Two Questions About Volition

 Posted by on 25 August 2004 at 9:26 pm  Uncategorized
Aug 252004

Over the past few months, I’ve been occasionally contemplating the following two questions in the context of the Objectivist theory of volition. So I thought I’d throw them out for general consideration.

  • The choice to focus or not, as our fundamental volitional choice, does not have an efficient cause. But does it have a final cause? In other words, is the choice to focus motivated by the goal of grasping reality? Similarly, are the respective purposes of evasion and drift to avoid unpleasant facts and avoid mental effort? Introspectively, such final causation certainly coheres with my own experience. And if the choice to focus or not is not so motivated, then the act of focusing or not would seem to be arbitrary and without moral significance. Yet sometimes Objectivist scholars speak as if the choice to focus is not motivated, as if that would mean that its not free.
  • What is the relationship between our primary choice (to focus or not) and our derivative choices (e.g. to drive to the store for milk or not, to run three or four miles, to tickle one’s spouse or not)? Given our background context of knowledge and psycho-epistemology, are the derivative choices wholly determined by the ongoing choice to think or not? If not, then what is the relationship between the choice to focus and our other choices? Is some more primitive form of choice involved in ordinary choices?

    Although I haven’t recently reviewed the Objectivist literature on these topics, I have noticed that seemingly contradictory answers to these questions are often advanced by Objectivist scholars. Hence, my questions.

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