Freewill And God’s Co-Causation Part II

In the last post, I opened up a reflection regarding an agent’s freewill and the question of whether or not an agent’s action is fully and completely free given that God exists in the agent most intimately and therefore ought to be said as being a co-actor in any given action.  In this post, I would like to briefly examine what it means to say freedom and what is the nature of the will.

In my opinion, St. Augustine’s definition of freedom which is presented by Thomas Williams in Williams’ translation of On Free Choice of the Will is sufficient for the current reflection.  As regards to the will, I will present Aquinas’ position since I also think that his understanding of the will is excellent and quite sufficient.

Augustine argues that freedom can be understood in many different senses.  The three categories in which he places these different senses of freedom are physical, metaphysical, and autonomous.[1]  Physical freedom “involves the absent of restraints.”[2]  In other words, physical freedom is the freedom which allows the subject to act with nothing to hinder his actions.  On the other hand, metaphysical freedom is “the freedom to choose in a way that is not determined by anything outside my control.”[3]  The third type of freedom is autonomy.  Williams point out that for Augustine freedom of autonomy is the freedom that the subject has over himself without someone directing him to act as such; it is the freedom perceived as “I am my own boss.”  These three understandings of freedom together make up the synthesized understanding of freedom when we approach the will.  It should also be noted that this is the understanding and definition of freedom which is considered when freedom is mentioned in the rest of this reflection and its series.

With regards to the will, Aquinas defines it as a rational appetite and therefore requires reason for its operation.[4]  Aquinas notes that the will is moved by both the rational agent and also God.  Natural things have natural tendencies which are moved without judgment, e.g. a rock always moves downward.  Yet there are also things which act with judgment but also necessitated by a natural tendency, e.g., a deer will run as soon as it sees a tiger.  There is a third type of action which is free of natural necessities and uses judgment of the intellect; this is what Aquinas calls the will.  He argues that the will, because it is a power belonging to the rational appetite caused by God, is caused therefore by Him.[5]  Concomitantly, the will can also be argued as being caused by God because of its teleological tendency towards the Good as instilled by God.[6]

[1] Augustine (Williams) XI

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Summa Theologiae, II, 2, 6, a2, rep. obj. 1

[5] Summa Theologiae, II, 1, 9, a6, Corpus; note, however, that the will is caused by God does not mean that He is its immediate mover.

[6] Ibid.



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