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The Nature of Will and the Sophistry of “Free Will”

An eight-part essay on will and ‘free will’.

“I am not a “free” number: I am a WILLFUL MAN!

I

Over the last century, general discourse concerning the topic of ‘free will’ has become increasingly more pronounced in Western culture—a trend that reflects the rapid development of societal complexity during this period: for especially since the postmodern era, the organisational phenomena of bureaucracy, specialisation, and compartmentalisation have intensified the diffusion not only of responsibility but also of knowledge. Concomitantly, scientific theory has supplanted philosophy as the locus of epistemology, producing theoretical phenomena such as relativity and quantum mechanics and instilling them into the foundation of Western ideology. Effectively, such theories have undermined not just traditional knowledge and wisdom but the very basis for their acquisition, i.e. the subjective perception of an objective reality.   In concert, postmodern developments have thus created a culture of disintegrating knowledge and implicit indeterminacy, wherein matters both philosophical and practical are deemed – tacitly more so than explicitly – to be fundamentally uncertain. Crucially, this ideological domination includes the dimension of institutional contradiction; as in, for example, the periodical turnover of scientific axioms, many of which are treated as dogma until they have been deemed falsified and replaced by new axiomatic ‘truths’.
            Within this culture of impenetrable systemisation and philosophical confusion, the question of free will has arisen to prominence: For at least the last half-century, Western culture has been affirming an inherent inability to determine anything at all, let alone an ideology that is clear, consistent, and stable. Adversely, it has instilled a societal paradigm of reactionary measures against the flux of indeterminable existence, which thus represents the postmodern ideology of Western culture—an ideological inversion of Ideology.

This sociocultural environment functions as an engine of existential angst, making it so that this condition can no longer be considered a state primarily arising within individuals: for it is a sentiment imbued in postmodern culture and with increasing saturation. Thus a degree of existential angst is induced by postmodern society; or more accurately, is culturally-compelled by it, in that personal dysfunction within a chaotic world has become a dominant motif in social discourse and cultural expression, thereby cueing the psychological conformity to this paradigm.
           In the context of philosophy, the defining characteristic of postmodernism is to generate ‘new knowledge’ so as to deconstruct the basis of knowledge, thus obsessively contesting (hypocritically) that anyone can know anything, i.e. in the sense of subjective apprehension of objective truth. In recent years, this philosophy has become manifest both ideologically and sociologically, in the ‘post-truth’ society of ‘my truth’ andyour truth’, i.e. the customary conceit that both are considered equal—that is, equally valid in a social sense and equally invalid in a factual sense. Thus with regards to philosophy and epistemology, postmodernism represents the subversion of knowledge and the negation of Truth.          At the same time, postmodern society requires – as do all societies – that certain ideas are treated as truth, regardless of contradictory elements within its ideological system; which in this case, is characterised by a host of overlapping ideologies in perpetual revolution. This aspect of truth-despite-contradiction is not merely the tolerance or accommodation of fundamental contradictions but the ideological generation of them—the principle effect of which is to deconstruct the hereditary fruits of the Enlightenment: the concepts, attitudes, and tools by which groups and individuals can apply rational thought to the progressive discovery of eternal truths. In this sense, the machinations of postmodernist ethos signal the apotheosis of modern sophistry, in that the a-theological rationality inherited from the Enlightenment is inverted, so as to dismantle its accumulated knowledge whilst deviating its refinement of intellect.

II

In both academic and cultural discourse on ‘free will’, the sophistic features of postmodern ideology – that is, deconstruction and confusion – are especially significant, for this subject concerns the determination of thought; and they are highly pronounced, for these features are applied in the construction of the very term itself. Notably, the word ‘free’ is perhaps the most ideologically abused word in modern communication – most significantly in politics – being prefixed to words so as to convert the associated concepts into a signifier of righteousness if not holiness. In the case of the term ‘free will’, the ideological application has served a contrary end, in that the prefixation of the word ‘free’ is so as to subvert the conception of ‘will’. Hence, revealing the sophistry of the term ‘free will’ is best begun by an introspective examination of the nature of ‘will’; but more importantly, this self-reflective observation serves as a genuine (meaning non-ideological) contemplation of a most essential aspect of human nature. To that end, what follows is a discourse on ‘will’ derived from direct perception and general experience, rather than one based on academic definitions and writings related to it.

***

Simply put, ‘will’ is the capacity for choice. More specifically, will is the humanly innate capacity for the ultimate power of choice, which thus (yet more specifically) represents self-determinability. This definition can be supplemented by the following propositions:

a. The power to choose is ultimate, i.e. one is sovereign of his capacity to choose his intentions (by which decisions are applied to potentialities of action).
b. The capacity to choose is an essential and distinguishing characteristic of human nature, i.e. the sovereign power of choice constitutes humanity and is thus inseparable from being human.

From these two propositions can be inferred Man’s possession of ‘free will’, provided that this term is interpreted intuitively—which is to say, according to the meaning immediately evoked by it. However, discourse concerning the term ‘free will’ invariably enmeshes the intrinsic aspect of ‘will’ with the conditional factors of actionability, meaning the ability to perform an act one wills to perform; and determination, meaning the ‘cause’ of what one wills. While these factors are pertinent to discussions of agency and authenticity respectively, each being an important topic, these factors are incorporated into the discussion of ‘free will’ so as to becloud the nature of will—and ultimately, to obfuscate the basic conception of human nature. Hence, in order to clarify will in relation to agency, the following secondary propositions are added to the primary ones aforementioned:

c. The compromisation of will is the constraint of choice-making capability by compulsion, either external or internalised; and this compulsion may induce a choice to relinquish one’s self-governing of choice-making, i.e. one’s integrity of will.
d. The corruption of will is the loss of capacity for choice; and this represents dehumanisation in its most literal sense, meaning: reduction of the human being to the state of a humanistic animal.

These two concepts – the compromisation and corruption of will – understood in relation to the preceding definition of will, form the basis for an objective discussion on the topic of what is often termed ‘the problem of free will’; which is to say, a discussion that does not problematise the nature of will nor misrepresent its relation to external conditions. To this end follows an elaboration on what is meant by the compromisation and corruption of will, with preface that the former is of far more relevance to human life in general than the latter.

