Robert Blatchford in his essay “Not Guilty” maintains that the existence or nonexistence of a free choice is the point that free will discussion triggers. He acknowledged that people make choices but wondered the motive behind those choices. In his arguments, he emphasized that the will to choose is not free rather it is governed by both heredity and environment.
His appeal is on behalf of not just the unsuccessful and downtrodden but of the criminal and degraded classes and a condemnation of what passes for ‘justice’, divine and human. He defended his subjects on the ground that they are helpless casualties of heredity and environment, whose bully instincts have further been bullied by the atrocious circumstances under which they have been raised.
Robert Blatchford used several examples to support his arguments. The most notable example was a rabbit stopping on the path of a marksman at target practice. He argued that if the marksman was a sportsman, he would shoot the rabbit but a humanitarian would rather not shoot. The reason the two make different choices is their conscious with which they were born with or inherited and what they have learnt in life.
Another similar example is about alcoholism. He argued that the one inclined to alcoholism does not choose to drink but the mind repeats and acts through instinct. Therefore, he denies the right of the society to denounce and punish those who could be the outcomes of such circumstances. Man can make choices but the choices are governed by heredity and environment or what has been learnt and conscious that he was born with rather than divine power or the willingness to choose.
Apparently, determinism argued by Robert Blatchford is an excuse for the bad man. It in fact inflicts upon the ethics to wittiness that of reconciling the strict determination of every occurrence with the moral demand that it shall, nonetheless be possible to shatter the bondage of circumstance in order to choose the right. Therefore, Blatchford’s arguments clearly have abundant plausibility and precedents.
The scene of human recklessness, misery and crime is so harrowing that only few intellectuals can tolerate to criticize and examine ideas that promise an extensive alleviation of the burden of human beings. The main source of human suffering is not social, that means it is neither an outcome of his imperfect control of his nature nor of the imperfect development of his social empathies and the resulting inhumanity.
Rather, it stems from the inadequate control of the forces of nature and can be eliminated by the steady growth of the knowledge. In making allowances for the casualties of unfavorable circumstances, we need to seek support and not to give in to their powers of resistance. Therefore, we should preach freedom rather than fatalism and effort instead of submission.
Karma and freedom
According to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, freedom of will is that which emerges when an individual does not surrender to the past karmas, but chooses to mould the future in his own way rather than suffering from the past. To him, self determination is not a freedom because our actions are controlled by the law.
These actions make us be associated with creative power which is proportional to its insistence and sincerity. The principle of karma asserts that an individual will get return depending on the energy invested in it. Nature per se responds to the demands of self and thus an individual has to utilize his whole nature. Freedom is connected to the past and is restricted or controlled by past karmas.
Although the self is bound to determinism, it can influence past to certain level and turn it to a new future. Life is not restricted but a growth which is defined as ‘undetermined in a measure’. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan takes past karmas as ‘measure’ and growth is defined as ‘undetermined’ because it relies on the choice of an individual. This circumstance is well explained with the help of a simile of playing cards. In a game of bridge, the cards are given to players rather than the players selecting them.
The cards are drawn from the past karma but players are free to make calls as they think fit. They are only limited by the rules of the game. They are freer when the game begins than later when it has developed and the choices become limited. But there is always a choice until the game ends. It can then be concluded that individuals have freedom of choice but not total freedom.
However, it can also be argued that individuals can be free from the past and do not need to subjugate it. This can be explained through the metaphor of a working employee. Initially, the employee choices are limited due to inexperience and are completely bound to this limitation.
But as he gains more experience, he or she becomes freer to choose whatever task to complete. Indeed, when there are prospects for future training and development his or her choices become unlimited irrespective of the self nature. In this case, the freedom to choose depends on the future rather than past karma. It can then be concluded that individuals can have absolute freedom if they want to.