Will Goodness and Freedom

Only one of the eight SCG arguments for will in God is entirely independent of considerations of intellect. Its simplicity and strength recommend it, and it has the further advantage of raising an important issue regarding Aquinas's account of volition generally and of God's will in particular.

Argument from Freedom

What is free is what is by reason of itself (Liberum est quod sui causa est; Metaphysics I 2, 982b6 15

15 The medieval Latin version of this Aristotelian passage is ambiguous in a way that is clarified in a note supplied at this point by the Marietti editors: 'Quod scholastice sui causa dicitur, aristotelice a to v xa legitur, h.e., suiipsius gratia nempe: sibi causa agendi (infra: 1243).'

), and so what is free has the essential nature of what is per se. Now will is what primarily has freedom where acting is concerned, for a person is said to perform freely any action he performs to the extent to which he performs it voluntarily. Therefore, the first agent, with whom acting perse is associated most especially, is one to whom it is

most especially suited to act through will. (72.624)

16 See also e.g. QDV 23.1, sc 4; and SCG 1.88.733 and 734, where this line is taken in support of attributing not merely will but free choice to God.

This argument takes it for granted that what may be called the first agent's freedom of being—its metaphysical independence, or perseity—entails its freedom of action, and that its acting freely is its acting voluntarily. It serves Aquinas's purposes well in view of the centrality of considerations of metaphysical independence in the development of his conception of God (which we noted in Chapters Three and Four). But just because it identifies free action with voluntary action, it may seem ill suited to Aquinas's own account of the fundamental nature of will, in which will's essential relationship to intellectively cognized goodness is bound to raise questions about its freedom. If will is a faculty whose fundamental nature is that of an essential inclination toward a fixed ultimate end—goodness itself considered universally—and if its particular volitions for subordinate ends are informed by what intellect presents to will as good for progressing toward the ultimate end, then God's perseity, his absolute independence, may well seem to be an obstacle rather than a means to showing that will must be attributed to him. Understanding the nature of the freedom end p.208


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved ascribed to the first agent here begins in understanding the analysis of necessity that Aquinas incorporates into his theory of will. (I'll introduce the relationships between volition and necessity in the context of human volition.)

The genus of what is necessary, as Aquinas sees it, is what cannot not be; he sorts out three species of it on the basis of the four Aristotelian causal principles. Two of those principles—matter and form—are intrinsic to what is necessitated by them. The necessity associated with either material or formal principles Aquinas calls 'natural' (or 'absolute'). This natural necessity is exemplified, he says, 'with respect to an intrinsic material principle when we say that it is necessary that everything with contrary components be perishable, or with respect to an intrinsic formal principle when we say that it is necessary that a triangle have three angles equal to two right angles' (ST

Each of the two extrinsic Aristotelian causal principles, on the other hand, is associated with a further, distinct sort of necessity. The 'necessity of the end, sometimes called utility' is exemplified when something is recognized as necessary in that 'someone cannot attain, or cannot readily attain, some end without it—as food is necessary for life, and a horse for a journey' (ibid.). Finally, the necessity associated with efficient causation, 'the necessity of coercion', is exemplified 'whenever someone is compelled by some agent in such a way that he cannot do the contrary [of what he is compelled to do]' 18

18 See also the more elaborate presentation in SCG II.30.1076-9.

Now, since every will's inclination toward goodness is necessitated naturally by a formal principle, how can acting freely be equated with acting voluntarily? Will as an instance of the universal appetite for goodness certainly is naturally necessitated by a formal principle. But that sort of necessitation is not incompatible even with will's activity of choosing, the activity associated with freedom in the strongest sense of the word. As an act of will, choice is intellectively motivated, and some motives are intellectively subordinated to others. If there is a supreme motive—as in Aquinas's theory of volition there must be—then all other motives are of course subordinate to it. In the case of human beings he identifies the natural supreme motive or highest good as happiness. So, this (or any other) ultimate end is an intrinsic, formal, naturally (or end p.209


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved absolutely) necessitating principle of volition. As a pre-condition of choice, it lies outside the scope of choice. Objects available for choice can only be things that are directed toward that end (ad finem), things chosen because they are intellectively cognized as somehow making a contribution to the agent's relationship with the ultimate end. Such subordinate ends will typically be means, contributing more or less directly to achieving that naturally necessitated end, but they could also be enhancements, contributing to the enjoyment of the end when it is fully achieved.

Aquinas, following Aristotle, takes will's activity of choice to depend on its inclination toward the ultimate end as intellect's activity of demonstrative reasoning depends on its grasp of the first principles: 'just as principles are related to conclusions in connection with theoretical matters, so are ends related to things that are directed toward the ends in matters having to do with activities and appetite; for appetite and activity associated with things that are directed toward an end proceed from the end just as we cognize

conclusions on the basis of principles' (76.650).

19 See also e.g. ST la.82.1: '[I]n practical matters an end plays the role played by a principle in theoretical matters, as is said in Physics II [9, 200al5-34]'; also IaIIae.8.2c, where Ethics VII [9, 1151al6-17] is cited, and 9.3c. And see esp. SCG 1.80.679: 'In connection with considerations of appetite and activity an end plays the role played by an indemonstrable principle in theoretical considerations. For just as conclusions are concluded from principles in theoretical considerations, so in connection with considerations of activity and appetite the reason for all the things to be done or to be sought (appetendorum) is drawn from the end. Now in theoretical considerations intellect assents to indemonstrable first principles necessarily and can in no way assent to their contraries. Will, therefore, clings (inhaeret) to the ultimate end necessarily, in such a way that it cannot will the contrary. And so if for the divine will there is no end other than himself, he necessarily wills that he be.'

