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is an appeal from consciousness to ignorance, and is by the
nature of the case incapable of proof, (c) The most careful
observation of children confirms the view that they are
subjects of many extra-regarding impulses.^

Motive. — With the multiplication of longings there
inevitably arises conflict of desires. The attainment of
an immediate gratification may clash with more remote
good, or duty with interest. The various objects which
thus excite desire are called motives. They include
whatever moves or influences in any degree the Will. The
apprehension of any object as desirable, whether it be
ultimately preferred or not, thus constitutes a motive.

2 On this subject see Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, Bk. I. c. iv. ;
Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory, Pt. II. Bk. I. c. v. and Bk. II.
c. i. § 3 ; James, op. cit. Vol. II. pp. 549, seq. ; Mark Baldwin, Hand-
book of Psychology, Vol. II. pp. 325, seq.

St. Thomas, insisting on the notion of good {conveniens naiura) as
wider and more ultimate than that of pleasure, considered and
rejected in advance the sensationist doctrine; commenting on
Aristotle, he urges that activity (operatio) is prior as an object of
appetency to pleasure, which is a consequence of the former. Thus :
" Non enim fit delectatio sine operatione neque rursus potest esse


Strictly speaking, the motive is not the physical being
possessed of objective existence, but this being as
apprehended by the mind, and represented as under some
aspect desirable. The force of a motive consequently
fluctuates, depending on the vividness with which it is
realized in consciousness. Its attractiveness will depend
partly on the quality of the object itself, partly on the
general character of the man ; but also more imme-
diately on the extent to which he permits or causes it
to absorb his attention at the time.

Spontaneous Action and Deliberation.— By far
the greater part of man's daily actions are determined
by his habits or usual modes of thought and voHtion.
UnrefleclTve' activity, thus issuing forth as the resultant
of character and present motives, may be termed sponta-
neous. Most of human conduct is accordingly the out-
come of the spontaneous tendency of the will. The
great majority of our actions are in themselves morally
indifferent; and even were a man consciously to analyze
his motives, he would find no sufficient reason foi
interfering with the normal direction of his inclination
formed by habitual action. Many of these acts, more-
over, escape consciousness altogether, as, for instance,
the separate movements in the operations of dressing,
eating, or walking ; but even in regard to those of the
performance of which man is aware, he is said to give
a virtual or implicit consent, rather than formally to will
their execution. If any of these actions have a moral
aspect, he is chiefly responsible for them indirectly,
in so far as they are voluntary in causa — that is, in so far
as he impUcitly intended or accepted them as effects or
as part of an entire operation freely initiated by him.

Occasions, however, occur when opposing motives
present themselves, and the agent has to exert more
exphcit volition. Some fresh consideration, running

perfecta operatio sine delectatione. Videtur autem principalius esse
operatio quam delectatio. Nam delectatio est quies appetitus in re
delectante qua quis per operationem potitur. Non autem aliquis
appetit quietem in aliquo, nisi in quantum aestimat (id) sibi con-
veniens. Et ideo ipsa operatio, quae delectat, sicut quoddam
conveniens, videtur per prius appetibilis quam delectatio." (Com. in
Ethica, Lib, X. 1. 6.)


counter to the natural tendency of his disposition,
emerges into distinct consciousness. The new motive
may be the clearer perception of some moral obligation,
of some enduring worldly advantage, or of the oppor-
tunity for proximate pleasure. When in such circum-
stances the agent adverts to the possibility of more than
one course of action, there arises deliberation; and the
course adopted is said to be deliberately chosen. The
word deliberation signifies a weighing or balancing. The
process implies active consideration of competing motives.
It is no longer a mere struggle of impulses. The agent
holds the alternatives together and compares them. He
dwells on each in succession, yet in some degree retains
both simidtaneonsly before consciousness. The operation
thus involves the tinity of consciousness possible only to
a rational Self. Hut we must not suppose that a
protracted pondering of motives is a necessar}'' con-
dition of every deliberate act. Two alternatives may
be consciously realized and one adopted in a moment.
If I advert to the moral quality of an impulse or an
action, and then acquiesce in its continuance, I thereby
make it my oivn. It is henceforth deliberately or • fully
consented to, and I am responsible for it.

