'you can will' that everbody shall follow .... [lexical verb 'will']

Discussion in 'English Only' started by alireza, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. alireza New Member

    From the book "Basic teachings of the great philosophers" by S.E. Frost, page 41 (a quote from Immanuel Kant): "Always act so that you can will the maxim or determining principle of your action to become universal law; act so that you can will that everbody shall follow the principle of your action." This is called the "categorical imperative".

    I don't understand the meaning of "you can will". Does anyone have any idea?
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Will there is a verb [to-less infinitive] there, Alireza. To will something to happen = 'make something happen by force of wanting it to happen'.

    Nothing to do with the will you see in I will go, They will eat, etc.
  3. alireza New Member

    I knew that. But here it just doesn't make any snese to me.
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Oh sorry. Unfortunately I don't do philosophy.
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think this translation of Kant's principle is easier:

    Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

    I think he meant that if you are going to support your actions with a maxim, then it must be a maxim which is universally applicable. He's rejecting hypothetical imperatives - do this if that.

    Obviously you need to distinguish between categorical and hypothetical imperatives if you are going to study Kant.

    If you still can't understand this different translation with the help the others have given you, say what you can't understand about the sentence structure, Alireza, and I'm sure we'll do our best to help.
  6. alireza New Member

    Thank you both ewie and Thomas for your replies. Now I can understand its meaning.
  7. Prower Banned

    So what kind of verb is will here?

    Seems like it is a lexical verb.... or is it a modal verb?
    <Subsidiary question moved to another thread>

    In these sentences ( I will go, They will eat, etc.) which were given by ewie, will is an auxiliary verb. And it is a different story.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2011
  8. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member


    Hello, Prower. "Will" here is a lexical verb. It is the main verb in a sentence such as:
    I will it to happen. As Ewie pointed out, it means that I'm going to make it happen through sheer determination. Modal verbs are generally not that powerful and commanding. :)

    <<Reponse to subsidiary question>>

    I agree that Ewie's other examples show us "will" used as modal auxiliaries. They are indeed part of a different story. :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2011

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