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that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire
need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained
to stand the test." i^

Moral Discipline. — All ethical training consists in
the acquisition of moral habits ; but the worth of such
training lies not less in the disciplinary exercise of the
Will than in the particular habits acquired. The man
who, by persevering effort, conquers a bad temper or a
laz}^ disposition, has not merely acquired a valuable
disposition, such as other men possess by nature. He
has done much more. He has during the process
elicited a multitude of acts of fvee-will, he has put forth
voluntary effort, he has on innumerable occasions exerted
self-denial; and this exercise is the only means in his
possession of strengthening the highest and most
precious faculty with which he is endowed. Order

les mois, les annees un total enorme qui s'inscrit dans la memoire
organique sous forme d'habitudes inderaciuables." {L'Educaticn de la
Volonte, p. 135.)

^3 Principles of Psychology, Vol. I. pp. 123 — 126. This admirable
vindication of Catholic teaching on Asceticism is specially welcome
from a writer of so very un-mediaeval a temper of mind as the
distinguished professor of Harvard. His treatment of volitional
activity contains some of the best pieces of psychology that he has


and regulant}^ whether in work or recreation, are
amongst the most useful disciplinary agencies for
youth, since they accustom the young to act and decide
according to a yixed rule or plan, instead of vacillating
and changing with the impulse of the moment. One of
the greatest advantages of public school life is that of
the discipline and regularity which the organization
of a large body necessitates ; and perhaps amongst the
best parts of the discipline is that afforded by the
general games, such as cricket and football. Where
played with a good spirit, they make constant demands
on the virtues of obedience, self-restraint, unselfishness,
good-temper, patience, pluck, and perseverance ; and,
better still, this discipline is self-imposed.

Its importance. — The chief conclusion, then, which we
would draw from a consideration of this subject is the
transcendent importance of moral training in early life.
If the culture of the memory, of the imagination, and
of the understanding form integral parts of education,
more essential still is the training of the will. Even
confining our view to temporal interests, upon a man's
moral habits depend the happiness of himself and those
around him far more than upon his intellectual capabi-
lities. A mind possessed of due self-control may lead
a peaceful contented life amid many trials, whilst even
genius, if ill-regulated, will be miserable amidst the
most prosperous surroundings. But if moral training
is of importance to the individual, it is of still more
vital interest to society. In the private morals of its
citizens the robust and healthy life of the State has its
source. If the former are corrupt, diffusion of intel-
lectual culture may only increase the rapidity of national
decay. The need of insisting on the importance of the
moral element in education is especially grave at the
present day.

Character. — The total collection of a man's acquired
moral habits grafted into his natural temperament
make up his Character. Character is thus partly
inherited, partly formed by experience. That there is
given to each by nature a certain original disposition,
a certain fund of qualities, both intellectual and moral,


varying in different individuals, is evident from the
differences which in later life mark the personality of
members of the same family and of individuals reared
under very similar circumstances. On the other hand,
what we have just said regarding the growth of habits
shows how much of the formed character is acquired.
The formation of the character, however, is not merely
a process of moulding wrought into the original tempera-
ment by the impress of external agencies. Under the
same trials and temptations, one man by persevering
resistance becomes strong, self-reliant, and solidly
virtuous; whilst another by yielding becomes weak,
vacillating, and vicious. From the earliest acts of
free-volition there is constant reaction between personal
will on the one side, and the force of motives on the
other. Each solicitation conquered, each impulse to
immediate gratification resisted by building up habits
of self-control, goes to form a strong will, and the
stronger a man's will grows, the greater the facility
with which he can repress transitory impulses, and the
more firmly can he adhere to a course once selected
in spite of obstacles.

Types of Character. — If such a man is wont to
make his decisions on sound reason, we have the
highest type of strong character. When, however, this
firmness of adhesion attaches to decisions based not on
reason but on impulse, or when the mere fact of having
once made a decision closes the intellect to the appre-
hension of all opposing considerations, we have the
obstinate character.

