A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought by Michæl Frede, A. A. Long, David Sedley

By Michæl Frede, A. A. Long, David Sedley

Where does the thought of unfastened will come from? How and whilst did it boost, and what did that improvement contain? In Michael Frede's considerably new account of the heritage of this concept, the inspiration of a loose will emerged from strong assumptions in regards to the relation among divine windfall, correctness of person selection, and self-enslavement as a result of flawed selection. Anchoring his dialogue in Stoicism, Frede starts with Aristotle--who, he argues, had no thought of a loose will--and ends with Augustine. Frede indicates that Augustine, faraway from originating the assumption (as is frequently claimed), derived so much of his considering it from the Stoicism built through Epictetus.

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We can also fail to choose to do it. But to fail to choose to do it, given Aristotle’s notion of choice, is not the same as choosing not to do it. We saw this in the case of akrasia. One can choose to follow reason. But if one fails to follow reason and acts on a nonrational desire, it is not because one chooses not to follow reason and, rather, chooses to do something else. So the choice one makes in Aristotle is not, at least necessarily, a choice between doing X and not doing X, let alone a choice between doing X and doing Y.

To say that these nonrational desires have become something quite different in becoming desires of reason is to acknowledge that there is some continuity. To see what the continuity is, we have to look briefly at how the Stoics understand the desires or impulses of other animals. They view them very much as Aristotle does. Animals perceive things. 8 Now, animals also perceive things as pleasant, satisfying, and 36 / The Emergence of a Notion of Will in Stoicism conducive to their maintaining themselves in their natural state or as unpleasant, unsatisfying, or detrimental to their maintenance.

This is how we have come to use the term impression. 12 I take it that he did so because it is quite misleading in the following respect. It is true that we do not actively form an impression, a certain kind of representation of something, in the way in which we paint a painting or draw a map or describe a person. The impression is formed without our doing anything. But this should not obscure the fact that the way the impression is formed reflects the fact that it is formed in and by a mind. This is why the impressions animals form in their souls will differ from one another depending on the kind of animal in which they are formed, and this is why our impressions differ from the impressions of any other animal in having a propositional content, because they are formed in and by a mind or reason.

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