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Statement of the question. On the will as impulsive power. 
On the will as inhibitory power. Role of the individual 
character. On choice ; its nature i 


Division of the diseases of the will. On abulia, or incapacity 
for willing: example of Thomas DeQuincy. Case reported 
by Billod. Probable causes of this state. Two hypoth- 
eses : weakness of impulse, alteration of motor images ; 
comparison with psychic paralyses. Analogous states ; 
agoraphobia ; doubting madness ; cases which border on 
extinction. Incapacity for effort. Its two forms. Where 
is its source ? 26 


Sudden and unconscious impulses. Irresistible impulses with 
consciousness. Imperceptible transition from the healthy 
to the morbid state: fixed ideas. Dislocation of the will. 
Its probable causes. Impairments by intoxication, by 
cerebral lesion 54 


Intellectual power and volitional impotence. Coleridge : his 
portrait by Carlyle. Two forms of impairment. Nature 
of the attention. It has its source in the feelings. How 
it is maintained 72 





Incapacity of the will to form itself : absence of its conditions 
of existence. The hysterical character. Whence the in- 
stability comes 86 


Two states of extinction. Ecstasy. Its description by St. 
Teresa. Anomaly of this mental state. Somnambulism : 
cases of absolute extinction. Doubtful cases. Examples 
of resistance. Illusion of volitional power in some hyp- 
notised persons 94 


The will is the final term of a progressive evolution of which 
the simple reflex is the first. It is a hierarchic co-ordina- 
tion. Law of dissolution of the will : its course. Verifi- 
cation by pathological facts. Material conditions of voli- 
tional co-ordination. Its physiological development. Its 
psychological development. Principal forms of this co- 
ordination. The will in idiots. The will is the result of 
a co-ordination and an evolution. General conclusion : 
The will is a mere state of consciousness which has in it- 
self no efficacy to produce a movement or an inhibition. . 112 

Index 135 



IN recent years several authors, especially in for- 
eign countries, have given a detailed exposition of cer- 
tain branches of psychology according to the principle 
of evolution. It has seemed to me that there would 
be some profit in treating these questions in the same 
spirit, but under another form, that of dissolution. 

I propose, then, in this work to attempt for the will 
what I have formerly done for the memory ; to study 
its anomalies, and to draw from this study conclusions 
regarding its normal state. In very many respects the 
question is less easy ; the term will designates some- 
thing more vague than the term memory. Whether 
one considers memory as a function, a property, or a 
faculty, it remains none the less a stable mode of be- 
ing, a psychic disposition, regarding which all the 
world can come to an agreement. The will, on the 
contrary, resolves itself into volitions, each one of 
which is an element, an unstable form of activity, a re- 
sultant varying according to the causes that produce it. 

Beyond this first difficulty there is another which 
may appear greater still, but of which we will not hesi- 
tate to summarily disembarrass ourselves. Can the 
pathology of the will be studied without touching upon 
the inextricable problem of free will? This abstention 


appears to us possible and even necessary. It is imposed 
not by timidity, but by method. Like every other experi- 
mental science, psychology ought to rigorously forbid 
itself all research relative to first causes. The problem 
of free will is of this order. One of the great services 
of the criticism of Kant and his successors has been to 
show that the problem of liberty reduces itself to the 
question whether one can go outside the chain of effects 
and causes so as to posit an absolute beginning. That 
power " which calls up, suspends, or banishes," as it 
is defined by a contemporary who has studied it pro- 
foundly,* can be affirmed only on the condition of en- 
tering into metaphysics. 

Here we have nothing of the sort to attempt. Ex- 
perience, internal and external, is our sole object ; its 
limits are our limits. We take the volitions as facts, 
with their immediate causes, that is to say, the motives 
which produce them, without investigating whether 
these causes suppose other causes ad tnfimtum, or 
whether there is added to them some degree of spon- 
taneity. The question is thus placed in a form equally 
acceptable to the determinists and their adversaries, 
and reconcilable with either hypothesis. We hope, 
moreover, to conduct our researches in such a manner 
that the absence of any solution of this point will not 
even so much as once be noticed. 

I shall try to show at the conclusion of this study 
that in every voluntary act there are two entirely dis- 
tinct elements : the state of consciousness, the " I 
will," which indicates a situation, but which has in itself 
no efficacy ; and a very complex psycho-physiological 
mechanism, in which alone resides the power to act or 
to restrain. As this general conclusion can only be the 

* Renouvier, Essai de critique generate, second edition, i, 395-406. 


result of partial conclusions furnished by pathology, I 
will avoid provisionally in this introduction any sys- 
tematic view ; I shall limit myself to studying the will 
in its double mechanism of impulse and inhibition, and 
in its source the individual character neglecting all 
the details which do not concern our subject.* 

The fundamental principle which dominates the 
psychology of the will under its impulsive form, in the 
healthy as well as in the morbid state, is that every 
state of consciousness always has a tendency to express 
itself, to manifest itself by a movement, an act. This 
principle is only one particular case, peculiar to psy- 
chology, of this fundamental law : that the reflex is 
the sole type of all neural action, of all relational life. 
Properly speaking, activity in the animal is not a be- 
ginning but an end, not a cause but an effect, not an 
initiation but a continuation. That is the most essen- 
tial point, which must never be lost sight of and which 
alone explains the physiology and the pathology of the 
will, because this tendency of the state of conscious- 
ness to expend itself in a psychological or physiological 
act, conscious or unconscious, is the simple fact to 
which all the highest combinations and complications 
of voluntary activity are reducible. 

The new-born child is, as Virchow has defined it, 
" a mere spinal being." Its activity is purely reflex, 
and manifests itself by such a profusion of movements 

* There will be found in Schneider's recent work, Der menschliche Wille 
vom Standpunkte der neueren Entwickelungstheorien (Berlin, 1882), a good 
monograph on the will in its normal state and from the point of view of evo- 
lution. We regret not to have made its acquaintance before this work was al- 
most completed. 


that the work of education will consist for a long time 
in suppressing or restraining the greater number of 
them. This diffusion of reflexes, which has its ground 
in anatomical relations, manifests in all its simpli- 
city the transformation of excitation into movement. 
Though they be conscious or awaken a rudiment of 
consciousness, in any case they do not represent a vol- 
untary activity ; they properly express only the activ- 
ity of the species, what has been acquired, organised 
and fixed by heredity ; but they are the materials out 
of which the will is to be built up. 

Desire marks an ascending stage between the re- 
flex and the voluntary conditions. We understand by 
desire the most elementary forms of the affective life, 
the only ones that can be produced so long as the in- 
tellect is not born. Physiologically they do not differ 
from reflex movements of a complex kind. Psycho- 
logically they differ from them only by the state of con- 
sciousness, often very intense, which accompanies 
them. Their tendency to express themselves in acts is 
immediate and irresistible, like that of reflexes. In the 
natural state, and in so far as it is yet free from all ad- 
mixture, desire tends to satisfy itself immediately ; 
that is its law, it is inscribed in the organism. Little 
children and savages furnish excellent examples of it. 
In the adult, desire is no longer in the natural state ; 
education, habit, and reflexion modify or restrain it. 
But it often reasserts its rights, and history shows us 
that in the case of despots, placed by their own opin- 
ion and that of others above the law, it always retains 

Pathology will show us that this form of activity is 
augmented when the will grows weak, and persists 
when it disappears. It marks, however, a progress 


beyond the first period, for it denotes a commencement 
of individuality. On the common ground of the spe- 
cific activity, the desires outline vaguely the individual 
character ; they reflect the mode of reaction of a par- 
ticular organism. 

As soon as a sufficient accumulation of experiences 
has permitted intellect to arise, there is produced a 
new form of activity, for which the epithet of ideo- 
motor is most convenient, ideas being causes of move- 
ments. That name has, moreover, the advantage of 
showing its relationship with reflexes, of which it is 
only an improvement. 

How can an idea produce movement? That is a 
question which very much embarrassed the old psy- 
chology, but which becomes simple when the facts are 
considered in their true nature. It is a truth now acH 
cepted in cerebral physiology that the anatomical basis L 
of all our mental states includes both motor and sen- ( 
sory elements. I will not dwell upon a question which J 
has been treated elsewhere in detail * and would neces- 
sitate a digression. Let us simply remember that our 
perceptions, in particular the important ones, those of 
sight and touch, imply as integral elements movements 
of the eye or the members ; and that if movement is an 
essential element when we see an object really, it must 
play the same role when we see it ideally. Images 
and ideas, even abstract, suppose an anatomical sub- 
stratum in which the movements are in some measure 

It is true that, on pressing the point more closely, 
it might be said that it is necessary to distinguish two 
kinds of motor elements : those which serve to consti- 
tute a state of consciousness, and those which serve to 

* Revue philosophique \ October, 1879, p. 371, et seq. 


expend it ; the first intrinsic, the others extrinsic. The 
idea of a ball, for example, is the resultant of impres- 
sions of surfaces and of special muscular adjustments ; 
but the latter are the result of muscular sensibility, 
and, in this aspect, are sensations of movement rather 
than movements properly so called ; they are constit- 
uent elements of our idea rather than a manner of ex- 
pressing it outwardly. 

At the same time, this close relation established by 
physiology between the idea and the movement per- 
mits us in some degree to perceive how one produces 
the other. In reality, an idea does not produce a 
movement : that sudden and remarkable change of 
function would be a marvellous thing. The sudden 
production of a play of the muscles by an idea, such 
as defined by metaphysicians, would be scarcely less 
than a miracle. It is not the state of consciousness as 
such, but rather the corresponding physiological state 
which transforms itself into an act. In short, the re- 
lation is not between a psychical event and a move- 
ment, but between two states of the same kind, be- 
tween two physiological states, two groups of nervous 
elements, one sensory and the other motor. If one 
insists upon making of consciousness a cause, all re- 
mains obscure ; but if it is considered as simply the 
accompaniment of a nervous process, which alone is 
the essential element, all becomes clear and the imag- 
inary difficulties vanish. 

This admitted, we can classify ideas roughly into 
three groups, according as their tendency to transform 
themselves into action is strong, moderate, or weak 
and even, in a certain sense, null. 

i) The first group includes extremely intense in- 
tellectual states, of which fixed ideas may serve as a 


type. They pass into action with a fatality and rapid- 
ity almost equal to those of reflexes. These are the 
ideas which " take hold of us." The old psychology, 
affirming a fact of common experience, said in its own 
language that the intellect acts upon the will only 
through the mediation of sensibility. Leaving aside 
those entities, this signifies that the nervous state corre- 
sponding to an idea expresses itself so much the better 
in movements according as it is accompanied by those 
other nervous states, whatever they may be, which cor- 
respond to sentiments. The phraseology thus changed, 
it can be understood why, in the case before us, we 
are so near the preceding phase, and why the nervous 
action is more energetic and affects a greater number 
of elements. 

Most of the passions, as soon as they transcend 
the level of mere appetite, enter into this group as 
principles of action. The whole difference is one of 
degree, according as the affective elements predomi- 
nate in the complex thus formed or the reverse.* 

2) The second group is the most important for us. 
It represents the rational activity, the will in the usual 
sense of the word. The conception is followed by an 
act after a short or long deliberation. It will be found, 
upon reflexion, that the greater part of our actions fall 
under this type, leaving aside habits and the forms 
already described. Whether I rise up in order to take 

* The relative independence of the idea and the feeling as causes of move- 
ment is clearly established by certain pathological cases. It sometimes hap- 
pens that the idea of a movement is by itself alone incapable of producing 
it, but if emotion ensue it is produced. A man stricken with paralysis cannot 
move his arm by any effort of will ; while it will be observed to be violently 
agitated under the influence of an emotion caused by the arrival of a friend. 
In cases of softening of the spinal marrow inducing paralysis, an emotion, or 
a question addressed to the patient, may cause most violent movements in the 
lower members over which his will has no control. 


the air at my window or enlist in order to become one 
day a general, there is only the difference between a 
less and a greater, a volition very complex and at long 
range like the last necessarily resolving itself into a 
series of simple volitions successively adapted to times 
and places. 

In this group the tendency to the act is neither in- 
stantaneous nor violent. The concomitant affective 
state is moderate. Very many actions which form the 
ordinary routine of our life were at first accompanied 
by a feeling of pleasure, curiosity, etc. Now the prim- 
itive sentiment has become enfeebled, but the bond 
between the idea and the act has been established ; 
when the one arises the other follows. 

3) In abstract ideas, the tendency to movement is 
at its minimum. These ideas being representations 
of representations, pure schemata, extracts fixed by a 
symbol, the motor element is diminished in the same 
degree as the representative element. If all the forms 
of activity which we have just passed in review be con- 
sidered as successive complications of the simple re- 
flex, we might say that abstract ideas are a collateral 
ramification, which is attached feebly to the principal 
trunk, and has developed in its own way. Their motor 
tendency is reduced to that interior utterance, slight 
as it may be, which accompanies them, or to the 
awakening of some other state of consciousness. For 
just as in physiology the centrifugal period of a reflex 
does not always end in a movement, but as likely in 
the secretion of a gland or a trophic action ; in the 
same way, in psychology, a state of consciousness ends 
not always in a movement but in the resurrection of 
other states of consciousness according to the well- 
known mechanism of association. 


The contrast so often noted between the specula- 
tive minds that dwell among abstractions, and prac- 
tical people, is only the visible and palpable expression 
of those psychological conditions that we have just 
pointed out. Let us recall again, by way of elucida- 
tion, a few well-worn truths : the difference between 
knowing the good and practising it, seeing the absurd- 
ity of a belief and getting rid of it, condemning a pas- 
sion and renouncing it. All this is explained by the 
extremely feeble motor tendency of an isolated idea. 
We are ignorant of the anatomical and physiological 
conditions necessary for the production of an abstract 
idea, but we can affirm without temerity that by the 
time it becomes a motive of action other elements are 
added to it ; which happens with those who "are de- 
voted to an idea." (Man is led by his feelings alone.} 



In the light of the preceding observations, voluntary 
activity appears to us as a stage in that ascending evo- 
lution which goes from the simple reflex, whose ten- 
dency to movement is irresistible, to the abstract idea, 
where the tendency to act is at its minimum. Neither 
the commencement nor the end can be rigorously fixed, 
the transition from one form to the other being almost 

Designedly, and for the sake of clearness, we have 
not examined the problem in all its complexity. We 
have even eliminated one of the essential and charac- 
teristic elements of will. As it has hitherto been con- 
sidered it might be defined : A conscious act more or 
less deliberate, in view of an end simple or complex, 
near or remote. It is thus that contemporary authors 


such as Maudsley and Lewes appear to understand 
it, when they define it as " impulse by ideas " or "the 
motor reaction of feelings and ideas." Thus under- 
stood, volition would simply be a laisser-faire. But it 
is quite another thing. It is also a power of arresta- 
tion, or, in the language of physiology, an inhibitive 

For the psychology founded upon interior observa- 
tion alone, this distinction between permitting and 
preventing has little importance ; but for the psychology 
which asks from the physiological mechanism some 
enlightenment on the operations of the mind, and 
which considers the reflex as the type of all activity, 
it is of capital importance. 

The prevailing doctrine supposes that the will is a 
fiat which the muscles obey, one knows not how. In 
this hypothesis, it matters little whether the fiat com- 
mands a movement or a cessation of movement. But 
if it be admitted, with all contemporary physiologists, 
that the reflex is the type and basis of all action, and if, 
consequently, there is no room to inquire why a state of 
consciousness transforms itself into movement, since 
that is the law, it must be explained why it does not so 
transform itself. Unhappily physiology is full of ob- 
scurities and indecisions upon this point. 

The most simple case of the phenomenon of stop- 
ping or inhibition consists in the suspension of the move- 
ments of the heart by an excitation of the pneumogas- 
tric or vagus nerve. The heart is known to be inner- 
vated, independently of the intra-cardiac nerve-ganglia, 
by filaments coming from the great sympathetic, which 
accelerate its pulsations, and by filaments from the 

The section of these last augments the movements ; 


the excitation of the central terminus, on the contrary, 
suspends them for a longer or shorter time. It is then 
a nerve of- arrestation, and the inhibition is generally 
considered as the result of an interference. The reflex 
activity of the cardiac centres is retarded or suspended 
by the excitations coming from the medulla. In other 
words, the motor action of the pneumogastric expends 
itself in the cardiac centres which are in a state of ac- 
tivity, and produces an inhibition. All this has no 
immediate psychological bearing, but here is some- 
thing that concerns us more. 

It is a well-known fact that the reflex excitability of 
the spinal cord increases when it is withdrawn from 
the action of the brain. The condition of decapitated 
animals furnishes striking proofs of it. Without hav- 
ing recourse to these extreme cases, we know that re- 
flexes are much more intense during sleep than in the 
waking state. In order to explain this fact some au- 
thors have supposed the existence in the brain of cen- 
tres of arrest. Setschenow placed them in the optic 
thalami and the region of the corpora quadrigemina. 
He relied upon the fact that by exciting those parts by 
chemical or other means he produced a depression of 
reflex activity. Goltz places these inhibiting centres 
in the brain proper. 

These and other analogous hypotheses* have been 
very much criticised, and many physiologists suppose 
merely that in the normal state the excitations distrib- 
ute themselves at the same time in the brain by an 
ascending, course, and in the spinal cord by a trans- 
verse course ; and that, on the contrary, in cases where 

* For the complete history of the question may be consulted Eckhard, 
Physiologic des Riickenmarks, in Hermann's Physiologie (Leipsic, 1879), vol. ii, 
part ii, p. 33 et seq., where will be found the experiments and interpretations 
of Setschenow, Goltz, Schiff, Herzen, Cyon, etc., etc. 


the brain can play no part, the excitations finding only 
a single way open there thence results a sort of accumu- 
lation, the effect of which is an exaggerated reflex ex- 

Recently, Ferrier, * placing himself at a point of view 
the psychological importance of which is evident, has 
supposed the existence in the frontal lobes of moderat- 
ing centres, which would be the essential factor of at- 

Without entering into more details, it is seen that 
for the explanation of the mechanism of inhibition 
there is no clear and universally accepted theory like 
that for the reflexes. Some suppose that the arresta- 
tion comes from two contrary tendencies which impede 
or annihilate each other. Others postulate inhibiting 
centres, and even inhibiting nerves, capable of sup- 
pressing a transmitted action instead of reinforcing it. 
There are still other hypotheses, which it is useless to 
mention, f In this state of ignorance let us examine the 
question as best we may. 

In all voluntary inhibition there are two things to 
be considered : the mechanism that produces it, of which 
we have just spoken ; and the state of consciousness 
that accompanies it, of which we are now to speak. 

In the first place, there are cases where the arresta- 
tion does not need to be explained, those in which the 
voluntary incitation ceases of itself ; when we throw 
aside, for example, a decidedly tiresome book. 

Other cases appear to be explainable by one of the 
hypotheses given above. We voluntarily arrest laugh- 
ter, yawning, coughing, and certain passionate move- 

* Ferrier (David), The Functions of the Brain (New York, 1886), pp. 103, 104. 
t See Wundt (Wilhelm), Mechanik der Nerven (Stuttgart, 1876), part ii, p. 
84, et seq.; Lewes, Physical Basis of Mind, pp. 300-301. 


meuts, by putting in action, as it would seem, the an- 
tagonistic muscles. 

In the cases where we do not know how the inhibi- 
tion is produced, where the physiological mechanism 
remains unknown, pure psychology can still teach us 
something. Let us take the most commonplace ex- 
ample : a fit of anger stopped by the will. In order 
not to exaggerate the voluntary power, let us remark 
in the first place that this restraint is far from being 
the rule. Certain individuals appear altogether inca- 
pable of it. Others are so very unequally; their re- 
straining power varies according to the time and the 
circumstances. Very few are always masters of them- 

There is necessary for the production of the re- 
straint one first condition : time. If the incitationbe 
so violent that it passes immediately into action, all is 
over ; whatever folly ensues, it is too late. If the con- 
dition of time be fulfilled, if the state of consciousness 
give rise to antagonistic states, if these be sufficiently 
stable, the restraint takes place. The new state of 
consciousness tends to suppress the other, and, by en- 
feebling the cause, checks the effects. 

It is of prime importance for the pathology of the 
will to investigate the physiological phenomenon which 
occurs in such a case. There can be no doubt that the 
quantity of the nervous influx (whatever opinion may 
be held as to its nature) varies from one individual to 
another, and from one moment to another in the same 
individual. Neither can it be doubted that at a given 
moment in any particular individual the disposable 
quantity may be distributed in a variable manner. It 
is clear that in the metaphysician who is speculating, 
and the man who is satisfying a physical passion, the 


quantity of nervous influx is not expended in the same 
manner, and that one form of expenditure prevents 
the other, the disposable capital not being able to 
be employed at the same time for two different pur- 

"We see," says a physiologist,* "that the excita- 

v/ bility of certain nervous centres is reduced by calling 

certain others into action, if the excitations which 

reach the latter possess a certain intensity; such is 

the fact. 

" If we consider the normal functioning of the ner- 
vous system, we observe that there exists a necessary 
equilibrium between its different structures. We know 
that this equilibrium can be broken only by the abnor- 
mal predominance of certain centres, which seem to 
divert to their own profit too large a part of the ner- 
vous activity; thenceforth the functioning of the other 
centres shows itself to be disturbed. . . . There are 
general laws which preside over the apportionment of 
the nervous activity in the different points of the 
system, as there are mechanical laws governing the 
circulation of the blood in the vascular system ; if a 
great perturbation arises in an important vascular de- 
partment, the effect cannot fail to be felt at all other 
points in the system. These laws of hydrodynamics 
we perceive, because the fluid in circulation is accessi- 
ble to us, and we know the properties of the vessels 
that contain it, and the effects of elasticity, muscular 
contraction, etc. But the laws of the distribution of 
nervous activity, of that species of circulation of what 
has been named the nervous fluid, who knows them? 
We observe the effects of rupture of the equilibrium of 

*Franck (Francois), Dictionnaire encyclopedique des sciences medicates 
(Paris, 1878), art. "Nerveux," p. 572. 


nerve-action, but they are essentially variable distur- 
bances, which still refuse to lend themselves to any 
theory. We can only take note of their production, 
and keep account of the conditions that accompany 

If we apply these general considerations to our par- 
ticular case, what do we see? The original state of con- 
sciousness (anger) has awakened antagonistic states, 
varying necessarily from one man to another : the idea 
of duty, or the fear of God, of opinion, of the laws, of 
disastrous consequences, etc. 

There is thus produced a second centre of action, 
that is to say, in physiological terms, a derivation of 
the nervous afflux, an impoverishment of the first state 
to the profit of the second. Is this derivation sufficient 
to re-establish the equilibrium? The event alone gives 
the answer. 

But when the inhibition takes place it is never 
more than relative, and its only result is to lead to a 
diminished action. What remains of the original im- 
pulse expends itself as it can, by half-restrained ges- 
tures, visceral agitations, or some artificial derivation, 
as in the case of the soldier who while he was being shot 
chewed a bullet, so that he might not cry out. Very 
few are sufficiently well endowed by nature and fash- 
ioned by habit as to reduce the reflexes to imperceptible 
movements. This derivation of the nervous influx is 
not then a primitive fact, but a state of secondary forma- 
tion, established at the expense of the first by means 
of an association. 

Let us remark again that, besides the birth of these 
two antagonistic centres of action, there are other 
causes which tend to enfeeble directly the primitive 


But we ought here to examine the difficulty more 
closely, for the co-existence of these two contrary states 
of consciousness,* though sufficient to produce indeci- 
sion, uncertainty, and inaction, is not enough to cause 
a voluntary arrestation, in the real sense of the word, 
an "I will not." A further condition is necessary. It 
is found in an affective element of the highest impor- 
tance of which we have said nothing. Feelings are 
not all stimulants to action. Many of them have a de- 
pressive character. Terror may be considered as their 
extreme type. In its highest degree its effect is pros- 
trating. A man suddenly stricken with a great sorrow 
is incapable of any reaction, voluntary or reflex. The 
cerebral anaemia, the arresting of the heart sometimes 
bringing on death by syncope, the perspiration with 
coldness of the skin, the relaxation of the sphincters : 
all shows that the excitability of the muscular, vaso- 
motor, secretory, and other centres is temporarily sus- 
pended. This case is extreme, but it gives an enlarge- 
ment to our view. Below it we have all possible de- 
grees of fear, with all the corresponding degrees of 

Descending from this maximum to moderate fear, 
the depressive effect diminishes, but without changing 
in nature. Pray how are the movements of anger 
stopped in the child? By threats and reproofs ; that is 
to say, by the production of a new state of consciousness 
of a depressive character, and calculated to paralyse 
the action. "A child of three months and a half," says 
B. Perez, "understands, from the expression of the 
countenance and the tone of the voice, that it is being 
reprimanded ; then its forehead contracts, its lips twitch 

* It is well understood that we do not separate them from their physio- 
logical conditions, which are the principal element. 


convulsively and pout an instant, its eyes become moist 
with tears, and it is on the point of sobbing."* 

The new state tends, then, to supplant the other, 
not only by its own strength, but by the enfeeblement 
that it inflicts upon the entire being. 

If, in spite of repeated menaces, the inhibition be 
not produced, the individual is little or not at all edu- 
cable in this respect. If it be produced, the result is 
that, in virtue of a well-known law, an association tends 
to be established between the two states ; the first 
awakens the second, its corrective, and, by habit, 
the restraint becomes more and more easy and rapid. 
In those who are masters of themselves the restraint 
takes place with that certainty which is the mark of 
every perfect habit. It is clear, moreover, that the tem- 
perament and the character are of yet more significance 
here than education. 

It is then not surprising that a tempest should give 
way before cold ideas, before states of consciousness 
whose motor tendency is quite weak ; it is because 
there is behind them an accumulated, latent, uncon- 
scious force, such as we have just observed. 

For an understanding of this apparent miracle, the 
educated and reflecting adult must not be considered, 
but the child. With the latter (the savage, and the 
unpolished or uneducable man approximate to it) the 
tendency to act is immediate. The work of education 
consists precisely in arousing these antagonistic states ; 
and by education must be understood that which the 
child owes to its own experience as well as that which 
it receives from others. 

