On Willpower And The Will To Power.

mdn has made hundreds of very insightful comments on Metafilter, often in unexpected places. This comment, in particular, caught my attention:

You cannot will cancer to be cured. Willpower is basically the word we use for the ability to control the movements of our bodies. You do have control over the movements of your body, and everything you do in this world is expressed through bodily movement. [emphasis mine]. You can have any passing thoughts you like, but it is up to you whether you act on them.

If you’re not sure you can control your body, practice every morning – I will pick this cup up, and now I will put it down; I will move it left, I will move it right – and I bet you can do it. Deciding what to do in the flow of your life is the exact same thing. Will I pick this phone up and dial a number? Will I turn right at that corner or keep walking straight? Will I move my mouth and aspirate so as to pronounce the word yes or no? These are simply bodily actions.

You have control if you want it. You just have to be self-aware and make choices on purpose rather than getting lost in the flood of experience and doing whatever you feel randomly inclined to do. There are certain cases where you lose control of your body (seizures, sleepwalking) or certain parts of your body you don’t control (inner organs etc) but in general what you do is your decision if you consciously wish it be, and it is merely your unconscious inclination if you give it no thought, not some sort of necessity the chemicals of your body or karma or fate or devils or mechanics dictates.

The undeniable truth is that the mind/body division laid out for so many years, by so many religions, philosophers, and stoned hippies is strictly manmade. The mind, a complex electrochemical/biological physical process, is inextricable from, dependent on, and ultimately in control of “the body”, which contains it, nourishes it, and comprises it. This complex interdependence exposes the absurd lemma we so often hear. Even the basest communication requires action; no thought leaves the mind without eye movements, tapping fingers, or unbearably complex learned vocalizations. What I find so startling is not just the sheer barnacle tenaciousness of this idea, but that people have such a difficult time accepting it in the face of our personal and cultural familiarity with chemical self-modification through alcohol, caffeine, and various illicit and prescription drugs.

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3 Responses to On Willpower And The Will To Power.

  1. Meg says:

    I recommend somatoform disorder.

  2. danreetz says:

    I’m not sure what you mean. If your implication is that the mind and body are somehow easily separable because of an illness which makes mental symptoms indistinguishable from physical ailments, it is a tenuous argument at best.

  3. Meg says:

    I mean it as a way to test theory. Such a disorder makes mind and body clearly linked, if not inseparable. But it does rather complicate mind over matter.

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