The Will

will-power-treeWittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations. 587-594; 611-629.

        587. It makes sense to ask: ‘Do I really love her, or am I only pretending to myself?’ and the process of introspection is the calling up of memories; of imagined possible situations, and of the feelings that one would have if…

588. ‘I am revolving the decision to go away to-morrow.’ (This may be called a description of a state of mind.)–‘Your arguments don’t convince me; now as before it is my intention to go away to-morrow.’ Here one is tempted to call the intention a feeling. The feeling is one of a certain rigidity; of unalterable determination. (But there are many different characteristic feelings and attitudes here.)–I am asked: ‘How long are you staying here?’ I reply: ‘To-morrow I am going away; it’s the end of my holidays.’–But over against this: I say at the end of a quarrel ‘All right! Then I leave to-morrow!’; I make a decision.

589. ‘In my heart I have determined on it.’ And one is even inclined to point to one’s breast as one says it. Psychologically this way of speaking should be taken seriously. Why should it be taken less seriously than the assertion that belief is a state of mind? (Luther: ‘Faith is under the left nipple.’)

590. Someone might learn to understand the meaning of the expression ‘seriously meaning what one says’ by means of a gesture of pointing at the heart. But now we must ask: ‘How does it come out that he has learnt it?’

591. Am I to say that any one who has an intention has an experience of tending towards something? That there are particular experiences of ‘tending’?–Remember this case: If one urgently wants to make some remark, some objection, in a discussion, it often happens that one opens one’s mouth, draws a breath and holds it; if one then decides to let the objection go, one lets the breath out. The experience of this process is evidently the experience of veering towards saying something. Anyone who observes me will know that I wanted to say something and then thought better of it. In this situation, that is.–In a different one he would not so interpret my behaviour, however characteristic of the intention to speak it may be in the present situation. And is there any reason for assuming that this same experience could not occur in some quite different situation–in which it has nothing to do with any ‘tending’?

592. ‘But when you say “I intend to go away”, you surely mean if! Here again it just is the mental act of meaning that gives the sentence life. If you merely repeat the sentence after someone else, say in order to mock his way of speaking, then you say it without this act of meaning.’–When we are doing philosophy it can sometimes look like that. But let us really think out various different situations and conversations, and the ways in which that sentence will be uttered in them.–‘I always discover a mental undertone; perhaps not always the same one.’ And was there no undertone there when you repeated the sentence after someone else? And how is the ‘undertone’ to be separated from the rest of the experience of speaking?

593. A main cause of philosophical disease — a one-sided diet: one nourishes one’s thinking with only one kind of example.

594. ‘But the words, significantly uttered, have after all not only a surface, but also the dimension of depth!’ After all, it just is the cause that something different takes place when they are uttered significantly from when they are merely uttered.–How I express this is not the point. Whether I say that in the first case they have depth; or that something goes on in me, inside my mind, as I utter them; or that they have an atmosphere–it always comes to the same thing.
‘Well, if we all agree about it, won’t it be true?’
(I cannot accept someone else’s testimony, because it is not testimony. It only tells me what he is inclined to say.)

* * * *

611. ‘Willing too is merely an experience,’ one would like to say (the “will” to only “idea”). It comes when it comes, and I cannot bring it about.
Not bring it about?–Like what? What can I bring about, then? What am I comparing willing with when I say this?

612. I should not say of the movement of my arm, for example: it comes when it comes, etc.. And this is the region in which we say significantly that a thing doesn’t simply happen to us, but that we do it. ‘I don’t need to wait for my arm to go up–I can raise it.’ And here I am making a contrast between the movement of my arm and, say, the fact that the violent thudding of my heart will subside.

613. In the sense in which I can ever bring anything about (such as stomach-ache through over-eating), I can also bring about an act of willing. In this sense I bring about the act of willing to swim by jumping into the water. Doubtless I was trying to say: I can’t will willing; that is, it makes no sense to speak of willing willing. ‘Willing’ is not the name of an action; and so not the name of any voluntary action either. And my use of a wrong expression came from our wanting to think of willing as an immediate non-causal bringing-about. A misleading analogy lies at the root of this idea; the causal nexus seems to be established by a mechanism connecting two parts of a machine. The connection may be broken if the mechanism is disturbed. (We think only of the disturbances to which a mechanism is normally subject, not, say, of cog-wheels suddenly going soft, or passing through one another, and so on.)

