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any theory predicated on the assumption that individual purposes, choice, decisions, etc. are a decisive element in social action. The polar opposite of voluntarism is DETERMINISM. However, often in sociology there is an acceptance that it is appropriate for theories to include both voluntaristic and deterministic elements, e.g. structural determinants which constrain but do not necessarily eliminate choice. Talcott PARSONS (1937), for example, refers to his theory of action as ‘voluntaristic’, in that it includes reference to 'subjective’ elements and individual ‘moral’ choice. But this does not preclude him from advancing accounts of universal FUNCTIONAL PREREQUISITES. See also ACTION THEORY, STRUCTURE AND AGENCY, METHODOLOGICAL INDIVIDUALISM, FREE WILL.



(a term introduced by F. Tonnies in 1883), an idealist movement in philosophy that believes will to be the highest principle of being. In giving will first place in spiritual being, voluntarism stands in opposition to intellectualism (or rationalism), that is, to idealist philosophical systems that consider intellect and reason to be the basis of that which exists.

Elements of voluntarism can be found as early as the philosophy of Augustine, who saw in will the basis of all other spiritual processes, and in the philosophy of Duns Scotus, with his emphasis on the primacy of will over intellect (voluntas est superior intellectu, “will is higher than thought”). A premise of the new voluntarism was I. Kant’s doctrine of the primacy of practical reason. According to Kant, although the existence of free will can be neither proved nor refuted theoretically, practical reason demands that we postulate freedom of will, for otherwise moral law would lose all meaning. Proceeding from this, J. G. Fichte saw in will the basis of personality and in the exercising of will by the ego the absolute creative principle of being, the source of the spiritual self-generation of the world. Moreover, in Fichte (as in Kant and the later exponents of German classical philosophy F. W. Schelling and G. Hegel) will is rational by its nature and the source of realization of the moral principle. In contrast A. Schopenhauer, in whose philosophy voluntarism first takes shape as an independent current, gives an irrationalist interpretation of will as the blind, nonrational, purposeless first principle of the world. Schopenhauer construes the Kantian thing-in-itself as will, appearing on various levels of objectification. Schopenhauer regarded consciousness and intellect as being one of the secondary manifestations of will. For Schopenhauer, as for E. Hartmann, voluntarism is closely connected with pessimism and the conception of the senselessness of the world process, whose source is unconscious and blind will. The voluntaristic ideas of Schopenhauer were one of the sources of the philosophy of F. Nietzsche.

The term “voluntarism” is also used to characterize social and political practices that do not take into consideration the objective laws of the historical process and are guided by the subjective desires and arbitrary decisions of those in control.


Engels, F.Anti-Dühing. Moscow, 1969. Pages 111-12.
Knauer, R. Der Voluntarismus. Berlin, 1907.
Marcus, J. Intellektualismus und Voluntarismus in der modernen Philosophic. Düsseldorf, 1918.
References in periodicals archive ?
According to Suarez, the former intellectualist view would entail that the natural law does not depend on God as legislator, whereas the latter voluntarist view would entail that acts are good simply because God wills them.
One cannot help noticing here the strong affinities between the postulates of the Reformation and Strauss's account of revelation: the voluntarist deity, the depreciation of philosophy and of nature, the elevation of text over live tradition, the virtue of blind obedience, and the emphases on fear and guilt.
This voluntarist, or subjective, conception of class stands in contrast to the objective conception of class in Marx's work.
It also follows, however, that the voluntarist view of marriage
This ideological representation of history is neither crudely determined by class forces nor voluntarist.
I do not think Munoz Molina is attempting to offer, or proffer, in either of the texts what would amount to a simple-minded call for a more alert, voluntarist subjectivity: his protagonist, as well as the narrator in Todo lo que era solido, suffers from a subjectivity that cannot quite find the road to effective agency, not even retrospectively.
It is a purer and less intricate voluntarist account of the justification for fiduciary duties.
17) In the more secular parts of Europe, baptism is increasingly seen as initiation into a voluntarist organization rather than as a badge of national identity.
It is also to insist that the Spirit has been at work in and through the voluntarist streams Christianity--those to which the labels "division" and "scandal" seem to be most forcefully directed.
There is a continuing determinist or voluntarist debate in research (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007), which is also played out in literature about career.
Concerning Morocco's case which he described as unique, Azoulay noted that the Kingdom is adopting a proactive approach to voluntarist change and a project of society based on openness and tolerance.