Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Am I completely determined by my genes and my environment?

This paper was originally written as the answer to Assignment 5(c) for my Diploma in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy. (It represented 1/80th of the course requirement). As usual, all of the illustrations have been deleted by Blogger, and I do not have time to scan each of them in and reload them. Therefore, if these illustrations are important to you, please email me - at, and I will send you the original article in Word format, with the illustrations included.

Question 3: To what extent would I agree with the proposition that my life is totally determined by human evolutionary development and the environment?

This may seem like a simple question, but it has caused me an enormous amount of thinking, research and creative intellectual effort. With the benefit of hindsight, now that I have answered the question fully, I can summarize my answer in just a few statements, as follows: I do not agree to any extent that my life is totally determined by evolutionary and environmental factors. I do however think that I have areas of freedom of expression and action, which vary in degree from situation to situation. The most eliminative materialistic biological scientist cannot (apparently) ever eliminate all potential “hiding places” for free will within the human psyche. On the other hand, philosophy can never – it seems – demonstrate conclusively that free will exists. There are certain things I can control and certain things I can’t. I am, ultimately, constrained by my genotype and my environment – but I (the thinking, feeling, acting Jim) am substantially determined by myself, my will, my goals, my intellect, and my self-education, especially my self-training in creative thinking.

I would not want to exaggerate the degree of freedom I experience, but neither would I want to exaggerate the extent to which I am constrained. My degree of freedom varies enormously: from very little, in those situations where I am controlled by a simple reflex action (such as sneezing); to very considerable in areas of self-expression, such as thinking, communicating, artwork, and so on. Most of my other behaviours fall on a continuum somewhere between those two extremes. Given a choice between having to exaggerate the degree to which I am determined, or the degree to which I am free, I would prefer to over-estimate my scope for freedom than to under-estimate it and thus miss an opportunity for self-actualization! This is based on my own creative insight into one of the paradoxes in Epictetus’s view that “there are certain things we can control and certain things we can’t”. In my experience, it often (or even normally) proves to be the case that we cannot tell in advance which things we will prove to be able to control and which will prove to be beyond our control! Therefore it makes sense for me to assume that I am free to take any particular action for which I do not have substantial counter-indicative evidence. And I normally persist, persist, persist with any chosen course of action until such time as I have collected irrefutable evidence that this particular avenue or road is closed to me, at this point in time. (Of course, I do not persist in the sense of bashing my head against a brick wall. I persist intelligently; by moving along the wall, pushing and probing, in an effort to find a doorway to my goals).


1. Introduction
The origin of the proposition in this question - that I am totally determined by my genes and my environment - is normally attributed to Pierre-Simon, whose feudal title was “Marquis de Laplace”. Laplace considered that the future is totally determined by the past, down to the minutest detail. And modern “physicalist materialists” still see the human brain as a wholly determined mechanism. Do I agree that I am so determined? The short answer to this question is quite simple. I do not feel like a totally determined being. It seems like most of my behaviour is habit-based, unconscious and automatic, most of the time. But it seems to me that I can, and do, from time to time, stop, reflect upon my situation, and decide to change some aspect of my environment or even some aspect of my “self” – not easily or effortlessly, but certainly potentially, and often actually. In other words, I seem to have a capacity (however limited) to think, and to choose, which can take me outside of my “inherited destiny”, in both the social and biological senses. The problem is verifying that this is anything other than a subjective fantasy.

The question of free will and determinism is considered by Bell (2002), who states, inter alia, that: “unlike in physics where it is generally agreed that the world follows more or less lawful, and hence determined, and determinable, paths, the world that psychologists study is not quite so straightforward. At least to some extent, human beings are often considered to be self-determining in a way that, for example, a tree or a volcano is not”.

Of course, the idea that humans have free choice is commonly supported by most modern philosophers, most major religions, and most state systems: “Most of the philosophers who have discussed the issue of free will and determinism have supported the common-sense view that only in unusual circumstances, such as cases of extreme mental illness or coercion, are we unfree”. Thus spoke Edward Erwin, who also pointed out that Schopenhauer is an exception, in that he thought a human had about as much free will as a body of water which was conscious of its movements, in which scenario the water would “think” it was causing its own movements, deciding to ebb and flow, go this way and that, whereas in fact water is moved around by external forces: gravity, vibrations, winds, land surface contours, etc. But Schopenhauer was not alone. Spinoza considered that “if a falling stone were conscious, it would believe that it fell of its own free will”. However, I, as a subjective, sensing being, can distinguish between the experience of choosing to have fattening potato chips or relatively healthier salad with my fish supper, on the one hand, and unintentionally slipping on ice, on the other. I don’t foolishly think, like the stone or the water, “Oh look! I’m choosing to slip on this ice!”

And again, there are modern philosophers who are in the reductionist, physicalist-materialist tradition of the physicists, who think that all phenomena must be understood and explained in terms of cause and effect at the level of particles and physical relations. One example would be Searle (1991), who states this explicitly. But I maintain that this is a confusion of “levels of explanation”. If I wanted to work scientifically on the ballistics of rock throwing, I would throw individual rocks into the air and somehow plot the curves created by their trajectories, all of which would be explicable in terms of Newtonian physics. However, in investigating the behaviour of birds, if I started throwing blackbirds into the air to see how they behaved, I would be using the wrong tools if I turned to Newton. Even chemistry and biology would not be adequate tools for such a task. And the trajectory of the ascending birds could not be predicted from one throw to the next! Levels of explanation! How much more important it seems to be to get the level of explanation correct when talking about the complex thinking/ feeling/ behaving of a human being.

I have said that I think I have free will, because it feels as if I do. Nevertheless, though I think I have some degree of free will, I also think that the popularity of the idea of “free will” may be largely due to the historical influences of churches and states, which wanted, and still want, to hold individuals to account for their conventionally bad actions. This argument can be verified by reviewing the history of the Karaite Jewish sect, an anti-Talmudic, biblical sect which denied causality in all areas unless it was causation by God – with the one exception of human actions. “This inconsistency on the part of the theologians was necessitated by the principle of justice, for it would be unjust to punish a man for a murder that was a result not of his action but of God’s”. As I was raised as a Catholic, I may well have been strongly imbued with this ideology.

One of the secular forms of the argument in favour of free will began, as far as I can tell, in German Idealism, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and thence found its way into European Existentialism: mainly through Heidegger, who saw humans as self-creating or self-shaping projects and possibilities; and later through Sartre, who saw humans as “condemned to freedom”. Sartre’s view was that “…the person that any individual eventually becomes is the end-product of a … wilful – free – act”. “Sartre’s views on the question of whether or not we are free are really not that complicated at all”, says Bell. Human behaviour is seen as being “Unlike the stereotyped behaviour of the greylag goose” – which always rolls its eggs in the same way to retrieve them if they roll away from the nest. This is seen as “a hard-wired instinctive and mechanical behavioural response to the environment”. (Page 25). On the other hand, “…human beings would seem to have much more choice in terms of how they behave. Because of our mental capacities, we are able to plan ahead, to work towards projects of our own design, to create. In fact, Sartre insists, we are capable of making real choices concerning what we ‘make of ourselves’.” (Bell, 2002, pages 30-31).

The Stoic philosophers, on the other hand, did not rate our “freedom” highly. They had an image of a dog tied behind a chariot as their metaphor for a human life, in relation to its external circumstances. Everywhere the chariot goes, the individual is forced to follow. And everywhere Providence and destiny send us, we have to go. The only choice, according to this scenario, is for the individual (dog) to cooperate with, or resist, the pull of destiny (or Providence). They can preserve their dignity by “going with the flow”, or they can resist, lose dignity, and get sore paws – and still get to have the experience of going where the charioteer goes. Human freedom, for the Stoics, consisted in the capacity to distinguish between what can be controlled and what cannot be controlled, and to always choose to try to control the controllable, and to let the uncontrollable be - (Epictetus). But it is worth noting in passing that Epictetus was convinced that one of the things that humans could control was their own will. That is to say, their will is not externally controlled. It may be constrained, or shaped, or influenced. But it is not ultimately controlled, in this view. In modern parlance we might say that the will is not determined by heredity or environment, but is free. Or as Epictetus said: “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do (to achieve that)”. However, beyond training the will, the Stoics recognized that most things are beyond our control. Or as Epictetus expressed it: “Two rules we should always have ready, - that there is nothing good or evil save in the will; and that we are not to lead events, but to follow them”. (This seems to be the basis of Frankl’s form of existentialism, which reserves to the individual the ultimate freedom to define the meaning of what is happening to them). In other words, while I can train my will to be strong and free, I cannot train nature, nor much of my external environment, to accord with my wishes.

The humanistic psychologists, unlike the behaviourists, and definitely more so than the Stoics, believe we do have free will. They think “we actively shape our environment, as well as being shaped by it”. However, as Cullis et al (1999) point out, these are abstract ideas which are difficult to verify.

This debate, between determinism and indeterminism, can be traced back to Ancient Greece, as well as to the various sects of Judaism and Islam. For example, Epicurus, while being a Materialist, also believed that atoms were subject to “chance swerves”, which accounted for the phenomenon of “free will”. Democritus, on the other hand, was a strict determinist. The central issue contested by both groups is the question of choice. Determinists deny that humans have any choice, or free will; while indeterminists insist that we do.

On the basis of the foregoing preliminary review, it is far from clear how I can reconcile my sense of being significantly free, and the arguments that claim that I am not. Thus there is a clear need for a longer, more analytical answer. It seems to me that this question calls for a review of the debate on free will versus determinism, in the context of the views of Watson and Skinner. (Pavlov is irrelevant here as he only dealt with the inborn reflexes of dogs, which are wholly determined by nature, and, although susceptible to conditioning, are not subject to free choice or conscious selection. Pavlov’s view therefore seems to contain only the instinctive and the learned, and only in “lower animals”, which do not have the thinking capacities of humans). Watson and Skinner deal with all of our learned (or conditioned) behaviours in a way which – especially in Watson’s case - quite definitely rules out free will for humans. Skinnerian behaviourists studiously “avoid all theoretical speculation involving unobservables”! And Skinner “regarded a self as a repertoire of behaviour appropriate to a given set of reinforcement contingencies”. Thus even for Skinnerians, I cannot be said to have a “mind” or “consciousness”. But since Watson and Skinner make claims about the shaping of human behaviour, I’d better review their theories. Developmental psychology also seems to emphasize the role of interaction between my nature and my nurture in shaping my development. (Lewis, 1996). And social psychology, and especially sociological social psychology, also would see me as being a product of my social culture, or the social “discourses” which shape my consciousness. Furthermore, “Freud wrote about unconscious desires as opposed to free will driving my behaviour”, according to Bell (2002). (But Bell is here ignoring Freud’s therapeutic attempts to replace the unconscious id with the conscious ego. Thus I can, theoretically at least, become relatively free of my unconscious urges by developing my “ego” [or “Adult ego state”, in Berne’s language]).

Clearly there is much ground to cover if I am to comprehensively and systematically review the relevant theories and perspectives on the question of free will and determinism.

2. Watson’s Scientific Behaviourism
Watson saw psychology as the study of behaviour, and also “…as a purely objective experimental branch of natural science”. (Nelson-Jones, page 248). Behaviouristic determinists see this as implying that there is no possibility of free will, since things cannot be both totally determined by the environment and/or heredity and also, at the same time, free. This is discussed in some detail in Erwin (1997), who concludes that ‘compatibilism’ is the way out – the idea that in an otherwise wholly deterministic world, the one exception is human will. (However, the compatabilist position has been attacked from a standpoint of ‘incompatibilism’, but there are weaknesses in the incompatibilist position also. Thus, in the world of philosophy, the question of free will versus determinism appears to be “presently unresolvable”).

