A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought by Michael Frede

By Michael Frede

The place does the concept of loose will come from? How and whilst did it strengthen, and what did that improvement contain? In Michael Frede's substantially new account of the background of this concept, the concept of a loose will emerged from robust assumptions concerning the relation among divine windfall, correctness of person selection, and self-enslavement as a result of unsuitable selection. Anchoring his dialogue in Stoicism, Frede starts with Aristotle--who, he argues, had no concept of a unfastened will--and ends with Augustine. Frede exhibits that Augustine, faraway from originating the assumption (as is frequently claimed), derived such a lot of his pondering it from the Stoicism built by way of Epictetus.

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Extra resources for A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought (Sather Classical Lectures)

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Therefore we might think that the assent to our impulsive The Emergence of a Notion of Will in Stoicism / 45 impressions constitutes a choice to act in a certain way and that the prohairesis which stands at the center of Epictetus’s thought is the disposition of the mind to make the choices which it makes to act in the way we do. But the matter is more complicated. This is already signaled by the very term prohairesis. It should strike us as curious that Epictetus makes such prominent use of a term which is strongly associated with Aristotle and Peripateticism and which had played almost no role in Stoic thought up to this point.

It is conspicuous that assent does not play as central a role in Epictetus as we might expect. He prefers to talk more generally of our “use of impressions” (chrēsis tōn phantasiōn) or of the way we deal with our impressions. Assenting to them is just one thing we can do with them, though the most important one. So now it becomes clear, and Epictetus makes this explicit, that what is up to us, what is a matter of our choice, is how we deal with our impressions. We can scrutinize them, reflect on them, try to deflate and dissolve them, dwell on them, and, of course, give assent to them.

But this does not at all mean that he does not have any emotion. 14 So much, then, about impulsive impressions and the way they heavily depend on one’s own mind and reason. As to assent, we can now be brief. Animals can do nothing, or at least very little, but rely on their impressions. They have little or no way to discriminate between trustworthy and misleading instances. But our impressions are true or false. We also have reason, which allows us to scrutinize our impressions critically before we accept them as true and reliable.

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