• Michael Zwingli
    258
    I knew the day would come, and here it is: I am beginning my own thread on a topic of interest to me. Please be gentle with me...

    The aspect of mind known as "will" is primarily, and most unsatisfactorily, defined by Merriam-Webster as "desire, wish, etc." In my view, the idea of reducing "will" to "desire" impoverishes the term. The normal definition for "will" in psychology/psychiatry is "the independent faculty of choice", in other words, "volition". Though better by characterizing the deliberate aspect of "will", I still find this definition wanting. The thought about "will" in philosophy seems long to have been similar to that in psychology: the mental faculty responsible for the instantaneous selection from competing desires.

    Then came Schopenhauer, who, building on the ideas of Immanuel Kant, revolutionized the term. For him, the "will", as is so eloquently described on the Wiki, seems to have been "a blind, unconscious, aimless striving devoid of knowledge, outside of space and time, and free of all multiplicity". In this view, the will becomes less a faculty, less an ability or power, and more a source of constant impulse...from the biological perspective, an "instinct" (in the sense derived from it's constituent Latin etyma, "an inner prodding"), if you will. Though in my view excellent, there appears to myself to be one thing lacking in Schopenhauer's conception: what in particular does the will "strive" for? Schopenhauer would say that it strives to interpret and reconcile external objects to a coherent subjective worldview. My own idea regarding this, is that the "will" is that innate urge which impells man to strive to control events and to establish situations which are in concordance with a particular purpose, intent, goal or desire. This appears the only definition which might be used in describing a man as having "an iron will". In this, the "will" emerges as being quite approximant to Nietzsche's "will to power", or (somewhat less so) to Augustine's "libido dominandi".

    So, what do we mean when we refer to "the will"? How can we best define this quite opaque term? Please discuss.
  • Mww
    2.7k
    What is meant by will depends on how it is understood, either as a determining faculty (pace Kant), or as a determined identity (pace Schopenhauer), or something other than these. The first informs as to what I should do, the second informs as to what I am, the third is neither of those.

    What should we mean by it, follows from all that.
  • Michael Zwingli
    258
    thanks much for replying; I was about to cry and ask @Baden to give me a gobstopper. I realize that lexically, "will" has a somewhat, though not extremely, broad semantic field, and the term has been used to mean different things by different people at various times. I guess what I am driving at with this, is that given those facts, what would seem to be the best, most unique (lacking semantic overlap) definition of the term?
  • Manuel
    1.6k
    There's the common usage of words, in which "will" is taken to mean volition or power to do something on purpose, or some similar association.

    If you have in mind a technical word which you will pronounce "will", then it can be whatever you like. Your own definition is fine, but do you connect it with a broader view?

    If not, the technical meaning is not helpful.
  • 180 Proof
    6k
    Volition? Cognitive science suggests veto over above volo (i.e. brain sys 1 > brain sys 2, wherein volition is also mostly involuntary: re: biases ~Kahneman, etc). Spinoza seems to think it is identical with intellect as the expression or manifestation of conatus. IIRC, Witty says "willing" is indistinguishable from behaving. Lucretius talks about the swerve anticipating compatibilism (Dennett). Etcetera.
  • Mww
    2.7k
    what would seem to be the best, most unique (lacking semantic overlap) definition of the term?Michael Zwingli

    Best, most unique definition presupposes there is one. Yet.....

    the term has been used to mean different things by different people at various times.Michael Zwingli

    ....suggests there isn’t.

    Each be satisfied with what each thinks? It’s what we do anyway, so......
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    Will

    1. I will take you home. [assurance (of a future event)]

    2. You will do as you're told. [coercion]

    3. The rock will fall. [inevitable]

    4. It's God's will. [desire]

    Thus will is about ineluctability, like under duress, and an agency that desires that. In short, it's got to do with participation in the causal web as a cause and when that cause (agency) itself is causeless, we have free will.
  • dimosthenis9
    394


    I think Will has a very wide range of definitions and it is hard to say that one is the right one or to choose the most appropriate. It would be too risky.
    For me Will is everything that includes the "ability of people to affect their lives on their own".
    The part of the things that happen in someone's life and he actually has a "say" on that. He can interfere with his thoughts, choices and acts. The rest of the things are beyond his power to control or affect any of them.
  • Baden
    12.1k


    If we're going the academic route, we define our context and our aim and justify a definition that suits, usually with the aid of some authority, whether historical or contemporary. Without context, the appropriateness of any specific definition is unresolvable.
  • Tom Storm
    2.2k
    Bloody killjoy! :razz:
  • Michael Zwingli
    258


    Verbal senses:
    1. I will take you home. [assurance (of a future event)]
    2. You will do as you're told. [coercion]
    3. The rock will fall. [inevitable]

    Nominal sense:
    4. It's God's will. [desire]
    and in addition:
    5. I will do as my will moves me. [personal faculty of choice]
    6. During his captivity in Vietnam, John McCain showed himself to be a man of iron will. [firmity or fixity of purpose]

    ...which makes me think that the history of "will" as an English lemma plays a part in this. I personally don't know that history, whether "will" actually was first used in English as a auxiliary verb or as a noun. I feel that this is an important consideration, though.