I believe it needless, moreover, to point out that 

* Bernard Perez, Les trois premieres ar.nees de V enfant, p. 33. Translated 
by Alice M. Christi, The First Three Years of Childhood (London, 1885), p. 29. 


all the sentiments which produce an arrest : fear or 
respect for persons, laws, customs, or God, have been 
in origin and always remain depressive states, tending 
to diminish action. 

In short, the phenomenon of inhibition can be ex- 
plained in a way sufficient for our purpose, by an anal- 
ysis of the psychological conditions under which it is 
produced, whatever opinion one may have regarding 
the physiological mechanism. It would doubtless be 
desirable to see into it more distinctly, to have a clearer 
idea of the modus operandi by which two nearly simul- 
taneous excitations neutralise each other. If this ob- 
scure question were settled our conception of the will 
as a restraining power would become more precise, and 
perhaps be greatly modified. We must resign our- 
selves to waiting ; we shall, moreover, meet with this 
most difficult problem again, in other forms. 


We have hitherto considered the voluntary activity 
under an exclusively analytical form, which is unable 
to give an exact idea of it, or show it in its totality. It 
is neither a simple transformation of some states of 
consciousness or other into movement, nor a simple 
power of restraint ; it is the distinctive reaction of an 
individual. We must insist upon this point, without 
which the pathology is incomprehensible. 

The first characteristic of voluntary movements is 
that they are adapt ed\ but this is a mark they have in 
common with the immense majority of physiological 
movements ; the difference is only in degrees. 

Leaving aside the movements of a pathological order 
(convulsions, St. Vitus's dance, epilepsy, etc.) which 


occur in the form of a violent and irregular discharge, 
adaptation is to be met with from the lowest to the 

Ordinary reflexes are reactions of the spinal cord, 
adapted to conditions which are very general, and con- 
sequently very simple, uniform, and invariable from 
one individual to another (save in exceptional cases). 
They have a specific character. 

Another group of reflexes represents the reactions 
of the base and the medial portion of the encephalon, 
the medulla, corpora striata, and optic thalami. 
These reactions also are adapted to general conditions 
which are only slightly variable, but of an order very 
much more complex : it is the "sensory-motor" activity 
of certain authors. They have still a character rather 
more specific than individual, so great is their resem- 
blance in different individuals of the same species. 

Cerebral reflexes, especially the highest, consist in 
a reaction adapted to conditions which are very com- 
plex, very variable, very unstable, differing from one 
individual to another, and from one instant to another 
in the same individual. These are the ideo-motor re- 
actions, the volitions. However perfect it may be, this 
adaptation is still not the thing that is of importance to 
us. It is only an effect, the cause of which is not voli- 
tion but intellectual activity. 

The intellect being a correspondence, a continual 
adjustment of internal to external relations, and in its 
highest form a perfectly co-ordinated adjustment ; the 
co-ordination of these states of consciousness implies 
that of the movements which express them. As soon 
as an end is chosen, it acts after the manner of what 
metaphysicians call a final cause : it brings about the 
selection of the means proper for attaining it. The 


adaptation is then a result of the mechanism of the in- 
tellect. We need not dwell upon this point. 

But what interests us is this choice, this preference 
declared after a longer or shorter comparison of mo- 
tives. It is this that represents the individual reac- 
tion, which is distinct from the specific reactions, and, 
as we shall see in the pathology, sometimes inferior, 
sometimes superior to them. 

What is this choice ? Considered in its form, it is 
nothing more than a practical affirmation, a judgment 
that accomplishes itself. Let it be well remarked : 
From the physiological and exterior side nothing dis- 
tinguishes a voluntary movement from an involuntary 
one ; the mechanism is the same, whether I wink my 
eye by reflex action or designedly in order to warn an 
accomplice.* From the psychological and interior 
side nothing distinguishes the judgment, in the logical 
sense of the word, that is, a theoretical affirmation, 
from volition ; except that the latter expresses itself by 
an act, and is thus a judgment put in execution. 

But what is it, considered in its essence instead 
of in its form? Let us dwell upon this fundamental 
point and try to clear it up. By descending to some 
very lowly biological facts, we shall perhaps see better 
in what a choice consists. In order not to lose my- 
self in remote analogies, I will say nothing of physi- 
cal affinity (for example, that of the magnet for iron). 
In the vegetable kingdom, I will simply recall that the 
insectivorous plants, like the Dioncea (Venus's fly-trap), 

* In physiology a distinction is made between voluntary and involuntary 
muscles, although it is understood that this distinction has in it nothing abso- 
lute. There are persons, like the physiologist E. F. Weber, who can at will stop 
the motions of their heart ; others, like Fontana, can produce a contraction of 
the iris, etc. A movement is voluntary, when, as a result of successive and re- 
peated efforts, it is linked to a state of consciousness and under its control. 


select certain bodies which come into contact with 
them to the exclusion of others. The amreba chooses 
in the same way certain organic fragments, with which 
it nourishes itself. These facts are incontestable, but 
their interpretation is difficult. They are explained, in 
general, by a relation of molecular composition be- 
tween what chooses and what is chosen. Without 
doubt, choice is here exerted in a very limited field ; but 
it is also no more than its rudest form, almost physical. 
By the origin and development of a more and more 
complex nervous system, this blind affinity is developed 
into a conscious tendency, then into several contradic- 
tory tendencies, one of which prevails that which 
represents the maximum of affinity (the dog which 
hesitates between several messes and ends in choosing 
one). But in all cases choice expresses the nature 
of the individual, at a given minute, under given cir- 
cumstances, and in a given degree ; that is to say, the 
more feeble the affinity the less marked is the pre- 
ference. Hence we are able to say that choice, let it 
result from a single tendency, from several tendencies, 
from a present sensation, from images recalled, from 
complex ideas, or from complicated calculations reach- 
ing out into futurity, is always founded on an affinity, 
an analogy of nature, an adaptation. This is true in 
the case of the animal, lower or higher, and of man, 
for vice or virtue, for science or pleasure or ambition. 
To limit ourselves to man, two or more states of con- 
sciousness arise as possible ends of action ; after some 
oscillations, one is preferred, chosen. Why, if not be- 
cause that between that state and the sum of conscious, 
sub-conscious, and unconscious (purely physical) states 
which at the moment constitute the person, the ego, 
there is conformity, analogy of nature, affinity? This 


is the only possible explanation of choice, unless to 
admit that it is without cause. It is proposed to me 
to kill a friend ; this tendency is repulsed with horror, 
excluded ; that is to say, it is in contradiction with my 
other tendencies and sentiments, there is no possible 
association between it and them, and by that very fact 
it is annihilated. 

In the criminal, on the contrary, there is estab- 
lished between the representation of murder and the 
feelings of hatred or cupidity a bond of congruity, that 
is to say, of analogy; it is consequently chosen, affirmed 
as having ought to be. Considered as a state of con- 
sciousness, volition is, then, nothing more than an affirma- 
tion (or a negation). It is analogous to the judgment, 
with this difference, that one expresses a relation of 
congruity (or incongruity) between ideas, the other 
the same relation between tendencies ; that one is a 
repose for the mind, the other a stage on the way to 
action ; that one is an acquisition, the other an aliena- 
tion ; for the intellect is an economy, and the will an 
expenditure. But volition by itself, as a state of con- 
sciousness, has no more efficacy to produce an act than 
a judgment to produce truth. The efficacy comes from 
elsewhere. We will return in the conclusion to this 
very important point.* The ultimate reason of the 
choice is then in the character, that is to say, in what 
constitutes the peculiar mark of the individual in the 

* We have just expressed under another form this evident fact that the 
choice proceeds always in the direction of the greatest pleasure. No animal, 
endowed with reason or deprived of it, healthy or diseased, can will anything 
but what seems to it at the moment its greatest good or its least ill. Even the 
man who prefers death to dishonor or apostasy chooses the least disagreeable 
part. The individual character and the degree of development of the reason 
cause the choice sometimes to mount very high, sometimes to fall very low ; but 
it always tends towards what pleases the most. The contrary is impossible. 
That is a psychological truth so clear that the ancients had already laid it down 
as an axiom, and it has taken volumes of metaphysics to obscure it. 


psychological sense and differentiates him from all 
other individuals of his species. 

The character, or, to employ a more general term, 
the person, the ego, which is to us a cause, is it in its 
turn an effect? No doubt ; but we need not occupy 
ourselves here with the causes which produce it. The 
science of character, which John Stuart Mill called 
for, more than forty years ago, under the name of 
ethology, is not yet in existence, nor is it, it seems to 
me, near to being formed. Were it so, we should only 
have to accept its results, without attempting an ex- 
cursion into its domain ; for to ascend forever from 
effects to causes, in an endless progression, would be 
to follow the vagaries of metaphysics. Yet again, for 
the subject which occupies us, the character is an ulti- 
mate fact, a true cause, even though for investigations 
of another kind it be an effect. Let us remark in pass- 
ing, and merely by way of suggestion, that the charac- 
ter that is to say, the ego, in so much as it reacts 
is an extremely complex product, that heredity, pre- 
natal and post-natal physiological conditions, educa- 
tion, and experience have contributed to form. It can 
be stated also without temerity, that what constitutes 
it are much rather affective states, a peculiar manner 
of feeling, than an intellectual activity. It is this gen- 
eral manner of feeling, this permanent tone of the or- 
ganism, which is the first and true motor. If it is 
lacking, man can no more will ; pathology will show us 
this. It is because this fundamental state is, accord- 
ing to the constitution of the individuals, stable or 
fluctuating, continuous or variable, energetic or feeble, 
that there are three principal types of will, strong, 
weak, and intermittent, with all the degrees and shades 
of which these types admit; but, we again repeat, 


these differences arise from the character of the indi- 
vidual, which depends upon his special constitution ; 
there is nothing to be sought for beyond that. 

We are, then, completely in accord with those who 
deny that the predominance of one motive is sufficient 
to explain volition. The preponderating motive is 
but a part of the cause, and always the least, although 
the most visible ; and it only has efficacy in so far as 
it is chosen, that is to say, as it enters as an integral 
part into the sum of states which constitute the ego at 
a given moment, and as its tendency to act is added 
to that group of tendencies which spring from the char- 
acter, to be consolidated with them. It is then in no 
wise necessary to make of the ego an entity, or to place 
it in a transcendental region in order to recognise in it a 
true causality. It is a fact of experience, very simple, 
very clear ; the contrary is not comprehensible. 

Physiologically, this signifies that the voluntary 
act differs both from the simple reflex, where a single 
impression is followed by a single contraction, and 
from more complex forms, where a single impression 
is followed by a number of contractions ; that it is the 
result of the entire nervous organisation, which itself 
reflects the nature of the whole organism and reacts in 
consequence. Psychologically, it signifies that the 
voluntary act, in its complete form, is not the simple 
transformation of a state of consciousness into move- 
ment, but that it supposes the participation of the 
whole group of conscious or sub-conscious states which 
constitute the ego at a given moment. 

We are therefore justified in defining the will to be 
an individual reaction, and in holding it for that which 
is the very inmost in us. The ego, although an effect, 


is a cause. It is so in the most rigorous sense, in such 
a way as to satisfy all exigencies. 

To sum up, we have seen that from the lowest re- 
flex to the highest will, the transition is insensible, and 
that it is impossible to say exactly at what moment 
there commences the volition proper, that is to say, 
the personal reaction. From one extreme of the series 
to the other, the difference is reduced to two points : 
on one hand, an extreme simplicity; on the other, an 
extreme complexity; on one hand, a reaction always 
the same in all the individuals of the same species ; 
on the other, a reaction which varies according to the 
individual, that is to say, according to a particular 
organism limited in time and space. Simplicity and 
permanence, complexity and mutation, go together. 

It is clear that, from the point of view of evolution, 
all reactions have been in their origin individual. They 
have become organic, specific, by numberless repeti- 
tions in the individual and the race. The origin of will 
is in the property which living matter has of reacting, 
its end is in the property which living matter has of 
acquiring habits ; and it is that involuntary activity 
forever fixed which serves as support and instrument 
to the individual activity. 

But among the higher animals the hereditary leg- 
acy, the accidents of birth, the continual adaptation 
to conditions varying at every instant, do not permit 
the individual reaction to become fixed or to take the 
same form in all individuals. The complexity of their 
environment is a safeguard against automatism. 

We here bring to an end these preliminaries, with 
the reminder that their single aim was to prepare for 
the pathological study upon which we are now to enter. 



We have seen that this term will applies to acts 
which differ considerably in regard to the conditions 
of their genesis, but which all have this character in 
common, of being, in some form and degree, a re- 
action of the individual. Without returning to that 
analysis, let us note, for the sake of clearness and pre- 
cision, two exterior characters by which true volition 
is recognisable : it is a definitive state ; it expresses 
itself by an act. 

Irresolution, which is the beginning of a morbid 
tate, has interior causes that pathology will enable us 
to understand : it arises from the weakness of the in- 
citations or from their ephemeral action. Among ir- 
resolute characters, some a very small number are 
so on account of a wealth of ideas. The comparison of 
motives, reasoning, the calculation of consequences, 
constitute an extremely complex cerebral state wherein 
the tendencies to action counteract one another. But 
this opulence of ideas taken alone is not a sufficient 
cause of irresolution ; it is only an adjuvant cause. 
The true cause here as everywhere is in the character. 

In the irresolute who are poor in ideas, this can be 
seen more clearly. If they act it is always in the di- 



rection of the least action or of the most feeble resist- 
ance. Deliberation leads with difficulty to choice, and 
choice with more difficulty to an act. 

Volition, on the contrary, is a definitive state; it 
closes the debate. By its means a new state of con- 
sciousness the selected motive enters into the ego 
as an integral portion to an exclusion of other states. 
The ego is thus constituted in a set manner. In fickle 
natures this definitive state is always provisional, that 
is to say, the willing ego is so unstable a compound 
that the most insignificant state of consciousness that 
may spring up modifies or wholly changes it. The 
compound formed at each instant has no force of resis- 
tance at the instant which follows. In that sum of con- 
scious and unconscious states which from moment to 
moment represents the causes of volition, the part 
played by the individual character is a minimum, the 
share of the exterior circumstances a maximum. We 
fall back into that inferior form of volition studied 
above which consists in a " letting go." 

After all it must never be forgotten that to^will is 
to act, that volition is a transition to action. To re- 
duce the will, as has sometimes been done, to a simple 
resolution, that is, to the theoretical affirmation that a 
thing is to be done, is to content oneself with an ab- 
straction. Choice is but one stage in the process of 
volition. If it does not translate itself into action, im- 
mediately, or in due time, there is no longer anything 
to distinguish it from a logical operation of the mind. 
It resembles those written laws which are not enforced. 

These remarks made, we enter upon the domain of 
pathology. We may divide the diseases of the will into 
two great classes, according as it is impaired or extin- 


The impairments of the will constitute the most 
important part of its pathology ; they show the mech- 
anism out of order. We shall subdivide them into 
two groups. 

1. Impairment by defect of impulse ; 

2. Impairment by excess of impulse. 

3. Because of their importance we shall examine 
separately the impairments of voluntary attention. 

4. Finally, under the title of "The Realm of Ca- 
prices," we shall study a peculiar state in which the 
will never succeeds in forming itself, or does so only 
by accident. 

The first group contains facts of a simple and clear 
character, the examination of which is instructive. In 
the normal state a suggestion of it is found in those 
easy-going characters who, in order to act, need to 
have another will added to their own ; but disease will 
show us this state prodigiously exaggerated. 

Guislain has described in general terms that im- 
pairment which physicians designate by the name of 
abulia. "The patients know how to will interiorly, 
mentally, according to the dictates of reason. They 
may experience the desire to do something, but are 
powerless to act accordingly. There is at the bottom 
of their understanding an incapacity. They would 
wish to work and they cannot. . . . Their will cannot 
go beyond certain limits ; one would say that this 
power of action undergoes an inhibition : the I will 
does not transform itself into impelling volition, into 
active determination. Some patients are themselves 
astonished at the impotence with which their will is 
stricken. . . . When they are left to themselves they 


pass entire days in their bed or on a chair. When any 
one addresses and arouses them, they express them- 
selves suitably, although in a short manner ; and they 
judge of things fairly well. " * 

As those patients whose intellect is intact are the 
most interesting, we shall cite only cases of this kind. 
One of the oldest and best-known observations is due 
to Esquirol : 

"A magistrate^ very distinguished for his learning 
and power of language, was, as a result of troubles, 
attacked with a fit of monomania. . . . He has recov- 
ered the entire use of his reason ; but he will not go 
into the world again, although he recognises that he is 
wrong ; nor take care of his business, although he 
knows well that it suffers on account of his whim. His 
conversation is both rational and clever. When one 
speaks to him of travelling, or of looking after his 
affairs, he answers : ' I know that I ought to do it, and 
yet I cannot. Your counsels are very good ; I would 
like to follow your advice. I am convinced, but only 
make me able to will with that volition which deter- 
mines and executes. ' ' It is certain,' he said to me 
one day, ' that I have no will except not to will ; for I 
have all my reason ; I know what I ought to do ; but 
strength fails me when I ought to act.' "f 

The English Dr. Bennett reports the case of a man 
"who frequently could not carry out what he wished 
to perform. Often, in endeavoring to undress, he was 
two hours before he could get off his clothes, all his 
mental faculties, volition excepted, being perfect. On 

* Joseph Guislain, Lemons orales sur les pkrinopatkies (Paris, 1880), vol. i, 
pp. 256, 479. See also Wilhelm Griesinger, Traitt des -maladies mentales 
(translated from the German by Dr. Doumie, Paris, 1865), p. 86 ; Leubuscher, 
Zeitschrift fur Psychiatric, iv, 1847, " Ueber Abulie," pp. 562-578. 

tE. Esquirol, Des maladies mentales (Paris, 1838), i, 421. 


one occasion, having ordered a glass of water, it was 
handed to him on a tray, but he could not take it, al- 
though anxious to do so ; he kept a servant standing 
before him half an hour before the obstruction was 
overcome. It seemed to him, he said, ' as if another 
person had taken possession of his will. ' " * 

An author who must always be cited for the facts 
of morbid psychology, Thomas De Quincey, has de- 
scribed for us from his own experience this paralysis 
of the will. The observation is so much the more val- 
uable that it is due to a subtle mind and a skilful writer. 

Owing to a prolonged abuse of opium he was com- 
pelled to abandon studies that he had formerly fol- 
lowed with great interest. He shrank from them with 
a sense of powerlessness and infantine feebleness, with 
an anguish so much the greater from remembering the 
time when he had consecrated to them hours of delight. 
One unfinished work to which he had given the best 
of his intellect brought to him no longer aught but a 
"tomb of hopes defeated, of baffled efforts, of materials 
uselessly accumulated, of foundations laid that were 
never to support a superstructure." In "this state of 
volitional but not intellectual weakness," he applied 
himself to political economy, a study for which he had 
been once eminently qualified. After having discov- 
ered very many errors in the current doctrines, he 
found in the treatise of Ricardo a satisfaction for his 
intellectual thirst, and a pleasure and an activity which 
for a long time he had not known. Thinking that some 
important truths had, however, escaped the scrutinis- 
ing eye of Ricardo, he conceived the project of a " Pro- 

*Prof. J. H. Bennett (on the authority of Sir Robert Christison), The Mes- 
meric Mania of 1851, p. 16, cited by Carpenter, Mental Physiology (London 
1874), p. 385. 


legomena of Future Systems of Political Economy." 
Arrangements were made for printing and publishing 
the work, and it was twice announced. But he had to 
write a preface and a dedication to Ricardo, and he 
found himself entirely incapable of doing it ; so the 
arrangements were countermanded and the work re- 
mained on his table. 

"This state of intellectual torpor I experienced 
more or less throughout the four years during which I 
was under the Circean spells of opium. But for the 
mental suffering I might indeed be said to have ex- 
isted in a dormant state. I seldom could prevail upon 
myself to write a letter : an answer of a few words to 
any that I received was the utmost that I could accom- 
plish, and often this not until the letter had lain weeks, 
or even months, on my writing-table. Without the 
aid of M., all records of bills paid or to be paid must 
have perished, and my whole domestic economy 
whatever became of political economy must have 
gone into an irretrievable confusion. I shall not after- 
wards allude to this part of the case. It is one, how- 
ever, which the opium-eater will find in the end as 
oppressing and tormenting as any other, from the 
sense of incapacity and feebleness, from the direct 
embarrassment incident to the neglect or procrastina- 
tion of each day's appropriate duties, and from the re- 
morse which must often exasperate the stings of these 
evils to a reflective and conscientious mind. 

"The opium-eater loses none of his moral sensibili- 
ties or aspirations ; he wishes and longs as earnestly 
as ever to realise what he believes possible and feels 
to be exacted by duty; but his intellectual apprehen- 
sion of what is profitable, infinitely outruns his power 
not only of carrying out but even of attempting. He 


lies under the weight of incubus and nightmare ; he 
lies in sight of all that he would fain perform, just as 
a man forcibly confined to his bed by the mortal lan- 
guor of a relaxing disease who is compelled to witness 
injury or outrage offered to some object of his tender- 
est love : he curses the spells which chain him down 
from motion ; he would lay down his life if he might 
but get up and go out ; but he is powerless as an in- 
fant and cannot even attempt to rise." * 

I will close with one final observation a little long, 
the longest I know of, but one which will show the 
malady under all its aspects. It is reported by Billod 
in the Annales medico-psychologiques. 

It is the case of a man sixty-five years old, "of a 
strong constitution, lymphatic temperament, a well- 
developed intellect, especially in all that concerns busi- 
ness matters, and a moderate degree of sensitiveness." 
Being very much attached to his profession of notary 
it was only after long hesitations that he determined 
upon selling his practice. Afterwards he fell into a 
state of profound melancholy, refusing nourishment, 
believing himself ruined, and pushing despair to the 
point of an attempt at suicide. I neglect, in what fol- 
lows, only some details which are purely medical or 
without interest for us, and I permit the observer to 

"The faculty which appeared to us the most seri- 
ously impaired we do not hesitate to say was the will. 
.... The patient frequently manifests an incapacity 
of willing to execute certain acts, although he has the 
desire to do so and his healthy judgment by a wise 
liberation makes him see their expediency and often 
even their necessity." 

* Confessions of an Opium Eater (Bostoii. 1851), p. 106 et seq. 


He was confined in the asylum at Ivry; it was de- 
cided that he should undertake with Mr. Billed a trip 
to Italy. 

"When his approaching departure was announced 
to him, <I shall never be able to,' he said, 'though I 
find it dull here ; will I then remain all my life at 
Ivry?' The day before starting, he announced anew 
that he never could. On the day itself he arose at six 
in the morning to go and make this declaration to Mr. 
Mitivie. More or less resistance was therefore appre- 
hended, but when I presented myself, he did not make 
the least opposition ; only, as if he felt his will ready 
to escape him, he said : ' Where is the cab? let me hurry 
and get into it.' 

" It would be idle to take the reader with us, and 
make him a witness of all the phenomena presented 
by the patient during this trip. These phenomena 
may very well be resumed in three or four principal 
ones that I shall give as a criterion of all the others. 

"The first presented itself at Marseilles. The pa- 
tient, before setting out, had to execute a power of 
attorney to authorise his wife to sell a house. He draws 
it up himself, copies it upon headed paper and pre- 
pares to sign it, when there arises a difficulty upon 
which we were far from counting. After having writ- 
ten his name, it is utterly impossible for him to make 
the paraph. There is question, it is true, of a com- 
plicated paraph, but Mr. P. had always executed it 
with ease. Vainly did the patient struggle with this 
difficulty. A hundred times at least he makes with his 
hand above the sheet of paper the movement neces- 
sary to the act, which proves conclusively that the ob- 
stacle is not in the hand ; a hundred times the restive 
will is unable to command the fingers to apply the 


pen to the paper. Mr. P. does his utmost ; he stands 
up Impatiently, stamps on the ground, then sits down 
again and makes new attempts : the pen is still unable 
to apply itself to the paper. Will any one deny here 
that Mr. P. had an earnest desire to finish his signa- 
ture, and that he understood the importance of this 
act ? Will any one deny the integrity of the organ 
charged with executing the paraph? It is evidently 
impossible to deny it. The agent appears as sound 
as the instrument ; but the first cannot bring itself to 
bear upon the second. The will that power by which 
the hand should be set to performing the act conceived 
and judged necessary by the intellect is evidently 
wanting. This struggle lasted three quarters of an 
hour ; the succession of efforts ended at last in a result 
of which I had despaired : the paraph was very im- 
perfect, but it was executed. I was witness of this 
struggle ; I took the keenest interest in it, as the reader 
may well imagine, and I testify that it would be impos- 
sible to establish more clearly an incapacity of willing 
in spite of a desire to do so.* 

1 ' I observed some days afterwards an incapacity of 
the same kind. There was question of going out a 
little after dinner. Mr. P. had the keenest desire to 
do so ; he had wished, he said to me, to have an idea 
of the appearance of the city. For five days in succes- 
sion, he took his hat, arose and prepared to set out ; 
but, vain hope, his will could not command his legs 
to put themselves in motion in order to take him into 
the street. . . . ' Evidently I am my own prisoner,' 
said the patient, ' it is not you who prevent me from 
going out, it is not my legs that oppose it .... what 

* I transcribe this observation literally, without any reflexion upon the 
psychological doctrine of the author. 


is it then ? ' Mr. P. complained thus of not being able 
to will y in spite of the wish that he had to do so. At 
last, after five days, making a final effort, he succeeded 
in going out, only to return five minutes afterwards 
perspiring and panting as if he had been running sev- 
eral kilometers, and very much astonished himself at 
what he had just done. 

" Instances of this incapacity reappeared every mo- 
ment. If the patient had the desire of witnessing a 
play, he could not will to go to it ; when at table among 
amiable companions he would have wished to take part 
in conversation, but the same powerlessness always 
followed him. It is true that this impotence often ex- 
isted only, so to speak, in apprehension ; the patient 
feared that he would not be able, and yet succeeded 
even more than he expected ; but often, too, it must 
be said, his apprehension was justified." 

