Freedom of the Will

Thomas Pink

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Philosophy

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195379488
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Freedom of the Will

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Metaphysics



Freedom was a central notion within medieval psychological and ethical theory, and mattered as a metaphysical power, as a right, and as a desirable goal or condition. This article argues that the fundamental notion was of freedom as a metaphysical power to determine how people acted, a power which was seen as primarily enjoyed and exercised within the rational or intellectual mind, on most views at the point of the will, the capacity for choice and decision. In modern philosophy, the metaphysics and ethics of freedom are understood very differently, and are linked to very different theories of the mind and of human action. There is skepticism regarding freedom as a metaphysical power. The discussion examines the will and human action, freedom as a metaphysical power, the ethical significance of freedom, the metaphysics of freedom, and the transformation of ethics.

Keywords: moral obligation; metaphysical power; free will; ethical theory

Article.  10014 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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