The Inner Work of Liberty: Cudworth on Desire and Attention


Authors
Matthew A. Leisinger
Cambridge University
Abstract
Ralph Cudworth’s goal in his manuscript writings on freewill is to argue that our actions are in our own power in a robust sense that entails the ability to do otherwise. Cudworth’s unorthodox views about the nature of desire threaten to undermine this project, however. Cudworth maintains that only desire is able to distinguish good and evil and, consequently, that desire alone motivates our actions. Therefore, since Cudworth holds that desire itself is not in our own power, he appears committed to the conclusion that our actions are not in our own power either. Cudworth’s solution, I argue, is to emphasize our inward responses to desire, which Cudworth does take to be in our own power. I focus in particular on attention: by directing attention differently in response to desire, Cudworth holds that we are able actively to influence the way in which desire motivates our actions. Our actions are in our own power, therefore, only because such inward responses to desire are in our own power.
Keywords Ralph Cudworth  Cambridge Platonism  Desire  Attention  Freewill
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DOI 10.1080/09672559.2019.1657168
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References found in this work BETA

Salving the Phenomena of Mind: Energy, Hegemonikon, and Sympathy in Cudworth.Sarah Hutton - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (3):465-486.
From Cambridge Platonism to Scottish Sentimentalism.Michael B. Gill - 2010 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 8 (1):13-31.
Stoics Against Stoics In Cudworth's A Treatise of Freewill.John Sellars - 2012 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (5):935-952.

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Citations of this work BETA

Cudworth on Freewill.Matthew A. Leisinger - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
New Perspectives on Agency in Early Modern Philosophy.Ruth Boeker - 2019 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 27 (5):625-630.

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