Will (philosophy)

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Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
Most of the time man does not do what he wills, but what he has willed. Through his decisions, he always gives himself only a certain direction, in which he then moves until the next moment of reflection. We do not will continuously, we only will intermittently, piece by piece. We thus save ourselves from willing: principle of the economy of the will. But the higher man always experiences this as thoroughly immoral. ~ Otto Weininger

Volition or Will is the faculty or process by which a mind decides on and commits to a particular course of action.

Quotes[edit]

  • A willing heart adds feather to the heel,
    And makes the clown a winged Mercury.
    • Joanna Baillie, De Montfort (1798), Act III, scene 2; in A Series of Plays.
  • He that will not when he may,
    When he will he shall have nay.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Also in The Loyal Garland. Song 28. "The fool that will not when he may, / He shall not when he wold." Blow the Winds, Heigho! Northumbrian ballad.
  • He that complies against his will,
    Is of his own opinion still,
    Which he may adhere to, yet disown,
    For reasons to himself best known.
    • Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part III (1678), Canto III, line 547. . Sometimes misreported as "is convinced" instead of "complies", according to Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 11.
  • Your will cannot always choose the path; very often the route is determined by chance or by the will of others.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani, 2013, p. 11.
  • Pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.
  • "When a man says he's willin'," said Mr. Barkis, "it's as much as to say, that man's a-waitin' for a answer."
  • Will is the immediate consciousness of the activity of the inward powers of our Nature. The immediate consciousness of an effort, an aspiration of these powers which is not yet activity, because restrained by opposing forces — this is inclination or desire; the struggle of contending forces is irresolution; the victory of one is the resolution of the will.
  • It is an old complaint that man has often, as it were, two souls. He observes himself, would understand himself, would please and guide himself. But, previous to this observation, while immersed in things and externals, he has a will, and often very marked features of character. These are the objective with which the contemplating subjective either agrees or disagrees by means of a new will, created in an entirely different condition of mind and soul (Gemuthslage). In case of disagreement, which of the two wills determines the character? It is quite clear, that that, which combined would have strengthened it, now chafes and disintegrates it; that the better claims on us, if they only prevent a fall into the distinctly bad, can but preserve at best a salutary absence of character.
    • The science of education: its general principles deduced from its aim and The aesthetic revelation of the world by Herbart, Johann Friedrich, 1776-1841; Publication date 1908 p. 200
  • The readinesse of doing doth expresse
    No other but the doer's willingnesse.
  • Whether it was a woman whom desire brought to desperation, or whether it was a man who despaired in defiance; whether a man despaired because he got his will, or despaired because he did not get his will: each one in despairing has two wills, one that he fruitlessly tries wholly to follow and one that he fruitlessly tries wholly to avoid.
  • Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will.
    • Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.
    • Variant translations:
      • Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants.
        • As quoted in The Motivated Brain : A Neurophysiological Analysis of Human Behavior (1991) by Pavel Vasilʹevich Simonov, p. 198.
  • I have known many who could not when they would, for they had not done it when they could.
  • My will enkindled by mine eyes and ears,
    Two traded pilots 'twixt the dangerous shores
    Of will and judgment.
  • "Akrasia" [weakness of will] in rational beings is as common as wine in France.
  • For modern man, … pride reveals itself in impatience, which is an unwillingness to bear the pain of discipline. … In effect his becomes a deification of his own will; man is not making himself like a god but is taking himself as he is and putting himself in the place of God.
  • Most of the time man does not do what he wills, but what he has willed. Through his decisions, he always gives himself only a certain direction, in which he then moves until the next moment of reflection. We do not will continuously, we only will intermittently, piece by piece. We thus save ourselves from willing: principle of the economy of the will. But the higher man always experiences this as thoroughly immoral.
    • Otto Weininger, Collected Aphorisms, as translated by Martin Dudaniec & Kevin Solway
  • There is in Shaw, as in Gurdjieff and Nietzsche, a recognition of the immense effort of Will that is necessary to express even a little freedom, that places them beside Pascal and St. Augustine as religious thinkers. Their view is saved from pessimism only by its mystical recognition of the possibilities of pure Will, freed from the entanglements of automatism.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 871-82.
  • The commander of the forces of a large State may be carried off, but the will of even a common man cannot be taken from him.
  • There is nothing good or evil save in the will.
  • Der Mensch kann was er soll; und wean er sagt er kann nicht, so will er nicht.
    • A man can do what he ought to do; and when he says he cannot, it is because he will not.
    • Johann Gottlieb Fichte, letter (1791).
  • To deny the freedom of the will is to make morality impossible.
  • Aber wer fest auf dem Sinne beharrt, der bildet die Welt sich.
  • The only way of setting the will free is to deliver it from wilfulness.
    • J. C. and A. W. Hare, Guesses at Truth.
  • All theory is against the freedom of the will, all experience for it.
  • The star of the unconquered will,
    He rises in my breast,
    Serene, and resolute, and still,
    And calm, and self-possessed.
  • Will without power is like children playing at soldiers.
    • Quoted by Macaulay from The Rovers, Act IV. Found in Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin.
  • Tu si animum vicisti potius quam animus te est quod gaudias.
    • If you have overcome your inclination and not been overcome by it, you have reason to rejoice.
    • Plautus, Trinummus, II. 9.
  • And binding nature fast in fate,
    Left free the human will.
  • We sought therefore to amend our will, and not to suffer it through despite to languish long time in error.
    • Seneca, Of Benefits, Book V, Chapter XXV, Epigram 67.
  • All
    Life needs for life is possible to will.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert's Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • We lay it down as a first principle — from which we can no more depart than from the consciousness of existence — that man is free; and therefore stand ready to embrace whatever is fairly included in the definition of freedom.
  • There may be some tenderness in the conscience and yet the will be a very stone; and as long as the will stands out, there is no broken heart.
  • The true servants of God are not solicitous that He should order them to do what they desire to do, but that they may desire to do what He orders them to do.
  • Renew my will from day to day,
    Blend it with Thine, and take away
    All that now makes it hard to say,
    "Thy will be done."
  • Do not let the loud utterances of your own wills anticipate, nor drown, the still, small voice in which God speaks. Bridle impatience till He does. If you cannot hear His whisper, wait till you do. Take care of running before you are sent. Keep your wills in equipoise till God's hand gives the impulse and direction.
  • What men want is not talent, it is purpose; in other words, not the power to achieve, but the will to labor. I believe that labor judiciously and continuously applied becomes genius. You cannot will to possess the spirit of Christ, that must come as His gift; but you can choose to study His life, and to imitate it.
  • My will, not Thine be done, turned Paradise into a desert. "Thy will, not mine be done," turned the desert into Paradise, and made Gethsemane the gate of heaven.
  • Want of will causes paralysis of every faculty. In spiritual things man is utterly unable because resolvedly unwilling.

External links[edit]

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