Choice or Decision. — The acceptance of some
suggested course or its rejection constitutes the act of
choice. For this exercise of choice there must be the
self-conscious reflective cognizance of at least two
possible alternatives, though one may be mere absti-
nence from action. There is then a free practical
judgment by the intellect : "T/^/s is to be preferred ; " and
I embrace one side, or identify myself ivith it. I adopt
it, acquiesce in it, choose it. There is ajiat or a veto^ and
one side is elected.

Types of Election. — Different forms assumed by the act of
choice have been distinguished by psychologists as types of
election or decision.^ When the agent, after deliberately
weighing the various reasons, finds a clear balance on one
side, and then freely decides in favour of this, we have what
has been called the type of ^''reasonable decision." At other

3 Professor James gives an able and interesting analysis of some
of these types. (Op. cit. Vol. II. pp, 531—534-)


times, becoming impatient of suspense, we seek relief in
the adoption of one or other course in a somewhat reckless
manner. Here we have the impetuous decision.

Again, on other occasions the spontaneous bent of our
will — our present inclination as the resultant of our character
and actual motives — tends in a certain direction. Though
perhaps not in harmony either with our moral ideal or our
general interests, this way of acting offers itself as here and
now the pleasantest. It is for us the line of least resistance.
After some hesitation we consent or allow our will to issue
into the open channel. Our attitude is passive and permissive
rather than active and selective. This is an example of
acquiescent decision.

Finally, there are certain acts of choice, elicited at least
occasionally by all men, but far more frequently in the experi-
ence of those who are striving after a higher moral or
religious life, in which we set ourselves in opposition to the
spontaneous impulse of the will. There is a distinct feeling of
volitional effort, an unpleasant struggle against what is appre-
hended as the more agreeable suggestion. Some imagined self-
indulgence, or some angry or envious thought, emerges into
consciousness, and a. painful and prolonged endeavour is needed
to expel or suppress it. In cases like these, whilst keenly aware
of the greater intensity of the attractions on one side, and
whilst absolutely certain that the easiest course would be to
yield to the enticement, we often set ourselves to embrace
the less pleasant alternative. The general character of an
act of choice of this kind — the sense of effort, the conscious-
ness of painful struggle, and the final adoption of the less
agreeable course — distinguishes it from the previously men-
tioned types of decision.-^ Each of the other varieties of
choice reveals to us our moral liberty, for even in the acqui-
escent decision consciousness assures us that we freely ratify
or consent to the stronger impulse, but these experiences of
struggle against preponderating attraction bring it home to us
in an exceptionally vivid manner. This t3'pe may be called
anti-impulsive decision.'^

^ " The slow dead heave of the will that is felt in these instances
makes of them a class altogether different subjectively from all the
preceding classes. . . . Here both alternatives are steadily held in
view, and in the act of murdering the vanquished possibility the
chooser realizes how much in that instant he is making himself
lose. It is deliberately driving a thorn into one's own flesh." (James,
ibid. p. 534.)

^ The proof of free-will based on this experience of " anti-
impulsive effort," or of action against " the spontaneous impulse of
the will," is admirably treated in W, G. Ward's Philosophy of Theism,
Essays IX.— XI.


Volition and Desire. — The processes of delibera-
tion and choice exemplify free or self-determined
volition in the strictest sense. This word is sometimes
employed to denote any act of the rational will, whether
spontaneous or reflective. Using it in the strict sense it
implies: (i) the conception of some object or end as
good or desirable, (2) advertence to the possibility of
alternative courses of action with respect to it, (3) a
judicial act of preference, and (4) the consequent active
tendency or inclination of myself to that side. Volition
is thus to be clearly distinguished from mere desire.
The latter state is necessarily awakened by the repre-
sentation of a possible gratification, but the volition
is originated by«the mind itself, and remains within its
control. In spite of feeling drawn towards a desired
object we can say. No. In the will's ratification or
rejection of desire our moral freedom is manifested.*^