On this analogy, the predetermined ultimate end is a necessary but not a sufficient determinant of every volition for a subordinate end, so its being predetermined is not incompatible with freedom of choice regarding things that are directed toward the ultimate end.

Still, can there be genuine freedom of choice in these circumstances? Doesn't the (predetermined) end necessitate which things are to be directed toward it? No. Necessity of the end—utility—obviously poses no threat to freedom of choice in its weak, horse-for-journey form: you can, if you like, walk rather than ride. Aquinas takes it to be no more threatening in its strong, food-for-life form, because even when a subordinate end that is as rigidly oriented toward happiness as the continuation of one's life ordinarily end p.210

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

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [211]-[215]

is cannot be attained without a specific means such as food, one can choose to reject that subordinate end. The preservation of such an option is even clearer in another example he provides of this strong form of utility: 'from a volition to cross the sea comes the necessity in volition of wanting a ship' (ST la.82.1c). Of course, in the most directly relevant instance of utility, the ultimate end, happiness, is itself necessitated absolutely and hence impossible to reject; but the kind of necessity that is associated with human happiness as an ultimate end is the weak form of utility, allowing for choices among subordinate ends directed toward happiness.

But what about will's essential dependence on intellect? Can't that be construed as involving coercion, necessity of the sort associated with efficient causation, the one sort of necessitation Aquinas admits is incompatible with freedom of any sort? When intellect presents will with an object that intellect takes to be good, will can indeed be moved by intellect—not, however, as a ball is moved, willy-nilly, by someone who throws it. Will can be moved by intellect only in the way an agent can be moved by an end: 'an intellectively cognized good is will's object and moves it as an end' (ST la.82.4c). The only sort of necessitation, then, in intellect's presentation of goods to will is utility, necessity of the end, and we've already seen that such necessity does not preclude freedom of choice: will can will against any subordinate end presented to it by intellect as a contribution to achieving or enjoying the ultimate end. 'The only good that will cannot by its very nature will the non-existence of is the good whose non-existence totally abolishes the essential nature of good; but that [good] is nothing other than God. Therefore, will can, by its very nature, will the nonexistence of any thing at all other than God' (81.684). (And, of course, even this restriction on volition will apply only in case the particular intellect associated with that will recognizes God as the good whose non-existence totally abolishes the essential nature of good.)

An even more telling consideration in certifying will's freedom in its relationship with intellect is the fact that the faculty of will also moves the faculty of intellect, and that will's moving of intellect is coercive, carried out 'in the way an agent moves something—as what alters moves what is altered and what pushes moves what is pushed. . . . The reason for this is that in connection with all end p.211


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved active powers that are ordered [relative to one another] the power that is oriented toward a universal end moves the powers oriented toward the particular ends. . . . Now will's object is the good and the end in general, but every [other] power is related to some proper good suited to it—e.g. sight to the perception of colour, intellect to the cognition of what is true' (ST la.82.4c). So the only efficient, coercive causation in the relationship between intellect and will occurs in will's directing of intellect—a consideration that obviously enhances will's status as the locus of freedom and (relative) independence even in finite beings: 'an act is firmly in our

power in so far as it belongs to will' (QDV 14.3c).

20 There is further relevant material in QDV 14.3c: 'Now an act is firmly (consistit) in our power in so far as it belongs to will, whether it belongs to will as elicited by it—e.g. loving, willing—or as commanded by it—e.g. walking, talking. . . . Now believing [an act of intellect] is characterized by (habet) assent only as a result of will's command.' (Acts elicited by will are acts of will itself; acts commanded by will also involve other powers of the agent.) See also QDV 14.3, ad 10: 'There is faith in intellect only in so far as it is commanded by will.'

And, in fact, one of Aquinas's arguments in SCG 1.72 uses just these distinct causal relationships between intellect and will as a basis for attributing will to God:

Among motive powers in beings that have intellect, will is found to be primary; for will applies every power to its activity. For we engage in intellection (intelligimus) because we will [to do so], and we employ our imagination (imaginamur) because we will [to do so], and so on as regards the others. And it has this role because its object is the end. [This is so] even though intellect does move will—not in the manner of an efficient and moving cause, but in the manner of a final cause—by presenting it with its object, which is an end. Having will, therefore, is

associated above all with the first mover. (72.623)

21 This argument, following the pattern of the arguments Aquinas develops in connection with his relational method, concludes to the presence of will in God on the basis of a consideration of will in creatures. And what it observes regarding human will as the initiator and director of the activities of other faculties in the agent seems clearly inapplicable to will in God. But the argument's only crucial observation regarding the indispensability of will is that 'its object is the end'; and God, conceived of as purposive, as a doer and not just a knower, must be characterized by direction, too.

Everything we've seen in Aquinas's general conception of will, then, supports, or is at least compatible with, his arguing for will in God on the basis of God's intellectivity and on the basis of God's absolute independence.

end p.212


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved

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