Part A: covering freedom and will
Will and human action
1. Thomas Aquinas on will& freedom of choice (liberum arbitrium)
What is free choice/free decision?
• Men act and are moved by rational judgment (can judge about his course of action and
his decision) vs. natural judgments (brutes).
• Man is his own cause not only in moving but also in judging, so he has free choice, i.e.
free judgment about acting or not acting.
But do we have free choice?
• Obstacles: divine intervention, astral determination, the laws of nature etc.
• Answer: yes we do. Without free choice there cannot be merit or demerit, punishment or
reward. Also, there are clear indications that man chooses one thing over another.
Free choice, will and intellect
In virtue of what do we possess free choice?
• It is not rooted in the sensitive soul (distinguishes us from animals). It is rooted in the
intellective soul (intellect= cognitive power, # sensory power).
• The will is an appetitive power that is different from the sensory appetites.
Aquinas on the relationships of will and intellect
• Not all acts of intellect/understanding involve the will.
• The will cannot will what it doesn’t know. Therefore the intellect precedes the will (ex:
what produces movement is prior to the moveable).
• Intellect moves the will as a final cause (an end) vs. efficient cause.
• The will can move the intellect but as an efficient cause.
• Absolutely speaking, the intellect is a higher power than the will. The four causes, i.e.
four directions that an explanation of a thing can take, with the example of a bronze
structure of Rob Ford, are: material cause (the bronze), formal cause (the shape),
efficient cause (the sculptor), final cause (celebration of an exemplary figure).
Aquinas: we possess free choice primarily because of our intellect (intellectualism)
• A judgment occurs from rational comparison # natural impulse (free judgment).
• Particular causes of actions are contingent (by chance), i.e. various outcomes are
• Because it is not determined we speak of free choice.
Some powers of the soul according to Aquinas
• Sensitive part: touch, imagination, memory.
• Vegetative part: generative power, power of growth, nutritive power.
• Intellective part: possible intellect, agent intellect, will.
More on the relationship of will& intellect
Do we need to posit a special intellectual appetite (will)?
• An appetitive capacity is a passive capacity that is naturally suited to be moved by
• Things that act on passive, moveable things distinguish them (mover, moveable).
• What is apprehended from intellect is of a different genus than that which is
apprehended by the sense.
• Therefore the intellective appetite is different from the sensory appetite.
The Parisian condemnation of 1270
• Human will (voluntas hominis) wills and chooses from necessity. • Free choice is a passive power that is moved with necessity by the desired objects.
• Answer: What is necessity here? Aquinas does not hold that will or free choice is
necessitated by coercion. However, there are some objects to which the will is inclined
Question 6: disputed questions on Evil
• The will has inclinations necessarily towards some things, but the will is not moved
necessarily regarding the performance of its acts.
• Important distinction: specification of object vs. performance of act.
• It is necessary for specification because the intellect cannot will otherwise, however it
isn’t necessary for the performance of the act, I.e. the will is able to will the contrary (for
ex: something can be good because it is healthy but not good for enjoyment and the will
can go one way or the other).
Performance vs. determination of the act of will
• The intellect determines the will to will.
• The will moves itself to perform the act of willing.
Does free choice therefore limit the role of the intellect?
• The will moves itself by deliberation which leads to contrary conclusions, therefore the
will does not move itself necessarily.
2. Henry of Ghent’s response to Aquinas
Why is the intellect not the highest power of the human soul?
• The intellect is much more dependent with reference to the determination of its act upon
the objects of the will than the will is dependent on the intellect.
• It requires the presence of the object and has to be acted upon by its objects before it
can elicit any act of knowing.
• In contrast, the will is not acted upon by the intellect, it depends merely upon a cause
without which it cannot act.
• The intellect has freedom only for the exercise of its act, as long as the will permits.
• The practical intellect is even more obvious because good is good without qualification
except when the will wills it as good.
Why is it wrong to call the will a passive power?
• Freedom belongs to active potencies only in relation to acting.
• It is strange to say that the will is a passive power and is still free.
What is freedom after all?
• Seven things: a power/faculty, or acting/doing, what is good, for oneself, by oneself,
spontaneously, without any impulse or interference from anything else.
3. John Duns Scotus general approach to the will (and freedom of the will)
Contingency and the will
The human will is based on the human agency and moral responsibility.
What is the source of contingency in a being? Two theses.
• Being is either necessary or contingent.
• It is only because of the existence of wills (divine and human) that there is contingency
in the world.
What does that mean that our will is a cause of contingency and how is our will free?
• It is a cause of contingency because it is free. There are three ways in which it is free.
• With respect to opposite acts (willing and not willing).
• With respect to opposite objects (willing x vs. willing y). • With respect to opposite effects (walking as opposed to standing still).
• = Power for opposites.
How to understand freedom as a power for opposite objects
• Only freedom in the sense of power for opposite objects is a perfection.
• One contingency and possibility is for the will to be drawn successfully to opposite
objects, and this possibility and contingency follows from its mutability. Draw distinctions
in propositions concerning the possibilities that are formulated regarding contrary and
opposite extremes. Extremes have that possibility at different times.
A successive power for opposites vs. a synchronic power for opposites
• For Scotus, successive power is not enough. The will also has a power for opposites in
the same instance (synchronic power for opposites).
• Will A and will against A. Willing A is compatible with being able to will against A (it is a
choice, a potentiality, cannot will both at the same time).
Divided vs. composed sense
• What now wills A can will against A.
What does that mean?
• Will A later than later against A (temporal interpretatio