Monday, November 22, 2021

Will-Nature Ontology

I ran across a concept in Trust of People, Words, and God by Joseph Godfrey, (a concept which is original to him, it seems), called "will-nature ontology". I haven't read the book in a long time and probably am misremembering what I read about it. But my mismemory might be interesting. So I'll explain what the concept means to me now, and then go back and see what he said it meant.

My explanation: When you encounter an object, at first it's a blank slate and you can't interact with it. Maybe you see an old-fashioned tool and can't imagine what it's for. Or you meet a person but all you know is their name and face at first. Then, as you understand more of the properties of the object, or as you grasp intuitively more about the object (as when mentalizing a person), you develop desires toward interacting with the thing, and the confidence that you can (something like the concept of favor). It is as though the nature of the object you apprehend halfway (or sometimes completely?) causes you to act [to will]. Understanding things, getting to know them, forming an idea of them (whether accurate or trustworthy or not) gives you a kind of psychological power or fuel, opens up motivation, could halfway force you to commit [to them, or some other course of action]. Therefore seeking to understand things could be life-changing, or sometimes dangerous.

(There might be more that I could develop here, but in the interests of time, I'll just say that's what I think and see what Godfrey said.)

Godfrey (informed by Trust of People, Words, and God, Ch. 7, "Ontology: Two Models for Reliance Trust and I-Thou Trust" and "The Will-Nature Model" (pp. 222-225)): The will is the subject, not only as knower, but as will-er, doer, truster, etc. Nature is the way an object is, that which makes it capable of "being modified, used, and known" (p. 224). The will finds the environment (objects in it?) to be allied, opposed, or neutral, to its interests.

This is different from my version of the idea, but my version might mostly be an elaboration or set of instantiations of his.


I like my misremembering, and wonder if that's a good strategy for coming up with new ideas. Maybe if I'm in a mood for adventure, and making the most of reality, I might try that deliberately.

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