We learned in Part I that the universe is fully determined and that there is no free will. Spinoza now states this point explicitly, arguing that since the mind is a mode of thinking, it cannot determine itself freely (P48). This means that there is no absolute faculty of willing, that is, no part of the mind which acts autonomously from other parts of the mind. When Spinoza argues that there is no free will, he means that no part of the mind can be the absolute causal origin of an effect. Every part of the mind is determined by other modes of thinking.
Our inadequate knowledge of ourselves, of the necessity of our actions and of the causes that determine us mean that we imagine ourselves to be free. Because we act without knowing the causes of our actions, we imagine our volitions to be their cause. Spinoza illustrates this nicely in Letter 58. He asks his reader to imagine a stone which is pushed to roll down a hill; like the stone, our physical actions are physically determined. Next, he goes on,
Conceive, if you please, that while continuing in motion the stone thinks, and knows that it is striving, as far as it can, to continue in motion. Now this stone, since it is conscious only of its striving and is not at all indifferent, will surely think it is completely free, and that it continues in motion for no other reason than it so wishes. This, then, is that human freedom which all men boast of possessing, and which consists solely in this, that men are conscious of their desire and unaware of the causes by which they are determined. (CW 909, translation modifi ed)
We cannot appeal to the difference between human beings and stones in order to claim that we are free, even if the stone is not. Stones too have minds and desires (albeit very simple ones), and Spinoza utterly denies that our minds are any more free than that of the stone. There are neither freely caused bodily actions nor freely caused thoughts.
Volitions are nothing other than modes of thinking, or ideas, that are part of the mind (P49C Dem.), and thus they must be fully determined; but we imagine that they issue from a faculty which can cause action by itself. The will is therefore not an independent faculty which freely chooses the ideas of the intellect to which it assents (as Descartes believed). Rather, ‘the will and the intellect are one and the same’ (P49C). When we seem to ‘will’ something, we are really just affirming a true idea or denying a false one; something that we are determined to do by the nature of true ideas (P48S, P49S). True ideas include knowledge of their truth, and thus cause us both to affirm them and to deny the truth of the false ones.
And an interesting paradox of free will is that a thing is willed/decided much earlier than when it's actually performed. The decision to do something of one's own choosing occurs much earlier than the execution of the task.
Which I have found a wonderful quoteto help exemplify this point.
Most of the time man does not do what he wills, but what he has willed. Through his decisions, he always gives himself only a certain direction, in which he then moves until the next moment of reflection. We do not will continuously, we only will intermittently, piece by piece. We thus save ourselves from willing: principle of the economy of the will.
he first element of Vygotsky’s theory of self-control is that “in voluntary action, we must differentiate two apparatus that are relatively independent of each other.”
(1) “a conditioned reflex is constructed” – an internal change in the subject’s nervous system, and then at a later time:
(2) “the actuating apparatus, that is, the functioning of the cerebral connection already formed in this way,” when the subject acts.
If we were to consider how an athlete or artist or mathematician achieves a particular feat, there are two phases: first a protracted process of training their bodies to respond to artificial stimuli in certain complex ways, and secondly the performance of the feat by the activation of the self-constructed bodily apparatus. In this second phase, the various forms of action have been mastered and are executed with conscious control, but without conscious direction of the individual reactions. ('Consciousness’ includes those processes which, while not part of conscious awareness, can move into conscious awareness in response to events.)
So we must first know how to do a thing, have knowledge/mastered the action consciously before we can then consciously use such a means.
So in training our bodies to do certain actions, we create an apparatus that is like a conditioned reflex as discovered by Pavlov. Then we can have that same reflex activated in the appropriate circumstances.
Then the issue becomes to the decision making process and how we can decide between different acting apparatus, how to act.
A second important distinction Vygotsky makes is that between motives and stimuli.
(1) A stimulus triggers a conditioned reflex which has been trained and is part of (2) an elaborate system of interconnected stimuli and reflexes which constitute the internal form of a motive. Every form of action is directed and organized by some motive, and when conflicting motives arise, these apparatuses can be combined in complex ways to resolve the conflict.
When a subject is faced with a conflict of motives (e.g., needing to get out of bed but still wanting to rest), the subject will voluntarily introduce an artificial stimulus which they use to resolve the conflict (an alarm clock or telling themselves “I will get up on the count of 3, ...”).
These artificial stimuli which the subject uses to train and control their response to stimuli are provided by their social and cultural surroundings. Adults purposely direct the actions of infants in their care and in doing so introduce these stimuli. Later, children appropriate these same stimuli to “command” themselves. By school age, a child is able to exercise what must be recognized as free will and a significant level of control of their own behavior, while remaining culturally and socially dependent on the conditions of their existence, beyond their control.
“Freedom of will is not freedom from motives.” Yes, though the ability to educate one’s own motives is crucial to the attainment of a genuinely free will, something which may or may not be attained to some degree in the course of an adult life.