Various Forms of Conative Activity distinguished. — Now
that we have analyzed the chief forms of conative activity, it
may be convenient here to call the student's attention to the
differences by which some of the more important of them are
distinguished. Instinct is described as unconsciously purposive,
impulse aimed towards an end not realized in consciousness.
Impulse is a state of feeling tending to issue into any action :
a striving towards any end or satisfaction obscurely felt.
Dr. Bain's definition of voluntary action as " feeling-prompted
movement " coincides with impulsive^ but not with strictly /n'^
action. Desire is a felt tension towards an end distinctly
realized in consciousness, a yearning, a mental state of
uneasiness awakened by the representation of an absent
known good. Motive is whatever attracts the will, the appre-
hension of a desirable end, an agreeable consequence of my
action viewed as moving me. Intention etymologically signifies
the act of tending towards something, and is commonly described

^ Henri Marion makes out an elaborate distinction between
Will and Desire, which, if not conclusive, is at least suggestive.
These are the headings: " Le desir est une double emotion; la
volonte est froide. (2) Le desir est trouble et agite ; la volonte est
calme. (3) Le desir est fatal ; la volonte est libre. (4) Le desir est
souvent vague, parfois inconscient, la volonte est precise, determinee.
(5) Le desir a pour objet des choses exterieures ; la volonte ne porta
que sur ce que depend de nous. (6) II y a des degres dans le desir ;
la volonte est une." {Lemons de Psychologic appliqnce a V Education,
pp. 92—95)


by the schoolmen as the tendency of the Will towards some end
through some means. It is thus opposed to choice, which refers
to the selection of intermediate means. If we wish to bring
out the distinction between Intention and Motive, perhaps
our best definition of the former will be: the Will's conscious
acceptance of or consent to a contemplated action or total
series of actions. The Motive is a represented good viewed as
attracting me ; the Intention is the Will's act of embracing a
represented future good. The intention is always /r^^, while
the desire or craving is not, unless consented to or ratified.^
Purpose or resolution is a deliberately formed intention with
regard to a future series of acts or a remote end. A wish is
the conception of an end as good, but without effort or
intention towards its realization.

Self-control. — The exercise of choice when the
agent makes an effort to resist the spontaneous tendency
of emotion or passion is an example of Self-control, on
the due cultivation of which depends in the highest
degree the happiness and well-being of each of us.
Under Self-control psychologists usually include the
power of restraining and directing thoughts, feelings,

'' Regnon's acute metaphysical analysis is so appropriate here
that I quote it at length: " La vie de la volonte presente deux
caracteres. Elle re^oit tine influence superieure . . . et mise en acte par
cette influence qu'on appelle une motion, elle exerce Vactiviie qui est
le propre de sa nature. A ces deux caracteres de passivite et
d'activite correspondent le motif et {'intention. Uintention est un
acte par lequel la volonte pose un terme, c'est-a-dire decide I'exist-
ence d'un effet, et j'ai prouve que I'intention ne modifie er\ rien son
principe et sa source. . . . Quant au motif, si on le considere, non
dans son objet qui est un bien a acquerir, non dans I'intelligence ou
il est la bonte pergue, mais dans la volonte qui est proprement son
siege, le motif est une influence qui incline physiquement la volonte,
ou mieux, \2i pousse vers un bien, de telle sort que la volonte est dans
deux etats physiques differents, lorsqu' elle subit ou lorsqu' elle ne
subit pas I'excitation du motif. Ainsi le motif meut la faculte qu'il
atteint ; I'intention pose un terme dont elle decide I'existence. Le
motif est subi par la volonte en tant qu'elle est un patient ; I'intention
est Vacte de la volonte en tant qu'elle est un agent. Le propre du
patient est d'etre determine par autrui, le propre de I'agent est de
determiner autrui. D'ou la conclusion suivante : La volonte est
modifiee d'une maniere ' determinee ' par le motif; mais la volonte
' determine ' elle-meme le terme de son intention; et cette distinction,
ce me semble, fait evanouir I'antinomie sujet de si grand debats. . . .
Le motif produit une motion dans la volonte — Vacte indelibere : mais
si I'intention se porte sur cet acte et decide qu'il soit, cet acte devient
{Ute delibe're' de volonte." [Mctaphysique des Causes, p. 741.)



and movements, whilst from another point of view, they
have distinguished different forms of Self-control as
physical, prudential, and moral.