After six days passed at Marseilles, the patient and 
the doctor set off for Naples ; "but it was not without 
extraordinary difficulty." During these six days "the 
patient formally expressed a refusal to embark, and a 
desire to return to Paris, being frightened in advance at 
the idea of finding himself with his diseased will in a 
foreign country, and declaring that it would be neces- 
sary to handcuff him in order to take him. On the day 
of departure he did not make up his mind to leave the 
hotel until he believed me determined to resort to a 
forcing apparatus ; and having gone out of the hotel 
he stopped in the street, where he would doubtless 
have remained if I had not sent for some seamen that 
an employ^ of the packet-boat office had the kindness 
to place at my disposition, who, however, needed only 
to show themselves. . 


' 'Another circumstance tends to bring out still more 
the lesion of the will. We were at Rome, where we 
arrived the very day of the election of Pope Pius IX. 
My patient said to me, 'This is a circumstance that I 
would call fortunate, if I were not sick. I should like 
to be able to witness the coronation ; . . . but I do not 
know whether I can ; I will try. ' The day having 
come, the patient rose at five o'clock in the morning, 
took out his black coat from his trunk, shaved him- 
self, etc., and said to me : 'You see, I am doing very 
much, I do not yet know whether I shall be able to 
go.' At last, at the hour of the ceremony, he made a 
great effort and succeeded with much difficulty in go- 
ing down. But ten days afterwards, at the feast of 
St. Peter, the same preparations and the same efforts 
led to no result. 'You see well/ the patient said to 
me, 'that I am still my own prisoner. It is not the 
desire that is lacking to me, since I have been getting 
ready for three hours ; here I am shaved, dressed, and 
gloved, and yet I am no longer able to leave this 
place. ' 

"In short, it was impossible for him to attend the 
ceremony. I had insisted very much, but I did not 
think that I ought to compel him. 

"I will bring to an end this already rather extended 
observation by a single remark : it is, that the instinc- 
tive movements, the kind not subject, properly speak- 
ing, to the will, were not impeded in our patient like- 
those which may be called directed. Thus, on arriving 
at Lyons, upon our return, our mail-coach running over 
a woman whom the horses had knocked down, my pa- 
tient recovered all his energy, and, without waiting for 
the carriage to stop, threw off his cloak, opened the 


door, and was the first to descend to the woman's 

The author adds that the trip did not have the 
efficacy that he expected ; that the patient felt better, 
however, in a carriage, especially when it was hard 
and the road bad ; and that he finally returned to his 
family in just about the same condition as at first.* 

The cases above cited represent a very definite 
group. There spring from them some very clear facts 
and some very probable inductions. Let us look, in 
the first place, at the facts. 

1. The muscular system and the organs of move- 
ment are intact. From this side there is no impedi- 
ment. The automatic activity, that which constitutes 
the ordinary routine of life, persists. 

2. The intelligence is perfect ; at least, nothing 
authorises one to say that it has suffered the least im- 
pairment. The end is clearly conceived, the means 
likewise, but the transition to act is impossible. 

Here, then, we have a disease of the will in the 
most rigorous sense. We may remark in passing that 
disease makes for us a curious experiment. It creates 
exceptional conditions, which could not be produced 
in any other way : it divides the man, annihilates the 
individual reaction, leaves the rest intact ; it produces 
for us, so far as that is possible, a being reduced to 
pure intelligence. 

Whence comes this impotence of the will? Here 
the inductions begin. There are only two hypotheses 
possible regarding its immediate cause ; it consists in 

*"Dr. E. Billed, " Maladies de la volonte"," part ii, in Annales mldico-psy- 
chologiques, vol. x, p. 172 et seq. The author cites several other cases of a 
much less clear character, which we shall not describe (see pp. 184, 319, et 


an impairment either of the motor centres * or of the 
incitations that they receive. 

Let us examine these two hypotheses, beginning 
with the second, which seems to me the more plaus- 

Esquirol has preserved for us the remarkable an- 
swer that a patient made to him after he had been 
cured. "This lack of activity arose from the fact that 
my sensations were too weak to exert an influence 
upon my will." The same author has also noted the 
profound change that these patients experience in their 
general sense of life. "My existence," one of them 
writes to him, "is incomplete ; the functions and acts 
of ordinary life have remained to me, but in each of 
them there is something lacking, to wit, the sensation 
which is proper to them and the joy which follows them. 
. . . Each one of my senses, each part of myself, is, 
so to speak, separated from me, and can no longer 
procure for me any sensation. " Would a psychologist 
better express to what degree the affective life is 
stricken, in that which is most general in it? 

Billed reports the case of a young Italian woman 
"of brilliant education, " who, having become insane 
through disappointment in love, was healed, but only 
to fall into a profound apathy regarding everything. 
"She reasons soundly upon all subjects, but she no 
longer has any will, in the proper sense of the word, 
neither power to will or to love, nor consciousness of 
what happens to her, of what she feels, or of what she 
does. . . . She says that she finds herself in the state 
of one who is neither dead nor alive, who lives in a 

* We would remark that there is question of the condition, not of the mo- 
tor organs, but of the centres, whatever opinion may be held regarding their 
pature and localisation. 


perpetual sleep, to whom objects appear as though 
wrapped in a cloud, and to whom persons seem to 
move about like shadows, and words to come from a 
distant world."* 

If, as we shall see at length later on, the voluntary 
act is composed of two very distinct elements : a state 
of consciousness totally impotent to cause or prevent 
action, and organic states which alone have this power; 
it must be admitted that the two events, ordinarily 
simultaneous because they are the effects of the same 
cause, are here disassociated. The inability to act is 
a fact. Is the intensity of the state of consciousness 
(which, in any case, is intermittent) also a fact? In 
that case it would be necessary to admit that the neces- 
sary and sufficient conditions occur, but for this event 
alone. Is it an illusion ? I am inclined to think that 
it is. The ardent desire to act, that some of these 
patients believe themselves to experience, appears to 
me a simple illusion of their consciousness. The in- 
tensity of a desire is something entirely relative. In 
that state of general apathy, a given impulse that ap- 
pears strong to them is in fact below the mean inten- 
sity; whence the inaction. In studying the state of the 
will in somnambulism, we shall see later on that certain 
subjects are persuaded that it depends wholly upon 
themselves to act, but that they are finally compelled 
by experience to admit that they are wrong and that 
their consciousness deceives them completely, f 

On the contrary, when an excitation is very vio- 
lent, sudden and unexpected, that is to say, unites all 
the conditions of intensity, it most frequently acts. We 

* Billed, Annales medico-psychologiques, loc. cit., p. 184. 
t See Chapter V, infra. 


have seen, above, a patient recover his energy to save 
a woman who had been run over.* 

Each one of us can, moreover, picture to himself 
this state of abulia ; for there is no one who has not 
been through hours of dejection in which all incite- 
ments, exterior and interior, sensations and ideas, re- 
main inoperant, leave us cold. It is a touch of abulia. 
There is only the difference between a less and a 
greater, between a transient condition and a chronic 

If these patients cannot will, it is because all the 
projects they conceive awaken in them but feeble de- 
sires, insufficient to impel them to action. I express 
myself thus in order to conform to the current phrase- 
ology; for it is not the weakness of the desires, con- 
sidered as simple psychic states, which induces the in- 
action. That would be to reason from appearances 
only. As we have shown above, every state of the ner- 
vous system, corresponding to a sensation or an idea, 
expresses itself so much the better in movement as it 
is accompanied by those other neural states, whatever 
they may be, which correspond to feelings. It is from 
the weakness of these states that abulia results, not 
from the weakness of the desires, which is only a sign. 

The cause is then a relative insensibility, a general 
impairment of sensibility; what is attacked is the emo- 
tional life, the possibility of being moved. Whence 
does this morbid state itself come? The problem is 
chiefly of a physiological order. Beyond doubt there 
is in patients of this class a notable depression of the 
vital activities. It may reach such a point that all the 
faculties are affected and the individual becomes an 

* I have learned from Dr. Billed that this patient recovered his activity in 
consequence of the events of June, 1848, and the emotions they caused him. 


inert thing. This is the state that the physicians desig- 
nate by the names of melancholia, lypemania, and 
stupor, whose physical symptoms are a slackening of 
the circulation, a lowering of the temperature of the 
body, and an almost complete immobility. These ex- 
treme cases go beyond our subject ; but they reveal to 
us the ultimate causes of the impotences of the will. 
Every depression in the vital tone, slight or profound, 
fugitive or lasting, has its effect. The will so little re- 
sembles a faculty reigning as a mistress that it depends 
at each instant upon the most trivial and hidden causes; 
it is at their mercy. And yet, as it has its source in 
the biological processes that take place in the inmost 
depths of our tissues, we see how true it is to say that 
it is our very self. 

We may venture another hypothesis and seek the 
explanation of abulia in the order of motor manifesta- 
tions. Between the resolution which expresses itself 
by an " I will," and which is a purely mental act, and 
the execution of the movements willed, which is a 
purely physical act, there is an intermediate stage 
which is the awakening and excitation of the motor 
images. All our movements, executed at first at ran- 
dom, leave after them traces, residua, which constitute 
a motor memory, thanks to which, after a period of 
gropings and apprenticeship, the will, become mistress 
of its instrument, has only to speak to be obeyed. 
Might it not be supposed that these motor images are 
impaired or lost and that as a result the will remains 
suspended in a void and impotent to pass into action? 
As specious as this hypothesis may be, it is not ten- 
able. It would be equivalent to saying that these dis- 
eases of the will are diseases of the memory; but abulia 
:s not a kind of amnesia. The agraphic patient who, 


through loss of the motor images, no longer knows 
how to write, totally differs from Billod's patient who, 
as soon as he succeeds in acting, writes like any one 

It would be more permissible to associate abulia 
with the psychic paralyses studied by Reynolds, Charcot, 
and other authors. In cases of this kind, the patient 
is paralysed because he believes himself paralysed. 
The whole treatment consists in extirpating from his 
mind this debilitating image. As soon as he believes 
himself able to act he acts.* Yet, does this not bring 
us back indirectly to the first hypothesis? For how can 
the idea of a motor impotence act except through the 
state of depression which accompanies it, that is to say, 
through a diminishing of excitation. 

The reader may choose between the two hypotheses 
which have been propounded ; our preferences are for 
the first one.f 


The second group resembles the first in its effects 
(enfeeblement of the will) and in its causes (depressive 
influences). The only difference is that the incitation 
to act is not extinct. The first group presents positive 
causes of inaction, the second group negative causes. 
The inhibition results from an antagonism. 

In all of the observations which are to follow, the 
impairment of the will arises from a sentiment of fear, 
without a reasonable motive, which varies from simple 

* These psychical paralyses can be produced by suggestions in the hyp- 
notic state. One can paralyse the organs of speech, an arm, a leg, etc. An 
affirmation creates the infirmities, the contrary affirmation destroys them. 

t For a very detailed study of a case of abulia (mania of doubt) see the 
articles by Mr. Pierre Janet, in the Revue philosophique, March and April, 
1891. That author explains it by a " psychic disintegration." 


anxiety to anguish and stupefying terror. The intel- 
lect appears intact in certain cases, impaired in others. 
So some of these cases are of a doubtful character, and 
it is difficult to say whether they denote a malady of 
the will alone.* 

The following observation makes the transition 
from one group to the other ; to tell the truth it belongs 
to both. 

A man thirty years of age finds himself mixed up 
in riots which cause him a great fright. Thereafter, 
although he has preserved his perfect lucidity of mind, 
although he administers his fortune very well and directs 
an important business, " he cannot remain alone, either 
in the street or in his room ; he is always accom- 
panied. When he is away from home it would be im- 
possible for him to return alone to his domicile. If he 
does go out alone, which very rarely occurs, he soon 
stops in the middle of the street, and would remain 
there indefinitely, without going either forwards or 
backwards, if some one did not bring him back. He 
appears to have a will, but it is that of the people who 
surround him. When one desires to overcome this re- 
sistance of the patient, he falls into a swoon, "f 

Several alienists have recently described under the 
names of fear of spaces, fear of places (Platzangsf), and 
agoraphobia, a fantastic anxiety which paralyses the 
will, and against which the individual is powerless to 
react, or succeeds in doing so only by indirect means. 

An observation by Westphal may serve as a type. 

* It is well to remark once for all that, studying here only the disorders 
exclusively characteristic of the will, we have had to eliminate the cases 
where the psychic activity is affected in its totality, and those in which de- 
rangements of the will are only the effect and the manifestation of intellectual 

t Billed, loc. cit., p. 191. 


A robust traveller, perfectly healthy in mind and pre- 
senting no disturbance of motility, finds himself seized 
with a sense of anguish at the sight of a public place or 
of a space of any considerable extent. If he has to cross 
one of the great squares of Berlin, he has the feeling 
that the distance is one of several miles, and that he 
will never be able to reach the other side. This emo- 
tion diminishes or disappears if he goes around the 
square following the houses, or if he is accompanied, 
or even if he simply supports himself upon a cane. 

Carpenter reports, after Bennett,* a " paralysis of 
the will," which seems to me of the same order. 
"When a certain man took a walk in the street and 
came to some break in the line of houses, he was un- 
able to go on any further ; his will became suddenly 
inactive. The encountering of a square never failed 
to stop him. To cross a street was also something very 
difficult, and when he passed the threshold of a door 
in entering or going out he was always arrested for 
some minutes." 

Others, in the open country, feel at ease only when 
walking beside bushes or under the shelter of the trees. 
Examples might be multiplied, but without profit, as 
the fundamental fact remains the same.f 

The medical discussions regarding this morbid state 
do not concern us here. The psychological fact re- 
duces itself to a feeling of fear, like so many others 
that are met with, and it is indifferent that this feeling 
is puerile and chimerical as regards its causes ; we 

* Loc. cit., p. 385. 

t For further details, see Westphal, Archiv ftir Psychiatric, vol. iii (two 
articles); Cordes, ibid.; Legrand du Saulle, Annales medico-psychologiques t 
1876, p. 405, with a discussion of this subject ; Ritti, Dictionnaire encyc.lopedique 
des sciences medicales. article " Folie avec conscience "; Maudsley, Pathology 
of Mind (French translation, p. 339, seq.). 


have only to note its effect, which is to hinder voli- 
tion. But we must inquire whether this depressive 
influence merely arrests the volitional impulse, which 
remains intact in itself, or whether the power of indi- 
vidual reaction is also impaired. The second hypoth- 
esis imposes itself upon us, for the feeling of fear not 
being insurmountable (as these patients prove in cer- 
tain cases) it must be admitted that the individual's 
power of reaction has fallen below the general level ; 
in such wise that the arrest results from two causes 
which act in the same direction. 

Unfortunately the physiological conditions of this 
impairment are not known. Numerous conjectures 
have been made. Cordes, himself stricken with this 
infirmity, considers it " a functional paralysis, symp- 
tomatic of certain modifications of the motor centres, 
and capable of giving rise to certain impressions within 
us. Specifically, it would be an impression of fear 
which would give rise to a transient paralysis ; an effect 
almost null if the imagination alone comes into play, 
but carried to the highest degree by the adjunction of 
accessory circumstances." The primitive cause would 
be then "a. paretic exhaustion of the motor nervous 
system, of that portion of the brain which presides 
not only over locomotion but also over muscular sensi- 

This explanation, if it were well established, would 
be of great importance to our subject. It would show 
that the impotence of the will depends upon an im- 
potence of the motor centres, which would have the 
advantage of giving to our researches a secure physio- 
logical basis. But it would be premature to draw here 
conclusions which would be better placed at the end 
of our work. 


I shall not speak at length regarding the mental 
state called doubting-insanity or fumbling-mania (Gril- 
belsuchf). It represents the pathological form of the 
irresolute character, just as abulia is that of the apa- 
thetic character. It is a state of constant hesitation 
from the most trivial motives, with inability to reach 
any definitive result. 

The hesitation exists at first in the purely intellec- 
tual order. The patient asks himself endless ques- 
tions. I borrow an example from Legrand du Saulle. 
"A very intelligent woman cannot go out in the street 
without asking herself : ' Is some one going to fall out 
of a window at my feet? Will it be a man or a wo- 
man? Will the person be wounded or killed? If 
wounded, will it be in the head or the legs? Will 
there be blood on the sidewalk ? If the person is killed 
how shall I know it ? Ought I to call for help, or to 
run away, or to recite a prayer ? Shall I be accused 
of being the cause of this occurrence? Will my inno- 
cence be recognised? ' and soon." These interroga- 
tions continue without end, and there exist a great 
number of analogous cases, recorded in special treat- 

If there were nothing more than this " psychological 
rumination," as the author cited expresses it, we should 
have nothing to say regarding it ; but this morbid per- 
plexity of the intellect expresses itself in the actions. 
The patient no longer dares to do anything without 
endless precautions. If he writes a letter, he reads it 
over several times, for fear he may have forgotten a 
word or offended against orthography. 

* Consult in particular: Legrand du Saulle, La folie du doute avec d&lire 
du toucher, 1875; Griesinger, Archiv fiir Psychiatric, 1869; Berger, ibid., 1876; 
Ritti, Dictionnaire encyclopedique, loc. cit. 


If he is shutting up a piece of furniture he verifies 
several times over the success of his operation. In 
the same way for his apartment ; there is a repeated 
verification of the fastenings, of the presence of the 
key in his pocket, of the state of his pocket, etc. 

In a graver form, the patient, pursued by a puerile 
fear of dirtiness or unwholesome contact, no longer 
dares to touch pieces of money, door-knobs, window- 
fastenings, etc., and lives amid perpetual apprehen- 
sions. Such was the cathedral beadle mentioned by 
Morel, who, worried for twenty-five years by absurd 
fears, no longer dares to touch his halberd, reasons 
with himself, rails at himself, and triumphs over him- 
self, but by a sacrifice that he is apprehensive of being 
unable to make the next time.* 

This malady of the will results in part from weak- 
ness of character, in part from the intellectual state. 
It is quite natural that this flux of chimerical ideas 
should express itself in useless acts, not adapted to 
reality; but the impotence of the individual reaction 
plays an important rele. So we find a lowering of the 
vital tone. The proof of this is to be found in the 
causes of this morbid state (hereditary neuropathies, 
debilitating maladies); in the crises and the syncope 
to which the effort to act may lead ; and in the ex- 
treme forms of the disease where these miserable per- 
sons, consumed by hesitations without respite, no 
longer write, no longer listen, no longer speak, "but 
talk to themselves in a low voice, then in an under- 
tone, and in some cases end by simply moving the 
lips, expressing their ideas by a sort of murmur (mus- 

Finally, let us note the cases in which the impair- 

* Archives gentrales de mtdecine, 1866. 


ment of the will borders on extinction. When a per- 
manent and obtrusive state of consciousness is accom- 
panied by a feeling of intense terror, there occurs an 
almost absolute inhibition, and the patient appears 
stupid without being so. Of this character is the case 
reported by Esquirol of a young man who appeared to 
be an idiot, who had to be dressed, put to bed, and 
fed, and who, after his recovery, acknowledged that 
an interior voice used to say to him : "Do not move, 
or you are dead. " * 

Guislain also reports a curious fact, but one in 
which the absence of psychological data leaves us in a 
quandary and permits only an equivocal interpreta- 
tion. "A young lady, courted by a young man, was 
seized with a mental alienation, whose true cause was 
unknown and whose distinctive feature was a strong 
contrariness of disposition, which was soon transformed 
into a morbid mutism. During twelve years she made 
answer to questions only twice ; the first time, under 
the influence of her father's imperative words ; the 
second, on her entrance into our establishment. In 
both cases she was strangely, surprisingly laconic." 

For two months Guislain devoted himself to re- 
peated attempts to effect a cure. ' ' My efforts were 
vain and my exhortations without effect. I persisted, 
and very soon I noticed a change in the features, a 
more intelligent expression in the eyes ; a little later 
she would utter from time to time some sentences, 
clear, categorical explanations, interrupted by long in- 
tervals of silence ; for the patient showed an extreme 
repugnance to yielding to my entreaties. ... It could 
be seen that each time her self-love was gratified by 
the victory that she obtained over herself. In her an- 

* Esquirol, vol. ii, p. 287. 


swers there could never be observed the slightest in- 
sane idea ; her alienation was exclusively a malady of 
the impulsive will. Often a sort of bashfulness seemed 
to restrain this patient, whom I began to consider as 
decidedly convalescent. For two or three days she 
ceased to speak ; then, as a result of renewed solicita- 
tions, speech returned to her again, until at last she 
took part, of her own accord, in the conversations go- 
ing on around her. . . . This recovery is one of the 
most astonishing that I have seen in my life."* 

The author adds that the restoration was complete 
and lasting. 

This state of morbid inertia, of which abulia is the 
type, where the "I will" is never followed by action, 
shows that volition, considered as a state of conscious- 
ness, and the efficient power of acting are two distinct 
things. Without insisting for the moment on this 
point, let us dwell upon this fact of effort, which is of 
prime importance in the psychology of the will, and 
which is lacking here. 

The feeling of muscular effort has been studied by 
Mr. William Jamesf in a manner so profound and so 
rigorous that there is no need of going over it again, 
and it is sufficient to recall briefly his conclusions. 
That physiologist has shown that the sense of the mus- 
cular energy expended in any act whatever is "a com- 
plex afferent sensation', which comes from the con- 
tracted muscles, the tense ligaments, the compressed 
articulations, the firm chest, the closed glottis, the 
contracted eye-brow, the set jaws, etc." He has dis- 
cussed, point by point, supporting himself on the results 
of experiment, the opinion which makes of it an effer- 

*Guislain, op. cit., vol. ii, pp. 227, 228. 
t The Feeling of Effort, Boston, 1880. 


ent sensation, connected with the motor discharge and 
coinciding with the outgoing current of nervous energy. 
He' has notably shown, after Ferrier and others, how, 
in cases of paralysis, if the sense of effort is preserved, 
although the paralysed member cannot be moved in 
the slightest degree, it is because the conditions of the 
consciousness of effort continue to exist, the patient 
moving the member or organ of the opposite side. 

But Mr. James rightly distinguishes the muscular 
from the volitional effort, which latter, in many cases, 
implies no immediate movement or no more than 
an extremely feeble muscular energy. Such, to bor- 
row from him one of his illustrations, is the case of 
the man, who, after a long hesitation, decides to put 
arsenic into his wife's glass in order to poison her. 
Every one knows moreover by his own experience this 
state of struggle in which the effort is all internal. 
Here we take issue with regret from that author, who 
locates this effort in a region apart and supersensible. 
To us it seems to differ from the other only in one 
point : its physiological conditions are little known, 
and only hypotheses can be ventured. 
y There are two types of this volitional effort : one 
which consists in arresting the movements of instinct, 
or passion, or habit ; the other, in overcoming languor, 
torpor, or timidity; the first is an effort with a nega- 
tive result, the other, an effort with a positive result ; 
one produces an inhibition, the other an impulsion. 
These two types can themselves be reduced to a single 
formula. There is effort when the volition follows the 
line of greatest resistance. This volitional effort never 
takes place when the impulse (or inhibition) and the 
choice coincide, when our natural tendencies and the 
"I will "go in the same direction; in clearer terms, 


when what is immediately agreeable to the individual 
and what is chosen by him are but one. It always 
occurs when two groups of antagonistic tendencies are 
struggling each to supplant the other. In fact, as 
every one knows, this struggle takes place between 
the lower tendencies, whose adaptation is limited, and 
the higher tendencies, whose adaptation is complex. 
The first are always the stronger by nature ; the sec- 
ond are sometimes so by art. The first represent a 
power enregistered in the organism, the others an ac- 
quisition of recent date* 

How, then, can these sometimes triumph? It is 
because the "I will " is a reinforcement for them. Not, 
of course, as a simple state of consciousness, but be- 
cause, under this volition, which is an effect, there are 
causes, known, partly known, and unknown, which we 
have so often summed up in one word : the individual 
character. All these little active causes which consti- 
tute the physical and psychic individual are not ab- 
stractions. They are physiological or psycho-physio- 
logical processes : they presuppose work done in the 
nervous centres, whatever they may be. Is it rash to 
maintain that the sense of volitional effort is itself also 
an effect of these physiological processes ? The only 
objection that can be made is our present inability to 
determine its mechanism. This point is all the more 
obscure because the mechanism must differ according 
as it is an impulse or an inhibition that is to be pro- 
duced : so the feeling of volitional effort is not identi- 
cal in the two cases. 

The inward struggle is accompanied by a feeling of 
fatigue often intense. Although we do not know all 
about the nature and causes of this state, it is generally 
supposed that even in muscular effort the seat of the 


fatigue is in the neural centres which direct the con- 
traction, not in the muscles ; that there is a nervous, 
not a muscular, exhaustion. In reflex contractions 
there is no fatigue perceived. In hysterical persons, 
contractions are seen to persist almost indefinitely, 
without the patient experiencing the least sense of 
lassitude ; it is then the voluntary effort which wearies, 
and not the contraction of the muscle.* 

We have, therefore, no reason except our ignorance 
for attributing to volitional effort a character apart. 
Are the neural elements capable of furnishing, in all 
the cases where this effort must go forth, an increase 
of work during a given period? or else are they, by 
nature or by lack of education and exercise, quickly 
exhausted and incapable of regaining new strength? 
Have they, or have they not, a sufficient quantity of 
disponible force stored up in them? The problem of 
action in the direction of the greatest resistance is there 
reduced to its lowest terms. It is this hidden, almost 
unknown labor which manifests itself in the feeling of 
volitional effort. The feeling of effort in all its forms 
is, accordingly, a subjective state corresponding to 
certain operations going on in the nerve-centres and 
other parts of the organism, but resembling them as 
little as the sensations of sound and of light resemble 
their objective cause. To produce a great moral or 
intellectual effort, it is necessary for the appropriate 
nerve-centres (whatever they may be, and our igno- 
rance on this point is almost complete) to be in a state 
to perform intense and repeated work, instead of be- 
coming exhausted at short notice and without recupera- 

* Richet, Physiologic des nerfs et des muscles, pp. 477-490. Delboeuf, " Etude 
psychophysique," p. 92 et seo,.,in Elhnents de psychophysique, vol. i. 


tive power. The capacity for effort is, therefore, in 
the last analysis a natural gift. 

