Archive for February 2007

Response to Hart and Wasserstrom

February 28, 2007

According to Hart in his piece “Negligence, Mens Rea and Criminal Responsibility,” Dr. Turner believes that “possession of knowledge of consequences is a sufficient and necessary condition of the capacity of self control.”  The corollary to this statement is that a person who has not considered the consequences of his actions cannot be held responsible for them under any circumstances.  I was intrigued to read this argument, as it reminded me of Plato’s characterization of crime in Gorgias.

According to the Greek philosopher, knowledge is the basis for all moral actions.  If a person believed a certain action was wrong, he would never do it.  Therefore, crime is a failure of education, and criminals must be re-instructed, through physical punishment or otherwise, so they will not ignorantly stray from the path of righteousness again.  So, you could say that like Turner, Plato does not consider negligence a serious crime: it is something to be corrected but not harshly punished.  I believe, however, that Plato is saying something different: that all crimes are the result of negligence.  Given the philosopher’s previously stated views on punishment, we can put him in the same camp as Hart and Wasserstrom, who believe punishing negligence forces citizens to be more careful and thus deters accidents.

Regardless, I believe Plato’s argument sorely lacks nuance, and Hart provides ample ammunition against it.  He argues that Turner’s corollaries are false because there is no such thing as a totally self-controlled or a totally uncontrolled state of mind for a normal person.  Knowledge is not the key to unlock these traits.  Plato’s arguments are therefore false.  Instead, the law works inside the gray areas.  It does not presume to know what is inside the criminal’s mind; rather, it investigates the evidence at hand to make judgments about negligence.

Wasserstrom notes that strict liability sometimes has the unintended consequence of driving people out of beneficial activities for fear of unexpected legal repercussions.  When I read this segment, I thought of the American tax code.  I understand that doing one’s own taxes is not an obviously beneficial activity, but it’s rather embarrassing that the law is so complex, and riddled with so many pitfalls, that citizens must pay other people to fulfill this annual duty.  Speaking of the downside of strict liability, my great grandfather spent years fighting the IRS over unsubstantiated technical charges.

After reading these selections, I was compelled to research the libertarian position on strict liability, and I heard two arguments about it.  The first, defined as “anarcho-libertarian,” postulated that the state should only punish people for damage, not for merely endangering others.  Therefore, it is a violation of one’s rights when citizens are punished for activities like drunk driving absent of any real damage.

The second, more mainstream opinion was that strict liability is the result of the people’s economic calculations.  They have decided that the general good of assuring a risk-free environment outweighs the sum of the good and bad results of allowing individual risks.  This side also argued that if drunk driving were legal, ordinary citizens would be harmed even before any extra accidents occurred because knowing that drunks could drive uninhibited on the streets, they would have to drive much more defensively each day.  The mental stress induced is bad for society, just as physical harm is.  Thus, strict liability is a defense of one’s rights.

Violencia: El hueso que come el perro

February 23, 2007

El título de la película Amores Perros sugiere que su tema es la agonía que es el amor, pero hay otro tema no dicho pero sí mostrado explícitamente: el efecto debilitante de la violencia sobre el alma del violento.  De manera adecuada, el foco de este tema es Cofi, el perro de Octavio que se convierte en un matador compulsivo.  Tan importante es este perro que es el único personaje que aparece en la primera y la última escena ambas.  Él muestra la corrupción de violencia por sus propias acciones y además es un catalizador para Octavio y El Chivo, cuyos arcos refuerzan este tema.  Aunque esta bestia no habla, dice mucho en sus escenas.

La historia de Cofi es bastante simple, una que podía ocurrir a cualquier soldado.  Empieza como un ciudadano pacífico.  Le gusta vagar por las calles pero no busca el peligro.  Cuando mata un luchador experimentado en defensa, sus señores descubren su talento y lo reclutan para sus propias ganancias.  Eventualmente, el inocente de antes es tan acostumbrado a matar que puede masacrar a inocentes, amigos, o familia sin arrepentimiento, y lo hace.

