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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace 

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 27

A Point Of View*

By R.J. Rummel

The conception of a world of understanding is then only a point of view which reason finds itself compelled to take outside the appearances in order to conceive itself as practical.
-----Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals III, "Concluding Research"


 The dynamic field encompasses psychological phenomena in all their variety and is surely a sufficient base for understanding sociopolitical relations and conflict through the intentional field, or so it appears. Even though the essentials of perception, motivation, expectations, intentions, and behavior have been described, the person as commonly known and seen by the moral philosopher is missing. I have described a field, a complex of motivations and temperaments, a dialectical process, an integrated unity regarding a superordinate future, but yet have I really touched on the person we all know as ourselves? Where is the essence that is I?

And where is the will? Only noted in previous chapters, described cryptically as a vector, the will appears with no connection--a floating apparition above all that forms our tetradic structure. If there is any data of personal experience that is common to us all, it is consciousness of our existence, of our self, and of an exertion of will, an effort through which the self knows its power. What, then, are the self and the will, and how do they fit into the dynamic field?

These questions are not being asked just to speak to a common consciousness, however. An understanding of the self and will is a prerequisite to the all important question: Do we have free will? This is the ultimate question in this book, The Dynamic Psychological Field, for an answer determines our treatment of conflict and war and is presupposed in our solutions. For example, a determinist answer can only mean that wars, judging by historical patterns and regularities, are as inevitable as any lawful phenomenon, and that the best we can do is forestall them and try to alleviate their excesses. A libertarian (we are free) answer implies that history's invariances can be consciously broken, that wars are not inevitable and that a peaceful future lies within our creative grasp.

As my view of freedom is bent, so will my view of life, politics,1 and morality be inclined. There is no escaping this fact.2 Rather than allow this keystone question to be answered implicitly and perhaps inconsistently, I intend to treat the issue of freedom with some of the honor it deserves.

No doubt, this consideration will perplex many students of international relations (not to speak of social scientists). The question is virtually untreated in the field's literature, even though the free will versus determinist "antinomy" defines the fault line separating the literature of causes, laws, and forces from that of personalities, accidents, and events. The whole modern scientific view of international relations surely assumes nations or leaders to be in the grip of personally transcendent forces, whether it be lust for power, a need for security, geo-politico-military distances, or nationalism, and this deterministic presupposition defines the currently contending behavioral-traditional and realist-idealist splits.

So much by way of preliminaries. Here, it is sufficient to understand that I am treating a core assumption, and not simply massaging an idiosyncratic interest or mindlessly tucking in another one of those philosophical threads.


Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given; forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.
----Emerson, The American Scholar, II

Although analytically or institutionally partitioned, ontology, epistemology, ethics, and pragmatics themselves form a continuous field. Each presupposes or influences the other. Although I have tried to keep them separate here so as to illuminate successively portions of this field and gradually lead to an eventual comprehension of the totality, I have had to clearly presuppose answers to questions about truth, laws, causality, space, theory, morality, the Good, and so on, at each step. At this point, however, an understanding of my argument will so centrally involve an ethics and an epistemology, that I must make relevant assumptions clear.

Involved here is an empirical fact, an epistemological principle, and an ethical imperative. The fact, easily confirmed by scanning the relevant psychological and philosophical literature, is that there is an apparent general assembly of babble about the meaning, existence, or nature of the self, will, or the will's freedom. There is no consensus. Even whether there is a question is in dispute,3 and where it is argued that a problem exists, there is little agreement on the appropriate criteria or relevant arguments.4

How can one then strain toward the truth? Clearly, we face a crucial epistemological decision. Should we as scholars thoroughly survey all relevant ideas, compare arguments, and then cling to the most satisfying, rational, and empirical line? But where there is no consensus even on basics, where one is trying to decide among atheism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism, then obviously a preliminary and guiding faith of some sort must be presupposed. This is the old problem of raw induction on a grand scale. Belief must precede research; ontology must precede epistemology.

If there is no possibility of judicious scholarship, then why not select the most congenial views (such as that "we are determined under laws" and that "the self and will are mental stuff left over from obsolete faculty psychology") and then clarify the arguments for and against? This is the most popular course, and it is thus that we have our contemporary Humians, Kantians, and Bergsonians. But then, how do we choose the congenial positions and arguments? Must such a choice be an act of faith--in William James's sense, a will to believe? Not entirely, for if we wish to be consistent and ethical, two sets of constraints limit our choices. First, we are limited by the ontology we have already adopted on other questions. That is to say, the perspective through which we perceive ourselves and physical reality sets "degrees of freedom" to our delimitation of our self, our will, and our freedom. For example, if we view the world as Euclidean, then we will be limited to triangles whose angles sum to 180 degrees; if Newtonian, then our interpretations of reality must be consistent with an absolute time; if a Humian philosopher, then our idea of necessity in nature must be consistent with cause-effect as concurrence and not connection. The notion here is that we all work within a paradigm logically limiting our choice of any elements added to it. The best we can do is make manifest this perspective so that the rules of choice are clear to ourselves and others.

