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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

First Principles                319

resultant of certain forces which have been brought to bear
upon him but which are not the man. So that it seems there
is no detail, no nook or corner of action, into which necessity
does not penetrate.

This seems logical, but it is as logical to follow instinct and
common sense as to follow logic, and both instinct and
common sense assure us that there is no nook or corner of
action into which free-will does not penetrate, unless it be
those into which mind does not enter at all, as when a man
is struck by lightning or is overwhelmed suddenly by an
avalanche.

Besides, those who maintain that action is bound to
follow choice, while choice can only follow opinion as to
advantage, neglect the very considerable number of cases in
which opinion as to advantage does not exist—when, for in-
stance, a man feels, as we all of us sometimes do, that he
is utterly incapable of forming any opinion whatever as to
his most advantageous course.

But this again is fallacious. For suppose he decides to
toss up and be guided by the result, this is still what he has
chosen to do, and his action, therefore, is following his choice.
Or suppose, again, that he remains passive and does nothing
—his passivity is his choice.

I can see no way out of it unless either frankly to admit
that contradiction in terms is the bedrock on which all our
thoughts and deeds are founded, and to acquiesce cheerfully
in the fact that whenever we try to go below the surface of
any enquiry we find ourselves utterly baffled—or to redefine
freedom and necessity, admitting each as a potent factor
of the other. And this I do not see my way to doing. I am
therefore necessitated to choose freely the admission that
our understanding can burrow but a very small way into the
foundations of our beliefs, and can only weaken rather than
strengthen them by burrowing at all.

Free-Will otherwise Cunning

The element of free-will, cunning, spontaneity, indi-
viduality—so omnipresent, so essential, yet so unreasonable,
and so inconsistent with the other element not less omni-
present and not less essential, I mean necessity, luck, fate—