Voluntarism; difficult to pin down.

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1 year ago

Why I got interested in Voluntarism?

A while back, I got to benefit from one of readcash's main benefactors' philanthropic tendencies when I got a large tip. Whether it was philanthropy, he himself denies, stating that he benefits himself if BitCoin Cash gets more adopted and used, because then its price rises and his portfolio's worth with it. But that's not the point of this article.

I'm not going to mention his name or tag him, but we all know who I'm talking about. Of course, I wanted to know more about this guy, and almost everywhere I looked I found him describing himself as:

Loving Voluntarism, Capitalism, Exotic Girls & Cars

Have a look at my sponsors, their content is mighty good, and worth the time!

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So... voluntarism huh?

Now I understand Capitalism, and love exotic girls and cars just as much as the next guy, but Voluntarism? Not so much.

So on a Sunday night/Monday morning with nothing much to do, or rather ignoring things I have to do, I decided to go and find out what this "Voluntarism" is. I was in for some difficult and tough material to read through! More than I bargained for, in fact.

A small selection of the definitions I came across:


 Voluntarism is a perspective in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind that prioritizes the will over emotion or reason

Also Wikipedia:

Voluntarism, sometimes referred to as voluntary action, is the principle that individuals are free to choose goals and how to achieve them within the bounds of certain societal and cultural constraints, as opposed to actions that are coerced or predetermined.

Again Wikipedia:

Voluntarism means that what is moral is determined by God's commands and that for a person to be moral he is to follow God's commands. 

More Wikipedia:

Voluntarism holds the philosophical emphasis on the divine will and human freedom.

Guess what... Wikipedia:

Voluntarism states that belief is a matter of the will rather than one of simply registering one's cognitive attitude or degree of psychological certainty with respect to a stated proposition. 


The political theory that a community is best organized by the voluntary cooperation of individuals, rather than by a government, which is regarded as being coercive by nature.

A doctrine that assigns the most dominant position to the will rather than the intellect.



any theory that regards will as the fundamental agency or principle, in metaphysics, epistemology, or psychology.

the principle or practice of supporting churches, schools, hospitals, etc., by voluntary contributions or aid instead of relying on government assistance.


Voluntarism holds that the will is not reasoning, but an irrational, unconscious urge in relation to which the intellect represents a secondary phenomenon.

Bas van Fraassen:

Voluntarism means that belief is a matter of the will rather than one of simply registering one's cognitive attitude or degree of psychological certainty with respect to a stated proposition. 

Merriam Webster:

the principle or system of doing something by or relying on voluntary action or volunteers.


Voluntarism is a philosophy that opposes the initiation of violence and coercion. The word initiation is used here to indicate that, unlike pacifism, voluntarism is not against self-defense.

Okay, right, huh, what?

At this point, I began to think I bit off more than I can chew. I was seriously considering dropping the whole topic and move on to something else. I didn't though because I considered that if I want to understand the man I could hardly ignore the first thing he uses when he describes himself, now could I? No, I couldn't, and so I took some Douwe Egberts Barista Gold edition coffee beans, ground them into powder and turned on my coffee machine in order to get me a pot of coffee.

I buckled down and got to reading. At first, I just started with Wikipedia but quickly decided that there were too many definitions on Wikipedia and switched to searching more encyclopedic sources. This gave me a lot of information to choose from, but it at least lead me to a more organized track for seeking out information. I decided to start with the origin of Voluntarism, or at least with the oldest references to it. Oddly enough, I only found references to a philosopher that voluntarism opposed. Voluntarism was said to be "non-Aristotelian thought", according to Encyclopedia Brittanica.

This almost derailed me completely, looking into who was Aristotle's opposite.

This "non-Aristotelian" reference clicked in my brain to want to find the philosopher(s) who opposed the teachings of Aristotle. With Greece being full of philosophers back in the day, at least one of them should inevitably be teaching the opposite of Aristotle, right? And off I went, re-visiting Socrates, Plato and even Parmenides! Yes, I know, waaaaaay off the trail with his poëm, like off-topic on steroids, right? And I was, annoyingly, not finding any of them (the philosophers) to be the polar opposite to Aristotle, before realizing something that I kind of overlooked at first.

It was them Christian philosophers!

The phrase "non-Aristotelian thought" was given by Christian Philosophers to the teachings of Saint Augustine. So if I wanted to find an early philosopher who, to Christian philosophers, was the opposite of Aristotle I should look into Christian philosopher's thinking rather than in the works of the old philosophers themselves. I don't have a Christian mindset, let alone that of an early Christian philosopher.

Well, let's just say that it seems like the literal mentioning of other philosophers on topics like these are either lost or never written down. I did find though that the gut instinct reaction everyone might have if they're aware of the famous early philosophers might be the best guess in relation to this issue.

In the left corner, with the white beard its Aaaa riiii stoo tleeeeee!!

So who's in the right corner then? Of course, the first name that comes up when thinking opposites of Aristotle is Plato (Plaaaaaaatoooooooow), and it turns out that might have been the early Christian philosopher's first thought as well. The reason for that, I suppose, being their history with Neoplatonists.

