimate enough in some connections, is quite irrelevant in this. Or
it is said that a knowledge of the causational nature of morals should
place people on their guard against encouraging harmful states of mind.
This is also good counsel, but it clearly does not touch the point that,
whether I encourage harmful or beneficial states of mind, it is all part
of the determined order of things.

As an example of what has been said we may take a passage from John
Stuart Mill. In his criticism of Sir William Hamilton, Mill remarks:--

    "The true doctrine of the causation of human actions maintains
    ... that not only our conduct, but our character, is, in part,
    amenable to our will; that we can by employing the proper means,
    improve our character; and that if our character is such that
    while it remains what it is, it necessitates us to do wrong, it
    will be just to apply motives which will necessitate us to
    strive for its improvement, and so emancipate ourselves from the
    other necessity; in other words, we are under a moral obligation
    to seek the improvement of our moral character."

Admirable as is this passage it is clearly no reply to the criticism
that whether we seek moral improvement or not, either course is as much
necessitated as is the character that needs improving. To give a real
relevance to this passage we should have to assume the existence of an
ego outside the stream of causation deciding at what precise point it
should exert a determining influence. That so clear a thinker as Mill
should have overlooked this gives point to what has been said as to
writers on Determinism having failed to squarely face the issue.

A more valid reply to Mr. Headley's position would be that so long as we
believe a theory to be sound there is no real gain in acting as though
we were convinced otherwise. Granting that an illusion may have its
uses, it can only be of service so long as we do not know it to be an
illusion. A mirage of cool trees and sparkling pools may inspire tired
travellers in a desert to renewed efforts of locomotion. But if they
_know_ it to be a mirage it only serves to discourage effort. And once
we believe in Determinism, our right course, and our only profitable
course, is to face all the issues as courageously as may be. Not that a
correct reading of Determinism leads to our sitting with folded hands
lacking the spirit to strive for better things.

It may be that certain people so read Determinism, but one cannot
reasonably hold a theory responsible for every misreading of it that
exists. Theologians in particular would be in a very uncomfortable
position if this rule were adopted. A theory is responsible for such
conclusions or consequences as are logically deducible therefrom, but no
more. And what we are now concerned with is, first, will Determinism,
properly understood, really have the effect feared; and, second, is it
possible for Determinism to account adequately for the belief that it is
possible to modify other people's character, and in so doing modify our
own? In Mill's words, can we exchange the necessity to do wrong for the
necessity to do right? I believe that a satisfactory reply can be given
to both questions.

In the first place we have to get rid of the overpowering influence of
an atomistic psychology. A very little study of works on
psychology--particularly of the more orthodox schools--is enough to show
that the social medium as a factor determining man's mental nature has
been either ignored, or given a quite subordinate position. Because in
studying the mental qualities of man we are necessarily dealing with an
individual brain, it has been assumed that mental phenomena may be
explained with no more than a casual reference to anything beyond the
individual organism. This assumption may be sound so long as we are
dealing with mind as the function of definitely localized organs, or if
we are merely describing mental phenomena. It is when we pass to the
contents of the mind, and study the significance of mental states, or
enquire how they came into existence, that we find the atomistic
psychology breaking down, and we find ourselves compelled to deal with
mind as a psycho-sociologic phenomenon, with its relation to the social
medium. Then we discover that it is man's social relationships, the
innumerable generations of reaction between individual organisms and the
social medium, which supply the key to problems that are otherwise

It has already been pointed out that the whole significance of morality
is social. If we restrict ourselves to the individual no adequate
explanation can be given of such qualities as sympathy, honesty,
truthfulness, chastity, kindness, etc. Separate it in thought from the
social medium and morality becomes meaningless. Properly studied,
psychology yields much the same result. When we get beyond the
apprehension of such fundamental qualities as time and space, heat and
cold, colour and sound, the contour of man's mind, so to speak, is a
social product. His feelings and impulses imply a social medium as
surely as does morality. From this point of view the phrase "Social
sense" is no mere figure of speech; it is the expression of a pregnant
truth, the statement of something as real as any scientific law with
which we are acquainted.

