“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” Aristotle
Izzatso? Was Aristotle right and, even if he was in ancient Greece, would he be right now?
I think so, and this is why – let’s look at each and consider an example that illustrates how sound his thinking was. (Although I am surprised he said it in English as it predates that language by hundreds of years.)
Chance: does anything happen that arises unexpectedly and gives rise to a response? Do events occur that no-one anticipated? One word: Brexit. ‘Nuff said. This is something that even the most devout EU-phobes would never have thought would occur, but now the Remainers who thought the same bitch about the Government’s failure to have a plan ready in advance. Heigh-ho.
Nature: if you accept that nature can pre-determine behaviour, you have to acknowledge that nature can pre-empt response. It isn’t obligatory, of course, because the next cause is the counter of this one.
Reason: something happens, and we approach it from the perspective of curiosity allied to logic – this has happened, so what can we do about it?
Compulsions: ask any addict.
Habit: how often have you been driving from A to C for a change, and found yourself heading to B like always?
Desire: you want it so you get it. This happens consciously as in having a plan that needs execution, but it also happens psychologically when you see/hear something and conclude it has a meaning that suits your viewpoint. For example, you conclude that anything Trump does is bad, even if it isn’t.
Passion: this happens when you have created a vested self-interest in an outcome and you pursue it single-mindedly.
Applied to ‘life’, we can see:
Shopping – desire, habit. Driving – habit, desire, passion (okay, maybe just me). Getting angry – nature, passion, chance. Maths exam – reason.
You know it makes sense: there are certain principles behind human behaviour that dictate our response. If we let them.
I say ‘if we let them’ because although there may only be 7 causes for action, we can use any of the 7 causes to precede our actions and are not obliged to use the one that involved no consideration at all. That is the essence of proactivity – turning ‘I have to do this because (cause)’ into ‘I am going to do this because I choose (cause)’.
I did that once with a b411-aching job, where I turned a habitual response of ‘this will be tedium’ into a passionate response of ‘how much of this can I get done to the point it will be a spectacular result’. It worked for that day, at least.
Study your own life – how many of your actions have been influenced by Aristotles’ causes? All, some, or none? I’m guessing all.
And where you think you need to – can you identify a better ’cause’, one that serves your purpose rather than obstructs your success? It may take discipline to execute on your new ’cause’, but it’ll be worth it in terms of self-esteem when you realise you control life, and it doesn’t control you.