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CHAPTER XLVIIIThat Subsistent Intelligences have Free Will

THEY must be free, if they have dominion over their own acts.

2. A free agent is an agent that is cause of its own action (sui causa, sibi causa agendi). Agents that are determined (moventur) and act only inasmuch as they are determined by others, are not causes of their own acts. Only self-determining agents (moventia seipsa) have liberty of action; and these alone are guided in their action by judgement. A self-determining agent is made up of two elements, one determining and another determined. The element determined is the appetite; and that is determined either by intellect, or by phantasy, or by sense: for to these powers it belongs to judge. Of such self-determining agents, those alone judge freely which determine their own judgement. But no faculty of judging determines its own judgement unless it reflects upon its own act. If then it is to determine itself to judge, it must know its own judgement; and that knowledge belongs to intellect alone. Irrational animals then have a sort of free determination, or action, but not a free judgement (sunt quodammodo liberi quidem motus, sive actionis, non autem liberi judicii):281281We should call it a ‘spontaneous movement, analogous to what is called the motus primo-primus of the will in man, antecedent to reflection and ‘free judgement.’ The movements of dumb animals left to themselves are prompted by a sort of self; but not by a self-conscious, free-judging, or free self. while inanimate things, being dependent for their every determination 110on things other than themselves, have not so much as free action, or determination. On the contrary, intelligent beings have not only free action, but also free judgement, which is having free will.282282Hence the doctrine of the Thomist school, that the will is determined by the last practical judgement made before action is taken. It seems to place freedom in the intellect rather than in the will. It is bound up with a further doctrine, that command (imperium) is a function of understanding, not of will. These are grave questions, which I had rather not handle. Enough for me to have translated this important passage fully and literally, and to have called attention to its significance.

3. An apprehension becomes a motive according as the thing apprehended takes the form of something good or suitable. In agents that determine their own movements,283283That is to say, in all (higher) animals (above, n. 2). the outward action goes upon some judgement pronouncing a thing good or suitable according as it is apprehended. If the agent pronouncing the judgement is to determine himself to judge,284284All (higher) animals determine their own movements, and judge that certain things are good for them: man alone determines his own judgement to this effect (n. 2). he must be guided to that judgement by some higher form or idea in his apprehension.285285‘Some higher form,’ that is, by some intellectual presentation, something above the presentation in sense, or phantasy, or vis cogitativa, which is all that other animals have. For vis cogitativa see Chap. LX. Being intellectual, this ‘higher form’ will be a universal idea, not particular. This idea can be no other than the universal idea (ipsa ratio) of goodness or fitness, by aid whereof a judgement is formed of any given definite good, fit, or suitable thing. Therefore those agents alone determine themselves to judge, which have this general concept of goodness or fitness, — that is to say, only intelligent agents. Therefore intelligent agents alone determine themselves, not only to act, but also to judge. They therefore alone are free in judging, which is having free will.286286Action is self-determined in all animals: judgement on the propriety of action is self-determined in man alone among animals. That self-determination of judgement means free will. Free will is due to the power of forming universal ideas, or general concepts, of the suitable and the good (or to what Plato might have called the vision of the idea of the good — Rep. VI, 505: cf. Phaedrus, 248, 249). Such is the momentous teaching of St Thomas in this chapter.

4. No movement or action follows from a general concept except by the medium of some particular apprehension, as all movement and action deals with particulars. Now the understanding naturally apprehends the universal. In order then that movement or any manner of action may follow upon the intellectual apprehension, the universal concept of the understanding must be applied to particular objects. But the universal contains in potentiality many particular objects. Therefore the application of the intellectual concept may be made to many divers objects; and consequently the judgement of the understanding about things to be done is not determined to one thing only.287287I may have habitually in my mind the universal judgement, ‘Nuisances are to be abated.’ From that, no action can arise. Annoyed by a noise in the street, I formulate a further judgement, more definite, but still universal: ‘The nuisance of bawling newsboys is to be abated.’ No action is yet possible. But when I say to myself: ‘The nuisance of this bawling newsboy is to be abated, trouble and expense notwithstanding’; then and then only, upon this particular practical judgement, action becomes possible and will ensue. The argument shows that universal pronouncements of the understanding do not necessitate any particular action. It seems to me to show no more than that.

5. Some agents are without liberty of judgement, either because they have no judgement at all, as is the case with things that have no knowledge, as stones and plants, or because they have a judgement naturally determined to one effect, as irrational animals. For by natural reckoning288288Naturali existimatione, the same as vis cogitativa. the sheep judges that the wolf is hurtful to it, and on this judgement flies from the wolf. But whatever agents have their judgement of things to be done not determined by nature to one effect, they must have free will. Such are all intelligent agents; for the understanding apprehends, not only this or that good, but good itself in general. Hence, since it is through the idea in apprehension 111that the understanding moves the will; and in all things the motive, or moving power, and the object moved must be proportioned to one another; it follows that the will of an intelligent subsistent being is not determined by nature except to good in general. Whatever therefore is presented to the will under the specific notion of good (sub ratione boni), the will may incline to it, without let or hindrance from any natural determination to the contrary. Therefore all intelligent agents have free will, arising out of the judgement of the understanding; and free will is defined ‘a free judgement on the matter of a specific notion, or general concept.’289289Liberum de ratione judicium. Ratio, as often in St Thomas, is ratio formalis, or λόγος, the specific notion rather than the object of the specific notion, which is also the object of definition. So immediately above, sub ratione boni. I need hardly add that every specific notion is also a general concept. Not until intellect has universalised the object of choice and viewed it as a generality, is the will free.


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