***

Compromisation of will is the constraint on choice-making power by compulsion: either by external influence, e.g. a literal or figurative gun to the head compelling one to make an undesired choice; or internalised influence, e.g. an addiction compelling one to make undesired choices. To be clear, the term ‘undesired’ relates to one’s ideal desires—hence compulsion may affect one’s ideals so as to induce contrary desires. In this sense, one may be in a state of desiring something that he would otherwise consider undesirable, thus indicating the distinction between authentic desire and compelled desire.                      The word ‘compromisation’ is derived from the word ‘compromised’, as in something that has been made vulnerable or has been impaired or diminished in function (i.e. weakened, damaged, or flawed). The cognate ‘compromise’, however, refers to mutual concessions and/or a blending of two different things. Yet despite carrying the implication that, by mutual concession, one’s principles, ideals, or qualities have become ‘compromised’, to ‘achieve a compromise’ or to be ‘a compromising person’ has been culturally invested with a most righteous connotation. Fittingly, then, the word ‘compromise’ as signifying an undesired-yet-consented outcome has itself become compromised, in that making personal concessions for the sake of social accord is culturally coded as a perquisite of reasonability.                 In this sense, to compromise with another is to enact the compromisation of will—a statement that may seem extreme, but only insofar as the positive connotation of ‘compromise’ is maintained. For when people compromise, this act implies compulsion of some kind, in that to compromise is to agree to do something that one explicitly does not otherwise want to do. The catalyst for compromisation is thus not per say to compromise, but to concede to compulsion. When considering its nature, it is evident that compulsion is an integral aspect of life, manifest in the form influences; and from the perspective of the individual, influences are categorised here as being either circumstantial or intentional.
           Intentional influences refer to the activities of others; specifically, to behaviours or activities that are intended to affect particular people; and this can be divided into two forms, representing the benevolent or malevolent intent of the affect. Circumstantial influences comprise two distinct sources of affect: firstly, the incidental behaviour or activities of others, meaning those in which no affect is intended; secondly, the natural world, being features of one’s immediate environment that are not human in form or device. With these influences delineated, the manner in which they may compromise will can now be addressed.

Will only becomes compromised if one is persistently incapable of resisting a particular compulsion. Should this be the case, compromisation is effected to a certain extent, the degree of which depends on the following factors:

  1. The significance of the compulsion (i.e. how strongly it is undesired).
  2. The frequency of the effects produced by the compulsion.
  3. The quantity of persistent compulsions one is affected by.

These factors indicate that the condition of compromisation is an inherently vicissitudinous one. This is distinct from the corruption of will, which represents the total negation of it, thereby reducing the human to a dehumanised state of being, i.e. the dissolution of human essence. The ideal state of a human being is thus one whose will is neither corrupted nor compromised—a state that is properly in no need of a distinguishing term, for it represents the nature state of the human being. Practically, however, the reality of human existence is that will is continually subject to influences; and therefore, in this sense, to potential compulsions. From this universal principle of human existence follows conditions relating to the particular circumstances of one’s immediate environment; these being the typology, the quantity, and the potency of influences present in different places and at different times. These factors thus determine the aggregational extent of compulsion; that is, the range and degree of external compelling forces.                        Occasions in which such influences override one’s original will – that is, one’s ideal desires and intentions – is an integral aspect of life; which is to say, responding to influences constitutes human living, as opposed to being an atypical facet of human life: For essentially, it is by the process of responding to influences that the individual discovers his own nature, his authentic self, and the nature of life—hence one develops greater wisdom about the choices within it by identifying and correcting wrong actions and decisions.
            Influence and compulsion are thus not negative forces per say, in that to imagine a human life without them is inconceivable. In a philosophical sense, it can and has been said that patently negative forces may serve as positive stimulus—provided one responds to them as didactic challenges in the school of life. In reality, however, this state of mind is the exception rather than the rule amongst human beings, for it constitutes a development of wisdom and resolve that is distinct from common social life, which merely represents ‘normality’ as it is collectively constructed.                Instances in which will is overridden can thus be considered a vacillation of one’s ‘free will’; and that such vacillation is an integral aspect of life. Adversely, it is only when overriding becomes persistent that will becomes compromised: for this means one has been conditioned by a compulsion of some kind and to some degree. Nevertheless, vacillation of will may still continue concerning this particular compulsion, such as one’s efforts to limit its influence; and it will certainly continue concerning various other influences.

The distinction between a compromised will and a corrupted will is that a compromised will innately retains the ability to uncompromise itself; whereas a corrupted will (by this definition) is one that is impossible to restore—a will that has effectively been annihilated in some way. A person whose will has been corrupted can thus no longer be called human in the true sense of the word; and this distinction is not made in order to dehumanise such a person, but on the contrary, to acknowledge that such a person has been dehumanised. In this sense, then, a dehumanised person has been reduced to an automaton—not in the metaphorical derogatory sense but in the most literal and sympathetic sense: to recognise that a still-living human being has somehow been divested of the essence of being human.         How might will become corrupted? Two possibilities immediately come to mind, both of which concern severe brain injury: on the one hand, caused by circumstance, e.g. an accident; and on the other hand, inflicted by intention, e.g. a lobotomy. In both cases, if a person whose brain has been damaged in such a way that his self-consciousness has effectively been severed, he would thus have been reduced to what may appear to be a child-like state but what is more accurately a dehumanised state, i.e. a human automaton.
           For the purpose of this essay, corruption of will is considered theoretical for the reason that only in exceptional circumstances would one share the company of someone who has been afflicted in this way. Furthermore, determining the state of consciousness of such a person would be difficult, in that his responses may not accurately reflect his inner state and indeed may even misrepresent it, i.e. due to physiological defects that inhibit the transmission of will into corresponding actions. Nevertheless, this distinction is necessary for the discussion of ‘the problem of free will’, which amounts to unravelling the sophistic obfuscation concerning the nature of will.

III

A dissection of the misleadingly ambiguous term ‘free will’ begins with the preliminary question, What is will? Expressed slightly differently than the initial definition:

Will is the capacity to decide—not the availability of choices or possibility of actions.

This straightforward definition represents a most essential and distinguishing feature of human being that is self-evident in human experience of life: that the human being is innately endowed with volition—the characteristic capacity to make choices. Thus the following propositions further clarify the definition:

e. Self-consciousness is an essential characteristic of the human species.
f. Will is an essential aspect of self-consciousness.
g. A (theoretical) human being who no longer possesses or cannot develop either self-consciousness or will must be considered dehumanised; that is, as lacking the essential qualities of a human being.
h. All (matured) human beings possess will, which constitutes human being.

The pertinence of making the above clarification is due only to the cultural obfuscation of matters which are not only self-evident, but which concern the very innate capacity for anyone to verify them. Thus another proposition could be added to highlight this disjuncture:

i. Someone who believes that he does not possess will – which includes the belief that his capacity for choice is limited in some way; or ‘unfree will’ – represents a critical compromisation of will.