Control of Expression. — (i) Since emotion is
intimately bound up with its external expression, the
suppression of the physical manifestation often speedily
extinguishes the feeling. Passion is in many cases
nourished and strengthened by the gestures and signs
which lend it utterance, as when a man gives way
to an outburst of rage. The actor by adopting the
gesticulations and frowns indicative of passion, works
himself temporarily into the frame of mind of the
character which he impersonates. The bodil}^ move-
ments apparently react on the feelings and intensify
them partly by suggestion, partly by augmenting the
general cerebral excitement. Consequently, energetic
and sustained effort to inhibit the external expression
will nearly always gradually extinguish the internal
feeling. "Control your temper" is, as a rule, merely
another way of sa3ang, *' Keep down the manifestation
of it." But sometimes the inhibition of external mani-
festation only turns the mind back on itself, and leaves
it to brood over the irritating cause of the emotion.
In such cases superficial suppression of symptoms is
by itself useless.^ An outburst of tears may relieve
the pent-up grief; and vigorous phj^sical exercise of a
neutral character may work off a fit of passion.

Control of Thought. — (2) In instances of this kind.
Control is best exerted by attacking the thought which
is the root of the impulse. This may be accomplished
indirectly, by withdrawing attention from the exciting
idea and fixing it upon some rival object. Thus, when
the recollection of a past insult awakens a feeling of anger
or a desire of revenge, it would generally be extremely
difficult to conquer the temptation by a direct veto
or a simple " I will not be angry." The most efficacious
means to restrain the malevolent impulse is to transfer
the attention to some other matter. And here we may

^ As when according to Thackeray, " to keep your temper "
means " to bottle it up, and cork it down, and preserve it carefully
for a more violent future explosion."



either simply endeavour to banish the irritating thought
and engross our mind in something else ; or we may
advance and attack the evil suggestion by concen-
trating our attention on an opposing motive, such as
the beauty of the virtue of forgiveness, the charity of
Christ, or some redeeming feature in our enemy's
character. When the temptation is of a seductive
character, or violent, or of frequent recurrence, the
former course is generally the safer. Dr. W. B. Carp-
enter has judiciously observed: "The Will may put
forth its utmost strength in the way of direct repression
and may entirely fail ; whilst by exerting the same
amount of force in changing the direction, complete success
may be attained. When the question is not of restrain-
ing some sudden impulse of excited passion, but of
keeping down an habitual tendency to evil thoughts of
some particular class, and of preventing them from
gaining a dominant influence, it does not answer
to be continually repeating to oneself, ' I will not
allow myself to think of this,' for the repetition, by
fixing the attention on the very thought or feeling from
which we desire to escape, gives it an additional and
even overpowering intensity, as many a poor misguided
but well-intentioned sufferer has found to his cost.
The real remedy is to be found in the determined effort to
think of something else, and to turn into a wholesome and
useful pursuit the energy which, wrongly directed, is
injurious to the individual and to society." ^

During the first years of childhood, the human being
is completely the creature of impulse, and only poten-
tially separated in respect of moral action from the
irrational animal. The simplest, and probably the
earhest, form of Self-control consists in the inhibition
of impulsive movement, in self-restraint freely put forth
at the recollection of a past prohibition or a painful
experience. The moral training which the child receives
has a most important influence in the rapid develop-
ment of this power of self-control. Judicious expres-
sions of approval or disapprobation when he has

9 Mental Physiology, p. 335; cf. Jules Payct, VEducation de la
Volonte (1899), Lib. II. c. iii.


resisted or yielded to temptation stimulate the child
to the use of his moral liberty ; and this faculty, like
his intellectual and physical aptitudes, is gradually
perfected b}^ exercise.

Order of development.— The precise date of the
first exercise of Free-will, like that of the awakening
of Self-consciousness, cannot be determined in any
individual ; but it implies considerable development
in the power of reflexion ; and is long subsequent to
our chief locomotive acquisitions. In the order of
development, then, physical appetites and instincts as
the guardians of animal existence and v^ell-being show
themselves earliest in life. Desire proper, which is
more complex, involving a representative element,
appears at a later stage. Its first manifestations
consist in ill-defined cravings, containing only the
vaguest representation of the means or end to be
attained. As the child grows older, unselfish impulses,
such as those of sympathy and gratitude, together with
the desire to renew remembered pleasures, arise. True
self-control and free volition manifest themselves last.

