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Don't Resist Temptation?

There's another concept that I think might easily be confused with the concept “don't fight your mind”. What I want to do in this essay is point out the existence of this other concept, and then show how it's different.

I'm not sure what the best name for this other concept is. One possibility is “don't resist temptation”; another is “do whatever you feel like, even if it's immoral or criminal”.

What's the difference between the two? In terms of Skinner's lollipop example, the meaning of the principle “don't fight your mind” is not “since seeing a lollipop makes you want to eat it, do so” but rather “be aware that seeing a lollipop makes you want to eat it, and, if necessary, act on that fact, e.g., by putting it out of sight”.

But what if you just can't stop yourself from eating the lollipop? Isn't that your mind at work? Shouldn't you, therefore, avoid fighting your mind, and just accept that you're going to eat the lollipop? I don't think so. I'm reminded of the following dialogue from The Tao Is Silent, in which God and a mortal discuss free will.

GOD: Ah, just as I thought! So moral responsibility is not the only aspect of free will to which you object. What else about free will is bothering you?

MORTAL: With free will I am capable of sinning, and I don't want to sin!

GOD: If you don't want to sin, then why do you?

MORTAL: Good God! I don't know why I sin, I just do! Evil temptations come along, and try as I can, I cannot resist them.

GOD: If it is really true that you cannot resist them, then you are not sinning of your own free will and hence (at least according to me) not sinning at all.

MORTAL: No, no! I keep feeling that if only I tried harder I could avoid sinning. I understand that the will is infinite. If one wholeheartedly wills not to sin, then one won't.

How is it possible that one can do something and yet feel like one didn't want to do it? Beats me! I just picked up a copy of Consciousness Explained, and have great hopes that it will shed some light on the matter. In the meantime, I know there's something, some process, that occurs between seeing and eating, and even though it's not infinitely powerful, it should still be exercised.


  See Also

  Dirty Old Men
  Too Much Is Eventually Enough

@ June (2000)