A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought by Michæl Frede, A. A. Long, David Sedley

By Michæl Frede, A. A. Long, David Sedley

Where does the concept of unfastened will come from? How and whilst did it improve, and what did that improvement contain? In Michael Frede's notably new account of the historical past of this concept, the concept of a unfastened will emerged from strong assumptions concerning the relation among divine windfall, correctness of person selection, and self-enslavement as a result of fallacious selection. Anchoring his dialogue in Stoicism, Frede starts off with Aristotle--who, he argues, had no suggestion of a unfastened will--and ends with Augustine. Frede exhibits that Augustine, faraway from originating the belief (as is frequently claimed), derived such a lot of his wondering it from the Stoicism built by means of Epictetus.

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But our impressions are true or false. We also have reason, which allows us to scrutinize our impressions critically before we accept them as true and reliable. Here it is important to remember that there is more to our impressions than their propositional content. This is obvious in the case of perceptual impressions. But we have also seen that a thought that one might die from a certain infection, though it has the same propositional content, might come in different colorings, and the coloring is regarded as part of the thought or impression.

It is clear from what we have said that, according to the Stoics, our whole life is entirely a matter of what we assent to and what not. For our beliefs are a matter of assent, and so are our desires, which are just special forms of belief. Ensuring our life will come out well is entirely a matter of giving assent when that is appropriate and refusing to give assent when it is inappropriate. This focus on our internal life is sharpened by the fact that, according to the Stoics, wisdom is the only good, that a wise life is a good life, and that nothing else matters.

It is a sheer piece of rationalization to invent a nonrational part of the soul and to devolve on it the responsibility for such desires. They are actually of our own making, because it is our mind or reason which produces them as a result of its beliefs and attitudes. Aristotle, unlike Plato, had believed that we are not born with reason but with a nonrational soul of the kind other animals have, except that (1) this nonrational soul has an extraordinary capacity to store and process perceptual information and thus to accumulate experience to a degree no other animal can, and that (2) it can not only discriminate recurrent features but also come to recognize them as such.

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