more necessary beings.

Category: Mind | Type: Discussion | Title: Frankenstein (in Context) | Author: Mary Shelley | Ch: Chapter 10

The more necessary beings are humans ("man"), we learn from the following sentence, and "necessary" means here unfree or determined, as in Godwin's and Shelley's doctrine of Necessity.

The brutes, Frankenstein maintains in a contrarian argument, are freer than man, despite his capacity for higher reason and discriminating judgment. The brutes are not burdened with our various "sensibilities," which include memory, association, and the manifold needs of a person with an ego and social identity to satisfy. Frankenstein's point is that the more various and complex the needs, the less free. For instance, given his sensibility, he cannot help but respond to the gloomy scene around him, the desolation, rain, veiled peaks, all of which produce in him a "melancholy impression" but would have no impact on a brute. 

Frankenstein's argument is curious. He says that we'd be freer if our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, and simple desire, say, to procreate. Because humans respond to desire on more complex levels involving, for instance, love, we are less free. Yet do we not possess consciousness, which allows us to recognize, confront, and do something about our condition? What preoccupies the brute consumes its freedom. The dog repining for its absent master has no choice in the matter.

But Mary Shelley is about to elaborate with a quotation from Percy Shelley.

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