Again, there are some men who quickly form
judgments on transient impulse or slight grounds, but
as readily change or reverse their choice. There are
others, too, who though slow and hesitating in coming
to a conclusion, even after they have made the election,
timidly shrink back into the previous state of doubt on
the appearance of a new motive. Both of these forms
are types of the K>eak or vacillating character. Accord-
ingly, narrowness and rigidity are the dangers for the
strong-willed, whilst excessive indecision and vacilla-
tion are liable to beset the large and liberal-minded.


Temperaments. — IMan's character, then, is partly
inherited, partly acquired, — due, as recent writers say,
in part to nature, in part to nuriure. The original
element, in so far as it is determined by his bodily
constitution, was called his temperament by the ancients.
P^our great types of temperament w^ere recognized by
Aristotle and Galen, and ascribed to the quality of the
mixture of the chief humours of the bod3^ They are :
(i) The cliokric temperament, which typifies the
energetic disposition. INIen of this class were
held to be prompt and vigorous in action,
liable to strong passions, and inclined to
ambition and pride as well as anger.
^ (2) The sanguine, indicating the light-hearted, imagi-
native, vivacious. Persons of this class are
alleged to be brilliant rather than solid,
enthusiastic rather than persevering.

(3) The phlegmatic, or those of slow and somnolent

disposition, tardy in judgment, of tranquil
mind, devoid of strong passions and incapable
of great actions, whether good or evil.

(4) The melancholy, signifying those prone to sadness,

env}^ and suspicion ; of a brooding intro-
spective disposition ; of obstinate will, and of
persevering dislikes. ^^ The ancient physio-
logical explanation is long since abandoned,
but the classification has been generally
retained, especially in Germany, where Kant
insisted strongly on the fourfold division.

^^ See Pesch, Insiitnfiones Psychologicce, §§ 1078, 1079; Hoft'ding,
Outlines of Psychology, pp. 349, 350 ; . Herbart, Text-Booh of Psychology
(Eng. Trans.), pp. 100 — 102; Kant, Anthropologic, pp. 318—324.



Free-will and Philosophy. — We have now
reached one of the most important theses in the
present volume — the Freedom of the Will. This
doctrine ramifies into all departments of Meta-
physics, and the view adopted on the question must
logically determine the theory of life and morality
which is the practical outcome of rational specu-
lation. Ethics, Natural Theology, Ontology, and
Cosmolog}^ all meet the phenomenon of the human
Will in one connexion or another ; and all these
sciences are compelled to harmonize their general
conclusions with their creed upon this point.

Free-will and Psychology. — Many writers on
Psychology maintain that the discussion of Free-will
should be excluded altogether from this science, and
relegated to Ethics or some other branch of Philosophy.
Provided the subject be adequately treated, it seems to
us of minor interest where this shall be done. Still the
claims, na}' the obligations, of the psychologist to face
this problem are obvious. The facts of volition, choice,
self-control, character, the feeling of remorse and of
responsibility, are all important mental phenomena
which can hardly be ignored \nXhe Science of the Mind.
Indeed no adequate treatment of voluntar}- activity is
possible v/ithout assuming some view on the question of


moral freedom ; and those English psychologists who
profess the most rigid doctrine as to the purely positive
or phenomenal character of the science of Psychology,
invariably adopt one side — usually that of determinism
— in their account of volition. As we take a larger view
of the subject, and conceive Psychology to be a philo-
sophical science, it is our duty not to shirk the question.

Free-will defined.— Will, or Rational Appetency Ij
in general, may be described as the faculty of inclining |j
towards or striving after some object intellectually apprehended
as good ; but viewed strictly as a free power, it may be
defined as the capability of self-determination. By self is ^^i
meant not the series of my mental states, nor the conception '
of that series, but the abiding real being which is subject of
these states. By Free-will or Moral Freedom, then, we >
understand that property in virtue of which a rational
agent, when all the conditions required to elicit a voli-
tion are present, can either put forth or abstain from
that volition.

