Theories of the will in the history of philosophy by Archibald Alexander (1898) (Fate)

Theories of the will in the history of philosophy by Archibald Alexander (1898) (Fate)

Theories of the will in the history of philosophy

The following chapters will be found a concise account of the development of the theory of the will, from the earliest days of Greek thought down to about the middle of the present century. It is not sufficiently comprehensive to be called a history, for it includes only the theories of the more important philosophers, and does not by any means exhaust the literature of the subject. In addition to contributing something to the history of philosophy, it has been my purpose to introduce in this way a constructive explanation of voluntary action. After some years of study in the preparation of such a constructive theory, I am confirmed in the opinion that a historical treatment is indispensable to a proper presentation of the subject; and this essay is the first of a series. The account closes with the theory of Lotze, chiefly as this is contained in his earlier treatise, Medizinische Psychologie. This termination is not altogether arbitrary. During the last quarter of a century, as all readers of philosophy are aware, the methods of

psychology has been greatly modified, if not revolutionized. It is a change that has been brought about by several causes. Without a doubt, the most efficient of these has been the rise and increasing importance of the theory of natural evolution, as presented by Darwin, and as adopted or modified by his successors. Whether we admit the principle, wholly, or in part, or not at all, it will hardly be denied that the effect of the emphasis laid upon evolution has been to regard no psychical states as self-explanatory, but rather as a result of antecedent conditions, possibly as a compound of simpler elements.

This has been manifested conservatively in the tendency to seek the germs of psychical states in the adult, in the conscious life of the infant; it has been manifested more radically in the attempts made to find at least analogies, if not connecting links, between the psychoses observed indirectly in the lower animals and those observed directly in man. In the same way, the tendency to seek in the lower species' initial stages in that process of which man's body is the present result has led to the special study of the human brain from the point of view of comparative anatomy and animal physiology. The union of such methods with older methods which had led to the localization of mental functions in the organs of the central nervous system, while beset by many difficulties, is likely to produce important results. It is not unreasonable to expect that the genesis of conscious volition may be explained not only by the more rudimentary processes in the child but also by the phenomena presented in the lower animals.


Introduction 1

Theories of the Will in the Socratic Period 23

Stoic and Epicurean Theories of the Will 55

Theories of the Will in Christian Theology 76


Theories of the Will in British Philosophy

from Bacon to Reid 158


Continental Theories of the Will from

Descartes to Leibnitz .... 215


Theories of the Will in German Philosophy

from Kant to Lotze 256

Author: Archibald Alexander
 Publication Date:1898)

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