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Most of our ordinary volition takes the form of spontaneous and immediate reaction upon very simple data.

We have to deal with some narrow, concrete situation; we aim at some end apprehended almost without reflection and achieved almost at a stroke; in such a case, will expresses itself along the lines of least resistance through the subordinate agencies of instinctive action, habit, or rule of thumb.

According to him, "impulsive action" is "the starting-point for the development of all volitional acts", from which starting-point volitional acts, properly so called, emerge as the result of the increasing complication of impulses; when this complication takes the form of a conflict, there ensues a process called selection or choice, which determines the victory in one direction or another.

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Will, like the cognitive powers, originates in and is developed by experience.

This is expressed in the well-known Scholastic axiom, "Nil volitum nisi præcognitum" (Nothing can be willed which is not foreknown), taken in conjunction with the other great generalization that all knowledge takes its rise in experience: "Nil in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu".

An act of will is generally conditioned not only by knowledge, but also by some mode of affective consciousness or feeling. The capital error of the Hedonist school was the doctrine that the will is attracted only by pleasure, that, in the words of Mill, "to find a thing pleasant and to will it are one and the same". The object of the will is the good apprehended as such. Moreover, the primary tendency of appetency or desire is often towards some object or activity quite distinct from pleasure.

Thus in the exercise of the chase, or intellectual research, or the performance of acts of benevolence, the primary object of the will is the accomplishment of a certain positive result, the capture of the game, the solution of the problem, the relief of another's pain, or the like.

The doctrine that will arises out of knowledge must not be pressed to mean that will is simply conditioned by knowledge, without in turn conditioning knowledge. But on the other hand they admitted that it was an integral part of reason --according to the Scotists indeed, the superior and nobler part, as being the supreme controller and mover ("Voluntas est motor in toto regno animæ", Scotus ).

It is also represented as ruling and exercising command (imperium) over the lower faculties. Thomas, however, with his usual preference for the cognitive function, puts the imperium in the reason rather than the will (imperium rationis).

The essential weakness of both these accounts and of many others lies in the attempt to reduce choice or deliberation (the specific activity of will, and a patently rational process) to a merely mechanical or biological equation.

Catholic philosophy, on the contrary, maintains, on the certain evidence of introspection, that choice is not merely a resultant of impulses, but a superadded formative energy, embodying a rational judgment; it is more than an epitome, or summing-up, of preceding phenomena; it is a criticism of them (see FREE WILL ).

All appetition, according to this theory, emerges out of some conscious state, which may be anything from a clear and distinct perception or representation of an object, to a mere vague feeling of want or discomfort, without any direct representation either of the object or the means of satisfaction.

The Aristotelean philosophers did not neglect or ignore the significance of this latter kind of consciousness (sometimes called affective).

Thus, an altruistic act done for the sake of the pleasure it brings to the agent is no longer altruism or productive of the pleasure of altruism.

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