Willing (vol. II of The Life of the Mind) contains four chapters consisting of sixteen sections in total. Chapter I (‘The Philosophers and the Will’) contains the first six sections. In Section 1, Arendt examines some speculations regarding time and mental activities she had raised toward the end of Thinking (vol. I of The Life of the Mind). She finds difficulty in the realisation that some of the problems she is dealing with have their historical origins in theology rather than in an uninterrupted tradition of philosophical deliberation. In Section 2, she turns from reflections on medieval and ancient times to investigations of the notion of will in the modern age. Among the authors she particularly discusses in this regard are Nietzsche and Heidegger. Section 3 considers the main objections (metaphysical) to the existence of the faculty of the will in post-medieval philosophy raised by, among others (though notably), Hobbes, Spinoza and Schopenhauer. In Section 4, considerations arising out of these objections are developed still further, in particular in relation to the philosophies of Kant, Bergson, Descartes and Hegel—highlighting the perennial difficulties in attempts to solve problems surrounding free will. Section 5 examines the relation between thinking and willing, highlighting the will’s contempt at what she describes as ‘sheer thinking’, which, in effect, ‘does nothing’, and the effect of tonality on the production of moods. Arendt closes the chapter by looking particularly at Hegel’s solution to the problem of free will in accordance with his philosophy of history (6).
Chapter II (7–10) is concerned with themes pertaining to what Arendt describes as ‘Discovery of the Inner Man’. Section 7 discusses the faculty of choice as the forerunner of will through an examination of Aristotle (predominantly) and Kant (latterly), divulging a commonality existing between their respective views. In Section 8, she examines will in the Christian faith, its impotence and conflicts, the stress on the inner life, and the shift, with St Paul, from a life of doing to a life of believing. In Section 9, with something of a dialectical shift, she turns to Epictetus and the will’s omnipotence before closing the chapter (10) with an account of Augustine as the first philosopher of the will, where freedom and spontaneity are ultimately seen as ‘part and parcel’ of the human condition.
Composed of two sections (11 and 12), chapter III examines the will and the intellect. Aquinas’s emphasis on the primacy of intellect as it stands in relation to will constitutes the topic of Section 11, while Duns Scotus’s emphasis on the primacy of will in relation to the intellect is discussed in Section 12.
Chapter IV concludes the volume with some reflections on post-Kantian German philosophy (13–16). Section 13 begins the chapter with a discussion of certain elements of German Idealism and the inspiration behind the post-Kantian philosophy. Section 14 examines Nietzsche’s denial of the will. Section 15 looks at Heidegger’s ultimate stance of willing-not-to-will. Section 16 brings the volume to a close with a discussion concerning the responsibility of freedom or its abandonment to fatalism—as Arendt sees it, the resolution of this dichotomy cannot be met without an appeal to a further mental faculty, the faculty of judgement. The faculty of judgement was to be addressed in a third volume. Arendt died before it could be written.