Watson rules out the existence, or significance, of attitudes, beliefs, values and consciousness. (Nelson-Jones, 2001, page 248). “Watson (also) took the brain to be just one inner part among others of equal importance: ‘the behaviourist [places] no more emphasis on the brain and the spinal cord than upon the striped muscles of the body, the plain muscles of the stomach, [and] the glands’ (Watson, 1930, p49)”. This is clearly very unwise, since I could lose my biceps and triceps, and still be able to plan my holidays, but I could hardly manipulate my bucket and spade with intact arm muscles and a dead brain! Hence I would be well advised to value my brain above my arm muscles, and see my brain as determining more of my individuality than my muscles do! Watson, however, failed to distinguish between high level and low level behaviours of the human organism. Watson goes on to say that “…the behaviour of animals and the behaviour of man must be considered on the same plane…” I do not agree. Humans have knowledges, skills and attitudes which are unavailable to any other life form known to us. This is only possible because humans have something which most other animals have little or none of – the large neo-cortex, or frontal lobes, which facilitate conscious reasoning. (Non-human primates have some neo-cortex, but not sufficient to facilitate the generation of languaging as an evolved skill, in isolation from humans, in their natural habitats).

Because of this relatively unemotional thinking capacity, which seems to be available solely, or almost exclusively, to humans, I will argue that the human brain is unlike most other phenomena studied by scientists – (and I mean scient-ists, not ‘science’. In other words, I have in mind individual humans ‘doing stuff with stuff’; or ‘blokes and birds trying to make sense of stuff’. Not ‘sci-ence’. ‘Science’ cannot investigate anything. ‘Science’, as far as I can tell, is an imperfect activity carried out by fallible individuals who have a priori philosophies, hopes and expectations of their work! And who have to interpret the results of their experiments, with all the fallible error-proneness that that interpretation implies. So they are just like you and me, but often dress in lab coats!) Eighteen-hundred years before Watson, it seems that Epictetus - without the benefit of our understanding of brain structures - could clearly see that individual humans can train, or condition themselves – independently of any outside agency. Thus he taught that: “Every habit and faculty is preserved and increased by correspondent actions, - as the habit of walking, by walking; of running, by running”. And again: “Whatever you would make habitual, practice it; and if you would not make a thing habitual, do not practise it, but habituate yourself to something else”. We will see later that even Pribram’s monkey “understood”, or at least “possessed”, this freedom! And Bandura (1993, 1986), ascribes to humans the facility of “agency”, or self-directedness, based upon our “self-regulatory mechanisms” of mind, by which we make “causal contributions to our own motivation and actions”. His work on “participant modelling” and phobic disorders produced “evidence indicating that changes in behaviour and fear arousal are mediated largely through self-percepts of efficacy”. He went on to study how “self-referent thought mediates action and affective arousal”.

3. Stimulus, response and conditioning
Nelson-Jones summarizes the Watsonian Behaviourist view as follows: “Both human and animal adjust themselves to their environments by means of heredity and habit equipments”. (This ignores our “thinking equipment”! Our thinking equipment allows us to “think outside the box” of past conditioning and genetic coding!) “Through the process of evolution humans have developed sense organs, such as the eye, skin and viscera, which are most sensitive to differing kinds of stimuli”. This ignores again the neo-cortex, and the ways in which it interacts with the emotional centres of the brain, to create the possibility of novel reactions or responses. Viscera are entrails; but entrails probably developed after ganglia [primitive brains] in simple organisms at the start of the evolution of life on Earth. This seems to me to suggest that Watson was prejudiced against the brain – not just resistant towards ideas of consciousness. After all, the eye, skin and viscera are not sensitive to any kind of stimulus in the absence of the brain (or ganglion) to which they are connected. (However, my view of Watson’s “prejudice” is not supported by a reading of Toates and Slack (1990), who say: “Like Freud, Watson saw the role of a science of psychology as that of providing an account of behaviour, and one that would neatly map onto an understanding of how the brain works”). (However, as I showed in answer to Question 1, above, Watson’s view of what goes on in the brain of a “conditioned” animal was mistaken. His hypothesis of “strengthening pathways” proved to be false).

My own view (and that of Tolman, of the cognitive school of psychologists) is that there is not a one-to-one correlation between stimulus and response in any and all situations. This may commonly happen, or frequently happen, but humans are not mechanisms – they are rather organisms, and as such they differ radically from Meccano levers and switches. In particular, because of the fragmented nature of the human psyche – id, ego, superego (Freud); or Parent, Adult and Child ego states (Berne); or Rational, Irrational and Indifferent attitudes/Beliefs (Ellis/Buddha); or conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious schemas (Byrne, 2002) ; - there seems to me to be a strong likelihood that ideas in memory can mutate and evolve in ways which are not entirely or evenly mainly caused by external events (such as ideological conditioning or discourse engagement) or biological inheritance. This is often, in fact, caused by the processes of thinking about contradictions and contrasts. I am not claiming that Piaget’s concept of “equilibration of schemes” is valid. I suspect it is not, as was claimed by Lunzer (1986). But Lunzer goes on to say that “…the emergence of new forms of cognition and problem solution owe a great deal to an innate drive for consistency. I know of no alternative to the meta-theory which accords to the infant right from the start certain innate logical functions, including the recognition of sameness (but not of equality), of negation, of variation and comparison, and of the rejection of contradiction (cf. Piaget, Grize, Szeminska and Bang, 1968)”. That is to say, the mind of the child has some innate qualities which allow the child to work on the products of its experience in an individual, idiosyncratic way, to construct its own individual take on the social ideology within which it swims. This implies some degree of “freedom of interpretation”. (However, I will show later that this view of the “isolated individual” is not shared by the social psychologists and the social constructivists in particular. Nevertheless, Social Cognitive theory supports my general perception of the human condition, in that: “Bandura presented a social cognitive vision of the origins of human thought and action and the influential role of self-referential processes to motivation, affect, and action. He depicted people as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflective, and self-regulative in thought and action rather than as merely reactive to social environmental or inner cognitive-affective forces. ).

Nelson-Jones (2001) tells us that: “The Watsonian behaviourist sees all psychological problems and their solutions as being schematized in stimulus (or the more complex situation) and response terms, often abbreviated to S-R terms. In the ideal behaviourist world, given the … stimulus the response can be predicted”. (Nelson-Jones, page 249). This implies that there is no freedom of choice, at any level, or at any point, for a human individual. I doubt if this is the case, as the S>R model omits the very important Organism (or O). And later, I will point to evidence that the human brain is too complex to be subject to a detailed analysis of inputs (stimuli) and outputs (responses). Thus human responses cannot be predicted with significant degrees of reliability; or at the very least, responses always retain the capacity to surprise us, or to deviate from past performances. Not even animal responses can be predicted or shaped in totally reliable ways, as Skinner acknowledged by introducing the concept of probability into his operant conditioning system. (And extinction is always lurking just around the corner! What does an animal operate from immediately after the extinction of a “conditioned response”?) (See also discussion of Pribram’s monkey, below; which demonstrate that even captive animals can “choose to misbehave”, despite the strongest efforts of their controllers to ‘reinforce’ them! How much more likely is it, then, that humans retain a capacity to “misbehave”? This is what Daniel Dennett calls “elbow room”. ). (And, of course, as I showed in response to Question 1, there never was a validated or supportable theory of S>R. It was actually S>S. And the link between the UCS and the UCR was not learned, but inborn in the dog’s brain. Without Pavlov, and without Watson’s misunderstanding of the “internal” significance of that work, how could the behaviourists account for learning? I don’t think they could). As far as I can tell, no experiments were done on whether Pavlov’s dogs retained any degree of freedom around how to approach their food. And no experiments were done on whether Little Albert retained any degree of freedom around relating to furry animals or other furry objects.

4. Exploring Models of Human Functioning
In this section, I want to look at modelling human emotional and cognitive functioning. I will begin with the simplest of models, which is Watson’s simplistic model, adapted from Pavlov’s more complex model, which can be rendered thus: “([UCS > UR] + [NS > No R]) = CS > CR”. (This is, of course, a false model. As demonstrated by Tolman, the correct interpretation of Pavlov’s work is this: Event 1 predicts Event 2. And E2 by nature triggers salivation).

This stimulus>response model implies that, when a stimulus occurs, a fixed response follows automatically: there being no choice, and no alternative. But as I have shown in response to Question 1 above, this model has been invalidated. (Skinner developed a new model which emphasized the role of reinforcement, as follows: Stimulus>Response>Reinforcement. [Underwood, 2001, page 6]. However, in my view, this quickly mutated to Behaviour>Reinforcement>Behaviour, in which even stimulus was narrowed down to what will reinforce and what will not reinforce the “emitted” behaviour. [This is a nice simple little model of the world, unlike the real thing!]). (It also omits what “causes” the “emitted behaviour”; since it cannot be reinforced until after it has been “emitted”! I will argue later that what causes human emitted behaviour is the interaction of cognitive and emotive processing of stimuli inside of a human brain, interacting dialectically at the boundary of the organism-environment field!) What is missing from Watson’s and Skinner’s models is the organism to which the stimulus is occurring, for whom “stimuli” normally have some kind of “meaning”.

What we can learn from the long existence of Watson’s simplistic S>R model – from 1912 to 1930 approximately, and even beyond that point, up to the beginning of the emergence of neo-behaviourism - is that it is possible for individual psychological researchers to construct models of “real systems” which are not accurate representations! Elements may be left out, or two or more elements conflated, or alternatives (such as “a palette of R’s”) may be overlooked. Watson and Skinner left out the brain, emotion, beliefs, attitudes, consciousness, and on and on. In fact, these are some of the most important defining aspects and characteristics of the human being! Figure 9 (below), created by the neo-behaviourists, is an improvement on Figure 8:


Figure 9 shows that when a particular stimulus (S) impinges upon the organism (O), a specific response (R) is the result. What we can now consider is this: if there is any consciousness of self-activity in the organism, then the organism may be able to choose how to respond at R. It is, of course, now widely accepted that individual behaviour at ‘R’ is caused by “mental states” in the organism (‘O’). (Braddon-Mitchell, 2002).

Albert Bandura was one of the first neo-behaviourist psychologists to propose an alternative to learning theory that incorporated mental processes, possibly because of the influence of psychoanalysis on him. His social learning theory introduced both cognition and the social influences that affect learning. However, Bandura does not take account of emotion, interpretation and personality traits or states. The first of these oversights will be taken up first. (The later Bandura looks at interpretation, in the sense of the individual forming self-efficacy beliefs).

In my view it is also important to note that, as many contemporary theorists would agree, in pre-human stages of evolution, the organism processes every incoming stimulus “emotionally”. That is to say, the incoming stimulus (let’s say a sign of danger), is processed as a “hot message”, a “personally meaningful event”, at unconscious levels of the organism, and often proves to be a motive (or emotive activator) to engage (in the case of danger) in one of three behaviours (at R): these being either to fight, to flee, or to freeze. Thus we can amend the S>O>R model to make it more accurate. In Figure 10 below, I have shown the emotional processing (EP) and the beginnings of the reality of multiple response options (R’s). In this case I am only showing two: fight or flee. However, in more complex, less unambiguous, situations (S’s), the organism’s EP might have access to an expanded palette of R’s.

At very primitive levels of evolution – such as small animals without even developed eyes – the skin, as now, was the boundary keeping the organism’s elements in, and the rest of the world out; but the skin was also the vehicle of incoming sensations as well as primitive perceptions of those sensations. These were the first primitive “emotions”, in that the types of sensations experienced at their boundaries mattered to “someone” – the simple organism – as described by Humphrey (1992).

