[Footnote 64: Putnam: Freud’s Psychoanalytic Method and Its Evolution, p. 34.]
THE HIGHEST KIND OF CHOICE
There is no easier way to enliven any conversation than by dropping the remark that a human being always does what he wants to do. Simple as the statement seems, it is quite enough to quicken the dullest table-talk and loosen the most reticent tongue.
“I don’t do what I want to do,” says the college student. “I want to play tennis every afternoon; but what I do is to sit in a stuffy room and study.”
“I don’t do what I want to do,” says the mother of a family. “At night I want to sit down and read the latest magazine, but what I do is to darn stockings by the hour.”
Nevertheless we shall see that, even in cases like these, each of us is acting in accordance with his strongest desire. There may be—there often is—a bitter conflict, but in the end the desire that is really stronger always conquers and works itself out into action.
It is possible to imagine a situation in which a man would be physically unable to do what he wanted to do. Bound by physical cords, held by prison walls, or weakened by illness, he might be actually unable to carry out his desires. But apart from physical restraint, it is hard to imagine a situation in real life in which a person does not actually do what he wants to do; that is, what in the circumstances he wants to do. This is simply saying in another way that we act in accordance with the emotion which is at the moment strongest.
=Will Is Choice.= Just here we can imagine an earnest protest: “But why do you ignore the human will? Why do you try to make man the creature of feeling? A high-grade man does—not what he wants to do but what he thinks he ought to do. In any person worthy of the adjective ‘civilized’ it is conscience, not desire, which is the motive power of his life.”
It is true: in the better kind of man the will is of central importance; but what is “will”? Let us imagine a raw soldier in the trenches just before a charge into No-Man’s Land. He is afraid, but the word of command comes, and instantly he is a new creature. His fear drops away and, energized by the lust of battle, he rushes forward, obviously driven by the stronger emotion. He goes ahead because he really wants to, and we say that he does not have to use his will.