committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

Freedom of the Will

by Jonathan Edwards

 

PART II.
Section X.

VOLITION NECESSARILY CONNECTED WITH THE INFLUENCE OF MOTIVES:  WITH PARTICULAR OBSERVATIONS ON THE GREAT INCONSISTENCE OF MR. CHUBB'S ASSERTIONS AND REASONGINGS ABOUT THE FREEDOM OF THE WILL


 

That every act of the Will has some cause, and consequently (by what has been already proved) has a necessary connexion with its cause, and so is necessary by a necessity of connexion and consequence, is evident by this, that every act of the Will whatsoever is excited by some motive: which is manifest, because, if the mind, in willing after the manner it does, is excited by no motive or inducement, then it has no end which it proposes to itself, or pursues in so doing; it aims at nothing, and seeks nothing. And if it seeks nothing, then it does not go after any thing, or exert any inclination or preference towards any thing, Which brings the matter to a contradiction; because for the mind to will something, and for it to go after something by an act of preference and inclination, are the same thing.

But if every act of the Will is excited by a motive, then that Motive is the cause of the act. If the acts of the Will are excited by motives, then Motives are the causes of their being excited; or, which is the same thing, the cause of their existence. And if so, the existence of the acts of the will is properly the effect of their motives. Motives do nothing, as Motives or inducements, but by their influence; and so much as is done by their influence is the effect of them. For that is the notion of an effect, something that is brought to pass by the influence of something else.

And if volitions are properly the effects of their Motives, then they are necessarily connected with their Motives. Every effect and event being as was proved before, necessarily connected with that which is the proper ground and reason of its existence. Thus it is manifest, that volition is necessary, and is not from any self-determining power in the will: the volition, which is caused by previous motive and inducement, is not caused by the will exercising a sovereign power over itself, to determine, cause, and excite volitions in itself. This is not consistent with the will acting in a state of indifference and equilibrium, to determine itself to a preference; for the way in which Motives operate, is by biasing the will, and giving it a certain inclination or preponderation one way.

Here it may he proper to observe, that Mr. Chubb in his Collection of Tracts on Various Subjects, has advanced a scheme of liberty, which is greatly divided against itself, and thoroughly subversive of itself: and that many ways.

1. He is abundant in asserting, that the Will, in all its acts, is influenced by Motive and excitement; and that this is the previous ground and reason of all its acts, and that it is never otherwise in any instance. He says, (p. 262.) "No action can take place without some Motive to excite it." And, (p. 263,) " Volition cannot take place without SOME PREVIOUS reason or motive to induce it." And, (p. 310.) Action would not take place without some reason or motive to induce it; it being absurd to suppose, that the active faculty would be exerted without some PREVIOUS reason to dispose the mind to action." (So also p. 257.) And he speaks of these things, as what we may be absolutely certain of, and which are the foundation, the only foundation we have of certainty respecting God's moral perfections. (p. 252 -- 255, 261 -- 264.)

And yet, at the same time, by his scheme, the influence of Motives upon us to excite to action, and to be actually a ground of volition, is consequent on the volition or choice of the mind. For he very greatly insists upon it, that in all free actions, before the mind is the subject of those volitions, which motives excite, it chooses to be so. It chooses, whether it will comply with the Motive, which presents itself in view, or not; and when various Motives are presented, it chooses which it will yield to, and which it will reject. (p. 256.) " Every man has power to act, or to refrain from acting, agreeably with, or contrary to, any Motive that presents." (p. 257.) " Every man is at liberty to act, or refrain from acting, agreeably with, or contrary to, what each of these motives, considered singly, would excite him to.--- Man has power, and is as much at liberty, to reject the Motive that does prevail, as he has power, and is at liberty, to reject those Motives that do not." (And so p. 310, 311.) " In order to constitute a moral agent, it is necessary, that he should have power to act, or to refrain from acting, upon such moral motives, as he pleases." And to the like purpose in many other places. According to these things, the Will acts first, and chooses or refuses to comply with the Motive that is presented, before it falls under its prevailing influence: and it is first determined by the mind's pleasure or choice, what Motives it will be induced by, before it is induced by them.

