Not Guilty Essay
Robert Blatchford’s (1913) argued that the “point” that the free will discussion turns on is whether or not man has a free choice. He noted that people do choose, but questioned what drives choice. The main point of his argument was “that the will is not free; and that it is ruled by heredity and environment” (p.403). He stated several examples to this effect. One such example was a marksman at target practice when a rabbit stops in his path. The sportsman would shoot the rabbit, Blatchford argued, while the humanitarian would not. They make these choices because of the conscious that they have (which they were born with, or their heredity) and the things that they had been taught in their life (their environment), not because they had the will to choose one way or the other (p.403-4). He provides similar examples, one being of an alcoholic. Blatchford claimed that the alcoholic cannot choose to not drink because “the mind instinctively repeat[s] and action, but, in the case of a drink, a physical craving is set up, and the brain is weakened…and it is very much harder for a man to keep sober who has frequently got drunk” (p - Not Guilty Essay introduction. 405).
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Blatchford ultimately concludes that we should not blame someone for his or her conduct because the free will does not exist. While people can and do make choices, the choices are ruled by their heredity and environment, not a voice from God, not the willingness to do one over the other, but from what has been taught, learned, and the conscious that one was born with.
Blatchford, R. 1913. Not Guilty. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, Inc. pgs. 402-406.