Glossary


1-7
PSYCHISM (Pisces)
[12] Another form of expression runs: to be free does not mean to be able to want as one wills, but to be able to do as one wills. This thought has been expressed with great clearness by the poet-philosopher Robert Hamerling.

“Man can certainly do as he wills, but he cannot want as he wills, because his wanting is determined by motives. He cannot want as he wills? Let us consider these phrases more closely. Have they any intelligible meaning: Freedom of will would then mean being able to want without ground, without motive. But what does wanting mean if not to have grounds for doing, or trying to do, this rather than that: To want something without ground or motive would be to want something without wanting it. The concept of wanting cannot be divorced from the concept of motive. Without a determining motive the will is an empty faculty; only through the motive does it become active and real. It is, therefore, quite true that the human will is not "free" inasmuch as its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But on the other hand it must be admitted that it is absurd, in contrast with this "unfreedom", to speak of a conceivable freedom of the will which would consist in being able to want what one does not want.?

[13] Here again, only motives in general are mentioned, without taking into account the difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If a motive affects me, and I am compelled to act on it because it proves to be the "strongest" of its kind, then the thought of freedom ceases to have any meaning. How should it matter to me whether I can do a thing or not, if I am forced by the motive to do it? The primary question is not whether I can do a thing or not when a motive has worked upon me, but whether there are any motives except such as impel me with absolute necessity. If I am compelled to want something, then I may well be absolutely indifferent as to whether I can also do it. And if, through my character, or through circumstances prevailing in my environment, a motive is forced on me which to my thinking is unreasonable, then I should even have to be glad if I could not do what I want.

[14] The question is not whether I can carry out a decision once made, but how the decision comes about within me.