***

The word ‘will’ is also used to refer to particular instances of the application of one’s will, e.g. ‘The will to live can help one survive deathly conditions.’ However, it is the capacity to make choices that is the most significant meaning of that word, i.e. ‘the will’ (noun) which can be thought of as a spiritual organ (being the meaning referenced throughout this essay, although omitting ‘the’). Hence, any implication or assertion that attempts to diminish will as defining this capacity thereby negates it conceptually; and this is invariably the case in academic and cultural discourse of will, under the guise of ‘free will’ and the philosophical ‘problem’ of it. When considered properly, it should be clear that the nature and understanding of will is not related to ‘action’, in that the possession and exercise of one’s will is totally independent of actionability: for to make a choice is not dependent upon the ability to act in some way, other than the ability to make subsequent choices. Hence, choice-making should properly be considered an ‘act’ of mind (a ‘psychic act’), which includes the choice of intentions and attitudes; and the choice to reject or refrain from a possible action should be considered an ‘act’ of abnegation (a ‘non-act’). Yet despite these clear distinctions, discourse on the topic of ‘free will’ tends to be enmeshed in, if not based upon, the potential for action. Furthermore, this entanglement of actionability and will is but one of the means by which the conception of will is mired in sophistry.
           While the factor of action is heavily incorporated into discussions on ‘free will’, this admixture is not actually the main source of obfuscation; for ‘the problem of free will’ underhandedly targets the very conception of will, in that it undermines the nature of will whilst striving to conceal this subversion: Will, being the capacity for choice, now becomes ‘free (?) will’, being the insurmountable doubt that choice-making is genuine; or more directly, that choice-making is inherently delusional. Thus, academic polemics and debates are obsessed with notions relating to determination, in the sense of questioning whether or not the human being is actually the determinant of his choices. In other words, the topic ‘free will’ has been formed as if to say: ‘Yes, man makes choices, which represent his will—but does he determine his choices?’            In this way, the nature of will is refuted through its affirmation, i.e. as if to say, ‘Man has will—but control of his will is ultimately outside of his control.’ By this sophistic sleight of hand, the contradictory premise that ‘humans make choices—but ultimately, they are not the determinant of the choices they make’, is given the base credence from which the ideological representation is constructed.           As to identifying the ultimate determinant of choice, postmodern sophistry offers many choices and invites mystification as per individual predilection: for its only prerequisite is that Man’s innate capacity for making choices must be ideologically undermined—to the point of being rendered a modern superstition.
            Enter ‘determinism’ which, with regards to human choice-making, is the belief that all of one’s choices are predetermined by previous causes. By the antipodal construction of ‘determinism’ and ‘free will’, the self-verifying essence of ‘will’ is utterly obscured, and the potential for its discussion is effectively precluded. Thus, the cultural conception of ‘will’ has been deconstructed surreptitiously by hyper-rationalised doubt; which is to say it has not been attacked directly but, on the contrary, almost entirely without mentioning it. Hence, ‘will’ has been obscured by ‘free will’, in that the vague term has been made to eclipse the essential thing; thence serving to obfuscate anything concerning ‘will’ in a dominating arena of implicit refutation.
           Between these two monolithic antipodes of determinism and free will is a spectrum representing their common basis, i.e. the inherent contradiction that will is not self-determining. Note that the sophistic term for such a contradiction is a ‘paradox’; and that in this case (i.e. discussions of ‘free will’), ‘will’ per say is evaded and hence the created ‘paradox’ is seldom even acknowledged. From this basis, a proliferation of ‘will’-negating variations are made to compete with each other, under the pretence of striving to establish the source – deemed the ‘cause(s)’ – of volition.     For if, on the one hand, determinism is the case, then how can the human being be even said to possess will? If will is the capacity to make choices, yet those choices are all determined by factors not of one’s will, then what does it mean to say that man has will? Thus, the consideration of determinism is not sophistic per say—provided that it predicates the explicit negation of ‘will’. But this is not case: rather, the case is presented as ‘determinism despite will’, thereby making the entire discussion based upon an inherent contradiction—and this represents the least significant contradiction fashioned by ‘the problem of free will’.    On the other hand, ‘free will’ supplants ‘will’ so as to conflate it with conditions of actionability (or control thereof), thereby enmeshing it in factors relating to constraints of action. Thus, for example, if it were the case that ‘free will’ was used to discuss ‘the problem of actionability’, it would then be a case of an ill-fitting term used to discuss matters relating to ‘freedom of action’. But this is not the case: on the contrary, the ill-fitting term serves as the basis for an ill-fitting ‘discussion’—an array of sophistic theories by which the human capacity to choose is essentially negated and yet, whilst being implicitly maintained.
            This profound contradiction is most pronounced in the theory of ‘compatibilism’, which professes to reconcile the polar opposites of determinism and free will. Again, as in general, this is achieved primarily by the selectivity and conflation of concepts as well as an inconsistent use of terms—hence there are varieties and degrees of compatibilism, just as there are with determinism. Collectively, the common purpose of these theories is to obscure the conception of the ‘will’ by the ambiguous term ‘free will’ and the labyrinthine construction of ‘the problem’ concerning it.

By prefixing the word ‘free’ to the word ‘will’, conception of will – which anyone can perceive for themselves – is effectively precluded by its tethering to this word, for the vague term ‘free will’ must then be defined as to what aspect of ‘will’ is referred to by it. More specifically, the term is collectively used – i.e. by the diversity of theories – to mobilise ‘will’ for dissipation, which has been achieved both academically and culturally.                    As discussed previously, a prominent aspect of this is the incorporation of factors concerning action, whereby questions that actually relate to freedom – i.e. the ability to act unimpeded – are mixed in with matters of volition, i.e. the capacity for making choices. However, with regards to the underhanded negation of ‘will’, even more significant is the incorporated factor of determination, whereby the self-determining nature of will is systematically undermined by a convolution of contrary notions.
            Another factor incorporated into the discussion of ‘free will’ is that of influence, meaning forces compelling the diversion of will. As with the topic of ‘freedom of action’, questions concerning influences on will is an important topic—but they are discussed so as to form the overbearing impression that Man is ultimately not the maker of his own choices, which are determined by forces not of his will, whatever they may be.            More specifically, ‘the problem of free will’ as a predominant cultural topic simultaneously facilitates the confusion of logic and the fashion of belief, wherein the common denominator of intellectual discussion is inherent contradiction fortified by preferential philosophy. By this underlying ideology, the innate ability of the human being to perceive the nature of will is unanimously denied, in that the inability to do so is uniformly presupposed; and from this basis, a wide assortment of established ‘beliefs’ are offered for individuals to adopt in order to encourage satisfaction in personal preference and corresponding association by ideology.
            Thus, the nature of ‘will’ is obscured by the term ‘free will’ with its topic ‘the problem of free will’; and the essential product of this postmodern ethos is a cultural consciousness in which ‘freedom’ of will is superficially affirmed whilst being philosophically undermined. More specifically, the ethos is one of contradiction and confusion; meaning not merely that postmodern philosophy is a contradictory and confusing one, but that contradiction and confusion are its central tenetsit professes them as being the truth that refutes Truth.            Significantly, an essential aspect of this philosophy is that it employs contradiction to allay its implications; for to profess it directly – i.e. an ethos of contradiction and confusion – is not ideologically viable (not yet, in any case). Hence, cultural discourse on the topic of free will is largely represented by viewpoints composed of irreconcilable beliefs, i.e. that ‘Man’s choices are predetermined but he retains ‘a level’ of free will’, or ‘Man possesses free will but within a ‘higher level’ of predetermination’.
            This ideological allaying is most readily visible in postmodern fiction, whereby fantastical notions have been established and increasingly presented as legitimate concepts. Specifically, these postmodern myths serve as bases from which to utterly obscure the nature of will – that is, by an anti-logical affirmation of free will-despite-determinism – such as plot devices designed to deconstruct the notion of linear time. For example, plots based on alternate timelines, alternate dimensions, or wormholes are employed to create the narrative illusion that a one’s future actions ‘exist’ and that a person can discover them in various ways; thus revealing the ‘paradox’ that although one’s actions are therefore predetermined, he can – by way of this foresight – choose to alter or maintain them—therefore he has free will.                  While these fantasies are culturally instilled via arts and entertainments, they are gradually being elevated to legitimate status in the academic arenas; namely, science and philosophy. At the same time, established theories of science – such as quantum mechanics – are being employed in fiction to the same end, i.e. to vividly create the nonsensical illusion of ‘deterministic free will’ (the nonsensicality of which actually represents the core of the ideological content). Hence, a common device of such movies is to introduce or reference a technical-sounding concept that essentially serves to fragment reality in some way, by which a narrative battle ensues between the notions of free will and determinism—and generally, these movies conclude by gesturing to affirm the former whilst implying the condition of the latter.
           The form of movies in particular is designed to bypass one’s critical perception of illogical premises, as well as the presence of ideological messages, i.e. let alone the ideological content of those messages. Furthermore, the art form has devised manifold techniques to impress the viewer with these messages; that is, to impress them onto his consciousness. Thus with movies based on the ‘deterministic free will’ theme, one of the characters will establish the reality-fragmenting concept which the protagonist will eventually come to accept as real, usually due to having been directly affected by it and thereafter being unable to deny it. The illogicity of such plots is, however, plain to see when simply examining their elements: for apparent legitimacy is achieved either by impressive-sounding terminology (mystification), conceptual sleight of hand (sophistry), the acknowledgement of a ‘paradox’ (prolepsis), or combinations thereof.