Scholastic Terminology. — The schoolmen here, as usual,
distinguished terms with more accuracy and precision than
their successors. They defined spontaneous acts, as all those
which have their source ivithin the agent, e.g., the movements of
the roots of a plant, as well as the impulsive or the fully
deliberate actions of men. Such acts merely exclude coaction.
The schoolmen further distinguished two forms of voluntary
action. Voluntary acts in a wider sense they defined as
"those proceeding from an internal principle {i.e., spon-
taneous) with the apprehension of an end."" Only voluntary
acts in the strict sense were held to be free, or deliberate. These
latter imply not only an apprehension of the object sought,
but a self-conscious advertence to the fact that we are seeking
it, or acquiescing in the desire of it. The spontaneous or
impulsive acts of man which are the outcome of his nature
are voluntary in the lax sense, but non-voluntary in the
stricter signification. The term actus hunianus — human action
— was confined to free or deliberate acts : actus hominis desig-
nated all indeliberate actions of man. Further, the term
liberty was carefully distinguished. Physical liberty means
imm.unity from physical compulsion or restraint {necessitas ''''^" ^
coactionis). The unbridled horse is in this sense free, whilst
the prisoner in a cell is not. Moral Liberty, or Freedom of
Will {libertas arbitvii) signifies immunity from necessitation


by the agent's nature {necessitas natiircr). In this latter sense
the prisoner is free, but the horse is not. When Locke
defines free-will as the power to do what I choose, he confounds
moral and ph3^sical liberty. The latter in the case of human
beings is also cdXled personal fveedoni.

\jj\i^ Problem stated. — Now the question at issue is not

"^ ' whether man can choose or will without any motive
r \ whatsoever. Such a choice would be irrational and

' impossible, because volition implies the embracing of

an object intcUednally apprcJiended as a good. But an}'
object of thought apprehended as good or desirable is
thereby a motive soliciting the will — whether it be ulti-
mately preferred or not. Attacks of determinists
on " the theory of motiveless volition " are therefore
completely irrelevant. No accredited defender of Free-
will teaches that man can choose or will without any
motive. St. Thomas would have described such a view
as self-contradictory and absurd. A^/7/// eligitur nisi sub
specie boni — " Nothing is willed except under the appear-
ance of good," was a universally received axiom in the
schools. Free-will implies not choice luithont motive,
but choice betiveen motives. If there be but one motive
within the range of intellectual vision, the volition in
such circumstances is not free, but necessary. Equally
unjustifiable is it to represent the doctrine of Indeter-
minism as a theory of causeless volition. The mind or the
self is the cause. Again, the question is not whether all
actions of man are free, but whether any action is so.
In the words of Dr. H. Sidgwick : ** Is my voluntary
action at any (every) moment determined by (i) my
character (a) partly inherited, (b) partly formed by past
feelings and actions, and (2) my circumstances or the
external influences acting on me at the moment ? or
not?" Or, in those of Dr. Martineau : "In exercises
of the will {i.e., in cases of choice) is the mind wholly
determined by phenomenal antecedents and external
conditions ; or does itself also, as active subject of these
objective experiences, play the part of determining
Cause?" Or to put it otherwise: Given all the pre-
requisites for a volition except that act itself, does it
necessarily follow ? Or finally, in the language of


Professor James : " Do those parts of the universe
already laid down absolutely appoint and decree what
the other parts shall be ? ^ Dcterminists or Necessarians
answer in the affirmative ; Liheytarians, or Anti-deter-
minists or Indeterminists say, No.

We allow most readily, first, that a very large part
of man's daily action is indeliberate, and therefore merely
the resultant of the forces playing upon him : secondly,
that even where he acts deliberately, and exerts his
power of free choice, he is influenced by the weight of
the motives attracting him to either side ; and finally, as
a consequence of this, we grant that a being possessed ) ^\j^^
of a perfect knowledge of all the forces operating on a ] ^
man would be able to prophesy with the greatest pro- \ ^ ^
bability what course that man will take. But on they ». p«,H
other hand, we hold that there are many acts of man
which are not simpl}^ the resultant of the influences
working upon him : that he can, and sometimes does
set himself against the aggregate balance of motive,
natural disposition, and acquired habit ; and that,
consequently, prediction with absolute certainty con-
cerning his future free conduct would be impossible
from even perfect knowledge of his character and
motives. Such is the thesis we defend. Whether it
be called the doctrine of free-will, of moral liberty, oi
indetcrniinism , or of contingent choice, seems to us of little
moment. But it is of the utmost importance that the
precise point of the dispute should be understood, and
the gravity of the issue realized. For this reason we
have formulated the question in so many ways.

