action of his depends on his organisation, on his character, and the motives acting on him. But man never submits to the deductions of these experiments and arguments.

Learning from experience and from reasoning that a stone falls to the ground, a man unhesitatingly believes this; and in all cases expects the law he has learnt to be carried out.

But learning just as incontestably that his will is subject to laws, he does not, and cannot, believe it.

However often experience and reasoning show a man that in the same circumstances, with the same character, he does the same thing as before, yet on being led the thousandth time in the same circumstances, with the same character, to an action that always ends in the same way, he feels just as unhesitatingly convinced that he can act as he chooses, as ever. Every man, savage and sage alike, however incontestably reason and experience may prove to him that it is impossible to imagine two different courses of action under precisely the same circumstances, yet feels that without this meaningless conception (which constitutes the essence of freedom) he cannot conceive of life. He feels that however impossible it may be, it is so; seeing that, without that conception of freedom, he would be not only unable to understand life, but could not live for a single instant.

He could not live because all men’s instincts, all their impulses in life, are only efforts to increase their freedom. Wealth and poverty, health and disease, culture and ignorance, labour and leisure, repletion and hunger, virtue and vice, are all only terms for greater or less degrees of freedom.

To conceive a man having no freedom is impossible except as a man deprived of life.

If the idea of freedom appears to the reason a meaningless contradiction, like the possibility of doing two actions at a single moment of time, or the possibility of an effect without a cause, that only proves that consciousness is not subject to reason.

That unwavering, irrefutable consciousness of freedom, not influenced by experience and argument, recognised by all thinkers, and felt by all men without exception, that consciousness without which no conception of man is reliable, constitutes the other side of the question.

Man is the creation of an Almighty, All-good, and All-wise God. What is sin, the conception of which follows from man’s consciousness of freedom? That is the question of theology.

Men’s actions are subject to general and invariable laws, expressed in statistics. What is man’s responsibility to society, the conception of which follows from his consciousness of freedom? That is the question of jurisprudence.

A man’s actions follow from his innate character and the motives acting on him. What is conscience and the sense of right and wrong in action that follows from the consciousness of freedom? That is the question of ethics.

Man in connection with the general life of humanity is conceived as governed by the laws that determine that life. But the same man, apart from that connection, is conceived of as free. How is the past life of nations and of humanity to be regarded—as the product of the free or not free action of men? That is the question of history.

Only in our conceited age of the popularisation of knowledge, thanks to the most powerful weapon of ignorance—the diffusion of printed matter—the question of the freedom of the will has been put on a level, on which it can no longer be the same question. In our day the majority of so-called advanced people—that is, a mob of ignoramuses—have accepted the result of the researches of natural science, which is occupied with one side only of the question, for the solution of the whole question.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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