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The term will ( as. / Ahd. Willio = 'will'; cf. Latin velle = 'want', voluntas = 'will', volitio = 'act of will') means the conversion of ideas into reality through actions. It is therefore also referred to as implementation competence. The term willpower ( English willpower is) also both in the colloquial than in the terminology used. Will is sometimes used synonymously with the term volition , especially in psychology and economics .

The will is to be distinguished from wanting , the mostly instinctual desire , desire or longing for something. This article only deals with the above terminology.


The word will is used in different contexts and can mean different things: Both the spiritual act, which gives an impulse to the realization of certain goals, as well as the setting of goals and the ultimate implementation of these personally or collectively made decisions into action , i.e. in a conscious and deliberate or even planned action . According to this latter meaning, volition is a term used in connection with action planning.

The concept of will is usually associated with a feeling or a vague consciousness, the impression or the more or less firm conviction that one's will is free. What exactly is to be understood by this so-called free will and whether it is actually given is controversial, see the article free will .

The will not only includes the sustainable and targeted implementation of decisions through consistent action or verbal or written expressions of will. Failure to do something, such as smoking, can also be the realization of a will. Third parties can also interpret inaction ( causal attribution ) as inaction e.g. B. because of weak will, laziness or comfort. The interpretation can be true or false. In order to overcome such “obstacles” on the way to the achievement of goals, willpower is required; this is also called volition in psychology and management .

With the implementation of the will in relation stamina and related concentration . Related to the will is the ability to deal appropriately with obstacles that arise on the way to achieving the goal and to cope with the phenomenon of "discouragement" . In connection with goals that are not achieved, frustration or resignation can arise. If the goal is achieved, satisfaction can arise. The degree to which a person believes in the strength of their will and their ability to achieve goals has to do with self-awareness .

By taking the initiative, the will differs from the (mere) wish , the fulfillment of which happens by other people or by chance .

The will also has a creative aspect. Because in order to want something, a goal must first be created. The will decides what it wants. A lack of the ability to know what one wants, in other words "not knowing what one wants", can be viewed as a disturbance or restriction of the will.

Likewise, the exercise of the will can be hindered or disturbed through education, psychological injuries, indoctrination , but also through disorders of drive, mood or general will to live.

In the growing child, the development of will is a fundamental aspect. The earlier popular opinion that the growing toddler's waking will was to “bend or break” is now increasingly viewed as outdated, since the corresponding actions often harmed the children. As with other aspects of the child's psyche, love, responsibility and expertise of the parents and other caregivers as well as appropriate reactions are the best prerequisites for healthy development.

In philosophy

In philosophy , will is one of the three areas of the psyche , next to knowledge and feeling .

The nature of the will and in particular its relationship to reason is a traditional motif of philosophical research. Aristotle , who described the human soul as divided into three parts, was decisive for this . The “animal” part of the soul includes striving. For Aristotle, striving is partly controllable through the genuinely human part of the soul, reason. The Aristotelian theory was the starting point for numerous works up to modern times, which determined the relationship between will and reason in extremely different ways and located human striving partly in natural drives and partly in reason.

Immanuel Kant describes the will as “a kind of causality of living beings, insofar as they are reasonable [.]” For him, freedom and will are directly linked to one another. It is the idea of ​​freedom that gives shape to a will. Through a freedom of choice we experience the weighing of will. In moral terms, the will is what is law to itself: I want that because I have decided for it, because I want it. The decision-making process, guided by the maxims and the categorical imperative as the moral law, describes the freedom of will for rational beings in Kant.

In 1819 Arthur Schopenhauer presented a conception of the will as a general element of reality ( The World as Will and Idea ), which - albeit not in the mainstream of European-North American philosophy - had a significant effect on other areas, such as Richard Wagner's music , on fiction with Thomas Mann , on sociology with Ferdinand Tönnies (see below) and on psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud .

