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FREEDOM OF THE WILL.
WHEREIN ARE EXFLAINED AND STATED VARIOUS TERMS AND THINGS BELONGING TO THE
SUBJECT OF THE ENSUING DISCOURSE.
Concerning the Nature of the Will. Ir may possibly be thought, that there is no great need of going about to define or describe the Will, this word being generally as well understood as any other words we can use to explain it : and so perhaps it would be, had not philosophers
, metaphysicians and polemic divines brought the matter into obscurity by the things they have said of it. But since it is so, I think it may be of some use, and will tend to the greater clearness in the following discourse, to say a few things concerning it.
And therefore I observe, that the. Will (without any metaphysical refining) is plainly, that by which the mind chooses any thing. The faculty of the Wilí is that faculty or power or principle of mind by which it is capable of choosing : an act of the Will is the same as an act of choosing or choice. If
any think it is a more perfect definition of the Will, to say, that it is that by which the soul either chooses or refuses ; I am content with it: though I think that it is enough to say, it is that by which the soul chooses : for in every act of Will whatsoever, the mind chooses one thing rather than another; it chooses Something rather than the contrary, or rather than the want or non-existence of that thing
. So in every act of refusal, the mind chooses the absence of the thing refused; the positive and the negative are set before the mind for its choice, and it chooses the negative ; and the mind's making its choice in that case is properly the act of the Will, the Will's determining between the two is a vol. untary determining ; but that is the same thing as making a choice. So that whatever names we call the act of the Will by, choosing, refusing, approving, disapproving, liking, disliking, embracing, rejecting, determining, directing, commanding, forbidding, inclining or being averse, a being pleased or displeased with ; all may be reduced to this of choosing. For the soul to act voluntarily, is evermore to act electively.
Mr. Locke* says, “ the Will signifies nothing but a power or ability to prefer or choose.” And in the foregoing page says
, “ the word preferring seems best to express the act of volition ;" but adds, that “it does it not precisely ; * Human Understanding, Edit. 7. vol. i. p. 197.
for (says he) though a man would prefer flying to walking, yet who can say he ever wills it ?" But the instance he mentions does not prove that there is any thing else in willing, but merely preferring : for it should be considered what is the next and immediate object of the Will, with respect to a man's walking, or any other external action; which is not being removed from one place to another; on the earth, or through the air ; these are remoter objects of preference ; but such or such an immediate exertion of himself. The thing nextly chosen or preferred when a man wills to walk, is not his being removed to such a place where he would be, but such an exertion and motion of his legs and feet, &c. in order to it. And his willing such an alteration in his body in the present moment, is nothing else but his choosing or preferring such an alteration in his body at such a moment, or his liking it better than the forbearance of it. And God has so made and established the human nature, the soul being united to a body in proper state, that the soul preferring or choosing such an immediate exertion or alteration of the body, such an alteration instantaneously follows, There is nothing else in the actions of my mind, that I am conscious of while I walk, but only my preferring or choosing, through successive moments, that there should be such alterations of my external sensations and motions; together with a concurring habitual expectation that it will be so; having ever found by experience, that on such an immediate preference, such sensations and motions do actually, instantaneously, and constantly arise. But it is not so in the case of flying : though a man may be said remotely to choose or prefer flying ; yet he does not choose or prefer, incline to or desire, under circumstances in view, any immediate exertion of the members of his body in order to it; because he has no expectation that he should obtain the desired end by any such exertion ; and he does not prefer or incline to any bodily exertion or effort under this apprehended circumstance, of its being wholly in vain. So that if we carefully distinguish the proper objects of the several acts of the Will, it will not appear by this, and such like instances, that there is any difference between volition and preference; or that a man's choosing, liking best, or being best pleased with a thing, are not the same with his willing that thing ; as they seem to be according to those general and more natural notions of men, according to which language is formed. Thus an act of the Will is commonly expressed by its pleasing a man to do thus or thus ; and a man's doing as he wills, and doing as he pleases, are the same thing in common speech.
Mr. Locke* says, “ the Will is perfectly distinguished from Desire ; which in the very same action may have a quite contrary tendency from that which our Wills set us upon.
