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In this sense only are we warranted in speaking of abstract volition.
It has been necessary to lay stress upon this vague and troublesome question of design, because mistaken notions with regard to it appear to have been at the bottom of much error in philosophy. The design manifest in a mental act has been supposed to evince a power which transcended or anticipated experience, instead of one that actually conforms in its genesis to experience; and the metaphysical conception of will as a fixed and undecomposable entity, in which was no variability nor the shadow of a turning, is greatly indebted for its origin to that error. The mischievous doctrine of final causes which Bacon, Comte, Spinoza, Descartes, and others scarcely less great, all agree to have done so much harm in philosophy, has sprung from erroneous views of the nature of design. Supposing that the argument from desigu as to the existence of will as a metaphysical entity were pressed to its logical consequences, what must be the result ? Nothing less than this,—that the animal, with its marvellous instinct of instant adaptation to the most complex and unfamiliar conditions, is possessed of a higher immaterial principle than the helpless child or the erring adult. We know right well, however, that the instinct of the animal is sometimes positively traceabile to the acquireil power of former generations; that it has been observably built up in the constitution of the nervons centres, and transmitted to succeeding generations as an innate endowment. It is exactly the same with the design that is formed within the term of an individual life, and which ever testifies to the previous cultivation of the individual; the more cultivateid the mind and the more varied the experience, the better des veloped is the will and the stronger its co-ordinating power over the thoughts, feelings, and artious, not otherwise, in truth, than as the co-ordinate reflex action of the spinal cord is developed by experience and culture. L'esign, therefore, when its naturi is fairly analysed, so far fronu tending to make the will a fixed metaphysical entity, goes really to prove that the will is an insensibly organized result, of varying value, quantitative un? qualitative.
llaving now adduced sufficient reasons to prove that the wii! is not a self-generating, self-sutticin; forve of constant quantity
but, on the contrary, a force varying in quantity and quality, and, like every other natural force, determined by antecedent causes, we may proceed to consider what power it actually has in our mental and bodily life. It is manifestly ordained that the will, as the highest mode of energy of nerve element, should control the inferior modes of energy by operating downwards upon their subordinate centres : the anatomical disposition of the nervous system is in conformity with what psychological observation teaches. But the undoubted fact, that the will of a man can and does control inferior functions has led to a very extravagant and ill-founded notion as to its autocratic power; and it must be allowed that not a little windy nonsense has been written concerning its authority. Assuredly it is no irresponsible despot in any mind, but is ever most obedient where it has most power ; it conquers by obeying. Let us, then, consider what the power of the will is (1) over the movements, and (2) over mental operations, the two departments in which its rule is felt.
1. (a) The will has no power whatever over certain movements that are essential to the continuance of life. Not only do such motions as those of the heart and the intestines go on without any co-operation of the will and in spite of any intervention on its part, but movements that are only microscopically visible, such as to contractions of the small arteries, which are of so great importance in nutrition, are not under its direct influence. Nature has been far too prudent to rely upon such an uncertain and comparatively late appearing force for the movements essential to the continuance of life, or to admit its capricious interference: let a man try to asphyxiate himself by voluntarily restraining the respiratory movements, and he will learn a lesson as to the impotency of will which he might usefully remeinber when studying inental phenomena. We say notline here of those insensible molecular movements of the physiological elements which, like the mal oscillations, are yet impenetrable to sense, but which are indoubtedly at the foundation of all visible vital actions.
(6) The will has no power to effect movements that are confessedly voluntary, until they have been very carefully acquireil by practice. Every one knows that the theory of a particular
skill of movement is a very different matter from the practice of it, and that the complete capacity of accomplishing the act is gained, not simply by desiring and willing it, but by patient exercise and cultivation ; the faculty of the movement is thus grarlually organized in the proper nervous centre. A special and complex act, never hitherto attenpted, will be as little likely to be carried out, in obedience to the commands of the so-called "autocrat of the mind," as a determination to fly. *
(c) When the will does dictate a movement, it is the event which is determined ; it sets free, so to speak, the movement which has been organized in the motor nerve centre; there is no direct volitional control over the means by which the result is effected; so that it may even happen, and does sometimes happen, that in a man struck with a palsy of his limbs, all unaware of its impotency, the will commands a result which never takes place. Questionless, in face of such an experience, some would still not shrink from atlirming that consciousness never deceives. When the will dictates a certain event, its power is poropagated, first through certain nerves, and then through them to certain muscles, in a manner of which we have no consciousness whatever: all we do know is, that if we wish to select a certain muscle, and put it singly in action, we have not the power to do so, and that, if certain movements have been habitually associated, it is a very hard matter to dissociate them -a thing which a simple effort of the will certainly will not do, but which a disease like chorea will sometimes do in spite of the will.