614. When I raise my arm “voluntarily” I do not use any instrument to bring the movement about. My wish is not such an instrument either.

615. ‘Willing, if it is not to be a sort of wishing, must be the action itself. It cannot be allowed to stop anywhere short of the action.’ If it is the action, then it is so in the ordinary sense of the word; so it is speaking, writing, lifting a thing, imagining something. But it is also trying, attempting, making an effort,–to speak, to write, to lift a thing, to imagine something etc.

616. When I raise my arm, I have not wished it might go up. The voluntary action excludes this wish. It is indeed possible to say: ‘I hope I shall draw the circle faultlessly’. And that is to express a wish that one’s hand should movie in such-and-such a way.

617. If we cross our fingers in a certain special way we are sometimes unable to move a particular finger when someone tells us to do so, if he only points to the finger–merely shows it to the eye. If on the other hand he touches it, we can move it. One would like to describe this experience as follows: we are unable to will to move the finger. The case is quite different from that in which we are not able to move the finger because someone is, say, holding it. One now feels inclined to describe the former case by saying: one can’t find any point of application for the will till the finger is touched. Only when one feels the finger can the will know where it is to catch hold.–But this kind of expression is misleading. One would like to say: ‘How am I to direct the will when the feeling is there?
That in this case the finger is as it were paralyzed until we feel a touch on it is shown by experience; it could not have been seen a priori

618. One imagines the willing subject here as something without any mass (without an inertia); as a motor which has no inertia in itself to overcome. And so it is only mover, not moved. That is: One can say ‘I will, but my body does not obey me’–but not: ‘My will does not obey me.’ (Augustine.)
But in the sense in which I cannot fail to will, I cannot try to will either.

619. And one might say: ‘I can always will only inasmuch as I can never try to will.’

620. Doing itself seems not to have any volume of experience. It seems like an extensionless point, the point of a needle. This point seems to be the real agent. And the phenomenal happenings only to be consequences of this acting. ‘I do…’ seems to have a definite sense, separate from all experience.

621. Let us not forget this: when ‘I rise my arm’, my arm goes up. And the problem arises: what is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?
((Are the kinesthetic sensations my willing?))

622. When I raise my arm I do not usually try to raise it.

623. ‘At all costs I will get to that house.’–But if there is no difficulty about it–can I try at all costs to get to the house?

624. In the laboratory, when subjected to an electric current, for example, someone says with his eyes shut “I am moving my arm up and down’–though his arm is not moving. ‘So,’ we say, ‘he has the special feeling of making that movement.’–Move your arm to and from with your eyes shut. And now try, while you do so, to tell yourself that your arm is staying still and that you are only having certain queer feelings in your muscles and joints!

625. ‘How do you know that you have raised your arm?’–‘I feel it.’ So what you recognize is the feeling? And are you certain that you recognize it right?–You are certain that you have raised your arm; isn’t this the criterion, the measure, of recognition?

626. ‘When I touch this object with a stick I have the sensation of touching in the tip of the stick, not in the hand that holds it.’ When someone says ‘The pain isn’t here in my hand, but in my wrist’, this has the consequence that the doctor examines the wrist. But what difference does it make if I say that I feel the hardness of the object in the tip of the stick or in my hand? Does what I say mean ‘It is as if I had nerve-endings in the tip of the stick?’ In what sense is it like that?–Well, I am at any rate inclined to say: ‘I feel the hardness etc. in the tip of the stick.’ What goes with this is that when I touch the object I look not at my hand but at the tip of the stick; that I describe what I feel by saying ‘I feel something hard and round there’–not ‘I feel a pressure against the tips of my thumb, middle finger, and index finger…’ If, for example, someone asks me ‘What are you now feeling in the fingers that hold the probe?’ I might reply: ‘I don’t know–I feel something hard and rough over there.’

627. Examine the following description of a voluntary action: ‘I form the decision of pull the bell at 5 o’clock, and when it strikes 5, my arm makes this movement.’–Is that the correct description, and not this one: ‘…and when it strikes 5, I raise my arm’?–One would like to supplement the first description: ‘and see! my arm goes up when it strikes 5.’ And this ‘and see!’ is precisely what doesn’t belong here. I do not say ‘See, my arm is going up!’ when I raise it.

628. So one might say: voluntary movement is marked by the absence of surprise. And now I do not mean you ask ‘But why isn’t one surprised here?’

629. When people talk about the possibility of foreknowledge of the future they always forget the fact of the prediction of one’s own voluntary movements.

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