Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Hegel's philosophical method of dialectical idealism describes an Absolute Spirit (sometimes synonymous with human thought - like our Sum), in which Absolute Ideas are evolving to ever higher levels of consciousness. See paragraph 2 and paragraph 31 below to get an idea of his strange "logic."
Hegel thinks earlier efforts to "prove" the freedom of the will were flawed compared to his science of logic...
"It is worth while to recall the older way of proceeding with regard to the freedom of the will. First of all, the idea of the will was assumed, and then an effort was made to deduce from it and establish a definition of the will. Next, the method of the older empirical psychology was adopted, and different perceptions and general phenomena of the ordinary consciousness were collected, such as remorse, guilt, and the like, on the ground that these could be explained only as proceeding out of a will that is free. [cf. Peter Strawson] Then from these phenomena was deduced the so-called proof that the will is free. But it is more convenient to take a short cut and hold that freedom is given as a 'fact of consciousness', and simply must be believed [cf. William James]. (Philosophy of Right, Introduction Sect.4, trans. ?)
We quote at length from the Introduction to Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Although his formalism gets in the way - it always develops ideas in three steps (the famous aufhebung of thesis-synthesis-antithesis, or subject-object-unity) - Hegel's discussion roughly describes two stages of the will (he calls them moments), an initially indeterminate stage (paragraphs 4 and 5), followed by a determinate choice (paragraph 6). And he says clearly that the will is the unity of both these moments (paragraph 7).
Introduction, Philosophy of Right[Concept of the Philosophy of Right, of the Will, Freedom, and Right], translated by T.M.Knox. 1. The subject-matter of the philosophical science of right is the Idea of right, i.e. the concept of right together with the actualization of that concept. 2. The science of right is a section of philosophy. Consequently, its task is to develop the Idea — the Idea being the rational factor in any object of study - out of the concept, or, what is the same thing, to look on at the proper immanent development of the thing itself. As a section, it has a definite, starting-point, i.e. the result and the truth of what has preceded, and it is what has preceded which constitutes the so-called 'proof' of the starting-point. Hence the concept of right, so far as its coming to be is concerned, falls outside the science of right; it is to be taken up here as given and its deduction is presupposed. 3. Right is positive in general when it has the form of being valid in a particular state, and this legal authority is the guiding principle for the knowledge of right in this positive form, i.e. for the science of positive law. 4. The basic of right is, in general, mind; its precise place and point of origin is the will. The will is free, so that freedom is both the substance of right and its goal, while the system of right is the realm of freedom made actual, the world of mind brought forth out of itself like a second nature. 5. The will contains (α) the element of pure indeterminacy or that pure reflection of the ego into itself which involves the dissipation of every restriction and every content either immediately presented by nature, by needs, desires, and impulses, or given and determined by any means whatever. This is the unrestricted infinity of absolute abstraction or universality, the pure thought of oneself. 6. (β) At the same time, the ego is also the transition from undifferentiated indeterminacy to the differentiation,: determination, and positing of a determinacy as a content and object. Now further, this content may either be given by nature or engendered by the concept of mind. Through th1s positing of itself as something determinate, the ego steps in principle into determinate existence. This is the absolute moment, the finitude or particularization of the ego. 7. (γ) The will is the unity of both these moments. It is particularity, reflected into itself and so, brought back to universality, i.e. it is individuality. It is the self-determination of the ego, which means that at one and the same time the ego posits itself as its own negative, i.e. as restricted and determinate, and yet remains by itself, i.e. in its self-identity and universality. It determines itself and yet at the same time binds itself together with itself. The ego determines itself in so far as it is the relating of negativity to itself. As this self-relation, it is indifferent to this determinacy; it knows it as something which is its own, something which is only ideal, a mere possibility by which it is not constrained and in which it is confined only because it has put itself in it. This is the freedom of the will and it constitutes the concept or substantiality of the will, its weight, so to speak, just as weight constitutes the substantiality of a body. 8. The more detailed process of particularization (see Paragraph 6) constitutes the difference between the forms of the will: (a) If the will's determinate character lies in the abstract opposition of its subjectivity to the objectivity of external immediate existence, then this is the formal will of mere self-consciousness which finds an external world confronting it. As individuality returning in its determinacy into itself, it is the process of translating the subjective purpose into objectivity through the use of its own activity and some external means. Once mind has developed its potentialities to actuality (wie er an und fur sich ist), its determinate character is true and simply its own. At that stage, the relation of consciousness constitutes only the appearance of the Will, an aspect which is not separately considered any further here. 9. (b) In so far as the specific determinations of the will are its own or, in general, its particularization reflected into itself, they are its content. This content, as content of the will, is, in accordance with the form of will described in (a), its purpose, either its inward or subjective purpose when the will merely images its object, or else its purpose actualized and achieved by means of its activity of translating its subjective purpose into objectivity. 