Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 2: On the Will - Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind
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CHAPTER 2: On the Will - Francis Hutcheson, Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind 
Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind, ed. James Moore and Michael Silverthorne, texts translated from the Latin by Michael Silverthorne, introduction by James Moore (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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On the Will
What the will is
As soon as an image of good or evil is presented to the mind, another faculty of the soul comes into action, which is distinct from every sense and is called the will; it seeks (appetens) every kind of pleasant sensation and all actions, events, or external things which seem likely to arouse them, and shuns and rejects everything contrary to them. [Innate in every man is a constant desire (appetitio ) for happiness, which never fails to display itself, when opportunity offers, in pursuing (appetendo ) things that seem to make for a happy life and in spurning things that do not. There is, however, no innate notion of the supreme good, or of an aggregation of all goods, to which we may refer all our intentions. What it would be correct to say is that the mind, so long as it maintains a calm and provident motion, is formed to seek every good thing in itself and to shun every evil; and when several things come before it which it cannot have all at the same time, it turns to those which seem greater and more excellent. The same should also be said of warding off evils. Hence we must often reject pleasures which it is not possible to enjoy without the loss of greater and more lasting [pleasures], or which are followed by more serious pains. And likewise pains must sometimes be borne, if that is the only way we can obtain greater pleasures or avoid more serious pains.]1
The two meanings of desiring
Just as we include among the operations of the understanding not only sensations which are perceived by the body and are common to us with the brute animals, but also the nobler powers of perception which are proper to man and which convey the notion of superior goods, so also man’s desire (appetitus) is twofold. One desire we share with the dumb animals. It is called sensual [desire] and directs us toward pleasure by a kind of blind instinct; it is driven by a quite violent emotion of the mind to obtain certain sensual goods and avoid sensual ills. The other is a calm emotion which calls in the counsel of reason and pursues things that are judged, in the light of all the circumstances, to be superior, and are seized by a nobler sense. It is called rational [desire], or will in the proper sense.2 We will first give an account of this desire; it is common to us with every creature endowed with reason.
Such a desire or aversion arises spontaneously when an image of good or evil is presented and considered in all its circumstances, without a prior decision or command of the will. A desire or aversion is very often followed closely by a kind of deliberation about all the arguments and considerations in favor of getting the thing we want or of avoiding the thing we dislike. After these arguments and considerations have been explored, there follows an intention ( propositum ) or determination (consilium) to do those things that seem most likely to achieve the end. The first desire or aversion the scholastics call simple wanting; the intention to act, after the agent, so far as his intelligence and diligence allows, has weighed everything that precedes, accompanies, or seems likely to follow the action, they call efficacious volition.3
How mixed things are desired
Just as we seek by nature every good which is worthy in itself and shun every evil, so when good things are mingled with ills, the will inclines to those which seem more numerous and more excellent. Thus there is a certain deliberation about ends themselves, or about things which seem good or evil in themselves and which are called objective ends, though there is no deliberation about the ultimate end, the formal end as they call it, or about happiness itself and the rejection of misery.4
[And though ordinary goods generally do not have enough force to necessarily cause an efficacious volition, since it is quite often possible to foresee more serious ills attached to them, nevertheless whenever an absolute or infinite good is clearly seen which carries no preponderating evil with it, it will necessarily give rise to desire and arouse an efficacious volition. Only wise and prudent men, therefore, have one ultimate end set before them to which they refer all their intentions to act. Other men live in a more ad hoc fashion, pursuing various things which are recommended by some appearance of good and fleeing the contrary, unless they see something attached to it which has the power to turn their minds in a different direction. But all deliberation, whether about the ultimate end or about means, is to be referred in the last analysis to a certain immediate sense of pleasure or distress. ]5
Where liberty lies
