3
ACTS OF WILL AND LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY

IN the previous discussion in this series, the speakers considered the theory that in every voluntary action there is involved a distinguishable activity of willing or an act of will. According to this theory if I raise my arm, and if this is a voluntary action on my part, then at some anterior stage I must have willed something. On some variants of the theory what I must have willed is the raising of my arm, but on others it may only be the initiating, bodily movement or contraction of my muscles.

This theory, as the speakers last time showed, cannot be supported either by a priori reasoning or by an appeal to the facts of experience. It is of course true that in special cases such as those where we have strong temptations to resist, there are phenomena which it is natural to describe as an effort of the will. If we have to work when we want to sleep we may, as we say, make ourselves work by a variety of devices: by concentrating on the page; by averting our eyes from the pillow; or by uttering self- addressed adjurations. But these efforts of the will, which are familiar enough in such situations of temptation and conflict, are certainly not present in all voluntary actions. So the theory that they must be present, looks like a philosopher's fantasy; it

-38-

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Freedom and the Will
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • 1 - FREEDOM AND THE WILL 1
  • 2 - WHAT IS THE WILL? 14
  • 3 - ACTS OF WILL AND LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY 38
  • 4 - DETERMINISM 48
  • 5 - ACTIONS AND EVENTS 69
  • 6 - FREEDOM AND KNOWLEDGE 80
  • 7 - POSTSCRIPT 105
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