The will is a spiritual faculty whereby man freely selects something good. This freedom, while basic, is influenced in various degrees by emotions, physical health, mental states, and environment (see free will). Thus the expression "will power" usually designates a person's ability to do two things: (1) to make a choice when this is difficulty in view of divergent circumstances; (2) to effect externally what has been chosen, although execution may be more difficult than making the choice (see human act).
Training the Will. Since both intellect and will are faculties of individual souls, no two persons are born with the same intellectual abilities or volitional powers. In addition, physical dispositions, which usually vary during one's lifetime, can affect an individual's will power. Beyond this, each individual person, by his own responsible activity, can strengthen his will both in choosing and carrying out its choices. When he does so, he is said to acquire will power.
This is possible because man is influenced by habitual patters of activity (see habit). If his deliberate choices consistently tend toward actions that are good, he builds up within himself the moral virtues (see virtue). These aid the will in different ways. Prudence gives a power to the will to choose deliberately and to select the best means of carrying out its choice (see prudence). Justice enables the will to be strong in protecting the rights of others in spite of the apparent disadvantage to oneself (see justice). Temperance and fortitude are personal regulators of conduct, the first enabling the will to resist attractive but only apparent goods, the second strengthening the will's resolve to surmount obstacles (see temperance, virtue of; fortitude, virtue of).
Related Concepts. Apathy and torpor are states opposed to the healthy and vigorous conditions of an active will. Apathy is a state of disinterest where the will is not attracted by any course of action, or if it is, cannot reach a decision except with struggle. Torpor inclines a person to avoid making choices and to follow the path of least resistance.
Will power is to be distinguished from the "will to power" of Friedrich nietzsche and the "will to believe" of William james. Nietzsche placed in his "superman" the vital instinct that irresistibly urges him to dominate other men as much as possible. The superman's will rejects so–called inferior men and is an evolvement of his pragmatism. Man wills to believe in a god because of the practical advantages such a belief affords him. According to this theory, the existence of a supreme being is postulated because of the psychological needs of man. As opposed to both of these concepts, will power basically means an individual's ability to fashion his own destiny, and to do this with some degree of ease.
[j. a. burroughs]