For the essence of a scientific law is the expression of a relation. The
law of gravitation, for instance, formulates the relations existing
between particles of matter. If there existed but one particle of matter
in the universe gravitation would be a meaningless term. Introduce a
second particle, and a relation is established between the two, and the
material for a scientific "law" created. In the same way a description
of individual human qualities is fundamentally a statement of the
relations existing between individuals living in groups; and any attempt
to understand human nature without considering these relations is as
certainly foredoomed to failure as would be the attempt to study a
particle of matter apart from the operation of all known forces. The
individual as he exists to-day is not something that exists apart from
the social forces; he is an expression, an epitome, of all their past
and present operations. The really essential thing in the study of human
nature is not so much the discrete individual A or B, but the relations
existing between A and B. It is these which make each end of the term
what it is--determines the individual's language, feelings, thoughts,
and character.

It is along these lines that we have to look for an explanation of the
feeling that we can initiate a reform in character, and of a sense of
power in determining events. We start with a sense of power over the
course of events--which is interpreted as the equivalent of our ability
to initiate absolutely a change in our own character or in that of
others. But a little reflection convinces us--particularly if we call
ourselves Determinists--that this interpretation is quite erroneous. An
absolute beginning is no more conceivable in the mental or moral sphere
than it is in the physical world. The sum of all that is is the product
of all that has been, and in this, desires, feelings, dispositions are
included no less than physical properties. Now, curiously enough, the
conviction that an absolute change in character can be initiated exists
with much greater strength in regard to oneself than it does with regard
to others. It is easier to observe others than to analyze one's own
mental states, with the result that most people can more readily realize
that what others do is the product of their heredity and their
environment than they can realize it in their own case. Of course,
reflection shows that the same principle applies in both directions, but
we are here dealing with moods rather than with carefully reasoned out
convictions. And, generally speaking, while we _feel_ ourselves masters
of our own fate, we only suspect a similar strength in others. But each
one realizes, and with increasing vividness, the power he possesses in
modifying other people's character by a change of circumstances. We see
this illustrated by the increased emphasis placed upon the importance of
better sanitation, better housing, better conditions of labour, and of
an improved education. More from observing others than by studying
ourselves we see how modifiable a thing human nature is. We see how
character is modified by an alteration of the material environment, and
we also note our own individual function as a determinative influence in
effecting this modification.

Now I quite fail to see that there is in this sense of power over
circumstances anything more than a recognition of our own efforts as
part of the determinative sequence. The added factor to the general
causative series is the consciousness of man himself. We are conscious,
more or less clearly, of our place in the sequence; we are able to
recognize and study our relations to past and present events, and our
probable relation to future ones. We see ourselves as so many efficient
causes of those social reactions that go to make up a science of
sociology, and it is this which gives us a sense of _power_ of
determining events. I say "power" because "freedom" is an altogether
different thing. The question of whether we are free to determine
events is, as I have shown, meaningless when applied to scientific
matters. But the question of whether or not we have the _power_ of
determining events may be answered in the affirmative--an answer not in
the least affected by the belief that this power is strictly conditioned
by past and present circumstances. The sense of power is real, and it
expresses a fact, even though the fact be an inevitable one. We are all
shapers of each other's character, moulders of each other's destiny. The
recognition of our power to act in this relation is not contrary to
Determinism, Determinism implies it. It is this which gives a real
meaning to the expression "social sense." For the social sense can have
no other meaning or value than as a recognition of the action of one
individual upon another, which, as in the case of a chemical compound,
results in the production of something that is not given by the mere sum
of individual qualities.

