And this evidence can be found. It stares one in the face, if one looks for it in the place where by the nature of the case it is alone possible for it to appear. By the external observation of conduct no break in causal continuity could be satisfactorily established, even if it existed. Any appearance of discontinuity could always be taken as signifying merely an inadequate understanding of the agent's character: the more readily since (as we shall see later) there will never be, even if freedom is a fact, crass discontinuity between character and act. There is one way, and one way only, in which the disruption of causal continuity between character and act could make itself decisively known. That is through the subject's own immediate experience of himself in acting.
And if we look here, I venture to affirm, we do find all the evidence of a positive character which can legitimately be demanded in the present issue. Everyone knows what it is to have the experience referred to as an 'effortful act of will.' If we scrutinise that experience with care, we shall see that part and parcel of it is an indefeasible certitude that herein I am creating a definite rupture in the causal continuity of past and present. There is inherent in it, we shall also see, a like indefeasible certitude that I' need not' be creating this rupture, that I could be acting otherwise, that there were genuinely 'open possibilities' before me at the moment of volition. The experience of effortful willing carries with it, in short, both the claim to freedom, and the claim to be here and now utilising our freedom to interrupt that causal continuity which the Determinist holds to be all-pervading.
For this reason the experience of effortful willing may be said to furnish an even more striking assurance of the reality of our freedom than does the 'immediate affirmation of consciousness at the moment of deliberate action.' I propose, therefore, to give to it, in preference, the central place in the development of my positive argument for freedom. It will be necessary, first of all, to analyse the experience with some care. I shall endeavour to bring out its uniqueness of nature by distinguishing it off from certain other experiences with which it is liable, more or less, to be confused, and then to elicit from it the precise purport of the claims in the way of freedom which it seems, in virtue of its uniqueness, spontaneously and necessarily to evoke in the subject of it. When the work of analysis is completed, we can pass on to consider the crucial question of the ultimate credentials of these claims.
We may begin, then, by distinguishing the effortful act of will from the 'impulsive' act. Over this distinction, however, there is no need to linger. Simply qua act of will, the effortful act is different from any impulsive act. Any experience which we are prepared to recognise as 'willing' involves, as the impulsive act does not, the self's conscious adoption of the 'end' as its end - or, as it is sometimes expressed, the self's active identification of itself with the 'end,' or 'object'.
But, in the second place, the effort of the effortful act is not just the activity inherent in willing as such. The latter, the conscious identification of the self with an end, is something which does not admit of 'more' or 'less,' whereas we clearly speak of' more' and 'less' effortful acts of will. Indeed, many acts of will we take to be, in this regard, quite effortte. This is most conspicuously evident in situations of so-called 'moral temptation.' In such situations we have before our minds a course of action which we believe to be bad, but which we at the same time feel to be the course to which our existing conative tendencies per se incline us; to be, in short, 'in the line of least resistance.' Now we may deliberately choose, or will, this end: and if we do, we certainly do not regard ourselves as having made 'too little' effort, but just as having made no effort at all. We have, as it were, deliberately allowed the 'natural man' in us to take his course. In a true sense, the so-called 'line of least resistance' in conative situations is a line of no resistance. It follows that the effort which we mean when we speak of an effortful act of will is something quite distinct from the activity which distinguishes willing from impulsive action, and which belongs to all willing.
And for this reason I am not sure that the term commonly used for this effort, viz.' effort of willy is a very happy one. It is apt to suggest that effortful willing involves only a more intense form of the activity which is proper to willing as such. I should for myself prefer the term 'moral effort,' for the reason especially that such a title draws attention to the fact that effort is felt to be called forth and to be made always in the interests of a believed 'higher' end, which stands in contrast with a believed 'lower' end which is in the 'line of least resistance.' Indeed, what other incentive to effort could there be? What could induce anyone to act in the line of greater resistance, i.e. in opposition to the end towards which he is conscious of being most strongly inclined, except that this course is regarded as being somehow objectively 'better'? It is true, indeed, that the end to which effort is directed may be, though a felt 'higher,' yet a merely 'egoistic' end. And accordingly those who accept, as I do not, the Crocean distinction of Economic from Moral Value will dissent from the term 'moral effort,' as implying an improper restriction if intended to cover all effortful acts of will. As I cannot here debate either this, or certain kindred issues,1 I shall not therefore press the nomenclature I prefer, and shall continue to adopt the traditional usage. I am concerned at present only to make the point that effort is felt to be always in the interests of a believed higher against a believed lower. Its function has the appearance of being, to use a common expression, to reinforce a believed higher but felt weaker desire against a believed lower but felt stronger desire. Or, as we might put it on the assumption of the restriction of effort to the 'morally' higher, the raison d'ˆtre of effort of will seems to be to make moral achievement possible by enabling the self to transcend the status quo of its existing conative tendencies in the direction of its ideal.
1 On the relation of Egoism and Moral Value see, however, Chapter VI (The Reality Of Moral Obligation. Section 1. Absolute Idealism And The Status Of Morality)., Section 6.