As the brain cortex expanded, over millions of years, new kinds of “unemotional” (or, more accurately, less emotional) processing emerged; related to less urgent and less vital needs of the organism. In hominids, and later Homo sapiens, the development of a large neocortex allowed for the development of what we now call “cognitive processing”: comprising conscious and preconscious digestion of data, using kinaesthetic, visual and semantic representations, derived from experience. These abstract semantic processing skills are based on the development of language, and the vast array of distinctions which that made possible. They are also based on learning of attitudes, which will normally deviate to some extent from the inborn, emotional attitudes. This gave rise to a new type of processing, which is illustrated in Figure 11, below:


Figure 11 shows the three levels of processing implicit in much post-Freudian psychology – the conscious thinking, unconscious emoting, and pre-conscious interactions between the two.

What now becomes interesting to me is this: At which processing levels, if any, does the organism have the capacity to stop, reflect, conclude and choose? And secondly, is it possible to resolve the question of the existence of free will using this type of model, or do we need to switch to a model such as Freud’s or Berne’s. A brief consideration has persuaded me that the model shown in Figure 11- can be modified as in Figure 12 below, to take account of Freud/Berne, as follows:

My conviction is this: As the Adult ego state (A) emerges, and becomes more “scientific”, there emerges the possibility of acting against the biological level (C) and the cultural level (P). (This is intellectual self-reflection, which can object to the functioning of the ‘C’, and insist upon a change in behaviour, which triggers a new chain of brain chemistry and signals). And this seems to be the sole basis of my freedom of will. This is the basis of my freedom from biological and cultural determination. (At an even earlier stage, in the development of ‘C’, I can act from Rebellious Child, and thus act against my culture and [to some extent] my biology. But there is no real freedom in being “not-my-mother” and “not-my-father”!) (Later I will modify this model, so that the P, A and C all occur within the “interaction area” – or ego – in line with the description contained in Stewart (1989).

Another interesting model which may prove helpful is that shown on page 27 of Wilks (1998), as shown below:

Figure 12(b): A model of reflection and change
What this model shows is that an individual arriving at Stage 2 (emotional response) may repeat the cycle (of action>response, action>response) over and over again – which is the old repetition-compulsion of Freudian theory. Or s/he can reflect upon where s/he has arrived and move to Stage 3, which is to examine, and change, assumptions, values and beliefs. This will take the individual to Stage 4: new attitudes and actions. Stage 5 will show up as a new kind of life, with new emotional, behavioural and cognitive responses. In terms of the ABC model, this means that, if I don’t like the result I am producing at point C in the model – namely my emotional and behavioural responses – then I can go back to point B – my belief system – and challenge my dysfunctional beliefs: thus giving myself a new outcome at C. This is an expression of choice, free will and personal control. This is not totally determined behaviour!

(a) The Question of Choice
Humphrey (1992) certainly thinks that very simple animals can choose a simple course of action from a simple repertoire. Here is one of his examples, which could almost be a belated response to Schopenhauer and Spinoza, as well as Watson: “Compare, for example, the effects of low humidity on two bounded objects: a woodlouse and a puddle. The heat is ‘bad’ for both of them because it dries them up. But whereas the puddle just sits there and shrinks in size, the woodlouse runs away. Both react to low humidity: but while the puddle’s response is non-adaptive and carries no implication of being meaningful, the woodlouse’s response potentially does: it implies ‘here is a situation not much to my liking’.”

But choice may have evolved even earlier than in the example of the woodlouse. For instance, Professor J.Z. Young, of Oxford University, in Gregory (1987), finds evidence for choice (or ‘free will’) in the activities of non-animal-based biological systems. “The concept of choosing is, of course, a notion that is primarily applied to human beings; and it may seem absurd to speak of a bacterium as exercising choice, for that is one of many attributes that humans like to reserve for themselves. But is this exclusive view either wise or justified?” He continues: “What the biologist sees is that organisms show evidence that they act with a direction or aim, namely to ensure that life continues. … Is there any evidence that in any clear sense organisms actually seek to maintain a given standard? …(E)very organism during every second of its life is making repeated selections among the various metabolic pathways that can be followed. … This immense sequence of selections certainly has at least a formal similarity to what humans call choice, but where is the chooser? … When bacteria are placed in lactose, the decision to synthesize -galactosidase depends not only on the presence of the relevant gene but on the whole system that detects the new sugar, communicates with the genetic material, and allows synthesis and the use of the enzyme. The whole organism is thus the chooser, and it is aiming at a previously defined target or standard, which is set in this case by the demand for energy. … When we insist that our own choices are ‘free’, do we really mean that they are wholly indeterminate? Surely that would imply that they were the result of chance, the very opposite of our meaning. What we want to indicate by ‘free choice’ is decision made according to our own needs, aims and standards and with our information, not made under duress to meet the needs of others”. (JZY in Gregory (ed.) (1987), pages 147-148). (Emphasis added – JWB).

That seems like a paradoxical argument. On the one hand, it seems to contain a very good definition of choosing, from my perspective. And at this point I want to register that, if I make just one decision on the basis of my own needs – as they appear to me, based on my idiosyncratic aims and standards – and with my own peculiar network of information – then I cannot be said, at that point, to be “totally determined by human evolutionary development and my environment”. Something else is present – namely me as a decider, or conscious chooser! And I think I could easily show that I make many such decisions, sometimes even listing the pros and cons for each option, and then making a rational decision. (Of course, it’s not totally rational, since I would have to search forever to find every single piece of data that could potentially be relevant to my proposed decision. But neither is it totally determined by my genes or my environmental conditioning. There is a third agent involved here: my consciousness!) The paradox may be that Professor Young was trying to reframe free will as “no big deal”, and, in a kind of way, “determined by biology” anyway. But in the process he allowed in the concepts of “aims” and “standards”, which are made up by us; and “information” which is interpreted by us; and “not under duress”, meaning “not compelled”. And what is not compelled is free! I maintain that I am not under any duress to treat this assignment as seriously as I am doing. I have my own aim, which is related to my work role as a therapist, and the standards I want to reach. I could get a pass without all this work, and indeed I am under duress to reduce the amount of work I am putting into this assignment. But I refuse to comply with that pressure from other priorities! So I have been able to reinterpret the information given to me by Professor Young, and to use it for (I suspect) quite other purposes than those for which he intended it to be used. This assignment is a very good example of my free will in action! And, of course, sugars do not have cortical cells which provide consciousness! It is ultimately a nonsense to compare a human and a sugar molecule! Also, I do not believe I am ‘unconsciously driven” to work so hard on this assignment, though I can’t prove, or validate, that belief!

I also want to pick up on the fact that Professor Young (in Gregory, 1987) is suggesting that choice goes on at all levels of life, from bacteria upwards, but that it does not necessarily imply ‘one’ who does the choosing. In other words, a human person may choose a course of action without implying that there is a ‘ghost’ in the ‘machinery’ of the brain. Thus, as behaviourism was partially a reaction against the Cartesian dualism of brain and mind, (and partially a reaction against the technique of introspection), I want to emphasize that I am not trying to roll back the march of history. I accept the Buddhist view – which preceded its Western philosophical equivalents by more than two thousand years - that the “self” only exists “conventionally”. It is not an “entity” inside the human being. It is nothing more or less than the human being which is manifest before us. It is just the manifest person, or certain functions and capabilities of the manifest person. The behaviourists deny consciousness in order to deny “the soul” – but these are not the only possibilities. Consciousness as a function of the brain is sufficient to demonstrate that “I” – or this organism sitting here typing – am not totally determined by “my” evolutionary history or “my” environment. There is a creative mind implicated here also.

(b) Determinism
Professor Donald MacKay, late of the University of Keele, discussed determinism in Gregory (1987). He was categorical in his view that “Nobody can predict how something as complex as the human brain would behave under all circumstances. With more than ten thousand million nerve-cells, each connected to thousands of its neighbours, the human nervous system would defy detailed prediction even if the matter of which it is made behaved according to classically determinate physical laws”. This is a major blow to Watson’s view that if the Stimulus is known, the Response can be predicted! MacKay goes on to analyze the relationship between the ‘mechanism’ of mind and the physical brain – in other words, assuming that our conscious thinking and deciding are embodied in the workings of our brains – which virtually all modern psychologists would agree is the case - and concludes that, “…even if our brains are as physically determinate as the solar system (which they probably are not)” there would be “…no contradiction in saying that our behaviour was determined by our thinking and choosing...” Furthermore, I have just recalled that I read somewhere that there is not enough information in the individual human genotype to dictate the final “resting place” of every one of our brain cells as they migrate from their point of origin in the earliest days of the emerging foetus. Thus not even our physical brain, in all its final physical connections, never mind our conscious thought, is dictated by our genes. (Source? Can’t recall!)

And again, if any aspect of my behaviour is determined by my thinking and choosing, then how could I be said to be totally determined by human evolutionary development and my environment?

5. Determinism and habit formation
Watson was a strict determinist. He was convinced that, given any group of infants, from birth, he could train them to be anything he wanted them to be, since he believed that everything about a human depends upon training. (Bell, 2002, characterized this as an “empty boast”. However, he did have an opportunity to try this experiment, in that he had two sons. But they apparently turned out very badly. Clearly he did not intend to train them to commit suicide, or to feel so emotionally pained that they would seek psychoanalysis. Thus, this ‘experiment’ of his tells against him and his theory of determinism. He thought, for example, that he was teaching his sons to be non-dependent – but Billy killed himself soon after John B died! (Compared with frightening the wits out of Little Albert, this bigger experiment seems more indicative of the possibilities of behaviourism as a comprehensive, stand-alone approach to human psychology. That is to say, it may have strengths, but without the ‘heart’ of humanism, and the 'conversation' of cognitivism, it may be coldly destructive. [Watson was not just building on Pavlov, but also rejecting Freud: “Watson wryly speculated that Little Albert’s phobia would be analyzed later in his life by a Freudian psychoanalyst as being due to his having been scolded for attempting to play with his mother’s pubic hair in the Oedipal phase”. {Underwood, page 3} . Little did he realize that his own son Jimmy would be psychoanalyzed, and that Watson’s own “castrating” coldness may have been pilloried during that therapy!). Watson, in my view, was not fully responsible for the failure of his behaviourist experiments with his sons, because (a) they were also influenced by their mother’s attitudes and behaviours; and (b) because his sons got to decide what it “meant” (to them!) that he (their father) was so cool and undemonstrative towards them. And it may be that they could just as easily have made themselves seriously disturbed if he had been very affectionate with them – and then inevitably (because he is a human and a “father”) subjected them to minor frustrations - though this is, in my view, somewhat less likely!