Though I couldn't find direct reference to Plato himself opposing Aristotle in this regard, I could find the Neo-Platonist (twisted) usage of Plato's works to oppose Christianity by the polytheists at the time of the early rise of Christianity. Plato was revered by Christians, giving Neo-Platonism more authority in opposition to them.

More than two hours later, I remembered what I was actually looking for.

So, back to my actual topic of research, finally, I decided that maybe I should skip a few decades (or centuries) in trying to find the true meaning of voluntarism. And the decision had nothing to do with the influence on Muslim philosophers, the influence on Alexander the Great and Ptolemy ("classmates" under the tutelage of Aristotle) or the fact that I doubt the person stating he loves Voluntarism has a religious motivated understanding of it.

Was philosophy the right "place" to search for the meaning of voluntarism?

This question became louder and louder in my mind as I was led to re-visit the works of Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer and even Friedrich Nietzsche! The Wikipedia did mention other definitions than the philosophical one. Maybe there is a reason for that? (and before you ask, it had nothing to do with the fact I hate reading van Fraassen!)

So which definition are we looking into then?

There is one definition on Wikipedia that did not have to do with philosophy or religion, stating (simplified) people are free to determine their own goals and the way they're going to achieve them instead of being forced or them being predetermined. Asking myself out loud why the #%^k I didn't start with that one, I set myself to reading and searching anew!

Ah, just skip to the end, and tell us what you think it means dude!!!

Okay, okay. Sheesh, I was just trying to... ah, never mind.

Voluntarism turns out to skirt very close to the boundary with anarchy, and seems to have been co-opted (worst-case) or misunderstood (best-case) by modern Libertarians. The principle that people are free to determine their own goals and how to achieve them gets an addition glued at the end of that statement, limiting it to "the limits of culture and society".

Voluntarism in this interpretation has been used in a way that makes it feel evil, at times, most notably in "re-examining voluntarism. Youth combatants in Sierra-leone" but that is an exceedingly rare position to view voluntarism from (though not much less true).

In the US, it's libertarianism that has lain most claim to the phrase "voluntarism" in modern times, trying to fit it into a government regulated and imposed policy, not realizing that voluntarism is opposed to government, regarding government as inherently coercive. Doug Bandow's statement in relation to this is revealing

"There may be no better evidence of the imperialist tendencies of politicians than their attempt to take the voluntary out of voluntarism. People should serve those around them. But they should do so because they believe it to be right, not because the government pays or forces them."

In this vain, the term also gets some use by NGO's and other organizations that regard themselves as Non Government and/or Non Profit, and often gets related with social welfare. All in all, though, I must admit that most thinking and writing that I could find on the interwebz in recent times is kind of an American thing.

So basically you're saying: "I am not really sure."?

I am pretty sure, maybe, I think... I think that voluntarism used in his description, our famous friend means to say that it is better, and has more "draagvlak" which translates to "support base" which I'm not sure means the same thing, to have things be taken care of by voluntary action by the people instead of a government needlessly regulating it whenever possible. Cryptocurrency's basic idea of how it should work pretty much fits in with that idea, being decentralized, not susceptible to coercion and most notably not under the control of any government. So I think I got pretty close.

Well, after hours of reading, searching and more reading, along with much reading i'd done in the past, this is as close as i am going to get without asking the man whom's description of himself prompted all this reasearching and thinking directly what he meant with "voluntarism". I am going to "er een eind aan breien" and leave it at that.

Thank you for reading this.

Stay safe and stay happy!


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1 year ago


Hahaha, that was fun to read. Your thought process is laid out in this article. Haven't really thought much about Voluntarism too.

I did remember Atlas Shrugged from all the things you said. I still have not read the book or watched the movie until now. Been meaning to but I can't seem to bring myself to do it. Seems like a boring story somehow. Hahaha. That one too has a lot of critics for I think it also talks about altruism or something along the lines of voluntarism indeed.

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1 year ago

Samuel Edward Konkin III

"The New Libertarian Manifesto" (1980)

I think he coined both "voluntaryism" and "countereconomics"

Short, basic, consistent, interesting

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1 year ago

Voluntaryism is different from Voluntarism.

  • Voluntaryism didn't appear until the late 19th century and was specifically used to describe the philosophy of Auberon Herbert.

  • Voluntarism is the philosophy that refers back to Aristotle, specifically being non-Aristotelian, and that is the one the article i wrote is about. (because the profile description wrote Voluntarism, not Voluntaryism.)

The Oxford dictionary makes the following distinction:

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Voluntarism as “one or other theory or doctrine which regards will as the fundamental principle or dominant factor in the individual or in the universe.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Voluntaryism as “the principle or tenet that the Church and educational institutions should be supported by voluntary contributions instead of by the state; any system which rests upon voluntary actions or principles.”

I must admit though, haven't run into Konkin III yet. I'll give it a read over the next weekend, see what's what. Thanks for the tip.

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1 year ago

Ok, thought it was just differences in writing. Which of these is the person you did not mention interested in?

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1 year ago

Straight from his.... or her... ;) twitter profile description: "Love Voluntarism, Capitalism, Exotic Ladies & Cars, Babies & $BCH. " This is why I left the end of the article hanging a bit. I don't exactly know for sure which voluntarism, or does he mean voluntaryism, he likes and what aspect of it? Maybe we'll find out someday.

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1 year ago

Fair enough

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1 year ago