Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 2:
There are no facts of psychology which justify the denial of freewill.
Not all medical men say that. Those who do may know their physiology, but they betray lamentable ignorance of psychology and philosophy. Brain cells are still brain cells, whether they are living or dead. If they are dead, they cannot make a man anything. If they are living, they owe it to a principle of life distinct from themselves. That principle of life is the rational soul of man. Brain cells do not produce thought. The intelligent soul produces thought, using the data provided by the brain as the central exchange recording sense-experiences in the various terminal faculties.It is quite true that the soul is "conditioned by" the body and by the brain, just as any worker by the quality of his instruments. And in this sense, inherited bodily characteristics or defective bodily qualities can affect a man's character to a great extent. But that does not justify the statement that brain cells make a man good or evil, as if there were no other principles at work in him. Then, too, men equally endowed with well-formed brain cells can employ their capacity in totally different directions, one devoting to a criminal career faculties which would have carried him to the top of the ladder in some honest profession; another devoting intellectual powers to good purposes despite the fact that he could have employed them in criminal pursuits. It is not always a question of heredity. Nor does heredity obey invariable laws.
There are those who are tainted by an out-of-date materialistic philosophy who like to think that we do not act according to our own deliberate choosing. And they ignore the facts, whilst the normal judgment of the human race is in full accordance with the facts. The most advanced scientists and physicists today are coming back to common sense. In his book, "The Mysteries of the Atom," 1934, Professor Wilson says that in the materialistic conception of the universe prevailing in the nineteenth century, freewill was thought to be impossible, but that the new physics have upset that materialistic conception. "The course of events," he writes, "is not determined by the laws of nature; these merely enable the probability of each possible event to be calculated." What, then, controls the conduct of a human being if natural laws do not? Professor Wilson replies, "The only answer to this question is that we do not know--unless the brain is controlled by spiritual forces not usually included in the physicist's scheme." And he points out that, on the new wave-particle theory of physics, there is always a choice of many possible events for a human being, and that such freedom of will involves no violation of natural law according to the new scientific conception of the universe.
We do not know the psychological make-up of other people to any great extent. They do not know it themselves. Man is ever a mystery, even to himself. And such faint indications of psychological make-up as we do possess do not enable us to know in advance what our friends will do or say. We have at best a more or less probable conjecture, and our friends are liable at any moment to do the most unexpected things.
We do not "know" the number of murders that will be committed next year. From statistics we can form a probable conjecture. But the conjecture as to what will happen is no proof whatever that it must happen, or that individuals who will commit murder will do so by psychological compulsion. If I know that a man has been working for the last four or five years at a given office, I can form a fairly good idea that he will travel there as usual tomorrow morning. But that does not prove that he cannot choose not to go there tomorrow morning. Nor does a conjecture as to the average number of crimes that will take place next year throw any light on the question of freedom of will, unless one can say which individuals will necessarily commit those crimes--and that cannot be done by any manner of means.
That is a sweeping and very unscientific assertion. That heredity and environment have an effect upon people to some extent no sensible person will deny. That they necessarily produce a certain type of character is against the facts. Man's reason enables him to perceive the evil character of certain instinctive tendencies, and to conjure up other ideas of his own dignity, personal worth, social standards, and moral values, which neutralize the force of original influences. And man's will enables him to make a free choice of an evil course of conduct, or of a good course of conduct. If heredity and environment determined one's conduct, children of the same family and brought up in the same environment should equally follow the same line of conduct. But they do not. From the most favorable heredity and environment criminals have developed, whilst people have risen above the most unfavorable heredity and environment to become splendid types, through encouragement to take themselves in hand, practice self-control, and to choose deliberately against inherited tendencies. I have met men of the utmost integrity whose brothers have been criminals; deeply religious people from thoroughly irreligious families; children of the same stock and circumstances who have chosen vastly different careers in life, and opposite standards of conduct. It is against the facts to say that heredity and environment determine character by sheer necessity.
You take for granted the very thing you must prove. The real difficulty arises for the determinist who attempts to cure a criminal who necessarily acts in a criminal way. You may urge that we can alter the factors that determine his conduct. Butthat he is determined by such factors supposes the thing you have to prove--that hehas no freewill. Granted freewill, attempts to cure the criminal are not excluded. Wecan try to alter the factors which influence without determining his conduct, and alsotry to induce a change of will on his own part. And a cure is much morelikely our principles than on the determinist hypothesis.
He would fail in a good many other cases, too. Moreover, with his denial ofpersonal responsibility, were his doctrine inculcated in children from their earliest years, he would find that the growing number of criminals would give him more than enough to do. It is significant that, with the driftage from Christian principles, there is becoming more and more evident an increase in crime. A merely secular education which rejoices the materialist far from preventing crime seems butto give it an impetus. In his report on juvenile delinquency to a select Government Committee in London last year, 1939, the appointed expert said, "I consider that a return to the old-fashioned type of religious instruction is essential. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I do honor them for making religious instruction a prime feature in the education of the children of their adherents. A good moral foundation predisposes a young person to eschew evil ways in later life. I would cut out all the fancy stuff in schools, expressionism, pseudo-psychological experimenting, and other foolish 'isms' and 'ologies,' which have no rightful place in a properly runeducational establishment." One of the "isms" which should be excludedfrom influence in education is psychological determinism.
I agree. But what are the causes? A mechanical deterministic philosophy will never reveal them. It would produce the greatest cause of all--a lack of sense of personal responsibility and of capability of self-management.
That is not true.I have never suggested that a criminal's evil conduct is solely his own fault in every case. Believers in freewill make due allowance for such factors as do diminish personal guilt. We certainly say that criminals do deserve punishment insofar as it is their own fault that they have committed crime. Thatis sensible. But to adopt the attitude of the determinist who denies freewill, and declares that no man is ever morally guilty of any evil he does, violates common sense and the sound principles of reason and observation.
No. I do not hold that the community would appoint no penalties for crime. I agree with Professor Joad's verdict that, if determinism is true, morality must lose its meaning. But, on their own principles, determinists would be determined to act as if determinism was not true, and as if morality was significant, just as they would have to be regarded as determined to think their determinism true when it isn't. That would be the only explanation of their moral indignation with wicked people who, if their theory were right, have no choice but to be wicked. But, if criminals could not escape with impunity, a deterministic philosophy, if adopted, would certainly tend to their multiplication. One is much more likely to develop reliable characters by teaching conscious and deliberate self-control with a sense of moral responsibility than by teaching that people are but the playthings of uncontrollable forces and inclinations. In his book, "The Threshold of Ethics," Dr. Kirk rightly says, "The habit of looking for automatisms, necessities, and compulsions, in our estimates of character, which is generated by the theory of determinism, is a habit which leads wholly in a non-moral direction. The more I treat myself as a plaything of irresistible forces, the more I shall tend to neglect self-criticism and self-discipline; and the less I shall resist the seductive temptations of self-pity, self-excuse, and self-justification."
If man be no more than a beast, your analogy might apply. But if man is no more than a beast, you must not be surprised if he behaves as a beast. However, man is not a mere animal. Nor is character merely a matter of bodily characteristics only. Some of the finest types of men have arisen from the most unimpressive parentage; and from the best stock defective types have resulted. Freewill is a fact, and a psychological factor in the development of character which cannot be ignored. And upon the use of man's freewill his eternal destiny will depend.