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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace 

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 29

The Will As A Power*

By R.J. Rummel

Tho'much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
---- Tennyson, Ulysses

If the self is power, then what is the will? The will is also power. It is that which exerts conscious control over a person's behavior; it is that power of choice between alternative actions;1 it is that which intentionally directs the mind toward thought or action. In short, will is a rational causality belonging to our, the power of practical reason.

That such a will exists is also basic to personal experience. The will is known to us through the effort we often feel necessary to pursue a rational cause against our desires; through the conscious strength of will required to overcome a habit, such as smoking or drinking; through the act of altering our future, as when we decide to get married, to volunteer for military service, or to go to college; through the affirmation of our beliefs and the denial of those of others; and through the dogged determination with which some oppose their enemies, torturers, and executioners. In short, the will is what brings the mind to rational or physical action. It is not rational thinking or doing itself, as when we carry out a logical deduction or make a chess move, but the will is the power to actualize these rational potentials.

Because both the self and the will are powers, what is their relationship? The will is a facet of the self, a particular ability (power) to exercise conscious choice and use practical reason. It is a particularization of the self's power, as is the ego in coordinating and controlling choices, the memory in recalling past experiences and ideas, intelligence in the quality and nature of the choice, and so on. The will, however, is the specific aspect of the self guiding the person through practical reasons toward self-actualization and self-esteem. It is the will as power that enables a person to choose and make 2 his chess moves against nature.

With this understanding of will, I can now make more understandable my use of will in previous chapters. As a power, the will is ontologically a vector. It has direction and strength (length) associated with that direction, and as a distinct power the will is separable as, a vector from the other powers and aspects of the dynamic field. Recall from that a person's behavior is partly the product of the personality and situation on the one hand, and partly the product of behavioral dispositions and expectations on the other. The personality encompasses those powers of the self called abilities and ego, as well as the superego and self-sentiment. It also
Figure 29.1
includes the basic motivational powers, temperamental dispositions, and moods and states. The personality, however, is insufficient by itself to complete the connection between behavioral dispositions and expectations, for there is lacking a rational director to link intentions with situations and behavioral dispositions with expectations. The will is the power of choice; it is the power to bring the person to act in a specific way; it is the mode of transformation of potentials, dispositions, needs, sentiments, and interests into manifestations; it is the active force that adjusts the motivations and temperamental dispositions to one's intentions in a particular situation. As such, the will is a pure vector of power which completes the vector equation called the tetradic structure, as portrayed in Figure 29.1.

For my purposes, little more need be said about the nature of the will and self. The self is power, a facet of which is will. The will is practical reason bringing the person to action. Now, for the question: Do we have a free will? 


* Scanned from Chapter 29 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1 . In spite of Bergson's argument (Time and Free Will, New York: Macmillan, 1910) that choice points are only an ex post facto framework imposed on a continuous process of consciousness and doing, a compelling datum of experience is that there are points in our life where we made a decision among alternatives, and were conscious of doing such at that moment.

2 . The will can bring the body to act, but cannot assure the action itself. The chess board may be overturned before the person can act as determined by the will. This distinction is important in assessing the will's freedom.

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