Since the sentiment of the mind after completing its deliberation does not depend on the will, but necessarily follows the evidence of truth which is put before it, and [since] no previous command of the will arouses simple wishing or the initial desire or aversion, there is no question of liberty here at all, whether liberty is taken as the power of doing what we wish and omitting what we do not wish, or a certain indifferent power of the mind to turn equally in any direction.6 If therefore liberty is a faculty which, given all the conditions for action, may act or not act, do one thing or its contrary, it will only have place in an actual intention to act or in an efficacious volition, according to whether we can initiate [the volition] or suppress it by a previous decision of the will. But if this power pays no attention to the appearances of good or evil which are put before it or fails to follow them, it would seem to be a useless and capricious [power]. Anyone, therefore, who finds it absurd that our minds should be endowed with a power which in no way certainly follows our judgment will have to define it to mean merely a power of doing what we wish and of refraining when we do not wish, however much the mind may have been constrained to wish or not.7
[It seems to have been the position of the Stoics that the will is constrained and directed by each man’s character, whether natural or artificial, together with the appearance of good or evil that is put before it, and that it cannot happen otherwise. For they believe that there are certain natural laws set in the mind itself, or that the nature of minds is such that they are necessarily directed by what we have called causes. A great many things, they hold, have this power of constraining the mind and arousing certain feelings by themselves without any [process of] reasoning. For it is not only things which are useful or pleasant to someone which stir his desires, but closeness of blood, benefits received, evidence of virtues in others, and so on excite love and goodwill of themselves; and injuries arouse anger and a desire for vengeance. And under equally unchanging conditions each man’s natural character is variously modified by its various encounters with things, as a result of custom, habits, and the complexion of the body itself. But given the character, the appearances presented to the mind necessarily direct it, so that all these circumstances being as they are, it cannot will otherwise; but it could act otherwise if it willed otherwise.
They hold that this condition of our nature is completely compatible with actions being good or bad, since in their view the goodness and badness of actions lie chiefly in our state of mind (affectionibus ); some states, in accordance with the structure of our souls, are good and laudable in themselves, while others are disgusting and detestable however they may have been aroused in us. They also argue that this does not in any way detract from the force of laws, threats, and exhortations, since the power of these lies precisely in the fact that they offer a new image of good and evil. And though this reasoning shows that all anger is useless and unworthy of the ruler of all things as well as of the wise man, it will not make the threat or infliction of punishment useless or unjust provided that serious evils often cannot be averted without them, and men or other natures endowed with reason who are not very constant in virtue cannot be kept from their vices by any other equally ready means.
The Peripatetics and other learned and pious men, who find these views too harsh and not quite consistent with divine justice, take a different approach. They take the position that although minds always follow some appearance of good, still in situations where they are between two appearances of good, on the one hand the right and the good, on the other hand the pleasant and the useful, they turn themselves of their own accord in the one direction or the other. We linger no longer over this highly vexed question, which has always troubled the minds of the learned and pious.]8
What control a man has over his desires
Whatever men’s freedom may be, if adequate signs of superior goods are put before them, anyone who has carefully examined the things which arouse desire, and has directed the powers of his mind to this thing, [will find that] all his appetites and desires will be stronger or milder in proportion to the goods themselves. Everyone, therefore, who has seriously done this will be able to make all his desires for superior goods and aversion from the graver evils so strong that he will easily be able at need to suppress weaker desires for bad things and his aversion to lesser evils. Thus he will be able to shape the whole pattern of his life, so that he will pursue all the nobler goods and ignore all the lower things which are incompatible with them.
Joys and sorrows
Apart from desire and aversion, which are different from every sensation and incite to action directly and by themselves, joy and sorrow are commonly attributed to the will; but they are rather reflex and secondary sensations, which are different from the sensations which things at hand excite directly, and may either precede or follow them.9 For joy arises from the expected acquisition of a thing sought, or the expected avoidance of an evil presently threatening, and sorrow from the fear of a future evil or the expected loss of a good.