Now, how can these things hang together? How can the mind First act, and by its act of volition and choice determine what motives shall be the ground and reason of its volition and choice? For this supposes, the choice is already made, before the Motive has its effect; and that the volition is already exerted, before the Motive prevails, so as actually to be the ground of the volition; and make the prevailing of the Motive, the consequence of the volition, of which yet it is the ground. If the mind has already chosen to comply with a motive, and to yield to its excitement, the excitement comes in too late, and is needless afterwards. If the mind has already chosen to yield to a Motive which invites to a thing, that implies, and in fact is, a choosing of the thing incited to; and the very act of choice is before the influence of the motive which induces, and is the ground of the choice; the son is beforehand with the father that begets him: the choice is supposed to be the ground of that influence of the Motive, which very influence is supposed to be the ground of the choice. And so vice versa, the choice is supposed to be the consequence of the influence of the Motive, which influence of the Motive is the consequence of that very choice.

And besides, if the Will acts first towards the motive before it falls under its influence, and the prevailing of the Motive upon it to induce it to act and choose, be the fruit and consequence of its act and choice, then how is the Motive " a PREVIOUS ground and reason of the act and choice, so that in the nature of the things, volition cannot take place without some PREVIOUS reason and Motive to induce it;" and that this act is consequent upon, and follows the Motive? Which things Mr. Chubb often asserts, as of certain and undoubted truth. So that the very same Motive is both previous and consequent, both before and after, both the ground and fruit of the very same thing!

II. Agreeable to the forementioned inconsistent notion of the Will first acting towards the motive, choosing whether it will comply with it, in order to it becoming a ground of the Will's acting, before any act of volition can take place, Mr. Chubb frequently calls Motives and excitements to the action of the will, " the passive ground or reason of that action." Which is a remarkable phrase; than which I presume there is none more unintelligible, and void of distinct and consistent meaning, in all the writings of Duns Scotus, or Thomas Aquinas. When he represents the Motive volition as passive, he must mean -- passive in that affair, or passive with respect to that action, which he speaks of; otherwise it is nothing to the design of his argument: he must mean, (if that can be called a meaning,) that the Motive to volition is first acted upon or towards by the volition, choosing to yield to it, making it a ground of action, or determining to fetch its influence from thence; and so to make it a previous ground of its own excitation and existence. Which is the same absurdity, as if one should say, that the soul of man, previous to its existence, chose by what cause it would come into existence, and acted upon its cause, to fetch influence thence, to bring it into being; and so its cause was a passive ground of its existence!

Mr. Chubb very plainly supposeds motive or excitement to be the ground of the being of volition. He speaks of it as the ground or reason of the EXERTION of an act of the will, (p. 391, and 392.) and expressly says, that " volition cannot TAKE PLACE without some previous ground or Motive to induce it," (p. 363.) And he speaks of the act as "FROM the motive, and FROM THE INFLUENCE of the motive," (p. 352.) " and from the influence that the Motive has on the man, for the PRODUCTION of an action," (p. 317.) Certainly there is no need of multiplying words about this; it is easily judged, whether motive can be the ground of volition taking place, so that the very production of it is from the influence of the motive, and yet the Motive, before it becomes the ground of the volition, is passive, or acted upon the volition. But this I will say, that a man, who insists so much on clearness of meaning in others, and is so much in blaming their confusion and inconsistence, ought, if he was able, to have explained his meaning in this phrase of" passive ground of action," so as to show it not to be confused and inconsistent.

If any should suppose, that Mr. Chubb, when he speaks of motive as a " passive ground of action," does not mean passive with regard to that volition which it is the ground of, but some other antecedent volition, (though his purpose and argument, and whole discourse, will by no means allow of such a supposition,) yet it would not help the mat ter in the least. For, (1.) If we suppose an act, by which the soul chooses to yield to the invitation of a Motive to another volition; both these supposed volitions are in effect the very same. A volition to yield to the force of a motive inviting to choose something, comes to just the same thing as choosing the thing which the motive invites to, as I observed before. So that here can be no room to help the matter, by a distinction of two volitions. (2.) If the Motive be passive, not with respect to the same volition to which the motive excites, but to one truly distinct and prior; yet, by Mr. Chubb, that prior volition cannot take place without a Motive or excitement, as a previous ground of its existence. For he insists, that " it is absurd to suppose any volition should take place without some previous motive to induce it," So that at last it comes to just the same absurdity: for if every volition must have a previous motive, then the very first in the whole series must be excited by a previous Motive; and yet the Motive to that first volition is passive; but cannot be passive with regard to another antecedent volition, because, by the supposition, it is the very first: therefore if it be passive with respect to any volition, it must be so with regard to that very volition of which it is the ground, and that is excited by it.

