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CHAPTER XIX.

THE KIND OF INDIFFERENCE WHICH HAS BEEN CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL TO FREE AGENCY.

Acts of choice are free. IN every act of choice or will, it is implied that the person willing might, if he pleased, act in a different way from what he does, for otherwise he would be under a necessity of acting in one way only, and there could be no freedom in such an action. There is no freedom in the pulsations of the heart, for they are not voluntary, but go on whether we will it or not. Liberty of contradiction and of contrariety. In all actions where the will is exercised there must be at least two things which may be done. This liberty was by the ancients distinguished into two kinds, the liberty of contradiction, and the liberty of contrariety. In the first we have the choice 133of doing or not doing some proposed act. In the second, we have the liberty to do one thing or another, or one thing or several others. In regard to such objects of choice, there was said to be indifference, by which it was not meant that the mind was indifferent at the moment of choice. This would be a contradiction, because indifference towards an object, and the choice of an object, are opposite and irreconcilable states of mind. But the meaning was, that, abstractly from the feelings of the agent, the contrary or different actions were indifferent. It was in the power of the agent, if he were disposed, to do or not do, to do this or that; but it was never understood to imply, that with the inclination in one direction a choice might be made in the opposite direction. A man may do what he pleases, but it is absurd to suppose that he can will to do what it does not please him to do.

Power of contrary choice. The doctrine of a power of contrary choice, as the thing has been now explained, is a reasonable doctrine, and in accordance with all experience, if with the volition you include the motive, 134if with the choice you take in the desire. Volition cannot contravene prevalent inclination. But to suppose a volition contrary to the prevailing inclination is in consistent with all experience; and, as has been shown, such a liberty or power would disqualify a man for being an accountable moral agent.

Theory of Abp. King. In the last century an able metaphysical writer, convinced that the common doctrine of the self-determining power of the will could not stand, invented a new hypothesis. His leading idea is, that we do not choose an object because we desire it, but desire it because we choose it. According to this view of Archbishop King, in his work on the “Origin of Evil,” there must be a state of absolute indifference prior to an act of choice; for all love or attachment to an object, and all desire of possessing it, are produced by the act of the mind in choosing it. This is a complete inversion in the order of the exercises of the mind. Though recommended by high authority, and ingeniously defended by its author, it seems strange that it should have found 135any respectable abettors. Adopted by Watts. But Dr. Watts, in his Essay on the “Freedom of the will in God and the creatures,” adopts the outlines of the Archbishop’s scheme, and defends its principles by many arguments. This led President Edwards, in his celebrated work on the Will, to take particular pains to refute this false theory. Refuted by Edwards. The indifference of which he treats is that which appertains to this scheme. Many, however, have been led, from an acquaintance with the work of Edwards, to suppose that the doctrine of indifference, as refuted by this great man, is common to all who maintain the opinion of the self-determining power of the will; which is far from being the case.

It is deemed unnecessary to give a refutation of this theory in this place. Those who wish to see this effectually done may consult the several sections of the work of Edwards, to which reference has been made.22   Edwards’s Works, ed. New-York, 1844. Vol. ii. pp. 17-39. Part i., §§ 1-7.

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