To be less indefinite, let us take the commonplace 
example of a vicious man. If he has never in his life, 
either spontaneously or under the influence of others, 
experienced even the faintest desire for conversion (sup- 
posing that such a case occurs), it is because the moral 
elements, with the corresponding physiological condi- 
tions, are completely lacking in him. If, under any 
circumstances, the idea of amendment rises up in him, 
we may remark in the first place that this occurrence 
is involuntary; but it supposes the pre-existence and 
the calling into play of certain psycho-physiological 
elements. Should this end be chosen, affirmed as hav- 
ing ought to be, willed ; if the resolution does not last 
it is because the individual is incapable of effort ; it is 
because there is not in his organisation the possibility 
of repeated work of which we have spoken ; if it does 
last, it is because it is maintained by virtue of effort, 
by that interior labor which produces the inhibition of 
contrary states. Every organ develops by exercise ; 
it is the same here, in such wise that repetition be- 
comes easier. But if a first element is not given by 
nature, and with it a potential energy, nothing re- 
sults. The theological dogma of grace as a free gift 
appears to us, therefore, founded upon a much more 
exact psychology than the contrary opinion,* and we 
see how easily it may be made to undergo a physio- 
logical transformation. To return to the morbid cases 
with which we are dealing, there must be an incapa- 
city for effort, temporary and accidental, but extending 
to almost the entire organism. 

* The doctrine of grace is already met with among the Hindus, notably in 
the Bhagavad-Gita, xi, 53. See Barth, The Religions of India, 75, 219. 



WE HAVE just been looking at cases in which the 
intellectual adaptation, that is to say, the correspond- 
ence between the intelligent being and the environ- 
ment, being normal, the impulse to action is absent, 
very weak, or at least insufficient. In physiological 
language, the cerebral acts which are the basis of the 
intellectual activity (the concept of an end and of 
means, choice, etc.) remain intact, but there is lacking 
to them those concomitant states which are the physio- 
logical equivalents of the feelings, and whose absence 
occasions the defect of action. 

We are about to witness cases contrary to the pre- 
ceding in certain respects. The intellectual adapta- 
tion is very weak, at least very unstable ; rational mo- 
tives are powerless to act or restrain from action ; the 
impulses of an inferior order gain all that the higher 
impulses lose. The will, that is to say, the rational 
activity, disappears, and the individual falls back into 
the domain of instinct. 

There are no examples which can better show us 
that the will, in the exact sense, is the crown, the last 
term of an evolution, the result of a great number of 


tendencies disciplined in accordance with an hierarchic 
order ; that it is the most perfect species of that genus 
which is called activity; in such wise that the study 
which is to follow might be entitled : How the will be- 
comes impoverished and disappears. 

Let us examine the facts. We will divide them into 
two groups : (i) those which, being hardly conscious 
(even if they are so at all), denote an absence rather 
than an enfeeblement of the will ; (2) those which are 
accompanied by full consciousness, but in which, after 
a longer or shorter struggle, the will succumbs or only 
recovers itself by outside assistance. 

* * 

I. In the first case "the impulse may be sudden, 
unconscious, followed by an immediate execution, 
without the understanding having even had time to 
take cognisance of it. ... The act has then all the , 
characteristics of a purely reflex phenomenon which 
takes place inevitably, without any connivance of the 
will. It is a true convulsion which differs from the 
ordinary convulsion only because it consists of move- 
ments associated and combined in view of a determined 
result. Such is the case of that woman who, seated 
on a bench in a garden, in an unaccustomed state of 
causeless sadness, gets up suddenly, throws herself into 
a ditch full of water as if to drown herself, and who, 
saved and restored to perfect lucidity, declares, a few 
days after, that she is not aware of having wished to 
commit suicide, nor has she any remembrance of the 
attempt that she has made." * 

"I have seen," says Luys,f "a. number of patients 

* Foville, Nouveau dictionnaire de medicine, article " Folie," p. 342. 
t This citation is given in the earlier French editions, though omitted in 
the later ones. Trans. 


who repeatedly attempted suicide in the presence of 
those who watched them, but they had no recollection 
of the fact in their lucid state. And what proves the 
unconsciousness of the mind under these conditions is 
the fact that the patients do not perceive the inefficacy 
of the methods they employ. Thus a lady who at- 
tempted suicide whenever she saw a table-knife, did 
not notice one day when I was watching her that I 
had substituted for the knife a harmless instrument. 
Another patient tried to hang himself with a half-rotten 
cord that was not strong enough to bear even slight 
tension." * 

Among epileptics, impulses of this kind are so fre- 
quent that pages might be filled with them. Hysterical 
patients would also furnish innumerable examples ; 
they have a frantic tendency to the immediate satis- 
faction of their caprices or of their wants. 

Other impulses have effects less grave, but denote 
the same psychic state. " In certain patients, the sur- 
excitation of the motor forces is such that they walk 
for whole hours without stopping, without looking 
around them, like mechanical apperatus that have been 
set in motion." A marchioness of a very distinguished 
mind, says Billed, in the middle of a conversation 
"interrupts a sentence that she afterwards goes on 
with, in order to address to some one in the company 
an improper or obscene epithet. The utterance of this 
word is accompanied with blushing, with a confused 
and abashed air, and the word is spoken in an abrupt 
tone like an arrow leaving the string." An hysterical 
patient of long standing, very intelligent and very lucid, 
"experiences at certain moments the need of going into 
some solitary place to shout ; she unburdens her griefs, 

* Maladies mentales, pp. 3*73, 439, 440. 


her complaints against her family and her environment. 
She knows perfectly well that she is wrong to divulge 
certain secrets aloud ; but, as she insists, she is com- 
pelled to speak and satisfy her grudges." * 

This last case leads us to the irresistible impulses 
with consciousness. Confining ourselves to the others, 
that we could multiply to profusion, they show us the 
individual reduced to the lowest degree of activity, 
that of pure reflexes. The acts are unconscious (at 
any rate not deliberate), immediate, irresistible, with 
an adaptation invariable and of little complexity. From 
the point of view of physiology and of psychology, 
the human being under these conditions is compara- 
ble to an animal which has been decapitated or at 
least deprived of its cerebral lobes. It is generally 
admitted that the brain can dominate the reflexes for 
the following reason : the excitation, starting from one 
point in the body, divides its self on its arrival in the 
spinal cord and follows two paths ; it is transmitted 
to the reflex centre by a transverse route ; to the brain 
by a longitudinal and ascending one. The transverse 
route offering more resistance, transmission in this di- 
rection requires a rather long time (experiment of Ro- 
senthal). The lengthwise transmission is, on the con- 
trary, much more rapid. The suspensive action of the 
brain consequently has time to take place and to mod- 
erate the reflexes. In the foregoing cases, the brain 
being without action, the activity remains in its inferior 
degree, and, in default of its necessary and sufficient 
conditions, volition is not produced. 

II. The facts of the second group deserve to be 
studied at greater length : they bring out the defect of 
the will or the artificial means which maintain it. Here 

* Billed, loc. cit., 193 seqq. 


the patient has full consciousness of the situation ; he 
feels that he is no more master of himself, that he is 
dominated by an interior force, irresistibly impelled to 
commit acts that he reprobates. The intellect remains 
sufficiently healthy, the madness exists only in the acts. 

The most simple form is that oi fixed ideas with ob- 
session. Such a one cannot deliver himself from the 
invincible necessity of counting, without end or repose, 
all that he sees and touches, all the words that he reads 
or hears, all the letters of a book, etc. (arithmomania). 
He is conscious of the absurdity of this labor, but he 
must count. Another is obsessed with an implacable 
need of knowing the name of all the unknown per- 
sons that he meets in the streets or while travelling 
(onomatomania of Charcot and Magnan). He tries in 
vain to escape from this puerile inquisitiveness ; he 
must know them. 

These obsessions, and analogous ones that I omit, 
have at least one advantage. As they have their origin 
in intellectual states, pure ideas (not wants or feelings), 
their satisfaction is without danger. 

All this, even in action, remains theoretical, spec- 

It is quite otherwise with the irresistible impulses 
of affective origin, springing from needs and instincts, 
of which we are about to speak. 

There will be found in a book by Marc, now some- 
what forgotten,* an ample collection of facts upon 
which later writers have often drawn. Let us cite a 
few of them. 

A lady sometimes attacked with homicidal im- 
pulses used to ask to be restrained by means of a strait 

*De lafolie considerle dans ces rapports avec les questions medico-judiciaires 
(2 vol. 8vo., Paris, 1840). 


jacket, announcing afterwards the moment when all 
danger was past and when her liberty of movement 
could be restored. 

A chemist tormented in the same way by homicidal 
desires caused his two thumbs to be tied together with 
a ribbon, and found in this simple obstacle the means 
of resisting the temptation. 

A domestic of irreproachable conduct begged her 
mistress to let her go away, because when she saw 
naked the child of which she had charge, she was de- 
voured with a desire to disembowel it. 

Another woman, of great intellectual culture and full 
of affection for her parents, " began to strike them in 
spite of herself and asked some one to come to her aid 
by holding her in an arm-chair." 

A melancholic patient tormented with the idea of 
suicide got up at night, went and knocked at his 
brother's door and cried to him : "Come quickly, sui- 
cide pursues me, very soon I shall no longer resist." * 

Calmeil, in his "Traite" des maladies inflammatoires 
du cerveau," reports the following case, of which he 
was a witness and which I will report at full length 
because it will dispense me from many others : 

" Glenadel, having lost his father in infancy, was 
raised by his mother who adored him. At sixteen years 
his character, until then good and submissive, changed. 
He became sombre and taciturn. Pressed with ques- 
tions by his mother, he at last decided upon an 
avowal: 'I owe everything to you,' he said to her, 
' I love you with all my soul ; however, for some days 
an incessant idea has impelled me to kill you. Do not 
let it happen, that, I being at last vanquished, so great 
a misfortune shall take place ; let me enlist.' In spite 

*Guislain, op. cit., i, 479. 


of pressing solicitations, he was immovable in his reso- 
lution, went away and was a good soldier. How- 
ever, a secret will continually urged him to desert, so 
as to return to the country and kill his mother. At 
the end of his engagement, the idea was as strong as 
on the first day. He contracted a new engagement. 
The homicidal instinct persisted, but accepted the sub- 
stitution of another victim. He thinks no more of kill- 
ing his mother, the frightful impulse points out to him 
day and night his sister-in-law. To resist this second 
impulse, he condemns himself to a perpetual exile. 

"Meanwhile a compatriot arrives at his regiment. 
Glnadel confides to him his trouble. ' Reassure your- 
self,' the other says to him, ' the crime is impossible, 
your sister-in-law has just died.' At these words, 
Gle*nadel rises up like a delivered captive ; he is filled 
with joy; he sets out for his country, which he had not 
seen since his childhood. On arriving, he perceives 
his sister-in-law alive. He cries out, and the terrible 
impulse instantly seizes him again like a prey. 

" That evening he made his brother tie him. < Take 
a stout rope, tie me like a wolf in the barn, and go and 
notify Mr. Calmeil. . . .' He obtained from him his 
admission into an asylum for the insane. The day be- 
fore his entrance he wrote to the director of the estab- 
lishment : ' Sir, I am going to enter your house. I 
shall conduct myself there as at the regiment. They 
will think me healed ; perhaps at some moments I 
may pretend to be so. Do not ever believe me; I 
must not go out any more under any pretext. When 
I beg for my release, be more watchful than ever ; I 
would use that liberty to commit a crime which horri- 
nes me.'" 

It must not be believed that this example is unique 


or even rare, and in the alienists we find several cases 
of individuals who, tormented by a necessity of killing 
persons who are dear to them, fly to an asylum to 
make themselves prisoners. 

The irresistible and yet conscious impulses to steal, 
to commit arson, to destroy oneself by alcoholic ex- 
cesses, enter into the same category.* Maudsley in 
his " Pathology of Mind,"f has collected so full a 
range of examples that the best thing to do is to refer 
the reader to it. 

All those fatal tendencies classed under the names 
of dipsomania, kleptomania, pyromania, erotomania, 
homicidal and suicidal monomania are to-day no longer 
considered as distinct morbid forms, but as different 
manifestations of one single and the same cause : de- 
generacy, that is to say, psychological instability and 
lack of co-ordination. Nothing is more frequent than 
the metamorphosis of one impulse into another, of hom- 
icide into suicide or inversely. In a very fine case re- 
ported by Morel, J we see a degenerated person who is 
driven in turn to suicide, homicide, sexual excesses, 
alcoholism and incendiary attempts. It would be 
curious for the psychologist to know why the unique 
cause manifests itself in effects so diverse, here in one 
manner and there in another ; why the epileptic is 
more apt to be a thief, the imbecile an incendiary, etc. 
It seems that the ultimate reason for these diversities 
is found in the idiosyncrasy of the degenerate person, 
in his mental and physical constitution. The solution 

* See Trelat, Folie lucide ; Maudsley, Crime and Insanity (French transla- 
tion, p. 186). 

t French translation, chap, vii, p. 330 et seqq. 

%Maladtes mentales, p. 420. 

Upon this point see Schiile, Maladies mentales, (translated from the Ger- 
man), vol. ii, p, 423. 


of this problem does not concern us here. It is suffi- 
cient to note that all these creatures of impulse have 
the same characteristics : they are conscious, inco- 
ordinated, incapable of struggle. 

It must be remarked in the first place that there is 
an almost insensible transition between the healthy 
state and these pathological forms. The most reason- 
able people have foolish impulses cross their brain ; 
but these sudden and unusual states of consciousness 
remain without effect, do not pass into action, because 
they are destroyed by contrary forces, the general habit 
of the mind ; because, between this isolated state and 
its antagonists the disproportion is so great that there 
is not even a struggle. 

In other cases, to which very little importance is 
ordinarily attached, there are acts which are fantastic, 
"but which have nothing in themselves reprehensible 
or dangerous ; they may constitute a sort of a whim, 
a crochet, a mania, using this last word in its usual and 
vulgar sense. 

"At other times, without yet being very compromis- 
ing, the acts are already more serious : they consist in 
destroying, in striking without a motive an inanimate 
object, in tearing up clothes. We have just now un- 
der observation a young woman who ruins all her 
dresses. The instance is cited of an amateur who, 
finding himself in a museum in front of a valuable pic- 
ture, feels an instinctive impulse to break in the can- 
vas. Very often these impulses pass unperceived and 
are confided only to the consciousness which experi- 
ences them."* 

*Foville, op. cit., p. 341. 


Certain fixed ideas of a useless or unreasonable na- 
ture impose themselves upon the mind, which judges 
them absurd, but is powerless to prevent them from 
expressing themselves in acts. There will be found in 
a work by Westphal some curious facts of this kind. 
One man, for example, is pursued by this idea, that 
he might have confided to a paper the statement that 
he is the author of some crime or other, and have lost 
that paper; consequently he preserves carefully all the 
pieces of paper that he runs across, picks up scraps of 
it in the street, assures himself that they contain no 
writing, takes them to his house and makes a collection 
of them. He has, moreover, full consciousness of the 
puerility of this idea, which torments him all the time ; 
he does not believe in it, but yet is unable to rid him- 
self of it.* 

Between the most silly acts and the most danger- 
ous ones, there is only a quantitative difference : what 
the first give on a small scale the others show en- 
larged. Let us try to understand the mechanism of 
this disorganisation of the will. 

In the normal state an end is chosen, affirmed, car- 
ried out ; that is to say that all or most of the elements 
of the ego concur in it. The states of consciousness 
(feelings, ideas, with their motor tendencies), the 
movements of our members form a consensus which 
converges towards the end, with more or less effort, by 
a complex mechanism, composed at once of impulses 
and of inhibitions. 

* Westphal, Ueber Zwangsvorstellungen (Berlin, 1877). It may be re- 
marked that, in certain cases, the fear of performing an act irresistibly leads 
to it ; for instance, the effects of vertigo, people who throw themselves down 
in the street for fear of falling in it, who hurt themselves from fear of hurting 
themselves, etc. All these facts have their explanation in the nature of the 
mental representation, which, by very reason of its intensity, passes into ac- 


Such is the will in its complete and typical form ; 
but this is not a natural product. It is the result of 
art, of education, of experience. It is an edifice con- 
structed slowly, piece by piece. Observation, both 
objective and subjective, shows that every form of 
voluntary activity is the fruit of a conquest. Nature 
furnishes only the materials ; a few simple movements 
in the physiological order, a few simple associations in 
the psychological order. By the aid of these simple 
and almost invariable adaptations there must be formed 
adaptations more and more complex and variable. 
For example, the child has to acquire his power over 
his legs, his arms, and all the movable parts of his 
body by means of gropings and trials, in which the 
appropriate movements are combined and the useless 
ones suppressed. The simple groups thus formed are 
combined into complex groups, those into still more 
complex ones, and so on. In the psychological order 
an analogous operation is necessary. Nothing com- 
plex is acquired at the onset. 

But it is very clear that, in an edifice thus con- 
structed little by little, the primitive materials alone 
are stable, and that in measure as the complexity is 
augmented the stability decreases. The most simple 
actions are the most stable : for anatomical reasons, 
because they are congenital, inscribed in the organism ; 
for physiological, because they are perpetually re- 
peated in the experience of the individual, and, if one 
wishes to bring in heredity, which opens up an unlim- 
ited field, in the numberless experiences of the exist- 
ing species and of those from which it has sprung.* 

* Voluntary power coming into existence when certain groups of move- 
ments are obedient to certain states of consciousness, there may be cited by 
way of a pathological case the fact reported by Meschede (Correspondenz- 
Blatt. 1874, ii) of a man who " found himself in this singular condition that, 


Taking all together, what is surprising is that the 
will, the activity of a complex and superior order, is able 
to become dominant. The causes which elevate it to this 
rank and maintain it there are the same which in man 
elevate and maintain the intellect above sensations and 
instincts : and, taking humanity as a whole, the facts 
prove that the domination of the one is as precarious 
as that of the other. The great development of the 
cerebral mass in civilised man, the influence of educa- 
tion and of the habits that it imposes, explain how, in 
spite of so many contrary chances, the rational activity 
often remains mistress. 

The preceding pathological facts show well that the 
will is not an entity reigning by right of birth, although 
sometimes disobeyed, but a resultant always unstable, 
always ready to decompose itself, and, to say truly, a 
happy accident. These facts, and they are innumera- 
ble, represent a state which can be called equally a 
dislocation of the will and a retrograde form of ac- 

If we consider the cases of irresistible impulses 
with full consciousness, we see that that hierarchic 
subordination of tendencies which is the will is divided 
into two parts : for the consensus which alone consti- 
tutes it there is substituted a struggle between two 
groups of contrary and almost equal tendencies, in such 
sort that one might say that it is dislocated.* 

when he wished to do a thing, of his own accord or at another's orders, he, or 
rather his muscles, did just the contrary. When he wished to look to the 
right, his eyes turned to the left, and this anomaly extended to all his other 
movements. It was a simple contrariety of movement without any mental de- 
rangement and which differed from involuntary movements in this : that he 
never produced a movement except when he wished to, but that this move- 
ment was always the contrary of what he wished." 

* It might be shown, if this were the place for it, how fragile and untrust- 
worthy is the unity of the ego. In this case of struggle, which is the true ego, 
that which acts or that which resists ? If there be no choice, there must be 


If we consider the will no longer as a constituted 
whole, but as the culminating point of an evolution, 
we shall say that the inferior forms of activity are 
carrying it away, and that the human activity is retro- 
grading. Let us remark moreover that the term in- 
ferior implies no moral preoccupation. It is an inferi- 
ority of nature, because it is evident that an activity 
which expends itself entirely in satisfying a fixed idea 
or a blind impulse is by nature limited, adapted only 
to the present and to a very small number of circum- 
stances, while the rational activity goes beyond the 
present and is adapted to a great number of circum- 

It must indeed be admitted, although the language 
does not lend itself to it, that the will like the intellect 
has its idiots and its geniuses, with all the possible de- 
grees from one extreme to the other. From this point 
of view, the cases cited in the first group (impulses 
without consciousness) would represent the idiocy of 
the will or more exactly its madness ; and the facts of 
the second group, certain cases of volitional weakness, 
analogous to intellectual debilities. 

In order to pursue our study it is necessary to pass 
from the analysis of the facts to the determination of 
their cause. Is it possible to say upon what conditions 
this impairment of the higher activity is dependent ? 
In the first place, one should ask oneself if its decline 
is an effect of the predominance of the reflexes, or if, on 
the contrary, it is their cause ; in other terms, whether 
the impairment of the will is the primary or the second- 
two of them. If a choice be made, it must be admitted that the preferred 
group represents the ego by the same title that in politics a small majority ob- 
tained with great difficulty represents the State. But these questions cannot 
be treated in passing ; I hope some day to make them the subject of a mono- 


ary fact. This question does not admit of a general 
answer. Observation shows that both cases are to be 
met with ; and consequently one can only give a spe- 
cial answer for a special case whose circumstances are 
well known. 

It is indubitable that often the irresistible impulse 
is the origo mail ; it constitutes a permanent patholo- 
gical state. There takes place then in the psychological 
order, a phenomenon analogous to the hypertrophy of 
an organ or to the exaggerated proliferation of a tissue 
in one part of the body, that, for example, which leads 
to the formation of certain cancers. In the two cases, 
physical and psychical, this local disorder affects the 
whole organism. 

The cases in which the voluntary activity is attacked 
directly, not by a rebound, are for us the more inter- 
esting. What takes place then? Is it the power of co- 
ordination which is attacked, or the power of inhibition, 
or both? This is an obscure point upon which only 
conjectures can be offered. 

For the sake of seeking some light, let us interro- 
gate two new groups of facts : artificial and momentary 
impairments produced by intoxication ; and chronic 
impairments produced by cerebral lesion. 

Everybody knows that the drunkenness caused by 
alcoholic liquors, hasheesh, or opium, after a first period 
of superexcitation brings about a notable weakening 
of the will. The individual has more or less conscious- 
ness of it ; others observe it still better. Very soon 
(especially under the influence of alcohol), the impulses 
are exaggerated ; the extravagances, violences, or 
crimes committed in this state are without number. 
The mechanism of the invasion of drunkenness is the 


subject of much dispute. It is generally admitted that 
it commences in the brain, then acts on the spinal cord 
and the medulla, and in the last place on the great 
sympathetic. There is produced an intellectual obtu- 
sion, that is to say, the states of consciousness are 
vague, imperfectly distinguished, and of little intensity; 
the physio-psychological activity of the brain has di- 
minished. This enfeeblement extends also to the motor 
power. Obersteiner has shown by experiments that, 
under the influence of alcohol, there is a less speedy 
reaction, although there is an illusion to the contrary. * 
That which is affected is not only the ideation but the 
ideo-motor activity. At the same time the power of co- 
ordination becomes null or ephemeral and without en- 
ergy. The co-ordination consisting at the same time in 
making certain impulses converge towards a single 
end and in arresting useless or antagonistic impulses, 
it must be concluded from the fact that the reflexes are 
exaggerated or violent, that the inhibitive power, what- 
ever be its nature and mechanism, is injured, and that 
its role in the constitution and maintenance of the vol- 
untary activity is of the first importance. 

Cerebral pathology furnishes other confirmatory 
facts, more striking, because they show in the individ- 
ual a sudden and persistent change. 

Ferrier and other authors cite cases where the le- 
sion of the frontal convolutions (particularly the first 
and the second) brings about an almost total loss of 
will, and reduces the being to automatism, or at least 
to that state in which the reflex instinctive activity 

*Brain, Jan., 1879. A considerable number of experiments bearing on 
this point have been made, with concordant results : Exner in Pfliiger' s Archiv, 
1873; Dietl and Vintschgau, ibid., 1877; and some important work of Krape- 
lin's, done in Wundt's psycho-physical laboratory and published in the Philo* 
sophische Studien, p. 573 seqq. 


reigns almost alone, without the possibility of inhibi- 

A child is wounded by a knife in the frontal lobe. 
Seventeen years afterward he is found to be in good 
physical health, "but the injured man is incapable of 
occupations necessitating mental labor. He is irrita- 
ble, especially when he has been drinking or under- 
gone some abnormal excitation." 

A patient of Lupine's, stricken with an abscess in 
the right frontal lobe, "was in a state of stupefaction. 
He seemed to understand what was said to him, but it 
was only with difficulty that he could be made to pro- 
nounce a word. He sat down when told to do so ; if 
he was lifted up he could make some steps without as- 

A man who had received a violent blow which de- 
stroyed the greater part of the first and second frontal 
lobes "had lost his will. He understood, did as he 
was directed, but in an automatic and mechanical man- 

Several cases analogous to the preceding have been 
reported, but the most important for us is that of the 
"American quarryman." An iron bar thrown by a 
blast went through his skull, injuring only the pre- 
frontal region. He was healed and lived for twelve 
years and a half after the accident ; but here is what 
is reported of the mental state of the patient after his 
healing. " His employers, who before his accident had 
considered him as one of their best and most skilful 
foremen, found him so changed that they could not 
confide to him again his old post. The equilibrium, the 
balance between his intellectual faculties and his in- 
stinctive inclinations, seemed destroyed. He is ner- 
vous, disrespectful, often swears in the coarsest man- 


ner ; which was not one of his habits previously. He 
is hardly polite to his equals ; he bears contradiction 
impatiently, and does not listen to advice when it is in 
opposition to his own ideas. At certain moments he is 
excessively obstinate, although he is in general capri- 
cious and undecided. He makes plans for the future 
that he abandons immediately for others. He is a 
child in intelligence and intellectual manifestations, a 
man in his passions and instincts. Before his acci- 
dent, although he had not received any schooling, he 
had a well-balanced mind and was regarded as a skil- 
ful, penetrating man, very energetic and tenacious in 
the execution of his plans. In this respect he is so 
changed that his friends say that they no longer recog- 
nise him. " * 

This case is very clear. In it the will is seen to 
be impaired in measure as the lower activity is aug- 
mented. It is another experiment, since it involves a 
sudden change produced by an accident under well- 
determined circumstances. 

It is to be regretted that we have not many obser- 
vations of this kind, for a great step would be made in 
our interpretation of the diseases of the will. Unfor- 
tunately the labors pursued with so much ardor on 
cerebral localisations have principally been directed to 
the motor and sensory regions, which, as is well known, 
leave out the greater part of the frontal region. There 
would be necessary also a critical examination of the 
contrary facts, of the cases where no impairment of the 

* For these and other facts see Ferrier, De la localisation des maladies 
cerebrales, translated by Varigny, pp. 43-56 ; and C. De Boyer, Etudes cli- 
niquessur les lesions corticales des hemispheres ctr&braux (1879), pp. 48, 55, 56, 
71. In half of the cases (twenty-three in all) of tumors, wounds, and abscesses 
of the frontal lobes, Allen Starr has noticed as the only symptoms : change of 
character, incapacity for self-control, and loss of the faculty of attention. 
Brain, No. 32, p. 570. 


will appears to have been produced. This work done, 
Ferrier's thesis that in the frontal lobes there exist 
centres of inhibition for intellectual operations would 
gain more consistency and would furnish a solid basis 
for the determination of causes. As it is, it would be 
impossible to go beyond the domain of conjectures. 

