Free Will and Determinism: The Anselmian Position

Dissertation, Saint Louis University (1996)

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This dissertation presents and evaluates Anselm's conception of freedom from the standpoint of the contemporary debate on free will and determinism. Anselm's position is an unusual combination of incompatibilism with the hierarchical account of free will, an account widely regarded as a compatibilist one. Like Harry Frankfurt and other contemporary defenders of the hierarchical approach to freedom, Anselm rejects the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, which is the standard incompatibilist approach to freedom, and instead maintains that an agent is free only if he is able to do or will as he wants to do or will. But in contrast to contemporary defenders of the hierarchical approach, Anselm maintains that freedom is incompatible with determinism. According to Anselm, a necessary condition for freedom is spontaneity of will. Spontaneity of will, however, is incompatible with determinism in Anselm's thought. Hence, he maintains an incompatibilist hierarchical conception of freedom. Although in certain texts his discussion of spontaneity of will leads to inconsistency in his overall conception of freedom, his conception can be made consistent without losing the significant features of that conception. ;Three points are emphasized in this critical presentation of Anselm's view of freedom: Anselm's conception of freedom, as a hierarchical account of freedom, is a plausible conception of freedom; by requiring spontaneity of will as a necessary condition for freedom, Anselm's conception can be defended against the main weakness in contemporary hierarchical accounts of freedom; in contrast to the contention that freedom according to the hierarchical account is compatible with determinism, Anselm correctly argues for an incompatibilist position. I conclude that Anselm's conception of freedom, particularly in its revised version, is worthy of serious consideration by contemporary thinkers.
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