I’d agree with Iris Murdoch ‘an unexamined life can be virtuous.’ ‘Goodness is a function of the will.’ ‘Thought cannot be thought unless it is directed towards a conclusion.’ I can’t agree it follows its own paths without the intervention of my will. She does mean a conscious will, when the unconscious would not be engaged, and is quoting Hampshire who’s confined to consciousness.
I do identify myself with my will, my unconscious will that is, which is also myself. I’d let someone go because he wanted to, failing to secure whom I wanted to secure as I could have once I’d got him back to the flat and had space to work in, so had a problem what to do. It was a problem conscious thinking failed to solve and could only be resolved by my unconscious which thought it through while I attended to its thinking, which wasn’t logical, but reached a conclusion I accepted as right though it was impossible to go over the chain of its reasoning from beginning to the end, which was that I should forget who I loved until I met him again, as my unconscious reassured I would and I didn’t doubt, because it would too painful and quite pointless to be knowingly loving him in the meantime.
I’d have to disagree then ‘a decision does not turn out to be an introspectible movement’ when in the above example mine was. It is also possible to consciously decide one way but to act contrarily and as the overriding unconscious will has decided. ‘Something introspectible might occur but if the outward context is lacking that something cannot be called a decision.’ What if the inward movement is between one’s unconscious and another’s? There may be an outward context: a boy asked me to join him on his way to school. I didn’t see why I should but, within, my unconscious intervened with me and I did, asking the boy if a man – as I inwardly then saw my unconscious – had prompted him to ask. He didn’t know about that but he knew the prompting had come from me. Both his decision to ask and mine to comply were introspectible movements. Murdoch also gives an example against Hampshire’s notion that ‘anything which is to count as a definite reality must be open to several observers.’ None of the several observers of the boy’s asking and my complying was party to our introspectible decisions.
‘Difficult choices often present …experience of void …of not being determined by the reasons,” conscious reasons. My example above explains how the choice is otherwise made and why there’s no ensuing experience of void in my case or loss, angst. Sartre who has no truck with the unconscious yet says ‘when I deliberate the die is already cast’, an indication of decision by the unconscious, as Murdoch is suggesting. She describes angst as ‘a kind of fright the conscious will feels when it apprehends the strength and direction of the personality which is not under its immediate control.’ She suggests ‘we have to accept a darker, less fully conscious, less …rational image of the dynamics of the human personality. With this dark entity behind us we may …decide to act …and …find as a result both energy and vision are unexpectedly given. But if we do leap ahead of what we know we still have to try to catch up.’ No amount of understanding can replace the action of will, that of the unconscious one that is.
What does ‘good’ mean? Moore asked. She says the answer concerns the will. I doubted my will was good since he activated faults in others, Mrs Thompson’s jealousy of me for example which incited her son, my friend to assault me. I didn’t want to think about it because if my man was bad so was I and my concern was to be good. ‘Can we make ourselves morally better?’ No. Since goodness or badness is a spiritual attribute, we can only be made better if our unconscious will is made better by a good one. ‘Sartre can admit …we choose out of some pre-existent condition which he also …calls a choice.’ It is, if the condition is that of the unconscious will’s choice. ‘Kant pictured the mystery [of moral choice] in terms of an indiscernible balance between a …rational agent and [a] mechanism. We have learned from Freud to picture the mechanism as something …individual and personal which is …very powerful and not easily understood by its owner. What we …are …is an obscure system of energy out of which choices and …acts of will emerge at intervals in ways which are often unclear and …dependent on the condition of the system in between the moments of choice. Is there any way that when moments of choice arrive we [can] be sure of acting rightly? ’
‘Deliberately falling out of love is not a jump of the will, it is the acquiring of new objects of attention and thus of new energies as a result of refocusing,’ or using the love determinedly not on the person who invoked it but in order to make art in accordance with the choice of the unconscious will in inciting love as means to that end.
‘Explicit …willing can play some part, …as an inhibiting factor.’ My man wanted me to go to Oxford to shake the hand of a future American president. I demurred. He, my unconscious will, is, however, my daemon, so she is wrong to cite that of Socrates, which ‘only told him what not to do’, as substantiating inhibition by a conscious will. Mine doesn’t tell me what to do. It no longer speaks to me at all.