- A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought
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Lucretius says that voluntas must be saved from a succession of causes which can be traced back to infinity. All he needs to satisfy the Aristotelian criterion is a break in the succession of causes , so that the source of an action cannot be traced back to something occurring before the birth of the agent. The swerve, then, plays a purely negative part in Epicurean psychology.
It saves voluntas from necessity, as Lucretius says it does, but it does not feature in every act of voluntas. On the other hand, in his thesis, "Lucretius on the Clinamen and 'Free Will'", Don Paul Fowler defended the ancient claim that Epicurus proposed random swerves as directly causing our actions. I turn to the overall interpretation.
Lucretius is arguing from the existence of voluntas to the existence of the clinamen ; nothing comes to be out of nothing, therefore voluntas must have a cause at the atomic level, viz.
The most natural interpretation of this is that every act of voluntas is caused by a swerve in the atoms of the animal's mind There is a close causal, physical relationship between the macroscopic and the atomic. Its role in Epicureanism is merely to make a formal break with physical determinism, and it has no real effect on the outcome of particular actions. In a Phronesis article, Purinton agreed with Fowler that random swerves directly cause volitions and actions:. It seems to me, therefore, that there is no good reason to reject the thesis that Epicurus held that swerves cause volitions from the bottom up.
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And there are a number of good reasons to accept it. It was the Stoic school of philosophy that solidified the idea of natural laws controlling all things, including the mind. Zeno of Citium , the original founder of Stoicism, had a simple but powerful idea of the causal chain compared to Aristotle. Zeno said that every event has a cause, and that cause necessitates the event.
A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought
Given exactly the same circumstances, exactly the same result will occur. The major developer of Stoicism, Chrysippus , took the edge off strict necessity. Like Democritus, Aristotle, and Epicurus before him, he wanted to strengthen the argument for moral responsibility, in particular defending it from Aristotle's and Epicurus' indeterminate chance causes.
Whereas the past is unchangeable, Chrysippus argued that some future events that are possible do not occur by necessity from past external factors alone, but might as Aristotle and Epicurus maintained depend on us. We have a choice to assent or not to assent to an action. Chrysippus said our actions are determined in part by ourselves as causes and fated because of God's foreknowledge , but he also said that they are not necessitated, i. Chrysippus would be seen today as a compatibilist.
Sharples describes the first compatibilist arguments to reconcile responsibility and determinism by Chrysippus. The Stoic position, given definitive expression by Chrysippus c. Their theory of the universe is indeed a completely deterministic one; everything is governed by fate, identified with the sequence of causes; nothing could happen otherwise than it does, and in any given set of circumstances one and only one result can follow — otherwise an uncaused motion would occur.
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Chrysippus was concerned to preserve human responsibility in the context of his determinist system. His position was thus one of 'soft determinism', as opposed on the one hand to that of the 'hard determinist' who claims that determinism excludes responsibility, and on the other to that of the libertarian who agrees on the incompatibility but responsibility by determinism. The situation is complicated by the fact that the debate is in Greek philosophy conducted entirely in terms of responsibility to eph' hemin rather than of freedom or free will; nevertheless it can be shown that some thinkers, Alexander among them, have a libertarian rather than a soft-determinist conception of responsibility, and in such cases I have not hesitated to use expressions like 'freedom'.
Alexander of Aphrodisias c. He defended a view of moral responsibility we would call libertarianism today. Greek philosophy had no precise term for "free will" as did Latin liberum arbitrium or libera voluntas. Alexander believed that Aristotle was not a strict determinist like the Stoics, and Alexander himself argued that some events do not have pre-determined causes. In particular, man is responsible for self-caused decisions, and can choose to do or not to do something, as Chrysippus argued.
However, Alexander denied the foreknowledge of events that was part of the Stoic identification of God and Nature. It especially shed a great deal of light on Aristotle's position on free will and on the Stoic attempt to make responsibility compatible with determinism. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
This article is written like a research paper or scientific journal that may use overly technical terms or may not be written like an encyclopedic article. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. June Learn how and when to remove this template message. But it is sometimes forgotten that Epicurus viewed with almost greater horror the conception of irresistible 'destiny' or 'necessity', which is the logical outcome of the notion of natural law pressed to its conclusion.
This conclusion had been accepted in its fulness by Democritus, but Epicurus conspicuously broke away from him: 'it were better to follow the myths about the gods than to become a slave to the "destiny" of the natural philosophers: for the former suggests a hope of placating the gods by worship, whereas the latter involves a necessity which knows no placation'. Sharples, translation and commentary Alexander of Aphrodisias On Fate Hidden categories: Wikipedia articles with style issues from June All articles with style issues.
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Show Summary Details. Subscriber Login Email Address. Unlike many previous commentators, Frede adroitly questions the continuity between ancient and modern concepts of will, noting that contemporary philosophers either reject freedom of the will altogether or use a concept that is quite different from ancient theories.
He explores the purely historical questions: when and why human beings were thought to have a free will. Rejecting the view that freedom of the will originates in Aristotle's theory of choice, Frede traces the emergence of the idea of the will to the Stoic Epictetus's concept of what is "up to us.. He connects this linchpin of Stoic moral psychology to the idea of freedom, which is rooted in classical political philosophy; and also to Stoic and later Greek and Christian theories of divine providence.
A Free Will by Michael Frede - Book - Read Online
In a stimulating final chapter, Frede challenges the view that Augustine's theory of the will is highly original, arguing instead that it is indebted to Stoic ideas. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Bussanich University of New Mexico. Log In. My Account.
Remember to clear the cache and close the browser window. Search For:. Advanced Search. Select an Action. A free will origins of the notion in ancient thought. Frede, Michael.