Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/459

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443
THE SEVEN WORLD-PROBLEMS.

of the impossible, unless God should bring it about designedly; for the whole world could not be so halved by a perpendicular plane bisecting the ass lengthwise that all should be equal on both sides. Neither the parts of the world nor those of the ass could be so laid out. "There would also always be many things within the ass and without him which, although we may not remark them, would eventually determine him to turn to one side or the other. Although man is free, which the ass is not, the case of a perfect balance of the motives for two determinations appears to be impossible in him also; and an angel, or God, would always be able to provide an occasion for the conclusion taken by the man, even though, on account of the far-reaching concatenation of causes, that occasion is often very complicated and incomprehensible to ourselves."

Leibnitz availed himself of his optimism to find a place in determinism for the responsibility of man and the righteousness of God. Carrying out a fiction of Laurentius Valla, he describes in his "Theodicy" how sad it was for Sextus Tarquinius to be obliged to commit offenses for which punishment could not be spared him. Many worlds were possible in which Tarquinius might have played a more or less respectable part, have lived happily, and even have died in honor, full of years and lamented; but God was constrained to create this world, in which Sextus Tarquinius should be a villain, because in his foresight it would be the best, and the good would be in it, on the whole, at the maximum.

Monism can not derive any benefit from this idea, which, though consistent with itself, is decidedly arbitrary and bears the stamp of the unreal, and it must seek for itself its own position with reference to the problem of free-will. When one has resolved to declare the subjective feeling of free-will a delusion, it is as easy to reconcile apparent freedom with necessity on monistic principles as by extreme dualism. The fatalists of all periods have found no difficulty in it; and the feeling that was described by Cicero may be disputed away by one possessing a moderate dialectic versatility. Even in dreams, we feel free, while the phantasms of our sense-substances are still playing with us. We know now, of many acts that are apparently performed deliberately because they seem to have a purpose, that they are the involuntary effects of certain arrangements of our nervous system, of the reflex mechanism, and of the so-called automatic nerve-centers. When we watch the flow of our thoughts, we soon remark how independently of our will fancies come, pictures shine out and are extinguished. Need our supposed willful acts really be much more voluntary? If, moreover, all our sensations, efforts, and conceptions are only the product of certain material processes in our brain, then the molecular movement with which the volition to raise the arm is connected and the material impulse that causes the raising of the arm in a purely mechanical manner correspond, and there is no obscurity about it.