Watson considered that we have but three habit systems: (a) the visceral (in which he implied the emotional); (b) the manual; and (c) the laryngeal or verbal. (Nelson-Jones, 2001, page 250). What is missing from this analysis, of course, is our habit, or universal tendency, to philosophize, relatively unemotionally and in abstract, symbolic terms. This is what we might call the habit of “thinking”. And it is to our habit of thinking that we had better look to resolve the question of whether or not we have any capacity for free will. Watson’s restricted classification of our ‘habit systems’ points to the fact that he was playing cards with “an incomplete deck”. He kept the Joker of behaviour, but he dumped the Ace of thinking. Of course, he claimed that thinking was just sub-vocal verbalizing. But this is not the case. Piaget showed that cognitive development in children begins with the sensory motor stage, in which they encounter the world directly, by sucking and grasping. They have no language at this stage, and yet they ‘think’ kinaesthetically, and even form a sense of self – the “me schema” – distinct from the rest of the world. And in the latter part of this stage, they develop “representational thinking”, based on the manipulation of internalized images. Later they learn to think using language and images combined, and ultimately they learn to think using abstract symbols. By about the age of eleven years, they begin to reason in abstract terms. This reasoning can be disrupted, or even eliminated, by certain types of brain damage. However, as Bandura pointed out, we do have the capacity “to plan courses of action, anticipate their likely consequences, and set goals and challenges” for ourselves, “to motivate, guide and regulate” our activities. This he called “the human capacity for self-management”, and this function of the individual and social group is totally absent from Watson’s account of human behaviour.
Watson’s view is now so clearly primitive. For example, if an individual has an intact larynx, but serious damage to their frontal lobes, they will be able to speak, but unable to reason as they had done when undamaged. Thus it is foolish to attribute the capacity to think to the movements of the larynx! The most important thing about language for the development of thinking is not verbalization at all, but classification and labelling, so that structure, order and relations can be attributed to incoming stimuli in order to create phenomena in consciousness. (Korzybski, 1933). And I certainly agree with Vygotsky that “human thinking would be impossible without speech and other sign systems”. However, to get these insights into perspective, I would like to review the case of Helen Keller. Helen Keller was a deaf mute from birth, with an intact larynx. In her life story she describes how her teacher repeatedly ran water from a pump on to one of her hands, while signing the deaf “word” for “water” on to her other hand. Her teacher did this repeatedly, over and over again, for a long, frustrating period of time, (which could have been weeks or months; I cannot recall), until she (Helen) finally made the connection between the “word” and the “thing” – the label and the phenomenon – at which point she “got language” and “got thinking” at the same instant. She has never used her larynx – never uttered a word. But she has used her brain to think! And her route to language and thinking was not laryngeal, but kinaesthetic/symbolic). (The larynx is controlled by the motor cortex, while the acquisition, development, production and interpretation of language are all controlled by “modules” in the left temporal lobe of the human brain).

6. Conditioning of emotions
There is no doubt that the behaviourists, from Pavlov through Watson to Skinner have demonstrated the conditioning of behaviours and, to a lesser extent, (with Watson) of emotions; and also the extinction of conditioning (especially in Pavlov and Skinner). But neither of these developments demonstrates conclusively that my life is totally determined by the combination of human evolutionary development and my environment. This is so because, in addition to “my evolutionary” roots, and “my environment”, there is also “me – the conscious, reflective, deciding agent”! (The Central Executive, in Baddeley’s model of Working Memory ; or the Adult ego state in Berne. I don’t have complete freedom of action or choice; but neither am I totally determined, by anything. I will show later that even Pribram’s monkey proved to have some degree of free will! And I can confidently state that I have conscious control of my emotions, since I have worked on my attitudes, translated into language, as taught by Dr Albert Ellis. Overly-aroused emotional responses which I learned as a child have been almost completely brought under conscious control by coming to understand (1) how my neocortex interacts with my limbic system (meaning “what I tell myself”, or “signal” myself, and how I trigger emotions); (2) how to fight for the supremacy of the neocortex (or how to dispute irrational beliefs); and (3) how to systematically train myself not to stir up my limbic system using attitudinal language in my everyday thinking (or how to think rationally).
7. Thinking and Memory
My thinking is the primary basis of my freedom of interpretation, expression and action in the world. My memory, as the store of my experience, is my best guide to action. Because Watson denigrated thinking and memory, it seems important to show the weakness of his argument here. According to Nelson-Jones (2001), Watson adopted the following positions on thinking and memory:
a) That thinking referred to all subvocal word behaviour. In other words, thinking is the same as talking to oneself. This seems to be partially true, as was emphasized by the therapeutic approach developed by Albert Ellis in 1956-62. As Vygotsky argued, language and thinking start out as separate processes, but language comes to dominate thinking, beginning around the age of seven years, and increasingly into the teenage years. But thinking retains visual and kinaesthetic elements as well; and Bruner points out that cognitive development begins with the “enactive” (or kinaesthetic), proceeds through the “iconic” (or visual) and graduates into the “symbolic” (or language- and sign-based computational schemas). And it is fundamentally electro-chemical activity in the human brain. It also has unconscious aspects, which are probably mainly kinaesthetic and visual. The best proof of unconscious thinking is probably the study of ‘blindsight’ in Humphrey (1992).

b) However, in some situations, according to Watson, thinking could be like the trial-and-error behaviour of a rat in a maze. This is interesting, because a rat in a maze is highly unlikely to be using “subvocal word behaviour”, unless the whole of modern psychology has missed something very important about rat brains. And if Watson insists that humans and other animals be considered on the same plane, and only in terms of behaviour – then “subvocal word behaviour” must be dumped completely, because it does not exist naturally in any animal apart from Homo sapiens.

c) Memory is viewed by Watson as the retention of verbal habits. (Nelson-Jones, 2001, page 251). It seems to me that “Memory = retention” is what is called “a tautology”. It explains nothing. If we use the word “memory” to describe what is somehow “retained” by the individual human, then we cannot also define memory as “retention”. This tautological approach tells us nothing about how, or where, or in what precise form, it is retained. And again, if memory is “the retention of verbal habits” then all non-human animals have no memory! So how do they “retain” information about their experience? How, for example, did Pavlov’s dogs “retain” conditioned responses in their “cerebral hemispheres” – which is what Pavlov was investigating – if all memory is “the retention of verbal habits”, of which dogs have none – and Pavlov’s UCS was the sound of a bell or a metronome – neither of which is a “verbal habit”? And how did Tolman’s rats retain their learning of the rat maze, and the location of food, if memory is the retention of verbal habits? And also, if memory is just the retention of verbal habits, then there are no images or physical sensations in human memory. But that is ludicrous! How do I remember what I look like if my memory is full of “retained verbal habits”? It’s so difficult to comprehend, in 2002, how such obviously false, and simplistic ideas, could have washed in 1913-’30, and even into the 1950’s and 60’s.

d) Watson assumed there was no need to introduce the concept of mind into “so-called mental diseases”. Only behaviour was to be analyzed. Not surprisingly, his project did not last much beyond 1930 in its pure form, though it stumbled on into the 1950’s and ‘60’s in increasingly modified and harried forms. Gradually, piece by piece, the human mind had to be reincorporated into the study of psychology, and the treatment of human mental disturbance.

My thinking and memory were not well understood by the Watsonian behaviourists, and dismissed as irrelevant by the Skinnerians. Thus they never explored the very basis of my freedom: My ability to think about, and modify, many of my inborn and culturally shaped attitudes and behaviours.

8. Skinner’s Operant Behaviourism
According to Nelson-Jones (2001): “Skinner stressed the role of the environment in shaping and maintaining behaviour. Behaviour both operates on the environment to produce consequences and also is controlled or contingent upon the consequences produced by that environment”. What this ignores is this: In the case of a human, and even in the case of some non-human primates, behaviours may emerge and be maintained by reinforcements which come from inside the minds of the person/organism. For example, my wife’s gardening is not reinforced by me or anyone else. It is reinforced by her love of gardening, and especially her love of seeing nice colours. This is in no way linked to her need for food, water, sexual contact, or “other reinforcers of evident biological significance”. In other words they are not “primary or unconditioned” reinforcers. I also do not believe that her gardening “is emitted in response to reinforcers which have become associated with or conditioned to primary reinforcers”. She also does not do it for “money”, or any other “generalized reinforcer”, such as “attention, approval (or) affection”. I believe she does it for “cultural reasons”, because she “wants to”. In other words, I think she does it for her own internally generated reasons – because she is a thinking being, with aesthetic appreciation. Her aesthetic sense leads her to appreciate the results of her gardening labours. She finds it rewarding, aesthetically.

Chomsky had spotted this weakness in Skinner’s view, back in 1971 when he wrote:
“We can get a taste of the explanatory force of Skinner’s theory from such (typical) examples as these: a pianist learns to play a scale smoothly because ‘smoothly played scales are reinforcing’ (…); ‘A person can know what it is to fight for a cause only after a long history during which he has learned to perceive and to know that state of affairs called fighting for a cause” (…); and so on”.

And just as my wife, and Chomsky’s pianist, are not wholly determined by either their genes or their environments, neither am I.

Skinner, of course, would never have been able to comprehend what I am saying here. According to Nelson-Jones (2001): “Skinner regarded a self as a repertoire of behaviours appropriate to a given set of reinforcement contingencies. The traditional view of the causation of behaviour regards people as autonomous agents responsible for their own lives. The scientific view (sic) is that people are members of a species shaped by evolutionary contingencies of survival whose behaviour is under the control of the environment in which they live. … Thus the self is a repertoire of behaviours acquired through an environmental history of reinforcement and maintained or extinguished through current contingencies of reinforcement”.

This is a Skinnerian view presented by Nelson-Jones as “The scientific view”, which is an unfortunate misrepresentation. (Probably more scientists attribute causation of human development to biology than to environment). Chomsky (a scientific linguist) totally rejects this view, of environmental determination, and demonstrates that no evidence has been presented by Skinner to support the view that his experiments with rats and pigeons have been generalized to human society. As Chomsky says: “At the moment (in 1973) we have virtually no scientific evidence and not even the germs of an interesting hypothesis about how human behaviour is determined”. (It was several years later that Bandura’s work began to produce results in highlighting the role of observational learning, and the link between self-efficacy beliefs and self-management possibilities - JWB). “Consequently, we can only express our hopes and guesses about what some future science may demonstrate. In any event, the claims that Skinner puts forth in this category are either dogmatic or uninteresting, depending on which interpretation we give them”.

Chomsky goes on to insist that how the brain operates is currently unknown, and could conceivably include the capacity for some degree of free will. However, he sees the role of science as investigation of what is the case, while he criticises Skinner for insisting on the a priori necessity that scientific investigation “will lead to a particular conclusion, specified in advance” – namely that Skinner is right and free will and human dignity are fantasies. (Page 2 of 23).
Chomsky also demolishes Skinner’s arguments against considering the “internal states” of the human subject by pointing to the fact that this approach would be considered perfectly acceptable to a scientist working in an engineering field where postulations of internal states of a device could be helpful in taking that work forward. Even Quine, who was a philosophical behaviourist, rejects such a view, as cited in Chomsky, as follows: “W.V.O. Quine, who on other occasions has attempted to work within Skinner’s framework, goes so far as to define ‘behaviourism’ simply as the insistence that conjectures and conclusions must eventually be verified by observations. … Quine’s proposal signifies the demise of behaviourism as a substantive point of view, which is just as well”. (Page 7 of 23).

Chomsky then points out that Skinner’s claims about human behaviour being determined by genes and environmental reinforcers states nothing more than that the probability of certain responses becomes greater under certain circumstances. However, only in the most trite and vacuous ways can we discuss these relationships, since the fine detail of my behaviour can hardly be predicted from day to day, and only the most unimportant predictions can be sketched in, such as that I am likely to carry an umbrella if it looks like it is going to rain, or that I am unlikely to go to the beach if the weather is bad – if I was “reinforced” for those behaviours in the past. And this is only probable, so I could deviate from these courses of actions on any given occasion, and you would not be able to predict that deviation, even if you were my very best friend!

All in all, Chomsky’s critique is devastating, citing a number of ways in which Skinner’s theory of “behavioural science” is characterized by its vacuity; the central thesis of Skinner’s book is classified as false or empty; he is grouped with “behavioural scientists who can’t tell a pigeon from a poet”; and as a “terminologist” rather than a scientist. Chomsky continues: “…there exists no behavioural science incorporating empirically supported propositions that are not trivial and that apply to human affairs or support a behavioural technology. For this reason Skinner’s book contains no clearly formulated substantive hypotheses or proposals”. (Page 20).

Whether we are free or not is beyond resolution on the basis of Skinner’s work. He worked with rats and pigeons, not humans. Therefore, “…we cannot, at the present, turn to science for insight into these matters. To claim otherwise is pure fraud (on Skinner’s part). For the moment, an honest scientist will admit at once that we understand virtually nothing, at the level of scientific inquiry, with regard to human freedom and dignity”. (Page 21, Chomsky, 1973).