A man (says he) whom I cannot deny, may oblige me to use persuasions to another, which, at the same time I am speaking, I may wish may not prevail on him. In this case it is plain the Will and Desire run counter.” I do not suppose, that Will and Desire are words of precisely the same signification: Will seems to be a word of a more general signification, extending to things present and absent. Desire respects something absent. I may prefer my present situation and posture, suppose, sitting still, or having my eyes open, and so may will it. But yet I cannot think they are so entirely distinct, that they can ever be properly said to run counter. A man never, in any instance, wills any thing contrary to his desires, or desires any thing contrary to his Will. The forementioned instance, which Mr. Locke produces, does not prove that he ever does. He may, on some consideration or other, will to utter speeches which have a tendency to persuade another, and still may desire that they may not persuade him : but yet his Will and Desire do not run counter. The thing which he wills,
* Human Understanding, vol. i. p. 203, 204.
the very same he desires ; and he does not will a thing, and desire the contrary in any particular. In this instance, it is not carefully observed, what is the thing willed, and what is the thing desired : if it were, it would be found that Will and Desire do not clash in the least. The thing willed on some consideration, is to utter such words; and certainly, the same consideration, so influences him, that he does not desire the contrary: all things considered, he chooses to utter such words, and does not desire not to utter them. And so as to the thing which Mr. Locke speaks of as desired, viz., that the words, though they tend to persuade, should not be effectual to that end; his Will is not contrary to this; he does not will that they should be effectual, but rather wills that they should not, as he desires. In order to prove that the Will and Desire may run counter, it should be shown that they may be contrary one to the other in the same thing, or with respect to the very same object of Willor Desire: but here the objects are two; and in each, taken by themselves, the Will and Desire agree. And it is no wonder that they should not agree in different things, however little distinguished they are in their nature. The Will may not agree with the Will, nor Desire agree with Desire, in different things. As in this very instance which Mr. Locke mentions, a person may, on some consideration, desire to use persuasions, and at the same time may desire they may not prevail ; but yet nobody will say, that Desire runs counter to Desire ; or that this proves that Desire is perfectly a distinct thing from Desire. --The like might be observed of the other instance Mr. Locke produces, of a man's desiring to be eased of pain, &c.
But not to dwell any longer on this, whether Desire and Will and whether Preference and Volition be precisely the same things or no; yet, I trust it will be allowed by all, that in every act of Will there is an act of choice; that in every volition there is a preference, or a prevailing inclination of the soul, whereby the soul, at that instant, is out of a state of perfect indifference, with respect to the direct object of the volition. So that in every act, or going forth of the Will, there is some preponderation of the mind or inclination, one way rather than another; and the soul had rather have or do one thing than another, or than not have or do that thing; and that there, where there is absolutely no preferring or choosing, but a perfect continuing equilibrium, there is no volition.
Concerning the Determination of the Will. By determining the Will, if the phrase be used with any meaning, must be intended, causing that the act of the Will or choice should be thus, and not otherwise: and the Will is said to be determined, when, in consequence of some action or influence, its choice is directed to, and fixed upon a particular object. As when we speak of the determination of motion, we mean causing the motion of the body to be such a way, or in such a direction, rather than another.
To talk of the determination of the Will, supposes an effect, which must have a cause. If the Will be determined, there is a determiner. This must be supposed to be intended even by them that say, the Will determines itself. If it be so, the Will is both determiner and determined; it is a cause that acts and produces effects upon itself, and is the object of its own influence and action.
With respect to that grand inquiry, What determines the Will ? it would be very tedious and unnecessary at present to enumerate and examine all the various opinions which have been advanced concerning this matter; nor is it needful
that I should enter into a particular disquisition of all points debated in disputes on that question, whether the Will always follows the last dictate of the understanding. It is sufficient to my present purpose to say, it is that motive, which, as it stands in the view of the mind, is the strongest, that determines the Will. But it may be necessary that I should a little explain my meaning in this.
By motive, I mean the whole of that which moves, excites or invites the mind to volition, whether that be one thing singly, or many things conjunctly. Many particular things may concur and unite their strength to induce the mind; and, when it is so, all together are as it were one complex motive. And when I speak of the strongest motive, I have respect to the strength of the whole that operates to induce to a particular act of volition, whether that be the strength of one thing alone, or of many together.
Whatever is a motive, in this sense, must be something that is extant in the view or apprehension of the understanding, or perceiving faculty. Nothing can induce or invite the mind to will or act any thing, any further than it is perceived, or is some way or other in the mind's view; for what is wholly unperceived, and perfectly out of the mind's view, cannot affect the mind at all. It is most evident, that nothing is in the mind, or reaches it, or takes any hold of it, any otherwise than as it is perceived or thought of.
