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José Víctor Orón Semper, researcher of the 'group Mente-cerebro ' del Institute for Culture and Society
Terms and mentalities. Will
I do what I want! This phrase could be seen as an exercise of freedom, where one voluntarily decides to do something. But if one has lived long enough, one discovers not only how many times one has been wrong in maintaining that position, but also doubts arise about the real inner and personal reasons for such a decision. That is to say, it is not only a topic of lack of knowledge or of a wrong knowledge , but we suspect that we have not finished deciding ourselves. Perhaps we are suffering ourselves, suffering from our own past wounds. In such a case, we are convinced that we have chosen ourselves, but who has chosen? Have I chosen or have I suffered myself?
Basically, there are two ways of understanding the will. Some think that the will is the School that allows us to decide what to do and/or carry it out; while others think that the will is the School that allows us to decide what subject person to be.
Those who think that the will allows me to decide what to do, ignore that this has already been decided by the intelligence when it knows reality.
A Confucianist, Wang Yangming, was of the opinion that to know something is to say what subject relationship you want to have with what you know. Then, by knowing, one has already decided what to do. On the other hand, from pedagogy it is thought that to know something is to remember the experiences lived in relation to that object. In this case, when the child knows what a chair is, what it does is to recognize the experience lived in relation to the chair (it holds the back, the feet hang, it rests, etc.). Neuroscience confirms that children access what we adults call the semantic report (what things are in themselves. For example, describing the tower of Pisa in itself) as a function of the episodic report (the relationship one has had with that object. For example, visiting with the family the tower of Pisa). So to know something is to know a way of interacting with it.
On the other hand, there are people who think that intelligence serves to know what things are in themselves. In such a case, it is logical that they think that the will serves to know what to do and to do it. Those who love the "must be" in the style of Kant propose that the will has to limit itself to assenting to what intelligence tells it sample. Others, of a very emotivist cut, for whom emotions are decisive, end up schizophrenically breaking the human being, since intelligence can go on one side and emotion on the other and, obviously, it is the emotion that must be listened to.
But when the will is limited to doing what the emotions suggest, what is being done? For example, a young man says, "I hate my father". If the young man decides to be driven by "hate" and hits his father, some would say that "emotions" have hijacked his intelligence. But if the intelligence is the one who sample what to do, does this mean that in the human being there are several instances of decision? Plato, for example, understood it this way and gave the example of the charioteer who leads the chariot with two horses: the one of reason and the one of emotion and one could run wild. Is such a split possible in the human being? Is there a healthy schizophrenia? I think not. When the young man who says he hates his father hits him, he is doing an intelligent act, because the action will depend on how he interprets hatred. If he interprets hatred as a reflection of his father's tyranny and therefore sees his father as manager of hatred, it is normal for him to charge against him. But if he interprets hatred as a reflection of the frustration of wanting to meet his father and not being able to, he will not say that his father is the cause, but rather the inability to find the form of meeting. In such a case the action would be quite different. So there would be only one horse. Emotion is the reflection of how a person with a particular history positions and understands a particular event. Emotion informs how the fit between one's life and the present status is produced according to the activity and expectations with which one faces that fact. Thus, they inform us of the confluence of many elements, but not of the elements that enter into relationship. Therefore, emotions do not serve to judge. No feeling can be understood apart from the complexity of life. Therefore, when we popularly say "he was carried away by emotions", we really say "he was carried away by an incomplete understanding of reality". In such a case, the so-called emotional decisions, before which it seems that the will can only nod, are decisions where we suffer from our ignorance and where defense mechanisms that we have created to defend ourselves from wounds that have not healed may emerge. Deciding in such a status, makes us behave in a kind of "survival mode" to try to defend ourselves. In such a case, we suffer ourselves and make others suffer.
It is curious, but both those who bet on intelligence as the absolute queen to which everyone submits, and those who bet on emotions to decide coincide in affirming that it is one thing to know and another to act. There is an intermediate position that manages to unite the duty to be with the emotions: they are the Spartans who emotivize the duty to be and sacrifice their lives for it. This is brilliantly shown at sample in the movie 300, in which the soldiers shout "Aú, aú, aú!" to the cry of "Spartans".
