The Law of Habit And Interest, From ‘ The Alienist’ by Caleb Carr

Good,” Kreizler said with a nod. “So he doesn’t like misrepresentation. Yet he’s a liar himself—we need an explanation for that.”

“He’s learned,” Sara said simply. “He’s been exposed to dishonesty, surrounded by it perhaps, and he does hate it—but he’s picked it up as a method of getting by.”

“And you only do that kind of learning once,” I added. “It’s the same thing as the violence: he saw it, he didn’t like it, but he learned it. The law of habit and interest, just like Professor James says—our minds work on the basis of self-interest, the survival of the organism, and our habitual ways of pursuing that interest become defined when we’re children and adolescents.”

Lucius had grabbed volume one of James’s Principles and leafed to a page: “‘The character has set like plaster,’” he quoted, holding a finger up, “‘never to soften again.’”

“Even if…?” Kreizler asked, drawing him out.

“Even if,” Lucius answered quickly, flipping a page and scanning it with his finger, “those habits become counterproductive in adulthood. Here: ‘Habit dooms us all to fight out the battle of life upon the lines of our nurture or our early choice, and to make the best of a pursuit that disagrees, because there is no other for which we are fitted, and it is too late to begin again.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s