It will perhaps be said that prevision or foresight is that which is essential to volition; and that human conduct is determined rather by the future than the past. And it will be urged that purpose is inconceivable in the absence of such experience of the past and such prevision for the future. We must remember, however, that what we call foresight is a condition of the manifestation of purpose in beings constituted like ourselves. The necessity for prevision arises out of the fact that our consciousness is here and now limited to the passing moment in which the effects of past experience, taking form as anticipations for the future, must be present as determinants of action. In other words, the need for prevision is the outcome of human limitations. And is it not one of the paradoxes of human thought that the more perfect the prevision the less of prevision there is? Mozart describes how when he had completed a piece of music he could get the whole of it in a single auditory glance. He did not hear it in his imagination at all as a succession, but in its entirety. And he rejoiced in the hearing of it all at once. Here the consummated purpose was freed from the lets and hindrances incidental to its gradual development. Picture an evolutionist whose knowledge of the past was all-embracing and whose prevision of future events was equally complete. Past and future would coalesce into one glorious present. Time limitations would be transcended in an omnipresent now in which the all-pervading purpose would stand revealed and all limitations would be annihilated. If purpose be the underlying reality which it manifested under the conditions of experience, and if prevision is forced upon us by our own limitations, it can scarcely be maintained that experience as we know it, and prevision as we employ it, are essential attributes of purpose—if by purpose we understand that which characterises an agency which is the source of order in a universe which appeals to our reason as rational.
In accepting the naturalistic interpretation of purposive action, according to which the antecedent idea of the end contains implicitly the sequent attainment of the end, we are accepting the cardinal principle of determinism as formulated by science. But we do so on the distinct understanding that purpose is that which determines. It is the underlying cause of the determinate antecedence and sequence. Science can have nothing whatever to say for or against this postulate—it does not fall within the sphere of science. And here I feel that some apology is due for even a brief reference to so well-worn a topic as that of the freedom of the will. All that I can do is to make it as brief as possible. Science stands for determinism all along the line; determinism alike in the chain of objective experience and in the subjective aspect of that experience; determinism alike in the physical world and in the world of mental process. For science there is not, and cannot be, such a thing as free will. But is there any antagonism between the determinism of science and the free will of metaphysics, that which implies not merely antecedence but causal efficacy? I conceive that there is none. No doubt freedom and determinism are often regarded as antithetical. The true antithesis of freedom, however, is not determinism but external constraint. My will is free to give expression to its purposes just in so far as I am not thwarted by constraining influences as expressions of other purposes antagonistic to my own. Within these limits I am free to determine; and such freedom cannot be antagonistic to its determinate expression.
But just as the exponents of naturalism steadfastly oppose the introduction of metaphysical links in the midst of a causal chain of determinate sequence (to account, for example, for the genesis of protoplasm or the beginnings of mind), so too, do they refuse to allow free will as a link in the chain of mental phenomena, as these processes are interpreted by a strictly naturalistic psychology. But this the metaphysician who assumes the attitude I have striven to indicate does not suggest. He too, has no sympathy with occasional interference. For him free will is not merely introduced now and again to help a lame interpretation over a stile. It does not pop in at times of difficulty like the fairy in a pantomime. It underlies the whole course of mental procedure just in so far as this is an expression of individual purpose. Many, it is true, find some difficulty in reconciling such determinism as is demanded by science with human responsibility. But the greater difficulty, as I firmly believe, is that of reconciling responsibility with any other view. On what does the determinism of science rest? Surely on observed uniformity. On what does it rest in the field of human purpose? Surely on the uniform activity of a given character. Just in so far as my purposes form a coherent system, just in so far as my freedom lies in the absence of determination by anything outside the character itself, can you hold me responsible for my acts. Suppose there is no such uniformity, suppose that incoherence takes the place of coherence, so that my acts to-day are no manner of guide to the nature of my acts tomorrow, would my friends not say, "Poor fellow; he is mad; we cannot hold him responsible for any of these acts"? In any case, the strongest personalities that we know, those which most markedly impressed their influence on the world, those of most resolute and most individual will, are just those who most clearly give expression to uniformity of purpose, and uniformity of purpose is determination in both the technical and popular senses of this word.
It is often urged that it is a characteristic of the tropisms of plants and the lowest animals, and the reflex acts and instinctive behaviour of higher animals, that they appear as if the end of the mechanical performance were foreseen, and the same is true of all seeming design in the world of phenomena. But I have urged that this element of foresight, in a necessarily anthropomorphic criterion of purpose, is only forced upon us by human limitations and the conditions of our experience. And I have urged that the essential feature of a manifestation of purpose is that the effect is implicit in the determining conditions—antecedent and sequent ideally coalescing at their present point of contact. But if this be so, then is all evolution and all development, inorganic, organic, and social, just in so far as it is determinate, also and in like degree purposive. There is purpose in the instinctive picking of the newly-hatched chick, though it is not revealed to the consciousness of the bird, which behaves automatically in this way. Naturalism, in the name of physiology, may protest against this conclusion; but, after all, it is only the converse of that which is reached by naturalism itself. Physiological psychology insists on putting volitional acts into the same category as automatic acts. Dr. Waller, for example, contends that the higher cerebral circuits are of the same type as reflex action. Naturalism asserts that within the ideal construction of physiology they are of the same character. The essential feature is that they both agree in being physiologically determinate. Naturalistic psychology contends that, within the ideal construction of the sequence of mental configuration, determinism rules here also. Metaphysics postulates purpose as the casual agency in the case of human volition. It accepts the principle of determinate continuity, on which naturalism lays so much stress. And it urges that if both cerebral circuits, with their volitional concomitants, and reflex circuits, alike belong to the same category, then if the one be purposive the other also is, for metaphysics, purposive.