1-7 study of will/want

Submitted by Tom Last on Sat, 10/03/2009 - 4:10pm.

1.7 Free To Do As One Wants

[12] Another expression is: To be free does not mean being able to determine (wollen) what one wants (will), but being able to do what one wants (will). This thought has been very clearly expressed by poet and philosopher Robert Hamerling in his Atomistics of the Will(Willens):

”The human being can, to be sure, do what he wants (will)---but he cannot determine what he wants(will), because his will(wille) is determined by motives.
Der Mensch kann allerdings tun, was er will -- aber er kann nicht wollen, was er will, weil sein Wille durch Motive bestimmt ist!

He cannot determine (wollen) what he wants(will)?
Er kann nicht wollen, was er will?

Let us look at these words more closely. Do they make any sense?

Is free will(Wollens), then, being able to want(wollen) something without having a reason, without a motive?
Freiheit des Wollens müßte also darin bestehen, daß man ohne Grund, ohne Motiv etwas wollen könnte?

But what does wanting(Wollen) mean other than having a reason for preferring to do, or trying to do, this rather than that?
Aber was heißt denn Wollen anders, als einen Grund haben, dies lieber zu tun oder anzustreben als jenes?

To want(wollen) something without a reason, without a motive, would be to want(wollen) something without wanting(wollen) it.
Ohne Grund, ohne Motiv etwas wollen, hieße etwas wollen, ohne es zu wollen.

The concept of wanting??(Wollens) is inseparable from the concept of motive.
Mit dem Begriffe des Wollens ist der des Motivs unzertrennlich verknüpft.

Without a determining motive the will (Wille) is an empty faculty; only through the motive does it become active and real.
Ohne ein bestimmendes Motiv ist der Wille ein leeres Vermögen: erst durch das Motiv wird er tätig und reell.

Therefore, it is entirely correct that the human will (Wille) is not ‘free’ to the extent that its direction is always determined by the strongest motive.
Es ist also ganz richtig, daß der menschliche Wille insofern nicht <frei> ist, als seine Richtung immer durch das stärkste der Motive bestimmt ist.

But, in contrast to this ‘unfreedom’, it is absurd  to speak of a possible ‘freedom’ of the will (Willens) that amounts to having the ability to want (wollen) what one does not want.(will)”
Aber es muß andererseits zugegeben werden, daß es absurd ist, dieser <Unfreiheit> gegenüber von einer denkbaren <Freiheit> des Willens zu reden, welche dahin ginge, wollen zu können, was man nicht will.» (Atomistik des Willens, 2. Band 5. 213 f.)

GREEN -all agree
New translation and 1992 Stebbing same will/want use, different than other translators
NEW TRANSLATION--Another expression is: To be free does not mean being able to determine (wollen) what one wants (will), but being able to do what one wants (will).

”The human being can certainly do what he wants (will)---but he cannot determine (will) what he wants (will), because his will (wille) is determined by motives. He cannot determine (wollen) what he wants (will)? Let us look at these words more closely. Do they make any sense? Is free will, then, being able to want something without having a reason, without a motive? But what does wanting mean other than having a reason for preferring to do, or trying to do, this rather than that? To want something without a reason, without a motive, would be to want something without wanting it. The concept of wanting is inseparable 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. Therefore, it is entirely correct that the human will is not ‘free’ to the extent that its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But, in contrast to this ‘unfreedom’, it is absurd to speak of a possible "freedom" of the will (Willens) that amounts to having the ability to want (wollen) what one does not want (will).”

1992 STEBBING--Another phrase runs: To be free does not mean the ability to determine (will) what one wants (will), but to be able to do what one wants (will).

”The human being can certainly do what he wants, but he cannot determine (will) what he wants because his will is determined by motives. He cannot determine (will) what he wants? Let us look at these words more closely. Do they have any sense? Is freedom of the will to mean the ability to want something without reason, without a motive? But what does wanting mean, other than having a reason for doing, or striving for this rather than that? To want something without a reason, without a motive, is to want it without wanting it. The concept of wanting (Wollens) is inseparable from that of motive. Volition (will) without a definite motive is an empty faculty; only through the motive does it become active and real. Therefore, it is quite correct to say that the human will is not ‘free’ inasmuch as its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. On the other hand it must be conceded that it is absurd,in contrast to this 'unfreedom', to speak of a possible "freedom" of will which would consist in being able to want what one does not want.”

Wilson uses "want" in each case with a few "wills".

