The will, the basis of everything: Vector theory
Definition: The will (Latin “voluntas’’) is a specific faculty or spiritual strength, different from reason and emotions, yet with an equal impact on the bearer’s activity.
According to the Modern Philosophy, the will is:
- Self-consciousness and self-determination of reason, and a faculty causing special causality.
- Motivation basis of all the systems preceding reason and being fundamental elements of existence.
The will is often considered to be an independent function to some extent, or an accident of reason, since it is not usually opposed to consciousness. The intellectual imperative is being observed in the process of defining the will. This intellectual imperative is the intended, rational thought that seeks for achieving the aim. According to materialism, the objective world, the subjective human activity is the origin of the volitional activity. This subjective activity aims at transforming and subjecting the world, based on the objective laws of nature.
According to voluntarism, the will is the original and primary basis of the anthropogenic world-structure and all of its processes.
The psychological definitions of the will are also remarkable:
- Autogenic – the will is a unique and independent faculty that does not depend on any other process.
- Heterogenic – the will is a secondary, dependent phenomenon that is a result of other psychological processes.
- The theory of Rubinstein- the will is merely a capacity to control one’s own faculties and behavior. It is completely being under the control of emotional and conscious processes.
Nowadays, there are many distinctions and clichés to describe the term “the will”: will to freedom, will to power, will to life, etc. I will not go into details about these clichés in this analysis. My purpose is to establish a new theory, firstly introducing the existing general and distinctive theories that have somehow affected it.
- The ancient approaches: There were some philosophers in the ancient world (e.g. Protagoras) who viewed the perception of man as the indicator for all processes, therefore, they considered human will the driving force of everything. But there was also the opposite side (e.g. Democritus), the representatives of which absolutely denied the freedom of will, exaggerating necessity and refusing contingency or dependence from an individual. Plato was the first to relate the will with the human self–reflection. According to him, the will is the fusion of rational evaluation and aspiration. Aristotle separated the will both from the “pure” conscious and “pure” affects. According to his definition, the will, as a procreation of the conscious, is the synthesis of both that bears the influence of aspiration ( a kind of affects).
- The Middle Ages and Renaissance period approaches: The will bore a huge significance for the Christian philosophy, especially during the period of its establishment. During the period of Ecumenical councils, the will was characterized by two perceptions:
- The will was a power which is formed and directed through external impact ( here, by divine intervention).
- The will was a power with divine origins which was entirely formed by man (freedom of will).
It is remarkable that both cases refer to divine – originated, thus, sacralized power. The approaches of Augustine of Hippo who is considered to be one of the founders of voluntarism, could have been conditioned by the above-mentioned notion. He found the will more important than the intellect. During the Renaissance and its following periods, the will as a phenomenon became separated from divine origins and again attributed and related to man and his intellect. E.g. according to Descartes, the will is something different and wider than just reason, and it fits within the borders of thinking. Spinoza identifies the will with reason. The works by the German mystic philosopher Jacob Bohme on this topic are also remarkable. The latter divided the will into the good will and the bad will, by corresponding it to the Christian doctrine. This division was based on various characters from the Christian mythology.
- The new and modern period approaches: According to Kant, the will is the ability of desire that has its basis in consciousness. It is also the idea about one’s own ego under natural and human laws. Kant was the first to try to give an idea about the direction of the will. So, he defines the concept of the good will (will to good). He believed that good deeds are expressions of the inner imperative, the good will, and that they are indissoluble and compulsory parts of the human nature. Arthur Schopenhauer turned all the existing classical models upside down. According to him, the will is an onto-cosmic phenomenon without any subjective or anthropocentric rudiment. The will is an irregular and axiomatic power (with no need to be explained or justified) which is the justification and explanation of any existence (such as the will to life). Actually, it is the beginning and metaphysical justification of existence. Nietzsche, one of Schopenhauer’s students, modifies the will to life into the similarly ontological the will to power, that lies above everything, above reason, passion and laws and is considered to be onto-cosmic. It should be mentioned that Nietzsche was the last thinker to refer to the problems of the manifestations of the will in his philosophical doctrine as the main subject for investigation. After him, the will itself did not offer any interests for philosophers. I’ll try to give the reason for this a bit later.
The vector theory and the historical role of the will
All the above-mentioned authors have influenced the establishment of the vector theory, but it is necessary to mark out Jacob Bohme, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche.