Our viewpoint on nature is our phenomenological perspective, our reality, our ontology. It provides the copula "is" to our propositions. That is a house; here is a book; our psychology is tetradic. But we are not only of an existential world. We also act within an arena of moral judgment and responsibility. Our ethical system itself comprises a perspective, one providing us with our shoulds and oughts. We should not lie. Citizens ought to participate in government. The rivers should be unpolluted. As long as we subscribe to the fundamental laws of thought (the laws of identity, noncontradiction and excluded middle), an ethical perspective also restrains our beliefs and arguments. If we judge that we should be held morally responsible for our acts, we are constrained from accepting absolute determinism. If we believe that all meaningful propositions should be intersubjectively verifiable, confirmable, or falsifiable, then the introspective self and will cannot be meaningful. And if we feel that punishment should only function to deter immorality and illegality, then determinism is possible.

The ontological and ethical restraints that comprise a person's preferred beliefs and values are like fields of balanced experiences, emotions, and thoughts. Each new belief or value must fit into this balance, be adjusted to, be reinterpreted to fit, or be rejected as inconsistent or incompatible The ontological and ethical fields are as psychic planes oblique to each other in psychological space; where they intersect is the line along which facts and values, beliefs and ethics come together. Any belief that lies potentially at this intersection must fit into both perspectives; it must suffer under dual limits.

It is thus that one desiring to be coherent and consistent in his beliefs is not free to exercise complete freedom of choice in defining self, will, or the nature and limits of freedom itself.5 For this reason one's trajectory through the confusing quarrels on these questions will be and should be bounded by these perspectives. We can only select our definitions and arguments within limits.

If we are not free to simply choose a congenial position on these questions or, as previously observed, we cannot objectively weigh the arguments for and against, why not follow William James's example6 and simply affirm our self, will, and freedom? Although an apparently satisfactory and pragmatic solution to the problem, this affirmation cannot be made without the very analysis it is meant to avoid. For the affirmation of self, will, and freedom should not be made if such a position contradicts our basic ethics and ontology, unless we are willing to reconstruct them.

I then come to this point. To deal with the self, will, and freedom requires a firm grasp of what I am about and the field perspective developed so far. It requires a constant attention to the whole framework being formed and the contribution to that whole that the self, will, and freedom will make. In sum, our selves, our will, and our freedom cannot be isolated from our perspectives and our intentions. 


* Scanned from Chapter 27 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. At its most fundamental level, radical and conservative views hinge on the free will question. Contemporary liberals generally believe that bad environment causes most of our problems. By compensating for and improving the environment, we will thereby be improved. Thus, the emphasis on welfare, penal reform, antipoverty programs, urban renewal, and most generally, central government interventions and bureaucratic regulation. As Clarence Darrow put it, is a man to be hanged for society's crimes against him? Conservatives, on the other hand, generally believe we are free to make ourselves and be responsible for our troubles. Thus, the dual conservative emphasis on freedom of opportunity and minimum government regulation and intervention (free market), and on law and order and fair but strict justice.

One cannot believe we are free and responsible and be a consistent American liberal of the 1970s; nor can one be a consistent conservative and believe in determinism.

2. My view is reflected in Arnold S. Kaufman's words on justice:

Suppose one reflectively endorses a conception of justice according to which a person deserves blame or praise, reward or punishment, and so on, only if that person's decisions or actions are not determined. Then one should define "freedom" in such a way that "P decided (acted) freely" implies "Ps decision (action) was not determined." Correspondingly, suppose one endorses a conception of justice according to which a person deserves blame, etc., only if his decisions or actions have some property which may or may not be causally determined by circumstances beyond his control. Then "freedom" ought to be defined in such a way that the meaning of "P decided (acted) freely" is consistent with determinism. It is our practical aims and interests which should govern the shape of our language, and not unreflected upon linguistic habit which should govern the shape of our moral outlook.
----"Responsibility, Moral and Legal," in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 7 (1967): 188

3. For example, the philosopher Morris Schlick ("When is a Man Responsible," in B. Berofsky, ed., Free Will and Determinism, New York: Harper, 1966: 54-63) cans the question of free will a meaningless "scandal," a pseudo-question misunderstanding that we are both free and determined under descriptive laws.

4. This most fundamental disagreement among the most powerful philosophers (Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and Bergson) is clearly evident. The contemporary philosophical scene is even more confused with the addition of the current analytic and linguistic viewpoints. As cases in point, it may at least amuse, if not enlighten, the reader to compare the different essays in Berofsky, op. cit.; or some different treatments of the self summarized in Calvin S. Hall and Gardner Lindzey (eds.), Theories of Personality (2d ed.; New York: Wiley, 1970).

5. I am aware that these points and their verbal form already presuppose some answers to the free will question. The whole issue of choice itself would be meaningless under strong determinism or Bergsonian free will (choice is what we ascribe in retrospect to a continuous process of feeling-thinking-doing).

6. William James, "Some Metaphysical Problems Pragmatically Considered," in Pragmatism and Four Essays from the 'The Meaning of Truth' (New York: World Publishing Co., 1955); "The Dilemma of Determinism," in Essays in Pragmatism (New York: Hafner, 1969).

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