IV

Postmodern culture – and indeed Western civilisation – is ruled by Science, which has thereby established a sociocultural paradigm of materialism. Furthermore, the scientific paradigm is based upon the tenet that the nature of the world and human life within it is essentially the product of randomness; and particularly since the postmodern era, this principle of randomness has been applied to human behaviour, with significant implications to the conception of ‘will’. Indeed, rather than creating tension between determinism and free will – as is done in fiction – scientific theories are more focused on contaminating the perception of volition and agency, i.e. in the sense of those capacities being exercised authentically; and a prime device of this contamination process is the concept of randomness elevated to a principle that underlies volition and agency. Thus, the human being is ultimately not the director of his will, rather his will is merely an expression of the governing principle of randomness.
            The sophistic means by which this particular notion is inculcated is the field of neurology, which literally reduces the human being and his behaviour to the formation and interaction of brain neurons. According to Science, ‘you’ are your brain—your brain is ‘you’, thus there is no non-material aspect of the human being from which his volition originates, i.e. what is traditionally known as the ‘spirit’. The ‘self’ is generated purely by neuronal activity, which thus constitutes it; therefore the self and its will are products of this generation, itself being a product of randomness.                    Hence, scientists and scientific philosophers generally resort to citing neurological studies when discussing matters relating to consciousness, decision-making, and behaviour. An essential ploy in promoting this philosophy is to misrepresent the complex nature of human consciousness; that is, the multiple levels of consciousness in their holistic functioning. Specifically, the natural function of the subconscious level – i.e. in its reciprocal interaction with the conscious level of the mind – is misrepresented as conditioning human volition and action; and as being essentially inaccessible to the conscious level of mind. But of course, it is not inaccessible to Science: for current technology can reveal brain activity to a granular degree; and scientific methodology can analyse this data to correlate it with the range of human thought, including intentions that precede actions.
            By the sociocultural infusion of this paradigm, Science negates the nature and purpose of will in implying and ‘proving’ that human decision-making is determined by antecedent factors; specifically, brain activity, which of course an individual cannot see—but scientists can: Hence, scientists are the only ones who can empirically ‘explain’ the human experience of consciousness, volition, and behaviour—i.e. dispelling what these aspects of being human commonly seem to be by providing a scientific account of what they actually are.

