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Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
Augustin Frédéric Hamon

Augustin Frédéric Hamon was a late-nineteenth-century Belgian social scientist who faulted criminologists for holding criminals responsible for crimes that were caused by forces beyond their control, including a causal determinism that was a result of the laws of nature, as Hamon understood those laws.

His book, The Universal Illusion of Free Will and Criminal Responsibility, anticipates most of the arguments of today's hard determinists, impossibilists, and illusionists who deny moral responsibility.

Here is an example of Hamon's thinking from his Chapter 1, Free Will and Determinism, pp. 6-9.

The question of "Free Will or Determination" according to Fouillée is the philosophic problem par excellence.

All sciences dealing with human effort and human duties are based on this question upon which our social edifice seems to rest. The adoption of the "free will" theory or of the theory of determination must necessarily influence every social problem.

One of the most important branches of criminological science, that of responsibility, penality, and the repression of crimes and misdemeanors, is completely changed according to whether free will is admitted or not. At the threshold of criminology, therefore, it is important to examine this philosophic problem, to have our conception on this point well established.

For centuries upon centuries free will and necessity have been discussed. Philosophers and theologians have heaped volumes upon volumes, the one side holding to free will, the others, protagonists of the doctrine of necessity. The Stoics, Manicheans, Marcionites, Priscillianists, Calvin, Jansenists, and Thomists were of the latter opinion, while Epicurus, the Molinists, Melancthon, and many more defended the doctrine of free will. Historians and poets, Latins as well as Greeks, have invoked inexorable fate at every instant, the will of the gods as the cause of human acts. This is, in fact, to deny free will. St. Augustine, the great Catholic doctor, broke lances over the subject of Grace, and proclaimed: "Man is invincibly destined either to bad by his natural corruption or to good by the Holy Ghost." And Boyle was able to draw from the doctrine of Chrysippus that: "At bottom, all acts of human will are the inevitable consequences of destiny."1 And Voltaire clearly affirms the truth of determinism in his explicit and characteristic language: "Liberty," said he, "is nothing else than to be able to do that which I desire... Your will is not free, but your actions are. You are free to act when you have the power to act."2

All these discussions, whether for or against free will, are based upon a priori arguments. To combat or defend determinism, the rational method was the only one employed. The introduction in science of the experimental and observational method has come to modify considerably the situation of the philosophers. The experiment has brought about a veritable overthrow of preconceived ideas since during the lust quarter of this century psycho-physiology has taken rank among the sciences.

The Greek and Latin philosophers, the fathers of the church, the doctors of the Reformation, and the philosophers of modern times based their opinions only upon their reason, whether they sustained or refuted free will. Now, facts observed, experimented upon, with the inevitable deductions, have come to throw light upon the problem. They enfeeble, reduce to nothing, the argumentation in support of free will, while sustaining, affirming, and imposing the doctrine of determinism. Even Fouillée, although impressed by philosophic classicism, has avowed that: "In the end, it is determinism which is true."3

Although positive science has demonstrated, and, in our opinion, without the possibility of refutation, that determinism is the truth, classic philosophy has always been for free will. It is this which is officially taught. Determinism is only spoken of to assert that it is false and to give an appearance of refuting it. Then, all or almost all of us have been nourished upon this idea that man possesses free will. This fact explains how difficult it is for us to divest our minds of this conception, which is false because it is in contradiction to all human phenomena. This impression upon our brains is such that a young advocate recently avowed: "Yes theoretically determinism is true; but practically it is not. It is sufficient to see the delinquents of the police court to be persuaded of it." The professional environment had thoroughly awakened in him the ideas received during his classical education. This prevented him from analysing to the end these delinquents, and consequently of perceiving their lack of free will.

What then is free will or moral liberty? By turns each of these different terms have been employed in the same sense.

In many parts of his dictionary Bayle gives us the explanation of free will (franc-arbitre).

This is the classical liberty of indifference
He writes: " Those who hold with free will properly so-called, admit in man the power to decide between turning to the right or to the left, even when the motives are perfectly equal as regards the two directions opposed; for they pretend that our spirit can say, without having other reason than to make use of its liberty: I like this better than that, although I see nothing more worthy of my choice in this than in that."1 And Bossuet, in his Traité du Libre arbitre has said that moral liberty belongs to man, because he can choose or not choose, without other motive than his own will. Also in the abstract of philosophy used in the preparation for the B.A. degree we read : "Moral liberty or free will is the liberty of our will in itself."2

This definition is somewhat obscure, and truly tautological. It indicates the necessity for a clear definition of will. Now, for this, the same abstract says : "Will is the power to decide, inherent in the human soul."3 Hence it results that free will is the liberty to be able to decide. In other words, free will is free will.

