My article surveys philosophical discussions of Abelard over the last twenty years. Although Abelard has been a well-known figure for centuries, his most
important logical works were published only in the twentieth century and, so I argue, the rediscovery of him as an important philosopher is recent and continuing. I concentrate especially on work that shows Abelard as the re-discoverer of propositional logic (Chris Martin); as a subtle explorer of problems about modality (Simo Knuuttila, Herbert Weidemann) and semantics (Klaus Jacobi); as a metaphysician before the reception of Aristotle's Metaphysics (Peter King); and as an ethical thinker who echoes the Stoics (Calvin Normore) and anticipates Kant (Peter King).
Giles, of Rome, Archbishop of Bourges, ca. 1243-1316.
Free will and determinism -- History of doctrines -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
Will -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
Intellect -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
This article explores the philosophical and theological context in which later medieval debates surrounding the foundations of freedom emerged. In particular, the article establishes that Aquinas's famous pupil Giles of Rome (1243/47-1316) was less indebted to St. Thomas himself on the question of human freedom than has commonly been supposed. Rather, his teachings on the will and human freedom owe more to such Franciscan thinkers as John of la Rochelle and Walter of Bruges. This interpretation challenges the received view, which goes back to Henry of Ghent, and continues to be prominent in the contemporary literature.
Free will and determinism -- History of doctrines -- 17th century.
Liberty -- Philosophy.
The principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) says that doing something freely implies being able to do otherwise. I show that Descartes consistently believed not only in PAP, but also in clear and distinct determinism (CDD), which claims that we sometimes cannot but judge true what we clearly perceive. Because Descartes thinks judgment is always a free act, PAP and CDD seem contradictory, but Descartes consistently resolved this apparent contradiction by distinguishing between two senses of 'could have done otherwise.' In one sense alternative possibilities are necessary for freedom and in another they are not. I discuss three possible interpretations of the two senses.
Perhaps the central problem which preoccupies Spinoza as a moral philosopher is the conflict between reason and passion. He belongs to a long tradition that sees the key to happiness and virtue as mastery and control by reason over the passions. This mastery, however, is hard won, as the passions often overwhelm its power and subvert its rule. When reason succumbs to passion, we act against our better judgment. Such action is often termed 'akratic'. Many commentators have complained that the psychological principles that Spinoza appeals to in his account of akrasia are mere ad hoc modifications to his philosophical psychology. I show, on the contrary, that these principles follow from some of the most important and interesting aspects of Spinoza's philosophy of mind.
A number of critics have argued that Berkeley's metaphysics can offer no tenable account of human agency. In this paper I argue that Berkeley does have a coherent account of action. The paper addresses arguments by C.C. W. Taylor, Robert Imlay, and Jonathan Bennett. The paper attempts to show that Berkeley can offer a theory of action, maintain many of our common intuitions about action, and provide a defensible solution to the problem of evil.
Thomas Reid uses the notion of exertion in various ways that have not been distinguished in the secondary literature. Sometimes he uses it to refer to the exercise of a capacity or power, sometimes to the turning on or activitating of a capacity or power, and still other times to the attempt to activate a capacity or power. Getting clear on Reid's different uses of the term 'exertion' is essential to understanding his account of the sequence of events in human action. It is also helpful in defending Reid against the objection that his account of action is subject to an infinite regress.
Some critics find that Thomas Reid thinks the mind especially problematic, "hid in impenetrable darkness". I disagree. Reid does not hold that mind, more than body, resists explanation by the new science. The physical sciences have made great progress because they were transformed by the Newtonian revolution, and the key transformation was to stop looking for causes. Reid's harsh words are a call for methodological reform, consonant with his lifelong pursuit of a science of mind and also with his frequent (though overlooked) optimism about such a science.