Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Leibniz on Freedom of the Will

Leibniz had a strange belief that the essence of a substance ("monad" in his terms) contains everything that will ever happen to it. Every event that is going to occur during a substance's existence follows necessarily from its essence. Since people are substances, it's pretty obvious that this conflicts with freedom of the will, but Leibniz claims that the two doctrines can be reconciled. His concern was not the metaphysical determinism that modern compatibilists might seek to reconcile freedom with; instead Leibniz was attempting to absolve God of responsibility for the evils and sins committed by individual agents. But there are still a couple of interesting elements in Leibniz's account of freedom that make it potentially relevant to modern discussions.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Locke on Freedom of the Will

Locke defines liberty as the ability to act or refrain from action according to the will. The will, for Locke is our capacity to “order the consideration of any Idea” or the ability to “prefer the motion of any body to its rest.” The will is a faculty of the mind, not an independent agent, and we should take care not to mistake faculties for agents, or we'll fall into confusion. Only beings capable of thought or volition can rightly be said to possess liberty. Liberty is not possible for inanimate objects. A tennis ball, for example, is not taken by anyone to be an agent with volition; we do not attribute its motion or rest to its acting according to choice.