The discussion on free will is a fiendish labyrinth. Spend enough time in a labyrinth without monsters, all you feel is great boredom and impatience. The social importance of personal responsibility has no doubt generated a lot of fertiliser.

Cutting through the thickets, I propose that the placebo effect applies to responsibility itself. No-one can conquer the environment. There is little serious disagreement, I think, with the statement that human reasoning is flawed, an imperfect tool for modelling reality. Transcendence seems to me to be artful fiction. The insistent functions of the body only cease in death.

We know that there are things such as temperature, status, healthy relationships, a sense of security that contribute to concentrated mental states. You can influence even the greatest master with a stick. Or by throwing her into the sun.

The measure of freedom we have to make a choice is dependent on many factors the individual cannot control and did not ask for. Anyone who laughs at the teenager who didn’t ask to be born is not doing so because they disagree.

If collectively, according to our power, we create the conditions by which people feel they are able to make considered decisions, they will make considered decisions. If someone has power and they help create conditions that encourage poor health or misinformation, there are two possible reasons. Either they score too highly for dark triad traits to be a good leader for the people or they are not as free as they think they are. For example, the aversion to any perceived loss of status is a powerful motivator of poor decision making. This human fiction of status is treated as an eternal truth to be imposed upon reality and every human suffers.

Personal responsibility is an ideal. Self mastery is an ideal. It isn’t harmful to know this. The placebo effect still works. Making this common knowledge and the basis for policy is not what will end civilisation. A failure to recognise and help each other with our strengths and weaknesses, which is a collective responsibility, is what will end civilisation.