Aunque es problemático analizar la actuación de un perro, el director Alejandro Iñárritu podía obligar el perro actuar en cualquiera manera con algunos trucos, y la interpretación de Cofi destaca.  Nunca parece ni enojado ni loco: no vemos ni su lucha con el primer perro de Mauricio ni su matanza de los otros perros de El Chivo ni el punto decisivo de ningunas de sus luchas competitivas.  El perro es igualmente tranquilo como asesino e inocente.  Me gusta esta representación porque sugiere que Cofi siempre hace lo que es natural.  Pues él no mata los perros de El Chivo por la rabia; lo hace a sangre fría, que significa que su corrupción es real y total.

Cofi afecta las vidas de dos de los protagonistas de una manera paralela y profunda.  Primeramente, comparte y cataliza la corrupción de Octavio, un chico idealista quien usa a Cofi para conseguir su sueño de escapar de Ciudad de México con la esposa de su hermano.  El perro es un foco del montaje que representa el auge de este chico.  El montaje incluye tomas de las luchas de perros y de Octavio recibiendo dinero de las luchas y usándolo para apoyar a Susana y su hija y para comprar un coche.  La música es una canción de hip hop en que el cantador se jacta, reflejando la actitud soberbia de Octavio.  El chico se acostumbra a arriesgar la vida de su perro para su lujo, y así se corrompe tanto que usa brutos para “convencer” a su propio hermano de no inmiscuirse en sus cosas.

Después del accidente de coche que arruina los planes de Octavio, Cofi entra la posesión de El Chivo, un asesino sin familia y sin dirección.  En el perro, el viejo encuentra su doble y su compañero.  Comparten su nadir y su renovación espiritual en dos escenas maestras.  En la primera, El Chivo regresa a su casa oscura, sucia, y desordenada después de pasar todo el día intentando en vano matar a un hombre de negocios.  Cofi viene solo para saludar al hombre.  El descubrimiento de sangre en el cuerpo del perro le asusta al hombre, quien va al otro cuarto y descubre que el negro ha matado todos sus otros perros, aparentemente sin razón.  La vista de la cámara sigue los pensamientos del hombre: empieza con el primer plano para aumentar el suspense de la escena.  Entonces, cambia a una vista panorámica de todos los cuerpos en la casa para captar la extensión del daño.  Finalmente, regresa al primer plano otra vez para mostrar la intimidad de El Chivo con uno de sus perros favoritos, todavía muriendo.

El viejo maldice a Cofi, gritando que no es justo lo que ha hecho, y llora.  Esta tragedia cambia su vida.  Después de ver los efectos de la violencia sobre el carácter de Cofi y el sufrimiento que proviene de ella, El Chivo se da cuenta que lo mismo le ha ocurrido a él.  Decide dejar el asesinato y empezar su vida de nuevo.  Cuando captura al hombre de negocios después, no lo mata, y dice que el perro ha salvado su vida.

En la última escena de la película, Cofi y de El Chivo se marchan para empezar su vida nueva.  El Chivo ha vendido el último coche que robó; ahora tiene nada más para colgarlo al pasado.  El vendedor de coches le pide el nombre del perro.  El Chivo hasta ahora no había tenido un nombre para el perro, pero ahora responde que es “Negro,” una referencia a los pasados que atormentan a los dos.  Entonces el viejo y el perro se marchan de la tienda y andan por un campo dominado por azules, marrones, y negros hacia el sol.  Algunas mandolinas suenan en tonos urgentes, aumentando en volumen mientras las figuras de los dos personajes se alejan de la cámara y disminuyen en el horizonte.  Los colores, la música, y el simbolismo inherente de esta vista de la cámara crean un ambiente místico.  No sabemos si el viaje de El Chivo y Cofi, ahora Negro, terminarán bien, pero lo importante es que se han marchado.  Esta ruptura de su pasado cierra su arco temático.

Los personajes de Amores Perros emplean la violencia como si fuera una herramienta.  La usan cuando les sirve y no meditan sobre sus consecuencias internas.  Si es usada regularmente, se arruina el espíritu, como vemos por la historia de Cofi, por sus manipulaciones a la mano de Octavio y por la manera en que inspiró la penitencia de El Chivo.  Contra este poder debilitante, el usuario, a pesar de sus expectaciones, es el usado.  Es como si el hueso comiera el perro.

