Jaspers on Drives, Wants and Volitions

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In § 6 of his General Psychopathology (1st edition 1913) Jaspers distinguished between drives, wants and volitions as three different and irreducible kinds of motivational phenomena which are involved in human decision making and which may lead to successful actions. He has characterized the qualitative differences between volitions in comparison with basic vital drives and emotional wants such as being (a.) intentional, (b.) content-specific and (b.) directed towards concrete objects and actions as goals. Furthermore, Jaspers has presented and discussed three kinds of pathological problems about motivation and willing. (1.) The first kind is impulsive action or impulsive behaviour, as e.g. in psychoses or personality disorders, which he compares with instinctive action which are both without any previous hesitation, deliberation and reflection of any presumable consequences, but still very different with respect to their motivational content. (2.) The second kind of pathological problems about motivation and willing are the inhibitions of the will and Jaspers is discussing two major kinds of them: (a.) the energetic or motivational inhibition of the will which is an inability of willing due to the mere lack of any drives and motives, as in the case of any severe and pathological depression; (b.) the cognitive inhibition of the will which is due to the pathological inability to be aware of and understand properly the complexity and difficulty of real life situations in order to solve some given tasks by appropriate decision making, as e.g. in some cases of schizophrenia. (3.) The third kind is a pathological weakness of the will which is extraordinary and not familiar to normal human adults. This pathological kind of weakness of the will consist in the complete causal ineffectiveness of the subjectively felt impulse of willing which is not leading to any inward and outward observable action, such as e.g. as a movement of the limbs or some verbal utterance. This pathological weakness of the will is a complete ineffectiveness of the volitional impulse and therefore different from what philosophers discuss under the heading of weakness of the will which presuppose some evaluation of the intended resp. realized action as ethically, morally or religiously right or wrong. Finally, there are three kinds of normal or non-pathological weakness of the will, as discussed by philosophers: (A.) ethical weakness of the will as in Aristotle’s disagreement about akrasia with the Platonic Socrates; (B) moral weakness of the will as in Kant’s analysis of the absence or failure of any specific moral reasoning by pure practical reason as opposed to mere strategic and pragmatic reason or as the occurrence of a self-deceptive “dialectics of the exception“; (C.) religious weakness of the will as in Pauls personal insight about the incoherence between his high spiritual aspirations and his factual ethical achievements.
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