That was the situation in 1973. Although psychology has moved on considerably since then, it is still largely the case that science has nothing definitive to say on the subject of whether or not I am determined by my heredity and my environment. That, of course, does not stop individual scientists taking up pet positions! (There are different schools of thought, some of which would consider me totally determined by the social discourses of which I am a part, or by my biology; and others – such as the Social Cognitive theory of Bandura – which would see me as a substantially self-managing organism with self-reflective, self-directive, and goal setting abilities which can shape my future. [Genetic scientists keep plodding away with the idea of total biological, genetic determination, but fall into a big hole when they posit the existence of “conditional genes” in addition to “dictator genes”. Since “conditional genes” – which may or may not exist – are assumed to be affectable by the environment, therefore they are not “determiners” in any sense which differs from my opinions!]. Because I can predict my future, to some extent, therefore I can also plan for it!) And this situation won’t stop me – in this assignment – taking up any position which I can show to be based on reason, logic, and some empirical observations or reasonable thought-experiments, no matter how minor. I will also try to bootstrap any such morsels of “viable knowledge” together with supporting statements from others whose work I have reviewed above, or shall review below.

9. Schools of Thought on Mind and Body
Before moving on, I want to review the four basic positions in the ongoing debates in psychology about the relationship of the mind to the body. These are as follows:

1. Interactionism “This position holds that the causal relationship between mind and body works in both directions: the mind can influence the body, and the body can influence the mind”. (Bell, page 58).
2. Epiphenomenalism This view “asserts that what we call mind is reducible in origin to physical matter, at least in the sense that mind is the one-way product of physical events in the brain”. (Page 60).
3. Idealism This is a rare viewpoint these days, and was last seen in full-blown form in the ideas of Bishop Berkeley. “It suggests that only mental phenomena exist. The universe is purely and only inherited by mind”. (Page 61).
4. Materialism Also called physicalism, this view “asserts the very opposite of idealism. … Here there is no problem concerning how mind and body interact. For here, mind is seen as being reducible to physical processes. Here mental events are physical events”. (Page 62).

Having reviewed these four positions, I want to characterize my own approach as a combination of positions 1 and 4. That is to say, I am an interactionist-materialist. However, my materialist urges are not reductionist. I do not wish to get rid of the concepts of beliefs, values, goals, feelings, etc. And my interactionism is not the interactionism of a disembodied mind and a physical brain. The mind for me is not disembodied. It is a set of capabilities which, in at least some areas, are ‘loosely coupled’ to the biology upon which they subsist. This will become clearer in the Section 11, below, in which I review five models of the genotype>-

10. Physical Determinism
If I am not determined by environmental reinforcers, then how am I shaped and developed? At the other extreme from behaviourists, in ‘scientific psychology’, we find ‘physical determinists’, and they provide the basis of the argument that I am wholly determined by my genotype and the processes of evolution of my species. They see the world as follows:

“1. Every macroscopic (or tangible) physical event has a cause;

2. every human action is a macroscopic event;

3. therefore, every human action is caused;

4. any event that is caused could not have happened otherwise than it did;

5. therefore, no human action could have happened otherwise than it did”. (Bell, 2002, pages 27-28; based on O’Connor, D.J. [1971] Free Will, New York, Doubleday).

I agree with the essential substance of principles 1, 2 and 3. These are basic ‘laws’ of science; i.e. they correspond to ‘regularities’ or ‘patterns’ which have been observed, and can still be observed, in the physical world. But they could benefit from a small rewrite to stop them drifting into the realm of ‘scient-ism’, that ubiquitous religion of dogmatic physicalism which is a pernicious as the most extreme forms of idealism. Here’s my rewrite:

1. When macroscopic events have been investigated by individual (or teams of) scientists, they have normally been shown to have a traceable cause, or causes. (These causes begin as hypotheses, and are then investigated to try to verify them. For example, global warming has at least two [competing] hypothetical ‘causes’; and schizophrenic behaviour has at least three competing hypothetical ‘causes’! And monocausal explanations often prove to be simplistic.)

2. Every human action which can be seen and measured may be defined as a ‘macroscopic’ event, as opposed to a microscopic (or sub-atomic) event.

3. Therefore, every human event which can be seen and measured may be said (hypothetically) to have a cause (or causes); and different schools of thought have normally contested these hypothetical causes, apparently interminably (and certainly up to the present moment in time!)

4. Principle number 4, as described above, is a good example of the religion of ‘scient-ism’, in that this ‘hard form’ or ‘strong form’ of physical determinism is a hypothesis which cannot be tested. To test it we would have to be able to wind history backwards – several times – and let it roll forwards again, to see if it always followed the same sequence of evolutionary steps. And, obviously, we cannot do that! (We can go along with the idea that ‘any event that happened in the past cannot be changed’. Therefore, any event in the past has a fixed cause for all time. But we cannot go along with the ASSERTION that any event-scenario in the future has one, and only one, way of resolving itself, determined by the starting conditions of the universe at the time of the Big Bang (which Big Bang is, of course, also a [compelling!] hypothesis!)

5. Principle number 5 depends upon verifying principle number 4. Therefore, since it is impossible to verify principle number 4, principle number 5 must fall.

The hard or strong form of the physical determinism hypothesis seems to me to be very poor science, but all too prevalent. Physical determinism denies the role of culture and the power of human cognition. It is an extreme form of ‘eliminative materialism’ which impoverishes our view of humans, which are better seen as quintessentially complex humans! (HarrĂ© and Secord, 1972). And it denies that my action in typing this critique of ‘eliminative materialism’ could be caused by my thoughts and beliefs, as shaped by me. For them, I am just another domino falling over in an infinite space-time continuum, every event of which was determined at the time of the Big Bang. I cannot but see this as mechanistic, reductionist Bullstuff!

11. Developmental Psychology:
I now want to look at some models of developmental psychology, and reconsider the question of whether I am determined by my geneotype and my environment. First I will present a range of existing models, and then I will develop my own model and position on “the conscious agent as a set of capacities”. (Erwin, 1997).

The four models of the genotype-environment interaction, which follow, are all drawn from Lewis (1996), part two. Lewis describes developmental psychology, and indeed psychology as a whole, as a young science, and shows that it is related to four key fields of study: philosophy; evolutionary biology; studies of culture; and social policy. These roots help us to see just how speculative and tentative this “science” is. Philosophy means speculation. Evolutionary biology is one of the most speculative of sciences, perhaps equal in its wild theorizing to the far fringes of theoretical physics – but lacking a comparable experimental capability or possibility. Studies of culture are most difficult to fit into an experimental scientific mode; and social policy is political through and through!

Lewis emphasizes that the psychological development of children depends on two factors: the genotype (or the individual’s genetic inheritance) and the environment (especially the social environment). Can we therefore conclude that Lewis’s answer to the question I am grappling with would have been this: “Yes! I am totally determined by my genotype and my environment”? No. The genotype establishes the constraints and possibilities of development, but not the details, according to this theory. “Biologists in the twentieth century have come largely to agree that development is produced as a result of the interaction between the genotype and the environment”. (Lewis, 1996, page 12). This is illustrated in Figure 13, below:

Figure 13 – A biological model of development

However, from the beginning of the twentieth century, an extreme environmentalist theory and model was proposed by Watson, followed by other behaviourists, and later social-behaviourists. This is shown in Figure 14, below:

Figure 14 – The social learning perspective

The role of the environment continued to be emphasized by Bandura’s research on the Bobo doll, in which children were observed to copy role-models who seemed to be rewarded for, or to benefit from, acts of aggression.

However, this is really a theory of how social influences might work, and “cannot fully explain the process of psychological change”. (Lewis, 1996, page 14). This is so because it overlooks the need to work on the role of the genotype, and the interaction between the genotype and the environment. (Furthermore, in recent years, researchers have emphasized that Bandura exaggerated the extent to which children imitate the behaviour of role models).

By contrast, the maturational perspective emphasises the role of the genotype and downplays the role of the environment. This is illustrated in figure 15, below:


Figure 15 – The maturational perspective

The maturational model is really just an updated version of the biological model, and, for the creators of this model “our biology is our destiny”. (Lewis, 1996, page 15). This was the underlying model promoted by Piaget, combined with the concept of “individual construction”. The individual was seen as passing through four distinct biologized stages of development, and at each stage they were assumed to be capable of greater cognitive competence.

Then along came the social constructivist model of child development, and human cognition, as illustrated by the work of Vygotsky and Bruner. This approach emphasises that “the crucial ingredient in the development of the individual is neither the genotype nor the environment (but) … the interaction the two …” (Lewis, 1996, page 17). This is shown in Figure 16:

Figure 16 – The constructivist perspective

This view holds that human beings “…construct an understanding of the world. We are genetically endowed with a means of interpreting events that occur in the environment…” Thus “…psychological processes have to be built upon biological ones using new environmental information”. (Lewis, 1996, page 18). Freud, Bowlby, Piaget and Vygotsky are cited as examples of constructivists, though clearly there is a great difference between these theorists. In particular, Piaget downplayed the role of the environment, while Vygotsky played up the importance of instruction and social support. However, having outlined his analysis very neatly thus far, Lewis then fails to build this final point into his model building. Where, in Figure 16, do we see that psychological processes have been built upon biological ones? Nowhere. So let me correct that, and build a new model, in Figure 17, below:

Figure 17: The Genotype-Psyche-Environment Interaction

What Figure 17 shows most clearly is that the interaction of the genotype and the environment take place through the medium of a living, thinking brain-mind, and that what they give rise to is not just “development”, but the full range of human cognitive, emotive and behavioural outcomes. Development then becomes a time-bound dimension of the evolving individual, both facilitated and constrained by its biology and its environment, and how they interact. In other words, as the organism matures (box 1) greater development is facilitated biologically. This enhances cognitive-emotive capability (box 2), which improves competence in organism>

12. The Cognitive “Revolution”
I had hoped that the cognitive revolution, which undermined, overturned, and succeeded behaviourism might offer me some hope of supporting my “feeling” that I have free will, and that certainly proved to be partially true, especially when I filled in the missing “psychological processes”, in Figure 17 above. However, there is a strong bias among most cognitive psychologists (thought not perhaps all) to think and work in a non-interactionist, reductionist and elementalist materialist mode. Nevertheless, there are two aspects of the cognitive revolution which I think might help my cause even more. These are the development of Gestalt psychology, in Germany; and the rebellion of “Pribram’s monkey”.

(a) Gestalt: One of the potential answers to the question that I am pursuing is that my past environmental influences, and my inborn genetic heritage, totally determine the possibilities of my life. However, my reading of the development of Gestalt psychology, in Germany, at about the same time that Watson was becoming influential in the US, (e.g. Kohler, 1925), is that our environment is not “given” to us, but is rather a function of our selective perceptions, our peculiar organization of incoming data, which is interpreted by us. Selection is not exclusively dependent on the inborn structures of the nervous system, but also on our interests, motivations, emotional states and personality. We are goal directed problem solvers, not passive respondents to incoming stimuli. Of course our current interpretations depend on, or largely result from, old information acquired in the past. We have schemas or models in long-term memory which we use for the purposes of identification and interpretation of new stimuli. However, the most important part of Gestalt psychology for my present purposes is the results of Kohler’s experiments with insight learning using chimps. This showed that, if a couple of bamboo sticks were left outside of a chimp’s cage, each of which was too short to help in reaching some bananas which were out of arm’s reach, then after some time “pondering” this frustrating situation, a chimp who had never encountered this problem before, nor seen another chimp with this problem, was able to “think” out the solution of inserting the thinner of the two bamboo sticks into the thicker one, and thus to make a longer stick which could reach the bananas. Thus it was shown that animals learn, not just from experience, trial and error, or by reinforcement, but also by thinking. Since thinking is an inborn capability, and it was a tension between the thinking process and the environmental frustration of the bananas being out of reach, I suppose I will have to concede that Kohler’s monkeys did not display any clear evidence that they could consciously step outside of their evolutionary development and the influence of the environment. They can think and have insight, but seem to be largely driven by biological motivations and environmental problem solving activities. So this does not help me very much. It shows that they are far from being like Skinner’s rats and pigeons, but I have much higher ambitions for myself and my fellow humans than that we are a step up from the rodents. Furthermore, later researchers suggested a fault in the Gestalt experiments, in that the early background of Kohler’s monkeys’ in the wild was unknown, and thus, perhaps, they might have learned to connect two poles together by trial and error, and stored that learning in their memory for later use.

