The possibility of free will: John Duns Scotus and William James on the will
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The two questions that motivate the present inquiry are: is it possible that human beings will freely, and what does free will make possible? John Duns Scotus and William James are two defenders of the possibility of free will, although each has a very different notion of the will. First, I present the accounts of the will articulated by Duns Scotus and James, with attention to the context in which the accounts were developed and the reasons each philosopher gives for the possibility of free will. Next, I briefly consider the picture of human action each account of the will makes possible. Then, I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each account. Finally, in response to a weakness of both accounts, I argue that in order to widen the possibilities of human moral agency, it is necessary to reflect not only on our strengths but also on our physical and moral frailty.
Burke, Catherine Margaret (2003). The possibility of free will: John Duns Scotus and William James on the will. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from