Sensual desire and the passions
Very different from calm desire or aversion, which are concerned with our own or another’s good or evil, and which follow the images of good that our understanding foresees, are the violent motions of the mind, which are called passions of the will and to be included in sensual desire. [They occur] when we are driven by a kind of blind but natural impulse to do certain things or to desire them, even when reason has not pointed to any appearances of good or evil, nor shown us that they are necessary or useful to our happiness or the happiness of those whom we hold dear. These motions are accompanied by a kind of confused and powerful disturbance of the mind which impedes the use of reason. They often agitate the mind when it is not moved by any pure affection or calm plan of action; often pure affections are found without these violent emotions; often they draw the mind in opposite directions at the same time, and desire urges one thing, the mind another.10 Now calm plans of action suppress these passions, now they are overcome by them; this is the state of those who have not yet attained continence or the command of the lower regions of the mind.11
[There are four kinds of violent emotions (motus ), as there are of calm emotions (motus ): desires, fears, joys, and sorrows, and several divisions of each, and some tend to be frequently associated with others and combined with them; it would take a long time to give a full account.]12
They do not all aim at sensual good
Not all of these violent (perturbati ) motions of the body aim only at pleasure or pain. The disturbances (perturbationes) and blind impulses of the mind in people who are reckless and intemperate are just the same, [though directed] toward a great variety of good and bad things. They are included with the sensual desires because they bring with them a very painful or violent sensation, which agitates the blood and often the whole body. Here we include not only the desires for eating or the pleasure of procreation, but also ambition, anger, pity, envy, affection, favor, hatred, and so on.
[The cause of vices
We should hold these violent motions primarily responsible for the various things that move and warp the mind without regard to their worth or usefulness. For just as there is no desire for the unknown,13 so things that we barely perceive and rarely revolve in our minds make a feeble impression; and things that are far away (as to the eye so to the mind) appear small and insignificant unless they are brought closer by frequent and deep thought. Some disturbances also completely fill our minds so that we do not have the strength to follow anything by reason or design. This is how it comes about that earthly things, vile, fleeting, and transitory as they are, so often deflect men from the pursuit of noble, heavenly, and eternal things.]14
The motives of the mind look either to one’s own advantage or to another’s
We should not neglect a remarkable distinction between the motives of our wills, whether calm or violent: in some of them we are ultimately pursuing merely our own pleasure or advantage, or protecting ourselves from evils, whereas in others we seek to bring about or preserve the happiness of others or to shield them from misery. For when we are not moved by envy or anger, or no conflict is seen between another’s happiness and our own, we would desire happiness for every sentient creature, we would pray for every success and happiness for him, and we would strive to spare him all pains and troubles.
Whether violent or calm
This far-reaching benevolence corresponds to the calm feeling of self-love (philautia), which approves and desires the happiness of all men without distinction. For with most of our calm affections we desire the prosperity of our country, our friends, our family, and of all good men, just as we pursue the various goods which reason points to for ourselves.
Different from both of these, we also have violent movements of the will, or passions; certain of them seek some pleasure or advantage for ourselves, and some of them seek it for others. The natural reaction to benefits received is a grateful heart and a stronger motive of benevolence toward our benefactor. The performance of honorable and outstanding services toward any man or the practice of eminent virtue stirs our minds and often inflames us with strong emotion and an ardent zeal to advance men endowed with these virtues to higher dignities. Love of offspring is a very special thing, accompanied [though it is] by distressing sensations: all animals are prompted to procreate by a kind of blind impulse of nature. But anger, that brief madness,15 and indignation are a natural reaction to injuries whether committed against ourselves or against others who do not deserve it.
There is a kind of truly gratuitous goodness
Everyone who enters into his own mind and explores his own intentions and feelings in his actions will find that these kindly feelings of our hearts, whether calm or violent, are not aroused by a previous command of the will and do not ultimately look to any advantage or pleasure of our own. [This is] particularly [clear if] one surveys the counsels and deeds of famous men, sacred duties performed by dying men, voluntary deaths to save friends and country. We may also observe the ends of lesser men, how they commend their children and friends, remember and cherish old friendships, and maintain the highest standards of duty with their last breath! These show that probity and gratuitous goodness are innate in men, not prompted by pleasure or evoked by the prospect of reward.
