© Brian Collins 2013


It is widely accepted by commentators that Descartes believed in freedom of the will, but it is fiercely debated whether he accepted a libertarian or compatibilist notion of freedom. With this paper I argue that an examination of Descartes’ conception of ‘substance,’ specifically his distinction between divine substance and created substance, is a fruitful source for the debate regarding Descartes on freedom of the will. I argue that the commentators who read Descartes as a libertarian are forced to focus on passages that emphasize the similarity between God and humans. This is problematic because Descartes is clear that there is a non-univocality between God and humans concerning ‘substance.’ This non-univocality between God and humans puts a strain on the libertarian’s focus. During the course of this argument I examine the passages frequently cited by commentators concerning Cartesian freedom and I make explicit the analogy between Descartes’ view on substance and freedom. The upshot is that Descartes’ considered account of substance is further evidence for the compatibilist reading.