Janko Stojanow













I. An article from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Voluntarism is the theory that God or the ultimate nature of reality is to be conceived as some form of will (or conation). This theory is contrasted to intellectualism, which gives primacy to God's reason. The voluntarism/intellectualism distinction was intimately tied to medieval and modern theories of natural law; if we grant that moral or physical laws issue from God, it next needs to answered whether they issue from God's will or God's reason. In medieval philosophy, voluntarism was championed by Avicebron, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham. Intellectualism, on the other hand, is found in Averroes, Aquinas, and Eckhart. The oppising theories were applied to the human psychology, the nature of God, ethics, and the heaven. According to intellectualism, choices of the will result from that which the intellect recognizes as good; the will itself is determined. For voluntarism, by contrast, it is the will which determines which objects are good, and the will itself is indetermined. Concerning the nature of heaven, intellectualists followed Aristotle's lead by seeing the final state of happiness as a state of contemplation. Voluntarism, by contrast, maintains that final happiness is an activity, specifically that of love. The conceptions of theology itself were polarized between these two views. According to intellectualism, theology should be an essentiall speculative science; according to voluntarism, it is a practical science aimed at controlling life, but not necessarily aimed at comprehending philosophic truth.

In the modern period Spinoza advocates intellectualism insofar as desire is an indication of imperfection, and the passions are a source of human bondage. When all things are seen purely in rational relations, desire is stilled, the mind is freed from the passions and we experience the intellectual love of God, which is the ideal happiness. According to Leibniz, Spinoza's interpretation of the world as rational and logical left no place for the individual, or for the conception of ends or purposes as a determining factor in reality. Voluntarism is seen in Leibniz's view of the laws which govern monads (individual units of which all reality is composed) in so far as they are the laws of the conscious realization of ends.

19th century voluntarism has its origin in Kant, particularly his doctrine of the "primacy of the practical over the pure reason." Intellectually, humans are incapable of knowing ultimate reality, but this need not and must not interfere with the duty of acting as though the spiritual character of this reality were certain. Freedom cannot be demonstrated speculatively, but whenever a person acts under a motive supplied by reason, he is thereby exhibiting the practical efficiency of reason, and thus showing its reality in a practical sense. Following Kant, two distinct lines of voluntarism have proceeded which may be called rational and irrational voluntarism respectively. For Fichte, the originator of rational voluntarism, the ethical is primary both in the sphere of conduct and in the sphere of knowledge. The whole nature of consciousness can be understood only from the point of view of ends which are set up by the self. The actual world, with all the activity that it has, is only to be understood as material for the activity of the practical reason, as the means through which the will achieves complete freedom and complete moral realization. Schopenhauer's irrational voluntarism asserts a more radical opposition between the will and intellect. For him, the will is by its very nature irrational. It manifests itself in various stages in the world of nature as physical, chemical, magnetic, and vital force, pre-eminently, however, in the animal kingdom in the form of "the will to live," which means the tendency to assert itself in the struggle for means of existence and for reproduction of the species. This activity is all of it blind, so far as the individual agent is concerned, although the power and existence of the will are thereby asserted continually.


The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

© 2001


II. An article from The Catholic Encyclopedia



Voluntarism (Lat. voluntas, will) in the modern metaphysical sense is a theory which explains the universe as emanating ultimately from some form of will. In a broader psychological sense, the term is applied to any theory which gives prominence to will (in opposition to intellect). In this latter sense, but not in the former, the philosophy of Augustine, Anselm, William of Occam, and Scotus may be styled Voluntarism. Philosophy is defined by Augustine as "Amor sapientiæ" ("De ordine", I, 11, n. 32; PL 32:993; "De civitate Dei", VIII, ii; PL 51:225). It is wisdom, but it must be sought pie, caste, et diligenter ("De quant. an.", PL 32:1049); with the whole soul, not with the intellect only. Yet nowhere does Augustine subordinate intellect to will. The neo-Platonism which underlies the whole of his philosophic speculation makes such an attitude impossible. Augustine's doctrine of grace and of providence supposes a definite and characteristic psychology of will. But in the metaphysical order God is ever conceived as essentially intelligence. He is the "Father of Truth". On this is based a proof of God's existence, which occurs several times in his works and is peculiarly Augustinian in tone ("De div.", Q. 83, 14; PL 40:38; "De lib. arb.", II, nn. 7-33; PL 32:1243-63; "Confess.". VII, c. 10, n. 16; PL 32:742; "Soliloq.", I, i, n. 2; PL 32:870; cf. "De civ. Dei", VIII, iv; PL 41:228, 229). In God Augustine places "the intelligible world" of the Platonists, and the Divine concursus is a special way required by human thought. God is "the sun of the soul" ("Gen. ad lit." XII, xxxi, n. 59; PL 34:479; "De pecc. mer.", I, 25, n. 38; PL 44:130; cf. "Soliloq.", I, 8,; PL 32:877), Himself performing the functions which Scholastics ascribe to the intellectus agens. Faith, too, with Augustine as with Anselm, involves intelligence. For the principle intelligo ut credam is no less true than the principle credo ut intelligam. ("In Ps. cxviii", serm. xviii, n. 3; PL 37:1552; serm xliii, c. vii, n. 9; PL 38:258.)