In contrast to the dominating sophistic discussion and theories concerning ‘free will’, a genuine discussion concerning will would be based upon the acceptance of the earlier stated propositions a and b, i.e. that the human being is sovereign of his capacity to choose; and that this power of choice is inseparable from being human. Without the acknowledgment of these self-evident and self-verifying truths, no genuine discussion concerning will can commence; rather, the engagement will be one of ideological philosophising or at the least, philosophising that has been anchored by an established ideology. If, however, the human capacity to choose is acknowledged in common, then genuine discussion can begin; and if so, the most meaningful subject for discussion is the compromisation of will: the ways and degrees to which the human sovereignty of choice-making can become compromised—and uncompromised.           For every human being possesses will: that is what constitutes his human being. This innate faculty – the capacity to make choices – is thus independent of conditions concerning ‘freedom’: one possesses will irrespective of external conditions—and ‘conditions’ in this sense are represented by compelling influences. More significant than environmental influences – meaning those arising purely from Nature – are human influences, for these can be intentional as well as incidental. Hence, the discussion of how will is influenced and compelled by the activity of other humans – primarily in a social context, rather than an individual one – should be the focus of discussion concerning will.
            While various forms of social influences are indeed discussed (albeit not very substantially outside of academia), these discussions are overarched by the scientific paradigm that negates will—hence they conform to this essential theme and, furthermore, serve to advance it ideologically. Primarily, the manner in which this done – the common denominator of sociological and psychological studies pertaining to will – is to analyse the common forms and mechanisms of superficial consciousness (figuratively: unconsciousness) whilst presenting them as traits innate to humanity. While social influences upon the individual are revealed, this revelation is placed within a context that uniformly but tactfully negates the nature of will—that is, that flatters the individual as to his status as such yet whilst implicitly informing him that he is essentially an automaton. Furthermore, what is actually an academic generalisation is invariably – rather, institutionally – universalised, in that the prevalent predisposition of unconsciousness is presented as the natural mode of Man, wherein his thoughts and habits arise from an inaccessible hence unintelligible source within him, thus testifying to the illusion ‘will’.
           The premise of a source that essentially predetermines will is represented by Science in three main paradigms, each corresponding to the fields of Psychology, Sociology, and Neuroscience. In psychology, the unconscious level of the mind directs will; in sociology, collective behaviour directs will; and in neuroscience, the interaction of brain neurons directs will: This is to say that the exercise of will is essentially predetermined by forces not accessible to consciousness; and that the scientific study of consciousness can at least reveal these ‘inherent’ limitations of the mind. In so doing, Science to an extent reveals the mechanisms of the mind, but only so as to legitimate its ideological paradigm—that is, to negate the nature of will under the guise of illuminating the nature of individuality. And importantly, with regards to the dynamics of priestly flattery, this pseudo-edification (indoctrination, more accurately) deftly incorporates the capacity of the very scientists and philosophers (experts, collectively) whom profess it; meaning that through professional conventions of rhetoric, they feign to include themselves within the paradigm of unconscious determination, i.e. that their will too is governed by these hidden forces that antecede will.
           In the field of neuroscience, will – the innateness of the capacity for choice – is negated primarily by mystification, in that neuroscientific theories are predicated upon technology; and, as with all authoritative professions, are embellished via initiate jargon and institutional techniques of presentation. In this sense, with regards to explaining human behaviour, Neuroscience is the successor to Genetics in the purely mystical basis of its theories, which are hence not even considered as such. Thus in its very basis, Neuroscience excludes the possibility that Man can perceive his own will—that he can apply his consciousness to perceiving his own psychospiritual functions and the significant influences upon them, in order to understand and refine his exercise of will. From this techno-mystical basis, Neuroscience supersedes Psychology and Sociology by creating the impression that neuroscientific analysis – which is based upon neuroimaging technologies – reveals directly the principles (it deems to have been) correctly identified by those preceding fields of Science; and more significantly, that Neuroscience is in the process of revealing principles that are beyond any other field to observe. Neuroscientific ‘explanations’ concerning matters of will are thus founded upon mystification rather than logic, which thereby engenders a cultural debasement not only of philosophical psychology and sociology, but of intellectual exercise itself. Hence, when the latest scientific ‘findings’ derived from – or devised by – neurological studies of the brain in relation to thought, emotion, and behaviour are pronounced, the bases of these findings are to be unquestionably accepted as fact, due largely to the visual aspect of the methodology. In other words, that brain activity is seen is made to imply that neuroscientific theories are more directly representative of reality than the non-technological observations of psychologist and sociologists.
           Since its establishment, the field of Psychology has certainly identified many elements and mechanisms of the mind, thereby providing much intellectual stimulus pertaining to the nature of will. Collectively, however, the useful concepts provided by psychologists coalesce into a labyrinthine formation, wherein genuine and important principles of the mind are well described but invariably miscontextualised: by tying them to false principles, by distorting the relations between genuine ones, and by denying or omitting significant ones. Hence the significance of these concepts and principles – particularly with respect to the nature of will – is thoroughly obfuscated. Ultimately, Psychology has thus served to undermine Man’s sovereignty of mind under the guise of affording him an understanding of it.
           More directly than Psychology, but ultimately in service to it, the field of Sociology has identified and examined the range of social influences that compel the individual to think and act in certain ways. In general, sociological theories go far in describing the many forms of collective behaviour and their interrelation with psychological principles, including the study of Society in all its forms and degrees of complexity—most notably, affording insights into primitive society and its contrast with modern civilisation. As with the institution of Psychology, however, Sociology similarly miscontextualises sociological phenomena—above all by a structural synecdoche, whereby psychosocial analysis of prevailing (or indeed deviant) predispositions are framed as being paradigmatic of human nature: In this way, Sociology buries the evidence of Man’s innate sovereignty of mind – his will – under an avalanche of miscontextualised evidence; that is, by presenting the effects of compulsion as representing innate deficiencies of human nature—and ultimately, of Man’s incapacity for sovereignty of mind.

V

By the term ‘free will’, a mishmash of criteria, definitions, and questions – from which a plethora of theories conflict with each other in a sectarian manner – serve to obscure the nature of will and the most significant topic concerning it. More specifically, this term is collectively employed to problematise will so as to negate its essence in an agreeable manner—which is largely by deft use of implication: that is, by the subtle conveyance of this invalidation through a sentimentalised affirmation of the individual and an optimistic tone concerning his will. This philosophical obfuscation begins with the semantic vagueness of the term ‘free will’, which on first encounter can be reasonably construed to represent fundamentally different topics. From this centre of ambiguity, common discussions of ‘free will’ involve ancillary topics that obscure the central concept – ‘will’ – whilst its meaning is implicitly misrepresented by the very frame of the discussion. Thus with the ancillary topic related to actionability: if by ‘free will’ is meant the freedom to act in accordance with one’s will – specifically, without impediment by another – then this topic should more appropriately be titled ‘freedom of action’. And thus with the ancillary topic of related to determination: if by ‘free will’ is meant the ability to determine one’s choices, then this topic should more appropriately be titled ‘will’, for that is precisely what will is—in which case the word ‘free’ is obviously extraneous and in fact contradictory. By the appropriation of ‘will’ for the topic of ‘free will’, then, these ancillary topics are employed to subvert the conception of will by indirectly misrepresenting it. And collectively, discussions within this topic represent the reversal of classical philosophy, which was at least oriented towards Truth; into postmodern sophistry, which aims to deconstruct even the principle of Truth.