In comparing irresistible impulses with abulia it 
will be noted that the will fails as a result of entirely 
contrary conditions. In one case the intellect is in- 
tact and impulse is lacking ; in the other, the power 
of co-ordination and inhibition being absent, the im- 
pulse expends itself entirely to the profit of automatism. 



WE are now about to study impairments of the will 
of a less striking character, those of voluntary atten- 
tion. They do not differ in nature from those of the 
last group, consisting like them in a weakening of the 
power of direction and adaptation. It is a diminution 
of the will in the strictest, the narrowest, the most 
limited sense, indisputable even by those who confine 
themselves obstinately to subjective observation. 

Before occupying ourselves with acquired weak- 
ness, let us examine the congenital weakness of the 
voluntary attention. Let us leave aside the narrow or 
mediocre minds in whom the feelings, the intellect, and 
the will are at the same level of weakness. It is more 
curious to take a great mind, a man endowed with a 
high intelligence, with a keen delicacy of feeling, but 
in whom the directive power is lacking, in such wise 
that the contrast between thought and will is com- 
plete. We have an example of this in Coleridge. 

"There was probably no man of his time, or per- 
haps of any time," says Carpenter,* "who surpassed 
Coleridge in the combination of the reasoning powers 
of the philosopher with the imagination of the poet 

* Mental Physiology, pp. z66-'g. 


and the inspiration of the seer ; and there was perhaps 
not one of the last generation who has left so strong 
an impress of himself in the subsequent course of 
thought of reflective minds engaged in the highest 
subjects of human contemplation. And yet there was 
probably never a man endowed with such remarkable 
gifts who accomplished so little that was worthy of 
them, the great defect of his character being the want 
of will to turn his gifts to account ; so that, with nu- 
merous gigantic projects constantly floating in his 
mind, he never brought himself even seriously to at- 
tempt to execute any one of them. It used to be said of 
him, that whenever either natural obligation or volun- 
tary undertaking made it his duty to do anything, the 
fact seemed a sufficient reason for his not doing it. Thus, 
at the very outset of his career, when he had found a 
bookseller (Mr. Cottle) generous enough to promise him 
thirty guineas for poems which he recited to him, and 
might have received the whole sum immediately on 
delivering the manuscript, he went on, week after week, 
begging and borrowing for his daily needs in the most 
humiliating manner, until he had drawn from his pa- 
tron the whole of the promised purchase-money, with- 
out supplying him with a line of that poetry which he 
had only to write down to free himself from obligation. 

" The habit of recourse to nervine stimulants (alco- 
hol and opium) which he early formed, and from which 
he never seemed able to free himself, doubtless still 
further weakened his power of volitional self-control ; 
so that it became necessary for his welfare that he 
should yield himself to the control of others. . . . 

" The composition of the poetical fragment < Kubla 
Khan' in his sleep, as told in his 'Biographia Lite- 
raria,' is a typical example of automatic mental action. 


He fell asleep whilst reading the passage in ' Pur- 
chas's Pilgrimage ' in which the ' stately pleasure 
house* is mentioned ; and, on awaking, he felt as if he 
had composed from two to three hundred lines, which 
he had nothing to do but to write down, 'the images 
rising up as things, with a parallel production of the 
correspondent expressions, without any sensation or 
consciousness of effort.' The whole of this singular 
fragment, as it stands, consisting of fifty-four lines, was 
written as fast as his pen could trace the words ; but 
having been interrupted by a person on business, who 
stayed with him above an hour, he found, to his sur- 
prise and mortification, that, * though he still retained 
some vague and dim recollection of the general pur- 
port of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight 
or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had 
passed away, like the images on the surface of a stream 
into which a stone had been cast ; but, alas ! without 
the after-restoration of the latter.' ' 

The accounts of his contemporaries regarding his 
indefatigable conversation, his habit of dreaming aloud, 
and his perfect forgetfulness of his hearers, leave the 
impression of an exuberant intelligence, delivered to 
an unbridled automatism. Curious or amusing anec- 
dotes on this point abound. I will not give any of 
them ; I prefer to leave to a master the care of depict- 
ing the man. 

Coleridge's "whole figure and air, good and amia- 
ble otherwise, might be called flabby and irresolute ; 
expressive of weakness under possibility of strength. 
He hung loosely on his limbs, with knees bent, and 
stooping attitude ; in walking he rather shuffled than 
decisively stepped ; and a lady once remarked, he never 


could fix which side of the garden-walk would suit him 
best, but continually shifted, in corkscrew fashion, and 
kept trying both. . . . 

" Nothing could be more copious than his talk; 
and furthermore it was always, virtually or literally, of 
the nature of a monologue ; suffering no interruption, 
however reverent ; hastily putting aside all foreign 
additions, annotations, or most ingenuous desires for 
elucidation, as well-meant superfluities which would 
never do. Besides, it was talk not flowing anywhither 
like a river, but spreading everywhither in inextricable 
currents and regurgitations like a lake or sea ; terribly 
deficient in definite goal or aim, nay often in logical in- 
telligibility; what you were to believe or do, on any 
earthly or heavenly thing, obstinately refusing to appear 
from it. So that, most times, you felt logically lost, 
swamped near to drowning in this tide of ingenious 
vocables, spreading out boundless as if to submerge the 
world. . . . 

"He began anywhere: you put some question to 
him, made some suggestive observation : instead of 
answering this, or decidedly setting out towards an- 
swer of it, he would accumulate formidable apparatus, 
logical swim-bladders, transcendental life-preservers 
and other precautionary and vehiculatory gear, for set- 
ting out ; perhaps did at last get under way, but was 
swiftly solicited, turned aside by the glance of some ra- 
diant new game on this hand or that, into new courses ; 
and ever into new ; and before long into all the uni- 
verse, where it was uncertain what game you would 
catch, or whether any. His talk, alas, was distin- 
guished, like himself, by irresolution : it disliked to be 
troubled with conditions, abstinences, definite fulfil- 


ments ; loved to wander at its own sweet will and 
make its auditor and his claims and humble wishes a 
mere passive bucket for itself ! . . . 

"Glorious islets, too, balmy, sunny islets of the 
blest and the intelligible, I have seen rise out of the 
haze, but they were few and soon swallowed in the 
general element again. . . . 

" Eloquent, artistically expressive words you always 
had ; piercing radiances of a most subtle insight came 
at intervals; tones of noble pious sympathy, recog- 
nisable as pious though strangely colored, were never 
wanting long : but in general you could not call this 
aimless, cloud-capt, cloud-based, lawlessly meandering 
human discourse of reason by the name of excellent 
talk,' but only of ' surprising '; and were reminded 
bitterly of Hazlitt's account of it : ' Excellent talker, 
very, if you let him start from no premises and come 
to no conclusion.' "* 

Let us descend now to commonplace examples of 
acquired impairment of the voluntary attention. It 
presents itself under two forms : 

i) The first is characterised by excessive intellec- 
tual activity, a superabundance of states of conscious- 
ness, an abnormal production of feelings and ideas in 
a given time. We have already mentioned it in con- 
nexion with alcoholic drunkenness. This cerebral ex- 
uberance is most pronounced in the more intelligent 
intoxication of hasheesh and opium. The individual 
feels himself carried away by the uncontrollable flood 
of his ideas, and language is not rapid enough to ex- 
press the rapidity of thought ; but at the same time 
the power of directing the ideas becomes weaker and 

* Carlyle, The Life of John Sterling, (London, 1870) part i, chap, viii, pp. 


weaker, and the lucid moments shorter and shorter. * 
This state of psychic exuberance, whatever be its cause, 
whether fever, cerebral anaemia, or emotion, always has 
the same result. 

Between this state and attention there is, then, a 
complete antagonism ; one excludes the other. It is, 
furthermore, no more than a particular case of the ex- 
aggeration of reflexes ; only there is question here of 
psychic reflexes. In other terms every present state of 
consciousness tends to expend itself, and it can do so 
only in two ways : either in producing a movement, an 
act, or else in awakening other states of consciousness, 
according to the laws of association. This last case is 
a reflex of a more complex kind, a psychical reflex, but 
it is like the other only a form of automatism. 

2) The second form brings us back to the abulia 
type : it consists in a progressive diminution of the 
directive power and an eventual impossibility of intel- 
lectual effort. 

"In the incipient stage of disease of the brain the 
patient complains of an incapacity to control and di- 
rect the faculty of attention. He finds he cannot, 
without an obvious and painful effort, accomplish his 
usual mental work, read or master the contents of a 
letter, newspaper, or even a page or two of a favorite 
book. The ideas become restive, and the mind lapses 
into a flighty condition, exhibiting no capacity for con- 
tinuity of thought. 

"Fully recognising his impaired and failing ener- 
gies, the patient repeatedly tries to conquer the de- 
fect, and, seizing hold of a book, is resolved not to 
succumb to his sensations of intellectual incapacity, 

* Moreau, Du hachich et de r aliination mentale, p. Go. Richet, Let poi- 
sons dt r intelligence, p. 71. 


psychical languor, and cerebral weakness ; but he often 
discovers that he has lost all power of healthy mental 
steadiness, normal concentration, or co-ordination of 
thought. In his attempt to comprehend the meaning 
of the immediate subject under consideration he reads 
and re-reads with a determined resolution and appa- 
rently unflagging energy, certain striking passages and 
pages of a particular book, but without being able to 
grasp the simplest chain of thought, or follow success- 
fully an elementary process of reasoning ; neither is 
he in a condition of mind fitting him to comprehend 
or retain for many consecutive seconds the outline of 
an interesting story; understand a simple calculation 
of figures or narrative of facts. The attempt, par- 
ticularly if it be a sustained one, to master and con- 
verge the attention to the subject which he is trying 
to seize, very frequently increases the pre-existing con- 
fusion of mind, producing eventually physical sensa- 
tion of brain lassitude and headache. " * 

Many general paralytics, after having passed 
through the period of intellectual superactivity, that 
of gigantic projects, of immoderate purchases, of jour- 
neys without a motive, and of incessant loquacity, 
when the will is dominated by the reflexes, arrive 
at last at the period when it is impotent from atony; 
effort lasts only a moment, until this ever increasing 
passivity ends in madness, f 

* Forbes Winslow, On Some Obscure Diseases of the Brain and Mind, chap, 
xii (French translation, p. 216). 

t Among this class of patients, some rare cases pass through a period of 
struggle which shows well in what measure the will is mistress and how it 
ends by succumbing. "I have seen at Bic^tre," says Billed (loc. cit.), " a gen- 
eral paralytic whose mania of greatness was as pronounced as possible, escape 
and go bare-footed during a beating rain and by night from Bicutre to Batig- 
nolles. The patient remained in the world a whole year, during which he 
struggled with all his will against his intellectual mania, realising perfectly 


The reader can see, without commentaries, that the 
diseases of voluntary attention are reducible to the 
types already studied. So it will be more fruitful, with- 
out multiplying examples, to endeavor to ascertain 
what light that state of mind called attention can throw 
upon the nature of the will, and what suggestions it 
can contribute towards the conclusions of the present 

I do not need to make a study of attention, how- 
ever interesting and little known this subject may be. 
The question can be dealt with here only indirectly, 
that is to say only so far as it touches on the will. I 
will reduce my conclusions on this point to the fol- 
lowing propositions : 

1) Voluntary attention, that whose wonders are 
usually recounted, is only an artificial, unstable and 
precarious imitation of spontaneous attention. 

2) The latter alone is natural and efficacious. 

3) It depends, in its origin and its continuance, on 
certain affective states, on the presence of agreeable 
or disagreeable feelings ; in a word, it is sensitive in 
its origin, which assimilates it to the reflexes. 

4) Inhibitive acts appear to play an important but 
ill-comprehended part in the mechanism of attention. 

To justify these propositions, it is well to examine 
in the first place spontaneous attention, taking it under 
its most diverse forms. The crouching animal watch- 
ing for its prey, the child gazing with eagerness at 
some commonplace spectacle, the assassin waiting for 
his victim at the corner of a wood (here the image re- 
places the perception of the real object), the poet pos- 

ihat at the first false idea they would take him back to BicStre. He returned 
there, nevertheless. I have met several other examples of this persistence of 
t the integrity of the will for a considerable time in general paralytics," 


sessed by an interior vision, the mathematician seeking 
the solution of a problem :* all present essentially the 
same external and internal characters. 

I would readily define the intense and spontaneous 
state of attention, with Sergi, as a differentiation of 
perception producing a greater psychic energy in cer- 
tain nervous centres with a sort of temporary catalepsy 
of other centres, f But it is not the attention in itself 
that I have to study ; what concerns us is to determine 
its origin, its cause. 

It is clear that in the states above enumerated and 
analogous ones, the true cause is an affective state, a 
feeling of pleasure, of love, of hatred, of curiosity; in 
short a more or less complex state, agreeable, disagree- 
able, or mixed. It is because the prey, the spectacle, 
the idea of the victim, the problem to be resolved pro- 
duce in the animal, the child, the assassin, the mathe- 
matician an intense and sufficiently durable emotion 
that they are attentive. Take away the emotion, all 
disappears. So long as it lasts, attention lasts. Every- 
thing takes place here, then, in the manner of those 

* There is question here, it need not be said, only of those who are poets 
or mathematicians by nature, not by education. 

t "The complicated process of attention is determined by the same ana- 
tomico-physiological conditions of the encephalic organs which are met with 
in a simpler form in sensitive excitation. These conditions depend upon the 
continued process of differentiation that the nervous elements undergo. We 
have already seen a first process of differentiation in the transition from the 
diffused [nervous] v<ave to the restricted wave, that is to say in the transition 
from sensation to distinct perception ; which implies a cerebral localisation. 
It is a process of still greater differentiation that we call attention. The exci- 
tatory wave becomes more restricted and more intense, more localised and 
more direct ; whereupon the entire phenomenon takes a clear and distinct 
form." (Sergi, Teoria fi siolo g tea della percezione, chap, xii, p. 216. Besides 
this substantial chapter, the following works may be consulted on the atten- 
tion studied from the point of view of the new psychology: Lewes, Problems 
of Life and Mind, third series, p. 184 ; Maudsley, Physiology of Mind (French 
translation, p. 457); Wundt, Grundzuge der physiologischen Psychologic, second 
edition, p. 391 ; Ferrier, The Functions of the Brain, 102.) 


reflexes which appear continuous because an excitation 
unceasingly repeated and always the same maintains 
them up to the moment when nervous exhaustion takes 

Is a confirmation of this desired? Let it be ob- v 
served that children, women,* and light minds in gen- 
eral are capable of attention only during a very short 
time, because things awaken in them only superficial 
and unstable feelings ; that they are completely inat- 
tentive to high, complex, and profound questions, be- 
cause they leave them cold ; that they are on the con- 
trary attentive to insignificant things because they in- 
terest them. I might recall moreover, that the orator 
and the writer hold the attention of their public by ap- 
pealing to their feelings (satisfaction, terror, etc.). 
The question can be looked at from every side and the 
same conclusion forces itself upon us. I would not 
insist upon so evident a fact if the authors who have 
studied the attention did not appear to me to have for- 
gotten this most important influence. 

On this account it should be said that spontaneous 
attention gives a maximum of result with a minimum 
of effort, while voluntary attention gives a minimum 
of result with a maximum of effort ; and that this oppo- 
sition is so much the more marked as the one is more 
spontaneous and the other more voluntary. In its 
highest degree, voluntary attention is an artificial state 
in which, by the aid of assumed feelings, we maintain 
with great difficulty certain states of consciousness 
which tend only to disappear (for example, when we 
follow, for politeness sake, a very tiresome conversa- 
tion). In one case what determines this specialisation 
of consciousness is our whole individuality; in the sec- 


ond it is an extremely weak and limited portion of 
our individuality. 

Many questions would arise here ; but, I repeat, I 
do not need to study attention in itself. I simply had 
to show (regarding which I hope there remains no 
doubt) that it is in its origin of the same nature as the 
reflexes ; that in its spontaneous form it has their regu- 
larity and their power of action; that in its voluntary 
form it is much less regular and powerful ; but that, in 
both cases, it is a sensitive excitation which causes it, 
maintains it, and measures it. 

We see once more that the voluntary is bound up 
with the involuntary, supports itself on it, draws from it 
its force, and is in comparison with it very weak. The 
education of attention consists only in arousing and 
developing these factitious sentiments and in trying to 
render them stable by repetition ; but as there is no 
creation ex nihilo, they must have a natural basis, 
however slight it may be. To conclude this point, I 
will admit that I accept, for my part, the paradox of 
Helvetius, so often combated, "that all the intellectual 
differences among men come from attention alone," 
with the reservation that there is question only of spon- 
taneous attention ; but then it amounts to no more 
than to say that the differences among men are innate 
and natural. 

After having shown how attention is produced it 
remains to ascertain how it is kept up. The difficulty 
arises only in the case of voluntary attention. We have 
seen, in fact, that the maintenance of spontaneous at- 
tention explains itself. It is continuous because the ex- 
citation which causes it is continuous. On the contrary, 
the more voluntary attention is, the more effort it re- 
quires and the more unstable it is. Both cases reduce 


themselves to a struggle between different states of 
consciousness. In the first case, one state of conscious- 
ness (or to say better, a group of states) is so intense 
that no struggle against it is possible and that it im- 
poses itself by its living force. In the second case, the 
group has not in itself a sufficient intensity to impose 
itself ; it is enabled to do this only by an additional force, 
which is the intervention of the will. By what mechan- 
ism does it act? As it would seem, by an arrest of 
movements. We are thus brought back to the prob- 
lem of inhibition, more obscure here than anywhere 
else. Let us see what can be supposed in regard to 
this. In the first place, it is hardly necessary to recall 
that the brain is a motor organ, that is to say that a 
great number of its elements are devoted to the pro- 
duction of movement and that there is not a single 
state of consciousness which does not in some degree 
contain motor elements. Hence it follows that every 
state of attention implies the existence of these ele- 
ments. "In movements of the limbs and trunk the 
feelings of operation are very conspicuous ;* they are 
less so in the delicate adjustment of the eye, ear, 
etc., and are only inductively recognisable in the 
still more delicate adjustments of attention and com- 
prehension, which are also acts of the mind in more 
than a metaphorical sense. The purest intellectual 
combinations involve motor impulses (feelings of ope- 
ration) quite as necessarily as the combination of 
muscles in manipulation. The feelings of effort and 
relief in seeking and finding our way through an ob- 
scure and tangled mass of ideas the tentatives of 
hypothesis and induction are but fainter forms of the 
feelings in seeking and finding our way along a dark 

* Lewes, Problems of Life and of Mind, third series, p. 397. 


road or thick forest.'/ Let us recall once more that 
every state of consciousness, especially when it is very 
intense, tends to pass into action, to express itself in 
movements, and that, as soon as it enters into its mo- 
tory phase, it loses its intensity, it is in decline, it tends 
to disappear from consciousness. But a present state 
of consciousness has another manner of expending it- 
self, which is to transmit its tension to other states ac- 
cording to the mechanism of association. It is, if you 
like, an internal expenditure in place of an external 
one. At the same time the association which starts 
from the present state does not take place in one way 
only. In spontaneous attention, certain associations 
prevail alone and of themselves, by their own intensity. 
In voluntary attention (reflexion represents its highest 
form), we are conscious of an irradiation in several 
directions. Better yet, in the cases where we have 
much trouble to be attentive, the prevailing associa- 
tions are those that we do not wish, that is to say which 
are not chosen, affirmed as the ones that ought to be 

By what means, then, are the weaker ones main- 
tained ? In order to represent to ourselves so far as 
I possible, what takes place in such a case, let us con- 
sider some facts which are analogous but of a more 
palpable kind. Let us take a man who is learning to 
play on an instrument or to handle a tool, or better still, 
a child who is learning to write. At the outset he pro- 
duces a great number of completely useless movements; 
he moves his tongue, his head, his face, his legs, and it 
is only little by little that he learns to hold his organs 
in subjection and to limit himself to the necessary 
movements of the hands and eyes. 

In voluntary attention things take place in an analo- 


gous manner. The associations which diffuse them- 
selves in all directions may be likened to these useless 
movements. The problem, in one case as in the other, 
is to substitute a limited and restrained diffusion for an 
unlimited diffusion. For that purpose, we check the 
associations which do not serve our end. Properly 
speaking, we do not suppress states of consciousness, 
but we prevent them from surviving and awakening 
analogous states, and from propagating themselves in 
their own way. We know, moreover, that this attempt 
is often unsuccessful, always difficult, and .in certain 
cases has to be incessantly repeated. At the same time 
that we prevent this diffusion in all directions, the dis- 
ponible nervous force is economised to our profit. To 
diminish the useless diffusion is to augment the useful 

Such is ^the idea that one obtains of this obscure 
phenomenon when one tries to penetrate its mechan- 
ism, in place of having recourse to a pretended "fac- 
ulty" of attention which explains nothing. We must, 
however, recognise with Ferrier that on what phys- 
iological basis this psychological faculty rests, is an 
extremely difficult question, and one hardly capable 
of an experimental determination.* We would add 
that the preceding pretends only to be an approxima- 
tion, not an explanation. 

* Op. cit., chapter xii. For a more detailed study of this question, we would 
refer to our Psychology of Attention [second edition, The Open Court Pub. 
Co., Chicago, 1894]. 



To WILL is to choose in order to act ; such is for us 
the formula of the normal will. The anomalies hitherto 
studied reduce themselves to two great groups : either 
the impulse is lacking, and no tendency to action is 
produced (abulia) ; or a too rapid or too intense im- 
pulse prevents a choice. Before examining the cases 
of obliteration of the will, that is to say those in which 
there is neither choice nor acts, we will study a type of 
character in which the will does not constitute itself at 
all or does so only in a wavering, unsteady and ineffica- 
cious form. The best example of it that can be given 
is the hysterical character. Properly speaking we en- 
counter here not so much a disorder as a constitutional 
state. The simple irresistible impulse is like an acute 
disease; the permanent and invincible impulses resem- 
ble a chronic disease ; the hysterical character is a dia- 
thesis. It is a state in which the conditions of the ex- 
istence of the will are nearly always lacking. 

I borrow from the picture of the character of hys- 
terics that Dr. Huchard has recently drawn, the fea- 
tures which relate to our subject : "A primary trait of 
their character is mobility. From day to day, from 
hour to hour, from minute to minute, they pass with 
an incredible rapidity from joy to sadness, from laugh- 


ter to tears ; versatile, fantastic or capricious, they 
speak at certain moments with an astonishing loqua- 
city, while at others they become gloomy and taciturn, 
keep a complete silence, or remain plunged in a state 
of reverie or of mental depression ; they are then 
seized with a vague and indefinable feeling of sadness, 
with a sensation of pressure in the throat, of a rising 
ball, or of epigastric oppression ; they burst into sobs, 
or they go to hide their tears in solitude, which they 
crave and seek ; at other times, on the contrary, they 
begin to laugh in an immoderate manner without se- 
rious motives. ' They behave, ' says Ch. Richet, 'like 
children that one sets to laughing with noises when 
they still have on their cheeks the tears that they have 
just shed.' 

"Their character changes like the figures of a ka- 
leidoscope, which has led Sydenham to say with rea- 
son that the most constant thing about them is their 
inconstancy. Yesterday they were lively, amiable and 
gracious ; to-day they are ill-humored, susceptible and 
irascible, vexed at everything and at nothing, capri- 
ciously disagreeable and sulky, discontented with their 
lot ; nothing interests them, they are wearied with every- 
thing. They experience a very great antipathy toward 
a person whom yesterday they loved and esteemed, or, 
on the contrary, show an incomprehensible sympathy 
for some one else ; so they follow certain persons with 
their hatred with as much bitterness as they had for- 
merly had persistence in surrounding them with affec- 
tion. . . . 

"Sometimes their sensibility is exalted by the most 
trivial motives when it is hardly touched by the great- 
est emotions; they remain almost indifferent, impas- 
sible even, at the announcement of a real misfortune, 


and they shed tears abundantly and abandon them- 
selves to the profoundest despair on account of a sim- 
ple word falsely interpreted, and transform into an of- 
fence the lightest pleasantry. This sort of moral ataxia 
is observed even in regard to their dearest interests : 
one has the most complete indifference towards the 
misconduct of her husband ; another remains cold be- 
fore danger which menaces her fortune. In turn gen- 
tle and passionate, says Moreau (of Tours), kind and 
cruel, impressionable to excess, rarely mistresses of 
their first movements, incapable of offering resistance 
to impulses of the most opposite nature, presenting a 
lack of equilibrium between the superior moral facul- 
ties, will and conscience, and the inferior faculties, the 
instincts, passions, and desires. 

"This extreme mobility in their state of mind and 
their affective dispositions, this instability of character, 
this lack of fixity, this absence of stability in their ideas 
and their volitions, explain the incapacity which they 
experience of giving their attention very long to read- 
ing, study, or any kind of work. 

"All these changes follow each other with the 
greatest rapidity. In this class of patients the im- 
pulses are not, as in the case of epileptics, absolutely 
uncontrolled by the intellect, but they are rapidly fol- 
lowed by action. This is the explanation of those 
sudden movements of anger and indignation, those 
headlong enthusiasms, those fits of despair, those ex- 
plosions of mad gaiety, those great bursts of affection, 
those quick accessions of tenderness, or those sudden 
transports during which, acting like spoiled children, 
they stamp with their feet, break furniture, feel an irre- 
sistible need of striking something. . . . 

