Thought and Man
According to Holbach, humans have no control whatsoever, no matter how much said humans believe they do. He explains that free will is a construct of the human mind and that all of our choices are determined by desire and necessity. Even when a mad man sticks his hand in a fire, he is acting on some sort of greater desire to impress upon his counterparts or for his own self-betterment. In his opening deposition he states that man is connected to universal nature and submitted to the necessary and immutable laws she imposes on all beings.
This is interesting because many arguments that are connected to the idea of determinism and free will are linked to the existence of God or another omniscient power. This is one of the only well explained arguments against the belief of free will that doesn’t lend itself to imposing personal religion onto the reader/scholar studying the work. The examples provided by Holbach are wide and well prepared to lend significance to his argument.
He starts off talking of a man tormented by a violent thirst, if said man is shown water he will automatically want to drink it, as it is an inherent need for that water to live. He will however falter and think about not drinking the water if someone were to tell him it were poisoned. Holbach covers any conflicting thoughts to this situation by saying that a mad man may very well still drink of the poisoned water. He is not acting of his own free will as the actions of fools are as necessary as those of the most prudent individual almost set to be counteractions that hold the world in balance.
Holbach continues on saying that the actions of man are never free. Man acts selfishly in every action he partakes in, he does make fairly educated decisions over what he must do though as he bases all his decisions on opinions, received ideas, consequences of his temperament that point to his own happiness. As we said in class about the door holding situation, you may not want to hold a door open for someone that is following behind you about three steps.
It only takes a second out of your day, but the initial thought of any person opening the door first, is what will this person do for me if I hold the door for them? Even if the person didn’t think what will I get now, there’s the inherent belief of karma and the repercussions that will befall either the opener or the person the door is being opened for. Even as we are given apparent choices in our every day lives, such as whether or not to hold open a door for someone or to drink poisoned water or not, but even these observed choices don’t mean e have freedom. We are constantly in pursuit of our own happiness and success over anyone else’s. We strive to make ourselves appear better than those around us. A hero rushing into a burning building is acting on the same choices the coward does, he takes the foolhardy choice however because his desire to be viewed as a hero outweighs, in his mind, his personal safety. Holbach continues on his discussion to say there is no difference between a man who jumps from a building and the man who is pushed from a building.
Both men are acting on the same choices, whether to fall or not, although the second man’s ability to act on the choice not to fall is directly correlated to how hard he is pushed or thrown from the building. The first man may be leaping of his own volition and may not scramble to grab on to anything that will slow or stop his apparent demise. The second man will probably be making his own choices once he’s air born by doing just that, grabbing onto anything in his path as he falls and screaming his lungs out.
The man who holds his hand in a fire as a symbol of bravery and strength of his people has his choices over whether or not to be in the fire. He however does it to make his people look stronger, striking fear or adoration into the hearts of his enemies. Once you recognize he’s doing this for the betterment of his people or of himself we can begin to realize just what Holbach is trying to say, that no matter what choices we are faced with, we will almost always, without regard for the other choice, do what’s best for us and us alone.
A choice that is apparent in this present time is the out striking of suicide bombers. These people have a choice of either blowing themselves up or not. The problem is that when these people are Middle Eastern they are usually promised 72 virgins when they reach their promised land. That’s a pretty weighty option and most guys would kill for that, quite literally in the sense of this discussion. Once you give rewards to outlandish behavior you’re setting up the world for destruction.
It changes the morality issue most people argue with on if something is good or evil by replacing it with hey, it may be not good, but I get all this cool stuff if I do it! The preceding argument only works with male suicide bombers however as I know a lot of girls who wouldn’t enjoy having 72 virgins in the afterlife. The men definitely get the better end of the deal. It makes one wonder what the mentality of the female bombers is, do they get something better in the afterlife too for going along with this ‘decision’? r is the act of the suicide bomber in the female’s eyes actually a choice and not something done for the betterment of herself except for the fact that it makes her apparently an equal to the men in her country. That answers my own disbelief over their choices. Most women in the Middle East are not allowed to show any skin, let alone do much for themselves while in their own homelands. If they are given an opportunity to become seen as an individual in her countrymen’s eyes, of course she will take it. Even when it calls for giving one’s life for the apparent greater good.
Even when trying to come up with an objection to Holbach’s view, I couldn’t come up with anything substantial to hold against it, the more I tried to fight against his discussion, the more I saw he is correct. Humans are inherently selfish and will always do what’s best for themselves over anything for the greater good. Man has no control over his decisions, he may like to think he does, but when you look back on every decision we’ve ever made in our lives we see that our choices were more often than not, done out of selfish reasons.
Few people can go out into the world giving themselves selflessly and without thought. Even if we try to make the conscious effort to do something good for someone every day, that’s only one out of a million choices we make every day. I’m guilty of holding the door for someone following a few steps behind me but I get irritated when they don’t say thank you to me as they pass by, and I do think that Karma will treat me well later in my day and life for every time I do take the time to hold a door for someone, or pick up a pencil someone has dropped, or any other source of everyday happenings.