And I think it must also be allowed by all, that every thing that is properly called a motive, excitement or inducement to a perceiving, willing agent, has some sort and degree of tendency or advantage to move or excite the Will, previous to the effect, or to the act of the Will excited. This previous tendency of the motive is what I call the strength of the motive. That motive which has a less degree of previous advantage or tendency to move the Will, or that appears less inviting, as it stands in the view of the mind, is what I call a weaker motive. On the contrary, that which appears most inviting, and has, by what appears concerning it to the understanding or apprehension, the greatest degree of previous tendency to excite and induce the choice, is what I call the strongest motive. And in this sense, I suppose the Will is always determined by the strongest motive.
Things that exist in the view of the mind have their strength, tendency or advantage to move or excite its Will
, from many things appertaining to the nature and circumstances of the thing viewed, the nature and circumstances of the mind that views, and the degree and manner of its view; of which it would perhaps be hard to make a perfect enumeration. But so much I think may
be determined in general, without room for controversy, that whatever is perceived or apprehended by an intelligent and voluntary agent, which has the nature and influence of a motive to volition or choice, is considered or viewed as good; nor has it any tendency to invite or engage the election of the soul in
further degree than it appears such. For to say otherwise, would be to say, that things that appear have a tendency by the appearance they make, to engage the mind to elect them, some other way than by their appearing eligible to it; which is absurd. And therefore it must be true, in some sense, that the Will always is as the greatest apparent good is. For the right understanding of this, two things must be well and distinctly observed.
1. It must be observed in what sense I use the term good ; namely, as of the same import with agreeable. To appear good to the mind, as I use the phrase, is the same as to appear agreeable, or seem pleasing to the mind, Certainly nothing appears inviting and eligible to the mind, or tending to engage its inclination and choice, considered as evil or disagreeable; nor, indeed, as indifferent, and neither agreeable nor disagreeable. But if it tends to draw the
inclination, and move the Will, it must be under the notion of that which suits
The word good, in this sense, includes in its signification, the removal or
2. When I say, the Will is as the greatest apparent good is, or (as I have explained it) that volition has always for its object the thing which appears anost agreeable; it must be carefully observed, to avoid confusion and needless objection, that I speak of the direct and immediate object of the act of volition; and not some object that the act of Will has not an immediate, but only an indirect and remote respect to. Many acts of volition have some remote relation to an object, that is different from the thing most immediately willed and chosen. Thus
, when a drunkard has his liquor before him, and he has to choose whether to drink it or no; the proper and immediate objects, about which his present volition is conversant, and between which his choice now decides, are his own acts, in drinking the liquor, or letting it alone; and this will certainly be done according to what, in the present view of his mind, taken in the whole of it, is most agreeable to him. If he chooses or wills to drink it, and not to let it alone; then this action, as it stands in the view of his mind, with all that belongs to its appearance there, is more agreeable and pleasing than letting it alone.
But the objects to which this act of volition may relate more remotely, and between which his choice may determine more indirectly, are the present pleasure the man expects by drinking, and the future misery which he judges will be the consequence of it: he may judge that this future misery when it comes, will be more disagreeable and unpleasant, than refraining from drinking now would be. But these two things are not the proper objects that the act of volition spoken of is nextly conversant about. For the act of Will spoken of is concerning present drinking or forbearing to drink. If he wills to drink, then drinking is the proper object of the act of his Will; and drinking, on some account or other, now appears most agreeable to him, and suits him best. If he chooses to refrain, then refraining is the immediate object of his Will, and is most pleasing to him. If in the choice he makes in the case, he prefers a present pleasure to a future advantage, which he judges will be greater when it comes; then a lesser present pleasure appears more agreeable to him than a greater advantage at a distance. If, on the contrary, a future advantage is preferred, then that appears most agreeable, and suits him best. And so still the present volition is as the greatest apparent good at present is.
I have rather chosen to express myself thus, that the Will always is as the greatest apparent good, or, as what appears most agreeable, is, than to say that the Will is determined by the greatest apparent good, or by what seems most agreeable ; because an appearing most agreeable or pleasing to the mind, and the mind's preferring and choosing, seem hardly to be properly and perfectly distinct
. If strict propriety of speech be insisted on, it may more properly be