There are also certain natural propensities of the mind, or instincts, to perform, pursue, or avoid certain things, without any preceding reasoning, and with no thought of their importance for our own or others’ advantage. In the brute animals these things are more obvious; something very like the minds of men is implanted in them by the kindly design of God, for their individual or common advantage, so that they may show what things are suitable to nature and what things are to be sought for themselves, and so that each may use his own nature as a guide for living. I need not mention again our approval and praise of good men, our frequent commemoration of benefits received, our compassion for the afflicted, painful as it is, and the fact that we are ready to visit scenes of misery, even when we have no opportunity to do any good. What advantage for ourselves or others do we seek by lamentations for the dead or the funeral honors we give them, by the wishes of a dying man for a child who will be born after he is dead, by the avoidance of childlessness, or by our extreme aversion to physical deformity or abnormality even when there is no loss of function? Why do children have an itch to see and hear things which are no use to them, and why can they never sit still? What is the point of endlessly deploring disasters to which no relief can be given? And why do those who hold that human affairs are no concern of the dead give themselves so much pain and trouble to achieve an enduring reputation for themselves and their family?]16
Painful sensations (sensus) either precede or follow motions of the will
A painful sensation naturally precedes certain passions of the mind and accompanies or follows others. It precedes the passions which the scholastics quite properly ascribe to the sensual appetite, those which concern the nutrition of the body and the preservation of the species. Other passions or appetites are accompanied or followed by certain painful sensations, when the means to satisfy them are wanting. There are many such sensations, not very different from one other.
The mind’s control of its violent emotions
Since all the lower desires get their special force from incautious associations of ideas,17 from which without any natural cause to do so, we imagine that certain things have wonderful virtues or make some great contribution to a happy life, because these things are given a very high value by irresponsible people whom we associate with, or ambitious, self-indulgent, or immoral people (who by bad habits and long use have depraved or virtually destroyed their natural sense of things). If we are to achieve a just command of these desires and true freedom of mind, it would be very helpful to separate and take apart these notions which we have so carelessly put together, and take a long, hard look at those things that stimulate the appetite, stripping them of these stolen colors; so that we may discover and learn for ourselves what real good and evil is in each of them, and so that we may not seek or shun them beyond the measure of true good and evil.
The passions not useless
Since men have not had sufficient force of reason or intelligence to get a clear idea of the fabric of their own bodies, and to understand what things are helpful and what do harm, or what it would be suitable for them to eat, we have had to be warned of need or hunger by a painful sensation; and useful things have had to be distinguished from harmful things by sensation rather than reason; and often we have had to be driven by a blind impulse of nature toward the things that are healthy for us or for the human race. By these things alone we have been driven, by strong stimuli of this nature, so that we would not remain mired in the ways of beasts; similar stimuli of distressing sensations are attached to many other appetites for things which reason would judge to be useful, so that the mind would be better strengthened against the enticements of the lower pleasures.
[1 ]The sentences between brackets were added in 1744.
[2 ]The distinction between sensual desire and rational desire was a commonplace in the writing of scholastic moralists: for example, in Eustache, Ethica, I, pp. 10-11, and Heereboord, Collegium Logicum Pneumaticae, I, 8, p. 43. Hutcheson insisted upon it in later editions of An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1742), sec. 2, p. 32n., and Illustrations upon the Moral Sense (1742), sec. 1, p. 214, against his rationalist critics, who would reduce all actions, desires, and volitions to exercises of the intellect or understanding.
[3 ]See de Vries, Determinationes Pneumatologicae, II, VI, p. 31.
[4 ]The scholastic distinction between objective ends, about which there may be deliberation, and the formal end or happiness itself is found in Eustache, Ethica, 20-27, and Heereboord, Collegium Ethicum, pp. 13-22. See Carmichael, Natural Rights, p. 23, n. 7.