(b) Pribram: But Pribram’s monkey is a different story. This story is told by Wood (1994) about an American psychologist who “…makes favourable reference to Piaget’s theory and attempts to integrate some of its insights with his own ideas. Pribram had undertaken a number of research studies into animal learning. He cites observations which helped to convince him that external reinforcement was not a necessary condition for learning, thus questioning the very foundations of the then dominant behaviourist theories of learning and instruction. In one study, for instance, a monkey was being conditioned to operate a bit of machinery that, when a lever was pulled, delivered a reinforcing peanut on an intermittent basis. The animal was left free to operate the lever for as long as it so ‘desired’. When a reinforcer appeared, the monkey would often ‘store’ it in its foodpouch (located inside the mouth). It did not, then, always consume the peanut after a ‘reinforced’ response. Occasionally, when no peanut appeared after a pull of the lever, the animal would take a peanut from its pouch and eat it. In so doing, it reinforced itself after a supposedly non-reinforcing trial (thus somewhat defeating the psychologist’s attempt to put it on a specific, pre-determined schedule!) As the experiment continued, there came a point at which the animal’s food pouch was fully stuffed and its cheeks bulged to capacity. Despite being satiated and, hence, unlikely to profit from further ‘reinforcement’, it continued to operate the lever. Hand and feet stuffed with peanuts, the monkey began to chuck nuts out of the cage but still operated the lever to gain more”.

“Such observations led Pribram and many other psychologists of the time to question the assumption that external reinforcement of the sort implicated in some theories of learning was a necessary condition for learning to take place. One could speculate about Pribram’s monkey in several ways. Perhaps the animal continued to operate the equipment not for nutritional gains but more for the ‘pleasure’ of playing with it. Was it trying to ‘outwit’ the schedule, like a gambler, by attempting to work out the ‘rules’ governing payoff…” (Wood, 1994, pages 4-5).

I believe that, like Pribram’s monkey, I often learn things for my own reasons, out of intrinsic interest, or some other personal motivation, which have nothing to do with being reinforced by my environment. Even if I only do this occasionally, I cannot be said to be totally determined by the interaction of my genotype and my environment. Sometimes I respond to the rewards of my environment – or seek and accept ‘strokes’ – and sometimes I reject external rewards in favour of internal, value-driven motives of my own conscious construction.

13. Edmonds’s Hypothesis and Model
Bruce Edmonds, of the Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University, has produced a paper entitled ‘Towards Implementing Free-Will’. This is a proposal (scientific through and through) to produce an artificial intelligence (AI) programme which will amalgamate five existing programmes, which, taken together will establish that it is possible to create the basis for growing “free will” – in a computer programme - over a long period of time. In a philosophical appendix to this paper he makes some very interesting points:
1. “The ‘hard’ deterministic thesis is untestable and has no practical consequences – the world is equally explained using it or otherwise since we can not rewind the world to see whether this thesis does in fact hold. The only consequences it can thus have is to sanction a normative claim about the use of the term ‘free-will’ - …”
This means that anybody who proposes that I am totally determined by human evolutionary development and the environment is acting in a completely unscientific manner, as they cannot prove their assertion! Therefore, at the very least, the question of whether I have or have not got free will is an open field.

2. “There is a lot of evidence against the hard deterministic thesis both at the micro-level (quantum effects) and at the macro level (that many complex systems are not determinable in practice)”.
Once there is any evidence against a theory or hypothesis, it is fitting that it be treated as one of at least two possibilities, and not more than that. Therefore, I am under less pressure to prove that I am not determined!
3. “Any (attempts at) strengthening of the deterministic thesis to make it actually applicable (e.g. that given almost identical circumstances a certain identifiable system will exhibit the same behaviour) renders it false when applied to some systems – for example humans will not always exhibit the same behaviour in practically indistinguishable circumstances (even if they do not recall their previous decisions)”.
In other words, determinism does not work out in practice, in many known and repeatably observable situations.

Earlier, in Part 2, Edmonds developed a practical, operational definition of free-will, which I will now present:

1. “The process of deliberation leading to a choice of action has to be free in the sense that it is not constrained to a particular ‘script’ – this means that there is also some choice in that deliberation, as well as choice in how to make that choice, and choice in how to make the choice in how to make that choice, etc.”; (This is guaranteed in many of my deliberations by my critical stance towards my society, and my unwillingness to be taken in by ideological propositions. However, I am not constrained to any particular “rebellion script” – such as Marxism or Sophism – and I feel free to “shop around” for perspective that fit the situation as I see it from day to day and from moment to moment).
2. “In some circumstances, if others with whom the entity is competing are able to effectively predict its actions they may well exploit this in order to constrain its choice to its detriment – thus it can be important that actions are not predictable by others”; (I am highly practiced at the skill of “social deception”, which has served me well as a survival skill).
3. “In order for an entity’s will to be effective it has to be able to perform some processing that tends to result in actions that (as far as it can tell) furthers its goals – in particular it needs to be able to consider the likely consequences of different possible strategies and choose amongst them with a view to furthering its goals”; (I have considerable evidence that I have successfully followed goals which I established for myself, which have little or nothing to do with my biological urges or my social education/conditioning. In so doing, I have computed alternative consequences as factors in my thinking and planning activities).
4. “It must be possible that sometimes it might have taken a different action to those actually taken – that is, given indistinguishable circumstances, it would not simply repeat past decisions (even if it did not recall them)”; (I have developed such a flexibility, which is confirmable by my wife, and associates).
5. “In order to have an entity’s decisions allowed by a society of peers it is often necessary that it is able to give an account of its reasons for actions that impinge upon that society, reasons that would be deemed acceptably rational – for those that are not reliably rational can pose a danger to the rest and hence may be prevented from taking certain actions”. (I am skilled in negotiating the deployment of apparently “deviant” social behaviours).

Thus it is clear that my normal behaviour fits Bruce Edmonds’s five criteria for free will in action. I could go on to review many other interesting sections of Bruce Edmonds’s paper, but due to lack of space, I will restrict myself to one final point. This is a model of anticipatory rationality, as shown below:

Figure 18: Edmonds’s model of combined anticipation and strategy selection

This model is very different from the simple S>R model of Watson, or any of the other behaviourist models. This one shows that the organism learns from its interaction with its environment. It then sets a goal, and chooses a strategy which is most likely to achieve that goal. It chooses that goal on the basis of experience of interacting with its environment. This is a model of an organism which interacts with its environment, is intelligent, and has its own goals. And there are probably four dynamically determined choices involved in each action: the choice of goal; the choice of world model (which probably changes least); the choice of strategy; and the choice of best action model. Thus my actions, as a thinking human being are not always, or even normally, simple stimulus>response pairings! Neither are they simple urgings of my organism in the context of a simple environmental demand on my attention. (Sometimes they are either or both of these things, but by no means always!) They are very often unique, just-in-time creations of a thinking mind. And even when some or most of that thinking goes on below the level of conscious awareness, it is still just-in-time, creative thinking – not predetermined responses to stimuli. In other words, even my unconscious intelligence is quite distinct from paired “associations”, “connections” and “behaviours”. Thus I cannot be said to be totally determined by my genotype or my environment. And this is more especially true when it comes to my conscious planning, goal setting and action-strategy development and deployment.

14. Dennett’s View, by John William Schmidt
In Schmidt (2002) we find a review of Daniel Dennett’s book on free will and determinism, and a claim that his earlier work (entitled Consciousness Explained), “…helped provoke some biologists into starting to talk about consciousness”. (Page 1 of 5). Schmidt also explains that the origin of the book’s title was a response to the question: “are we deterministic machines with no real freedom of action, or do we in fact have some elbow room, some real choice in our behaviour?”

Dennett’s book apparently describes the behaviour of the digger wasp, Sphex. If this creature is interrupted during its egg-laying activity, for which purpose it digs a hole in the ground, then it simply resumes the activity again as if it had not been interrupted, and as if it had no awareness of being interrupted. Sphex “never seems to notice what is going on”. Humans, on the other hand, can notice such interruptions – i.e. become aware! - and respond creatively to them. This type of creative response, in my opinion, is an expression of our free will. “The person can, through interaction with its environment, construct an internal mental model of the situation and figure out a successful behavioural strategy. The wasp, with a much smaller brain and different genetic program, does not learn from its environment and instead is trapped in an endless and futile behavioural loop that is strictly determined by its genetic program. It is in this sense of people as animals with complex brains that can model reality and appear to choose among several possible behaviours that Dennett says we have Free Will”. (Schmidt, 2002, page 2. Emphasis added, JWB).

Dennett also turns out to be a compatabilist, a theorist who can reconcile free will and determinism. This entails accepting that, though we “are” biological machines in a mechanical universe, we retain “the power to be active agents, biological devices that respond to our environment with rational, desirable courses of action”. (Schmidt, page 3). And finally, Dennett substitutes “control” for “choice”, saying that we “do not have behavioural choice, but we do have control of our behaviour”. (Schmidt, page 4. Emphasis added, JWB).
But Schmidt cannot leave well alone, and insists upon adding his own afterthoughts in which he postulates that there “is only one way things will work out in the end” – the hard deterministic view. However, I am grateful to Edmonds (2000) for the insight that there is no evidence to support this Belief! To investigate this hard form of determinism, it would be necessary to be able to wind history backwards and forwards several times, to see if it always rolled forwards along the same “tracks”. This we cannot do!

15. Robert Priddy and Cognitive Science
Priddy (1998) tells us that “It was Kant who first drew our attention to the dilemma of Free Will versus determinism”. This leads me to wonder if this might not turn out to be as meaningful as Descartes invention of the Mind-Body problem. (The mind-body problem was an “ontic dump” by Descartes – a definitional problem – and one that actually had been created by Plato, using slightly different terms, in Plato’s quest to demonstrate that there is certain [or absolutely true] knowledge, in his service of the Athenian state against the scepticism of the Sophists, Cynics and others).

There is a sense in which I could effortlessly create an anti-Kantian theory of mind as a product of biology, as follows: My mind is a function of my biological brain. My brain is a product of the entire history of the evolution of life on earth. The type of mind that subsists upon my brain is a type of free mind, one that is capable of acting outside of the constraints of earlier brains (such as Sphex, and even Pribram’s monkey!). It is a mind which is only “loosely coupled” to its environment, and seeks to rebel against its environment (typically at ages 2, 7, 14 and 18, approximately). The success or failure of this string of rebellions will strongly shape my future possibilities. However, my mind is also the type of mind that is capable of being captured by an ideology. So, much depends upon the constellation of chance, twists of fate, and the wilfulness and cunning with which I define myself and wire myself up. My free expression is also greatly aided by material, cognitive and subjective resources, the latter two of which are greatly aided by certain types of higher education, personal development, and especially self-directed learning of creative thinking skills.

