Philosophical Topics

Volume 44, Issue 1, Spring 2016

Essays on the Philosophy of Frederick Stoutland

Tomas Ekenberg
Pages 59-74

Voluntarism, Intellectualism, and Anselm on Motivation

According to the standard reading of Anselm’s De casu diaboli 12 through 14, the angels are morally responsible only if their own wills are in a radical way within their own power. By giving to angels two wills, i.e., two basic inclinations or volitional dispositions, Anselm’s God yields to the angels room for a free choice—indeed imparts on them the necessity of such a choice: in the case where an angel’s own happiness is incommensurable with justice, the angel must choose or “will” which disposition to act in accordance with. The standard reading thus takes Anselm to argue for a form of voluntarism. In this paper I argue that the underlying moral psychology of De casu diaboli is neither voluntarist nor intellectualist. A voluntarist reading renders Anselm’s views on motivation incoherent, whereas his views on the conditions of morally right action run afoul of crucial intellectualist assumptions.