III. Though Mr. Chubb asserts, as above, that every volition has some motive, and that "in the nature of the thing, no volition can take place without some motive to induce it;" yet he asserts, that volition does not always follow the strongest Motive; or, in other words, is not governed by any superior strength of the motive that is followed, beyond Motives to the contrary, previous to the volition itself. His own words (p. 258.) are as follow:
"Though with regard to physical causes, that which is strongest always prevails, yet it is otherwise with regard to moral causes. Of these, sometimes the stronger, sometimes the weaker, prevails. And the ground of this difference is evident, namely, that what we call moral causes, strictly speaking, are no causes at all, but barely passive reasons of or excitements to the action, or to the refraining from acting: which excitements we have power, or are at liberty, to comply with or reject, as I have showed above." And so throughout the paragraph, he in a variety of phrases insists, that the Will is not always determined by the strongest Motive, unless by strongest we preposterously mean actually prevailing in the event; which is not in the Motive, but in the Will; but that the will is not always determined by the Motive which is strongest, by any strength previous to the volition itself. And he elsewhere abundantly asserts, that the will is determined by no superior strength or advantage, that Motives have, from any constitution or state of things, or any circumstances whatsoever, previous to the actual determination of the will. And indeed his whole discourse on human liberty implies it, his whole scheme is founded upon it.

But these things cannot stand together. There is a diversity of strength in Motives to choice, previous to the choice itself. Mr. Chubb himself supposes, that they do previously invite, induce, excite, and dispose the mind to action. This implies, that they have something in themselves that is inviting, some tendency to induce and dispose to volition previous to volition itself. And if they have in themselves this nature and tendency, doubtless they have it in certain limited degrees, which are capable of diversity; and some have it in greater degrees, others in less; and they that have most of this tendency, considered with all their nature and circumstances, previous to volition, are the strongest Motives, and those that have least, are the weakest Motives.

Now if volition sometimes does not follow the motive which is strongest, or has most previous tendency or advantage, all things considered, to induce or excite it, but follows the weakest, or that which, as it stands previously in the mind's view, has least tendency to induce it; herein the will apparently acts wholly without Motive, without any previous reason to dispose the mind to it, contrary to what the same author supposes. The act, wherein the will must proceed without a previous motive to induce it, is the act of preferring the weakest Motive. For how absurd is it to say, the mind sees previous reason in the Motive, to prefer that Motive before the other; and at the same time to suppose, that there is nothing in the motive, in its nature, state, or any circumstance of it whatsoever, as it stands in the previous view of the mind, that gives it any preference: but on the contrary, the other Motive that stands in competition with it, in all these respects, has most belonging to it that is inviting and moving, and has most of a tendency to choice and preference. This is certainly as much as to say, there is previous ground and reason in the Motive for the act of preference, and yet no previous reason for it. By the supposition, as to all that is in the two rival Motives, which tends to preference, previous to the act of preference, it is not in that which is preferred, but wholly in the other: and yet Mr. Chubb supposes, that the act of preference is from previous ground and reason, in the motive which is preferred. But are these things consistent? Can there be previous ground in a thing for an event that takes place, and yet no previous tendency in it to that event? If one thing follows another, without any previous tendency to its following, then I should think it very plain, that it follows it without any manner of previous reason why it should follow.

