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Free Will in Montaigne, Pascal, Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire and Sartre

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Mary Efrosini Gregory

Free Will in Montaigne, Pascal, Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire and Sartre takes the reader on a journey through the corridors of time to explore the evolution of thought regarding free will. The arguments and works presented in this volume raise critical and timeless issues for ethicists, the criminal justice system and the responsible citizen. Montaigne held that humans can break out of the determinist confines of their given cultures and acquired habits by employing reason, welcoming change and promoting education. In The Nun, Diderot chronicles portraits of pathology, records symptoms and leaves it up to the reader to decide whether the unfortunate victims are products of nature, nurture or both. Rousseau thought that civilized man, having joined society, surrenders his free will to the general will to enjoy protection of his person, family and property. Sartre, an indeterminist, averred that since humans have the capacity to be self-reflective, they can exercise creativity with regard to who and how they choose to be from moment to moment. Freud observed that we are marionettes whose strings are commandeered by various realms competing for dominance – the conscious and subconscious; id, ego and superego. Bernays, Freud’s nephew, employed psychoanalytic theory as a tool to advise corporations how to entice the public to purchase their products when confronted with a range of choices. This book opens the door to lively classroom discussion on moral issues. French literature, philosophy, psychology and political science classes will find it an invaluable source presenting a wealth of views on free will.

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9. Bernays 196

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Chapter Nine Edward Bernays The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this un- seen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind…1 —Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda (1928) Edward L. Bernays (1891–1995) was a hard determinist who understood that the human mind could be trained with stimuli that, over a period of time, would elicit a desired response. However, one could look beneath the surface of this philosophy and argue that perhaps his lifetime corpus suggests that we do indeed have free will, both individually and collectively, and that humans, driven by private interest, are eager to employ whatever tactics they can to coax each other into making choices from which they would benefit. If the rich and powerful did not deem that we have free will, they would not invest bil- lions of dollars in techniques to influence our choices. If they have the ability...

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