Thought Always Presupposes Will

Thought Always Presupposes Will

The converse is equally true. If we can only do what we know how to do, we only know what we wish to know.

Knowing is an activity just as walking is, and, like walking, requires to be set in motion by the operation of the will. To think requires effort ; it can be described as harder or easier ; it is the outcome of a choice which deliberately determines to think and selects a subject of thought. There can be no activity of thought apart from activity of the will.

If this is so, it is no longer possible to uphold the familiar distinction between a life of thought and a life of action. The man of action, the statesman or the soldier, would never be able to act at all but for his intellectual grip on the problems of his profession. The best man of action is not simply the man of iron will, dear to the popular imagination, but the man who has the clearest insight into the necessities and peculiarities of the given situation. Indeed the notion of a strong will in itself, apart from strength of intellect, and still more the worship of an abstract “will to power ” or “ blind will, ” are mere absurdities.

A will to power must know what kinds of power there are to have, and which kind it wants ; and a blind will that did not know what it was doing or what there was to be done would never do anything at all. The student or man of contemplation, on the other hand, does not simply know without willing. He wills to know; and his knowledge is the result of positive hard labour. No moment of thought is conceivable which is not also a volition, and no moment of will is possible which is not also an act of knowledge.

Thus if there is such a thing as the religious life, it must be one which, like any other, involves both thinking and acting ; and the religious life, so conceived, is not, any more than a philosopher’s life or a statesman’s, the mere sum of two different lives. For of the two ingredients neither can ever exist by itself. It must exist in union with the other or not at all. Any real life must contain both elements, each playing as important a part as the other.