Novelist Michael Frayn has published The Human Touch, a book of straight-up philosophy. In review, Simon Blackburn (TLS, Oct. 20) writes:
Quotation is irresistible, so here he is on agency, or the will, starting from the idea that I am in control of my actions, the monarch of my fate:
a sovereign of the old school I had always felt myself to be, benevolent but absolute, the source of all the edicts that constitute the fabric of the court and its business, the master of my own revels. Now that it has pleased me to command this inquiry into my own authority, however, I discover that I am not an absolute ruler after all. I am a mere constitutional fiction, a face on the postage stamps, a signature at the bottom of decrees written by unidentified powers behind the throne over which I have no control....even my private entertainments are devised for me by invisible courtiers working in parts of the palace that I have never entered, and could never find may way to go.
Surely this is a passage to put alongside Schopenhauer's image of the still water in the pond thinking how it could leap and splash if it wished, or Wittgenstein's image of the leaves in autumn, saying "Now I shall go this way, now I shall go that way," as a classic expression of the thoughts that lead to the disappearance of the notion of free will.
It is good on its own and stands up well to the competition. It is also more subversive. Rather than jibing at the silliness of anthropomorphic projection, it puts homunculi to work dismantling the presumption from within.