The Metaphysical Nature of Will As Cause of Action. A Discussion of the Contemporary Reception of Reid’s Philosophy of Free Will

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Thomas Reid (1710-1796) proved the existence of will as an original faculty of man, against Hume and the modern philosophical tradition, and has been very influential in the contemporary ‘agent causation’ theory. He did so out of what —in his concept— was the Newtonian empirical method when rightly understood. However, this same methodology did not allow him to go deep on the metaphysical nature of will, and therefore he remained in the experimental area of volitions to explain moral liberty. On account of this deficiency, he has been subject to significant objections, for which no convincing solution has been put forth.

The most serious objection is the following: according to Reid, an agent can efficiently cause his decision (volition) to perform an action, but his detractors affirm that this free decision is the effect of a prior volition which in itself is the fruit of other volition and so forth ad infinitum. This study offers a possible solution, which is based on O’Connor’s claim that Reid’s concept of moral freedom is implicit in Aquinas’ philosophy and Rowe’s suggestion of calling on the Aristotelian “prime mover”. The solution recovers classical doctrines of ‘potentiality’ and ‘actualization’, and of the variety of causes in the explanation of actions, both implicit in Aquinas’s concept of will. For him, the human will is a natural inclination towards universal good, caused by God, who moves it first, but according to its own condition, which is not acting out of necessity but through choice.
Original languageSpanish (Chile)
JournalFORUM Suplement in Acta Philosophica
StatePublished - 2017

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