Lately, I have been turning my mind to thoughts about what we human beings mean by “will” and how closely will coincides with, or basically means, consciousness. I think Kant defined the difference between wish and will by saying that the latter involves action–people wish for peace, but will leads them into war. Maybe I am perpetuating a too-simplified (or simply wrong) concept regarding Kant. I should look it up before posting. Anyway, consider:
Suppose I wish I could win $50 million in the lottery. I may wish to win as much as I like; but while buying three $1 tickets doesn’t increase likelihood of my winning by much, it is nonetheless an action that moves me from wishing to possibility. (Very small statistical possibility, but better than buying no ticket.)
Voting, for example, is an act. An act of will. Though I may wish to have had other choices on the ballot…
“What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?” (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)
I am much more familiar, though not intelligently conversant with, Kant’s writings on art and aesthetics. It does cheer me that he posits poetry as the “greatest” art because it expands the human mind through reflection, stimulates the imagination [not that I am at all biased about poetry, myself].
Much of Kant’s thinking about what is provocative, expressive, and beautiful in art seems logical on the page but does not quite feel true to my experiences of art, however; except that it does feel true that creating art is an act of willing, not wishing, and that art emerges from the will to express.
Is what philosophers call “will” the same as what psychologists call “motivation”?
How about this statement, which I hear frequently from students and which I readily admit to having uttered: “I wish I were more motivated.” Is that wishing to have the will, but lacking the will to have the will?
(No wonder learning English is so difficult.)
Perhaps needless to say, these past few days I have been feeling a lack of motivation.
“Star light, star bright
first star I see tonight
wish I may, wish I might…”
I’d like to introduce another word: intention. If you intend to do something, you make a plan. So maybe a wish is a thought that may grow up to be an intention, in which case you will take some action toward a goal.