Lieutenant Commander Allan D. Brown first proposed the idea for an essay contest sponsored by the . Naval Institute for "a paper which shall be deemed the best" on 9 May 1878 at the organization's meeting in Annapolis. The first contest was in 1879. The name of the contest was changed in 1985 to the Arleigh Burke Essay Contest in honor of the World War II hero, former Chief of Naval Operations, and President of the Naval Institute. The name reverted to the General Prize in 2008. Today, the prizes honor the first, second, and third best articles published in Proceedings over the previous year, from October through September of the succeeding year.
The human will is crucial for deliberately acting on our beliefs and emotions. Sometimes we consider alternative courses of action and seem to select one among them, as if making a voluntary decision. James maps out five sorts of decision-making: (1) the reasonable sort, whereby we accede to rational arguments; (2) the sort that is triggered by external circumstances, such as overhearing a rumor; (3) the sort that is prompted by our submission to something within ourselves, such as a habit formed by past actions; (4) the sort that results from a sudden change of mood such as might be caused by a feeling of grief; and (5) the rare sort that is a consequence of our own voluntary choice, which will be identified as the “will to believe.” Whether we have free will or not is a metaphysical issue that cannot be scientifically determined ( Principles , vol. 2, pp. 486-488, 528, 531-534, 572-573; Psychology , pp. 415, 419-420, 428-434, 456-457).