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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS LIBRARY AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
DISEASES OF THE WILL
PROFESSOR OF COMPARATIVE AND EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY IN
THE COLLEGE DE FRANCE
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THS EIGHTH FRENCH EDITION
SECOND ENLARGED ENGLISH EDITION
THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING COMPANY
(LONDON: 17 JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET ST., E. C.)
THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING Co.
M. V) wr
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. I. DEFECT OF IMPULSE.
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. II. EXCESS OF IMPULSE.
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF VOLUNTARY ATTENTION.
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
vi TABLE OF CONTENTS.
THE REALM OF CAPRICES.
Incapacity of the will to form itself : absence of its conditions
of existence. The hysterical character. Whence the in-
stability comes 86
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL.
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
THE DISEASES OF THE WILL
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
2 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
4 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
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.
6 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
INTR OD UCTION. 7
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
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.
8 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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
io THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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 ;
INTR OD UCTION. 1 1
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.
12 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
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
14 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
" 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
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
1 6 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
1 8 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
20 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
22 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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,
24 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. I. DEFECT OF
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-
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 27
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-
28 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 29
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.
30 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 31
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
32 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 33
He was confined in the asylum at Ivry; it was de-
cided that he should undertake with Mr. Billed a trip
"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
34 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 35
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. .
36 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
' '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
"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
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 37
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
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
38 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 39
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
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.
40 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 41
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,
42 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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."
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 43
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
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.
44 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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.).
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 45
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.
46 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 47
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.
48 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 49
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
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.
50 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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,
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 51
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
52 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 53
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. II. EXCESS OF
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 55 "
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.
56 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 57
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.
58 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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).
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 59
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.
60 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
It must not be believed that this example is unique
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 61
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.
62 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
"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-
*Foville, op. cit., p. 341.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 63
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-
64 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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,
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 65
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
66 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL,
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-
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 67
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
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
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
68 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 69
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-
70 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF THE WILL. 71
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF VOLUNTARY ATTENTION.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF ATTENTION. 73
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.
74 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF ATTENTION. 75
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-
76 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
IMPAIRMENTS OF ATTENTION. 77
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-
"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.
78 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF ATTENTION. 79
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,"
80 THE DISEASES OE THE WILL.
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.)
IMPAIRMENTS OF ATTENTION. 81
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-
82 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
ond it is an extremely weak and limited portion of
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
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
IMPAIRMENTS OF ATTENTION. 83
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.
84 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
IMPAIRMENTS OF ATTENTION, 85
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].
THE REALM OF CAPRICES.
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-
THE REALM OF CAPRICES. 87
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
"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,
88 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
THE REALM OF CAPRICES. 89
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.
go THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
THE REALM OF CAPRICES. 91
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-
92 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
THE REALM OF CAPRICES. 93
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 EXTINCTION OF THE WILL.
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
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
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL, 95
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.)
g6 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL. 97
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-
98 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL. 99
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.
ioo THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
* 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.
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL. 101
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-
102 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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 EXTINCTION OF THE WILL. 103
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
104 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL. 105
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.
106 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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-
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
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL. 107
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-
"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.
io8 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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 EXTINCTION OF THE WILL. 109
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,
no THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
THE EXTINCTION OF THE WILL, in
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
"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
ii4 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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,
n6 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.)
u8 THE DISEASES QF THE WILL.
increases progressively and finally results in an unin-
" 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-
"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.
120 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.).
122 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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.
124 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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.
126 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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.
128 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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 !
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
130 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
"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.
132 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL,
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-
134 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
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
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.
American quarryman, 69.
Angelo, Michael, 128.
Ataxia, moral, 88.
Athos, Monks of Mount, 95.
Automatism, 106, no.
Axenfeld, 89, 93.
Bastian, Charlton, 127, 128.
Bennett's case, Dr., 29.
Bhagavad-Gitd, 53, 95.
Billod, 32 et seq., 43, 56, 78.
Brain, lesions of the, 68.
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,
Cortex, lesion of the, 117 et seq.
De Quincey, Thomas, case of, 30 et
Diseases of speech, 120.
Dissolution, i, 115, 122; of the will,
Drunkenness, 67, 76.
Du Saulle, Legrand, 44, 46.
Ecstasy, 94 et seq.
Effort, the feeling of muscular, 49 et
seq. ; volitional, 50 et seq.
Ego, the, 23, 24 et seq.; 66, 103.
Esquirol, 29, 38, 48.
Fear of places, 43.
Ferrier, 12, 50, 68, 71, 80, 85, 116, 126.
136 THE DISEASES OF THE WILL.
Fixed ideas, 6, 58, 92.
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.
Guislain, 28, 48, 59.
Heart, the, 10.
Heidenhain, 103, 108.
Homicidal impulses, 58 et seq.
Huchard, Dr., 86, 89, 93.
Hypnotism, 103 et seq.
Hysterics, 86 et seq.
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.
Italian woman, case of young, 38.
Jackson, Hughlings, 115.
James, W., 49.
Janet, Pierre, 42.
Lateau, Louise, 100.
Lesions of the brain, 68, 117 et seq.
Lewes, 10, 12, 80, 83.
Magistrate, case of a, 29.
Marseilles, 33, 35.
Maudsley, 10, 44, 61, 80, 134.
Metaphysical mania, 46.
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.
Mystics, 96 et seq.
Nirvana, 95, 100.
Opium, abuse of, 30.
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.
Psychic paralyses, 42.
Rational activity, 7.
Reflexes, 4, 19, 113.
Richer, P., 93, 105, 107.
Richet, Ch., 52, 87, 93, 104, 107.
Saint-Hilaire, Earth., 95.
Schiff, ii, 127.
Schneider, 3, 103.
Sollier, Father, 131.
Somnambulism, 103, no.
Speech, diseases of, 120.
Spencer, Herbert, 115, 123.
Spinal being, 3.
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.
Unity, of aim, 128; of volition, 132.
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-
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.
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