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take up in detail. We feel that though a perfect mechanical
fit for the rest of the universe, it is a bad moral fit, and
that something else would have been really better in its place.
But for the deterministic philosophy the murder, the sentence,
and the prisoner's optimism were all necessary from eternity;
and nothing else for a moment had a ghost of a chance of
being put into their place. To admit such a choice, the
determinists tell us, would be to make a suicide of reason ;^ so
we must steel our hearts against the thought. . . . (Yet)
Determinism in denying that anything else can be instead
of the murder, virtually defines the universe as a place in
which what ought to be is impossible:' (Op. cit. p. 61.) But it
is in the name of reason — in order to conceive the universe as
a rational whole— to satisfy the postulate of uniformity of
causation, that determinists deny free volition !

Merit and Desert— Closely related to the mental
states just discussed are the conceptions of merit smd
desert — notions embodied in all languages, and engrained
in the moral consciousness of mankind. When I have
struggled perseveringly against a difticult temptation,
or made some deliberate sacrifice in the cause of virtue,
I feel that my act is mentorioiis, that I have deserved a
reward. I may see no prospect throughout my life of
receiving the recompense. But I am none the less
assured that 1 have established a right to it, that such
a recompense is just. iVnd this I judge to be so because
I believe the act to have been free. For if not, even
though the ar '; had been far more painful to myself, and
far more useful to mankind, I deem that I have not
this claim. The good accomplished unwittingly or
involuntarily, however useful, is not meritorious on the

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402 RATIONAL LIFE.



part of the agent; praise or esteem which I may receive
for it I recognize in my heart to be undeserved.''^ Now
this judgment is primarily inward. It is a retrospective
sentence pronounced by my reason on my deliberate
actions — or rather on myself as exerting them. I do
not, as some determinists seem to imply, esteem these
acts because they are evidence to me of the valuable
character which I possess. The very reverse is often
conspicuously the case, as when the drunkard, striving
to reform, measures the merit of his painful resistance
by the very badness of that formed character which the
violence of his temptation reveals. Still less is the
sense of merit due to the experience that good actions
have been rewarded and evil acts punished in the past.
From a very early age the child shows, in its feeble
way, that it can clearly distinguish between deserved and
undeserved punishment. " I could not help it," is the
invariable excuse ; and when the child really believes that
this was the case, he is convinced that the punishment
is unjust. This same retrospective judgment as to the
merit or demerit of free action, and their absence from
actions similar in effects but involuntary in origin, is
confirmed by the general sense of mankind both cultured
and uncultured.

Retribution. — The truth is, the idea of moral retribution
is incompatible with Determinism. That theory is
compelled to maintain that the notion of the restitution
of violated fight order through expiatory suffering is a childish
delusion. Punishment is purely preventive. Praise
and blame are not Just awards for self-sacrifice in the
past, hut judicious incentives for anticipated /?/i'«f^ services.
Gratitude is, not in jest but in earnest, " a delicate
sense of favours to come." _

Responsibility. — For acts done by me with

3 Cf. G. L. Fonsegrive : " Quand on dit, en effet, qu'on a merite
une recompense ou une punition, on veut dire non pas seulement
que necessairement il resultera de I'acte accompli un plaisir ou une
douleur, mais qu'on s'est cree des droits soi-meme a ce plaisir ou a
cette douleur. Cela est si vrai que nous regarderions tons comma
injustes une recompense ou une punition qui seraient les conse-
quences d'une action accomplie par nous sans notre assentiment
int^rieur." {Essai sur U Libre Arbitre, p. 509.)



FREE-WILL AND DETERMINISM. 403



advertence to the fact that I was doin



Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 41 of 63)