And this is the really interesting part of how man can mediate his own actions such that he isn't purely externally determined but can use artefacts to mediate his decisions.
The classic example Vygotsky's uses is in regards to being in a room without a determined purpose and thus subject to the external environment and having to decide between conflicting motives, to say or to go.
As his experiments have shown, human behavior that does not have a specific intention is subject to the power of the situation. Every thing requires some kind of action, elicits, excites, actualizes some kind of reaction. The typical behavior of a person waiting in an empty room with nothing to do is characterized mainly by the fact that he is at the mercy of the environment. Intention is also based on creating an action in response to a direct need of things or, as Lewin says, coming out of the surrounding field. The intention to mail the letter creates a situation in which the first mailbox acquires the capability of determining our behavior, but in addition, with intention, an essential change in the person’s behavior occurs. The person, using the power of things or stimuli, controls his own behavior through them, grouping them, putting them together, sorting them. In other words, the great uniqueness of the will consists of man having no power over his own behavior other than the power that things have over his behavior. But man subjects to himself the power of things over behavior, makes them serve his own purposes and controls that power as he wants. He changes the environment with his external activity and in this way affects his own behavior, subjecting it to his own authority.
That in Lewin’s experiments we are actually speaking of such control of oneself through stimuli is easy to see from his example. The subject is asked to wait for a long time and to no purpose in an empty room. She vacillates – to leave or to continue waiting, a conflict of motives occurs. She looks at her watch; this only reinforces one of the motives, specifically, it is time to go, it is already late. Until now the subject was exclusively at the mercy of the motives, but now she begins to control her own behavior. The watch instantly constituted a stimulus that acquires the significance of an auxiliary motive. The subject decides “When the hands of the watch reach a certain position, I will get up and leave.” Consequently, she closes a conditioned connection between the position of the hands and her leaving; she decides to leave through the hands of the watch and she acts in response to external stimuli, in other words, she introduces an auxiliary motive similar to the dice or the count “one, two, three” for getting up. In this example, it is very easy to see how a change in the functional role of the stimulus, its conversion to an auxiliary motive, occurs.
So here the woman uses the watch to mediate her decision to then actually leave.
This I think relates quite well to Marx's ontological relation between man and (humanized/artificial) nature where we we control our selves through the environment which we shape to our needs.
In other words: nature determines (causes, affects) man, who in turn determines (works upon) nature. Thus man is indirectly self-determining, mediated by nature. This reciprocal determination of man and nature is what Marx means by “praxis".
And this is pivotla to Vygotsky's emphasis on the mediation of our own activity via artefacts such as signs and other objects.
Human behaviour according to Vygotsky is neither controlled nor directed by immediate means based on pure acts of will, but is moved indirectly through the use of signs and tools. The modification of the world by human activity creates an artificiality (or ‘artefactuality’) of conditions. Within such artificial and man-made conditions volition can be directed/mediated (caused), but in these circumstances the cause of an action arises through man’s own creations/artefacts and not merely in response to external determinations. The ‘ability to conform to the dictates of no particular situation, but to any’ (Bakhurst, 1991, p.251) provides for human beings the possibility of a universality not available to animals which do no more than respond directly to environmental determinations i.e. without conscious mediation or reflection. What is significant in the analysis of these issues in Vygotsky’s work, is the symbiotic relation between the development of consciousness and scientific concepts, the ability to operate actively on matter rather than being its passive subject.
We can only achieve freedom by altering our position in relation to external determinations or as Vygotsky put it, by creating extrinsic stimuli.
The point then is that we aren't simply subject to the external world but because we have shaped the external world with prior human activity, we can use the world to mediate ourselves towards specific ends.
A rather interesting point of how the intellect is implicated in the will can be see in examples where there are distortions of a person's ability to control/direct themselves.
In cases of amnesic aphasia, in which there is a dissociation from the capacity for concept formation, impairing the use of language as a means of communication, the will also regress to its lower state, because there is no symbolic formation of the action, affecting the possibility of structuring intentions and making decisions based on the will. This fact shows another important characteristic of the will as a higher psychological function: it is possible to associate it with the symbolic formation of thinking and to perceive that the volitional action begins even before its execution (Vygotsky, 1931/2006a).
The cases of aphasia also highlight the importance of mediation structures for the expression of the will. Goldstein (1950) describes the case of a patient who could not obey a command to ‘close his eyes’, but when asked to simulate how his eyes stayed when he slept was then able to close them. Referring to this report, Vygotsky (1932/2003) infers that when the patient pretends to be asleep, the closing of the eyes does not result from an action of control of his own body, but is only a reflex action. This example corroborates Vygotsky’s idea that the will directed to an end is not regulated by a simple relationship between a stimulus and a response, but is necessarily permeated by auxiliary stimuli/means that form the signs and are fundamental to controlling volitional acts.
