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People's Behavior Is Largely Determined By Forces Not Of Their Own Making. With A Free Essay Review

“Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.”

In order to better discuss the statement, I would like to define here the forces as the external stimulus that an individual receives, the own making as a free-will decision made by an individual and people’s behavior as an action or a reaction from an individual. Therefore, the subject discussed here is whether people's behaviors are determined by external factors or whether people have freedom to use their 'free' will to do what they want to do. My viewpoint is that people cannot act freely of their own accord and their behavior is deterministic.

If we analyze human behavior we find it can be put into two categories. One is the basic reactions to needs that mankind share with most animals. When we are thirsty, we seek water to drink. When we are hungry, we eat available food. When somebody attacks us, we try to escape. When we are submerged by fear, we seek comforts from other people. Those behaviors are purely responses to external stimuli. Even an animal which does not possess too much intelligence could also perform similar behaviors. Therefore, we notice that many human fundamental behaviors which do not involve complicated decision making are determined by external forces.

The other category of behaviors is much more advanced and involves complicated decision making, planning as well as sticking to plans. Only mankind exclusively possesses the ability to perform those complicated behaviors. Many critics would certainly argue that those behaviors look like results of people's own decisions. Some critics even mention an example in which there is a fire accident. During this accident, one firefighter could choose to succumb to his natural reaction that is fear and run away, while he could choose to stick to his responsibility and try to save as many people as possible. At first glance, their argument seems unobjectionable. If we ponder where the sense of responsibility comes from, the conclusion will be different.

Where the idea that a fire fighter should take the responsibility to save as many people as possible comes from? This sense of responsibility has not been naturally existed since our birth. And yet it is the result of education. When firefighters were still in school, their instructors instilled the notion that their job is to extinguish fire in their minds. When they succeeded their jobs, they received acclaim from the society, which reinforce the sense of responsibility previously installed in their head. Therefore, when they face a fire again, their sense of responsibility, a pure result of an accumulated external stimulus, tells them to do their jobs. At the same time, in their head, there always exists fear which is a natural reaction of a being when he sees fire. How they behave depends on which awareness outweighs the other. Therefore, although it seems like that a fire fighter applies his free will to put down a fire, such concept is a pure illusion. All our behaviors could be seen as results of different external stimuli. The only difference is that some external impacts are instantaneous and very intense, such as fear, while others are chronic and need to be reinforced, such as senses of responsibility.

If we look at our behavior from another aspect, we could notice that all of our behaviors are controlled by two kinds of external impacts. The positive stimulus including praises, rewards or inherent interest provides us a feeling of happiness or satisfaction, while the negative impact such as blame, punishment makes us feel guilty, painful, regret as well as depressed. Just as the famous utilitarian philosopher Bentham articulated: All human behaviors are endeavors to maximize the pleasure over pain. In daily lives, we tend to do things which make us happy, satisfied or even free of guilt. Consider how teachers in school try to motivate students. A successful teacher knows how to use some external motivations such as “carrot and stick” to guide students’ behavior. He or she also knows that an intrinsic interest could be installed in students’ mind to keep students motivated since they will feel happy every time when they do something corresponding to their interests. Let’s go back to the example of the firefighter. A firefighter has to minimize the negative impacts which might be caused by fear, due to fire, or caused by sense of guilt if they choose to abandon their responsibility. The unconscious weighting decides which action he will take.

Some critics might argue that based on logics above, it is impossible to punish any criminals since all of them could argue that they do not act on their own will and therefore they do not take responsibilities. Admittedly, in my opinion, they are right to say that they do not act on their own free will since free will, as articulated above, do not exist. But they still need to go to prisons since people need to reinforce a negative external impact on their minds which could make them think twice again next time so as to prevent that they will commit a crime again.

To sum up, I believe the statement is certainly right to claim that peoples’ behaviors are largely determined by external forces. In fact, so-called free will, in my opinion is also an illusion.


Essay Review

Many students, especially non-native speakers of English, have difficulty interpreting the meaning of this prompt. You interpret it correctly despite an apparent misunderstanding of the language of the prompt (which makes the opening sentence unintelligible). "Forces not of their own making" means "forces that are not of their own making," and that means: "forces that they themselves did not make." For example: a problem of my own making is a problem that I have made for myself, whereas a pie my mother bakes for me is a pie not of my own making. In any case, you should drop your first sentence, and the word "therefore" from the second.

As for the essay itself, I think the discussion of the "basic reactions to needs" is a bit trivial and should perhaps be dealt with more quickly so that you can devote more attention to the more difficult issues. You also seem to be claiming that thirst and hunger are external forces (presumably that is not what you meant, but it is what you appear to be saying).

The second argument here seems more reasonable to me. It takes you too long, perhaps, to explain the significance of your example, but the explanation is reasonably good. What seems to be missing, at first blush, is a proper articulation of the general applicability of that example. You merely say "all our behaviors could be seen as results of different external stimuli." But of course your penultimate argument ("if we look at our behavior, etc.") really is an attempt to explain that general applicability, and should probably be announced as such. Imagine, for instance, if you ended your previous paragraph at "such a concept is a pure illusion," and began your next paragraph with something like this: "The example of the firefighter's decision is a good example of human decisions generally. All our behaviors can be seen as results of different external stimuli etc. [making whatever changes necessary]." Doing something like that would accomplish three things: it would create a transition to the next paragraph; it would create at the same time a topic sentence for that paragraph; and it would make obvious to the GRE reader, who may or may not need this made obvious, that you know exactly what you are doing with your essay organizationally and argumentatively.

Finally, the prompt asks you to consider the most compelling possible objections to your position. You don't really do that. The objection that you note in your penultimate paragraph is not an objection to your position but an objection to the consequences for a judicial system that took your position into account, as you yourself recognize when you point out that the consequences would not in fact be those imagined by the "critics" to whom you refer. You need to consider actual objections to your position. Perhaps the most obvious objection to your position would be the claim that even though we are all taught or encouraged to act in certain ways, we still have the freedom to choose how to act, a freedom that is demonstrated by the great diversity of actions carried out by human beings from similar backgrounds. Perhaps you would argue that the diversity is not so significant or so great, and can be explained by random events or slight differences in backgrounds; or perhaps your reference to the "unconscious weighting" would be part of your answer to that objection, but you would need to clarify what you mean by that.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: qcao


Sorry, I made a mistake.

The prompt should be :

'People's Behavior Is Largely Determined By Forces Not Of Their Own Making.

Write A Response In Which You Discuss The Extent To Which You Agree Or Disagree With The Claim. In Developing And Supporting Your Position, Be Sure To Address The Most Compelling '

I will be more careful next time. Sorry for the mistake
August,12 2012

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