***

Any human being can perceive for himself that he possesses will, and that will is an innate aspect of human being. Further, any individual can both sense intuitively and perceive directly that human beings exist exclusively by organised systems of association – i.e. Society – and that this existence is constituted by myriad influences of various forms and degrees. All people thus know – be it consciously or subliminally – that they are subjects of Society—that Society subjects them to powerful influences compelling their will to conform to its forms: primarily, to certain frames of thought and behaviour; and secondarily, to particular thoughts and behaviours within those frames. Most significantly, this compelling influence is largely manifested indirectly, in that it permeates the social atmosphere so as to compel the sublimation of its presence. Thus whilst will is an intrinsic aspect of Man, he is literally born into subjection whence his sovereignty of will is undermined.
           The genuine and significant discussion of will, therefore, concerns the challenge of maintaining sovereignty of choice – of ‘the will’ to govern one’s own will – for this challenge is inherent to and omnipresent in societal life, which amounts to human life in general. Put another way, the omnipresence of societal influence that compels the subordination of will (which essentially amounts to the relinquishment of it) need not be omnipotent, in that every individual has the capacity to examine or re-evaluate the compelling influences upon him and, at any time, make decisions that accord with his authentic desire and intention, i.e. having discerned any inclinations that have been induced by his social environment. Conversely, any individual can choose to submit to societal influence—this being a choice typically made at a subconscious level, for this is precisely the facilitating manner of its inducement. In other words, the primary forms of societal influence are imperceptibly compelling, so as to induce a state of conformity that is under the impression of authenticity (which is, by default, concomitant with an implicit sense of righteousness).
           The theme of postmodern anti-philosophy in its subversive yet comprehensive negation of ‘will’ can serve as a prime example of this challenge—not least because it comprehensively obscures the challenge with academic sophistry and cultural fantasy. For the dominant ideology within postmodernism tactfully implies, more so than disagreeably asserts, that Man’s thought processes are essentially irrational—and (unsurprisingly) that reasoning to the contrary is the prime testaments to this evident principle of human nature. Regarding the choice to govern one’s own will, postmodern ideology compels – no different than any other ideology – the adoption of its philosophical and psychological paradigm not by rationale or evidence, but rather by its pervasive and dominating presence. Hence, people uncritically assent to if not espouse the self-contradictory paradigm that superficially affirms individuality whilst essentially undermining its very basis, i.e. will; which thus represents the choice to preclude authentic will in favour of facilitating problematised will—a compelled choice that sacrifices sovereignty of mind for security in validation.
           The most simple and common instance of this sacrifice of will is represented by naïvetees: that is, people who are oriented by belonging and who are most comfortable subsisting on the surface of consciousness. Hence, naïvetees absorb the basic tenets of this ideology no different than any other, for they are characterised by an unconscious and devoted conformity to the predominating social cues. Distinctly, and more significantly (with regards to the conception of will), sophisticators – that is, people who are also oriented by belonging but who exercise their intellectual faculties to one degree or another – interact with the problematisation of ‘will’; that is, they consciously select and adopt one (or more) of the viewpoints established within ‘the problem of free will’ topic. Sophisticators, however, range from the following types (in ascending order): the Casual Sophisticator, whose philosophical thoughts are superficial; to the Intellectual Sophisticator, whose thoughts are substantial to varying degrees; to the Authoritative Sophisticator, whose thoughts represent the threshold of significance.
           With regards to the challenge of governing one’s own will, the Casual Sophisticator is not at all interested, for his participation in philosophical matters does not stem from an impulse to understand life, rather, from the desire to facilitate worldly forms of satisfaction (such as status and image). The Intellectual Sophisticator may be similarly motivated by worldly satisfactions and indeed, may even be more industrious and effective in attaining them. But distinct from the Casual, the Intellectual is characterised by an individualistic desire to engage with philosophical (if not spiritual) questions; and to varying extents, consciously cultivates intellectual interactions in order to satisfy this desire. However, the range of his philosophical enquiry and discernment is constrained by belongingness, in that belonging entails an anchoring in ideological tenets. Hence, his exercise and expression of philosophical matters is quasi-authentic; that is, his questioning and determining are preconditioned to navigate only within socially-established patterns of thought. And importantly, the societal naturalisation of established patterns of thought engenders the illusion of authenticity with regards to individual thought, thereby concealing its basis of conformity. In this way, the individual’s will is subjected—but in a manner that conditions him to believe that it is not.
           The pinnacle of such quasi-authenticity is the Authoritative Sophisticator, being social thought-leaders: In essence, thought-leaders represent various forms author, which implies authority, i.e. a privilege of public communication based on initiate knowledge and/or a superior capacity for discernment. Academic authors, for example, are able to reveal, discuss, and analyse particular subjects in breadth and depth far beyond the capability of the average person. In so doing, however, authors invariably contextualise the substance of their work within one or more established ideologies, thereby misleading as to the significance of the substance provided, i.e. so that the recipient of the information is led to adopt a prefabricated understanding yet whilst feeling a strong sense of intellectual autonomy in the process of doing so.     The Authoritative Sophisticator thus subordinates his will to Society under the guise of generating purely original thought; or more specifically, the illusion of truly uncompromised thought—and this illusion is a constituent of the role of authors, i.e. their underlying allegiance to the dominion of Society. Notably, this concealed service – what amounts to an esoteric allegiance – is no different whether its outward product blatantly affirms the predominant ideology; or conversely, if it appears to be opposing, contravening, or repudiating it (this being the role of the ‘renegade’ author), for these seemingly conflicting roles are ultimately in service to the dialectical process of ideological development.    Thus, with regards to sovereignty of will, Authoritative Sophisticators represent the most refined form of quasi-authenticity, in that they substantially explore the circumscribed range of thought that is intrinsically generated and imposed by Society. More specifically, authors produce substantial bodies of thought so as to represent the contexts intrinsically delimited by Society, thus subordinating their will in order to guide the subordination of the laity: In this way, authors maximise the range of intellection (whilst attaining prestige) permitted by the state of belonging—that is, the willing service to the dominion of Society.

VI

As indicated in the preceding discussion, the sociocultural negation of will under the guise of discussing ‘the problem of free will’ represents not only ideological rather than philosophical expression, but represents the ideology of anti-philosophy, i.e. the implicit denial that Man can apply his mental faculties to understand his nature in relation to that of the world. In academia, this ideology is expressed by what can be called modern sophistry; whereas culturally it is expressed in crude forms, such as fictional (and nonsensical) notions promoted (and legitimised) through mesmerising media, by which circular logic is made to uphold enthralling narratives. Thus, postmodern ideology compels the assent to the mystification of ‘will’; meaning that, at the least, Man does not and cannot determine whether or not he has sovereignty of mind—and the implicit agreement to this premise represents the ideological common denominator. From this basis, discussions and theorisations are interwoven so as reinforce it, that is, by obfuscating the nature of will under the topic of ‘free will’; and the progression of this ideology aims to devalue even the superficial affirmation of will, i.e. the basis of individuality in its ideological sense.
            Correspondingly, postmodernism has subverted the principle of philosophy, by its linguistic substitution of ‘thought’ into ‘belief’ and ‘feeling’. By this conversion of traditional expression, thought is not only devalued but is undermined in principle, i.e. by the lexically embedded implication that one’s thoughts – no matter how authentic, original, or substantial – are derived from belief. In other words, thoughts – as relating to ‘judgement’ – are formed exclusively by selection, i.e. according to one’s personal predilection. Thus, the implication that ‘thought is belief—hence desire determines thought’ is imprinted onto the predominant forms of expression, so as to reduce Thought (i.e. conceptually) to mere preferentiality. Furthermore, this lexical implication is made paradigmatic through academic, social, and cultural media, whereby authors and mediators of all kinds – i.e. irrespective of profession or ideology – seamlessly disseminate the impression that all thought is belief, thereby conventionalising this paradigm. Needless to say, social psychologists and popular sophists assert this paradigm directly; and in some cases, advocate it on some utilitarian basis.
           This subversion of thought – conceptually, then actually – in its supplantation by ‘belief’ and ‘feeling’ is a prime testament to the anti-intellectual spirit of postmodern philosophy; and this subversion is achieved by the superficial affirmation of individual will (as a principle), largely by affective techniques of sentimentality. Hence, people are engendered to actually feel enlightened and optimistic when being (seductively) delivered the message that ‘As an individual you are, of course, free to consider with us the innate limitations we are presently discovering of the human mind, from which we can – as a species – ameliorate this deficiency and thus create greater self-knowledge and happiness’: Due only to the cultural permeation of this message, which thereby delivers it indirectly, people absorb the untenable paradigm in which individuality is staunchly affirmed whilst the basis for it – will, representing innate sovereignty of mind – is systematically undermined and transmuted into an antithetical quality, being emotion-based ‘thought’ valourised as ‘belief’.    In this way, then, Western civilisation has degraded the very pinnacle of its achievements: that is, the philosophical conviction that Man can and should apply his gift of will to contemplate and discern life in all its aspects, including the nature of humanity—and the discombobulating topic of ‘free will’ represents the intellectual locus of this philosophical degeneration. Hence, points of view which problematise will – thus being self-contradictory – represent the choice to participate in an ideological range delimited by postmodern society. This choice includes the conventional pretence to self-authenticity, i.e. that such views are reflective of one’s uncompromised reasoning; or, to the conceptual nullification of reasoning, i.e. by contending that uncompromised reasoning is impossible, and perhaps also that self-authenticity relates exclusively to the selection of beliefs in consonance with one’s feelings. Thus, postmodernism literally compels the negation of will by its superficial affirmation: And hence, to perceive the nature of will amidst this compelling influence to obscure it is to maintain sovereignty of mind.

