Freedom without Choice: Medieval Theories of the Essence of Freedom

In Thomas Williams (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 194-216 (forthcoming)
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Medieval authors generally agreed that we have the freedom to choose among alternative possibilities. But most medieval authors also thought that there are situations in which one cannot do otherwise, not even will otherwise. They also thought when willing necessarily, the will remains free. The questions, then, are what grounds the necessity or contingency of the will’s acts, and – since freedom is not defined by the ability to choose – what belongs to the essential character of freedom, the ratio libertatis. This article studies medieval theories of freedom without choice from William of Auxerre to William of Ockham and their background in Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, and Bernard of Clairvaux.

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Tobias Hoffmann
Sorbonne Université


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