So, too, do we get by this method a higher meaning to the word
"freedom." In an earlier part of this essay it was pointed out that
"freedom" was of social origin and application. Its essential meaning is
liberty to carry out the impulses of one's nature unrestricted by the
coercive action of one's fellows. But there is a higher and a more
positive meaning than this. Man is a social animal; his character is a
social product. The purely human qualities not only lose their value
when divorced from social relationships, it is these relationships that
provide the only medium for their activity. To say that a person is
free to express moral qualities in the absence of his fellows is
meaningless, since it is only in their presence that the manifestation
of them is possible. It is the intercourse of man with man that gives to
each whatever freedom he possesses. The restraints imposed upon each
member of a society in the interests of all are not a curtailing of
human freedom but the condition of its realization. To chafe against
them is, to use Kant's famous illustration, as unreasonable as a bird's
revolt against the opposing medium or atmosphere, in ignorance of the
fact that it is this opposition which makes flight possible. The only
genuine freedom that man can know and enjoy is that provided by social
life. Human freedom has its origin in social relationships, and to these
we are ultimately driven to discover its meaning and significance.

So far, then, the sense of power in controlling events which each
possesses presents no insuperable difficulty to a theory of Determinism.
Only one other point remains on which to say a word, and that is whether
a conviction of the causative character of human action would lead to a
weakening of effort or to moral depression. Why should it have this
effect? It is curious that those who fear this result seem to have only
in mind the tendencies to wrongdoing. But if it operates at all it must
operate in all directions, and this would certainly strengthen good
resolutions as well as bad ones. And even though no more were to be
said, this would justify the assertion that merit and demerit would
remain unaffected, and that any harm done in one direction would be
compensated by good done in another. But another important
consideration is to be added. This is that while a consciousness of the
power of habit acts as a retarding influence on wrongdoing, it has an
accelerating influence in the reverse direction--that is, unless we
assume a character acting with the deliberate intention of cultivating
an evil disposition. Besides, the really vicious characters are not
usually given to reflecting upon the origin and nature of their desires,
and are therefore quite unaffected by any theory of volition; while
those who are given to such reflection are not usually of a vicious
disposition. We are really crediting the vicious with a degree of
intelligence and reflective power quite unwarranted by the facts of the

Finally, the criticism with which I have been dealing takes a too purely
intellectual view of conduct. It does not allow for the operation of
sympathy, or for the power of social reaction. And these are not only
real, they are of vital importance when we are dealing with human
nature. For man cannot, even if he would, remain purely passive. The
power of sympathy, the desire for social intercourse, the invincible
feeling that in some way he is vitally concerned with the well-being of
the society to which he belongs, these are always in operation, even
though their degree of intensity varies with different individuals. We
cannot possibly isolate man in considering conduct, because his whole
nature has been moulded by social intercourse, and craves continuously
for social approval. And it is such feelings that are powerful agents in
the immediate determination of conduct. The mental perception of the
causes and conditions of conduct are feeble by comparison and can only
operate with relative slowness. And in their operation they are all the
time checked and modified by the fundamental requirements of the social



In the course of the foregoing pages we have made frequent reference to
"environment," without the word being precisely described or defined.
The subject was of too great importance to be dismissed with a bald
definition, and to have dealt with it earlier at suitable length might
have diverted attention from the main argument. But so much turns on a
correct understanding of the word "environment" that a discussion of
Determinism would be incomplete that failed to fix its meaning with a
fair degree of accuracy.

A very casual study of anti-deterministic literature is enough to show
that a great deal of the opposition to a scientific interpretation of
human conduct has its origin in a quite wrong conception of what the
determinist has in mind when he speaks of the part played by the
environment in the determination of conduct. Even writings ostensibly
deterministic in aim have not been free from blame in their use of the
word. Thus on the one hand we find it said that man is a creature of his
environment, and by "environment" we are to understand, by implication,
only the material forces, which are assumed to somehow drive man hither
and thither in much the same way as a tennis ball is driven this way or
that by the player. Against this there has been a natural and, let it
be said, a justifiable reaction. Expressed in this way it was felt that
man was not at the mercy of his surroundings. It was felt that, whatever
be its nature the organism does exert some influence over environmental
forces, and that it is not a merely passive register of their
operations. Neither of these views expresses the whole truth. It may be
that each expresses a truth, and it is still more probable, as is the
case with some terms already examined, that the confusion arises from a
mis-use of the language employed.