In law

The concept of will is also very important in jurisprudence. In civil law, the determination of the will is based on the specific intention to undertake a legal transaction with legal effect. Since this is absent if the agent is induced to the transaction by coercion, fraud or error (errantis non est voluntas) , all transactions thus created are just as invalid and legally ineffective as statements of joke , all dispositions burdened with such difficult conditions, that the lack of seriousness emerges from this , that all mere occasional statements, simulations etc. do not justify a legal obligation due to a lack of seriousness of will. The determination of the will results from the declaration of will (voluntatis declaratio) , which is either expressly, i.e. by clear, unquestionable words expressed orally or in writing, shaking the head, nodding the head, etc., or tacitly, i.e. H. is made known by such words or actions, from which the declaration of intent can be inferred with certainty, or is presumed if a declaration of intent is inferred neither from words nor actions that are related to the present case, but for other probable reasons with the consent of the law can be. The importance of legal will is due to the principle of private autonomy . If an expression of will is not possible, a representative (authorized representative or supervisor) can make the expression of will or the presumed will is decisive.

In sociology

In sociology , reference is made to Ferdinand Tönnies' (1855–1936) theory of the will , in his work Community and Society (first in 1887) he differentiates between forms of the essential will that leads to communities from those of the will which leads to societies . He coined the term voluntarism .

This axiomatic of wills in sociology also influenced Paul Barth , Dimitrie Gusti and Georg Jacoby .

In psychology

In psychology, will denotes the act of decision (act of will) and the subsequent conscious, willful conversion of goals and motives into results (results) through goal-directed, will-controlled action of a person by himself (act of will) ; see also: Volition (psychology) . What is commonly referred to as the will is nothing other than the cognitively processed motivation that the “ I ” has given preference to other motivations.

The Brockhaus psychology distinguishes between the mental (inner) act of will and (volition) action that serves to achieve a goal of action. He calls the latter an “external act of will”. Reluctance and inner inhibition are related to the term “will” .

See also


  • Augustinus, Aurelius : The free will (Aurelius Augustinus' Werke Vol. 5) (translated by Carl Johann Perl). 4th edition Schöningh, Paderborn 1986, ISBN 3-506-70462-1 .
  • Schopenhauer, Arthur : The world as will and idea (2 vols.). Second, consistently verb. and very probably. Edition Brockhaus, Leipzig 1844; now also: The world as will and idea (2 vols.). (Complete works Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Critically edited and edited by Wolfgang Frhr. Von Löhneysen). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-28261-1 and ISBN 3-518-28262-X .
  • Tönnies, Ferdinand : The fact of wanting. (From the estate, edited by Jürgen Zander). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-428-05242-0 .
  • Bieri, Peter : The craft of freedom. About discovering your own will. Hanser, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-596-15647-5 ; also in the Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 978-3-596-15647-4 .
  • Steinvorth, Ulrich : "Free will". In: Ulrich Steinvorth: What is reason? - A philosophical introduction. Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-47634-1 . (Chapter 8, p. 222 ff .; see also ibid. Chapter 9 "Weak will", p. 256 ff.)
  • Assagioli, Roberto : The training of the will. Methods of psychotherapy and self-therapy. Junfermann, Paderborn 1982 (9th edition 2003), ISBN 3-87387-202-1 .
  • Heinze, Martin u. a. (Ed.): Free will - an illusion? Naturalism and Psychiatry. Pabst, Berlin 2006, ISBN 978-3-938880-07-4 .

Web links

Wikiquote: Will  - Quotes
Wiktionary: will  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Brockhaus Psychology. Mannheim 2009
  2. R. Baumeister and J. Tierny. Willpower. The Penguin Press: New York 2011 and Pelz, W .: Implementation Skills as Key Skills for Leaders. In: Au, Corinna von (Ed.): Leadership and applied psychology. Berlin: Springer Verlag 2017, p. 104 f. Available online
  3. Arnold, Wilhelm et al. (Ed.): Lexicon of Psychology . Bechtermünz Verlag, Augsburg 1996, ISBN 3-86047-508-8 , Stw.Motivation, column 1411