"Hysterical patients act as they are led by their 


passions. Almost all the various inconstancies of their 
character, of their mental state, can be summed up in 
these words : they do not know how to use their will, 
they cannot and will not do it. It is, indeed, because 
their will is always unsteady and faltering, because it 
is unceasingly in a state of unstable equilibrium, be- 
cause it turns at the least wind like the weather-vane 
on our roofs ; it is for all these reasons that hysterical 
patients have such mobility, such inconstancy, and 
such changeableness in their desires, their ideas, and 
their affections."* , 

This portrait is so complete that we need not pro- 
long our comments. It has put before the readers' 
eyes that state of incoordination, of broken equili- 
brium, of anarchy, of " moral ataxia "; but we have yet 
to justify the statement that we made at the outset : 
that there is here a constitutional impotence of the 
will ; that it cannot arise because the conditions of its 
existence are lacking. For the sake of clearness I will 
anticipate what is to be established with more details 
and proofs at the close of this work. 

If we take an adult person, endowed with an ave- 
rage will, we will observe that his activity (that is to 
say, his power of producing acts) forms in general three 
planes : on the lowest are the automatic acts, simple 
or composite reflexes, habits ; above are acts produced 
by the feelings, emotions, and passions ; higher still 
are rational acts. This last stage presupposes the 
other two, rests on them, and consequently depends 
upon them, although it gives them co-ordination and 
unity. The capricious characters of which the hys- 
teric is the type have only the two lower forms ; the 

* Axenfeld and Huchard, Traitt des n&vroses (second edition, 1883), pp. 


third is, as it were, atrophied. By nature, save in rare 
exceptions, the rational activity is always the least 
strong. It obtains the mastery only on the condition 
that the ideas awaken certain feelings which are much 
more apt than they to express themselves in acts. We 
have seen that the more abstract ideas are, the weaker 
their motory tendencies. In hysterical patients the 
regulative ideas do not arise or remain sterile. It is 
because certain notions of the rational order (utility, 
propriety, duty, etc.) remain in the state of mere con- 
ceptions, because they are not felt by the individual, 
because they produce in him no affective response, do 
not enter into his substance, but remain like something 
brought in from outside ; it is on these accounts that 
they are without action and for all practical purposes as 
if they did not exist. The power of individual action is 
maimed and incomplete. The tendency of the feelings 
and passions to show themselves in acts is doubly 
strong, both in itself and because there is nothing 
above it which checks and counterbalances it ; and as 
it is a characteristic of the feelings to go straight to 
the goal, after the manner of reflexes, to have an 
adaptation in one single direction, unilateral (just the 
contrary to rational adaptation, which is multilateral), 
the desires, born quickly and immediately satisfied, 
leave free room for others, analogous or opposed, ac- 
cording to the perpetual variations of the individual. 
There exist only caprices, at most desires, a rough out- 
line of volition.* 

This fact, that desire goes in a single direction and 
tends to expend itself without delay, does not, how- 

* Let us note in passing how necessary it is in psychology to take account 
of the ascending gradation of phenomena. Volition is not a clear and well- 
defined state which either exists or does not exist ; there are sketches and 


ever, explain the instability of the hysteric, nor his ab- 
sence of will. If a desire always satisfied springs up 
again continually, there is stability. The predomi- 
nance of the affective life does not necessarily exclude 
the will : an intense, stable, permitted passion is the 
very basis of all energetic wills. It is found in the 
great men of ambition, in the martyr unshaken in his 
faith, in the red-skin bidding defiance to his enemies 
in the midst of torments. It is necessary, then, to seek 
more deeply the cause of this instability in the hysteric, 
and this cause can be nothing else than a state of the 
individuality, that is to say, in the final reckoning, of 
the organism. We call that will strong whose end, 
whatever be its nature, is fixed. When circumstances 
change, means are changed ; there take place succes- 
sive adaptations to the new environment, but the cen- 
tre towards which all converges does not change. Its 
stability expresses the permanency of character in the 
individual. If the same end continues to be chosen, 
approved, it is because that at bottom the individual 
remains the same. Let us suppose, on the contrary, 
an organism with unstable functions, whose unity 
which is only a consensus is continually dissolved 
and reconstituted on a new plan, according to the sud- 
den variation of the functions that make it up ; it is 
clear that in such a case choice can hardly arise, can- 
not last, and there remain only whims and caprices. 
This is what takes place in the hysteric. The in- 
stability is a fact. Its very probable cause is in func- 
tional disorders. Anaesthesia of special senses or of 
the general sensibility, hyperaesthesia in its various 
forms, motor disorders, contractures, convulsions, pa- 
ralyses, derangements of the organic functions, vaso- 
motor, secretory, etc., occurring successively or simul- 


taneously, keep the organism in a perpetual state of 
unstable equilibrium,* and the character, which is only 
the psychic expression of the organism, correspond- 
ingly varies. A stable character upon such an unsteady 
foundation would be a miracle. We find, therefore, 
the true cause of impotence of will to be here, and this 
impotence is, as we have said, constitutional. 

Some facts contradictory in appearance really con- 
firm this thesis. Hysterical patients are sometimes 
possessed by a fixed idea, which cannot be conquered. 
One refuses to eat, another to speak, another to see, 
because the labor of digestion, or the exercise of the 
voice or the sight would bring about, as they suppose, 
some suffering. One meets more frequently with that 
kind of paralysis which has been called "psychic" or 
" ideal. " The hysteric stays in bed for weeks, months, 
and even years, believing herself unable to stand up 
or to walk. A moral shock, or the mere influence of 
some one who gains her confidence or acts with author- 
ity effects a cure. One begins to walk at the announce- 
ment of a fire, another gets up and goes to meet a 
long-absent brother, another decides to eat out of fear 
of the physician. Briquet, in his " Trait de 1'hys- 
te"rie," reports several cases of women whom he healed 
by inspiring them with faith in their recovery. There 
might also be mentioned a good number of those cures 
called miraculous which have attracted the public curi- 
osity from the time of the deacon Paris to our own day. 

The physiological causes of these paralyses are 
much in dispute. In the psychological order we ob- 
serve the existence of a fixed idea the result of which 
is an inhibition. As an idea does not exist by itself 
and without certain cerebral conditions, as it is only a 

* For the details of the facts see the work cited, pp. 987-1043. 


part of a psycho-physiological whole the conscious 
part it must be admitted that it corresponds to an 
abnormal state of the organism, perhaps of the motor 
centres, and that it draws thence its origin. However 
that may be, it is not, as certain medical men have per- 
sistently maintained, an "exaltation " of the will ; it is, 
on the contrary, its absence. We are recurring to a 
morbid type already studied, which differs from irresis- 
tible impulses only in form ; it is inhibitory. But there 
is no direct reaction against the fixed idea on the indi- 
vidual's own part. It is an influence from without 
which imposes itself and produces a contrary state of 
consciousness, with the concomitant feelings and phys- 
iological states. There results from this a powerful 
impulse to action, which suppresses and replaces the 
inhibitory state ; but it is hardly a volition ; at best it 
is a volition with another's aid. 

This group of facts brings us, then, to the same 
conclusion : an impotence of the will to form itself.* 

* For the facts see Briquet, Traite de I 'hysttrie, chap, x ; Axenfeld and 
Huchard, op. cit., pp. 967-1012; Cruveilhier, Anatomic pathologique , book 
xxxv, p. 4 ; Macario, Annales medico-psychologiques, vol. iii, p. 62 ; Ch. Richet, 
in Revue des Deux Mondes, Jan. 15, 1880 ; P. Richer, Etudes cliniques sur /' hys- 
tero-tpilepsie, etc., part third, chap, ii, and the historic notes. 



The cases of extinction of the will, upon whose 
study we are now to enter, are those in which there is 
neither choice nor action. When all the psychic ac- 
tivity is or seems to be completely suspended, as in 
deep sleep, artificial anaesthesia, coma, and analogous 
states, it is a return to the vegetative life ; we have 
nothing to say of this ; the will disappears, because 
everything disappears. Here we have to do with cases 
where a form of mental activity persists, although 
there is no possibility of choice followed by action. 
This annihilation of the will is met with in ecstasy and 
in somnambulism. 

Various kinds of ecstasy have been distinguished : 
profane, mystical, morbid, physiological, cataleptic, 
somnambulic, etc. These distinctions do not concern us 
here, the mental state remaining the same at bottom. 
Most ecstatics reach that state naturally, as a result of 
their constitution. Others assist nature by artificial 
processes. The religious and philosophical literature 
of the Orient, of India in particular, abounds in docu- 
ments from which it has been possible to gather a sort 


of working manual for the attainment of ecstasy. To 
remain motionless, to gaze fixedly at the sky, a lumi- 
nous object, the end of the nose, or, one's navel (like 
the monks of Mount Athos called omphalopsycht], to 
repeat continually the monosyllable Om (Brahm), 
while contemplating the Supreme Being ; "to retain 
the breath," that is to say, to slacken one's respiration ; 
"not to concern oneself either with time or with 
place "; such are the means which " make one resem- 
ble the placid light of a lamp set in a place where the 
wind does not blow." * 

When this state is attained, the ecstatic presents 
certain physical characteristics : sometimes motionless 
and mute, sometimes expressing the vision that pos- 
sesses him by words, songs, and attitudes. He rarely 
moves from his position. His physiognomy is ex- 
pressive ; but his eyes, even though open, do not see. 
Sounds no longer affect him ; save, in some cases, the 
voice of a particular person. General sensibility is 

* Bhagavad-gita.) chap. vi. The Buddhist teachers say that there are four 
degrees in the contemplation which leads to the terrestrial Nirvana. 

The first degree is the inward feeling of happiness which arises in the 
soul of the ascetic when he considers himself to have at length come to dis- 
tinguish the nature of things. The yogi is then detached from every desire 
but that of Nirvana ; he still reasons and exercises judgment ; but he is freed 
from all the conditions of sin and vice. 

In the second degree he is equally unstained by vice and sin, but in addi- 
tion he has put aside judgment and reasoning ; his intellect fixes itself upon 
Nirvana alone, and simply feels the pleasure of interior satisfaction without 
judging of it or even understanding it. 

In the third degree the pleasure of satisfaction has disappeared, and the 
sage has become indifferent in regard to the happiness that his intellect still 
experiences. The only pleasure which remains to him is a vague sense of 
physical well-being with which his whole body is inundated ; he has still a 
confused consciousness of himself. 

Finally, in the fourth degree, the yogi no longer possesses this sense of 
physical well-being, obscure as it is ; he has also lost all memory; he has even 
lost the sense of his indifference. Free from all pleasure and from all suffer- 
ing, he has attained to impassibility, and is as near to Nirvana as he can be 
during this life. (Earth. Saint-Hilaire, Le Bouddha et so. religion, pp. 136, 137.) 


extinct ; no contact is felt ; neither pricking nor burn- 
ing causes pain. 

What he inwardly experiences, the ecstatic alone 
can tell, and were it not that he retains at waking a 
very distinct recollection of it, the profane would be 
reduced to inductions regarding it. The narratives and 
writings of ecstatics show, in the midst of differences 
of race, of belief, of mind, of time and of place, a 
striking uniformity. Their mental state reduces itself 
to one image-idea, either alone or constituting the 
nucleus of a single group which engrosses the entire 
consciousness and maintains itself in it with an ex- 
treme intensity. Several mystics have described this 
state with great delicacy, above all St. Teresa. I there- 
fore extract a few passages from her autobiography, in 
order to place before the reader an authentic descrip- 
tion of the ecstasy. 

For uniting oneself to God, there are four degrees of 
"prayer," which she compares to four methods, each 
easier than the preceding, of watering a garden : " the 
first by drawing water from a well by strength of arm 
which is severe labor ; the second, by drawing it up 
with a noria (a hydraulic machine), in which way 
there is obtained with less fatigue a greater quantity of 
water ; the third by conducting the water from a river 
or brook ; the fourth, and incomparably the best, is 
an abundant rain, God himself undertaking the water- 
ing without the slightest fatigue on our part " (chap. xi). 

In the two first degrees, there are as yet only at- 
tempts at ecstasy which the saint notes in passing : 
"Sometimes while reading I was suddenly seized 
with a feeling of the presence of God. It was abso- 
lutely impossible for me to doubt that he was within 
me, or that I was wholly lost in him. This was not a 


vision. ... It suspends the soul in such wise that it 
seems to be utterly beside itself. The will loves, mem- 
ory appears to me almost gone, the understanding does 
not act, and nevertheless it does not lose itself." In a 
higher degree which is " neither a rapture nor a spiri- 
tual sleep," "the will alone acts, and, without knowing 
how it becomes captive, it simply gives to God its con- 
sent, that he may imprison it, secure of falling into the 
fetters of Him whom it loves. . . . The understanding 
and memory come to the assistance of the will, that it 
may render itself more and more capable of enjoying 
so great a good. Sometimes, however, their aid serves 
only to trouble it in this intimate union with God. 
But then the will, without allowing itself to be dis- 
turbed by their importunity,- should keep itself in the 
delight and the profound calm which it is enjoying. To 
try to fix its two powers [faculties] would be to carry 
them away with it. They are then like doves which, 
discontented with the food that their master gives 
them without any effort on their part, go to look for 
some elsewhere, but which, after a vain search, hasten 
to return to the dove-cote." In this degree, "I re- 
gard it as a very great advantage, when I write, to find 
myself actually in the prayer of which I am treating, 
for I see clearly then that neither the expression nor 
the thought comes from me ; and when it is written, I 
can no longer understand how I have been able to do 
it, which happens to me often." 

In the third degree we come to the ecstasy: "This 
state is a sleep of the powers [faculties] wherein, with- 
out being entirely lost in God, they nevertheless do 
not understand how they operate. ... It is like some 
one who, sighing after death, holds already in the hand 
the blessed candle and has only one breath more to ex- 


hale in order to see itself at the consummation of its de- 
sires. It is for the soul an agony full of inexpressible de- 
light, wherein it feels itself almost entirely dying to all 
the things of earth and reposes with rapture in the en- 
joyment of its God. I find no other terms to depict or 
explain what it experiences. In this state it does not 
know what to do : it does not know whether it is speak- 
ing or is silent ; whether it laughs or weeps ; it is a 
glorious delirium, a celestial madness, a supremely de- 
licious kind of enjoyment. . . . While it thus seeks its 
God, the soul feels itself with a very keen and very sweet 
pleasure almost fainting away; it falls into a species of 
swoon which little by little deprives the body of re- 
spiration and of all its strength. It cannot, without a 
very painful effort make even the slightest movement 
of the hands. The eyes close without its wishing to 
close them, and, if it keeps them open, it sees almost 
nothing. It is incapable of reading, had it the de- 
sire to ; it indeed perceives the letters, but, as the 
mind does not act, it can neither distinguish nor asso- 
ciate them. When spoken to, it hears the sound of 
the voice, but not distinct words. So it receives no 
service from its senses. . . . All exterior forces abandon 
it : feeling thereby its own increase it can better enjoy 
its glory. ... In truth, to judge of it by my experience, 
this prayer is at first of such short duration that it does 
not reveal itself in so manifest a way by external signs 
and the suspension of the senses. It is to be remarked, 
at least in my opinion, that this suspension of all the 
powers never lasts long ; it is very much when it 
reaches a half hour, and I do not think that with me 
it has ever lasted so long. It must be admitted, how- 
ever, that it is difficult to judge of it, since one is at 
the time deprived of feeling. I wish simply to make 


this observation : whenever this general suspension 
takes place, very little time elapses in which one or 
another of the powers does not return to itself. The 
will is the one-which maintains itself best in the divine 
union, but the two others very soon begin to importune 
it. As it is in the calm, it brings them back and sus- 
pends them anew ; they remain thus tranquil some 
minutes and then take up again their natural life. The 
prayer, with these alternations, can and does prolong 
itself, in fact, for some hours. . . . But that state of com- 
plete ecstasy, in which the imagination, which I hold 
to be equally rapt, does not wander to any external ob- 
ject, is, I repeat, of short duration. I would add that 
the powers returning to themselves only imperfectly, 
they may remain in a sort of delirium for some hours, 
during which God from time to time enraptures them 
anew, and fixes them in himself. . . . What transpires 
in this secret union is so hidden that one would not 
know how to speak of it more clearly. The soul then 
sees itself so near God and possesses such a certainty of 
it, that it cannot have the slightest doubt as to the real- 
ity of such a favor. All its powers lose their natural 

activity; they have no knowledge of their operations 

That troublesome butterfly of memory sees then its 
wings scorched here, and it is no longer able to flit 
hither and thither. The will is no doubt occupied in 
loving, but it does not understand how it loves. In 
regard to the understanding, if it understands, it is by 
a mode which remains unknown to it, and it can com- 
prehend nothing of what it understands. " * 

I will not follow St. Teresa in her description of 

* I'ie de Sainte TkMse tcrite par elle-m?me, translated by Rev. Father 
Bouix (tenth edition), pp. 90, 91, 96, 138, 142, 157, 177-180. Compare also Plo- 
tinus, Ennfades, vi ; Tauler, Institution chritienne, chapters xii, xxvi, xxxv. 


the "rapture " (chapter xx), " that divine eagle, which 
with a sudden impetuosity seizes you and carries you 
off." These extracts suffice, and any one who reads 
them with attention will not hesitate to attribute to 
them all the value of a good psychological observa- 

In examining the detailed narratives of other ec- 
statics (which I cannot recount here), I find that for 
our purposes may be conveniently established two cate- 

In the first, motility persists to a certain extent. 
The ecstatic follows in its development and reproduces 
with appropriate movements the Passion, the Nativity, 
or some other religious drama. There is a series of very 
intense images, having an invariable point of departure, 
an order of succession which repeats itself each time 
with perfect automatism. Maria von Moerl and Louise 
Lateau are well known examples of this. 

The other category is that of ecstasy in repose. 
Ideas alone reign, ordinarily abstract or metaphysical : 
God for St. Teresa and Plotinus, better still the Nir- 
vana of the Buddhists. Movements are suppressed ; 
henceforth one feels "only a residuum of interior agi- 
tation. " 

* St. Teresa thus describes her physical state during her "raptures": 
"Often my body became so light that it no longer possessed weight ; some 
times it was so to such a point that I no more felt my feet touching the ground. 
So long as the body is in the rapture, it remains as if dead and often is abso- 
lutely powerless to act. It preserves the attitude in which it has been sur- 
prised : thus it remains standing or seated, the hands open or closed, in a word 
in the state in which it was overtaken by the rapture. Although ordinarily one 
does not lose feeling, it has happened to me, however, to be entirely deprived 
of it. This has been rare and has lasted only a very short time. Most fre- 
quently feeling remains ; but one experiences an indefinable trouble, and, al- 
though it is impossible to perform any external act, one does not cease to 
hear : it is like a confused sound coming from a distance. Moreover, even this 
kind of hearing ceases when the rapture is at its highest degree." (Ibid., p. 


Let us remark in passing how well this agrees with 
what has been previously said : that in abstract ideas 
the tendency to movement is at its minimum ; that 
these ideas being representations of representations, 
pure schemata, the motor element is weakened in the 
same degree as the representative element. 

But in both cases the mental state of ecstasy is a 
complete infraction of the laws of the normal mechan- 
ism of consciousness. Consciousness exists only under 
the condition of a perpetual change ; it is essentially 
discontinuous. An homogeneous and continuous con- 
sciousness is an impossibility. Ecstasy realises all 
that is possible of this continuity; but St. Teresa has 
just told us that either consciousness disappears, or 
else understanding and memory that is to say, dis- 
continuity come back at intervals and revive the con- 

This psychological anomaly is complicated with 
another. Every state of consciousness tends to expend 
itself in proportion to its intensity. In the highest ec- 
stasy, the expenditure is null or nearly so, and it is 
thanks to the absence of this motor phase that the in- 
tellectual intensity is maintained. The brain, in the 
normal state an intellectual and moto*r organ at the 
same time, ceases to be motor. Moreover, in the in- 
tellectual order, the heterogeneous and manifold states 
of consciousness which constitute the ordinary life 
have disappeared. The sensations are suppressed ; 
with them, the associations that they awaken. One 
unique representation absorbs all. If the normal 
psychic activity be compared to a circulating capital, 
continually modified by receipts and expenses, it may 
be said that here the capital is massed in one sum ; 
diffusion becomes concentration, the extensive is trans- 


formed into intensive. There is nothing astonishing 
then, if in this state of intellectual erethism, the ec- 
static appears transfigured, above herself. Certainly 
the visions of the rude peasant girl of Sanderet who 
saw a Virgin all of gold in a paradise of silver, have 
little resemblance to those of a St. Teresa or a Ploti- 
nus ; but every intellect at the moment of ecstasy yields 
its maximum. 

Is it very necessary now to investigate why, in this 
state, there is neither choice nor action? How could 
there be choice, since choice supposes the existence of 
that complex whole called the ego, which has disap- 
peared ; since, the personality being reduced to one 
idea or a single vision, there is no state which can be 
chosen, that is to say, incorporated in the whole, to the 
exclusion of others ; since, in a word, there is nothing 
which can choose, nothing which can be chosen? As 
well might an election be supposed without electors or 

Action is thus dried up in its source, annihilated. 
There remain of it only the elementary forms (respira- 
tory movements, etc.), without which organic life would 
be impossible. We have here a curious case of psy- 
chological correlation or antagonism : all that one func- 
tion gains is lost by another ; all that is gained by 
thought is lost by movement. In this respect, ecstasy 
is the opposite of the states in which motility triumphs, 
such as epilepsy, chorea, and convulsions. Here, we 
see a maximum of movement with minimum of con- 
sciousness ; there, intensity of consciousness, with 
minimum of movement. There is at any moment only 
a certain nervous and psychic capital disponible ; if it 
be absorbed by one function, it is to the detriment of 


the others. Its employment in one direction or the 
other depends on the nature of the individual. 

After having studied the annihilation of the will in 
its highest form, let us remark that in contemplation 
and profound reflexion may be found modified and 
diminishing forms of this annihilation. The inapti- 
tude of contemplative minds for action has physiologi- 
cal and psychological reasons of which ecstasy has 
given us the secret. 


It would be as interesting for the psychologist as 
for the physiologist to know what produces abolition 
of consciousness in natural or provoked somnambu- 
lism, and from what organic conditions it results. 
In spite of the labors carried on x with ardor during 
these last years there only exist theories on this point, 
and one can take one's choice among several hy- 
potheses. Some, like Schneider and Berger, make 
it a result of "expectant attention," producing a one- 
sided and abnormal concentration of consciousness. 
Preyer sees in it a special case of his theory of sleep. 
Others, like Rumpf, suppose that there are reflex 
changes in the cerebral circulation, phenomena of 
hyperaemia and anaemia in the surface of the hemi- 
spheres of the brain. Heidenhain, who combats this 
last theory, explains hypnotism by an inhibitive action. 
There might take place a suspension of activity in the 
cortical nerve-cells, perhaps by a change in molecular 
arrangement : in this way the functional movement of 
the grey matter would be interrupted. This last hy- 
pothesis is that which appears to gain the most adher- 
ents. As it is hardly more than a simple statement of 


fact, from the psychological point of view at least, we 
may adhere to it. 

It would be useless to describe a state so often and 
so carefully described before.* We simply remark 
that the terms somnambulism, hypnotism, and their 
analogues, do not designate a state identical every- 
where and in all. This state varies in the same indi- 
vidual from simple drowsiness to profound stupor ; 
and from one individual to another, according to the 
constitution, habit, pathological conditions, etc. So it 
would be illegitimate to affirm that there is always 
annihilation of the power of will. We shall see that 
there are some very doubtful cases. 

Let us first take hypnotism in the form that several 
authors have called lethargic. The mental inertia is 
absolute ; consciousness is abolished ; the reflexes are 
exaggerated, an exaggeration which goes on concur- 
rently with the enfeeblement of the higher activity. 
At the voice of the operator the hypnotised subject 
stands up, walks, sits down, sees absent persons, trav- 
els, describes landscapes. He has, as the phrase goes, 
no will but that of the operator. That signifies, in 
more precise terms : In the empty field of conscious- 
ness a state is called up ; and, as every state of con- 
sciousness tends to pass into act, immediately or 
after having awakened associations, the act ensues. 
This is only one case of a well-known law which is the 
analogue in the psychological order of the reflex in 
the physiological order ; and the passing into action is 
here so much the easier as there is nothing to hinder 
it, neither inhibitive power nor antagonistic state, the 
suggested idea reigning alone in the slumbering con- 

* See in particular the articles by Mr. Ch. Richet in the Revue philoso- 
phigue for October and November, 1880, and for March, 1883. 


sciousness. Some facts stranger in appearance are 
explained in the same way. We know that by giving 
to the members of a hypnotised person certain appro- 
priate postures there is awakened in him an emotion 
of pride, terror, humility, or piety; that if they are 
placed in a position for climbing, he attempts to goiup 
a ladder ; and that if there is put into his hands any 
instrument of customary labor, he goes to work. It is 
clear that the position imposed upon the members 
awakens in the cerebral centres th? corresponding 
states of consciousness, with which the) 1 have become 
associated by numerous repetitions. The idea once 
awakened is in the same condition as that arising from 
a command or a direct suggestion of the operator. All 
these cases, therefore, are reducible to the same for- 
mula : the hypnotised subject is an automaton which 
is made to move according to the nature of its organi- 
sation. There is an absolute annihilation of the will, 
the conscious personality being reduced to one single 
and unique state, which is neither chosen nor repu- 
diated, but undergone, imposed. 

In natural somnambulism the automatism is spon- 
* taneous, that is to say, it has as its antecedent some 
particular excitation in the organism. Here the autom- 
atism is often of a superior kind ; the series of states 
aroused is long, and each term of the series is com- 
plex. As a type of this there can be given the singer 
whose history Mesnet has related.* If one offer him 
a cane that he takes for a gun, his military recollections 
are revived ; he loads his weapon, lies flat upon his 
stomach, takes careful aim and fires. If a roll of paper 
be handed to him, the memories of his present calling 

* De I'autoinatisme de la metnoire et du souvenir dans le somnambulisme 
pathologique (Paris, 1874). See also P. Richer, op. cit., p. 391 et seqq. 


are aroused ; he unrolls it and sings in a loud voice. 
But the unvarying repetition each time of the same acts 
in the same order, gives to all these facts the character 
of a very clear automatism, from which all will is ex- 

There are, however, equivocal cases. Burdach tells 
us of a "very fine ode," composed in a state of som- 
nambulism. The story has often been cited of that 
abb who, composing a sermon, corrected and touched 
up his sentences, and changed the place of epithets. 
Another person tries several times to commit suicide, 
and at each attack employs new means. The facts of 
this kind are so numerous that, even making allowance 
for credulity and exaggeration, it is impossible to re- 
ject them. 

