Values and Intentions: A Study in Value-Theory and Philosophy of Mind

By J. N. Findlay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE MODES OF WISH AND WILL

(1) THE NATURE OF WILLING

If our wants are capable of a 'development in warmth', leading to all the relaxed, diffused, emotional forms of wanting studied in the last section, they are capable too of a 'development in coolness', leading to the various forms of choice and will, which have been so much the central theme of moral philosophy. The 'development in coolness' is the development which led to the whole ancient Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic view of the life of considered choice as a life directed by reason, as the life of primary wants and passions is not. In modern times, inspired by the other Aristotelian dictum that mere thought moves not at all, and by Hume's determined blurring of important distinctions, we have come to ignore or be forgetful of the profound gulf between what we may call a domination by urges and a direction by reasons, which, however much nurtured in the life of primary wants, need bear no sign of this lowly provenance. Not only is it not the case that a man needs to be goaded to action or decision by some hot-blooded urge: it is not even necessary that he should experience a breath of desire. What has effected some of the most momentous historic decision or displays of fortitude has often been no more than an overtly or secretly spoken word.

The 'development in coolness' is a development in which wanting loses all its crude, immediate strength, its power to dominate consciousness and behaviour, and to keep other directions of wanting from coming to the fore. In their place it acquires, by an understandable transformation, a somewhat different kind of strength, the strength to persist, to make itself manifest again and again, to channel thought and action in relatively sustained fashion. It is not merely an empirical accident that our various cool determinations leave what are called 'determining tendencies' behind them, which channel thought and action silently until countermanded by some other determination, and which make themselves known only when they

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