Humans Are No More Responsible For Their Behavior Than Is A Wooden Indian

Mike Conversation Continues
July, ‘82

“You’re saying quantum indeterminacy affects human behavior? I don’t
think so,” replied Mike. “Human history is written in blood and guts,
not decimals. It’s all about power relationships. If you don’t believe
me go ask the psychologists. For them environmental stimulus leads us
around by the nose. It’s the carrot/stick theory, and the toughest and
smartest get to perpetuate and survive. But, knowing you, if you’re
still unsure about determinism, go ask a Hindu about karma. In fact,
why not go right to the boss–Einstein. According to him causal laws
are responsible for everything, including human behavior.”

“Well, you have to admit that indeterminacy, on the quantum level at
least, makes it easier to believe in free will,” I said.

“So what,” replied Mike. “Indeterminism is mere chance; it’s not free
will! A nerve impulse that is not determined is no more than a random
jump. Call it what you will; but an inherited jumble of neurons caught
up in socially constructed relationships is nobody’s idea of a free
and independent will.

“If that’s true,” I said, “than how can anyone be held responsible
for their behavior?”

“That’s precisely what Clarence Darrow asked,” Mike responded. “He
believed man was no more responsible for his conduct than a wooden
Indian; and, he defended his clients based on that philosophy.
Was he successful—you bet! All you have to know is that we are waltzing
down the straight and narrow without a clue! That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but if you take it with whiskey, you’ll sleep better at night.”

“But what about moral judgments?” I said, “Is praise and blame really

“Look, I didn’t say I had all the answers,” replied Mike, “I’m not
God. If the old man can be found, go ask him.”

“To bad you didn’t read my paper,” I responded. “I’m not saying I
have all the answers, but my opinions are legion.”

“Go for it then,” Mike replied. “If you have the answers to
philosophy’s perennial questions then be my guest; have at it!”


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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