The philosophy of Scotus is more distinctly voluntaristic. On the freedom of the will he is particularly clear and emphatic. He insists that the will itself, and nothing but the will, is the total cause of its volitions. It is not determined by another, but determines itself contingenter, not inevitabiliter, to one of the alternatives that are before it (II Sent., dist. xxv; see also "ult comm." ibid). This is freedom, an attribute which is essential to all higher forms of will, and consequently is not suspended or annulled in the beatific vision (IV Send., dist. xlix, Q. 4). Because the will holds sway over all other faculties and again because to it pertains the charity which is the greatest of the virtues, will is a more noble attribute of man than is intelligence. Will supposes intelligence, is posterior generatione, and therefore more perfect (IV Sent., dist. xlix, 4 "quæstio lateralis").

Kant's "practical reason", in that it passes beyond the phenomenal world to which "pure reason" is confined, is superior to the latter. Practical reason, however, is not will: rather it is an intelligence which is moved by will; and in any case it is a human faculty, not a faculty of the absolute. Fichte is the first to conceive will or deed-action (Thathandlung) as the ultimate and incomprehensible source of all being. He is followed by Schelling, who says that will is Ursein: there is no other being than it, and of it alone are predicable the attributes usually predicated of God. Schopenhauer holds will to be prior to intelligence both in the metaphysical and the physical order. It appears in nature first as a vague self-consciousness mingled with sympathy. Ideas come later, as differences are emphasized and organization developed. But throughout the will holds sway, and in its repose Schopenhauer places his ideal. Nietzsche transforms "the will to live" into "the will to power". His philosophy breathes at once tyranny and revolt: tyranny against the weak in body and in mind; revolt against the supremacy of the State, of the Church, and of convention.

Pragmatism (q. v.) is an extreme form of psychological Voluntarism; and with it is closely connected Humanism--a wider theory, in which the function of the will in the "making of truth" is extended to the making of reality. The Voluntarism of Absolutists, such as Fichte, Schelling and Schopenhauer, confuses the abstract concept of being, as activity in general, with the more determinate, psychological concept of will, as rational self-determination. The pragmatist identifies intelligence and will with action.

Transcribed by Rick McCarty

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV
Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight

III. Voluntarism on the Internet: Useful links (Under Construction)


Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
The Thinker

(The WILL TO THINK - a pure manifestation of the Rational Will of the Absolute Material Entelechy) 




An Encyclopaedia of



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Blessed John Duns Scotus





William of Ockham

Natural law and will in Ockham http://www.humanities.mq.edu.au/Ockham/wwill.html
John Kilcullen's examination of natural law in the thought of Descartes and Ockham.

William of Ockham and the Death of Universals http://web.syr.edu/~nmagee/ockham.html
Paper on the nominalist theologian.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: William of Ockham http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ockham/
An overview of Ockham's thought by Paul Vincent Spade.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: William of Ockham http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/o/ockham.htm
Unsigned article which provides an overview of major concepts in Ockham.




Catholic Encyclopedia



           Voluntary -- Wilful, proceeding from the will









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    G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831)    



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There is a tremendous amount of work to be done. Establishing a philosophical school which is primarily focused on the investigation and advancement of the Philosophy of Absolute Rational Will and wants to promote it is a must. This new school is bound to influence the development of the Science of Philosophy and establish a modern voluntarist movement. Exciting academic interest and pursuing this idea as far as it will go is the highest aim of the school, which wills to collect together people interested in the Philosophy of Absolute Rational Will and promoting collaborative research related to a modern voluntaristic philosophy, which trough and trough wholly and completely incorporates the heritage of intellectualistic philosophy and contains the latter in itself as sublated.  



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