Will (philosophy): Wikis


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Will, or willpower, is a philosophical concept that is defined in several different ways.

Will as internal drive

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche defines will similarly to the "any internally motivated action" usage, but more narrowly. In this sense, will is more a "creative spark," a certain independence and stubbornness. A person who chooses not to steal because the Ten Commandments said so would be exercising free will, because it was their choice to follow the Ten Commandments. Someone who independently forms their own moral system or who composes a musical composition pleasing to themselves would also be exercising an act of will.

Idealism: Will as all

In idealist models of reality, the material world is either non-existent or is a secondary artifact of the "true" world of ideas. In such worlds, it can be said that everything is an act of will. Even if you are arrested by the police, this is actually an act of your will, too; if you didn't want it to happen, you could have decided otherwise. This line of thought is seen among proponents of a spiritual or mystical universe such as the New Thought writers Frank Channing Haddock (The Power of Will) and William Walker Atkinson (Personal Power Volume V: Will Power), and the occult writer Aleister Crowley. Many plants have been known to use will power and it helps them grow. The grower also plays a major roll, if you you want it to grow it will.

Free Will

The standard use of this term is as a distinction between internally motivated and caused events and external events. Jumping off a cliff would be an act of free will; accidentally falling or being pushed off a cliff would not be an act of free will.

Spinoza argues that seemingly "free" actions aren't actually free, or that the entire concept is a chimera because "internal" beliefs are necessarily caused by earlier external events. The appearance of the internal is a mistake rooted in ignorance of causes, not in an actual volition, and therefore the will is always determined. Spinoza also rejects teleology, and suggests that the causal nature along with an originary orientation of the universe is everything we encounter. More contemporary materialists have introduced into Spinozan causality a notion of randomness, which further negates notions of free will.

For both classical and natural law thinkers, human nature can be divided into three parts, reason, will, and appetite. Reason can be divided into at least two categories, theoretical reason and practical reason. Will can also be divided into two categories, that which pushes away and that which pulls toward (anger and desire). A "free will" here is defined as a "rational appetite." In other words, when a person correctly identifies what "is" or "exists" through theoretical reason, and that person correctly discerns what is perfective and fulfilling of that which exists and therefore how to act according to practical reason, and then does that, one has a free will, or a will capable of overriding and reorganizing the appetite. The materialist view is criticized for being self-contradictory. In other words, the materialist or "naturalist" who does not believe in free will, must consider his actions and consciousness illusory. Since reason and action, under the materialist model are nothing more than what must happen due to cause-effect relationships.

Will as thing in itself

Kant's Transcendental Idealism claimed that "all objects are mere appearances [phenomena]."[1] He asserted that "nothing whatsoever can ever be said about the thing in itself that may be the basis of these appearances."[2] Kant's critics responded by saying that Kant had no right, therefore, to assume the existence of a thing in itself. Schopenhauer disagreed with Kant's critics and stated that it is absurd to assume that phenomena have no basis. Schopenhauer proposed that we cannot know the thing in itself as though it is a cause of phenomena. Instead, he said that we can know it by knowing our own body, which is the only thing that we can know at the same time as both a phenomenon and a thing in itself.

When we become conscious of ourself, we realize that our essential qualities are endless urging, craving, striving, wanting, and desiring. These are characteristics of that which we call our will. Schopenhauer affirmed that we can legitimately think that all other phenomena are also essentially and basically will. According to him, will "is the innermost essence, the kernel, or every particular thing and also of the whole. It appears in every blindly acting force of nature, and also in the deliberate conduct of man…."[3] Schopenhauer said that his predecessors mistakenly thought that the will depends on knowledge. According to him, though, the will is primary and uses knowledge in order to find an object that will satisfy its craving. That which, in us, we call will is Kant's thing in itself, according to Schopenhauer.

In related disciplines

Psychologists also deal with issues of will; some people are highly intrinsically motivated and do whatever seems best to them, while others are "weak-willed" and easily suggestible (extrinsically motivated) by society or outward inducement. Apparent failures of the will and volition have also been reported associated with a number of mental and neurological disorders.[4] [5] They also study the phenomenon of Akrasia, wherein people seemingly act against their best interests and know that they are doing so (for instance, restarting cigarette smoking after having intellectually decided to quit). Advocates of Sigmund Freud's psychology stress the importance of the influence of the unconscious mind upon the apparent conscious exercise of will. Abraham Low, a critic of psychoanalysis,[6] stressed the importance of will, the ability to control thoughts and impulses, as fundamental for achieving mental health.[7]

The sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, in analysing group psychology, distinguishes between will directed at furthering the interests of the group (Wesenwille or "essential will"), and will directed at furthering individual goals (Kürwille or "arbitrary will").

See also

Further reading



  1. ^ Critique of Pure Reason, A 49. At end of "General Observations on Transcendental Aesthetic," p. 39 of Müller's translation. Also B 63: "…as the external sense gives us nothing but representations of relations, that sense can contain in its representations only the relation of an object to the subject, and not what is inside the object by itself. The same applies to internal intuition."
  2. ^ ibid.
  3. ^ The World as Will and Representation, vol. I, § 21
  4. ^ Berrios G.E. and Gili M. (1995) Will and its disorders. A conceptual history. History of Psychiatry 6: 87-104
  5. ^ Berrios G.E. and Gili M. (1995) Abulia and impulsiveness revisited. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 92: 161-167
  6. ^ Sagarin, Edward (1969). "Chapter 9. Mental patients: are they their brothers' therapists?". Odd Man In: Societies of Deviants in America. Chicago, Illinois: Quadrangle Books. pp. 210–232. ISBN 0531063445. OCLC 34435. 
  7. ^ Wechsler, Henry (April 1960). "The self-help organization in the mental health field: Recovery, Inc., a case study". The Journal of nervous and mental disease 130: 297–314. doi:10.1097/00005053-196004000-00004. ISSN 0022-3018. OCLC 13848734. PMID 13843358. 


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