More on Freedom

Questions for Reflection:  How is the will affected by truth?  Is freedom license to do what one wants?  Is the will determined to action?

Truth is in the intellect (or rather its effect is upon the intellect), not the will, but good is related to truth, and the will to what the intellect presents to it.  Goodness itself, transcendentally related to truth itself, is the ultimate object of the will.  The will cannot but desire absolute goodness.  However, it can seek one particular good over another, or even a particular good over absolute good, if not presented directly the absolute good by the intellect. So the will is only somewhat determined, and this by the fact that its nature is to desire the good.

Freedom is ordered to the good, and so it is not license to do whatever one wills, contrary to the good, (seeing freedom in such a way is often called the freedom of indifference) but rather, freedom must be ordered towards man’s nature, which is always aimed at what is perfective of man. Freedom in this sense is often labeled freedom for excellence, and it is here that virtues, rather than rules, are primary.

The will is determined toward good, but even in the presence of the absolute good, it can act or not act (although it cannot desire something else in its place).  But whenever it is a particular good or between perceived goods, the will cannot be forced to choose any particular good.  As only the absolute good is man’s final end, all particular goods are objectively means but not ends.  It is because of this that the will is never strictly determined to any particular good.

From a theological standpoint, St. Thomas presents the following objection and response in reference to whether the will is moved of necessity by the exterior mover which is God:

Objection: It would seem that the will is moved of necessity by God…It is written”But Who can resist His will?” Therefore God moves the will of necessity.

Reply: The Divine will extends…to its being done in a way which is fitting to the nature of that thing. And therefore it would be repugnant to the Divine motion for the will to be moved of necessity than for it to be moved freely, which is becoming to its nature. (ST I, II, 10, art. 4)


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