Habit. — The development of the power of voluntary
action proceeds concomitantly with the formation of
habits. By a habit is now commonly understood an
acquired aptitude for some particular mode of action. It is
thus opposed to instinct, which is an inherited tendency. ^'^
Modern writers usuall}^ include under habit uniform
modes of both bodily and mental activity. Habit has
its explanation in the great general fact that any
operation once performed by an agent tends to _ be
repeated with greater facility. Under whatever shape
we try to conceive the residual effect of a thought in
the mind, or of a motion in the nervous substance of
the organism, it is indisputable that the occurrence
of such an event leaves a facility for its reproduction,
and that the facility increases with each repetition.

1** The schoolmen signified by hahitiis innate as well as acquired
dispositions ; on the other hand, to the lower animals they denied
habits in the strict sense, maintaining that only rational free beings
can be subject of habits proper. (Cf. Rickaby, Aquinas Ethicus,
Vol. I. p. 150.)



" Lines of least resistance " in the nervous tissue, or
" associations " between groups of mental states
become formed, and the reproduction of any part of
the operation tends to call up the remainder.

The physiological basis of habit was well expressed by
Carpenter in the principle that "///^ organism gvoius to the
mode in which it is cxevciscd.''^^ Although a constant
process of waste and reconstruction is ever going on in
the living being, yet, since 3^outh is the special period
of growth, it is then that the deeper and more per-
manent impressions and dispositions are wrought in
the organism. When maturity is reached, the flexibility
of the joints and muscles and the plasticity of all parts
of the system rapidly diminish, and the individual con-
stitution becomes set and fixed.

The psychological basis of habit lies in the law of
associatioii by contiguity. Au}^ group of mental states
whicH have^occurred together or in succession, tend to
be reproduced simultaneously or in the original order.
Conscious voluntary action, if reiterated, becomes auto-
matic or reflex. (See p. 218.) It lias been said that
''habit is second nature," and that "man is a bundle
of habits," but few recognize how much truth there is
in these sa3angs. All the ordinary operations per-
formed by mankind, such as walking, speaking, reading,
writing, are acquired habits. The various trades, arts,
professions, methods of business learned by men are
products of the same force. All the knowledge which
a man gathers, all the sciences of which he becomes
master, the modes of thought which he cultivates, the
feelings in which he indulges, are embodied as dis-
positions in his being. Every volitional act which he
exerts, be it good or ill, is registered in the cells of his
brain, and leaves a " bent " in his soul which proves its
reality by the increased inclination to repeat that act.^-^

^^ Mental Physiology, p. 340.

^- Cf. Payot : "Si c'est sous forme de souvenirs que se depose
dans la memoire de I'etudiant une partie du travail qu'il accomplit,
c'est sous la forme d'habittcdes actives que se depose en nous notre
activite. Rien ne se perd en notre vie psychologique ; la nature est un
comptable minutieux. Nos actes les plus insignifiants en appa-
rence, pour peu que nous les repetions, forment avec les semaines,



" To him that hath shall be given." The more strength
already acquired by a habit, whether physical, intel-
lectual, or moral, the easier to sustain it.

Practical Rules. — Hence the value of Professor Bain's
recommendations with respect to the acquisition of moral
habits — to start with as vigorous and decided an initiative as
possible, and to permit oneself no exceptions till the new habit
is firmly rooted. We must never lose a battle in the beginning
of the campaign. Many victories will be needed to com-
pensate for an early defeat ; and they will be more difficult to
win because of it. Of even greater value are the maxims
formulated by Professor James : " (i) Make your nervous
system your ally instead of your enemy : make automatic and
habitual as early as possible as many useful actions as you
can. (2) Seize the very first opportunity to act on every resolution
you make. (3) YimWy^ Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by
a little gratuitous exercise every day. Be systematically ascetic
or heroic in little unnecessary points, for no other reason than

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 39 of 63)