Response to Hart’s “Intention and Punishment”

February 21, 2007

Hart says that if we don’t want X to happen, doing Y will probably lead to X, and we do Y, we should be held responsible for X regardless.  When I read this passage, the first thing that came to my mind was war.  When an army bombs an enemy battalion planted inside an urban area, civilians often die, as well.  The army calls these deaths “collateral damage” and says they are regrettable but not morally wrong.  Hart’s theory, however, seems to implicate the military in such a circumstance.  If it knew that a bomb would also destroy surrounding houses, it also must have known injuries to innocents would be very probable.  Thus, the bomber is responsible for these consequences.

The general consensus among ethicists, however, seems to be that soldiers, while causally responsible for these deaths, are not legally or morally responsible for them.  According to the General Sherman school of thought, war is hell, and we shouldn’t wring our hands worrying about collateral damage to innocents.  Thus, even if the bomber is responsible, there should be no legal ramifications for his actions because war is a naturally lawless state.  Even the Geneva Conventions, the most respected international law with respect to war, accept collateral damage if it is proportionate to the importance of the military mission.  As for the moral argument, the Catholic Church allows collateral damage provided that the action is not intrinsically evil, the damage to innocents is not intended for a certain effect, and the collateral damage is proportionate to the success of the mission.  Thus, in the case of war, ethicists make exceptions for probable but undesired consequences.  I would be interested to hear Hart’s take on the matter.

The matter of damage to civilians is more controversial when we apply Hart’s idea to the indiscriminate bombings of cities employed in World War II, most memorably the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In these cases, the United States deliberately killed thousands of civilians in order to achieve the desired outcome, the surrender of Japan.  The Catholic Church condemned the bombings on the grounds that it used the death of innocents as a means to justify an end, even though the end was good.  There is still controversy about whether the bombings retroactively followed the Geneva Conventions.  The strongest argument in favor of the bombings follows the General Sherman line: dropping the bomb was the only way to end the war.  The action satisfies a utilitarian calculus, at least.  According to Hart’s theory, the United States would be guilty.  It has, of course, has never faced legal action for the bombings.

I agree with Hart’s argument that a criminal should not receive a lesser sentence for an attempted crime than he would for a committed crime.  Hart does not buttress his case with moral arguments, but if he wished, he could mention Immanuel Kant.  To Kant, intention determines the moral rectitude of an action, so a failed murder is just as bad as a successful one.

Hart suspects that the disparity of sentencing between murder and attempted murder has two causes: many jurists still base sentencing on the ancient principle of “an eye for an eye,” and the family of a living victim does not have the same desire for retribution as the family of a dead victim, so they won’t fight the cases as hard.  I agree on both counts.  Hart’s view on this matter is counterintuitive, but with respect to deterrence, it makes the most sense.  Superman always stopped Lex Luthor before his plans could come to fruition, ironically making it easier for Lex to get out of jail and continue his villainy.  In the comic book world, this was frustrating; in the real world, this should never happen.

Response to Austin and Hart

February 12, 2007

It is interesting to read Austin’s theory of action after hearing James’s and Hart’s criticisms of it just a week ago.  I will side with the latter.  Though Austin admits that muscular movements are a means to the ends which a person desires, he still considers these movements to be ends in themselves.  This would make the movements the objects of conscious thoughts.  In my opinion, most physical actions, not just those of the heart and kidneys but of the arms and legs and fingers, as well, are unconscious.  Facial expressions provide a perfect example.  If Austin’s theory were true, we would make facial expressions in order to belie certain emotions.  In my experience, however, facial expressions are reactions; we must exert will in order to control them at all.  If you do not exert your arm, it will not move, but if you ignore your face, it will continue to work: you’ll simply be an open book.  I think all the parts of the body operate in this manner.  The will selects merely the end; the body selects the means.  I would like to hear Austin’s explanation of this scenario.

Austin also claims that the will is only a factor in physical actions: it is the nexus between mind and body.  In this, he is totally at odds with James, who says the will is purely mental, because it is the tool we use to focus our minds on certain ideas and to ignore others.  Again, I side with James.  What would Austin say of meditation, the practice of emptying one’s mind of competing ideas and focusing on one, or zero, concepts?  To me, this task requires more willpower than anything else, and no physical movements are required for it.  James’s model, on the other hand, explains meditation perfectly.

