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The University of Southampton

The Will: Past and Present Event

09:00 - 18:00
8 - 10 April 2011
Avenue Campus, University of Southampton, UK

For more information regarding this event, please email Maria Alvarez, Thomas Spitzley, Ralf Stoecker at;; thomas.spitzley@uni-due; .

Event details

This Conference seeks to explore the concept of the will starting from a historical perspective but reaching right into contemporary philosophical conceptions of the will and their implications for disciplines such as psychology and neuroscience.

Conference theme

It is widely agreed that the concept of the will is essential for a proper understanding of human action and indeed of human beings in general. The will is often seen as the ultimate source of human autonomy and of moral responsibility. At the same time, there has never been consensus on what the will is. Indeed, opinions have ranged from the view that the will is defining of what human beings are, or even that it is the essence of life and the world, to the claim that science has shown the will to be a myth, or to the view that the concept is incoherent.

The aim is to see whether a critical examination of the various conceptions of the will, past and present, yields the elements for a plausible concept of the will that might be deployed in research questions in those areas.

The papers will deal with the following questions, among others:

  • What is the relation between Aristotle’s concept of the will and this other concept said to have been invented after eleven further centuries of philosophical reflection?
  • Who invented this late concept and why?
  • How did the concept evolve into modern and contemporary philosophy, and into other disciplines?
  • Why did Twentieth-Century figures such as Ryle and Wittgenstein mount a sustained and devastating attack on the prevailing concept of the will?
  • Was the will ‘well lost’ after that attack, or is there some room for a perhaps revised concept of the will in contemporary action theory, in psychology and in neuroscience?

The conference is supported by the Mind Association and by the British Society for the History of Philosophy.

Speaker information

Rüdiger Bittner,Bielefeld University, Germany,Professor

Ursula Coope ,Oxford University, UK and NYU, USA.,Professor

Richard Holton,MIT, USA,Professor

Terence Irwin,Oxford University, UK,Professor

Sir Anthony Kenny,Oxford University (Emeritus), UK,Emeritis

Geert Keil,Humboldt University Berlin, Germany,Professor

Thomas Pink,King’s College London, UK,Professor

Christof Rapp,LMU, Munich, Germany,Professor

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