In the above, the emphasis on the sign, which becomes internalize and part of consciousness, is that we can mediate things like emotions and our will by the intellect which uses signs to guide certain concepts which aren't just ideas in one's head but about modes of action.
The existence of some sense of a free will (self determination, not free from influence) can be seen in the case where one isn't simply driven by impulse of pleasure or pain which is sufficiently explained in a behaviorist stimulus-response conditioning framework. Such that we don't follow the path of least resistance necessarily.
Another substantial psychological change in the process of selection is that here we have an explanation of the basic problem of voluntary action which was left essentially unresolved on the basis of empirical psychology. We have in mind the well-known illusion that always arises with a voluntary act and consists in that the voluntary act is directed as if along a line of greatest resistance. We select what is more difficult and call only such a choice voluntary.
William James recognized this problem as being unsolvable on the basis of a scientific deterministic view of the will and had to admit the intrusion of spiritual force, the voluntary “yes, let it be!” “Yes, let it be” (“fiat” – the word with which God created the world). Selection of the word itself is very indicative. If we conceal the philosophy of this term, we can easily see that, in essence, hidden behind it is the following idea. To explain the voluntary act, for example, the fact that a person on the operating table represses cries of pain and stretches out to the surgeon the affected member despite a direct impulse that would make him pull his arm away and scream, science cannot say anything else except that here we have a repetition of an act like the creation of the world, but of course on a microscopic scale. This means that explaining a voluntary act led the scientist standing on empirical ground to a purely biblical teaching on the creation of the world.
The relevance of the auxiliary motifs in this process is also evident for Vygotsky when investigating situations that the individual would usually avoid, but in which the construction of a meaning or purpose linked to his volitional act increases or supports his choice. For example, people persist in a hunger strike or endure intense pain due to the establishment of an auxiliary motive (e.g. an ideological project or a religious promise) that gives meaning to that decision (Vygotsky, 1931/1995c).
And I think a strong point in Spinoza's rejection of a pure will, and in emphasizing the unity of adequate ideas in guiding the will (along with affect) is that the will is guided by the necessity of the situation. When one understands something, they might be propelled to a certain outcome but they still must decide. Two people may perform exactly same actions but the quality of their actions may differ where one is free whilst the other was not because the quality of the action isn't determined in performing some behaviour. I think I'm getting closer to how freedom relates to necessity, where in recognizing/understanding something, we can guide it to our chosen ends rather than be guided by it.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing that the psychologist can now say about will is the following: will develops and is the product of the cultural development of the child. Self-control and the principles and means of this control do not differ basically from control over the environment. Man is part of nature, his behavior is a natural process, and controlling it forms like all control of nature, according to Bacon’s principle that “nature is overcome by subjection.” Not in vain does Bacon place control of nature and control of intellect in one order; he says that the bare hand and the mind taken in themselves do not mean much – the deed is done with tools and auxiliary means.
But no one expressed with such clarity the general idea that freedom of will is derived from and develops in the process of the historical development of humanity as did Engels. He says: “Not in the imaginary independence of laws of nature does freedom lie, but in recognizing these laws and, based on this, knowing the possibilities of systematically making the laws of nature work toward certain goals. This refers both to laws of external nature and to laws that govern the bodily and mental existence of man himself – that there are two classes of laws that can be separated from each other is the most important thing in our concept which is by no means far from reality. Consequently, freedom of will means nothing other than the ability to make a decision with knowledge of the matter” (Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 116). In other words, Engels places in one order the control of nature and control of self. Freedom of will with respect to one and the other is, for him as for Hegel, understanding necessity.
Engels says: “Consequently, freedom is based on recognizing the needs of nature (Naturnotwendigheiten), control of ourselves and of external nature; for this reason, it is an indispensable product of historical development. The first humans coming out of the animal kingdom were in all essentials as lacking in freedom as the animals; but each step forward on the path of culture was a step toward freedom” (ibid.).
In this, will doesn't contradict any laws of nature, the will isn't some spiritual force independent of nature, our self mastery is akin to our mastery of natural forces themselves and relates well to the sense that in working with the nature of things actually gives us great control, limited but control still.
One of its central ideas is that of wu-wei, (‘doing nothing’), a kind of behaviour which involves the acceptance of what is inevitable or unavoidable in our experience; thereby reducing the friction and drag caused by obstinate commitment to a single preferred course of action or outcome. Some of the best examples of wu-wei are to be found in the know-how of craftsmen.
In this way, the most efficient and effective way of overcoming problems or adversity is by noncontention or yielding, which is not the same as submission or capitulation, but involves exercising control through using the power of one’s opponent to overbalance him, exemplified in some Chinese martial arts.
To be a cause of ourselves is to understand the causes of things on ourselves properly, to have adequate ideas of the world and our place within it that we can make a conscious rather than arbitrary decision. One in which we use artefacts to mediate our decisions to certain ends.
Which all of which has touched little on the importance of emotions as an active force, feedback and sign of the pursuit of certain motives/ends.