To-day we are all familiar with the dictum that the maintenance of life
is a question of adaptation to environment--a truth that is equally
applicable to ideas and institutions. But the general truth admitted,
there is next required a consideration of its application to the
particular subject in hand, and in connection with our present topic
some attention must be paid both to the nature of the organism and of
the environment with which we are dealing. We then discover that not
alone are we dealing with an organism which is extremely plastic in its
nature, but that the environment may also vary within very wide limits.
On the one side, and in relation to man, we may be dealing with an
environment that is mainly physical in character, or it may be a
combination of physical conditions and biological forces, or, yet again,
it may be predominantly psychological in its nature. And, on the other
hand, the reaction of the organism on the environment may vary from
extreme feebleness to an almost overpowering determination. We may,
indeed, anticipate our argument by saying that one of the chief features
of human progress is the gradual subordination of the material
environment to the psychologic powers of man.

If, now, we contrast the environment of an uncivilized with that of a
civilized people the difference is striking. The environment of an
uncivilized race will consist of the immediate physical surroundings,
the animals that are hunted for sport or killed for food, and a
comparatively meagre stock of customs and traditions. The environment of
a modern European will add to the physical surroundings an enormously
enlarged mass of social traditions and customs, an extensive literature,
contact with numerous other societies in various stages of culture, and
relations, more or less obscure, to a vast literary and social past. The
environment thus includes not merely the living, but also the dead.
Roman law, Greek philosophy, Eastern religious ideas, etc., all affect
the twentieth century European. It would require a lengthy essay to
enumerate all the influences that dominate the life of a particular
people of to-day, but enough has been said to illustrate the truth that
we must use the term "environment" so as to include _all_ that affects
the organism. And when this is done it soon becomes clear that by the
very growth of humanity the influence of the physical portion of the
environment becomes of relatively less importance with the progress of
the race--it is the subordination of the physical environment that is
the principal condition of the advance of civilization.

But even when our conception of the meaning of environment has been thus
enlarged, we need to be on our guard against misconception from another
side. For the environment is only one factor in the problem; the
organism is another, and the relative importance of the two is a matter
of vital significance. We may still make the mistake of treating the
environment as active and the organism as passive. This would be a
similar mistake to that which is made when morality and religion are
treated as being no more than a reflection of economic conditions. The
action of the environment is given a place of first importance, while
the reaction of the organism on its environment is treated as a
negligible quantity. Historically this may be taken as a reaction
against the extreme spiritualistic view which, in upholding, a theory of
Free-Will made no allowance for the influence of the surroundings. An
extreme view in one direction usually sets up an extreme view by way of
opposition, and it must be confessed that in social philosophy the power
of the environment has often been made omnipotent. The medium has been
presented as active and the organism as passive. Different results occur
because the susceptibilities of organisms vary. Good or bad influences
affect individuals differently for much the same reason that soils
differ in their capacity for absorbing water.

From the scientific and the philosophic side this conception derived a
certain adventitious strength. In the first place there was the now
generally discarded psychology which taught that the individual mind
was as a sheet of blank paper on which experience inscribed its lessons.
And in the second place the growth of biological science brought out
with great distinctness the influence of the environment on organic
life. It was very plain that the quality and quantity of the food
supply, the action of air and light, and other purely environmental
forces exercised an important influence. In the plant world it was seen
how much could be effected by a mere change of habitat. In the animal
world markings and structure seemed to have an obvious reference to the
nature of the environment. It, therefore, seemed nothing but a logical
inference to extend the same reasoning to man, and treat not only his
structure but his mental capacities as being the outcome of the same
kind of correspondence.

