Human Actions, Mental and Physical, as Both Caused and Free

An excerpt from chapter 2 on Sense Perception & Volition from Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff.

The choice to focus or not is man’s primary choice, but it is not his only choice. Man’s waking life involves a continual selection among alternatives. Aside from involuntary responses, such as bodily reflexes, all human actions, mental and physical, are chosen by the actor. The man who is completely out of focus has abdicated his power of choice; he is capable of nothing but passive reaction to stimuli. To the extent that a man is in focus, however, the world with all its possibilities opens up to him. Such a man must choose what to do with his consciousness. He must decide to what goal, intellectual or existential, to direct it and by what means to achieve this goal.

Let me illustrate the wealth of human choices first in the mental realm. Assume that, having chosen to be in focus, you elect to solve some problem by engaging in a process of thought. (The same pattern of continual choice would apply to any deliberate mental process.)

To begin with, you must …

Read the rest in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

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