Relations of Belief and Will
From Principles of Philosophy, vol.2, p.320We shall see in Chapter XXV that will consists in nothing but a manner of attending to certain objects, or consenting to their stable presence before the mind. The objects, in the case of will, are those whose existence depends on our thought, movements of our own body for example, or facts which such movements executed in future may make real. Objects of belief, on the contrary, are those which do not change according as we think regarding them. I will to get up early to-morrow morning; I believe that I got up late yesterday morning; I will that my foreign bookseller in Boston shall procure me a German book and write to him to that effect. I believe that he will make me pay three dollars for it when it comes, etc. Now the important thing to notice is that this difference between the objects of will and belief is entirely immaterial, as far as the relation of the mind to them goes. All that the mind does is in both cases the same; it looks at the object and consents to its existence, espouses it, says it shall be my reality.' It turns to it, in short, in the interested active emotional way. The rest is done by nature, which in some cases makes the objects real which we think of in this manner, and in other cases does not. Nature cannot change the past to suit our thinking. She cannot change the stars or the winds; but she does change our bodies to suit our thinking, and through their instrumentality changes much besides; so the great practical distinction between objects which we may will or unwill, and objects which we can merely believe or disbelieve, grows up, and is of course one of the most important distinctions in the world. Its roots, however, do not lie in psychology, but in physiology; as the chapter on Volition will abundantly make plain. Will and Belief, in short, meaning a certain relation between objects and the Self, are two names for one and the same PSYCHOLOGICAL phenomenon. All the questions which arise concerning one are questions which arise concerning the other. The causes and conditions of the peculiar relation must be the same in both. The free-will question arises as regards belief. If our wills are indeterminate, so must our beliefs be, etc. The first act of free-will, in short, would naturally be to believe in free-will, etc. In Chapter XXVI, I shall mention this again.