The argument that most interests me in Hart’s “Ascription of Responsibility” is one he does not make directly: that reification is dangerous for law.  He moves in this direction two times: (1) when he says the word “unless” is crucial to criminal cases because we more often decide intention by eliminating excuses than by applying a definition of responsibility; (2) when he rejects the claim all excuses can be grouped in one category (absence of intention) or two (absence of foresight and “voluntariness”).  These two points remind me of Oliver Wendell Holmes’s observation that we developed the common law from the bottom up, through years of individual cases, rather than from the top down, through legal theories.  Argument (2) suggests that some theories are ex post facto explanations of law which is already in the books, and thus they do not help us understand or predict any new cases.

Holmes’s and Hart’s suggestion that the law is crafted on a case-by-case basis reminds me of Plato, oddly enough.  The Greek philosopher said that high concepts, such as justice and mercy, were Forms.  We may not understand them or be able to explain them, but if we train our minds and souls, our intuition can approach them.  Twenty-four hundred years have passed since Plato’s death, and still we do not have satisfactory definitions of Justice, Responsibility, or Will: instead, our theorists begin almost every work with redefinitions of them.  If our theorists cannot define them, what about our judges and juries?  Each case, most likely, they are working to provide a verdict which satisfies their intuitive senses of Justice.  So law is not as regimented as our rationalists would like, but it does follow principles – principles which proceed from the heart as much as the mind.

La autocrítica de Larra

February 12, 2007

Es un cliché inglés que el peor crítico de alguien es uno mismo.  En el caso de Mariano José de Larra, este refrán era verdad.  Muchos de sus artículos criticaron a la sociedad y el autor a la vez, algunas chistosamente y otras gravemente.  Porque escribió la mayoría de sus artículos bajo seudónimos, como el Pobrecito Hablador y Fígaro, no se puede tomar sus cuentos literalmente.  No obstante, hay sustancia temática al fondo de su invención.  Decía Juan Marichal, “Larra comprende que cuando él describe a los demás españoles se está describiendo a sí mismo[1].”  Esta forma nos abre una ventana a sus pensamientos sobre su vida personal, incluso las razones para su desesperación y suicidio.

Un ejemplo de su crítica ligera está en el artículo “Vuelva usted mañana.”  Después de burlar de la pereza de los españoles, él nota que es tan perezoso como todos sus paisanos.  Se pierde sus días hablando, durmiendo, y fumando, y se ha perdido amores, trabajos, y amigos porque no ha tenido la energía para perseguirlos.  Además, reclama que tenía la idea para el artículo hace tres meses y no lo escribía por la pereza.

La pereza del Pobrecito Hablador parece una cosa graciosa en “Vuelva usted mañana,” pero en “El casarse pronto y mal,” publicado antes, podemos intuir el efecto debilitante de la pereza de Larra en su vida personal.  Desde 1829 a 1832, los primeros años de su matrimonio, Larra fue desempleado (Kirkpatrick 36).  No podía apoyar su esposa y sus hijos, y los evitaba a cada oportunidad.  Al mismo tiempo, comenzó su relación extramarital con Dolores Armijo (37).  Pues “El casarse pronto y mal” es casi autobiográfico.

En esta obra, Larra se crítica de una manera neutral e indirecta: el artículo “está presentado no como una confesión, sino con la manifiesta convicción de que el público en su conjunto puede aprender algo de valor de la experiencia individual” (Kirkpatrick 264).  El Pobrecito Hablador cuenta la historia de su hermana, Elena, quien rechazaba todas las convenciones de la sociedad antigua, incluso la religión y el respeto para los padres.  Su novio, Augusto, “fue superficial, vano, presumido, orgulloso, terco, y no dejó de tomarse más rienda de la que se le había dado.”  Ellos demandan el permiso para casarse aunque no tienen ni trabajos ni planes para el futuro.  Cuando finalmente viven juntos, el matrimonio se derrumba en una manera muy similar al matrimonio de Larra.  La casa de Augusto se continúa por la generosidad de su amigo.  Eventualmente Elena, como Larra, comete adulterio.  Deja a su esposo para su amigo-prestador, una circunstancia que probablemente fue una preocupación de Larra durante sus años difíciles.  Cuando Augusto persigue a Elena, ella salta de una ventana y se muere.  (La vida amorosa de Larra lo llevaría a su muerte, también.)  “El casarse pronto y mal” es a la vez un comentario social y un cuento de los amores fracasados del autor.

