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The Habitus of Choice

  • Olivier BoulnoisEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Historical-Analytical Studies on Nature, Mind and Action book series (HSNA, volume 7)

Abstract

This chapter deals with Aristotle’s, Aquinas’s and John Duns Scotus’s doctrines of habitus, and their relation with the freedom of habituated agents. Even if the word habitus is close to the idea of habit, it is not the same thing. Aristotle describes habitus as an acquired reflex, a mediation between potency and act. In the case of science, the habitus is not only a memory of past knowledge, but also a condition rendering new acts of knowledge possible. What about practical habitus? Aristotle defines virtue as the habitus of decision (hexis proairetikè): it is an art of aiming well. Does it mean that our virtues (and vices) prevent us from choosing? On the contrary, Aristotle maintains that we can act against our habits, even if it is unusual and difficult. Since Aquinas identifies decision with an act of free will, he maintains that, even if our habitus become a second nature, in the long run they are subject to our will; we can use them when we want. Habitus are therefore constituents of freedom, and not contrary to it. Duns Scotus emphasizes a new definition of freedom as a self-motion of the will. For him, the question becomes: is the habitus an active principle which competes with the will and determines it action? For Scotus, the habitus remains a partial cause of the action, along with our will. It enables our free action to be more intense and efficient.

Keywords

Aristotle Determinism Duns Scotus Freedom Thomas Aquinas Will 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EPHE, PSL, LEM (UMR 8584)ParisFrance

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