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mstokes's picture

Internal vs. External

I appreciate your outline of the issues at work here, Prof. Grobstein. It would seem there is a tendency to view genes as a sort of "lowest common denominator" for explaining choices and behavior, when if fact, genes serve to make the story more complex, and indeed, more interesting. Before genes entered the story, the view of naturalism (19th cent) eliminated free will on the basis of external forces at work in determining our stories; with the entrance of genes as sources of behavior, those external forces became internal--but still as far removed from our influence as a raging storm or an enemy army. These external and internal forces are both present--creating "the boundaries" of our stories--and between which our free will functions. Perhaps, too, our free will can press those boundaries a bit further--and as we can influence the boundaries of our external world, so too, may we influence our internal world. Thinking of mental health in this realm--as the functioning of our selves and our storytellers within the boundaries of external and internal forces--seems helpful. Knowing more about those forces can help us negotiate those choices better. Can we ever know all that we'll face or encounter? We don't externally, so I don't think we can expect to internally/genetically. Can too much knowledge at times hinder our choices--make us less willing to act or react? Someone with too much fear of outside forces or potential risks may never leave his or her house. Indeed, genes/environment/culture present both assets and problems in making choices and directing our lives. Can the internal forces clash with the external forces around and despite the influence of our free will, and is that the basis of illness--both mental and physical?


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