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Will is a philosophical concept that is defined in several different ways.
Will as internal drive[edit | edit source]
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 choose not to steal because the Ten Commandments said so would not be exercising their will; neither would someone buying some music because their friends recommended it. Someone who independently forms their own moral system or who composes a musical composition pleasing to themself, however, would be exercising will.
Idealism: Will as all[edit | edit source]
In idealist models of reality, the material world is either non-existent or 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 thought otherwise. This line of thought is seen among philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer in his book The World as Will and Representation; it is also seen in proponents of a mystically-oriented universe such as Aleister Crowley.
Free Will[edit | edit source]
- Main article: 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.
Some people believe that seemingly "free" actions aren't actually free, or that the entire concept is a chimera. The argument generally goes along the lines that since "internal" beliefs are affected by earlier external events, nothing is truly an internal choice, because everything you do is predetermined. Alternately, if there is no foreordained future, we may be at the mercy of the randomness of quantum physics, which may also negate free will.
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Psychologists also deal with issues of will; some people are highly intrinsicly motivated (Nietzsche would approve of them) and do whatever seems best to them, while others are "weak-willed" and easily suggestible (extrinsicly motivated) by society or outward inducement. 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.
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").
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- St. Augustine (1993). On Free Choice of the Will, Hackett Pub. Co. ISBN 0872201880.
- Luther, Martin (1990). The Bondage of the Will (in German), Revell. ISBN 0800753429.
- Nietzsche, Friedrich  (1968). The Will to Power (in German), Vintage. ISBN 0394704371.
- Norwood, Rick. The Evolution of the Will, Philosophy in Science, Vol 6.
- Schopenhauer, Arthur [1819, 1844] (1966). The World as Will and Representation (in German), Dover Publications. ISBN 0486217612.
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