Yea, in this case, Mr. Chubb supposes, that the event follows an antecedent, as the ground of its existence, which has not only no tendency to it, but a contrary tendency. The event is the preference, which the mind gives to that Motive, which is weaker, as it stands in the previous view of the mind; the immediate antecedent is the view the mind has of the two rival motives conjunctly; in which previous view of the mind, all the preferableness, or previous tendency to preference, is supposed to be on the other side, or in the contrary Motive; and all the unworthiness of preference, and so previous tendency to comparative neglect, or undervaluing, is on that side which is preferred: and yet in this view of the mind is supposed to be the previous ground or reason of this act of preference, exciting it, and disposing the mind to it. Which I leave the reader to judge, whether it be absurd or not. If it be not, then it is not absurd to say, that the previous tendency of an antecedent to a consequent, is the ground and reason why that consequent does not follow; and the want of a previous tendency to an event, yea, a tendency to the contrary, is the true ground and reason why that event does follow.

An act of choice or preference is a comparative act, wherein the mind acts with reference to two or more things that are compared, and stand in competition in the mind's view. If the mind, in this comparative act, prefers that which appears inferior in the comparison, then the mind herein acts absolutely without motive, or inducement, or any temptation whatsoever. Then, if a hungry man has the offer of two sorts of food, to both which he finds an appetite, but has a stronger appetite to one than the other; and there be no circumstances or excitements whatsoever in the case to induce him to take either the one or the other, but merely his appetite: if in the choice he makes between them, he chooses that which he has least appetite to, and refuse that to which he has the strongest appetite, this is a choice made absolutely without previous Motive, Excitement, Reason, or Temptation, as much as if he were perfectly without all appetite to either; because his volition in this case is a comparative act, following a comparative view of the food, which he chooses, in which view his preference has absolutely no previous ground, yea, is against all previous ground and motive. And if there be any principle in man, from whence an act of choice may arise after this manner, from the same principle volition may arise wholly without motive on either side. If the mind in its volition can go beyond Motive, then it can go without Motive: for when it is beyond the Motive, it is out of the reach of the Motive, out of the limits of its influence, and so without. Motive. If so, this demonstrates the independence of volition on Motive; and no reason can be given for what Mr. Chubb so often asserts, even that " in the nature of things volition cannot take place without o motive to induce it."

If the Most High should endow a balance with agency or activity of nature, in such a manner, that when unequaled weights are put into the scales, its agency could enable it to cause that scale to descend, which has the least weight, and so to raise the greater weight; this would clearly demonstrate, that the motion of the balance does not depend on weights in the scales; at least, as much as if the balance should move itself, when there is no weight in either scale. And the activity of the balance which is sufficient to move itself against the greater weight, must certainly be more than sufficient to move it when there is no weight at all.

Mr. Chubb supposes, that the Will cannot stir at all without some Motive; and also supposes, that if there be a Motive to one thing, and none to the contrary, volition will infallibly follow that motive. This is virtually to suppose an entire dependence of the Will on Motives; if it were not wholly dependent on them, it could surely help itself a little without them; or help itself a little against a Motive, without help from the strength and weight of a contrary Motive. And yet his supposing that the will, when it has before it various opposite Motives, can use them as it pleases, and choose its own influence from them, and neglect the strongest, and follow the weakest, supposes it to be wholly independent on Motives.

It further appears, on Mr. Chubb's hypothesis, that volition must be without any previous ground in any motive, thus: if it be, as he supposes, that the will is not determined by any previous superior strength of the motive, but determines and chooses its own Motive, then, when the rival Motives are exactly equal, in all respects, it may follow either; and may, in such a case, sometimes follow one, sometimes the other. And if so, this diversity which appears between the acts of the Will, is plainly without previous ground in either of the Motives; for all that is previously in the Motives, is supposed precisely and perfectly the same, without any diversity whatsoever. Now perfect identity, as to all that is previous in the antecedent, cannot be the ground and reason of diversity in the consequent. Perfect identity in the ground, cannot be a reason why it is not followed with the same consequence. And therefore the source of this diversity of consequence must be sought for elsewhere.

And lastly, it may be observed, that however much Mr. Chubb insists, that no volition can take place without some Motive to induce it, which previously disposes the mind to it; yet, as he also insists that the mind, without reference to any superior strength of motives, picks and chooses for its Motive to follow; he himself herein plainly supposes, that, with regard to the mind's preference of one Motive before another -- it is not the motive that disposes the Will, but -- the will disposes itself to follow the Motive.

