Alleged conflict of motives. – One speaks of a ‘conflict of motives’, but designates with this phrase a conflict which is not one of motives. That is to say: before an act there step into our reflective consciousnesses one after another the consequences of various acts all of which we believe we can perform, and we compare these consequences. We believe we have resolved upon an act when we have decided that its consequences will be more favorable than those of any other; before reaching this conclusion we often honestly torment ourselves on account of the great difficulty of divining what the consequences will be, of seeing all their implications, and of being certain we have included them all without omission: so that the result obtained still has to be divided by chance. Indeed, to come to the worst difficulty: all these consequences, so hard to determine individually, now have to be weighed against one another on the same scales; but usually it happens that, on account of the differences in the quality of all these possible consequences, we lack the scales and the weights for this casuistry of advantage. Supposing, however, we got through that too, and chance had placed on our scales consequences that admit of being weighed against one another: we would then in fact possess in our picture of the consequences of a certain action a motive for performing this action – yes! one motive! But at the moment when we finally do act, our action is often enough determined by a different species of motives than the species here under discussion, those involved in our ‘picture of the consequences’. What here comes into play is the way we habitually expend our energy; or some slight instigation from a person whom we fear or honor or love; or our indolence, which prefers to do what lies closest to hand; or an excitation of our imagination brought about at the decisive moment by some immediate, very trivial event; quite incalculable physical influences come into play; caprice and waywardness come into play; some emotion or other happens quite by chance to leap forth: in short, there come into play motives in part unknown to us, in part known very ill, which we can never take account of beforehand. Probably a struggle takes place between these as well, a battling to and fro, a rising and falling of the scales – and this would be the actual ‘conflict of motives’: – something quite invisible to us of which we would be quite unconscious. I have calculated the consequences and the outcomes and in doing so have set one very essential motive in the battle-line- but I have not set up this battle-line itself, nor can I even see it: the struggle itself is hidden from me, and likewise the victory as victory; for, though I certainly learn what I finally do, I do not learn which motive has therewith actually proved victorious. But we are accustomed to exclude all these unconscious processes from the accounting and to reflect on the preparation for an act only to the extent that it is conscious: and we thus confuse conflict of motives with comparison of the possible consequences of different actions – a confusion itself very rich in consequences and one highly fateful for the evolution of morality!
Daybreak paragraph 129