2. The extent of voluntary power over the mental operations is not nearly so great as is commonly assumed ; much the same thing happening here as in its intluence over movements. It will 11.t be diilicult to understand how this should be so, if we reflect that the immediate action of the will, even when dictating movements, is not upon muscles, but 11w the motor grey nuclei, or the nervous centres of movement; that in Imoth cases, there
"W know lioru slomly the child #coperirea :... pues of mo lalancing his Innly as hold it crest."
We ultre 1... s slowly the child learns to perfoniu, with the requisite prevision, the contractii in on which the opmbution of walking depends." “There is another vir familiar instance, thuat of learning u write."-J. Hill ..alysis of the Hornind dined, pr. 271-27 1.
fore, the immediate operation is alike upon ganglionic cells, which are, in one case, the associated centres of ideas, in the other the associated centres of movements.(2)
(a) As the formation of our ideas gradually takes place through experience, and as the association between ideas is also effected in accordance with experience, both processes being based in the organic life and beyond the domain of consciousness, it is plain that the will does not determine either the material of thought or the laws of the interworking of ideas : it must accept as accomplished facts, as organized results, the ideas and the manner of their association. As with movements, so here, the will has no control over the means by which it works; it cannot dissociate firmly established connexions, nor can it determine a new train of ideas without the first link of it being in the thoughts; and when the first link, however originated, is, so to speak, grasped, the train of ideas initiated is not irregular and alterable at will, but definite, in stern accordance with an order and systein previously established by cultivation. It is true that as it is with the power of will over movements, so it is with its power over mental states—it is a power which may be greatly enlarged and increased by exercise and cultivation. While some persons seem quite incapable of regulating the association of their ideas, and can hold to no suliject consecutively, others are distinguished by the mastery which they have over the subject and course of their thoughts, by their powers of dismissing what is frivolous or irrelevant, and of adhering singly and steadily to the matter on which the mind is employed. The will, however, always presupposes definite and fixed series of iileas formed in the mind, series in which, without individual co-operation, one idea must definitely and of necessity follow another as one wave necessarily produces another as itself disappears. There is an order or a necessity in the niental organization of a sane person, then, reflecting the order or necessity in
• “Deliberation and investigation are like the hunting of :hound; he moves and sniffs about by his own activity, but the scent he finds is not laiil, uor the trail he follows drawn by himself. The mind only begins a tuin of thinking, or keeps it in one par: ular track, but the thoughts introduce one another suc. cessively . . . . while shows they have a motion of their own independent of the mind, and which they do not derive froin its action, nor will lay uside upwn ita commanil.”—Troker's Light of Naturr, rol. i. p. 14.
177 the co-existence and succession of events in external nature; and the will can as little control the fundamental laws of the one as it can those of the other. Certainly it is not absolutely powerless in the mind, any more than it is absolutely powerless in nature ; by recognition of the laws which govern mental development we can so arrange the conditions of their operations as to produce secondarily considerable modification of effects; the will may thus avail itself of these laws for its own profit, using their power in an enlightened manner to aid its development : in the one case as in the other it conquers only by obeying. True liberty, as Milton expresses it,
“Always with right reason dwells Twinn'd, and from her hath no dividual being." (1) Thus we come to a second consideration in regard to the power of the will : it is that those who so unduly exalt it unwarrantably derive their arguments entirely from the selfconsciousness of a well-cultivated mind, and altogether neglect the instances of its simplest manifestations. It is merely justice to insist upon a reference to the earlier stages of development of cultivated mind, or to mind in its least cultivated state, as offering the simplest and most favourable instances for the forination of a sound induction. Will any one be so bold as to maintain that there exists in the young child or in the idiot volitional control over the thoughts? Is any one so i:norant of the genesis of mind its to uphold the existence of true volition in the earliest stages of mental development? The child notably lives in the present, and its actions are direct reactions to the feelings and ideas that are excited in its mind.
(c) lut as the will cannot originate an idea or a train of thought in the mind, so likewise it is unable sometimes to dismiss one when desirous of doing so. A painful idea will, as every one's experience must have taught him, return again and again into consciousn -- notwithstanding every effort of the will to get rid of it, just it- a movement may take place in spite of the will. The commind which a man has over his thoughts is very different at differnt times, and one person may ).. able to dismiss a troublesom. reflection when another canno: for the life of himn do so. We can give no exact reasons for these variations; the causes of thein lie deeper than consciou -uess cap