[5 ]This paragraph was added in 1744. In the third edition of Illustrations upon the Moral Sense (1742), p. 318n. Hutcheson wrote: “In many Questions of this Nature we must have recourse with Aristotle to a Sense, which is the last Judge in particular Cases.” (Also see An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense, edited by Aaron Garrett, Liberty Fund, p. 189.) He appears to have had in mind (here, as in many other citations of Aristotle) Henry More, Enchiridion Ethicum (1666) translated as An Account of Virtue; or, Dr Henry More’s Abridgement of Morals, Put into English, p. 16: “The Philosopher having (in his great Morals [Magna Moralia, bk. 2, chap. 10]) brought in one who demands, what Right Reason was, and where to be found? The Answer is but darkly thus, That unless a Man have a Sense of things of this Nature, there is nothing to be done. … So that in short the final Judgment upon this matter is all referred to inward Sense, which I confess, I should rather have called, The Boniform Faculty of the Soul.”
[6 ]The notion that the liberty of the will consists in indifference was defended by Eustache, Ethica, pp. 12-13, 64-65, and repudiated by the Reformed: Heereboord, Collegium Ethicum, pp. 4-5, 50. Locke dismissed the idea in Essay, II, 21, 73, pp. 238-84.
[7 ]Hutcheson’s note (1749): “See Part I, Chapter 4, Section 6,” [pp. 97-99], where reference is made to Locke, “On Power.” See also Part III, chap. 3, sec. 3, note 6.
[8 ]It was a characteristic feature of the Neoplatonist philosophers of the third and fourth centuries , some of them celebrated by Hutcheson (“Dissertation on the Origin of Philosophy,” pp. 3-8), that they criticized Stoic fatality by insisting, with the Peripatetics, on the exercise of deliberation over appearances of good in acts of will. One of the most effective critics of Stoicism from this perspective was Nemesius of Emesa, remarked by Hutcheson, in A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, p. 4, as an author to be consulted on the subject of human nature, with Aristotle, Cicero, Arrian, Locke, Malebranche, and Shaftesbury. The text of Nemesius, “On the Nature of Man,” is provided in an English translation with commentary in Cyril of Jerusalem and Nemesius of Emesa, edited by William Telfer; see especially pp. 389-423. The Cambridge Platonists also employed Peripatetic arguments against the Stoics on the question of the freedom of the will. See Henry More, An Account of Virtue, bk. 3, chap. 2, pp. 181-90.
[9 ]Locke considered joy and sorrow to be reflective or secondary sensations, which cannot otherwise make themselves “known to us than by making us reflect on what we see in ourselves.” He also referred to these “modifications or tempers of mind” as “in ternal sensations.” Essay, II, XX, 1-8, pp. 229-31.
[10 ]Aliudque cupido, mens aliud suadet: Ovid, Metamorphoses, VII, 19-20, in Meta morphoses, vol. I, p. 342, from the soliloquy of Medea as she attempts to resist falling in love with Jason and betraying her father.
[11 ]Hutcheson’s note (1749): “All this has been more fully expounded by Cicero, in Tusculan Disputations, Book IV.” See also An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, sec. 3, p. 59 ff.
[12 ]This paragraph was added in 1744.
[13 ]Ignoti nulla cupido: Ovid, The Art of Love, 3, 397 (p. 146), from Ovid’s advice to a woman to get out and be seen by men if she wishes to find a lover. The same phrase appears in de Vries, Determinationes Pneumatologicae II, VI, p. 29.
[14 ]This paragraph was added in 1744.
[15 ]Ira autem brevis ille furor: Horace, Epistles, I, 2, 62 (p. 266).
[16 ]This paragraph was added in 1744.
[17 ]See also An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, pp. 95 ff., 136, 165, and so on, on “fantastic” and “foolish” associations of ideas.