WILSON--Another form of expression runs: to be free does not mean to be able to want (wollen) as one wills (will), but to be able to do as one wills (will).

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.

1963 Stebbing uses "will" in each case with a few "wants".
1963 STEBBING--Another phrase is: To be free means not that one is able to will (will) what one wants (will), but that one is able to do what one wants (will).

“Man can, indeed, do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants, because his will is determined by motives! He cannot will what he wants? Let us consider these words more closely. Have they any sense? Should freedom of will consist in being able to will something without reason, without a motive? But what does it mean to will something, other than to have a reason to do or to strive for this rather than that? To will something without a reason, without a motive, would mean to will something without willing it. The concept of will is inseparable from that of motive. Without a motive to determine it, the will is an empty ability; only through the motive does it become active and real. It is, therefore, quite correct that the human will is not free, inasmuch as its direction is always determined by that motive which is the strongest. But, on the other hand, it must be admitted that in contrast with this ‘unfreedom,’ it is absurd to speak of a thinkable ‘freedom’ of the will, which would end up in being able to will what one does not will.”

Hoernle, Popplebaum, Lipson  use "will" in each case.
POPPELBAUM--Another form of expression runs: to be free means, not that we can will what we will, but that we can do what we will.

“Man can, it is true, do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills, because his will is determined by motives! He cannot will what he wills? Let us consider these phrases more closely. Have they any intelligible meaning? Does freedom of will, then, mean being able to will without ground, without motive? What does willing mean if not to have grounds for doing, or striving to do, this rather than that? To will anything without ground or motive would mean to will something without willing it. The concept of motive is indissolubly bound up with that of will. Without the determining motive the will is an empty faculty; it is the motive which makes it 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 to speak, in contrast with this ‘unfreedom,’ of a conceivable ‘freedom’ of the will, which would consist in being able to will what one does not will.” (Atomistik des Willens, p. 213 ff.)

LIPSON--Another turn of phrase puts it thus: to be free does not mean being able to will whatever one wills, but being able to do what one wills.

"Human beings can certainly do what they will— but they cannot will what they will, since their willing is determined by motives. They cannot will what they will? Let us look at these words more closely. Do they contain any reasonable meaning? Must freedom of the will then consist in being able to will something without having grounds, without a motive? But what does willing mean other than having grounds to do or attempt this rather than that? To will something, without grounds, without motive, would mean willing something without willing it. The concept of motivation is inseparably linked to the concept of the will. Without a determining motive, the will is an empty capacity: it only becomes active and real through the motive. Thus it is quite correct that the human will is not ‘free,’ inasmuch as its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But it is absurd, in contrast to this ‘unfreedom,’ to speak of a conceivable ‘freedom’ of the will that involves being able to will what one does not will."

Lindeman uses "want" in each case.
LINDEMAN--Another form of expression runs: To be free does not mean to be able to want what one wants to, but rather, to be able to do what one wants to.

“The human being can, to be sure, do what he wants to — but he cannot want what he wants to, because his wanting is determined by motives! — He cannot want what he wants to? But let us consider thee words again more closely. Is there a reasonable sense in them? Freedom of will would therefore have to consist in the fact that one could want something without reason, without motive? But what then does wanting mean other than having a reason for preferring to do, or to strive after, this rather than that? To want something without reason, without motive, would mean to want something, without wanting it. With the concept of wanting, the concept of motive is inseparably linked. Without a determining motive the will is an empty capability: only through the motive does it become active and real. It is therefore entirely correct that the human will is not “free” inasmuch as its direction is always determined by the strongest of its motives. But it must on the other hand be admitted that it is absurd, in the fact of this “unfreedom,” to speak of a conceivable “freedom” of the will which would end up being able to want what one does not want.”




[13] Here also, only motives in general are discussed without taking into consideration the difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If a motive works on me, and I am compelled to follow it because it proves to be the “strongest” of its kind, then the thought of freedom ceases to make any sense. Why should it matter to me whether I can do something or not, if I am forced by the motive to do it? The point is not whether I can or cannot do something once the motive has influenced me, but whether there exist any other motives besides the kind that compel me with absolute necessity. If I have to want something, then, under certain circumstances, I may even be completely indifferent as to whether I can also do it. And if, because of my character or the circumstances prevailing in my environment, a motive is forced on me that to my thinking is unreasonable, then I would even have to be glad if I could not do what I want.

[14] The main point is not whether I am able to carry out a decision once made, but how the decision comes about within me.