Durante el año 1836, cuando Larra se caía en desánimo, su autocrítica se hacía más fuerte y directa.  Un ejemplo claro es “La nochebuena de 1836.”  Dice Susan Kirkpatrick, “este notable documento constituye un auto-examen público de Larra angustiosamente sincero e inexorable en su autocrítica, aun cuando ocasionalmente se desliza hacia un tono de autocompasión” (90).  Sigue un modelo romano de sátira: durante los Saturnales, todas las convenciones están invertidas, y los esclavos tienen el derecho a criticar a sus señores, y el autor cuenta lo que dicen.  En “La Nochebuena,” Larra usa su criado para descargar invectiva contra sí mismo (90-91):

Tú buscas la felicidad en el corazón humano, y para eso le destrozas, hozando en él, como quien remueve la tierra en busca de un tesoro…bailas sin alegría…Tú me mandas, pero no te mandas a ti mismo…Yo estoy ebrio de vino, es verdad; pero tú lo estás de deseos y de impotencia! (“Nochebuena”)

Vano, caprichoso, e ingrato es Larra según su criado, y además el trabajador reserva palabras incisivas para la vocación de su señor:

…Inventas palabras y haces de ellas sentimientos, ciencias, artes. Objetos de existencia. ¡Política, gloria, saber, poder, riqueza, amistad, amor! Y cuando descubres que son palabras, blasfemas y maldices.

Aunque Larra fue uno de los primeros españoles que vivieron por su talento con la pluma, su duda de la eficaz de sus palabras fue común.  Expresa las mismas dudas al fin de “El mundo todo es máscaras.”  El demonio Asmodeo, quien ha mostrado a Larra que toda la gente del mundo lleva esconden sus sentimientos reales, y que todos son mentirosos, lo lleva a un teatro.  Mientras Larra cree que los actores, la escena, y el escritor han creado una representación verosímil de las historias griegas, Asmodeo se burla de ellos e implica que las historias que los escritores crean son sintéticas y no alcanzan la realidad.

Es verdad que la introspección es uno de los mayores modos para aprender, pero hay que usarlo correctamente.  La autocrítica sin la resolución de mejorarse es “sonido y furia significando nada.”  Larra fue consciente de sus problemas pero le faltaba la energía para cambiar su vida.  Al contrario, su crítica aumentó año tras año hasta que su psique se hundió.


[1] Kirkpatrick, Susan.  Larra: El laberinto inextricable de un romántico liberal.  Biblioteca Románica Hispánica: Madrid, 1977.

Response to Pro-Cloning Article by Prof. Julian Savulescu

February 6, 2007

Bibliographic reference

“Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics Staff.” <http://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/nstaff.htm&gt;.

Savulescu, Julian.  Curriculum Vitae.  <http://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/Staff/Director%20Julian%20Savulescu/1CV6906.pdf&gt;.  2007.

Savulescu, Julian.  “Equality, Cloning and Clonism: Why We Must Clone.”  <http://www.reproductivecloning.net/savulescu.html&gt;.  2005.

Main Claim of the Article

Savulescu argues that human cloning could be an invaluable tool for reproduction and the production of life-saving stem cells, and the arguments against its morality and legality are baseless and reactionary[1].

Support for the Main Claim of the Article

Savulescu’s article has two arguments: cloning has the potential to benefit society, and cloning should not be illegal.  He supports the first argument in his second paragraph.  He notes that cloning can be a supplement for in-vitro fertilization, and that more importantly it would be a boon in the production of stem cells.  A cloned embryo would have the same DNA as its donor, and thus its harvest could help rehabilitate the sick more effectively than donations from strangers and family members do.

The author then turns his attention to the moral arguments against cloning.  He first notes that a clone would not have the same personality as its “father” because environment and choices also affect our phenotype (1).  The argument that cloning is “against human dignity” is reactionary, not principled; the same argument was made about identical twins in the past (2).  The “right to genetic individuality” is spurious given the case of identical twins.  The very same people who say a clone’s life would be unbearably shameful would be the cause of that shame; if everyone was tolerant, a clone would not feel psychic pain about his origins.  Savulescu admits that at the moment, cloning is unsafe and should not be used on humans, but if the process is perfected, there is simply no reason clones would be different from normal human beings or should be banned.

