Will. This word, both as substantive and verb, is used in a wide range
of senses, partly from the want of a sufficient variety of names in our
language for things essentially different, such as wish, purpose, choice, self-determination, and partly from those who
employ it having different theories of these. This is not the place to
discuss those theories. I will content myself with pointing out that
will as a substantive and as denoting a faculty of man, has constantly
been taken in the sense of self-determination, and uniformly so
by Kant and Coleridge. It is that in virtue of which each man is a cause
of his own moral condition, that without which there would be no moral
condition, and actions would be neither good nor bad.
It is in virtue of will that we are spirits,
and as such above nature, and without the chain of cause and
effect, in which nature consists. It need not therefore perplex
us that will should transcend the sphere of conception, and be
incapable of definition. In these respects it but ranks with all
that is highest, deepest, and ultimate, without and within us.
It is therefore eminently a mystery, but a mystery which we
cannot set aside without rebellion against the evidence of
The sense of will, though thus residing in consciousness, is one which
has grown, and become more a matter of thought to us than it was to the
ancient world. No doubt the Christian faith is the main cause of this.
Aristotle investigates the voluntary in the third book of the Nicomachean Ethics, but stops at
following and transcribing him, is obliged to go farther; for in contemplating the mystery of our Lord's
double nature, he is forced to say that it involved not only two
θέλημάτα, but that in the same person there may be more than one
προάιρεσις, and therefore he proceeds to
ἐξουσις and the
γνωμικον θέλημά. We may well believe that the contemplation of this awful
subject, rendered necessary by the controversies of the time, enlarged
the view and strengthened the consciousness of will in man, as indeed
the appeal of the Gospel to the inmost spirit would at any rate have
(1) L. Maximus ad Marin.