Freedom vs. Assumed Responses


A though of though pattern and social conventions.

Lately I have noticed a common thread running through a number of ideas. The common idea here seems to be that people, when put in some circumstance, react automatically in a certain way. This in different that a reflex, in which the brain is entirely bypassed. Here the brain is involved, and some level of thinking occurs, but it is somehow predetermined. People are expected to always act in a certain negative way, and they have no (or less) blame for doing so.

From this, it follows that society ought to arrange things to prevent the situation. The blame that was removed fro the individual performed the negative act is reassigned to the person who created the situation. In some cases, as with the kleptomaniac, these may in fact be the same person, but the blame gets shifted towards the set-up form the action. People should act carefully in "choice" situations so that nothing bad happens in the "automatic" ones.

Personally, I am very skeptical about this, although it might be because I am naturally less emotional than most people (I think, I have never been anyone else). Or maybe there is a continuum, where circumstances make some choices easier or harder. This is already the model I use to understand addiction, so I'm inclined to adopt it here too. The downside is that it requires people to be assigned degrees of fault, instead of a simple yes/no test. And once you start having partial blame, there is usually enough for everyone. For example, most murders could have been avoided if the victim was on a different continent.

Assuming the idea is sound, then the solution does make sense. However, there would have to be some limits, or nobody ever would decide anything. There is also the problem that every set-up requirement restricts people's freedom, and restricted people don't like that. Ideally they would be "fair", but fairness usually means that I get all of what I had and half of what you had. I think a fair number of thorny social problems revolve around just what the various balances ought to be.

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