Whether we like to admit it or not, we always have a choice. We can deny it as much as we want. We’re always as free as we want. There was a well written article by Cristian Mihai, discussing the connection between art and violence. In the end his question turned out to be about free will. I agree with his conclusion w’re the only ones responsible for our actions.
The author uses a good analogy – martial arts training. It actually refers to the archetype of the warrior. One learns to fight by fighting. But it doesn’t makes necessarily a violent person. Because there is what the author calls convention and I would call rules, ethical reflection maybe moral.
The martial art example reveals the philosophical question behind the art topic (as well as some hints to the answer). Are we ultimately responsible for our deeds? Answer – yes we are. “We” translates in “you and me” as individual and our cultural entity (family, society, nation). While it may be an influencing factor, it is not wise, simply to shift the blame to art, to the media, to computer games, to weapons, to the not (yet) developed cortex. Violence has been always present. and it always needed the effort of the individual and culture (moral, ethic, religion, law) to restrain it.
“The psychoanalytic C.G.Jung said under the impression of the second world war: We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied, because we are the origin of all coming evil.”
Simpler said, We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. The Shadow, as C.G. Jung defined it, is in us. “Omne bonum a Deo, omne malum ab homine, i.e., “All good from God, all evil from man.” said the great (religious) philosopher Augustine of Hippo (Augustinus).
The free will, as Augustine sees it, differentiates man from animals.
Having said said, we not only deny the existence of the evil by shifting the blame to something impersonal but indeed intoxicate ourselves by shallow entertainment, consumerism, graphic violence, “sex, drugs and rock en roll” and psycho-pharmaca.
Some turn from violence to hard science. While I largely agree that most social sciences and the bankrupt humanities are not helpful, the belief of hard sciences as savior (physics, biology, chemistry, informatics, evolutionary psychology, cognitive and neurosciences) is mechanistic and naive. Their potential solutions to prevent evil, might create evil – might create a world, in which I do not want to live in. Lack of empathy is widespread today like a mental illness. That lack seems to be even collective. In that respect, we all, whole societies are ill. And it is a lack of empathy (or love) that allows one to enact violence upon another living creature. I doubt, empathy levels can be enhanced through neurobiology and scientific designer drugs or information technology nor through tons of social workers.
Now is art to blame? What is art today, most of the stuff might not even be art. 1979 Francis Ford Coppola’s haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now was graphic and violent, but visionary. It has been said, that Coppola made art out violence by aesthetic means, thus legitimizing it. Goethe wrote 1774 a book, “Die Leiden des jungen Werther”, about an unfilled love in which the main character commits suicide. Followers dressed in this fashion, and committed suicide in the double digits. The imitations of the Werther figure in real life, which were in suicide attempts and suicides, started a discussion about media effects, which runs up today. Since the 1970s, the psychology deals with the phenomenon of “media-mediated imitation”. Think also of the Danish caricatures, which resulted in many deaths – the problem is global now.
Will the easy fix help, should we forbid art (books,paintings, movies… Goethe), forbid, internet, forbid weapons, forbid media?
No, we have to think, feel and act properly and raise our kids within a minimum ethical context. With love (and also with fathers). We must rely on science, as well as on metaphysics, common sense and psychology to cope with reality. but even more on intuitive understanding (“our inner self”) . Free will is possible, it is possible to understand our genetic and biographical patterns of behavior, at least to an extent. It is called individuation. Still shooting massacre will happen. Lucky, if one can pray then, at least.