Fatalism and Determinism. — There is a marked tendency
among recent opponents of Free-will to shrink from the use
of such " hard " terms as necessity, fatality, and the like,
adopted by their more courageous and more logical prede-
cessors. We have now-a-days, as James says, " a soft deter-
minism which says that its real name is freedom." (Op. cit.
p. 149.) These efforts to change the meaning of the terms
employed in the controversy can only confuse the student
by obscuring the fundamental difference between the rival
doctrines, which involve profoundly opposed conceptions of

1 Cf. Sidgwick, op. cit. p. 46; Martineau, op. cit. p. 188 ; James,

The Will to Believe (i8y8), p. 150.




the universe. Mill (Logic, Bk. VI. c. ii. § 3, n. 3) sought to
make a distinction between Determinism and Fatalism. The
latter doctrine holds, he teaches, that all our acts are deter-
mined by fate or external circumstances, independently of our
feelings and volitions. Determinism, on the contrary, main-
tains that action is determined by feeling. In practice, then,
they will certainly differ. The determinist may seek to arouse
good desires in himself or others : the fatalist will abandon
the attempt as useless. But logically fatalism flows from
determinism. In connexion with this point Mill falls into
one of his frequent inconsistencies, teaching that " our
character is in part amenable to our will." {Exam. p. 511.)
Our character is, of course, merely the result of inherited
tf" constitution and personal acts. The former is obviously
beyond our control, and according to Mill the latter have
all been inevitably predetermined by antecedent character
and external influences, until we reach infancy, where of
course there was no freedom at all. The desire to " alter
my character" or to improve myself must in the determinist
theory have ever been as independent of me, as completely given
to me, as the shape of my nose.

The arguments usually adduced to establish the
Freedom of the Will are threefold. They have been
called the psychological, the ethical, and the meta-
physical proofs respectively. The first of these appeals
to the direct testimony of consciousness. The second
is indirect in character, being based on the analysis of
certain mental states — ethical concepts. The third is
a more complex deduction from the nature of higher
mental activity. We shall begin with the second as
its demonstrative force is to some minds clearest.

Argument from Ethical Notions : Obligation. —
" Thou canst for thou oughtst." The inference which
Kant thus draws is perfectly just; though he erroneously
interprets it, and confines liberty to the noumenal world,
whilst conceding the "empirical self" and the pheno-
mena of experience to the rule of a rigid determinism.
If I am reall}^ bound hie et nunc to abstain from an evil
deed, then it must at some moment be really possible
for me that this deed shall not occur. The existence
of moral obligation is at least as certain as the uniformity
of nature — the assumption or postulate on which all the
propositions of physical science rest. The conviction


that I am bound to abstain from evil is not a generaliza-
tion from an imperfect and limited experience, but an
immediate and universal judgment of mankind. The
moral law lies at the foundation of practical social life.
Right conduct is not merely a beautiful ideal which attracts me.
It commands me with an absolute authority. It obliges me
unconditionally.^ Whatever be my own feelings or
desires, I remain in each act categorically bound to do
right and to avoid wrong. At the same time it is a
patent fact that the moral law is not always observed.
But if the moral law obliges me at all times it must be
really within my power on those occasions when I
disobey it. To suppose that I can be really and uncon-
ditionally bound to perform an act which is now, and
has ever been, for me absolutely impossible, is utterly
irrational. For instance, a dishonest director or pro-
moter of a bubble company, is elaborating a plan to
amass a fortune by the plunder of several hundred poor
people. Suppose his moral sensibility is not as yet
altogether obliterated, and that he adverts to the fact
that his evil scheme is a piece of cruel and nefarious
swindling. He feels that it is wicked and wrong — that he
ought not to proceed with it. Involved in this conscious-
ness of the present obligation is the conviction that he
can abstain from his evil course. Are both the persuasion
that he ought and that he can an illusion ? In the deter-
minist theory no other volition or choice than those
actually elicited were really possible to that man
throughout his entire past life, and the present criminal
choice is inexorably determined by the equally inevitable
choices that have gone before.