I classify this new theoretical commentary that views the will as a power separated from reason and emotions and having the same impact on the bearer, among the series of voluntaristic theories. Moreover, in my opinion, the will is not a mere phenomenon peculiar to man, but it is a phenomenon common to the world-structure and nature. Whether who we are and how our surrounding world is, is being determined by this very phenomenon.
According to the theory, the will is a force (a vector magnitude reflecting the extent of the interaction between things). As it is known, a force is expressed through vectors and modules. The will, as a force, is divided into two vectors: negative and positive. These names are too conventional and are connected with our ideas about morality and norms. While the division itself is objective, as the two main vectors are contrary and inter – excluding. To say in other words, it is a fact that these two vectors are contrasted, whereas the names and classifications are subjective.
The division of the will according to the direction of vector has a simple general essence. The separate expressions of the will are situated under this or that direction. I.e. for example the will to creation is located within the positive vector, whereas the will to violence is located within the negative vector.
You may notice that the will to power is located right in the center of the chart. This is because of the Nietzsche’s philosophical doctrine. From this I deduce that it can carry both negative and positive vectors much more easily than others. For example, Stalin’s and Hitler’s will to power had monstrous and regressive impact on humanity, but the will to power of Emperor Augustus was accompanied by global peace and continuous welfare.
Generally, the will wholly exists in each and every person with its negative and positive elements. The thing is whether which vector becomes prevailing during a certain period of time (not excluding the case when vectors are balanced). The most vivid examples of this are the representatives of the breakdown period of Roman Republic (Sulla, Caesar, whose expression of volitional vectors had been different during the various stages of their lives).
Moreover, there can also be cases, when an exact expressive form of the will (for example, the will to violence) is located under another vector, or for example, in the center (Alexander’s will to violence was not actually directed towards the Achaemenid Empire, but towards the ancient and anachronistic world, and its essence was creative and progressive).
As it has been mentioned already, the division is objective and it is a fact, while the names and perceptions are too subjective. The division is a result of metaphysical meditations and cannot be precise for all the cases.
But a force, as we know, also has a module, a magnitude, which is typical to the will, too. The will, along with its positive and negative vectors, has also a module both in an individual and the society. This module indicates the magnitude of the given force, that is the will. For example, in a battlefield, both sides have the will to victory. Among many other factors, it is also crucial whether which side has a greater module of the will. A predator, as well as a victim, holds the will to life, and among many other factors, again it is crucial whether whose module of the will is greater. The module of the will of individuals can be greater than the module of the will of all societies. Altogether, depending on the bearer, the module of the will can change quite frequently.
Let us return to the unfinished question: why was Nietzsche the last major theorist to refer to the issues of the will? I guess, the reason is the universal weakening of the magnitude of the module of the will. I will try to explain this phenomenon in the next part, where I will reveal how the module of the will becomes weak and how this weakening puts the perception of art in a critical state.
So, in my opinion, the human will have been the main driving force of history, human society and activity. It can be expressed through the desire to create or violate, but this is not the main point. The point is, that most essential activities and chosen paths in the life of a man, and, therefore, the history of the mankind are mainly conditioned with the will, not with human reason, nor with emotions. Hence, it is hard to overestimate the impact of the will, as well as the impact of the vector/module of the will on everything that surrounds as.
- Фридрих Ницше, Воля к Власти, Минск, Харвест, 2005
- Артур Шопенгауэр, Мир как воля и представление, Минск, Харвест, 2004
- Новая философская энциклопедия,http://iph.ras.ru/enc.htm
- Ecumenical councils, http://www.theopedia.com/ecumenical-councils
- The Will in Augustine’s Confessions,The Law of the Mind and the Law of the Members http://www.hprweb.com/2012/08/the-will-in-augustines-confessions-the-law-of-the-mind-and-the-law-of-the-members/
- Основные направления и течения философии с их представителями, http://studme.org/1667011917702/filosofiya/osnovnye_napravleniya_techeniya_filosofii_predstavitelyami
- Immanuel Kant, http://www.iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/
- Jacob Boehme, http://www.passtheword.org/Jacob-Boehme/
- Free Will, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/
Author: Areg Kochinyan: © All rights are reserved.
Translators: Ashkhen Arakelyan, Yeranuhi Antonyan