Marie Jayasekera

Photo of Marie Jayasekera

My research is on free will and human agency in the early modern period. I am interested in how thinkers conceive of the will, activity, and freedom, and the general move in the period away from traditional conceptions of the will as the locus of freedom and agency. My work also investigates how God, the natural order, our own emotional and deliberative processes, and sociocultural factors are understood to be threats to human freedom or constraints on the exercise of human agency. I seek to understand thinkers' views within their intellectual contexts and in relation to current-day views.

My main current research project explores the use of experience in arguments about the nature of free will. Mention of experience in discussions of free will is widespread during the early modern period. Thinkers with widely differing philosophical commitments draw significantly on experience to support their claims about the nature of human freedom, while others question whether experience can tell us anything beyond what introspection reveals — that is, what we feel or believe. I address three main questions. First, what do early modern philosophers mean when they talk about experiences related to freedom? Are they all using the term ‘experience’ in the same way? Second, which experiences do they identify as relevant for understanding the metaphysical nature of free will? And, lastly, what role does experience play in their discussions — for instance, are they using experience to justify their claims about free will or for some other purpose? Exploring the role of experience in arguments about free will in the early modern period, I suggest, has important implications for recent research on the phenomenology of agency.


In Progress