" Leon Noel states this argument well : " Si nous n'etions pas
libres, le bien nous apparaitrait comma un ideal nous manifestant sa
beaute et sollicitant notre amour. II serait le terme d'une tendance
analogue a I'admiration esthetique. . . . Ce n'est pas ainsi que Ic
bien s'offre a nous. Il ne nous presente pas un ideal, attendant, pour
nous entrainer a Taction, qu'il lui reponde un attrait assez puissant.
II nous apparait sous la forme austere du devoir, nous imposant una
loi a accomplir toujoiirs, quelles que soient nos dispositions et nos
tendances. Pour qu'un sentiment pareil ne soit pas absurde, il faut
que nous soyons libres. L'imperatif absolu du devoir suppose una
puissance superieura a toutes les circomstances, n'ayant besoin que
d'elle-meme pour lui obeir." {La Conscience du Libre Arbitre, p. 165.)


Remorse and Repentance. — Let us now examine the
character of another mental state : If I have voluntarily
yielded to some evil temptation, or knowingly done a wrong
act; if I have been deliberately unjust, unkind, or dishonest,
especially if I believe my act to have been grievously sinful ;
when I reflect upon it I am keenly conscious that my conduct
was blameuorthy. I condemn myself for it, I feel remorse for it,
I judge thati I ought to regret it, that I am bound to repent it.
But for acts that have not been thus deliberately performed
I do not in this way blame myself, even though they may
have resulted in far more serious injury to others or to
myself. Of course I wish that even involuntary actions of
mine which may have occasioned harm had not happened ;
but I do not deem them culpable/ and I judge that I am not
bound to repent them. The sentence of self-condemnation
and the pain of remorse present in the former and absent
from the latter cases are due to the assurance that the former
were mine in the strictest sense, that I freely did them — that,
unlike the latter, they were not the inevitable outcome of my
nature and circumstances, that I could have done otherwise.
Furthermore, this clear distinction is confirmed by the
universal judgment of mankind, which asserts that it is right
to have remorse and to blame myself for the evil deliberately
done zc'hich I could have avoided, but not for those acts which
were not deliberate, and therefore not in my power. But if
determinism be true, both classes of acts were equally the inevit-
able outcome of my nature and circumstances. If the reader
will think out the strictly logical consequences of deter-
minism he will see that, according to that theory, it is just as
rational to indulge in remorse and self-condemnation for an
attack of heart-disease or for being caught in a railway
accident as for having committed an act of perjury.

The determinist — who invariably claims exclusive mono-
poly of the scientific attitude of mind — refuses to think; and
instead vehemently insists that injustice is done his theory,
that there is a profound difference between the two cases,
that feelings of sorrow, desires, and purposes of amendment,
are useful to prevent future perjuries, but not for the avoid-
ance of railway collisions. This is very true, but equally
irrelevant to the point at issue — the rationality of remorse and
self-condemnation for our past voluntary acts. If all my past
acts, whether deliberate or indehberate, alike inevitably
resulted from my nature and circumstances, it is not virtue
but irrational folly to indulge in remorse for sin, and it is
mendacious to teach that it is right and reasonable to repent
of a crime which we believe to have been as unavoidable as
an earthquake. Professor James writes on this topic with his


wonted vigour. " Some regnts are pretty obstinate and hard
to stifle, — regrets for acts of wanton cruelty or treachery, for
example, whether performed by others or by ourselves.
Hardly any one can remain entirely optimistic after reading
the confession of the murderer at Brockton the other day ;
how, to get rid of the wife whose continued existence
bored him, he cnveigled her into a desert spot, shot her
four times, and then as she lay on the ground and said
to him, ' You didn't do it on purpose, did you, dear ? '
replied, ' No, I didn't do it on purpose,' as he raised
a rock and smashed her skull. Such an occurrence with
the mild sentence and self-satisfaction of the prisoner,
is a field for a crop of regrets, which one need not

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 40 of 63)