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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


June 20th, 1999.

"The Unconquerable Will."1

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
(William Ernest Henley
2, 1849-1903.)

In philosophical or psychological terminology, "will" is a term used to describe the faculty of mind which stimulates, or motivates one to purposeful activity.3 While undoubtedly one's actions are shaped by one's past experiences, the exercise of will, in a healthy person, is normally a free and voluntary action. There are those (certain of the psychiatrists) who believe that a person's will is determined by external influences, -- other factors, such as unconscious motivation or influence. Thus, it follows, no one should be held to account for their actions; a view that has had an odious effect on the whole of society.

___________________

NOTES:

1 Milton's Paradise Lost (i. 106), "All is not lost; the unconquerable Will, And courage never to submit or yield."

2 We read in Chambers where Henley was crippled by tuberculosis and was to spend months in hospital. He was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson

3 It is in the exercise of pure will, we, as Sir Julian Huxley was to assert, banish "the driving force of emotion" ("What Dare I Think?" iv. 143). In Nietzsche's philosophy, will is the driving force behind all human behaviour which should lead to self-mastery.

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Peter Landry

June, 1999 (2011)