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Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

Icon philosophy.svg
Major trains of thought
The good, the bad
and the brain fart
Come to think of it
Mr. President, the technology required is easily within the means of even the smallest nuclear power. It requires only the will to do so.
Dr. Strangelove, on why someone would want to build a doomsday device

Will is the desire to get something done. It is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition to accomplishing pretty much anything; however, on the right-wing, there has long been a belief that having the will to do something will pretty much ensure that it gets accomplished; if you do not succeed, you just didn't want it enough.[note 1] Those with a less militaristic, authoritarian, or pigheaded stance prefer terms like prosperity gospel or affirmations or the Law of Attraction, but those are basically just lazy versions of the same thing.

Philosophers once believed that human actions were ruled by three forces: reason, desire, and will. There was a thought experiment known as Buridan's Ass, in which a donkey would be placed exactly midway between two bales of hay. Supposedly, reason and desire would dictate that both bales were equally good to eat and would require the same effort to reach, and the donkey would be unable to choose between the two and would starve to death. Since it would choose one or the other, this was said to demonstrate a third force that broke the stalemate, will. This philosophical outlook fell to the wayside when psychologists like Freud started talking in terms of drives.

The Nazis liked the idea of will. One of the greatest technical film masterpieces of all time was Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, a frightening propaganda piece documenting one of Adolf Hitler's biggest party rallies. Hitler's will led to the collapse of Germany as a world power, its utter humiliation in war, the deaths of tens of millions, and a 45-year partition that it still hasn't completely recovered from.

The War on Drugs, founded by Richard Nixon with ideological input from G. Gordon Liddy and others, was based heavily on will, and Liddy to this day believes that the fact that the war has not been won has been due solely to a "lack of will" among the American people. Why, precisely, personal freedom and the desire of humans to intoxicate themselves are not considered factors in this failure is a little bit hard to explain; what is true is that Liddy is weirdly obsessed with will[note 2] and has mentioned engaging in self-harm to enhance that will.[note 3]

Will informed George W. Bush's policies in the Iraq War, among other places. Enough people bought it to re-elect him, but Iraq remained a quagmire.

From this we can learn, as previously stated, that will is a condition for accomplishment with many limitations. One must also be correct, or all that will shall be for nought.

See also[edit]


  1. Those suffering from chronic depression will be more than happy to tell you that this is a steaming load of horseshit.
  2. His autobiography is titled Will.
  3. Liddy is a weird dude. Still thinks Nixon was framed.