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DOCTRINE OF THE WILL.

BY REV. ASA MAHAN,
PRESIDENT OF THE OBERLIN COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE.

1845.

CHAPTER II.

CLASSIFICATION OF THE MENTAL FACULTIES.

EVERY individual who has reflected with any degree of interest upon the operations of his own mind, cannot have failed to notice three classes of mental phenomena, each of which is entirely distinct from either of the others. These phenomena—which comprehend the entire operations of the mind, and which may be expressed by the terms thinking, feeling, and willing--clearly indicate in the mind three faculties equally distinct from one another. These faculties are denominated the Intellect, the Sensibility or Sensitivity, and the Will. To the first, all intellectual operations, such perceiving, thinking, judging, knowing, &c. are referred. To the second, we refer all sensitive states, all feelings, such as sensations, emotions, desires, &c. To the Will, or the active voluntary faculty, are referred all mental determinations, such as purposes, intentions, resolutions, choices, and volitions.

CLASSIFICATION VERIFIED.

1. The classes of phenomena, by which this triunity of the mental powers is indicated, differ from one another, not in degree, but in kind. Thought, whether clear or obscure, in all degrees, remains equally distinct, in its nature, from feelings and determinations of every class. So of feelings. Sensations, emotions, desires, all the phenomena of the Sensibility, in all degrees and modifications, remain, in their nature and essential characteristics, equally distinct from thought on the one hand, and the action of the Will on the other. The same holds true of the phenomena of the Will. A resolution, for example, in one degree, is not a thought; in another, a sensation, emotion, or desire; and in another, a choice, purpose, intention, or Volition. In all degrees and modifications, the phenomena of the Will, in their nature and essential characteristics, remain equally distinct from the operations of the Intelligence on the one hand, and of the Sensibility on the other.

2. This distinction is recognized by universal Consciousness. When, for example, one speaks of thinking of any particular object, then of desiring it, and subsequently of determining to obtain the object, for the purpose of gratifying that desire, all mankind most clearly recognize his meaning in each of the above named affirmations, and understand him as speaking of three entirely distinct classes of mental operations. No person, under such circumstances, ever confounds one of these states with either of the others. So clearly marked and distinguished is the three-fold classification of mental phenomena under consideration, in the spontaneous affirmations of universal Consciousness.

3. In all languages, also, there are distinct terms appropriated to the expression of these three classes of phenomena, and of the mental power indicated by the same. In the English language, for example; we have the terms thinking, feeling, and willing, each of which is applied to one particular class of these mental phenomena, and never to either of the others. We have also the terms, Intellect, Sensibility, and Will, appropriated, in a similar manner, to designate the mental powers indicated by these phenomena. In all other languages, especially among nations of any considerable advancement in mental culture, we find terms of precisely similar designation. What do such facts indicate? They clearly show, that in the development of the universal Intelligence, the different classes of phenomena under consideration have been distinctly marked, and distinguished from one another, together with the three-fold division of the mental powers indicated by the same phenomena.

4. The clearness and particularity with which the universal intelligence has marked the distinction under consideration, is strikingly indicated by the fact, that there are qualifying terms in common use which are applied to each of these classes of phenomena, and never to either of the others. It is true, that there are such terms which are promiscuously applied to all classes of mental phenomena. There are terms, however, which are never applied to but one class. Thus we speak of clear thoughts, but never of clear feelings or determinations. We speak of irrepressible feelings and desires, but never of irrepressible thoughts or resolutions. We also speak of inflexible determinations, but never of inflexible feelings or conceptions. With what perfect distinctness, then, must universal Consciousness have marked thoughts, feelings, and determinations of the Will, as phenomena entirely distinct from one another-- phenomena differing not in degree, but in kind, and as most clearly indicating the threefold division of the mental powers under consideration.

5. So familiar are mankind with this distinction, so distinctly marked is it in their minds, that in familiar intercourse, when no particular theory of the mental powers is in contemplation, they are accustomed to speak of the Intellect, Sensibility, and Will, and of their respective phenomena, as entirely distinct from one another. Take a single example from Scripture "What I shall choose, I wot not--having a desire to depart." Here the Apostle evidently speaks of desire and choice, as phenomena differing in kind, and not in degree. "If you engage his heart," [his feelings,] says Lord Chesterfield, speaking of a foreign minister, ''you have a fair chance of imposing upon his understanding, and determining his Will." "His Will," says another writer, speaking of the insane, "is no longer restrained by his Judgment, but driven madly on by his passions.,'

In all the above extracts, the tri-unity of the mental powers, as consisting of the Intellect, Sensibility, and Will, is distinctly recognized. Yet the writers had, at the time, no particular theory of mental philosophy in contemplation. They speak of a distinction of the mental faculties which all understand and recognize as real, as soon as suggested to their minds.

The above considerations are abundantly sufficient to verify the threefold distinction above made, of mental phenomena and powers. Two suggestions arise here which demand special attention.

1. To confound either of these distinct powers of the mind with either of the others, as has been done by several philosophers of eminence, in respect to the Will and Sensibility, is a capital error in mental science. If one faculty is confounded with another, the fundamental characteristics of the one will of course, be confounded with the same characteristics of the other. Thus the worst forms of error will be introduced not only into philosophy, but theology too, as far as the latter science is influenced by the former. What would be thought of a treatise on mental science, in which the Will should be confounded with the Intelligence, and in which thinking and willing would be consequently represented as phenomena identical in kind? This would be an error no more capital, no more glaring, no more distinctly contradicted by fundamental phenomena, than the confounding of the Will with the Sensibility.

2. We are now prepared to contemplate one of the great errors of Edwards in his immortal work on the Will an error which we meet with in the commencement of that work, and which lays a broad foundation for the false conclusions subsequently found in it. He has confounded the Will with the Sensibility. Of course, we should expect to find that he has subsequently confounded the fundamental characteristics of the phenomena of the former faculty, with the same characteristics of the latter.

"God has endowed the soul," he says, "with two faculties. One is that by which it is capable of perception and speculation, or by which it discerns; and views, and judges of things; which is called the understanding. The other faculty is that by which the soul does not merely perceive and view things, but is some way inclined to them, or is disinclined and averse from them; or is the faculty by which the soul does not behold things as an indifferent, unaffected spectator; but either as liking or disliking, pleased or displeased, approving or rejecting. This faculty, as it has respect to the actions that are determined by it, is called the Will."

From his work on the Affections, I cite the following to the same import; "The Affections of the soul," he observes, "are not properly distinguished from the Will, as though they were two faculties of the soul. All acts of the Affections of the soul are, in some sense, acts of the Will, and all acts of the Will are acts of the Affections. All exercises of the Will are, in some degree or other exercises of the soul's appetition or aversion, or (which is the same thing) of its love or hatred. The soul wills one thing rather than another, or chooses one thing rather than another, no otherwise than as it loves one thing more than another." "The Affections are only certain, modes of the exercise of the Will." "The Affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul," Whether he has or has not subsequently confounded the fundamental characteristics of the phenomena of the Will with those of the phenomena of the Sensibility, will be seen in the progress of the present Treatise.


Copyright 2002 Alethea In Heart Ministries

Doctrine of The Will. By Asa Mahan 1845. Response to Jonathan Edwards