In his chapter 2 (p.22), Hamon argues that free will contradicts the natural laws of causality, that there are no effects without causes.
We have ascertained that there are no effects without causes. Innumerable observations, all testifying to the same fact, that no effect without causes, have led to the formulation of the law of natural causality. To defend the hypothesis of free will is to admit that quite a series of phenomena form an exception to this constant relationship, which is found to exist between any phenomenon and those in the process which precede it; it is to admit that a phenomenon is not the necessary effect of other preceding phenomena, or that an effect is without cause; that causes have their effect altered, modified by a "faculty" that one cannot conceive. Consequently to uphold free will is to suppose the existence of an inconceivable entity in contradiction even with the relation which unites phenomena with one another; the necessary relation of cause and effect. An hypothesis which explains nothing, but which implies something inconceivable, is useless and absurd. The observation of natural phenomena has led to the discovery that matter, force, and life subsist without being created and without being destroyed. This is the law of the conservation of matter (Lavoisier), of force (Mayer), and of life (Dreyer). Life is a mode of force. Force is not an entity. It is an attribute of matter.

Outside matter force cannot be conceived. Matter and force do not exist at all as separate entities. There is matter affected by movement, of which the infinitely various associations produce the infinitely different phenomena which we notice.

It is by mental abstraction that we denominate force that quality of matter which causes its combinations to be infinitely variable. Matter and force are then the same thing, for they are inseparable, inconceivable as distinct entities. One might then say The conservation of matter is a principle which results from the observation of all phenomena. Nothing is lost, nothing is created. Then the hypothesis of free will is in absolute contradiction to the law of the conservation of matter. In fact the hypothesis of free will forces one to admit something come from we know not whence, emanating from we know not what, something which would prevent or modify the manifestations of individual activity.

In his final chapter, pp. 134-136, Hamon concludes that moral responsibilitydoes not exist.
Universal determinism, being the scientific truth, it follows that moral responsibility does not exist. It cannot be conceived. It is, in fact, contrary to human reason to consider automatons responsible, being inevitably obliged to be as they are. The rock which in breaking away crnshed whoever is on. its path, is not considered responsible. Nor is the tiger responsible who kills a man. We ought no more consider the man who acts responsible, for he is as much an automaton as the tiger, or the rock. General irresponsibility, such is scientific truth.

It shocks even the convinced determinist.

Hamon notes that positivists maintain the right of society to defend itself, defining a kind of responsibility that comes from living in society (p.136).
Society, M. Ferri declares, has the right to defend and preserve itself. This is the

"sole positive ground for penal or defensive administration, apart from all idea of an ethico-religious or sentimental mission."

Man is responsible because he lives in society, and for no other cause than this social existence. He who does not live in society has no rights nor dnties. He renders account to nobody of his acts, at least without the idea of homage to some God.

"Man is responsible exclusively because in the life of society, every act produces effects and reactions, whether individual or social, which rebound upon the author of the act, and are useful or injurious to him, according as the action itself is useful or injurious to society." This social responsibility is upheld by the majority of psychologists, alienists, sociologists, and positive criminalists, such as Stuart Mill, Despine, Dally, Maudsley, Spencer, Lombroso, Lacassagne, Guyau, De Greet Le Bon, etc.

Every action produces reaction. Every agent therefore feels the natural and social consequences of his acts. He responds to them, and he is responsible for them vis-a-vis to the cosmic or social environment by the fact alone that he is the author of his acts. The positive Italian school arrives thus at responsibility based upon the simple attribution of fact. Such it was primitively. Logically with itself it transfers from the penal order to the civil order the general Anglo-Saxon conception which states with Holmes-

"that every man acts always at his own risk and peril, whatever may be the state of his conscience."

From this, lunatics, the insane of whatever kind, are considered by the positive school as socially responsible.

Hamon suggests we replace responsibility with reactivity, to describe what society must do when an individual provokes it (pp. 137-138).
The indivisual who commits acts disturbing the society in which he lives, necessarily provokes there a need for a reaction. This is fatal, inevitable. Individual or collective activity engenders individual or collective reactivity. To different modes of action respond various modes of reaction. We have no need of the conception of responsibility based upon free will, a liberty of intelligence which does not exist, based upon an individual identity of which it is impossible to establish a criterion. It is sufficient that there should be discord in action to produce the consequence whether of repression or prevention. The individual or social reactivity is the inevitable consequence of individual or social activity. It manifests itself by the proceedings for correction, preventive, or suppressive treatment if the acts resound in their surroundings, and if they have been judged injurious by the majority of the members of the society.

We consider then that it is necessary to substitute the term social reactivity for social responsibility, because the idea intended under the latter term does not correspond to the common classic idea of responsibility. Social reactivity has for its necessary product in place of penalties or chastisements, a preventive treatment, a hygiene and social therapeutics appealing further than to the agent, to the very causes of the discordant acts. This hygiene and this therapeutics of society we cannot yet treat of. We must first study the criminals, the etiology of crimes, and review the various present measures taken against criminals. Then alone we shall be able, knowing the cause, to establish a hygiene and social therapeutic. To-day it must suffice us to have shown that there is no such thing as moral responsibility, and that all men are irresponsible.

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