Oh, the Greeks knew what they wanted—
Strong determinism stunted.
It is clear that if the populace was driven by free will,
Then society was blameless;
Truth be told, it was a shameless
Grab for power, and the senators were showing off their skill.
These philosophers were cunning
And in truth it was a stunning
Bit of framing—we can tell, because it lingers to this day.
We will claim we chose it freely,
Though the evidence says really
Our behavior was determined, and there’s nothing more to say.
You may cherish your illusion
It’s an understood confusion
But the truth is, you’re mistaken—it is nothing but a meme.
For the culture, it’s adaptive
Cos it keeps the people captive—
If you chose, then you’re accountable—a blame-the-victim scheme!
If the murder rate has risen
We just build a bigger prison
Cos it’s better than admitting that society has failed—
Better jobs and education
Can prevent incarceration
But denial of determinism keeps our people jailed.
Punishment, but not prevention,
Always focuses attention
On the action and the consequence, but not the prior cause,
So instead, we claim we see a
Mental state we call mens rea;
This reliance on an inner cause is written in our law.
If we look beyond the actors
In our quest for causal factors
Some environmental factors are quite easy to discern;
If mens rea and true freedom
Are illusions, we don’t need ‘em
We’re not stuck in ancient Athens—we can change, and we can learn.