Un-Willing: An Inquiry into the Rise of Will's Power and an Attempt to Undo It

Un-Willing: An Inquiry into the Rise of Will's Power and an Attempt to Undo It

by Eva Brann


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Since ancient times, philosophers have written about "the will." But the will is more than a philosophic and scholarly topic. In our everyday speech, what do we mean when we speak of the "will"? Will-words turn up everywhere in the English language. We make wills. We exert our willpower. We are willful at times but merely willing at others. Above all, will is there a hundred times a day, when we use the auxiliary verb "will" to express our intentions or expectations for the future, or simply to indicate the future tense.

Yet it takes only a moment's reflection to see that there's a tremendous range of meaning here, and so something to think about. Moreover, all of us have wondered now and then, probably both as children and as adults, whether we are really free, and whether being free means being able to do what we want or being free of wants and desires or something else entirely. That is, we've all wrestled with the issue of free will in our informal, non-scholarly ways. Finally, we've probably all asked ourselves whether people who talk about will and willpower are all talking about the same thing or even talking sense.

These are all among the issues that Eva Brann puts at the center of Un-Willing. She takes the whole range of questions about the will that are implicit in our everyday lives and everyday thinking, articulates them, shows us how they have been dealt with within the philosophic tradition and contemporary scientific thought—and then wrestles with them herself.

"Eva Brann has a true aptitude for felicitous expression, and one can feel through her prose the presence of a great and patient teacher."—Dennis L. Sepper, University of Dallas, author of Understanding Imagination

Eva Brann is a member of the senior faculty at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, where she has taught for fifty-seven years. She is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal. Her other books include The Logos of Heraclitus , Feeling Our Feelings , Homage to Americans , Open Secrets / Inward Prospects , The Music of the Republic , and Homeric Moments (all published by Paul Dry Books).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781589880962
Publisher: Dry, Paul Books, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Pages: 600
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Eva Brann has taught at St. John's College in Annapolis for more than fifty years. She is a 2005 recipient of the National Humanities Medal.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

I Before Will 1

A Homer: The "Will" of Zeus 3

B Socrates: Will-less Philosophy 3

C Aristotle: Choice as Reasoned Desire 9

II Pivot Points 14

A Lucretius: Random Swerve 14

B Stoics: Implicit Will 15

1 Cicero: Distress-Avoidance 16

2 Epictetus: "Up to Us" 18

3 Marcus Aurelius: The Comfort of Facts 22

C Augustine: The Discovery of the Will 23

D Descartes: Will's Power 37

III Mainliners and Extremists 44

A Thomas Aquinas: Intellectual Appetite 44

B Duns Scotus: Rational Will 60

C Ockham: Absolute Will 64

IV Will Reduced 70

A Hobbes: Last Moment 70

B Locke (and Leibniz): Mitigated Reduction 75

C Hume: Will Disconnected 81

V The Will as Ego-Founder 88

A Kant: Subject-Will 88

B Fichte: Primeval Will 103

VI A Linguistic Interlude 111

A Etymology and Syntax 111

B Will's Futurity 114

VII Un-possessed Will: Communal and Cosmic 117

A Rousseau: General Will 117

B Schopenhauer: Ill Will 122

C Nietzsche: Will Triumphant 130

VIII Will's Last Ontologies 137

A Hegel: Dialectical Will 137

B Bergson; Time-intensive Will 147

C Peirce: Two-faced Will 152

D Heidegger: Waffling Will 155

E Sartre: Freedom First 163

IX Compatibilism: An Academic Question 175

X The Science of Will: Neuroscience and Psychiatry 187

A Libet: Readiness Potential 188

B Mele: Critique 191

C Ainslie: Intertemporal Bargaining 193

D Tse: Criterial Causation 197

XI Will Overwhelmed: Into the Twenty-first Century 205

A Illusion: Wegner 208

B Intention: Anscombe 211

C Agency: Causality 214

D Self: Subject 219

E Freedom: Thinking 224

F Will Collected 226

Conclusion: Un-willing 232

A Will-Summaries 232

B Will Undelineated 243

C Will Un-willed 245

1 Socrates 246

2 Free Will and Will 251

3 Un-willed Life 254

Notes 265

Index 357

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