1st Edition

Varieties of Voluntarism in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy

Edited By Sonja Schierbaum, Jörn Müller Copyright 2024

    This book considers different forms of voluntarism developed from the thirteenth to eighteenth centuries. By crossing the conventional dividing line between the medieval and early modern periods, the volume draws important new insights on the historical development of voluntarism.

    Voluntarism places a special emphasis on the will when it comes to the analysis and explanation of fundamental philosophical questions and problems. Since the Middle Ages, voluntarist considerations and views played an important role in the development of different theories of action, ethics, metaethics, and metaphysics. The chapters in this volume are grouped according to three distinct kinds of voluntarism: psychological, ethical, and theological voluntarism. They address topics such as the threat of irrationality as the standard objection to voluntarism, incontinent actions and their explanation, the nature of the will as rational appetite, the relationship between intellect and will, the implications of conceptions of the will for political freedom, and the relations between divine freedom and the modal status of eternal truths. The chapters not only consider towering figures of the Middle Ages—Thomas Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, William of Ockham, Francisco de Vitoria—and early modern period—René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Samuel Pufendorf—but also engage with less well-known figures such as Peter John Olivi, John of Pouilly, Catharine Trotter Cockburn, and Christian August Crusius.

    Varieties of Voluntarism in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy will appeal to scholars and advanced students working in medieval philosophy, early modern philosophy, the history of ethics, and philosophy of religion.

    Introduction: Voluntarism: Central Philosophical Issues and Problems Sonja Schierbaum and Jörn Müller

    Part 1: Psychological Voluntarism

    1. Does Voluntarism Lead to Irrationalism? A Medieval Case Study Dominik Perler

    2. Voluntarism and Aristotelian akrasia: Radicalizing Views on Incontinence around 1277 Jörn Müller

    3. Henry of Ghent and John of Pouilly on “Aristotle’s Prophecy about Incontinence” Tobias Hoffmann

    4. Descartes and Leibniz on the Nature of the Will Stephan Schmid

    5. Faith and Will in Francisco de Vitoria Christophe Grellard

    Part 2: Ethical Voluntarism

    6. The Blind Will Is No King: Henry of Ghent’s Voluntarism and the Act of Choice Michael Szlachta

    7. Descartes’s Conception of Freedom: Between Voluntarism and Intellectualism Ariane Cäcilie Schneck

    8. Hobbes against liberum arbitrium Thomas Pink

    9. Freedom of the Will and the Passions in Pufendorf’s Action Theory Heikki Haara

    10. Heavenly “Freedom” in Fourteenth-Century Voluntarism Eric W. Hagedorn

    Part 3: Theological Voluntarism

    11. From Moral to Modal Voluntarism: Descartes on the Status of Eternal Truths Sebastian Bender

    12. Grounding the Principle of Plenitude, or Why Leibniz Rehabilitated Divine Will Ursula Renz and Sarah Tropper

    13. Catharine Trotter Cockburn against Theological Voluntarism Ruth Boeker

    14. Crusius against the Arbitrariness of Moral Obligation: An Alternative to Theological Voluntarism? Sonja Schierbaum


    Sonja Schierbaum is currently leader of the Emmy Noether research group “Practical Reasons Before Kant (1720–1780)” at the University of Würzburg. She is the author of Ockham’s Assumption of Mental Speech (2014) and has co-edited a volume on late-medieval conceptions of self-knowledge (with Dominik Perler, 2014).

    Jörn Müller is Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at the University of Würzburg. His research focuses on practical philosophy, anthropology, and philosophical psychology. His publications include monographs on Aristotle’s ethics, Albert the Great and Henry of Ghent, as well as on weakness of will from Socrates to Duns Scotus.