    Thus will is about ineluctability, like under duress, and an agency that desires that. In short, it's got to do with participation in the causal web as a cause and when that cause (agency) itself is causeless, we have free will.TheMadFool

    Yes, I like those ideas, and the expression thereof.
  • Michael Zwingli
    258
    Bloody killjoy! :razz:Tom Storm

    Heheh... No sweeties coming my way from Baden this time, eh?
  • Michael Zwingli
    258
    The part of the things that happen in someone's life and he actually has a "say" on that. He can interfere with his thoughts, choices and acts.dimosthenis9

    That's a good consideration as well. It jibes somewhat with my own definition of "will" as "the inner drive to control events and to establish situations which are in concordance with a personal purpose, goal or desire".
  • I like sushi
    2.7k
    What I will the term will to mean is what it means to me.

    "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Crowley.

    To me this means irrespective of what other deem as 'good' or 'bad,' or 'right' or 'wrong' I should act as my will dictates and follow my path for my reasons not those imposed upon me by ideologies that possess people en masse.

    I'm very fond of Nietzsche's views in this regard as they generally articulate a lot about how I view the world at large.

    In the most colloquial sense 'will' could perhaps be parsed as 'pure determination'. I would extend this into what both Nietzsche and Crowley seem to mean to me ... that is to adhere to my individual will rather than piggyback on the power of others believing that having a piece of them is empowering for my individual being.

    We could talk about any term endlessly and come up with various contextual uses.

    I would REALLY like to see an archaic term to be resurrected ... ken. As in 'to ken something'.
  • Joshs
    2k
    irrespective of what other deem as 'good' or 'bad,' or 'right' or 'wrong' I should act as my will dictates and follow my path for my reasons not those imposed upon me by ideologies that possess people en masse.

    I'm very fond of Nietzsche's views in this regard as they generally articulate a lot about how I view the world at large.
    I like sushi

    It gets complicated for Nietzsche when you try and parse what ‘my will’ refers to. Nietzsche rejects the r idea of a unitary self or thinking ‘I’. He viewed the psyche as a community of selves and a multiplicity of conflicting drives. He even broke up the act of willing into a a tension between a commanding and an obeying. This certainly isn’t the ‘self’ and the ‘will’ of an autonomous subjectivity.
  • Tom Storm
    2.2k
    He viewed the psyche as a community of selves and a multiplicity of conflicting drives. He even broke up the act of willing into a a tension between a commanding and an obeying. This certainly isn’t the ‘self’ and the ‘will’ of an autonomous subjectivity.Joshs

    Yes, and this goes against all the Nietzsche-lite wanna be supermen who have read a few aphorisms and consider themselves Nietzsche's heirs. Do you have a few thoughts on how you think he saw 'my will' working?
  • dimosthenis9
    394


    Yeah sound similar indeed. But again it's only our own 2 more definitions among others.
  • dimosthenis9
    394
    Nietzsche rejects the r idea of a unitary self or thinking ‘I’. He viewed the psyche as a community of selves and a multiplicity of conflicting drives. He even broke up the act of willing into a a tension between a commanding and an obeying. This certainly isn’t the ‘self’ and the ‘will’ of an autonomous subjectivityJoshs

    You have written it again in another thread and I strongly disagree that Nietzsche was thinking like that. The way you describe it, is like Nietzsche didn't believe in person's individuality at all. And he was one of the greatest supporters of individual human spirit's power. And how eventually it is in our own hands.

    For Will, imo, he was considering it as the most important "natural" power we have as to change ourselves and break our spiritual limits.Becoming Ubermensch eventually.
  • Joshs
    2k
    Do you have a few thoughts on how you think he saw 'my will' working?Tom Storm

    Good question.

    On the one hand, Nietzsche stressed the plural and differentiated nature of psychic drives. On the other hand , he seemed to suggest this multiplicity of drives could be harmonized by some overarching cognitive structure into a unified Will to Power. But I dont think that means the overman settles for a final value system. Rather, the overman’s mastery of the Will to Power, as I see it, amounts to channeling all the psyche’s competing drives into a endlessly open embrace of novelty, contradiction , diversity and becoming.

    “But every purpose and use is just a sign that the will to power has achieved mastery over something less powerful, and has impressed upon it its own idea [Sinn] of a use function; and the whole history of a ‘thing', an organ, a tradition can to this extent be a continuous chain of signs, continually revealing new interpretations and adaptations, the causes of which need not be connected even amongst themselves, but rather sometimes just follow and replace one another at random. The ‘development' of a thing, a tradition, an organ is therefore certainly not its progressus towards a goal, still less is it a logical progressus, taking the shortest route with least expenditure of energy and cost, – instead it is a succession of more or less profound, more or less mutually independent processes of subjugation exacted on the thing, added to this the resistances encountered every time, the attempted transformations for the purpose of defence and reaction, and the results, too, of successful countermeasures. The form is fluid, the ‘meaning' [Sinn] even more so . . . It is no different inside any individual organism: every time the whole grows appreciably, the ‘meaning' [Sinn] of the individual organs shifts, – sometimes the partial destruction of organs, the reduction in their number (for example, by the destruction of intermediary parts) can be a sign of increasing vigour and perfection.”(Geneology of Morality)
  • Joshs
    2k
    For Will, imo, he was considering it as the most important "natural" power we have as to change ourselves and break our spiritual limits.Becoming Ubermensch eventually.dimosthenis9

