THE PROBLEM OF WILL (PART TWO)

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(IN OUR FIRST INSTALMENT[1] WE ARGUED THAT WILL IS A COMPLEX THING, HARD TO PIN DOWN, AND THAT THAT COMPLEXITY HIDES THE POTENTIAL FOR AN UGLY REALITY – THAT FREE WILL DOES NOT EXIST. IN ORDER TO ANALYSE THIS EQUALLY COMPLEX QUESTION OF FREE WILL, WE LOOKED AT THE WAYS THAT ADULTS USE TO COERCE CHILDREN AWAY FROM THEIR FAVOURITE GAMES IN ORDER TO TRY NEW THINGS. THROUGH ASSOCIATION WE CAME TO THE AGGRESSIVE MARKETING TECHNIQUES THAT INVADE OUR LIVES AND THE ATTEMPTS BY MARKETING TO MAKE ITS WILL BECOME OURS, SUGGESTING THAT OUR PASSIVITY FACING SUCH AGGRESSIONS DEMONSTRATES A WEAKNESS OF WILL ON OUR BEHALF. FINALLY, WE CONCLUDED THAT THIS EXAMPLE TELLS US SOMETHING ABOUT WILL ITSELF)

III

We want to be happy. We want to enjoy ourselves. But does that mean that our basic drive is to achieve happiness? If it were, wouldn’t our civilisation be far more hedonistic?

We quickly grow tired of the game, even forget that we ever had a favourite one. Likewise, we grow sick of the attempts to coax us into playing new games. Non-will starts to become more real than will.

Stressed by constant cajoling, we become resistant rather than submissive. New tactics for seduction have to be employed. The System knows we will give in eventually. It is certain of its own power to manipulate any of our desires with ease. So, what does this tell us about our will?

What this narrative seems to be unfurling is the conclusion that will is not that which actually drives our desires at all. The relationship between will and desire is a kind of shimmering mirage.

Will must be something deeper. In order to get a more solid representation of it we need to root it in another kind of soil instead of the sandy stuff of desire. It needs to be allowed to grow from a more substantial, fertile terrain. Let us now imagine what it could grow into if we let our will sprout from the bedrock of Necessity.

The more that will becomes associated with desire, the weaker it becomes, whereas, in a proportional way, it is strengthened by any association with need.

So, the best way to resist the aggressive desire implanting of our surplus-creating culture is to move toward that which is really necessary. A movement which, as Nietzsche preached, will require a revaluation of all values. The revaluation of those systemic values which are oedipal norms and codifications.

Paradoxically, will is the drive that takes us toward that which needs to be done. But the paradox here is a revelation: by simply paying attention to will, rather than desire, we can put our free will back on track, in the direction of what we need. The revaluation has to be through the separation of will from desire.

The Last Men, the ignorant nihilist, and the slave to the surplus-market system – they are all weak-willed creatures, seduced by the desires imposed on them and imbued in them. Strength of will is needed in order to see the greater human purpose. The purpose beyond nihilism and beyond the oedipal system of human separation, towards a non-segregated, truly human and homo sapiens’ idea of that which really must be done. That which is necessary in order to fulfil human potential and create a truly human course of history in which we are able to establish a meaningful partnership with the world we depend on.

Desire is in our bodies and minds. In our organs and in our libidos. In our DNA and in the chemical reactions that outer stimuli produce on us. But the will depends on decision making. Will is the how we drive our machine. The towards what we decide to go unto. Will is a directional faculty. We use it to navigate with.

Desire is not will. But if we are to be able to redirect the mechanism of our will so that it in turn can take us on a different, more positive and more human journey, then we need a desire to change our will. From the will-to-want-more to the will-to-be-human.

But, in order to achieve this revolution of wills we must temper our desire. Desire to want less. Desire to break down the walls and codes of separation between ourselves as human beings. A desire to be a conscious part of the world in a conscious way. A desire to understand, and a desire to be in partnership with reality through knowledge.

[1] https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/the-problem-of-will-part-one/

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4 thoughts on “THE PROBLEM OF WILL (PART TWO)

  1. I’m guessing that Wittgenstein would say that it is incorrect to say “free will exists” or that “free will does not exist” – that our way of framing the question is a misunderstanding. And he may be on to something, for all I know. A more ancient grappler, the 5th century Boethius, cut through that Gordian knot with a geometric analogy that still intrigues me. Picture, he says, a wheel, with a still point at the center and we of the human circus moving around the perimeter. From the point of view at the center, all things are simultaneous. In Boethius’s sometimes theological diction, all things are “foreseen.” But from the point of view of people moving along the circle, they need to make decisions every day with practical and ethical implications. To Boethius, foreseen is not the same thing as fore-ordained. The omniscience at the center of the circle in no way mitigates the urgency of making the right decisions for those of us in motion. (I’ll have to think about the market implications – my gut is that there are market determinants of desire, shaping the contours of our free will, but that they are not inexorable – at least we can “choose” to counter them with other determinants – e.g., brushing up on our Sanskrit chants … or on Boethius. And I put “choose” in quotes not because I think it’s a true or false descriptor of the process, but because I’m viewing it with Wittgenstein’s eye, as a linguistic function that has no straight metaphysical [true or false] relation to the world. Or, in your field of ideas, to “choose” resistance, to choose determinants other than those imposed by the corporate state, is a wrenching away of will from desire. I like your take on that. I’ll go with that. Sorry about the length.)

  2. Thanks Gary. No, I’m not so much interested in the metaphysical concept of free will as the presence of free will in a society like ours. Our society that constantly offers us choices but then hammers us with reasons for making “their” choices. How much “freedom” is actually involved in the choices we make? We take it for granted that all our choices are made freely by us, and yet, in reality, many, if not most of our choices are not really made freely at all.
    The example you have given by Boethius does however seem to describe this same predicament. We are on a systemic wheel (capitalism can be seen as a wheel – the inevitable economic crisis the downward trajectory of the circular motion). The basic physics of the wheel’s motion (the goals of capitalism to create and guarantee profits for the major players in the system) determines our lives and drives us with its own will to participate in the wheel’s motion and not hinder it by behaving in a sticky way on the rim. So we seem to have free will but it is just an illusion, because there is a greater, systemic will that largely determines most of what we do in life. In this way free will is reduced to the freedom of making choices that can make our lives simple or complicated (for example) in a civilisation that predetermines most of the choices we can expect to have to make.
    But, as I argue in this post, I think the problem is not that our lives are predetermined as such, for that is inevitable, but rather in what the nature of that predetermination is. For that reason I talk so much in my posts about humanity. Human needs are the important ones, and we need to get off the wheel onto a monorail that will drive us forward without the constant crises and human suffering that the cyclical system obliges us to endure. Capitalism puts us on the rim of a wheel, but there doesn’t seem to be any cart attached to this wheel, not even a barrow. We quite simply move around and around without any authentic collective purpose at all.

    • All interesting stuff. Another determinant to throw into the mix would be the Freudian — that what we call “free will” is almost entirely driven by unconscious forces, often reaching back to memories and traumas long forgotten in the early days of our identity formation. How the wheels of this unconscious machinery tangle with the wheels of the capitalist system bearing down on our desire … perhaps resulting in the spectacularly inefficient — or ruthlessly efficient — machinery of our desire … (?)

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