Page:Vocation of Man (1848).djvu/44
thorough investigation, may compel me to accept it as a reality, and to ascribe it to myself, and whereby the result of my former conclusions might thus be refuted;—this is now the question.
To be free, in the sense stated, means that I myself will make myself whatever I am to be. I must then,—and this is what is most surprising, and, at first sight, absurd in the idea,—I must already be, in a certain sense, that which I shall become, in order to be able to become so; I must possess a two-fold being, of which the first shall contain the fundamental determining principle of the second. If I interrogate my immediate self-consciousness on this matter, I find the following. I have the knowledge of various possible courses of action, from amongst which, as it appears to me, I can choose which I please. I run through the whole circle, enlarge it, examine the various courses, compare one with another, and consider. I at length decide upon one, determine my will in accordance with it, and this resolution of my will is followed by a corresponding action. Here then, certainly, I am beforehand, in the mere conception of my purpose, what subsequently, by means of this conception, I am in will and in action. I am as a thinking, what I afterwards am as an active, being. I create myself:—my being by my thought, my thought by previous thought. One can conceive the determinate state of a manifestation of the mere powers of Nature, of a plant for instance, as preceded by an indeterminate state, in which, if left to itself, it might have assumed any one of an infinite variety of possible determinations. These manifold possibilities are certainly possibilities within it, founded in its own peculiar character, but they are not possi-