Heredity And Environment Vs. Will and Action

viktor_franklI am continuing to absorb Viktor Frankl’s wisdom through his powerful work Man’s Search for Meaning.

One of the book’s chapters is the authors’ critique of pan-determinism, an approach according to which man is nothing but a product of his heredity and environment.

In other words, genes and circumstances are the only factors that define our actions. This means our lives are biologically and socially pre-determined, and change is not possible.

In contrast, V. Frankl argues that while these factors have a strong impact, man has always the freedom of will and choice. Although many life conditions are unchangeable, a person can always transcend his environment and change his own self.

Man is, and always remains, capable and resisting and braving even the worst conditions.

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

A good illustration of this is Professor Lange’s famous study of twin brothers one of which became an inventive criminal and the other one an inventive criminologist. Inventiveness could have been inherited. Yet whether become a criminal or a criminologist was a question of attitude.

This means heredity is nothing but a material man uses to build himself from. This is nothing but stones that can be accepted or rejected by a builder.

The builder himself, however, is not from stones.

So ultimately there is space both for fate and free will in our lives. It’s up to us whether we understand this and use to our advantage, i.e. construct a building we want to see.


9 thoughts on “Heredity And Environment Vs. Will and Action

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