Your Evaluation of the Quality of the Information Provided in this Article

To quote the syllabus, “I believe this article provides quality information that should be accepted as part of this report in Chemistry 83.”  The article is timely: the Reproductive Cloning Network published it in 2005, and it lists Savulescu as the Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, a post he attained in 2002.  The article is credible: Savulescu is the director of Oxford’s Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics[2].  His position and his impressive Curriculum Vitae show he is one of the leaders in the field of bioethics: Savulescu “has published over 100 articles in journals such as the British medical Journal, Lancet, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Bioethics, the Journal of Medical Ethics, American Journal of Bioethics, Medical Journal of Australia and Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology[3].”  He has graduated from Australian medical school, so he has scientific chops as well.  He raised over $500,000 in grants in the years 2000-2004, so he has respect from his community.  The publisher, the Reproductive Cloning Network, seems to be legitimate.  The opinion expressed in Savulescu’s article is in accord with the themes of articles mentioned in his CV (pages 1-7).  I was not able to track Savulescu’s article to another source, but I did so for other articles on their site.

As for the quality of the writing itself, the article provides concise ethical arguments.  I would have preferred more detailed treatments of the scientific potential of cloning and of the ethical objections of cloning opponents, but this work appears tailor-made for a newspaper editorial, and it serves its purpose well.  I accept the scientific support as legitimate on the basis of Savulescu’s wide knowledge of the subject.


[1] Savulescu, Julian.  “Equality, Cloning and Clonism: Why We Must Clone.”  Page 2.   <http://www.reproductivecloning.net/savulescu.html&gt;.  2005.

[2] Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics Staff.  <http://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/nstaff.htm&gt;

[3] “Professor Julian Savulescu.”  Page 1.   2007. <http://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/Staff/Director%20Julian%20Savulescu/1CV6906.pdf&gt;.  2007.

Response to Hart and James

February 5, 2007

Though my legal knowledge is limited, I find it hard to believe Hart broke any new ground with his essay “Acts of Will and Responsibility.”  His distinction between deliberate and inadvertent actions is already codified in criminal law: intentional killing is murder; unintentional killing manslaughter.  Yes, with his theory we can distinguish between absentminded and the unconscious acts of omission, but as he notes, lawmakers had already probed this idea in Hill v. Baxter.  His point that a person who falls asleep at the wheel is responsible for his actions because the event was preventable was made by Aristotle thousands of years earlier when he held drunkards responsible for their actions.

The biggest reason Hart’s contribution does not impress me, however, is that William James makes many of the same points in his much more nuanced and interesting essay on the subject, “Will,” which was published seventy years earlier.  According to him, to concentrate one’s mind on an idea is to exert willpower.  When realizing the idea involves physical action, our muscles impulsively act.  (He cleverly notes that thinking about the muscular movements involved in catching a ball decreases one’s chances of catching it, thus weakening the “will = muscular movement” thesis.)  This theory dovetails with Hart’s assertion that muscle movements are the means, not the ends, of our actions.  Hart made much of the inadvertent omission, made when a man runs a traffic light without realizing what he has done.  This would occur in James’s model when a conscious person never has the idea that he should stop at the light.

The Mind, according to William James, must struggle against the pull of thousands of stimuli so it can achieve a single desired idea.  I find his account utterly fascinating and relevant to our day and age.  With television and the Internet, hundreds and even thousands of sources of information and entertainment are easily available.   With so many available stimuli, it is hard to get bored, but it is also hard to stay focused on one thing, especially if it is difficult.  The popularity of “multitasking,” or doing several projects simultaneously, is proof that for most people, it is now very difficult to stay focused on one project at a time.  It is even difficult for me to write this 2-page essay, since I can click on my Internet browser at any time.  MTV does its part to destroy with attention span with its television programs, which cut between camera angles every two or three seconds.

I worry about what the current environment will do to responsibility and decision-making.  I am certain it will lead people to make more impulsive choices, even on matters of great import.  We can also expect more careless mistakes and accidents.  People do not feel as much responsibility for quick decisions as they do for well-deliberated ones, so we can expect less commitment – high divorce rates, for instance.  Their willpower will atrophy, so they will become passive – and cede ever more responsibilities to the state, for instance.  I’ve heard of “Internet addiction” from more than one person, and after reading James’s piece, it makes sense to me.  Whereas a drug forcibly changes one’s mental chemistry and demolishes one’s decision-making capabilities, the Internet plays directly into the mind’s weaknesses: it allows one to hours, even days, of entertainment and thus frees one from the desire to make any decisions at all.