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Wisdom, J.O. (1943). Determinism and Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:140-147.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:140-147

Determinism and Psycho-Analysis

J. O. Wisdom

Psycho-analysis was founded upon the postulate of determinism, a postulate that has never been contradicted by clinical experience. Since, however, its validity has been repeatedly questioned not only in the past but in very recent times, the subject is one that deserves our attention.

Considering that the dispute between determinism and free will has interested the greatest intellects, it is astonishing to find how few writings upon it there are that furnish sustained and precise argument; often there is little beyond bare assertion of belief. Though confronted with some scientific evidence against them, most thinkers in their heart of hearts seem to have believed in free will and have been impotent to produce more in their favour than could be put in a sentence or two. Apart from the task of finding grounds for the belief, it is difficult even to state what the thesis of free will or libertarianism asserts. I know of but three admirable writings advocating determinism: the first is a little known tract by Anthony Collins (1), an early eighteenth-century deist; the second a paper by Mr. Hobart (2); and the third a chapter by Sir David Ross (3). On the other side Kant (4), with his celebrated thesis that the existence of moral law implies freedom to carry it out, stands alone. Idealist philosophers have framed transcendental senses in which the will is free, but, since these kinds of freedom by their very nature transcend the natural world and human actions that occur in it, no relevance may be attached to them.

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