Willing and striving

Tentia asked:

I am currently thinking about the will and striving. The will sometimes strives to negate, obtain, or create, or something of the sort.

In the event that this is the result of alienation (from the will and its object), the willing subject might encounter obsctruction or refutation from obtaining the object of striving.

The will might enter into a process of hoping for reconciliation. This process might include work. But nonetheless reconciliation is deferred.

Do you or any philosophers have anything relevant to say about this process of willing, striving, obstruction, hope and deferral? For example, that the object of the will might be an illusion, and the consequences for the willing subject, if letting go of such an illusion does not result in a reconciliation but rather nihilism?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

Willing and striving are the signatures of living creatures. Necessarily they imply an object or objective. For example food or procreation or mere survival. Obstructions of various kinds are par for the course. Then the creature will certainly feel alienated, frustrated, confused. If it is a human creature, imbued with human-type intelligence, reconciliation is certainly one option of remedying the disjuncture. But if the object or objective was an illusion, the end result need not be nihilism. You have the option of unmasking the illusion as what it is, or you can simply live with it (as e.g. with optical illusions).

However, nihilism is a specific type of ‘rebellion’, usually aimed at specific illusions at large in the social order with which the subject cannot be reconciled — mostly religious, moral, traditional and conventional attitudes which the subject has ‘seen through’, therefore opposes them either actively or passively. Another, somewhat less aggressive term for this type of alienation is ‘disillusionment’.

It became a fairly widespread intellectual issue in the 19th to middle 20th century, when Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Camus expended considerable philosophical ammunition on it. Kierkegaard was another writer of this inclination, that was later called ‘existentialism’; also the poet Baudelaire and the novelists Turgenyev (Fathers and Sons), Dostoyevsky (The Devils) and Kafka. Freud contributed an essay entitled The Future of an Illusion, and in my generation, the litterateur George Steiner published In Bluebeard’s Castle, which is short enough to read in a day. You will find a great deal of relevance to your question in these texts.

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