But a too rigid application of biological principles lands one in error.
Society is more than a mere biological group, and no reasoning that
proceeds on the assumption that it is no more than that can avoid
confusion. And we certainly cannot square the facts with a theory which
treats the human organism as passive under the operation of
environmental forces. The conviction that man plays a positive part in
life is general, powerful, and, I think, justifiable. But if what _I_ do
is at any time the product of the environmental forces, physical and
other, there does not seem any room for _me_ as an active participant.
And the facts seem to demand that the individual should appear in some
capacity other than that of representing the total in an environmental
calculation. This would leave man with no other function than that of a
billiard ball pushed over a table by rival players. Given the force
exerted by the player, added to the size, weight, and position of the
ball, and the product of the combination gives us the correct answer.
But this kind of calculation will not do in the case of man. Here we
must allow, in addition to external influences, the positive action of
man on his surroundings. The conception of the organism as a plexus of
forces capable of this reaction is, indeed, vital to our conception of a
living being. Granted that in either case, that of the billiard ball and
that of the man, the result expresses the exact sum of all the forces
aiding at the time, there still remains an important distinction in the
two cases. Whether the billiard ball is struck by a professional player
or by an amateur, provided it be struck in a particular way the result
is in both cases identical. An identity of result is produced by an
identity of external conditions.

With the human organism--with, in fact, any organism--this rule does not
apply. In any two cases the external factors may be identical, but the
results may be entirely different. A temptation that leaves one
unaffected may prove overpowering with another. Exactly the same
conditions of food, occupation, residence, and social position may
co-exist with entirely different effects on the organism. These
differences will be manifested from the earliest years and are a direct
consequence of the positive reaction of the organism on its environment,
a reaction that is more profound in the case of man than in that of any
other animal.

To put the matter briefly. In the case of the billiard player the ball
remains a constant factor in a problem in which external conditions
represent a variant. In the case of man and his environment we are
dealing with two sets of factors, neither of which is constant and one
of which--the human one--varies enormously. And the reaction of man on
his environment becomes so great as to result in its practical

It may, of course, be urged that all this is covered and allowed for by
heredity. This may be so, but I am arguing against those who while
recognizing heredity fail to make adequate allowance for its operations.
Or it may be said that "environment" covers all forces, including
heredity. But in that case the distinction between organism and
environment is useless--in fact, it disappears. If, however, the
distinction between the two is retained, our theorizing must give full
appreciation to both. And in that case we must not fail to allow for the
transforming power of man over his surroundings. Nor must we overlook
another and a very vital fact, that in a large measure the environment
to which civilised mankind must adapt itself is largely a thing of human

Viewed as merely external circumstances, the physical environment of man
remains constant. At any rate, such changes as do take place occur with
such slowness that for generations we may safely deal with them as
unchanged. The dissipation of the heat of the earth may be a fact, but
no one takes this into account in dealing with the probabilities of
human life during the next few generations. On the other hand, the
organism represents the cumulative, and consequently, ever-changing
power of human nature, and it is this that gives us the central fact of
human civilization. Whether acquired characters be inherited or not may
be still an open question, but in any case there is no denying that
capacity is heritable, and natural selection will move along the line of
favouring the survival of that capacity which is most serviceable. And
how does increasing capacity express itself? It can do so only in the
direction of giving man a greater ability to control and mould to his
own uses the material environment in which he is placed. Looking at the
course of social evolution, we see this increased and increasing
capacity expressed in art, industries, inventions, etc., all of which
mean in effect a transformation of the material surroundings and their
subjugation to the needs of man. These inventions, etc., not only
involve a transformation of the existing environment; they also mean the
creating of a new environment for succeeding generations. Each
mechanical invention, for example, is dependent upon the inventions and
discoveries that have preceded it, and to that extent it is dependent
upon the environment. But each invention places a new power in the hands
of man, and so enables him to still further modify and control his
surroundings. Human heredity is thus expressed in capacity as
represented by a definite organic structure. This is one factor in the
phenomenon of social evolution. The other factor is the environment in
which the organism is placed and to which it responds. The two factors,
organism and environment, remain constant throughout the animal world.
It is when we come to deal with human society specifically, that we find
a radical change in the nature of the environment to be considered.
Granted that some influence must always be exerted by the purely
material conditions, the fact remains that they become relatively less
powerful with the advance of civilization. The development of
agriculture, the invention of weapons and tools, the discovery of the
nature of natural forces, all help to give the developing human a
greater measure of control over both the physical and organic portion of
his environment, and to manifest a measure of independence concerning

