Buridan on the Psychology and Morality of Appetitive Acts

  • Martin PickavéEmail author
Part of the Historical-Analytical Studies on Nature, Mind and Action book series (HSNA, volume 3)


Affective psychology plays only a very minor role in medieval De anima commentaries. John Buridan dedicates only a single question in his commentary to appetitive acts, namely question 18 of book III on “Whether in a human being one appetite is contrary to another.” As this contribution intends to demonstrate, Buridan’s response to this question contains a sophisticated moral psychology. In the first part of the contribution, the author examines the general framework of Buridan’s moral psychology. The second part is dedicated to show how Buridan uses this general framework in his account of what goes on in an agent when we act against our own best judgment. Unlike other contemporary philosophers, Buridan turns out to have the philosophical means to account for what is often referred to as “clear-eyed weakness of will”, where the agent really judges in the very instance of acting that he ought not do what he does. In this respect, Buridan’s psychology of appetitive acts seems to have a clear advantage over rival accounts, which often have to deny—on purely theoretical grounds—that such a phenomenon is possible.


Appetitive psychology Weakness of the will Motivational conflicts Emotions 



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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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