But what I maintain is that intelligence serves to know what to do, so the will is not there for it. Nor would it be for what others call perseverance, although that is what is maintained when one ordinarily speaks of "will power". The intelligence has already seen everything that had to be seen and has already decided everything that had to be said in relation to the object. So what is it for?
I was saying that intelligence has already seen everything it had to see in relation to the object, so it does not have to decide anything about the object. On the other hand, the human being knows (or should know) that in his decisions he is deciding much more what to do, he is deciding what subject person to be. Aristotle already said this. In such a way that, when stealing, one is not deciding to steal that object, but, in some way, one is deciding to be a thief. Vygostky, from another very different perspective, had a very similar opinion, since he maintained that the will was to assent to the meaning of something and that meaning is always social, so that one is accepting a way of relating to others.
This way of understanding willpower is not the most widespread today. The most widespread in the social-emotional world is what I call "blowing up balloons"; some coaches and motivators put all the burden on attitude or self-motivation. It seems that the important thing in life is the decision with which one decides to look at the world. Attitude would be the way you approach reality, and if that attitude is energizing and overwhelming, so will be that person's life. The core topic is in believing it. If you believe it, you can do anything. With energizing words they are inflating the occasional student (you have thousands of examples on YouTube). But like any balloon that swells, it swells with air and if it swells too much, it explodes.
The will, in such cases, is that decision to look at reality from a point of view, whichever one decides, and contemplates oneself in advance as a winner. "Smoke salesmen". They say that everyone can work on their attitude. By speaking in this way they convey the image that, at final, one can create oneself by creating one's attitude. With this simplified proposal they distort what attitude is. It is true that the decision one makes affects the attitude, but the attitude is not determined by the decision alone, nor is it entirely determined by the decision. Without saying so, people end up thinking that "today I can be born", as if one had not been born. Above all, they ignore that there are many elements that intervene in the training of the attitude: all the past experiences and the way of understanding them. It also ignores that the human being does not function sectorially, as if one could make a decision about one's attitude and not realize that one should first recompress and remake one's life. They ignore that growth in life does not begin with the decision of where to go, but with the acceptance of everything received. They ignore many things about the complexity of life. With this attitudinal swelling, the way of growing ends up being unreal, even pathological, because it does not generate unity of life, but a distance between the life before and the life after the decision.
Nor is the will to inflate balloons. Years ago, numerous motivational phrases were proposed: "you are worth it", "you can do it", etcetera for the teacher or the parent to articulate to student or to the child. And although psychology itself has already shown the unreality of this affective intoxication, it is being recovered by those who propose self-accentuation of one's own attitude. But, whether the balloon is inflated by oneself or by others, it is always inflated with air, and be careful that it does not burst!
Instead, we propose that the will is really there to welcome at the level staff what intelligence, which is always emotional and active, presents to us. The will, thus seen, is making the future present in the decision making, but it does it at the level staff, because it is deciding which subject of interpersonal relationship to have. For, let us not forget that, in all our decisions, in truth, what we are deciding is how to relate to others. Thus, in the acts of will we decide which subject person to be by accepting the action at staff level. To welcome it at the level staff is to welcome what the action implies at the level staff. As we said before, by stealing one accepts to be a thief. That is what the will decides.
Thus, to educate the will of children and young people is to help them to see the transcendence of the actions taken in their affectation in interpersonal relationships. To educate the will is not to educate to a mere obedience consisting in repeating what is indicated. Educating in this way would not educate the will, because there is no choice and without choice there is no activation of the will. What we propose is that educating the will is to help children and young people to see that their decisions have a clear transcendence in the affectation of interpersonal relationships and that in each action we are deciding how to relate to others and, when deciding that, we are deciding what subject person we are.
That should be the real vocational orientation in schools. Instead, they deform collegial guidance, since they reduce it to choosing a degree program based on the expected professional success. A good vocational orientation should help people decide what to do with their lives in order to improve the interpersonal relationships they live and would like to live with future people they do not yet know.