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liberty cannot be where there is no thought, no volition, no will ; but there may be thought, there may be volition, there may be will, where there is no liberty. A little consideration of an obvious instance or two may make this clear.
“A tennis-ball, whether in motion by the stroke of a racket, or lying still at rest, is not by any one taken to be a free agent. inquire into the reason, we shall find it is because we conceive not a tennis-ball to think; and consequently not to have any volition, or preference of motion to rest, or vice versa ; and therefore has not liberty, is not a free agent, but both its motion and rest come under our idea of necessity, and are so called. Likewise a man falling into the water (a bridge breaking under him) has not herein liberty, is not a free agent. For though he has volition, though he prefers his not falling to falling, yet the forbearance of that motion not being in his power, the stop or cessation of that motion follows not upon his volition; and therefore therein he is not free. So a man striking himself or his friend by a convulsive motion of his arm, no body thinks he has in this liberty, every one pities him as acting by necessity and constraint.
Here I will just stop to observe that the
stanch sticklers for necessity, who make up by an excess of zeal for their want of knowledge, would read this passage with a smile of selfcomplacent contempt, and remark profoundly that whether the man struck his friend on purpose, or from a convulsive motion, he was equally under necessity, and the object of pity. Now whether he is an object of pity, 1 shall not dispute ; but I conceive he is also an object of anger in the one case which he is not in the other, because
prevent a man's striking you again, but will not cure him of St Vitus's dance. It is to this sort of indiscriminate, blind, senseless necessity which neutralizes all things and actions, and under the
pretence of establishing the operation of causes, destroys the distinction between the different degrees and kinds of necessity, to which I do not profess myself a convert.
To return.“ As it is in the motions of the body,” proceeds Mr Locke, so it is in the thoughts of our minds: where any one is such, that we have power to take it up or lay it by, according to the preference of the mind, there we are at liberty. Yet some ideas to the mind, like some motions to the body, are such as in certain circumstances it cannot avoid, nor obtain their absence by the utmost effort it can use.
A man on the rack is not at liberty to lay by the idea of pain, and divert himself with other contemplations. And sometimes a boisterous passion hurries our thoughts, as a hurricane does our bodies, without leaving us the liberty of thinking on other things which we would rather choose. But as soon as the mind regains the power to stop or continue, begin or forbear any of these motions of the body without, or of the mind within, according as it thinks fit to prefer either to the other, we then consider the man as free again.”
“ But freedom,” says my author, “unless it reaches farther than this, will not serve the turn; and it passes for a good plea that a man is not free at all, if he is not as free to will, as he is to act what he wills. Concerning a man's liberty, there yet therefore is raised this farther question, whether a man be free to will ? And as to that I imagine that a man in respect of willing, when any action in his power is once proposed to his thoughts as presently [that is, immediately] to be done, cannot be free. The reason whereof is very manifest; for it being unavoidable that the action depending on his will should exist or not exist, and its existence or non-existence following perfectly the determination of his will, he cannot avoid
willing the existence or non-existence of that action ; it is absolutely necessary that he will the one, or the other, i. e. prefer the one to the other, since one of them must necessarily follow.”—Page 246.
This seems to be the weak part of Mr Locke's reasoning, and is the only place, as I remember, where he has considered the certainty of the event as inconsistent with the practical liberty for which he contends. At this rate, it must be given up altogether: there can be no such thing as liberty. For in all cases whatever, one determination must happen rather than another. In all cases whatever, we must choose either one way or another, or suspend our choice. Suspense and deliberation, as Helvetius and others have justly remarked, are in this sense equally necessary with precipitation of judgment. The actual or final event is in both cases the necessary consequence of preceding causes, but that does not destroy freedom of choice in either case, if the event depends upon the exercise of choice, whether the time allowed for the mind to choose in, be longer or shorter. If by liberty be meant the uncertainty of the event, then liberty is a non-entity : but if it be supposed to relate to the concurrence of certain powers of an agent in the production of that
event, then it is as true and as real a thing as the necessity to which it is thus opposed, and which consists in the exclusion of certain powers possessed by an agent from operating in the producing of any event. At the same time it must be granted, that the power of deliberation is the most valuable privilege of our rational nature, and the great enlargement of the discursive faculty of the will.
Mr Locke seems only to have erred in mistaking a difference of degree or extent for one of kind. The practical truth of the distinction is undeniable. His words are:
“ The mind having in most cases, as is evident from experience, a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires, and so all, one after another, is at liberty to consider the objects of them, examine them on all sides, and weigh them with others. In this lies the liberty man has; and from the not using of it right comes all that variety of mistakes, errors, and faults, which we run into in the conduct of our lives, and our endeavours after happiness : whilst we precipitate the determination of our wills, and engage too soon before due examination. For during the suspension of any desire, before the will be determined to action, we have an opportunity