10. This content, or the will's determination on something specific, is in the first place immediate. Consequently the will is then free only in itself or for an external observer, or, to speak generally, it is the will in its concept. It is not until it has itself as its object that the will is for itself what it is in itself. 11. The will which is but implicitly free is the immediate or natural will. The specific characteristics of the difference which the self-determining concept sets up within the will appear in the natural will as an immediately existing content, i.e. as the impulses, desires, inclinations, whereby the will finds itself determined in the course of nature. This content, together with the specific differences developed within it, arises from the rationality of the will and so is implicitly rational; but, poured out in this way into the mould of immediacy, it still lacks the form of rationality. It is true that this content has for me the general character of being mine; but this form is still different from the content, and hence the Will is still a will finite in character. 12. The whole of this content, as we light upon it in its immediacy in the will, is there only as a medley and multiplicity of impulses, each of which is merely 'my desire' but exists alongside other desires which are likewise all 'mine', and each of which is at the same time something universal and indeterminate, aimed at all kinds of objects and satiable in all kinds of ways. When, in this twofold indeterminacy, the will gives itself the form of individuality (see Paragraph 7), this constitutes the resolution of the will, and it is only in so far as it resolves that the will is an actual will at all. 13. By resolving, the will posits itself as the will of a specific individual and as a will separating itself off against another individual. But apart from this finitude as consciousness (see Paragraph 8), the immediate will is on account of the difference between its form and its content (see Paragraph 11) a will only in form. The decision which belongs to it as such is only abstract and its content is not yet the content and product of its freedom. 14. The finite will as, in respect of its form, though only its form, the self-reflecting, independent, and infinite ego (see Paragraph 5), stands over its content, i.e. its various impulses, and also over the further separate ways in which these are actualized and satisfied. At the same time, since it is infinite in form only, it is tied to this content (see Paragraphs 6 and 11) as to the specific determinations of its nature and its external actuality; though since it is indeterminate, it is not tied to this or that specific content. From the point of view of the ego reflected into itself, this content is only a possible one, i.e. it may be mine or it may not; and the ego similarly is the possibility of determining myself to this or to something else, of choosing between these specific determinations, which at this point I regard as external to me. 15. At this stage, the freedom of the will is arbitrariness (Willkur) and this involves two factors: (a) free reflection, abstracting from everything, and (b) dependence on a content and material given either from within or from without. Because this content, implicitly necessary as purposes, is at the same time qualified in the face of free reflection as possible, it follows that arbitrariness is contingency manifesting itself as will. 16. What the will has decided to choose (see Paragraph 14) it can equally easily renounce (see Paragraph 5). But its ability to go beyond any other choice which it may substitute, and so on ad infinitum, never enables it to get beyond its own finitude, because the content of every such choice is something other than the form of the will and therefore something finite, while the opposite of determinacy, namely indeterminacy, i.e. indecision or abstraction from any content, is only the other, equally one-sided, moment of the Will. 17. The contradiction which the arbitrary will is (see Paragraph 15), comes into appearance as a dialectic of impulses and inclinations; each of them is in the way of every other—the satisfaction of one is unavoidably subordinated or sacrificed to the satisfaction of another, and so on. An impulse is simply a uni-directional urge and thus has no measuring-rod in itself, and so this determination of its subordination or sacrifice is the contingent decision of the arbitrary will which, in deciding, may proceed either by using intelligence to calculate which impulse will give most satisfaction, or else in accordance with any other optional consideration. 18. In connexion with the judgment of impulses, this dialectic appears in the following form: (a) As immanent and so positive, the determinations of the immediate will are good; thus man is said to be by nature good. (b) But, in so far as these determinations are natural and thus are in general opposed to freedom and the concept of mind, and hence negative, they must be uprooted, and so man is said to be by nature evil. — At this point a decision in favor of either thesis depends equally on subjective arbitrariness. 19. In the demand for the purification of impulses there lies the general notion that they should be freed both from their form as immediate and natural determinations, and also from the subjectivity and contingency of their content, and so brought back to their substantial essence. The truth behind this vague demand is that the impulses should become the rational system of the will's volitions. To grasp them like that, proceeding out of the concept of the will, is the content of the philosophical science of right. 