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The Will to ReasonTheodicy and Freedom in Descartes$
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C.P. Ragland

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190264451

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190264451.001.0001

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Freedom and Alternative Possibilities in the Meditations

Freedom and Alternative Possibilities in the Meditations

(p.83) Chapter 3 Freedom and Alternative Possibilities in the Meditations
The Will to Reason

C. P. Ragland

Oxford University Press

Descartes’ view of freedom seems incoherent because he seems to both affirm and deny the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP), according to which we do something freely only if we could have done otherwise. However, careful scrutiny reveals that he consistently endorsed PAP, as this chapter argues from evidence internal to the Meditations, Objections, and Replies. Descartes’ emphasis on the similarity between God’s will and the human will makes sense only on the assumption that embraces PAP. Descartes’ definition of freedom requires both alternative possibilities and spontaneity, although the Fourth Meditation is certainly ambiguous about whether freedom requires alternative possibilities.

Keywords:   free will, alternative possibilities, spontaneity, clear and distinct perception, determinism, Descartes

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