    But how do we change ourselves in such a way that we don’t end up simply regurgitating variations on old themes? We can’t simply deign to change ourselves in accord with our pre-existing purposes and goals. That was the old view of human progress, the movement along a pre-determined axis. But you’re not achieving real change and becoming until you learn to turn the frame on its head , to turn what seemed within the old scheme like evil into good and what seemed like good into evil. The Ubermensch performs gestalt shifts. He is not just another idealist toady aiming at ‘personal growth’.
  • Ciceronianus
    1.9k
    Schopenhauer would say that it strives to interpret and reconcile external objects to a coherent subjective worldview.Michael Zwingli

    That's odd, if he truly thought it to be not just blind, not just unconscious, but aimless as well.
  • dimosthenis9
    394
    He is not just another idealist toady aiming at ‘personal growth’.Joshs

    No he isn't just another one idealist. For me he is the Greatest one! He was believing so much in personal growth but his "method" included intense, hard, "painful" inner battle that each of us has to give individually. We need Will made of Steel for a battle like that! And Nietzsche believed that we do have that capability! That our Will can achieve that.

    Nothing alike with the nowadays bullshit life coaching personal growth method.

    But you’re not achieving real change and becoming until you learn to turn the frame on its head , to turn what seemed within the old scheme like evil into good and what seemed like good into evilJoshs

    Exactly. And that's a personal inner fight.Nietzche valued these battles the most! And that's why, imo, he did believe in people's "self" and individuality.
    "Our fights with ourselves for changing matter! Cause that's how we prepare the path for the Ubermensch", he wrote.
  • Tom Storm
    2.2k
    Interesting. Thanks Joshs.
  • Baden
    12.1k


    Was a bit dry, yeah. :smile:
  • I like sushi
    2.7k
    He viewed the psyche as a community of selves and a multiplicity of conflicting drives.Joshs

    Evidence? Where did you get that from. Not refuting it just curious as I've not read all of his stuff.
  • Joshs
    2k
    He viewed the psyche as a community of selves and a multiplicity of conflicting drives.
    — Joshs

    Evidence? Where did you get that from. Not refuting it just curious as I've not read all of his stuff.
    I like sushi

    There’s a good section about the self in the Stanford Encyclopedia’s article about Nietzsche.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche/

    “…the belief which regards the soul as something indestructible, eternal, indivisible, as a monad, as an atomon:… Between ourselves, it is not at all necessary to get rid of “the soul” at the same time, and thus to renounce one of the most ancient and venerable hypotheses—as happens frequently to clumsy naturalists who can hardly touch on “the soul” without immediately losing it. But the way is now open for new versions and refinements of the soul hypothesis, [including] “mortal soul”, “soul as subjective multiplicity”, and “soul as social structure of the drives and affects”… (BGE 12)
  • Michael Zwingli
    258
    Well, fellows, thank you for redeeming my thread with some interesting banter, and thus saving it from ignominy. This has been a question in the back of my mind for awhile now, and I am glad that the expression of it is not found to be utterly inane.

    Schopenhauer would say that it strives to interpret and reconcile external objects to a coherent subjective worldview.
    — Michael Zwingli

    That's odd, if he truly thought it to be not just blind, not just unconscious, but aimless as well.
    Ciceronianus

    Oh, good catch! This might be an example of my imposing my own definition upon the old German's ideas. You are right, of course: while "blindness" might be able to jibe with the effort that I describe, "unconsciousness" and "aimlessness" cannot. As previously stated, my personal view of the "will" as a unique term (one which has a meaning not shared by any other lemmas, so having no synonyms) is that it means the incessant, insatiable drive (or instinct, if you will) to conform objective reality to a subjective worldview. Though I agree it is "blind" in it's need to conform all reality to a particular worldview, I do not share Schopenhauer's opinion this will is necessarily unconscious or at all aimless. Rather, I feel it to act quite within the realm of consciousness, as an individual percieves an aspect of reality and determines either that, "I agree with this...let this stand", or that, "I do not want this...I will not abide this". Because the will strives constantly to realize a particular subjective worldview, neither is it aimless.
  • Michael Zwingli
    258
    In the most colloquial sense 'will' could perhaps be parsed as 'pure determination'.I like sushi

    This accords well with the definition of "will" as "firmity of purpose" or "fixity of intent". As I say, however, I think this only part of the picture.
  • Michael Zwingli
    258
    "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Crowley.I like sushi

    Good heavens, this is not Aleister Crowley, the English occultist, is it?
  • I like sushi
    2.7k
    Good heavens, this is not Aleister Crowley, the English occultist, is it?Michael Zwingli

    Yes it is.
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