Falling Freely : Anselm of Canterbury on the Will

University dissertation from Uppsala : Filosofiska institutionen

Abstract: This thesis clarifies the concept of will in Anselm of Canterbury in the context of his overall theologico-philosophical project. The will is central to Anselm's understanding of freedom of choice (libertas arbitrii), which he defines as “the power to keep rightness of will”. In Anselm, like in Kant, the will is also a crucial notion in spelling out the idea that it is the intention rather than an action per se, or its consequences, which matters from a moral standpoint. His approach to the problem of evil is therefore shaped by the presupposition that evil or injustice essentially consists in some fault in or of the will. In addition, Anselm subscribes to the Platonic notion that evil is a privation of good and ultimately identical to non-being, and therefore injustice is identified with a sort of lack of will.Anselm combines a naturalist conception of will with a rationalist conception of freedom. He construes voluntary action, i.e. action in which there is will involved, widely. Angels, human beings, and brute animals all act voluntarily, and by will. Freedom is, according to Anselm, precisely a power to act in accordance with right reason, and so a person’s freedom and rationality never conflict.Part 1 consists in a study of the central texts De veritate, De libertate arbitrii and De casu diaboli. Part 2 consists in a critical reconstruction of Anselm’s conception of the human will and its freedom against the background of his ethics, metaphysics, and views on modal semantics. In Part 3, Anselm’s position is assessed from the point of view of the contemporary debate of free will and determinism. In recent Anselm scholarship, it has been argued that Anselm is an incompatibilist and an indeterminist. These suggestions are here critically discussed.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.