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a history of the will

Dr. Eva Brann recently wrote an important book, Un-Willing: An Inquiry into the Rise of Will’’s Power and an Attempt to Undo It (2014), which asks certain questions regarding human will: What is the will? Is it an obvious thing that we all can see in ourselves when introspecting? If so, then why is there so much disagreement in the literature about what it is? (e.g., Is it a causal force or just an epiphenomenon? Is it opposed to desire or the expression of desire? Is it an expression of individuality or is it a trans-personal force à la Schopenhauer?)

Dr. Brann thinks that the notion of the will is a historical artifact that causes needless philosophical confusion, and worse, has had a damaging effect on our culture. An excerpt from Un-Willing was published previously in the pages of The Imaginative Conservative

In the above audio link of an interview with Dr. Brann, she considers the critique of free will as described by Socrates, Augustine, Aquinas, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Sartre, and modern neurologists.

Eva Brann

In this second segment of the interview, Dr. Brann expounds upon her picture of the less-willfull life and discusses how her historically-driven account relates to modern debates about free will.

Books by Eva Brann may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. These podcasts originally appeared on The Partially Examined Life and appear here with gracious permission. Miss Brann welcomes questions/comments via mail: Dr. Eva Brann, St. John’s College, 60 College Avenue, Annapolis, MD, 21401-1655 (she does not use computers).

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson, Paul Elmer More and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism. Some conservatives may look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.” The Imaginative Conservative offers to our families, our communities, and the Republic, a conservatism of hope, grace, charity, gratitude and prayer.

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