VII

Sovereignty of mind does not mean that one is free from the presence of influences, nor from actually being influenced: it means that one’s will is not subordinated to any other will—be it in the form of a present person or in the abstract sense, above all ‘society’. By its own nature, the capacity of will entails its own regulation; that is, the self-reflexive nature of human consciousness is purposed for refining the naturalness and authenticity of one’s decision-making—and this ongoing refinement is intrinsic to the purpose and living of life. Human experience is a continual process by which principles are discovered; and the form of this experience – i.e. human consciousness – is multidimensional. Specifically, these are a) the unconscious level, where the archetypal elements of human experience serve as the substratum of consciousness; b) the subconscious level, where the flux of presently extraneous senses and thoughts are afforded unobtrusive expression, i.e. with regards to c) the conscious level, where the flow of immediately pertinent senses and thoughts is readily perceivable during waking life.  By this threefold level of consciousness, Man, by direction of will, governs his attention as prompted by his particular experiences in the moment-to-moment living of life. Naturally, the focusing of one’s attention of something – be it a physical task, intellectual exercise, or perceptual experience – occurs within a regular flow of more relaxed and habitual mode of consciousness, for life entails such regularity of experience, which thus makes it more stable and hence more facilitating. In this way, the subconscious and conscious levels of mind facilitate each other’s functioning: their reciprocal relationship affords the effective reception of sense experience, as well as the expression of emotional and mental responses, impulses, and intentions. And it is precisely Man’s endowment with this capacity that naturally entails the self-governance of this relationship; meaning that Man is periodically prompted – by experiences, arsing both internally and externally – to reflect upon his own processes and contents of consciousness—to direct his attention towards his attentionality. In so doing, one essentially inspects the products of internalised influence, these being: those absorbed during childhood, when self-consciousness has not yet emerged; those conditioned by social conventions, which are generally manifested in an inconspicuous manner; and those concerning personal choices, of which the undesirable effects have not yet been recognised or appreciated. Human consciousness is thus characterised by the capacity – and indeed the purpose – for autonomous self-reflection, in order to discern between authentic, inauthentic, and unnatural elements and forms of thought, feeling, intention, and behaviour—in order to then determine these aspects in accordance with one’s authentic self and human nature.
            The ongoing discernment between influence and authenticity in itself represents sovereignty of mind; meaning not that one’s decisions have not been influenced, but that one’s awareness of influence and will to self-discovery is unconditional. In this case, will may be compromised by particular influences but one never denies them or diminishes their significance; and hence never allows his will to be critically compromised. To put this principle in perspective: the scope of life and depth of human consciousness is such that purifying oneself of all influences is not feasible (if indeed it is even possible)—hence the necessity of prioritising influences to give attention to in a continual evaluative process, utilising both intuition and intellect as natural compliment to one another. And the natural concomitant of this process is the effort to actualise and maintain whatever one has determined to think, feel (i.e. attitudinally). In a sense, then, affect by influence and the instinct for self-determination represent the challenge inherent to life, in that Man constitutes will and is purposed to self-govern it—not to relinquish it for direction by someone or something else, which can only be by act of will.
            Compelling influences – primarily societal ones – affect everyone in one way or another, to varying degrees; and to the extent that an individual wills self-determination, this produces a struggle entailing discernment and corresponding action, which includes purely psychical acts. (Note that the two traditional adjectives for ‘mind’, ‘mental’ and ‘psychic’, have both been subverted by polysemy: the former by the connotation ‘crazy’, and the latter by the connotation of supernaturalism, which connotes superstition—which  well-nigh connotes ‘crazy’). In this sense, compromisation of will is an integral part of life; but subordination of will represents only one thing: the will to relinquish control of one’s own will. Invariably, this subordination is willed at the subconscious level, where the psychospiritual act of this decision is immediately suppressed and, thereafter, is repressed in reaction to anything prompting its arising to conscious awareness. Hence, self-deception is concomitant to the subordination of will and is by necessity the mode by which a subordinated will is facilitated; meaning that the inner choice to submit one’s mind to externalised will enacts a transformation of being: from self-authentic thought to other-synchronised ‘thought’.
            Distinct from mere instances of self-deception, the fundamentally inauthentic mode of being artificially induced by Society is central to any genuine discussion of will: for its predominance (this being a constitute of Society) represents an engine of illusion, in that a social environment in which basic inauthenticity is habitualised thereby collectively represses the fact and furthermore, naturalises pretence into authenticity. An important facet of this process is to bury and perpetually rebury the natural indications of collective self-deception, that is, rather than merely ignore them: for in the long-term, this would not be tenable for the continuity of illusion. This socio-psychological masking of basic inauthenticity is habitually – and in some cases, ritually – performed by the relatively superficial assertion of will; this being, the opportunities for making choices from amongst those delimited by Society—the delimitation of which is rendered invisible by the collective ignorance of it. In this way, Society fosters a sense of personal autonomy within the psychological boundaries it enforces imperceptibly, thus conditioning a naturalised artifice of personal autonomy. Importantly, this socio-psychological process also involves the periodical pseudo-recognition of inauthenticity; meaning, public acknowledgement of inauthentic thought that is inconsequential to the underlying inauthenticity of socially-binding thought—a display of particular sincerity to obscure fundamental insincerity, thereby authenticating the process of essential inauthenticity.
           By these reciprocal processes between the subordinates and the arch-compulsion of Society (irrespective of who in particular represents its embodiment, i.e. the current sacred subordinates who manage the profane subordination of the laity), people are compelled to maintain their nurtured conformity to a collective hypnosis by circumscribed thought, wherein a simulated tapestry of apparent choices fosters a most essential facet of the illusion: that whatever a society has deemed to be right or wrong, this pseudo-collective judgement reflects the genuine will to truth by the members of society. This collective validation of implicit conscientiousness is an essential principle of Society, for it reconciles the conflict between conscience and belonging: In suppressing inauthentic acts of mind, the individual escapes the recognition of a fundamental discrepancy within socially-binding belief, for it has thus induced an emotional reaction of ultimate fear: alienation, with the possibility of penalisation or ostracisation. Hence, regardless of the particular society or circumscribed thought within it, the common denominator is an internalised pretence to authenticity of will; meaning that, in fact, the collective consciousness of a society is predicated on the critical compromisation of will by which the contrary is implicitly asserted and validated. For this reason, a genuine premise for the ‘problem’ referred to in ‘the problem of free will’ is that of retaining will despite the societal compulsion to conform to its secret relinquishment—a secret kept from oneself merely by non-interruption of the all-encompassing pretence to essential authenticity.
           The collective pretence inherent to Society represents the most common form of internalised subordination, being the critical compromisation of will; and this form is therefore inconspicuous and largely imperceptible, due to the naturalising effect of societal behaviour. Hence, the compelling influence of Society is mostly seamless; however in certain circumstances, more direct forms of compulsion are necessary in order to maintain subordination—and this invariably involves the subjugation of wills that are resistant to it. The most extreme and significant example of direct compulsion – thus being situated at the other end of the spectrum from inherent compulsion – is the practise of torture. More specifically, organised torture is that conducted on behalf of Society, be it officially recognised or practised covertly; and this governing context for torture is far more significant than those in which individuals practise it for personal reasons.
            Differently than is widely represented, the purpose of torture is not to elicit truth from an individual, i.e. the disclosure of withheld secrets of social import; nor is it to compel the conformity to particular doctrines, i.e. to have the individual adopt particular beliefs that the societal authorities deem imperative. Rather, the purpose of torture is to compel the subordination of will, i.e. to induce a state of being in which the individual has – by choice – synchronised his will to that of Society, as represented by the directives of its officials and demonstrated by the behaviour of its subjects. This conversion of state represents an inversion of will, in that one’s sovereignty of mind is relinquished – not taken, which is impossible – to the dominant external will, to which the individual is now immanently deferent and essentially suggestible.         Regimes of torture thus specifically aim to reduce the individual – by sequentially applying various methods to this end – to a state of being in which he desires to ‘think’ whatever the dominant will desires him to think; meaning that his critical faculties and authentic choices must be deconstructed, so as to reform his psychospiritual being such that it will readily adopt and believe contradictions presented by the dominant will. The purpose of torture, then, is to reduce individuals or even quasi-individuals to the lowest common denominator of society, this being the simple-minded belonger characterised by his unshakable faith in the ‘Truth’ presented by his society, whatever that happens to be; and the overriding motivation of loyal deference to the authorities of society, whomever they happen to be. In other words, Society in principle rests upon orientation by apparent consensus, whereby a person’s mind is fundamentally attuned to whatever content of thought appears to be socially agreed upon. Certain states of a society necessitate a diversity of thought, which is hence disseminated in the form of prefabricated ‘opinions’ from which people are encouraged to ‘choose’. During contrary states of society, the range of thought permitted to its subjects is required to be narrowly circumscribed and rigidly defined, hence arising a regime of torture to create a uniformity of belief; and this practise can be considered as ‘the industry of will-inversion’: the conversion of wills deemed incompatible with uniformity of thought.
           This discussion of torture in its proper context – i.e. as being the intensified effort to induce the relinquishment of will – prompts an important question concerning the nature of will: If will is the innate capacity of choice, and a person wills to retain it above all else, then no degree, technique, or duration of torture can force him to relinquish it. At most, torture can be applied until the person’s physical state – particularly the brain, being the organ of the mind for the direction by the spirit – has been deteriorated to the extent that he can no longer function as a person; meaning that, in a psychospiritual sense, he has effectively been destroyed in that he no longer has the neurological capacity to express or perceive himself.            If, on the other hand, exists a systematic means by which any individual can be forced to relinquish his will – i.e. so that he will remain a functional person, but one who is now willingly directed by external will – then the conception of will as the innate capacity for choice cannot be correct: for if will can be taken against one’s will, then what is will? A philosophical response to this question, as opposed to an ideological one, is that ultimately, one cannot know for certain without such an experience, i.e. unless he has retained his will in spite of systematic torture applied to the edge of destruction. Having acknowledged this fact, self-reflection and social experience demonstrate that will is, by nature, something ultimately in the possession of the individual, who must hence decide either to relinquish or retain this control in reaction or response to compelling influences, above all that of Society; and who, in so doing, must evaluate the sacrifices involved, which may be immense.

