Volume 56, Issue 4, December 2016
Thomas M. Lennon
The Will’s Free Choice
Does Descartes Change His Mind in the Principles?
Focusing on the only two texts from the Principles cited on behalf of the libertarian interpretation provides a handle on the otherwise intractable debate over Descartes’s conception of free choice of the will. The main point of this paper is to argue that these texts do not advance a libertarian conception and that therefore at least one attractive version of the libertarian interpretation, according to which Descartes changes his mind there to espouse the libertarian conception, fails. But even a weaker version of this main point shows how broad its implications are. For even if it has been shown only that these texts need not be read in libertarian terms, then at least the burden of proof has been shifted to those who view Descartes as everywhere a libertarian, with no change of mind.