all such cases the conception of freedom is increased or diminished, and that of necessity correspondingly diminished or increased, according to the point of view from which the action is regarded. So that the more necessity is seen in it the less freedom. And vice versa.

Religion, the common-sense of humanity, the science of law, and history itself understand this relation between necessity and free will.

All cases, without exception, in which our conception of free will and necessity varies depend on three considerations:

1. The relation of the man committing the act to the external world.

2. His relation to time.

3. His relation to the causes leading to the act.

In the first case the variation depends on the degree to which we see the man’s relation to the external world, on the more or less clear idea we form of the definite position occupied by the man in relation to everything co-existing with him. It is this class of considerations that makes it obvious to us that the drowning man is less free and more subject to necessity than a man standing on dry ground; and that makes the actions of a man living in close connection with other people in a thickly populated district, bound by ties of family, official duties, or business undertaking, seem undoubtedly less free than those of a man living in solitude and seclusion.

If we examine a man alone, apart from his relations to everything around him, every action of his seems free to us. But if we see any relation of his to anything surrounding, if we perceive any connection between him and anything else, a man speaking to him, a book read by him, the work he is employed in, even the air he breathes, or the light that falls on the objects around him, we perceive that every one of those circumstances has its influence on him, and controls at least one side of his activity. And the more we perceive of those influences, the smaller the idea we form of his freedom, and the greater our conception of the necessity to which he is subject.

2. The second cause of variation is due to the degree of distinctness with which the man’s position in time is perceived, the clearness of the notion formed by us of the place the man’s action fills in time. It is owing to this class of considerations that the fall of the first man, leading to the origin of the human race, seems to us obviously less free than the marriage of any one of our contemporaries. It is owing to this class of considerations that the life and acts of men who lived years ago cannot seem to me as free as the life of my contemporaries, the consequences of whose acts are still unknown to me.

The variation in our conception of free will in this connection depends on the interval of time that has elapsed between the action and our criticism of it.

If I examine an act I have committed a moment ago in approximately the same circumstances as I am placed in now, my act appears to me indubitably free. But if I examine an act I have committed a month ago, then being placed in other circumstances, I cannot help recognising that had not that act been committed, much that is good and agreeable, and even inevitable, resulting from that act, could not have taken place. If I reflect on a still more remote action, performed ten years or more ago, the consequences of my act are even plainer to me, and it will be difficult for me to conceive what would have happened if that action had not taken place. The further back I go in my reminiscences, or what is the same thing, the further forward in my criticism of them, the more doubtful becomes my view of the freedom of my action.

We find precisely the same ratio of variation in our views of the element of free will in the general affairs of men in history. A contemporary event we conceive of as undoubtedly the doing of all the men we know of concerned in it. But with a more remote event, we see its inevitable consequences, which prevent

  By PanEris using Melati.

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