Hidden Folds of Freedom: Freedom and the Will in Leibniz and Malebranche

Dissertation, Harvard University (2000)

Abstract
The dissertation consists of four parts. Part One, "Freedom and the Will in Early Modern Philosophy," sketches an approach to the problem of freedom in early modern philosophy from the perspective of the faculties of the mind. It shows that attention to the faculties of the mind in general, and the will in particular, clarifies the changes in early modern conceptions of freedom from Descartes to Reid. Part Two, "Could Freedom Be a Miracle? Mind, Nature, and Human Freedom in Leibniz," takes its starting point from a passage that recently has been the subject of considerable discussion by interpreters of Leibniz, the 'private miracle' passage from Leibniz's paper "Necessary and Contingent Truths," in which Leibniz seems to claim that freedom is a miracle. I argue that this interpretation is based on a misunderstanding of Leibniz's conception of nature. Freedom is no miracle; it is attributable to the Leibnizian mind in virtue of its nature. This raises the question of how the nature of the Leibnizian mind accounts for freedom, to which I return in Part Four. Part Three, "The Occasion of Freedom in Malebranche," considers a question first raised by Malebranche's contemporary Antoine Arnauld and thereafter posed by many of Malebranche's readers: "Is it not to say two things that undermine each other, to say that on the one hand, God does all things, and on the other, that man has free will?" I argue that Malebranche's conceptions of attention and the will provide the resources to answer Arnauld's question. According to Malebranche, agents determine themselves, and consequently are responsible for their free choices, but do not thereby cause any real change in the physical world that would require God's causal intervention. Part Four, "Freedom, Indifference, and the Will in Suarez, Leibniz, and Malebranche," returns to the interpretive theme sketched in Part One, examining the interrelations between Leibniz's and Malebranche's conceptions of freedom and the faculties of the mind. Against the background of the will-based account of freedom developed by the late Aristotelian philosopher Francisco Suarez, it assesses the place of the will in Leibniz's and Malebranche's conceptions of freedom
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