It may be said : Such acts suppose a comparison, 
followed by a choice, a preference ; and this is what 
is called a volition. There would then exist a volun- 
tary power, that is to say, a true reaction of the indi- 
vidual faint, obscure, limited, but active nevertheless. 

But it can also be maintained that automatism by 
itself is sufficient. Is it not a recognised truth that, 
in the normal state, intellectual work is often automatic 
and that it is only worth more on that account? What 
poets call inspiration, is it not a cerebral labor which 
is involuntary, almost unconscious, or which, at least, 
reaches the consciousness only in the form of results? 
We read over our own writings, and our corrections 
are often spontaneous, that is to say, the movement of 
thought brings a new association of words and ideas 
which substitutes itself immediately for the other. So 
it may be that the individual, as a being that chooses 
and prefers, counts in it for nothing. On more minute 
examination, it may be held that all these cases are not 


rigorously comparable ; that, if for composing an ode 
automatism suffices, for correcting it it does not suffice ; 
and that, in this last case, there is a choice, however 
rapid and insignificant we may suppose it to be. In 
place of a zero of will, we should have a minimum of 
will. This opinion would come to the same thing as the 
first one, or would be separated from it only by a shade. 

The reader may choose between these two inter- 
pretations. I pass on to cases where the data are clearer. 

There are among hypnotised subjects numerous 
instances of resistance. An order is not obeyed, a 
suggestion does not immediately impose itself. The 
magnetisers of the last century recommended to the 
operator a tone of authority and to the subject the 
faith, the confidence which produces consent and pre- 
vents resistance. 

"While in a state of somnambulism, B. performed 
certain acts at command, but refused to perform others. 
Most frequently she would not read, although we satis- 
fied ourselves that she could see, in spite of the ap- 
parent occlusion of the eyelids. . . . When her hands 
were placed in the attitude of prayer her mind was im- 
pressed accordingly. When questioned, she replied 
that she was praying to the Holy Virgin, but that she 
did not see her. As long as her hands remained in 
that position, she continued her prayer and did not 
disguise her displeasure if any one sought to distract 
her. On displacing her hands, the prayer ceased im- 
mediately. As inevitable as it is, the prayer, in this 
case, is in some sort rational, since the patient resists 
distractions and is able to carry on a discussion with 
any one who tries to interrupt her. " * 

One of Ch. Richet's subjects who allowed himself 

* P. Richer, Etude sur fhystlro-Spilepsie, pp. 426, 427. 


without any difficulty to be metamorphosed into an 
officer, a sailor, etc., refused on the contrary, with 
tears in his eyes, to be changed into a priest ; which 
the character and habits of the subject and the environ- 
ment in which he had lived sufficiently explained. 

There are, then, phases in which: two states coex- 
ist : one produced by an influence from without, the 
other by an influence from within. We know the auto- 
matic power of the first. HereJJae_ontrary state in- 
terferes with it ; there exists something which resem- 
bles a power of inhibition. But this power is so weak 
that it ordinarily yields to repeated attacks, and so 
vague that its nature cannot be determined. Is it more 
than an antagonistic state of consciousness aroused by 
the suggestion itself, in such wise that all would be 
reduced to the coexistence of two contrary states? Is 
it more complex, and must it be admitted that it rep- 
resents the sum of the tendencies still existing in the 
individual and some remains of what constitutes his 
character? If Heidenhain's theory be accepted there 
must be, in the state called lethargic, a complete ar- 
rest of the functional activity; the command or sug- 
gestion would bring into play an exceedingly limited 
number of neural elements in the cortical layer; finally, 
in the state of resistance there would arise from their 
sleep some of those elements which, in the normal state, 
form the physiological and psychological basis of the in- 
dividual, being the synthetic expression of its organism. 
It must be avowed that, even admitting this second 
hypothesis, what would remain of voluntary power, of 
capacity in the individual to react according to his na- 
ture would be an embryo, a power so denuded of effi- 
cacy that it can hardly be called a will. 

We would further remark that, if it is difficult for 


the observer to divine what power of reaction persists 
in the person who resists, the latter is a still worse 
judge of it. 

"An attentive analysis of the phenomena, such as 
can be made by educated and intelligent men, who 
have consented to undergo the action of the magne- 
tism, show how difficult it is even for the hypnotised 
subject to make himself understand that he is not sim- 
ulating. To make these observations the sleep need 
not be very profound. ... At the period of lethargy, 
the consciousness is preserved, and yet a commence- 
ment of automatism is very manifest. 

"A physician of Breslau had affirmed to Mr. Hei- 
denhain that the magnetism made no impression upon 
him ; but after he had been thrown into the lethargic 
state he could not pronounce a single word. When 
awakened, he declared that he could have spoken 
easily enough and that, if he had said nothing, it was 
because he had not wished to say anything. Being 
lethargised anew by a few passes, he was again unable 
to speak. He was awakened once more and had to 
recognise that, if he had not spoken, it was because 
he could not speak. 

"One of my friends, having been merely lethargised 
and not altogether put to sleep, studied closely this 
phenomenon of impotence coinciding with the illusion 
of power. When I indicate to him a movement he 
always executes it, even when before being magnetised 
he had fully determined to resist me. This he has 
the utmost difficulty in understanding on awakening. 
' Certainly/ he said to me, 'I could resist, but I have 
not the will to do so.' So he is sometimes tempted to 
believe that he is simulating. When I am lethargised, ' 
he said to me, ' I feign automatism, although I could, 


it seems to me, do otherwise. I come with the firm 
determination not to pretend, and, in spite of myself, 
as soon as the sleep begins it seems to me that I do it.' 
It can be seen that this kind of simulation of a phe- 
nomenon is absolutely indistinguishable from the real- 
ity of that phenomenon. Automatism is proven by the 
single fact that persons in good faith are unable to act 
otherwise than as automata. It signifies little that 
they imagine themselves able to resist. They do not 
resist. That is the fact which should be taken into con- 
sideration, and not the illusion that they cherish of 
their alleged power of resistance." * 

This power of resistance, however, as feeble as it 
is, is not equal to zero ; it is a last survival of the in- 
dividual reaction, extremely reduced ; it is on the 
threshold of extinction, but without passing over it. 
The illusion of this feeble power of inhibition must 
correspond to some physiological state equally preca- 
rious. Upon the whole, the state of natural or pro- 
voked somnambulism may justly be regarded as an 
abolition of the will. The exceptional cases are rare 
and obscure ; yet they contribute their share of in- 
struction. They show once more that volition is not 
an invariable quantity, but that it decreases to a point 
where it may be equally maintained either that it does 
or does not exist. 

I will mention in passing a fact which hardly enters 
into the pathology of the will, but which furnishes 
matter for reflexion. There may be given to certain 
hypnotised subjects an order to perform an action later 
on, at a given moment in the day, or even at a more 
distant date (in eight, ten days). Having returned 
to themselves they carry out the order at the hour re- 

* Ch. Richet, article cited, pp. 348, 349. 


quired, on the prescribed day, ordinarily declaring 
"that they do not know why." In some more curious 
cases these persons give specious reasons to explain their 
conduct ', to justify this act which does not spring from 
their own spontaneity, but is imposed upon them with- 
out their knowledge. 

I cite a case that came under my own observation. 
A young man at ten o'clock ordered his mistress, who 
was in the hypnotic state, to leave him at three o'clock 
in the morning ; then he restored her to the normal 
state. Toward three o'clock she awoke and made 
ready to go, and though he begged her to stay, she 
found reasons to excuse and justify her going at that 
unreasonable hour.* 

"Our illusion of free will," says Spinoza, "is only 
ignorance of the motives which make us act." Do not 
this fact and analogous ones confirm this?f 

* This paragraph, though left out of the eighth French edition, was pres- 
ent in the early ones. It is retained for the sake of completeness. Trans, 

t The state of the will in hypnotised persons has given rise lately to very 
warm discussions of much practical importance. We have seen that it is easy 
during hypnosis to require of certain subjects acts which they are to perform 
at a date determined. There is a complete forgetfulness of the injunction on 
awakening and, as it would seem, up to the moment when the specified time 
has come. Does not the hypnotised person thus become a passive instrument 
in the operator's hands by the annihilation of his will ? 

Two contrary opinions have been maintained. According to the School 
of Nancy (Liebault, Beaunis, Bernheim, Liegeois) the confiscation of the will 
is complete, and all resistance to the injunctions is vanquished in the long 
run, in the freely suggestible person, who thus becomes perinde ac cadaver. 

The School of Paris (Charcot, Brouardel, etc.) rejects this absolute theory, 
"which rests only upon laboratory crimes " (that is to say, ones which are 
factitious, simulated, executed for compliance sake). It maintains that re- 
sistance is possible. Very w6ak, when the act commanded is a trivial one, it 
would be augmented in proportion to the gravity of the act suggested. This 
resistance might manifest itself in several manners : refusal to awaken if the 
command is not revoked, sleep or crisis at the moment when it is to be car- 
ried out, etc. ' ' The hypnotised person executes only what he has no objection 
to doing." For this discussion consult Beaunis, Le somnambulisme provoque'; 
Bernheim, De la suggestion, etc.; Liegeois, De la suggestion et du somnambu- 
lisme ; Pitres, Des suggestions hypnotiques ; Gilles de la Tourette, L'hypnotisme 
et les etats analogues, etc. 




HAVING examined the various morbid types, let us 
see whether a law can be discovered which sums up 
the pathology of the will and throws some light upon 
its normal state. 

Volition exists only as a fact, that is to say, a choice 
followed by acts. For it to be produced, certain con- 
ditions are necessary. A lack of impulse or inhibition, 
an exaggeration of automatic activity, of a tendency, a 
desire, a fixed idea, prevent it from existing for a mo- 
ment, an hour, a day, or a period of life. The sum of 
these conditions, necessary and sufficient, may be called 
will. In relation to the volitions it is a cause, although 
it is itself a sum of effects, a resultant varying with its 
elements ; pathology has demonstrated this to us. 

These elements, which I indicate briefly, are : 

1) The tendencies to action (or to inhibition) which 
result from circumstances, from the environment, from 
advice, from education ; in a word, all those which are 
the effect of exterior causes. 

2) The character, which is the principal element, 
the effect of interior causes, and not an entity but the 
resultant of that myriad of infinitely minute states and 
tendencies of all the anatomical elements which con- 


stitutes a certain organism ; in shorter terms, charac- 
ter is for us the psychological expression of a certain 
organised body, drawing from it its peculiar coloring, 
its special tone, and its relative permanence. That is 
the ultimate stratum upon which rests the possibility 
of the will, and which makes it energetic, weak, inter- 
mittent, commonplace, extraordinary. 

Now, if we consider the will no longer in its con- 
stituent elements, but in the phases that it passes 
through in forming itself, we see that volition is the 
last term of a progressive evolution of which the sim- 
ple reflex is the first round ; it is the highest form of 
activity, understood always in the precise sense of 
power to produce acts, power of reaction. 

It has for its basis a legacy from numberless gen- 
erations, enregistered in the organism ; this is the 
primitive automatic activity, simply co-ordinated, al- 
most invariable, and unconscious, although it must in 
remote ages have been accompanied by a rudiment of 
consciousness which has withdrawn from it in propor- 
tion as the co-ordination, becoming more perfect, has 
organised itself in the species. 

Upon this basis rests the conscious and individual 
activity of the appetites, desires, feelings, and passions, 
with a more complex and much less stable co-ordina- 

Higher still is the ideo-motor activity, which in its 
extreme manifestations attains a co-ordination at once 
very firm and very complex, this is complete volition. 

It may therefore be said that it has as its fundamental 
condition a hierarchic co-ordination, that is to say, that 
it does not suffice for reflexes to be co-ordinated with 
reflexes, desires with desires, rational tendencies with 
rational tendencies ; but that a co-ordination between 


these different groups is necessary, a co-ordination 
with subordination, such that all converges towards a 
single point : the end to be attained. Let the reader 
recall the morbid cases studied in the preceding pages, 
in particular the irresistible impulses which, by them- 
selves alone, represent almost the entire pathology of 
the will, and he will recognise that they all may be re- 
duced to this formula : absence of hierarchic co-ordina- 
tion, action which is independent, irregular, isolated, 

Hence if we consider the will either in its constit- 
uent elements or in the successive phases of its gen- 
esis (and the two aspects are inseparable), we see that 
volition, its last result, is not an event appearing one 
knows not whence, but that it plunges its roots into 
the profoundest depths of the individual and, beyond 
the individual, into the species, and into all species. 
It does not come from above, but from below ; it is a 
sublimation of inferior elements. I would compare 
volition, once affirmed, to what is called in architec- 
ture the keystone of an arch. To it the arch owes 
more than its solidity, its existence; but this stone 
derives its power wholly from the others which sustain 
it and shut it in, as in its turn it presses upon them 
and holds them in place. 

These much condensed preliminaries were indis- 
pensable to an understanding of the law which governs 
the dissolution of the will ; for, if the preceding con- 
siderations are just, then since dissolution always fol- 
lows the inverse order of evolution, it results that the 
more complex manifestations of will must disappear 
before the simpler ones, and the more simple before the 
automatic activity. In order to give to the statement 
of the law its exact form, treating volition, not as a 


singular event, but as the highest manifestation of ac- 
tivity, we will say : Dissolution pursues a regressive 
course from the more voluntary and more complex toward 
the less voluntary and simpler, that is to say, toward the 

We have now to show that this law is verified by 
the facts. We have only to choose among many. 

In 1868, Hughlings Jackson, while studying cer- 
tain disorders of the nervous system, called attention, 
for the first time I think, to the fact "that the most 
voluntary and specialised movements and faculties are 
attacked first and more than the others."* This "prin- 
ciple of dissolution " or "of reduction to a more auto- 
matic state " was laid down by him as the correlative 
of Herbert Spencer's doctrines regarding the evolution 
of the nervous system. He takes one of the simplest 
cases, general hemiplegia from lesion of the corpus 
striatum. A clot of blood has made for us an experi- 
ment. We see that the patient whose face, tongue, 
arm, and leg are paralysed has lost the more voluntary 
movements of a portion of his body, without losing the 
more automatic ones. "The study of cases of hemi- 
plegia shows us in effect that the external parts that 
suffer the most are those which, psychologically speak- 
ing, are the most under the command of the will, and 
which, physiologically speaking, imply the greatest 
number of different movements, produced with the 
greatest number of different intervals, " in place of being 
simultaneous like automatic movements. If the lesion 
is more serious, and if it affect not only the more volun- 
tary parts of the body (face, arm, leg), but those also 
which are less voluntary (loss of certain movements of 

* Clinical and Physiological Researches on the Nervous System (London, 


the eyes and of the head, and of one side of the chest), 
the more voluntary parts are found to be much more 
paralysed than the others. 

Ferrier remarks* similarly that the general destruc- 
tion of the motor region in the cortex of the brain, like 
that of the corpus striatum, produces "the same rela- 
tive disorders of the different movements, those being 
the most affected and paralysed which are most under 
the influence of the will, at least after the first shock 
is passed. Facial paralysis has its seat specially in 
the lower facial region, attacking the more independent 
movements, the frontal and orbicular muscles being 
only slightly affected. The movements of the leg are 
less affected than those of the arm, those of the arm 
less than those of the hand. " 

The same author, drawing a distinction between 
the different kinds of movements and their respective 
centres, " those which imply consciousness and which 
we call voluntary in the strict sense of the word " (the 
higher cortical centres) and those "which are described 
as automatic, instinctive, responsive, including the mo- 
tor adaptations of equilibrium and of motor co-ordina- 
tion, and the instinctive expression cf emotions, and 
which are organised more or less completely in the cen- 
tres subjacent to the cortex," observes that these latter 
have a relative independence which is at a maximum in 
the lower vertebrates (the frog, the pigeon), and at a 
minimum in the monkey and the man. " I ventured to 
predict," he adds, "that in animals whose motor fac- 
ulties did not seem to suffer much from a destructive 
lesion of the nervous centres, those movements must 
be paralysed which imply consciousness (voluntary 

* Ferrier, Localisation of Diseases of the Brain (French translation, p. 


movements) and are not automatically organised. This 
has been fully confirmed by the researches of Goltz. 
He has shown that, although the paw of a dog may 
not be positively paralysed in so far as it is an organ of 
locomotion, by a lesion of the cortex, it is so, in so far 
as it serves as a hand and is employed as such. " * 

This last experiment is of the greatest interest for 
us ; it shows us that, in one same organ adapted at 
once to locomotion and to prehension, the first function 
persists, although impaired, when the latter, the more 
delicate one, has disappeared. 

The instability of the action that is voluntary, com- 
plex, superior (which all comes to the same thing), in 
comparison with the automatic, simple, inferior action, 
shows itself again in a progressive form in the general 
paralysis of the insane. "The first imperfections of 
motility," says Foville, " those which show themselves 
as a barely incipient defect in the harmony of the mus- 
cular contractions, are so much the more appreciable 
as they concern more delicate movements, requiring a 
greater precision and perfection in their performance. 
So it is not astonishing that they express themselves 
first in the very delicate muscular operations which 
co-operate in phonation. " It is known that an impedi- 
ment in speech is one of the first symptoms of this 
malady. At first so slight that only a practised ear 
is capable of detecting it, the trouble in pronunciation 

* Ferrier, pp. 36, 37. In the experiment of Goltz, if the lesion is made in 
the left brain, in any movement in which the dog is accustomed to use the 
front paw as a hand, he neglects the use of the right paw. Thus he will hold 
a bone with the left fore paw only ; and it is this paw only that he will use to 
dig in the ground or to reach up to his wound. If the animal has been trained 
to give his paw on command, after the mutilation he will give only his left 
paw, while he will hold the right one as if nailed to the ground. (Goltz, in 
Dictionnaire encyclope'dique des sciences mtdicales, article " Nerveux," p. 588.) 


increases progressively and finally results in an unin- 
telligible jabber. 

" The muscles which contribute to articulation have 
lost all their harmony of action ; they can no longer 
contract except with effort ; and the speech has be- 
come unrecognisable, 

"In the members, the lesions of motility affect at 
first only the^ movements involving the most of minu- 
tiae and of precision. The patient can take long walks 
and use his arms in kinds of work which require only 
co-ordinated movements ; but he can no longer execute 
little delicate operations of the fingers, without trem- 
bling a little and trying several times over ; it is par- 
ticularly noticeable when he is asked to pick up a pin 
from the ground, to wind his watch, etc. Artisans ac- 
customed in their trade to tasks of precision, are in- 
capacitated for occupation much sooner than those 
who have only coarse labors to perform. When there 
is writing to be done the pen is held with an indecision 
which manifests itself by a more or less pronounced 
irregularity of the characters traced. The farther the 
malady progresses in its course the more tremulous 
and irregular the hand-writing becomes ; so that, by 
comparing a series of letters written at different epochs, 
one may follow the successive stages of the affection 
until the patient has become incapable of writing. 

"Later on, the indecision of the upper members 
extends even to the general movements ; the trembling 
and enfeeblement prevent the patient from carrying 
his food directly to his mouth, from taking out his 
handkerchief, from putting it back in his pocket, etc. 

"In the lower members the progression is analo- 
gous ; at the outset, the paralytic insane walk with 
vigor when going straight ahead, but if they have to 


turn to the right or the left, and especially to wheel 
around in order to retrace their steps, the hesitation 
and lack of precision make themselves apparent. Later 
on, even when walking ahead, they advance with a 
heavy and ill-coordinated step. Still later they have 
difficulty in walking even a few steps. " * 

Let us recall again the troubles in motility which 
follow the abuse of alcohol. Tremor is one of the earliest 
phenomena. "The hands are the first parts affected, 
then the arms, the legs, the tongue and the lips. In pro- 
portion as it increases, the tremulousness is generally 
complicated with another graver disorder, muscular 
debility. It affects at first the upper members ; that is 
an almost constant character. The fingers become un- 
skilful, awkward ; the hand holds objects imperfectly 
and lets them slip. Then this weakness extends to the 
forearm and the arm ; the patient is thus unable to use 
his upper members except in a very imperfect way ; 
he comes at last to be no longer able to eat alone. 
Later these phenomena extend to the lower members ; 
standing becomes difficult, the walk is uncertain, stag- 
gering ; and all these symptoms go on increasing. The 
muscles of the back are attacked in their turn .... 
and the unfortunate paralytic is condemned to keep 
his bed. "t 

We might recall again what takes place in convul- 
sions, chorea, etc. This progress, which for the phy- 
sician has only a clinical interest, has for us a psycho- 
logical interest. These facts of daily experience will 
suffice, I hope, to produce the conviction, nay to dem- 
onstrate, that the law of dissolution does indeed pursue 

* Foville, Dictionnaire de mtdeczne, etc., article " Paralysie generale," pp. 

tFournier, ibid., article "Alcoholism," pp. 636, 637. 


a course from the complex to the simple, from the 
voluntary to the automatic, and that the last term of 
evolution is the first of dissolution. We have studied 
hitherto, it is true, only a disorganisation of move- 
ments ; but those who treat psychology as a natural 
science will find here nothing that needs to be restated. 
As volition is not for us an imperative entity, reigning 
in a world apart and distinct from its acts, but rather 
the ultimate expression of a hierarchic co-ordination, 
and as each movement or group of movements is rep- 
resented in the neural centres, it is clear that with 
each group that is paralysed one element of the co- 
ordination disappears. If the dissolution is progres- 
sive, the co-ordination, continually despoiled of some 
element, will become continually more and more re- 
stricted ; and, as experience shows that the disappear- 
ance of the movements is in direct proportion to their 
complexity and their delicacy, our thesis is verified. 
We may moreover follow out this verification of our 
law by recalling what takes place in the diseases of 
speech, and here we penetrate into the inmost mechan- 
ism of the mind. I shall not go over a subject that I 
have treated at length.* I have endeavored to show 
that many cases of aphasia result from a motor amnesia, 
that is to say, from a forgetfulness of motor elements, of 
those movements which constitute articulate speech. I 
will recall what Trousseau had already remarked, that 
"aphasia is always reducible to a loss of memory either 
of the vocal signs, or of the means by which the words 
are articulated ; that W. Ogle also distinguishes two 
verbal memories : a first one, recognised by everybody, 
whereby we are conscious of the word, and a second in 

* See Les maladies de la mSmoire, p. 119 et seqq. (English translation, 
vol. 41, International Scientific Series.) 


addition, by which we are enabled to utter it." This 
forgetfulness of the movements, although it is pri- 
marily a disease of the memory, reveals to us also a 
weakening of motor power, a disorder of voluntary co- 
ordination. The patient wishes to express himself ; 
his volition has no result or expresses itself imper- 
fectly, that is to say, the sum of the co-ordinated ten- 
dencies which at the present moment constitute the 
individual in so far as he wishes to express himself, is 
partially hindered in its passage into action ; and expe- 
rience teaches us that this impotence of expression 
first attacks the words, that is to say, rational language ; 
afterwards the exclamatory phrases, the interjections, 
what Max Miiller designates by the name of emotional 
language ; and finally, in very rare cases, the gestures 
Here again, then, the dissolution proceeds from the 
more complex to the less complex and the simple, from 
the voluntary to the semi-voluntary and the automatic, 
which latter is almost always left intact. 

One might go farther still into the purely psychic life; 
but here all becomes vague and uncertain. As we can 
no longer connect each volition with a group of move- 
ments of the vocal, locomotor, or prehensile organs, 
we are in the dark. However, it is impossible not to 
observe that the highest form of volition, voluntary 
attention, is the rarest and most unstable of all. If, in 
place of considering the voluntary attention* after the 
fashion of the subjective psychologist who studies him- 
self and goes no farther, we consider it in the mass of 
healthy adult human beings, in order to determine 
approximately what part it takes in their mental life, 

*It must be understood that there is no question of involuntary attention, 
which is natural, spontaneous ; we have, moreover, made ourselves clear else- 
where on this point (see p. 01 et seqq.). 


we shall see how rarely it occurs and for how short a 
time. If it were possible for a given period of time to 
compare in humanity, taken as a whole, the total num- 
ber of acts produced by voluntary attention with the 
total number of those produced without it, the ratio 
would be nearly as zero to infinity. By reason of its 
very superiority of nature and its extreme complexity, 
it is a state, a co-ordination,* which can rarely come 
into existence and which always tends to dissolution 
as soon as it arises. 

To confine ourselves to indubitable facts, is it not 
well known that an incapacity for sustained attention is 
one of the first symptoms of every impairment of the 
mind, whether temporary, as in fever, or permanent, 
as in madness? The highest form of co-ordination is 
therefore indeed the most unstable, even in the purely 
psychological order. 

What is this law of dissolution, moreover, if not 
one instance of that great biological law already de- 
scribed in connexion with the memory : the functions 
acquired last are the first to degenerate. In the indi- 
vidual the automatic co-ordination precedes that born 
of the desires and passions, which itself precedes vol- 
untary co-ordination, the simple forms of which pre- 
cede the more complex ones. In the development of 
species (if the theory of evolution be admitted) the 
lower forms of activity for ages existed alone ; then, 
with the increasing complexity of the co-ordinations, 
there came a time when there was will. A return to 
the reign of impulses, by whatever brilliant qualities 

* Just as groups of sitnple movements have to be organised and co-ordi- 
nated to permit that higher co-ordination from which the delicate and com- 
plex movements arise, in like manner must groups of simple states of con- 
sciousness be organised, associated, and co-ordinated to permit that higher 
co-ordination which is the attention. 


of mind it may be accompanied, is therefore in itself a 
retrogression. In this respect the following passage 
from Herbert Spencer will serve us as a summary and 
as a conclusion upon this point : "In the chronically 
nervous, whose blood, deteriorated in quality and feebly 
propelled, fails to keep up a due activity of molecu- 
lar change, . . . irascibility ... is matter of common 
remark ; and irascibility implies a relative inactivity of 
the superior feelings. It results when a sudden dis- 
charge, sent by a pain or annoyance through those 
plexuses which adjust the conduct to painful and ans 
noying agencies, is unaccompanied by a discharge 
through those plexuses which adjust the conduct to 
many circumstances instead of a single circumstance. 
That deficient genesis of nervous fluid accounts for 
this loss of emotional balance, is a corollary from all 
that has gone before. The plexuses which co-ordinate 
the defensive and destructive activities, and in which 
are seated the accompanying feelings of antagonism 
and anger, are inherited from all antecedent races of 
creatures and are therefore well organised so well 
organised that the child in arms shows them in action. 
But the plexuses which, by connecting and co-ordinat- 
ing a variety of inferior plexuses, adapt the behavior 
to a variety of external acquirements, have been but 
recently evolved ; so that, besides being extensive and 
intricate, they are formed of much less permeable chan- 
nels. Hence when the nervous system is not fully 
charged, these latest and highest structures are the first 
to fail. Instead of being instant to act, their actions, 
if appreciable at all, come too late to check the actions 
of the subordinate structures." * 

* Principles of 'Psychology, vol. i, 262. 



