Weakness of Will in Renaissance and Reformation Thought

ISBN : 9780199606818

Risto Saarinen
256 ページ
171 x 238 mm

Weakness of will, the phenomenon of acting contrary to one's own better judgment, has remained a prominent discussion topic of philosophy. The history of this discussion in ancient, medieval, and modern times has been outlined in many studies. Weakness of Will in Renaissance and Reformation Thought is, however, the first book to cover the fascinating source materials on weakness of will between 1350 and 1650. In addition to considering the work of a broad range of Renaissance authors (including Petrarch, Donato Acciaiuoli, John Mair, and Francesco Piccolomini), Risto Saarinen explores the theologically coloured debates of the Reformation period, such as those provided by Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, John Calvin, and Lambert Daneau. He goes on to discuss the impact of these authors on prominent figures of early modernity, including Shakespeare, Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. While most of the historical research on weakness of will has focused on the reception history of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Saarinen pays attention to the Platonic and Stoic discussions and their revival during the Renaissance and the Reformation. He also shows the ways in which Augustine's discussion of the divided will is intertwined with the Christian reception of ancient Greek ethics, and argues that the theological underpinnings of early modern authors do not rule out weakness of will, but transform the philosophical discussion and lead it towards new solutions.


1. Ancient and Medieval Background
2. The Renaissance
3. The Lutheran Reformation
4. The Calvinist Reformation
5. Conclusions and Epilogue
Sources and Literature


Risto Saarinen received his Dr. Theol. in 1988 and Dr. Phil. in 1994, both at the University of Helsinki. His PhD dissertation, 'Weakness of the Will in Medieval Thought' (1994), received broad scholarly attention. From 1994 to 1999 Saarinen worked as Research Professor at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France. Since 2001 he has held the chair of Ecumenics at the University of Helsinki. Saarinen has published extensively in the fields of medieval and early modern philosophy and theology as well as contemporary ecumenism. From 2008 to 2013 he has been in charge of the Renaissance and Reformation research team on 'Philosophical Psychology, Morality and Politics' at the Finnish Academy's Centre of Excellence.