Jon Elster

Some psychological and social states have the property that they can only come about as the by-product of actions undertaken for other ends. They can never, that is, be brought about intelligently and intentionally, because they attempt to do so precludes the very state one is trying to bring about. I call these “states that are essentially by-products”. There are many states that may arise as by-products of individual or aggregate action, but this is the subset of states than can only come about in this way. Some of these states are very useful or desirable, and so it is very tempting to try to bring them about. We may refer to such attempts as “excess of will”, a form of hubris that pervades our lives, perhaps increasingly so.

Jon Elster, ‘States that are Essentially by-products’, Social Science Information, vol. 20, no. 3 (1981), p. 431