At some point before now, in this series, I mentioned the three basic components of man namely the spirit, the soul and the body. Furthermore, I mentioned the three basic components of the soul which are the intellect, emotions and the will. I touched briefly on the considerations regarding the body in evaluating maturity and then we have spent considerable time on the intellect and emotions. So, in this particular post, I’m going to attend to the aspect of the human will.
Science has classified mankind as higher animals. I do not agree with the description however, it’s been said that the one thing we have that the “lower animals” do not have in any form is the will and with that, I agree. Let me explain a little. We have instincts for self preservation, sustenance, reproduction. These drive us to protect ourselves and our loved ones, to seek out and ensure adequate nutrition and to organize ourselves into families in order to have children and it is in the pursuit of these that all our intellect and emotions come into play. Animals have these instincts as well and though I don’t think they have emotions and intellect but just highly specialized instincts, some would argue that they demonstrate behaviours that suggest anger, sadness and so on but I think it’s all just highly developed instincts.
However, no matter how the argument goes, no one argues that these animals have a will. See, the will is the one component that takes charge of your intellect, will, emotions and all the instincts that connect them. The instinct to satisfy hunger may be present and strong but you will still have to choose whether to eat raw potatoes or take the time to prepare them and serve with fish for a more pleasurable experience suggested by your intellect. You have the instinct for self preservation up and running top notch in case of a fire accident or natural disaster yet you would throw away that instinct and jump right back into the fire in an attempt to rescue your kid if you discover he is trapped in the fire. You might have the intellectual capacity to master up to ten different languages but you still have to decide which language to speak per time or choose to not speak at all.
This capacity is the product of our will. It is the choice to suppress the urge for self preservation in the face of danger to the life of someone that is called being a hero. Suppressing the instinct for self sustenance when you find someone else hungry and you decide to share is called compassion. These are the things that, should they be absent in a person, we describe him as being inhumane. In the same way, no matter how forceful your emotions may drive you and the instinct for reproduction may pull you, you don’t just marry the first person you meet, do you? You select by some consciously or unconsciously predetermined parameter and then all your attention and affection is focused on that one person and when asked, you say you’re in love. Yet you could turn right around today to love someone else than the one you loved yesterday. Or should your “love” hurt you, you could forget about it and stop loving him altogether in spite of your feelings about him.
This answers the question as to whether love is a feeling. No. Love is a choice you made to be attracted to a particular person, captivated by the person, committed to him and to give yourself to him. The choice, being accompanied by emotions which only serve to make you feel good about your decision is neither an instinct, nor a product of emotion or intellect, even though they contribute to the selection criteria. It is a decision, a choice and that is a product of your will.
This capacity of your will to choose right from wrong in spite of your feelings about any matter is what makes you a human being. It is what anchors the other aspects of your soul and it is what determines what you do with your body. It is what makes you human. If you, knowing what is right and wrong, do what is wrong, you can’t blame it on some instinct or emotion otherwise you’re a “lesser” animal run by instincts alone but since you’re clearly not an animal, it means you are responsible for what you do because you chose to do it. And if you’re responsible, you’re accountable.
How does the operations of the will factor into assessing maturity?
We’ll pick that up next time.