CMS is pleased to announce that Professor Peter King has been awarded a multiyear grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC), to fund him and his students as he works on “The History of the Will.”
Here his description of the project:
“We want things; we think about courses of action; we choose what to do. These phenomena are the subject of affective psychology, which is the branch of the philosophy of mind that deals with motivation and decision. In the Middle Ages, such phenomena came to be seen as the product of different quasi-independent psychological faculties: the passions (sensitive appetite) and the will (intellective appetite), each of which is related to the cognitive faculties of perception and thought.
The picture of the will as a distinct psychological faculty which relies on but is not determined by either our desires or our thoughts is still common today; it was forged in the Latin West during the Middle Ages, and remains fundamental in our conception of responsibility and freedom. My research tries to understand how this conception of the will emerged historically: what intellectual pressures caused philosophers to identify motivation as a distinct psychological faculty, and further what led them eventually to hold that the will was a largely autonomous faculty of the mind, capable of determining itself to action, that is, to choice and decision, of its own nature.”