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Reid's Definition of Freedom JEROME A. WEINSTOCK* A NUMBER OF RECENT WRITERS on free will and action theory have found the work of Thomas Reid On the Active Powers of Man a source of enlightenment or an historical anticipation of more recent views.2 Indeed, a close look at Reid's criticisms of his compatibilist contemporaries and predecessors will reveal that in both tone and substance they foreshadow many of the more recent arguments against the sort of compatibilism so widespread in the 1930's and 1940's. However, despite the recent interest in Reid and the growing appreciation of much of his teaching on free will and active power, it is my belief that perhaps one of his most valuable insights on these topics has been largely ignored. That insight lies in the attempt to include in the definition of moral freedom power over one's will and, even more importantly, in the attempt to provide some basis for giving a coherent sense to that power. I. Admitting that without a doubt the ability to do as one wills is a necessary condition of moral freedom, Reid claims that it is not sufficient. Also required is freedom of the will which he defines as the power an agent has over the determinations of his will. A person, we are told, has such a power if with respect to a given action he had power to will it or not to will it.3 But how, one might ask, is "power over the determinations of 1 I would like to thank Stephen Barker, Bernard Gert, Harry Silverstein and Jerome Stolnitz as well as the referees and editor of this Journal for their helpful discussions and comments on earlier versions of this paper. *Jerome A. Weinstock died of a heart attack on June 6, 1974. He was 30 years old. He was regarded by all those who knew him as a young philosopher of very substantial promise. Professor Weinstock was Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Herbert H. Lehman College, and a member of the Doctoral Faculty of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He graduated with high honors from Columbia College in 1965 and received his Ph.D. in 1969 when he joined the faculty at Lehman College. Professor Weinstock was the author of several articles in philosophical journals, in the areas of metaphysics, philosophy of religion and the history of philosophy. Professor Weinstock's death is a blow both to those who knew him as a friend and to the philosophical community. 2 Thus Richard Taylor, in "Determinism and the Theory of Agency," in Determinism and Freedom in the Age o/Modern Science, ed. S. Hook (New York, 1961), p. 228, cites Reid as a proponent of what he has described as "the theory of agency." In a similar connection, Roderick Chisholm, in "Freedom and Action," in Freedom and Determinism, ed. K. Lehrer (New York, 1966), p. 22, mentions Reid as an advocate of "active" or "immanent" causation. Also worth noting are the comments by Myles Brand in the introduction to the selections from Reid which appear in his The Nature o/Human Action (Glenview, Illinois, 1970), pp. 220--222. For Reid's views, see his Essays on the Active Powers o/Man (1788) in the Works ,9] Thomas Reid with Preface, Notes and Supplementary Dissertations by Sir William Hamilton, 6th ed., 2 vols. (Edinburgh , 1863; hereafter referred to as Works), esp. Essay IV, "Of the Liberty of Moral Agents." Of significant interest is Reid's letter to Lord Kames of December 3, 1772 in Works, I, 50--52. See also his letter to Kames of October 6, 1780 in Ian Ross, ed., "Unpublished Letters of Thomas Reid to Lord Kames, 1762-1782," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, VlI (Spring, 1965), 48-51, as well as his letters to Dr. Jamee Gregory, Works, I, 62-89. a Works, II, Eesay IV, 599. [335] 336 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY one's will" to be understood and why should anyone regard it as a requisite of moral liberty? Reid's responses to these questions are quite useful, but their discussion requires something of a digression. Despite the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 335-345
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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