William King on Free Will

Philosophers' Imprint (forthcoming)
Authors
Kenneth L. Pearce
Trinity College, Dublin
Abstract
William King’s De Origine Mali (1702) contains an interesting, sophisticated, and original account of free will. King finds ‘necessitarian’ theories of freedom, such as those advocated by Hobbes and Locke, inadequate, but argues that standard versions of libertarianism commit one to the claim that free will is a faculty for going wrong. On such views, free will is something we would be better off without. King argues that both problems can be avoided by holding that we confer value on objects by valuing them. Such a view secures sourcehood and alternate possibilities while denying that free will is simply a capacity to choose contrary to our best judgment. This theory escapes all of the objections levelled against it by Leibniz and also has interesting consequences for ethics: although constructed within a eudaimonist framework, King’s theory gives rise to a very strong moral requirement of respect for individual self-determination.
Keywords William King  free will  theodicy  Gottfried Leibniz
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