Priddy is a cognitive scientist, and looks for answers to the “free will versus determinism” quandary – not unlike Edmonds – within the world of information technology and its systems. He tries to distinguish between the “unconscious, deterministic levels of brain processing” on the one hand, and the “conscious sense of free will” on the other. His analogies for these states are a computer game. At its base is a Turing machine which reads ones and zeros. This he calls the microstate. As its “superstructure” we have a screen showing a simulation of a physical world. This he calls the macrostate. He then points out that the activities going on within the simulated physical world – say a Playstation version of Dynasty, for example – are all determined by the microstate. However, for any particular action within the play “there is no guarantee that the corresponding microstate even exists, or, if it does, that it is unique”. Despite having some experience of engineering and technology, I cannot understand what he is getting at here – beyond providing an analogy for the loose-coupling of the automatic, unconscious emotional processing of the lower brain, underlying a non-automatic, real-time, flexible, computational, responding, conscious brain - but he goes on to claim that “The software world (‘consciousness’ – JWB) need not be deterministic, even if the hardware (‘unconscious’ – JWB) which gives rise to it is”. So, his conclusion seems to be that conscious cogitations could be loosely coupled to unconscious biological circuits, with consciousness capable of some “freewheeling”, or, in Dennett’s phrase, “elbow room”. However, Priddy lacks the intellectual rigour of Edmonds, as a computer game is not a “learning machine”. A computer game does not construct meanings. A computer game does not have the capacity to select its own goals. As such, a computer game is a lousy analogy for a human mind. Indeed, there are no really satisfactory analogies for the human mind. The point about the human mind is that it is totally unique. It is the current pinnacle of the evolution not just of human life, but of life in toto, on this planet. It is unlike everything else that is alive, in certain crucial and dramatic respects, and as such it is difficult to comprehend. (But when I say “pinnacle” I do not mean that it is “leading” evolution. In fact, it is part of the residue of what evolved; and more specifically, part of the life forms which proved to be able to survive on planet earth, in the available environmental niches. In other words we are the “fitters”, not the “fittest”. Many fine and noble species may have died out, leaving us behind to wreak our havoc on each other!).

Priddy goes on to make the very good point that much brain processing occurs not only on a pre-conscious level “but even in a manner which is inaccessible to consciousness”. And he cites the example of “blindsight”, which is found in human patients, (and non-human primates), who have “suffered damage to the region of the visual cortex which produces visual awareness. They claim to be unable to see, yet they are not blind, because they consistently act accurately upon information present in their visual field: (however) would they attribute their behaviour to free will?” Well, we already know from Humphrey (1992) that, while the non-human primates are quite confident in using their blindsight, humans find it disconcerting, as they do not believe the evidence of their practical success in finding target objects, which are in their field of vision, but not available to consciousness. They further seem to doubt their sense of touch and feedback from observers about their ability to find things and pick them up, because they do not “feel”/believe that they have any information which can guide their actions. Because they have no conscious awareness of where the object is, they cannot process the idea that their unconscious visual networks can “see” for “them” and guide their actions. As far as I can tell, what this tells us about “free will” is that it is a subjective state; a sense of personal ownership of willed actions. However, it does not tell us anything about determinism of human behaviours, since we have no good reason to believe that the interaction of conscious and unconscious facilities of the brain work as a one-way street, with the unconscious determining what we think are our conscious choices. Indeed, there is much evidence that it is a two-way process, in which the upper and lower levels of the brain-mind engage in a tussle for control of behaviour. Sometimes the conscious (rider) wins. (This is illustrated by the fact that the reasoning centres of the brain [the forebrain] can calm down the agitations of the emotional centres of the brain [including the hypothalamus, and/or, as some would say ‘the limbic system’]). Sometimes the unconscious (horse) wins. (The ‘horse and rider’ analogy was Freud’s rendition of Plato’s ‘Charioteer and horses’ analogy for the conscious, reasoning faculty of mind [or “soul”, in Plato’s language] and its relationship to the “lower” brain-mind faculties, especially emotion).

16. The critique of evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology, which seems to be a more generalized form of the original form of sociobiology, popularized by Edward O. Wilson in the 1980’s, is the systematic study of the biological basis of social behaviour. This is a highly controversial theory of human social behaviour as adaptation to the needs of reproduction of ‘selfish’ genes. Rose and Rose have this to say about their own compilation of essays (2000) by a group of like-minded rejectionists: “It is the argument of the authors of this book that the claims of EP (evolutionary psychology – JWB) in the fields of biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and philosophy are for the most part not merely mistaken, but culturally pernicious. Further they (the advocates of evolutionary psychology) claim that their new view of human nature should inform the making of social and public policy. Thus the new science has a directly political dimension…” (Page 3). And, although sociobiology and evolutionary psychology accept in passing that human behaviour and culture may affect the course of organic evolution, the bias seems to be very much in favour of genes over culture.

One of the aims of the critics of EP, in Rose and Rose (2000), is not only to balance the contributions of culture and genes to human development and functioning, but also to reinstate freedom as a feature of the landscape of human behaviour, both individual and social. In particular, Jencks (2000) presents a very useful little model, which I think can serve as a heuristic for thinking through the question of just how much of my behaviour is determined by culture, how much by my genes, and how much is freely decided by me. His model is described as a “logical diagram and topology” … “adapted from the familiar wave and particle duality of the atom”. It is shown in Figure 19, below:


Figure 19 – Charles Jencks’s simple little model of complementarity

Instead of launching into a description of how this model is used to understand electrical or light waves and particles, I will switch it over into a more accessible discipline. That is possible because this model also shows up in management studies, applied to authoritarian and democratic styles of management, as shown in Figure 20, below:

Figure 20: A refined form of Jencks’s logical diagram

With this diagram, we can point to the fact that, when a manager operates a management style characterized by the segment 0-1, s/he is deploying a small fragment of authoritarianism, represented by the small area of grey triangle, but is mainly operating in a democratic manner or style, represented by the large white area. By contrast, when s/he moves to a style characterized by segment 3-4, s/he is clearly utilizing mainly authoritarian strategies, as illustrated by the very large shaded area. The complementarity of the diagram is such that, whatever proportion (x) is represented by the shaded area of the diagram, (or authoritarianism, in this example), a complementary proportion (100% - x) is contributed by the white area of the diagram (or democratic behaviour in this example). That completes my description of the nature of the model, as presented so far. However, in the next step, Jencks adds in a third element, which is his creative contribution to the model, as shown in Figure 21.

Figure 21: Jencks’s Gene/Culture/Freedom Triplet model

Clearly a sneeze is a simple reflex action, inborn rather than learned. And that is illustrated by the large white space to the left of the thick “sneeze” line. However, the small amount of dark grey at the base of that rectangle suggests that there is at least some social influence on our sneezing: such as the use of handkerchiefs; pinching the nose to avoid loud noises; and so on. (Jencks uses the example of Germans saying ‘gesundheit’, which Brits never do, as evidence of cultural elements of this simple reflex action). However, moving from social influence to personal freedom, Jencks tells a story about a female friend of his who personalizes her sneezing, depending on context. For example, if she wants him to pass a tissue or to indicate that need, she will sound her sneeze as “A-tissue”. If she wants him out of her way so she can deal with her sneeze she will sound it “A-shoo” (indicating her personal freedom); and he chooses to get out of the way (indicating his). Clearly there are at least a few other personalizations she could invent and deploy. Thus there is a need for the pale grey area of Figure 21, down the bottom, to indicate his friend’s “personal freedom” in relation to the act of sneezing. There isn’t much freedom available to us in relation to sneezing, but even with this quite basis reflex action, we retain some potential freedom of action. The general principle which Jencks derives from this little thought experiment is that: “(T)he expressive plane always has a degree of individual freedom that transcends existing culture, because it represents something new”. (Page 32).

Let us now move further to the right on this diagram.

Figure 22 – Freedom and sex

The first point to note in Figure 22 is the obvious fact that sex is more culturally shaped and determined than a sneeze, though it is still predominantly genetically/biologically determined. And secondly, in sex, I experience much more freedom as an individual than I do when engaged in sneezing. I can personally research the history of sexuality, and draw from that the lessons that appeal to me as a unique individual. I can struggle with the political issues involved in heterosexual sex-love relations, and try to respond in a way which makes sense to me to the debates about male domination and the excessively penile-centred forms of sexuality which our culture presented to me when I reached puberty. I can personally work against my biological desires for “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am”, or “all-night-long” forms of insensitive, non-responsive, self-indulgent sex, and strive to find a unique balance between myself and my uniquely individual wife-partner. Jencks’s appraisal of this graph is this: “Here we are in the realm of creativity, self-organizing systems, art, individual expression, and what Steven Rose calls ‘lifelines’, that is, the personal history constructed within the constraints of biology, society and all the rest of it”. (Page 33).

Let us now move further to the right, along the x-axis of this graph-model, and include eating and art.

Figure 23 – The growing component of freedom

Clearly eating is genetically determined, but in all human societies culture shapes the event of eating, the styles of cooking and food preparation, and other features of ‘dining’. This is shown by something like a 60:40 split for genetic:cultural determinants of eating in Figure 23. But despite the fact that my step-daughter and I share very similar biology, and definitely share a common culture, in that she grew up in the home that she shared with my wife (her mother) and I, she retains an enormous amount of individual freedom to decide that I “should not” offer her broccoli (or whatever her current pet hate has become); that this food should not be mixed with that one; that can’t I remember not to offer this (which she ate last month without any complaint) when I “should” know that she hates it; that she wants to eat, but not right now; that she wants to eat, but not on my terms; that she wants to eat, but not facing me; and on and on and on. This is freedom of the individual, which I also share, in that I can decide that, even though genetically and culturally I am on a steep slide to anger about all of this, individually and “Adult-ly”, I am disputing my irrational beliefs about it: “She should be the mean, picky, rejecting way that she is! Why? Because she is!” At the moment of the encounter, there is hardly a gene in my body that agrees with those sentiments, and hardly a person in the whole of Calderdale who would agree that my behaviour makes good, Yorkshire (cultural) sense. Nevertheless, I retain a degree of freedom to decide on my individual actions in the world, to suit my self-created, self organized self-expression.

In Figure 23, we also note that art contains a much smaller genetic component, and a huge element of freedom of the person. This freedom seems to largely result from the fact that art is “…as much concerned with expression as with content”. (Jencks: Pages 34-35). And it is intuitively obvious that human expression is fundamentally individual, creative and idiosyncratic. And although the individual is “taken over” at birth by her culture, she eventually reaches certain developmental crossroads at which she can choose to “jump ship” (mixed metaphor) and strike out in a new, self-chosen direction. Not effortlessly, and not always easily, but this is definitely possible and achievable. Thus I am persuaded that, because of my considerable degree of personal creativity in defining myself, my goals and my desired future; my capacity to respond creatively to my present circumstances; my capacity for novel combinations of thoughts and feelings; and my idiosyncratic forms of self-expression; I cannot be seen as a product of my genes and my culture. I have a capacity for freedom of thought and freedom of action, though it is constrained to a greater or lesser degree depending upon the context and the issue under consideration – sex, sneezing, art, etc.

This would have been a great point on which to terminate the main text of this answer. I could then have swung straight in to a conclusion which would have been aided by the positive momentum of this particular articulation of the case for freedom of individual expression. However, I have freely chosen to continue into two additional sections. The next one will be on “discourse analysis” which may significantly take the wind out of the sails of my present strong case for individual freedom. Why would I freely do that, instead of moving the consideration of ‘discourse analysis’ into an earlier section? Well partly I want to put my own theorizing to the test. It would be a bit too easy to go straight to the conclusion from the current section. And secondly, I am an eccentric intellectual: not at all a straight product of my genes and my culture! So I like to do things my way.