20. When reflection is brought to bear on impulses, they are imaged, estimated, compared with one another, with their means of satisfaction and their consequences, etc., and with a sum of satisfaction (i.e. with happiness). In this way reflection invests this material with abstract universality and in this external manner purifies it from its crudity and barbarity. This growth of the universality of thought is the absolute value in educations (compare Paragraph 187). 21. The truth, however, of this abstract universality, which is indeterminate in itself and finds its determinacy in the material mentioned in Paragraph 20, is self-determining universality, the will, freedom. In having universality, or itself qua infinite form for its object, content, and aim, the will is free not only in itself but for itself also; it is the Idea in its truth. 22. It is the will whose potentialities have become fully explicit which is truly infinite, because its object is itself and so is not in its, eyes an 'other' or a barrier; on the contrary, in its object this will has simply turned backward into itself. Further this will is not mere potentiality, capacity, potency (potentia), but the infinite in actuality (infinitum acts), since the concept's existence or its objective externality is inwardness itself. 23. Only in freedom of this kind is the will by itself without qualification, because then it is related to nothing except itself and so is released from every tie of dependence on anything else. The will is then true, or rather truth itself, because its self-determination consists in a correspondence between what it is in its existence (i.e. what it is as objective to itself) and its concept; or in other words, the pure concept of the will has the intuition of itself for its goal and its reality. 24. The will is then universal, because all restriction and all particular individuality have been absorbed within it. These lie only in the difference between the concept and its content or object, or, to put it otherwise, in the difference between its implicit character and its subjective awareness of itself, or between its universality and its exclusive individuality, the individuality which resolves. 25. The subjective, in relation to the will in general, means the will's self-conscious side, its individuality (see Paragraph 7) in distinction from its implicit concept. The subjectivity of the will means therefore
(α) the pure form of the will, the absolute unity of self-consciousness with itself (a unity in which self-consciousness, as I = I, is purely and simply inward and abstractly self-dependent), the pure certainty, as distinguished from the truth, of individuality;
(β) the particular will as the arbitrary will and the contingent content of optional aims;
(γ) in general, the one-sided form of the will (see Paragraph 8) for which the thing willed, whatever its content, is but a content belonging to self-consciousness and an aim unfulfilled. 26. (α) The will is purely and simply objective in so far as it has itself for its determination and so is in correspondence with its concept and is genuinely a will.
(β) but the objective will, being without the infinite form of self-consciousness, is the will absorbed in its object or condition, whatever the content of these may be; it is the will of the child, the ethical Will, also the will of the slave, the superstitious man, etc.;
(γ) objectivity, finally, is the one-sided form opposed to the subjective volition, and hence it is the immediacy of existence as external reality; the will first becomes objective to itself in this, sense through the fulfillment of its aims. 27. The absolute goal, or, if you like, the absolute impulse, of free mind (see Paragraph 21) is to make its freedom its object, i.e. to make freedom objective as much in the sense that freedom shall be the rational system of mind, as in the sense that this system shall be the world of immediate actuality (see Paragraph 26). In making freedom its object, mind's purpose is to be explicitly, as Idea, what the will is implicitly. The definition of the concept of the will in abstraction from the Idea of the will is 'the free will which wills the free will'. 28. The will's activity consists in annulling the contradiction between subjectivity and objectivity and giving its aims an objective instead of a subjective character, while at the same time remaining by itself even in objectivity. Outside the formal mode of willing (i.e. consciousness, see Paragraph 8) where objectivity is present only as immediate actuality, this activity is in essence the development of the substantive content of the Idea (see Paragraph 21) - a development through which the concept determines the Idea, itself at first abstract, until it becomes a systematized whole. This whole, as what is substantive, is independent of the opposition between a merely subjective aim and its realization and is the same in both despitc their difference in form. 29. An existent of any sort embodying the free will, this is what right is. Right therefore is by definition freedom as Idea. 30. It is only because right is the embodiment of the absolute concept or of self-conscious freedom that it is something sacrosanct. But the exclusively formal character of right (and duty also, as we shall see) arises at a distinct stage in the development of the concept of freedom. By contrast with the right which is comparatively formal (i.e. abstract) and so comparatively restricted, a higher right belongs to the sphere and stage of mind in which mind has determined and actualized within itself the further moments contained in its Idea; and it belongs to this sphere as the sphere which is concretes, intrinsically richer, and more genuinely universal. 31. The method whereby, in philosophic science, the concept develops itself out of itself is expounded in logic and is here likewise presupposed. Its development is a purely immanent progress, the engendering of its determinations. Its advance is not effected by the assertion that various things exist and then by the application of the universal to extraneous material of that sort culled from elsewhere.