A Libertarian Interpretation of Descartes’ Fourth Meditation
Lex Newman (University of Utah)

April 18, 2022, 5:00pm - 7:00pm

This event is online


  • European Commission, Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 892794


University of Venice
Università di Torino

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Venue: online Zoom meeting

Zoom link: https://unive.zoom.us/j/84571640858?pwd=MWFJbFgxRjlnaVJLWUpIOWJwQlZVUT09

Zoom meeting ID: 845 7164 0858; Passcode: gMi180


Widespread scholarly agreement has it that the Fourth Meditation account of the will’s freedom favors a compatibilist interpretation of Descartes.  This essay explains and rebuts the standard arguments made on behalf of this widespread view, while explaining and defending a libertarian interpretation.  My analysis encompasses the relevant Fourth Meditation doctrines and texts, along with an important 1645 letter in which Descartes elaborates on his meaning in the key Fourth Meditation passage bearing on his understanding of the will’s freedom.  Central to my defense of a libertarian interpretation is a vital, but overlooked, second role played by the will in judgment formation:  an attentional function whereby the will has the power to help direct the intellect’s perceptual attention – a factor helping resolve significant difficulties noted in critiques of libertarian accounts.

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