VIII

The commonly known word ‘willpower’ should be understood as referring to the capability of according one’s decisions – which comprises actions, for they represent decisions – with one’s ideal intentions and authentic desires; and the significance of this word is that it implies an acknowledgement of the struggles of will people have, in the persistent efforts to abstain from compulsive or impulsive decisions that contravene one’s ideals. The self-awareness of this inner conflict highlights the fact that will is continuously subject to compelling influences; that they are affective both psychologically and physiologically; that many of them are internalised osmotically; that one can choose to discern authentic desires from compelled ones; and that ultimately, one can continuously strive to harmonise his decisions with his authentic self, despite the influences compelling him to the contrary. Uncompromising determination in this sense represents essential authenticity, meaning not that all of one’s decisions are in complete harmony with his ideals, rather, that the intent and effort to govern them is not critically compromised by any external will—most notably, that of Society (i.e. abstract will). Hence, one is not free from this inner struggle, which can be considered a part of authentic life; but one determines it for himself, in the sense both of discernment and of action. Conversely, one can choose to have the essential decisions in life be determined for him, thus securing his sense and status of membership in Society – his belongingness – by conforming to the predominant way of life compelled by it or the recognised subcultures of life within it. Indeed, Society seamlessly induces this choice whilst imperceptibly facilitating it, in that a predominant manner of being within a system of associations generates a self-validating illusion of authenticity—specifically, that which reconciles conscientiousness with pretence, so as to collectively fuel the former by way of the latter.      In postmodern society, the illusionary basis of Society – in terms of the collective consciousness of the community that embodies it – is actually flaunted and, in some ways, idealised: Hence, the social and cultural spheres of intellectual discourse have become degenerate, in that the overarching message is the inherent anti-rationality of Man, who is thereby not free to determine his own will but who is free to amuse himself with conceits to understanding life – this being ‘belief’, by which ‘thought’ is reduced to ‘desire’ – thus asserting his individuality whilst celebrating Individuality. Ideologically, the nature of will has effectively been negated, in that its apprehension by the topic ‘free will’ and the sophistic composition therein, obfuscates and precludes the genuine perception and discussion of matters concerning will. Thus, ‘the problem of free will’ is simply that ‘will’ has been problematised—and hence, it is a problem that any individual is free to solve if they so will.

Author: Simon Kanzen

I value reading substantial literature, enjoy thought-provoking entertainment, and above all, I think every day. With Stepping Stones, I develop my thoughts in writing and share references to relevant media, intending for other readers and thinkers to find these writings useful.

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