Freedom of Choice and Motives for Choosing

None the less, he says, 'to those who consider this rightly it is apparent that [God's volition] for other things is not necessitated' (ibid.). Aquinas's view of the right way to consider this can seem suspiciously simple, as when he uses a familiar thesis drawn from his general account of volition as the basis for an apparently unproblematic attribution of free choice to God: 'since God wills himself as the end but other things as things that are directed toward the end, it follows that in respect of himself he has only volition, but in respect of other things he has selection (electionem). Now selection is always accomplished by means of free choice (liberum arbitrium). Free choice, therefore, is attributable to God' (88.732). And the term 'free choice', he explains, 'is used in respect of things one wills not necessarily, but of one's

own accord (propria sponte)' (88.730).

30 See also ST la.19.10c, which is even simpler: 'We have free choice in respect of things that we will not necessarily or by natural instinct. . . . Therefore, since God wills his goodness necessarily but other things not necessarily (as was shown above [19.3]), he has free choice in respect of those he wills not necessarily.'

The thesis he's relying on here is quite plausible in the setting of end p.220

Kretzmann, Norman , (deceased) formerly Susan Linn Sage Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cornell University, New York

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [221]-[225]

his general account, where, as we've seen, it has to do with locating free choice in the selecting of means for achieving a predetermined end, and where will's choosing of any thing as a means is motivated by intellect's cognition of the thing as contributing to achieving that end. But since any and all other things are necessarily excluded from serving an omnipotent agent as means, it isn't immediately obvious how, if at all, that general thesis about ordinary ends and means applies to God's willing of things other than himself. In fact, it seems clear that nothing else could make any contribution to eternally absolute perfection in any respect. Utility, conceived of as widely as possible, seems entirely unavailable as the motivation for God's volition that there be things other than himself. In arguing against the view that other things, too, must be willed by God necessarily, Aquinas sometimes cites their very uselessness to God as a basis for establishing the total absence of necessity in God's willing of them: God's volition for anything other than himself 'is for other things as things that are in an ordered relationship to the end which is his goodness. Now will is not drawn necessarily to things that are directed toward an end if the end can be without them. . . . Therefore, since the divine goodness can be without other things and, of course, gains nothing through other things, in God's case there cannot be any necessity to will other things as a consequence of his willing his own goodness' (81.683). As I've just been suggesting, such a sweeping declaration of other things' uselessness to God isn't unexpected. But in the context of such a radical de-valuing of all other things, what can it mean to say, as we've seen Aquinas saying, that God wills them 'on account of himself (propter se)' (76.649), that God's'being and his goodness ... is for him the reason for willing (ratio volendi) other things' (80.677)? What can it mean even to describe them as 'directed toward the end' or 'in an ordered relationship to the end' that is God's perfect goodness or God himself? The existence of an absolutely perfect being and nothing else at all seems unquestionably the best of all possible worlds, so what could motivate God to choose to create anything at all?

All of Aquinas's replies to such questions, all his attempts to identify the motive for God's choosing to create, naturally involve considerations of God's goodness. But some of those considerations appear to get us no closer to a satisfactory answer. For instance, in the chapter devoted to arguing that 'God does not will end p.221


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved things other than himself necessarily' he appears to be moving toward an explanation when he observes that 'since the proper object of volition is an intellectively cognized good, there can be a volition for anything in which the essential nature of good is preserved' (81.684), and then claims, plausibly enough, that 'in willing his own goodness God wills the being of things other than himself in so far as they participate in his goodness' (81.685). But in case anyone is tempted to suppose that the divine volition for perfect goodness itself might somehow entail a volition for other things just as participants in goodness itself, Aquinas goes on to issue the familiar disclaimer that 'the divine goodness does not necessarily require that there be other things that are in an ordered relationship toward it as toward their end' (81.688). The being of other things, he keeps saying, is not willed necessarily but is, instead, freely chosen by God.

Very well, then, what motivates God to choose not the world consisting solely of himself, the absolutely perfect being, but, instead, a world consisting of the absolutely perfect being accompanied by a universe swarming with countless other beings, none of which—not even any that is perfect of its kind—is or could be absolutely perfect? I find Aquinas's attempts to answer this question unconvincing. For instance, 'although the divine will is not determined to its effects, we need not say that it does not will any of them . . . For the divine intellect apprehends not only the divine being, which is his goodness, but also other goods (as was shown above [1.49]). Of course, it apprehends them as various sorts of likenesses of the divine goodness and essence, not as its principles. And in this way the divine will tends toward them not as necessary for his goodness but, rather, as

suitable (convenientia) for his goodness' (82.699).

31 See also 82.700: 'Nor need one posit anything unnatural in God as a consequence of the foregoing considerations. For his will wills himself and other things in a single act, but his relationship (habitudo) to himself is necessary and natural. His relationship to other things, however, is in keeping with some sort of suitability (secundum convenientiam quandam)—not necessary and natural, of course, but also not violent or unnatural; instead, voluntary. For, necessarily, what is voluntary is neither natural nor necessary (quod enim voiuntarium est, neque naturaie neque vioientum necesse est esse).'

Even if we leave out of account the fact that creatures are frequently, lamentably defective, morally and otherwise, what could it be about finite, temporal beings, none of which at its best could itself be absolutely perfect, that might make them end p.222


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved suitable companions in existence for the absolutely perfect being? Again, Aquinas's reply strikes me as deeply unsatisfactory: 'God wills all other things in so far as they have his likeness' (84.708), which is why 'God wills the good of the universe of his effects more fundamentally (principalius) than any particular good, in that a more complete likeness of his goodness is found in it' (85.713). 32

32 See also e.g. 86.719: '[T]he good of the universe is the reason why God wills any one particular good in the universe'; 721: '[H]e wills that there be the good of the universe because it is fitting for (decet) his own goodness.'

From such passages I get the idea that it's supposed to be suitable to God's eternal, perfect pleasure in, and love of, perfect goodness that perfect goodness be surrounded by uncountably many variously incomplete likenesses of itself, and I find that idea repugnant. But I'm not much bothered by its repugnance, since it's also just plain unbelievable as an account of God's motivation for freely choosing to create, and since in Aquinas's own discussions of God's goodness and creation there are many expressions of a radically different, radically preferable explanation of God's

willing of things other than himself.

33 I've discussed some of these issues before. See Kretzmann 1983, 1991a, 1991b.

The libertarian explanation I've been presenting and criticizing is the one Aquinas explicitly endorses: 'one must hold, without any doubt, that God produced creatures in existence by a free choice of his will, without any natural necessity' (QDP 3.15c). But I believe that his conceptions of God, goodness, creation, and choice entail a necessitarian explanation to which he was clearly drawn and which gets expressed, perhaps inadvertently, even in the context of a thoroughgoing presentation of his official libertarian line, as in this passage from the chapters of SCG I on which I've been mainly drawing in this chapter: God's goodness 'is the cause of God's willing; and it is also the very willing itself (87.724).

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