But the supreme and peculiar feature of human society is the creation of
a new medium to which the individual must adapt himself. By means of
language and writing the knowledge and experience gained by one
generation are transmitted to its successors. The human intellect
elaborates definite theories concerning the universe of which it forms a
part. These theories and beliefs form and fashion institutions that are
transmitted from generation to generation. Language stereotypes
tradition and slowly creates a literature. In this way a new medium is
created which is psychological in character, and ultimately dominates

When a dog is about to rest it often tramps round and round the spot on
which it is to recline. Naturalists explain this as the survival of an
instinct which in the wild dog served the useful function of guarding it
against the presence of harmful creatures hidden in the grass. The
domesticated dog is here exhibiting an instinct that belongs to a past
condition of life. But man has few instincts--fewer perhaps than any
other animal. In their stead he has a greater plasticity of nature, and
a more educable intelligence. And it is in the exercise of this educable
organization that the psychological medium as expressed in art,
literature, and inventions, plays its part for good and ill. So soon as
he is able to understand, the individual finds himself surrounded by
ideas concerning home, the State, the monarchy, the Church, and a
thousand and one other things. He is brought into relation with a vast
literature, and also with the play of myriads of minds similar to his
own. Henceforth, it is this environment with which he has chiefly to
reckon in terms of either harmony or conflict. He can no more escape it
than he can dispense with the atmosphere. It is part and parcel of
himself. Without it he ceases to be himself; for if we cut away from man
all that this psychological heredity gives him he ceases to be man as we
understand the term. He becomes a mere animated object.

Finally, we have to note that this psychological environment is
cumulative in character as being is all powerful in its influence. By
its own unceasing activity humanity is continually triumphing over the
difficulties of its material environment and adding to the complexity
and power of its mental one. Inevitably the environment thus becomes
more psychic in character and more powerful in its operations. We may
overcome the difficulties of climate, poor soil, geographical position,
etc., but it is impossible to ignore the great and growing pressure of
this past mental life of the race. It defies all attempts at material
coercion, and gradually transforms a material medium into what is
substantially a psychological one. Man cannot escape the domination of
his own mental life. Its unfettered exercise supplies the only freedom
he is capable of realising, as it constitutes the source of his
influence as a link in the causative process of determining his own
destiny and moulding that of his successors.


Transcriber's Note:

Minor punctuation errors have been corrected without note. Inconsistent
hyphenation has not been changed. In the plain-text version, decorative
italics have not been represented.

The following corrections were made to the text:

p. 17: contantly to constantly (constantly enlarging and more

p. 24: admiting to admitting (even while admitting)

p. 24: which which to with which (with which it is used)

p. 28 (Footnote 2): contraint to constraint (Freedom and constraint)

p. 30 (Footnote 3): acton to action (all volitional action)

p. 34: Maudesley to Maudsley (says Dr. Maudsley)

p. 41: missing "from" added (shall be expelled from our)

p. 58: occured to occurred (occurred in the past)

p. 86: absurdem to absurdum (argument _ad absurdum_)

p. 98: condiitons to conditions (certain conditions, circumstances)

p. 107: Hamiliton to Hamilton (Sir William Hamilton)


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