Free Will: Comparing Aquinas Term Paper

Pages: 8 (3052 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] (ST: II: 6:3) This of course fairly explains how, for example, rape is different than consensual sex because in a rape the woman is physically incapable of preventing the actions her body is forced to make.

In fact, the Bible recognizes this. In Deuteronomy 22:26-27, the text speaks of rape outside the city walls thus: "unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbor, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her." So Aquinas explains that even if the physical body is forced to do something or physically prevented from doing something, that does not violate the fact that the will was free when it attempted that action.

However, at the same time, Aquinas explains that while violence cannot effect the will but it can effect the outcome of the will, the threat of violence or fear does effect the will to a degree. "In things endowed with knowledge, it effects something against the will.... violence causes involuntariness" (ST II: 6:4) However, in reality one must understand that while it causes a degree of involuntariness in that it encourages the self to go against their natural inclinations (and voluntaryness was defined as following the inclination), at the same time it does not truly compel the will. Rather, it presents alternative know ledges that change the appearance of the greater good in the situation, which encourages the will to react in a specific manner. For example, if someone is told "Deny Christ or you will be killed immediately" they are not actually being forced to deny Christ, they are only being provided with a very negative alternative to refusing. No one can truly force another's will, according to Aquinas. "what is done through fear, becomes voluntary, because the will is moved towards it, albeit not for its own sake, but on account of something else, that is, in order to avoid an evil which is feared." (ST II 6:6)

Applying this idea to the Bible, one sees that it is entirely upheld in a number of example. Going back to the early example of rape, one sees that in the same chapter that a woman was held guiltless if she is raped in the field because she "cried, and there was none to save her" (Deut 22:27) a woman who is raped in the city is to be put to death, "because she cried not." (Deut. 22:24) It may seem cruel to kill a woman because she was raped, however if one thinks about Aquinas argument it makes sense. A woman raped in the city is going to be kept quite not through violence but through the threat of violence, with the rapist threatening to kill her if she screams or struggles. Yet a threat does not actually force her to be quiet, and she still has a choice to make in defending her virginity by screaming and risking death or in submitted to violation because she is afraid of death. This is similar to the idea today that certain forms of rape can only be proved if one can find injuries to show that they occurred, because this shows that the woman was actually physically forced. So one can see that in the Bible there is a difference made clear between being physically forced to make an action even when one fights it, and doing something out of fear.

So in short, both Aquinas and the Bible imply that while external actions can be thwarted or forced, internal free will cannot be violated by any human -- it is intrinsically incapable of being forced to act or to refrain from action. "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) This verse, however, brings up a point on which one might start to pick apart Aquinas' theory of Free Will as insufficient to approach the true complexity of Scripture. What of those in the Bible whose actions are attributed to supernatural intervention? What of Pharaoh whose heart God hardened? In Exodus it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (ten times over), but in First Samuel the people are exhorted to be righteous with the words "Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?" (1 Sam 6:6) This implies that Pharaoh both made a free choice to harden his heart (as does the fact that he was punished for it severely) and that God himself caused it to happen and had to continuously work at keeping his heart hardened (as he had to do it on ten separate occasions). In short, this implies that when God chooses to do so, he can usurp our free will in such a fashion that his will is synonymous with ours.

Aquinas answers this by saying: "it is not incompatible with nature that the natural movement be from God as the First Mover, inasmuch as nature is an instrument of God moving it: so it is not contrary to the essence of a voluntary act, that it proceed from God, inasmuch as the will is moved by God." (ST: II: 6:1) He seems to be suggesting that God can serve as an extrinsic, as if invisible, stimuli in the same fashion as hunger or a threat of violence might. So just as one might say "I mailed a package" when one actually gave it to the post office to mail and they actively mailed it, God could say "I hardened his heart" when he merely presented the internal motivation that caused it to happen. Nonetheless, there is a degree to which this seems to be begging the question. When he further explains this by saying: "God Who is more powerful than the human will, can move the will of man... But if this were by compulsion, it would no longer be by an act of the will, nor would the will itself be moved, but something else against the will." (ST: II: 6:3) it seems certainly apparent that he is falling into the error of saying that God cannot be violating free will because compulsion and will are opposite, and so there must by definition be something else other than will which controls actions, choices, emotions, and all those other things traditionally controlled by the will.

It seems more Biblically honest to suggest that free will is, as Aquinas suggests, absolute -- but not as absolute as God. There is a subtlety in the Biblical texts which Aquinas has not entirely addressed, and it suggests that sometimes free will has its hand forced by deity. So God's omnipotence can interfere with Free Will, but he says "I will not strive with man forever" and only interferes with free will on relatively rare occasions. While Aquinas does a wonderful job of proving the Biblical point that free will is generally existent and generally absolute when it comes to human affairs, it seems weak to suggest that God cannot, at will, put aside his own commandments regarding this issue.

This would not say that free will does not exist, but rather that sometimes it exists more as a matter of assent to what we are bound to do (ie, that God knows the degree of pressure which is needed to cause us to make a certain decision, and applies it in an overwhelming fashion which we agree to intellectually because he has also provided to our minds convincing rational) that as a real decision-making process. This is even suggested somewhat in Biblical texts, such as Romans 8:22 which says that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Notice that in both cases, the individual is being bound beyond their will to a sort of determination -- in one case of death, and in one case of God's life.

This argument may seem to go against free will to some degree, but that is not the intent of the writer. God does grant to every human free will, particularly when it comes to decisions regarding salvation. God's claims to be just dictate that he cannot punish people if they have no real free will or choice. Likewise, his consistent discussion of choice indicates that it is real. Choice is real, and the root of evil in the world is the ill choices of individuals. God grants choice, as indicated throughout scripture, and hopes that people will choose wisely. All this argument suggests is that in addition to free will there is also a degree of omnipotence that may at specific historic intervals provide overwhelming Godlike pressure… [END OF PREVIEW]

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