17. Discourse analysis
There are two extremes of discourse analysis – the hard form which claims that everything exists in language, and nothing exists other than how it is constructed in language. This is derived from the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which states that language determines thought. Theorists such as Rom HarrĂ© have taken this strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and turned it into a justification of the determinist position by claiming that, since I do not exist, and my emotions do not exist, except as concepts in language, and since that language was created by my society, and not by me, therefore I have no freedom from the mental-linguistic structures created by my society. QED: no individual freedom; no free will. (I used to subscribe to this view, and found it very ‘liberating’). However, as Vivien Burr acknowledges, the idea that language, in the form of social discourse, provides my subjective experience of the world, leaves out of account any sense of personhood or subjective experience. And, it seems to me to be obvious that, if we can find a single instance of an individual anywhere acting as a free agent, even to some limited extent, then this hard form of discourse analysis falls.

Vivien Burr provides just such an example, where she reports on a research project into the construction of a favourable self-identity by lesbians: “Kitzinger (1987, 1989) shows how lesbians whom she interviewed were able to draw upon alternative discourses in forming their own identity as lesbians and in accounting for themselves and their relationships to other people. She shows how they drew upon the discourses of ‘romantic love’ and of ‘self-actualization’ (both of which she identifies as ‘liberal humanist’ in flavour) in bringing off accounts of themselves which presented them as more similar than different to other ordinary women”. If lesbians can search around for alternative discourses which they can weave into a ‘self-story’, then so can I. I do not have to buy into the ideological stories of “who” and “what” I am, which were given to me by my society, which was a fundamentalist, catholic, agrarian backwater of the 1940’s to 1964. Neither do I have to buy into the liberal bourgeois culture of modern Britain. Indeed, I have freely chosen not to do so, firstly by becoming a revolutionary Marxist; and more recently by becoming a Zennish/Stoical/Freethinking/Adult/Nurturing-Parent-type/REBT-Therapist. But am I completely determined by those “adopted” philosophies/ideologies? No. For example, I have substantial differences of opinion about certain specific details of REBT with the London and New York ‘fraternity’. I can often accommodate Freud, Rogers and Berne to a degree which would not normally be found amongst the ‘more traditional’ REBTers!

I have thus found another way of illustrating my relative freedom from conditioning by my culture.

18. Self-Actualization
The humanistic psychologists, unlike the behaviourists, and definitely more so than the Stoics, believe we do have free will. As far as I can tell, Maslow is the major theorist of humanistic psychology who is relevant in this context, and especially his theory of the hierarchy of needs. We have already seen that modern psychology considers these ideas difficult; and some even consider them to be invalid, or faulty. These issues are taken up by Francis Heylighen (1991), who seems to me to have salvaged the theory from confusion and inadequacy. Heylighen’s major contribution, in his research paper cited above, was to redefine self-actualization (which is clearly predicated upon the idea of indeterminacy, or free will) as “the perceived competence to solve the basic problems (or basic needs, which show up as perturbations of the organism’s nervous system) in due time, where the required time depends on the (subjective) urgency of the need”. (Page 26 of 31). He also clarified that perceived competence has three components: material, cognitive and subjective. It is difficult to “self-actualize” if you live in a cardboard box in Oxford Street; or if you have had a lot of experience of cognitive failure. Then he argues that “Cognitive competence requires adequate distinction systems (or what I am choosing to call “neuro-linguisitic wiring”)”. He then points to the different types of cognitive systems required by lower-order and higher-order needs. “(L)ower-order needs (like homeostasis, safety, protection) demand well structured, closed cognitive systems, with invariant, precise distinctions” – which sound like the kinds of neuro-linguistic circuits which would produce stimulus>response (little or no choice) pairings. On the other hand, “higher-order needs (like feedback and exploration) require open-ended systems with variable distinctions”, which sound like circuits which are flexible, and loosely coupled to incoming stimuli, thus affording some degree of freedom of response. Overall, Heylighen makes three types of proposals to promote greater self-actualization. The first is to do with social and economic development, to overcome material deficiencies. The second is educational, to overcome cognitive competence problems. However, the third, which relates directly to self-actualization, is helping individuals “to develop their own distinctions, partly by opening up or de-automatizing their existing rigid distinction systems… thus enhancing their creative intelligence (this is the ‘cybernetical’ solution)”. (Page 27). This is like music to my ears, because what it means is that freedom of the individual, or self-actualization, is possible; but not automatic. Satisfaction of the lower level needs is driven in a deterministic manner, by “perturbations” of the nervous system, but “self-actualization”, or the implementation of free will, is CHOSEN, and has to be supported by material, cognitive and subjective resources. Educational developments are essential, and especially self-directed enquiry and strengthening of the “intellectual will”. Thus I am clear that I have a great deal more freedom from being determined by my genes and my environment than most of those individuals who have neglected their self-education, and especially self-education for creative thinking. I am freer than those individuals who have fudged their challenges to act with integrity and courage in the face of difficult challenges. And I am freer than the customers in the nearest pub who are getting tanked up this Friday evening in response to the injunction: “Drink, don’t think!” While I slave away over the question: To what extent do I agree that I am wholly determined by my genes and my environment. If I was wholly determined by my genes and my environment, I probably could not sustain such a persistent assault upon this question. I would come down on one side or the other very quickly, so that I could go back to pursuing my ‘id’ appetites (genetic determination) or my ‘super-ego’ injunctions (environmental determination), or both. Because I am free (to a substantial degree), I can choose to persist with any challenge which engages me; challenges me; provokes my intellect; and rattles my humanistic cage.

19. Conclusion
I am an interactionist-materialist. That is to say, I believe that the id/Child (C) – in Figure 12 – interacts with the ego/Adult (A) and the superego/Parent (P) in responding to every outside stimulus (S), (as well as every internal stimulus, e.g. recalled experiences) to produce a response (R) which is selected using something like Edmonds’s model, in Figure 18, above. This is very different from Professor Young’s model of bacteria placed in lactose. Although the bacteria may make choices, they do not have the kind of computing power that I have in my neo-cortex with which to set goals, develop world models, develop a range of strategies, and action models, and to operate a selection and assembly process on these four elements, using intelligent thinking: some of which may be conscious; some of which may be made conscious; and some of which will be forever unconscious.

I am different from Sphex, the digger wasp. I notice when my goal-directed behaviours are disrupted, and how they are disrupted. I am able to plan to take alternative actions to achieve my goals.

I am different from Humphrey’s woodlouse, in that I can consciously learn about favourable and unfavourable climates, and decide where to go (subject to having the material resources); when to go; and how to survive there. I can think about climate, and plan to only go where I please (subject to my educational history, cumulative subjective state, and material resources).

I am different from Skinner’s rats and pigeons, and Pribram’s monkey, in that I can spot when others are trying to “reinforce” (or reward) me for doing what they want – e.g. only shopping at Boots, with my “Dis-Advantage Card”; or only drinking at Coffee Cali, with my Coffee Club Card worth a 10% discount over time – and decide I do not wish to have my behaviour shaped by Boots and Coffee Cali, and decline to join their clubs. (Not only did the behaviourists have to go a long way down the phylogenetic tree to find species which could be easily behaviourally-shaped; they even had to do that shaping/reinforcing in cages! I would like to see Skinner do his experiments with pigeons in Trafalgar Square in London! Or with a bouncer on the door of a nightclub! As Albert Ellis would say: “You can’t reinforce difficult customers!”).

According to Edmonds (2000), and Priddy (1998), cognitive scientists working on artificial intelligence may be able to demonstrate that it is possible to “grow” free will within software programmes, in that thinking can become “loosely coupled” to the biological substrate upon which it subsists. However, I recognize that this does not “prove” a case, as argued by Baker (2002). Computer based models are very helpful in developing our thinking, but, as closed systems, they cannot provide confirmation of events that occur outside of them. It is merely suggestive of possibilities about the human brain.

Between my genes and my environment, there is my brain-mind activity, as shown in Figure 17, above. Or, in case this is confusing, between my id/Child (C), in Figure 12 – which is innate and biological – and my ego/Adult (A), which is self-constructed and informational, there is interaction; both bottom-up and top-down. This means that my rational, self-constructed schemas – (A) – can ‘damp-down’ and moderate my innate, emotional-biological schemas – (C). This frees me to some extent from control by my genetically determined biology. Also, the same rational, self-constructed schemas – (A) – can challenge, and modify my internalized cultural norms – (P) - such that I can achieve some autonomy from my cultural conditioning. (And as this model evolves, it becomes possible to locate all of the ego states within Freud’s “ego” construct, with the Adult corresponding to the “zone” in which the inborn Rational Beliefs, and the culturally acquired Rational Beliefs interact, and give rise to self-constructed Rational Beliefs, supported by innate capacities to perceive structure, order and relations in the incoming stimuli, and to apply standards of logic and reason to interpretation and response-selection. This is the basis of my rational, choosing mind).

In Figure 23, above, using Jencks’s model of the relationship of genetic determination, cultural conditioning and personal freedom, I showed that I have some degree of freedom in relation to most aspects of my functioning from sneezing, through sex and eating, to artistic expression. And since I live my life more as an ‘art-form’ than a ‘science’, I find I have dramatic amounts of free will, and freedom of expression, within certain definite, immovable limits. (Not all of my resistant limits are necessarily immovable, of course. The geneticists, in their efforts to explain everything as a product of genes, have had to posit the existence of “conditional genes”, which are triggered by early environmental stimulation. See in particular Baker’s (2002) description of the role of “conditional genes” in the determination of clinical depression in identical twins. But if some of my current psychological “shape” has been determined by “conditional genes”, I maintain that it may be possible to switch them to the alternative setting from the one that may have happened in my early childhood. Thus some of the latest developments in genetic science may point to my having more rather than less free will! And geneticists may be increasingly forced to accept that, if identical twins [who are therefore assumed to have identical genes] can develop different emotional reactions to dogs, because of different environmental experiences, then they must have a capacity [i.e. Mind] to process these signals and arrive at their own interpretations. Thus the case for a third element in the determination of human personality and behaviour is close to being made)

Because of my educational experience, and especially my interest in developing my creativity; my favourable material circumstances; and my subjective health (coming out of completing my self-therapy); I find I have been self-actualizing, according to Heylighen’s model, by “opening up” or “de-automatizing” my previously “rigid distinction systems”, thus “enhancing my creative intelligence”. (Heylighen, 1991, page 27). Thus I am very much less determined by my genes and environment than I was, say, ten to twenty years ago.

There are, of course, serious constraints upon my freedom of action. I cannot fly by flapping my arms. I cannot wish upon a star and wake up where the world is far behind me! I cannot guarantee that setting a goal will result in achieving it. This was the major insight of the Buddha. Life is frustrating. Life is suffering. And of course, I agree with Epictetus’s view that there are only certain things I can control, and “I am to follow events – not lead them”. Nevertheless, I do have very real, and growing, areas of personal freedom which are intoxicatingly exciting. And although I live in a society, and am constantly being invited into existing and emerging discourses, which could constrain me further, I am alive and alert enough to (normally, or frequently) spot this possibility, and to work around it. However, I do recognize that I can never escape from some of the constraints of my biology and some aspects of some culture or other. I cannot put a percentage on the degree to which I am determined, because it varies from very little, in areas of self-expression, to very much, in the area of simple reflexes and culturally shaped unconscious urges.

Finally, I am obliged to admit that very little is certain, or definite about my analysis of this topic. This is so because science cannot (apparently) disprove the existence of free will, and philosophy cannot prove that personal freedom can exist in an otherwise apparently wholly determined universe. Meanwhile, it seems to me that, although I am enjoying this writing activity very much, I’d prefer to go and have my evening meal. So I am going to stop typing and start eating, in the vain belief that I am freely choosing this course of action.


Footnotes and References

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