In a passage from The future is bright for human, New Scientist 2012.3.5, there is a sentence

Perhaps willfuly, it may be easier to think about such lengthy timescales than about the more immediate future.

I am confused with the word 'willfully'. I have looked up that its adjective form 'willful' means 'sticking to one's own opinion' or 'deliberate', but the adverb form of both entry can't fit the sentence. So how to understand the 'willfuly' here?

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    You have to register to view the whole article, but using Google's cached copy from March 11, I see a different word: "Perhaps perversely...". That edit would make more sense. Perhaps you've simply found a bad word choice that has since been corrected. Mar 16, 2022 at 15:46
  • What @Andy said. Regardless of whether the actual original had willfully or perversely (or indeed, some other equivalent, such as contrarily), I think there's no doubt perversely is the better choice on purely stylistic grounds. But I think the construction is a bit flaky in this exact context anyway. We'd normally expect a "fronted" optional adverbial clause like Perhaps mistakenly... to be immediately followed by the relevant subject and verb ...the author thought it made his text look more erudite. Mar 16, 2022 at 16:45
  • (That's to say - the "existential it" here isn't being "wilful" or "perverse", so the construction doesn't really work very well for me.) Mar 16, 2022 at 16:47
  • @FumbleFingers As long as we're editing, I'd go with "Perhaps counterintuitively," which maybe was what the original author was reaching for all along. "Counterintuitive" = "This doesn't appear at first to make sense, but it really does." "Perversely" = ascribes sentience and volition. We might use it for non-sentient subjects via personification, but that's not really what's going on here. Mar 16, 2022 at 16:57
  • @AndyBonner: I think arguably there's a significant semantic difference between perversely / wilfully / contrarily and counterintuitively. If the original writer had used any of those first three, I'd always vote for perversely as the "preferred" stylistic choice if I thought the writer was reasonably articulate. There's at least some difference between a "perverse" perspective (which acknowledges that hardly anyone ever sees things that way), and a "counterintuitive" one - which the present reader might only find "odd" until he has been enlightened. Mar 16, 2022 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Here willfully means 'deliberately' or 'intentionally.' The idea the sentence is expressing is that we often chose to think about the more distant future, rather than, the near future.

I will note, the sentence is grammatically correct but seems awkward to me.

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    I'm not convinced the construction is "grammatically correct". But at the very least, I agree it's "awkward", and probably best avoided by learners. Mar 16, 2022 at 16:49

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