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Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

I’ve always liked this quote from Arthur Schopenhauer, so much so that I thought I’d post it here, though it does have a few forms and is often misquoted, as I have no doubt done.

The Mind and Philosophy blog states the following:

You may notice that there are so to say two levels of free will. On one hand you can do anything you will – and this is undeniably the freedom of mind – on the other hand however you can’t change your will. Your free will controls only the actions, there is no “free will no. 2” which would be responsible for controlling your “free will no. 1”. If you took some time to consider this sentence, maybe you would find a paradox in it. Isn’t the action of willing already an action? I mean, this is something you can do – you can will. Therefore if you can do what you will you can also will what you will but that’s contradictory to the second part of definition stating that you can’t will what you will. Hence the first part of the sentence would be correct only if the action of willing would not be actually an action and couldn’t be done; and if an action can’t be performed and if an action is not an action it means it does not exist. If it does not exist, compatibilism would be ripped of free will and would become a traditional determinism…

We have this idea of an executive command structure, a humunculus that sits in our Cartesian theatre running the show, changing the channels. But such a naive view sees the humunculus as acausal, existing in a causal vacuum that takes it out of the world we live in, one of cause and effect.

Anyway, just thought I’d throw that in today.

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

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