Freedom


[Serafini via Giornale Nuovo]


From 'Mario and the Magician' by Thomas Mann:

A young man in the front row, to our right, an Italian, with proud, finely chiselled features, rose up and said that he intended to assert his own will in his choice and consciously to resist any influence, of whatever sort. Under these circumstances, what did Cipolla think would be the result? 'You will,' answered the Cavaliere, 'make my task somewhat more difficult thereby. As for the result, your resistance will not alter it in the least. Freedom exists, and also the will exists; but freedom of the will does not exist, for a will that aims at its own freedom aims at the unknown. You are free to draw or not to draw. But if you draw, you will draw the right cards -- the more certainly, the more willfully obstinate your behaviour.'

[...]

One saw it waver, that strength of purpose, beneath the repeated summons and whip-crackings. Saw with an objective interest which yet was not quite free from traces of sympathetic emotion -- from pity, even from a cruel kind of pleasure. If I understand what was going on, it was the negative character of the young man's fighting position which was his undoing. It is likely that not willing is not a practicable state of mind; not to want to do something may be in the long run a mental content impossible to subsist on. Between not willing a certain thing and not willing at all -- in other words, yielding to another person's will -- there may lie too small a space for the idea of freedom to squeeze into.