The quote “Man’s life is a line that nature commands him to describe upon the surface of the earth…” is a great example of a determinist philosophy concept. It was written by d’Holbach in his work The System of Nature, which was published in 1770 (Speaks, 2006). The main point presented by Holbach is that humans have no free will: he states that free will is an illusion. To some extent, this is, indeed, true: many studies in psychology proved that natural factors, as well as society, have a strong influence on people’s actions. However, I believe that Holbach’s argument is wrong, as not all our behavior is predetermined.
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The quote starts with the idea that nature is the primary force governing a man’s existence. Holbach presents human life as a line that is imprinted on the earth’s surface, and that a man has no choice but to follow where nature leads him. While Holbach does not refer to the concept of faith in this quote, his idea still seems somewhat connected to the notion of fatalism. However, if we examine the sentence closely, the difference is clear: whereas fatalism argues that the line is drawn before the man is even born, Holbach’s hard deterministic approach states that it is the person who draws the line. Nevertheless, the line is drawn against people’s will; they have no choice but to live their life in the way prescribed by nature, and they cannot swerve away from the predetermined direction. At this point, it would be interesting to consider what Holbach means by nature.
Does he refer to the biological forces, such as the change in hormone levels, that affect human behavior? Or does he perceive nature as a combination of external forces that is natural and even integral to human existence, including the influence of other people, political regimes, and social environment? Holbach also argues that the lack of consent is natural to people as they were born without consent and it is hard to object to this claim. Holbach moves to explain that external forces, whether visible or concealed, determine every aspect of a person’s life, including his or her behavior. This approach is similar to the ideas of behavioral psychology, where the socioeconomic environment is the primary facilitator of people’s actions. Moreover, some scientists use the theory of outside influences to justify criminal behavior. However, how can we say that a murderer’s actions were caused by other forces without shifting the blame from the criminal onto the innocent people? How can we say that his or her actions were pre-determined by their background if not all people from the same background commit crimes? It is true that certain events can change a person; however, the number of possible factors and influences is so large that it is impossible to trace what, if anything, can indeed have an effect on a person.
Overall, I believe that it is true that external factors have a significant influence on people as they create new opportunities for growth, as well as new challenges and obstacles. Nevertheless, when facing such events or factors, each person has the right and ability to choose between the possible options and to follow the path that he or she considers the best. Moreover, I think that each person has a capacity to direct his or her thoughts away from the past events to decrease the influence of outside factors on his or her life and to live the life that he or she sincerely wants to live, instead of merely following a pre-determined linear pattern.
Speaks, J. (2006). The determinist challenge to free will. Web.