After having followed step by step the dissolution 
of the will, the fundamental result which has appeared 
to us to spring from it is that it is a co-ordination 
variable in complexity and degree ; that this co-ordi- 
nation is the condition of the existence of all volition, 
and that, according as it is totally or partially de- 
stroyed, volition is annihilated or impaired. It is upon 
this result that we would now like to insist, confining 
ourselves to brief indications on certain points, as it 
is not our aim to write a monograph of the will. 

i) Let us examine in the first place the material 
conditions of this co-ordination. The will, which in 
some privileged persons attains a power so extraordi- 
nary and does such great things, has a very humble 
origin. This is found in that biological property in- 
herent in all living matter and known as irritability, 
that is to say, reaction against external forces. Irrita- 
bility the physiological form of the law of inertia 
is in somewise a state of primordial ^differentiation 
whence shall spring, by an ulterior differentiation, sen- 
sibility properly so called and motility, those two great 
bases of psychic life. 

Let us remember that motility (which alone con- 
cerns us here) manifests itself, even in the vegetable 
kingdom, under divers forms : by the movements of 
certain spores, of the sensitive plant, of the Dioncea, 
and of many other plants to which Darwin has devoted 
a well-known work. The protoplasmic mass, homo- 
geneous in appearance, of which certain rudimentary 
beings are exclusively composed, is endowed with mo- 
tility. The amoeba and the white corpuscle of the 


blood move ahead little by little by the aid of the pro- 
cesses which they emit. These facts, which may be 
found described in abundance in special works, show 
us that motility appears long before the muscles and 
the nervous system, even in their most rudimentary 

We need not follow the evolution of these two in- 
struments of improvement through the animal series. 
Let us merely note that the researches on the localisa- 
tion of the motor centres, so important in the mecha- 
nism of the will, have led some savants to study the 
state of these centres in the newly born. " This in- 
vestigation, very carefully made by Soltmann, in 1875, 
has furnished the following results. In rabbits and 
dogs there exists immediately after birth no point in 
the cerebral cortex the electric irritation of which is 
capable of producing movement. It is only on the 
tenth day that the centres for the anterior members 
develop. On the thirteenth day the centres for the 
posterior members appear. On the sixteenth, these 
centres are already quite distinct from each other 
and from those of the face. One conclusion to be 
drawn from these results is, that the absence of volun- 
tary motor direction coincides with the absence of the 
appropriate organs, and that, in measure as the ani- 
mal becomes more master of its movements, the cere- 
bral centres in which the elaboration of will takes 
place acquire a more manifest independence.* 

Flechsig and Parrot have studied the development 
of the encephalon in the foetus and the infant. From 
the researches of the latter f it appears that, if one f ol- 

* Dictionnaire encyclopidique des sciences me"dicales, Fran^ois-Franck, ar- 
ticle "Nerveux," p. 585. 

t Archives de physiologie t 1879, pp. 505-520. 


lows the development of the white matter of an entire 
hemisphere, it can be seen to rise successively from the 
peduncle to the optic thalami, then to the internal cap- 
sule, to the hemispheric centre, and finally to the cere- 
bral mantle. So those parts whose development is the 
slowest have the highest functional destiny. 

The formative period passed, the mechanism of 
volitional action appears to be constituted in the fol- 
lowing manner : the incitation starts from the regions 
of the cortical layer called motor (parieto-frontal re- 
gion), and follows the pyramidal fasciculus, called vol- 
untary by some authors. This fasciculus, which consists 
in the grouping of all the fibres arising in the motor 
convolutions, descends across the oval centre, forms a 
small part of the internal capsule, which, as we know, 
penetrates into the corpus striatum, "like a wedge 
into a piece of wood." This fasciculus follows the 
cerebral peduncle and the medulla, where it undergoes 
a more or less complete decussation, and passes down 
the opposite side of the spinal cord, thus constituting 
a great commissure between the motor convolutions 
and the grey matter of the cord from which the motor 
nerves are given out.* This rough sketch gives some 
idea of the complexity of the elements requisite for 
volitional action and the intimate solidarity which 
unites them. 

There are, unfortunately, some differences of inter- 
pretation regarding the real nature of the cerebral cen- 
tres whence the incitation starts. To Ferrier and many 
others they are motor centres, in the strict sense ; that 
is to say, that in them and by them the movement 

*Huguenin, Anatomic des centres nerveux, (translated from the German 
by Keller). Brissaud, De la contracture permanente des hemiplegiques, 1880, p. 
9, et seq. 


commences. Schiff, Hitzig and Nothnagel, Charlton 
Bastian, and Munk have given other interpretations 
which are neither equally probable nor equally clear. 
In general, however, they amount to a regarding of 
these centres as rather of " a sensory nature," the mo- 
tor function proper being relegated to the striated 
bodies. " The nervous fibres that descend from the 
cerebral cortex, in higher animals and in man, down 
to the corpora striata, are in their nature strictly com- 
parable with the fibres connecting the ' sensory' and 
the * motor ' cells in an ordinary nervous mechanism 
for reflex action."* In other words, there are sup- 
posed to exist in the cerebral cortex "circumscribed 
regions the experimental excitation of which produces 
in the opposite side of the body determinate localised 
movements. These points seem as if they should 
much rather be considered as centres of voluntary asso- 
ciation than as motor centres, properly so called. They 
would in this view be the seat of incitements to volun- 
tary movements and not the true points of departure 
of the motion. They ought rather to be assimilated to 
the peripheral organs of sense than to the motor appa- 
ratus of the anterior cornua of the medulla. . . . These 
centres would then be psycho-motor, because by their 
purely psychic action they command veritable motor 
apparatus. . . . We believe that the different points 
indicated as motor centres for the members, the face, 
etc., correspond to the apparatus which receive and 
transform into voluntary incitation the sensations of 
peripheral origin. They would thus be volitional cen- 
tres and not true motor ones."f 

Notwithstanding this pending question, the solu- 

* Charlton Bastian, Brain as an Organ of the Mind, chapter xxvl. 
t Frangois-Franck, loc. cit., pp. 577, 578. 


tion of which concerns psychology at least as much as 
physiology, and in spite of disagreements in detail that 
we have neglected, especially the uncertainties regard- 
ing the function of the cerebellum, we may say with 
Charlton Bastian that, "if since Hume's time we have 
not learned in any full sense of the term 'the means by 
which the motion of our bodies follows upon the com- 
mand of our will, ' we have at least learned something as 
to the parts chiefly concerned, and thus as to the paths 
traversed by volitional stimuli."* 

2) In examining the question on its psychological 
side, volitional co-ordination assumes so many forms 
and is susceptible of so many gradations that only its 
principal stages can be noticed. It would be natural 
to begin with the lowest ; but I think it useful, for the 
sake of clearness, to follow the inverse order. 

The most perfect co-ordination is that of the high- 
est wills, of the great men of action, whatever be the 
order of their activity: Caesar, or Michael Angelo, or 
St. Vincent de Paul. It may be summed up in a few 
words : unity, stability, power. The exterior unity of 
their life is in the unity of their aim, always pursued, 
creating according to circumstances new co-ordina- 
tions and adaptations. But this outer unity is itself 
only the expression of an interior unity, that of their 
character. It is because they remain the same that 
their end remains the same. Their fundamental ele- 
ment is a mighty, inextinguishable passion which en- 
lists their ideas in its service. This passion is them- 
selves ; it is the psychic expression of their constitu- 
tion as nature has made it. So all that lies outside of 
this co-ordination, how it remains in the shade, ineffica- 
cious, sterile, forgotten, like a parasitic vegetation ! 

*Loc. cit. 


They present the type of a life always in harmony with 
itself, because in them everything conspires together, 
converges, and consents. Even in ordinary life these 
characters are met with, without making themselves 
spoken of, because the elevation of aim, the circum- 
stances, and especially the strength of the passion, have 
been lacking to them; they have preserved only its 
stability. In another way, the great historic stoics, 
Epictetus, Thraseas, (I do not speak of their Sage, who 
is only an abstract ideal,) have realised this superior 
type of will under its negative form, inhibition, con- 
formably to the maxim of the school : Endure and re- 

Below this perfect co-ordination, there are lives tra- 
versed by intermission, whose centre of gravity, ordi- 
narily stable, nevertheless oscillates from time to time. 
One group of tendencies makes a temporary secession 
with limited action, expressing, so far as they do exist 
and act, one side of the character. Neither for them- 
selves nor for others have these individuals the unity 
of the great wills, and the more frequent and complex 
in nature are these infractions of perfect co-ordination, 
the more the volitional power diminishes. In reality, 
all these degrees are met with. 

Descending still lower, we reach those lives by 
double entry, in which two contrary or merely different 
tendencies dominate in turn. There are in the indi- 
vidual two alternate centres of gravity, two points of 
convergence for successively preponderating but only 
partial co-ordinations. Taking everything together, that 
is perhaps the most common type, if one looks around 
one, and if one consults the poets and moralists of all 
times, who vie with each other in repeating that there 
are two men in us. The number of these successive 


co-ordinations may be still larger ; but it would be 
idle to pursue this analysis further. 

One step more, and we enter into pathology. Let 
us recall the sudden irresistible impulses which at 
every moment hold the will in check ; it is a hypertro- 
phied tendency which continually breaks the equilib- 
rium, and the intensity of which is too great to permit 
it any longer to be co-ordinated with the others ; it 
goes out of the ranks, it commands instead of being 
subordinated. Then when these impulses have come 
to be no longer an accident but a habit, no longer one 
side of the character but the character itself, there are 
henceforth only intermittent co-ordinations ; it is the 
will that becomes the exception. 

Lower still, it becomes a mere accident. In the 
indefinite succession of impulses varying from one 
minute to the other a precarious volition finds with 
difficulty at long intervals its conditions of existence. 
Only caprices then exist. The hysteric character has 
furnished the type of this perfect incoordination. Here 
we reach the other extreme. 

Beneath this there are no more diseases of the will, 
but an arrest of development which prevents it from 
ever arising. Such is the state of idiots and imbeciles. 
We will say a few words regarding them here in order 
to complete our pathological study. 

"In profound idiocy," says Griesinger, " efforts 
and determinations are always instinctive ; they are 
chiefly provoked by the need of nourishment; most 
frequently they have the character of reflexes of which 
the individual is hardly conscious. Certain simple 
ideas may still provoke efforts and movements, for ex- 
ample, to play with little pieces of paper. . . . Without 
speaking of those who are plunged in the profoundest 


idiocy, we ask ourselves : Is there in them anything 
that represents the will ? What is there in them that 
can will? 

"In many idiots of this last class the only thing 
that seems to arouse their minds a little is the desire 
to eat. The lowest idiots manifest this desire only by 
agitation and groans. Those in whom the degeneracy 
is less profound move their lips and hands a little, or 
else weep : it is thus that they express a desire to 
eat. . . . 

" In slight idiocy the foundation of the character 
is inconstancy and obtuseness of feeling, and weakness 
of will. The disposition of these individuals depends 
upon their surroundings and the treatment they receive: 
it is docile and obedient when they are taken care of, ill- 
natured and malicious when they are badly treated."* 

Before bringing this subject to an end, we will 
again remark that if the will is -a co-ordination, that is 
to say a sum of relations, it may be predicted a priori 
that it will be produced much more rarely than the 
simpler forms of activity, because a complex state 
has much fewer chances of originating and enduring 
than a simple state. And such are the real facts in the 
case. If in each human life we count up what should 
be credited to the account of automatism, of habit, of 
the passions, and above all of imitation, we shall see 
that the number of acts that are purely voluntary, in 

*Griesinger, Traite des maladies mentales (translated from the German), 
PP- 433. 434- For a complete study of the question consult the recent work by 
Father Sollier : Psychologic de I idiot et de I' imbecile. It will be seen that in 
them the will cannot be formed because the conditions of its existence are lack- 
ing. The atrophy of the intellectual and affective faculties renders the appari- 
tion of voluntary activity impossible : which proves once more that it is not a 
primordial "faculty," but an acquired and complex state resulting from an 
evolution. These weak-minded persons cannot go beyond the period of reflexes, 
affective and intellectual ; the world of will is a promised land into which 
they will never enter. 


the strict sense of the word, is very small. For the 
majority of men, imitation suffices ; they are contented 
with what has been will in others, and, as they think 
with the ideas of the world at large, they act with its 
will. Between the habits which render it useless and 
the maladies that mutilate or destroy it, the will, as 
we have said above, must be taken as a happy acci- 

Is it necessary, finally, to remark how close a re- 
semblance there is between this increasingly complex 
co-ordination of tendencies which forms the different 
stages of the will, and the increasingly complex co- 
ordination of perceptions and images which constitutes 
the various degrees of the intellect, one having for its 
basis and fundamental condition the character, and the 
other the "forms of thought"; both being a more or 
less complete adaptation of the being to its environ- 
ment, in the order of action or in the order of knowl- 

* * 

We are now prepared for the general conclusion of 
this work, already indicated several times in passing. 
It will illuminate, I trust, with a retrospective light 
the road which we have traversed. 

Volition is a final state of consciousness which re- 
sults from the more or less complex co-ordination of a 
group of states, conscious, subconscious, or uncon- 
scious (purely physiological), which all united express 
themselves by an action or an inhibition. The princi- 
pal factor in the co-ordination is the character, which 
is only the psychic expression of an individual organ- 
ism. It is the character which gives to the co-ordina- 
tion its unity, not the abstract unity of a mathemat- 
ical point, but the concrete unity of a consensus. The 


act by which this co-ordination is made and affirmed 
is choice, founded on an affinity of nature. 

The volition that subjective psychologists have so 
often observed, analysed, and commented upon is then 
for us only a simple state of consciousness. It is merely 
an effect of that psycho-physiological activity, so often 
described, only a part of which enters into conscious- 
ness under the form of a deliberation. Furthermore, 
it is not the cause of anything. The acts and movements 
which follow it result directly from the tendencies, feel- 
ings, images, and ideas which have become co-ordinated 
in the form of a choice. It is from this group that all 
the efficacy comes. In other terms, and to leave no 
ambiguity, the psycho-physiological labor of delib- 
eration results on the one hand in a state of conscious- 
ness, the volition, and on the other in a set of move- 
ments or inhibitions. The "I will" testifies to a con- 
dition, but does not produce it. I should compare it 
to the verdict of a jury, which may be the result of a 
very long criminal examination, and of very passionate 
pleadings, and which will be followed by grave conse- 
quences extending over a long future, but which is an 
effect without being a cause, being in law only a simple 

If one insists on making of the will a faculty, an 
entity, all becomes obscurity, perplexity, contradiction. 
One is caught in the snare of a badly stated question. 
If, on the contrary, we accept the facts as they are, we 
disembarrass ourselves at least of factitious difficul- 
ties. One does not have to ask oneself, like Hume 
and so many others, how an "I will" can make my 
members move. This is a mystery which need not be 
cleared up, since it does not exist, as volition is in no 
degree a cause. It is in the natural tendency of feel- 


ings and images to express themselves in movements 
that the secret of acts produced should be sought. We 
have here only an extremely complicated case of the law 
of reflexes, in which, between the period called that 
of excitation and the motor period there appears a 
most important psychic fact volition showing that 
the first period is ending and the second beginning. 

Let it be remarked also how easily that strange 
malady called abulia can now be explained, and with 
it the analogous forms considered above,* and even 
that mere weakness of will, scarcely morbid, so frequent 
among persons who say that they will and yet do not 
act. It is because the individual organism, the source 
from which all springs, had two effects to produce and 
produces only one of them : the state of consciousness, 
choice, affirmation ; while the motor tendencies are 
too weak to express themselves in acts. There is suf- 
ficient co-ordination, but insufficient impulse. In irre- 
sistible acts, on the contrary, it is the impulse which is 
exaggerated, and the co-ordination which grows weak 
or disappears. 

We owe, therefore, to pathology two principal re- 
sults: one, that the " I will " is in itself wholly with- 
out efficacy in causing action ; the other, that the will 
in the rational man is an extremely complex and un- 
stable co-ordination, fragile by its very superiority, 
because it is "the highest force which nature has yet 
developed the last consummate blossom of all her 
marvellous works. " f 

* See chapter i. 

t Maudsley, The Physiology of Mind, p. 456. 


Abstract ideas, 8. 

Abulia, 28 et seq., 40 et seq., 77, 134. 

Adaptation, ig. 

Affinity, 21. 

Agoraphobia, 43. 

American quarryman, 69. 

Angelo, Michael, 128. 

Anger, 13. 

Aphasia, 120. 

Arithmomania, 58. 

Association, 84. 

Ataxia, moral, 88. 

Athos, Monks of Mount, 95. 

Automatism, 106, no. 

Axenfeld, 89, 93. 

Earth, 53. 

Bastian, Charlton, 127, 128. 
Beaunis, in. 
Bennett's case, Dr., 29. 
Berger, 103. 
Bernheim, in. 
Bhagavad-Gitd, 53, 95. 
Billod, 32 et seq., 43, 56, 78. 
Brain, lesions of the, 68. 
Briquet, 92. 
Brissaud, 126. 
Brouardel, in. 
Buddhists, 100. 
Burdach, 106. 

Caesar, 128. 

Calmeil, 59. 

Caprices, 87. 

Carlyle, 76. 

Carpenter, 44, 72. 

Character, science of, 23, 112. 

Charcot, 42, 58, in. 

Choice, 20 et seq. 
Coleridge, 72 et seq. 
Consciousness, abolition of, 103. 
Co-ordination, 113, 122; the will a, 

Cordes, 44. 

Cortex, lesion of the, 117 et seq. 
Cruveilhier, 93. 
Cyon, ii. 

Delbceuf, 52. 

De Quincey, Thomas, case of, 30 et 


Desire, 4. 
Dietl, 68. 
Dipsomania, 61. 
Disease, 37. 

Diseases of speech, 120. 
Dissolution, i, 115, 122; of the will, 


Doubting-insanity, 46. 
Drunkenness, 67, 76. 
Du Saulle, Legrand, 44, 46. 

Ecstasy, 94 et seq. 

Education, 17. 

Effort, the feeling of muscular, 49 et 

seq. ; volitional, 50 et seq. 
Ego, the, 23, 24 et seq.; 66, 103. 
Epictetus, 129. 
Epileptics, 56. 
Erotomania, 61. 
Esquirol, 29, 38, 48. 
Ethnology, 23. 
Exner, 68. 

Fear of places, 43. 

Ferrier, 12, 50, 68, 71, 80, 85, 116, 126. 


Fixed ideas, 6, 58, 92. 

Flechsig, 125. 

Fontana, 20. 

Fournier, 119. 

Foville, 55, 62, 117, 119. 

Franck (Franois), 14, 127. 

Free will, 2, in. 

Frontal convolutions, lesion of, 68. 

Fumbling mania (Grtibelsucht), 46. 

Gilles de la Tourette, in. 

Glenadel, case of, 59. 

Goltz, ii, 117. 

Griesinger, Wilhelm, 29, 46, 130. 

Grtibelsucht, 46. 

Guislain, 28, 48, 59. 

Hazlitt, 76. 

Heart, the, 10. 

Heidenhain, 103, 108. 

Helvetius, 82. 

Herzen, 11. 

Hitzig, 127. 

Homicidal impulses, 58 et seq. 

Huchard, Dr., 86, 89, 93. 

Huguenin, 126. 

Hypnotism, 103 et seq. 

Hysterics, 86 et seq. 

Ideas, 6. 

Ideo-motor, 5, 113. 

Idiocy, 130 et seq. 

IncoOrdination, 89, 130. 

Inhibition, 10-18, 83. 

Intellect, the, 19. 

Intellectual adaptation, 54 et seq. 

Irresistible impulses, 61. 

Irresolution, 26. 

Italian woman, case of young, 38. 

Jackson, Hughlings, 115. 
James, W., 49. 
Janet, Pierre, 42. 
Judgment, 20. 

Kant, 2. 

Kleptomania, 61. 
Krapelin, 68. 

Lateau, Louise, 100. 
Lupine, 69. 

Lesions of the brain, 68, 117 et seq. 

Lethargy, 104. 

Leubuscher, 29. 

Lewes, 10, 12, 80, 83. 

Lie"bault, in. 

Liegeois, HI. 

Luys, 55. 

Lypemania, 41. 

Macario, 93. 

Magistrate, case of a, 29. 

Magnan, 58. 

Marc, 58. 

Marseilles, 33, 35. 

Maudsley, 10, 44, 61, 80, 134. 

Melancholia, 41. 

Memory, i. 

Meschede, 64. 

Mesnet, 105. 

Metaphysical mania, 46. 

Metaphysics, 2. 

Mill, John Stuart, 23. 

Moerl, Maria von, 100. 

Monks of Mount Athos, 95. 

Moral ataxia, 88. 

Moreau, 77, 88. 

Morel, 47, 61. 

Motor, elements, 5 ; images, 41 et seq, 

Muller, Max, 121. 

Munk, 127. 

Mystics, 96 et seq. 

Nirvana, 95, 100. 
Nothnagel, 127. 

Obersteiner, 68. 
Ogle.JW., 120. 
Om, 95. 

Omphalopsychi, 95. 
Onomatomania, 58. 
Opium, abuse of, 30. 

Paralytics, 78. 

Parrot, 125. 

Passions, 7. 

Pathology, 112, 134 ; of the will, 28 el 


Perez, B., 16. 
Personality, the, 102. 
Pius IX., 36. 
Places, fear of, 43. 



Plotinus, 99, loo, 102. 
Prayer, 96. 
Preyer, 103. 
Psychic paralyses, 42. 
Pyromania, 61. 

Rapture, 100. 

Rational activity, 7. 

Reflexes, 4, 19, 113. 

Renouvier, z. 

Retrogression, 123. 

Reynolds, 42. 

Richer, P., 93, 105, 107. 

Richet, Ch., 52, 87, 93, 104, 107. 

Ritti, 46. 

Rosenthal, 57. 

Rumpf, 103. 

Saint-Hilaire, Earth., 95. 

Schiff, ii, 127. 

Schneider, 3, 103. 

SchQle, 61. 

Sergi, 80. 

Setschenow, n. 

Sollier, Father, 131. 

Soltmann, 125. 

Somnambulism, 103, no. 

Speech, diseases of, 120. 

Spencer, Herbert, 115, 123. 

Spinal being, 3. 

Spinoza, in. 

Spontaneous attention, 79 et seq. 

Starr, Allen, 70. 

St. Peter, feast of, 36. 

St. Teresa, 96 et seq. 

St. Vincent de Paul, 128. 

Suicidal monomania, 61. 

Sydenham, 87. 

Tauler, 99. 
Thraseas, 129. 
Trelat, 61. 
Trousseau, 120. 

Unity, of aim, 128; of volition, 132. 

Vintschgau, 68. 

Virchow, 3. 

Volition, 22, 112 ; the last term of a 

progressive evolution, 113; defined, 

132 ; unity of, 132. 
Volitional, effort, 50 et seq.; action, 

mechanism of, 126; co-ordination, 


Voluntary act, composed of two ele- 
ments, 39. 
Voluntary attention, impairments of, 

72 ; acquired impairment of, 76 et 

seq., 79 et seq. 

Weber, E. F., 20. 

Westphal, 43, 63. 

Will, the term, i; defined, 9, 25 et 
seq., 112; pathology of the, 28 et 
seq.; impairment of the, by defect 
of impulse, 28 et seq.; impairment 
of the, by excess of impulse, 54 et 
seq.; causes of impotence of the, 
37 ; paralysis of the, 44 ; the, its 
evolution, 64; impotence of the, 
93 ; the extinction of the, 94; anni- 
hilation of the, 105; pathology of 
the, 112; dissolution of the, 114; 
the, a co-ordination, 124, 

Winslow, Forbes, 78. 

Wundt, 12. 80. 

Yogi, S3- 




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2. Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought. 

By F. MAX MULLER. 250. 

3. Three Lectures on the Science of Language By F. MAX 

MULLER. 250. 

4. The Diseases of Personality By TH RIBOT 250. 

5. The Psychology of Attention By TH. RIBOT. 250. 

6. The Psychic Life of Micro-Organisms. By ALFRED BINET. 


7 The Nature of the State. By PAUL CARUS. 150. 

8 On Double Consciousness. By ALFRED BINET. 150. 

9 Fundamental Problems. By PAUL CARUS. 500. 
ro The Diseases of the Will. By TH. RIBOT. 250. 

11. The Origin of Language. By LUDWIG NOIRE. 150. 

12. The Free Trade Struggle in England. By M. M. TRUM- 

BULL. 250. 

13. Wheelbarrow on the Labor Question. By M. M. TRUM- 

BULL. 35C. 

14. The Gospel of Buddha. By PAUL CARUS. 350. 

15. The Primer of Philosophy. By PAUL CARUS. 250. 

1 6. On Memory, and The Specific Energies of the Nervous Sys- 

tem. By PROF. EWALD HERING. 15 cents. 

17. The Redemption of the Brahman. A Tale of Hindu Life. 

By RICHARD GARBE. 25 cents. 

18. An Examinaton of Weismannism. By G. J. ROMANES. 350. 

19. On Germinal Selection. By PROF. AUGUST WEISMANN. 25C 

20. Lovers Three Thousand Years Ago. By T. A. GOODWIN. I5C. 

The following are in preparation : 

The Philosophy of Ancient India. By PROF. RICHARD GARBE. 
Buddhism and Christianity. By PAUL CARUS. 
The Lost Manuscript. A Novel. By GUSTAV FREYTAG. 
Old Testament History. By PROF. C. H. CORNILL. 


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