IV. Mr. Chubb supposes necessity to be utterly inconsistent with agency; and that to suppose a being to be an agent in that which is necessary, is a plain contradiction, p. 311. and throughout his discourses on the subject of Liberty, he supposes, that necessity cannot consist with agency or freedom; and that to suppose otherwise, is to make Liberty and Necessity, Action and Passion, the same thing. And so he seems to suppose, that there is no action, strictly speaking, but volition; and that as to the effects of volition in body or mind, in themselves considered, being necessary, they are said to be free, only as they are the effects of an act that is not necessary.

And yet, according to him, volition itself is the effect of volition; yea, every act of free volition; and therefore every act of free volition must, by what has now been observed from him, be necessary. That every act of free volition is itself the effect of volition, is abundantly supposed by him. In p. 341, he says," If a man is such a creature as I have proved him to be, that is, if he has in him a power of Liberty of doing either good or evil, and either of these is the subject of his own free choice, so that he might, IF HE HAD PLEASED, have CHOSEN and done the contrary." -- Here he supposes all that is good or evil in man is the effect of his choice; and so that his good or evil choice itself is the effect of his pleasure or choice, in these words, "he might if he had PLEASED, have CHOSEN the contrary." So in p 356, "Though it be highly reasonable, that a man should always choose the greater good,-- yet he may, if he PLEASES, CHOOSE otherwise." Which is the same thing as if he had said, he may if He chooses choose otherwise. And then he goes on,--" that is, he may, if he pleases, choose what is good for himself," &c. And again in the same page," The Will is not confined by the understanding, to any particular sort of good, whether greater or less; but it is at liberty to choose what kind of good it pleases." -- If there be any meaning in the last words, it must be this, that the Will is at liberty to choose what kind of good it chooses to choose; supposing the act of choice itself determined by an antecedent choice. The Liberty Mr. Chubb speaks of, is not only a man's power to move his body, agreeable to an antecedent act of choice, but to use or exert the faculties of his soul. Thus, (p. 379.) speaking of the faculties of the mind, he says," Man has power, and is at liberty to neglect these faculties, to use them aright, or to abuse them, as he pleases." And that he supposes an act of choice or exercise of pleasure, properly distinct from, and antecedent to, those acts thus chosen, directing, commanding, and producing the chosen acts, and even the acts of choice themselves, is very plain in p. 283. " He can command his actions; and herein consists his Liberty; he can give or deny himself that pleasure, as he pleases. And p. 377. If the actions of men -- are not the produce of a free choice, or election, but spring from a necessity of nature,-- he cannot in reason be the object of reward or punishment on their account. Whereas, if action in man, whether good or evil, is the produce of will or free choice; so that a man in either case, had it in his power, and was at liberty to have CHOSEN the contrary, he is the proper object of reward or punishment, according as he chooses to behave himself." Here, in these last words, he speaks of Liberty of choosing according as he chooses. So that the behavior which he speaks of as subject to his choice, is his choosing itself, as well as his external conduct consequent upon it. And therefore it is evident, he means not only external actions, but the acts of choice themselves, When he speaks of all free actions, as the PRODUCE of free choice. And this is abundantly evident in what he says elsewhere, (p. 372, 373.)

Now these things imply a twofold great inconsistence.
1. To suppose, as Mr. Chubb plainly does, that every free act of choice is commanded by, and is the produce of, free choice, is to suppose the first free act of choice belonging to the case, yea, the first free act of choice that ever man exerted, to be the produce of an antecedent act of choice. But I hope I need not labor at all to convince my readers, that it is an absurdity to say, the very first act is the produce of another act that went before it.

2. If it were both possible and real, as Mr. Chubb insists, that every free act of choice were the produce or the effect of a free act of choice; yet even then, according to his principles, no one act of choice would be free, but every one necessary; because, every act of choice being the effect of a foregoing act, every act would be necessarily connected with that foregoing cause. For Mr. Chubb himself says, (p. 389.) "When the self-moving power is exerted, it becomes the necessary cause of its effects." -- So that his notion of a free act, that is rewardable or punishable, is a heap of contradictions. It is a free act, and yet, by his own notion of freedom, is necessary; and therefore by him it is a contradiction, to suppose it to be free. According to him, every free act is the produce of a free act; so that there must be an infinite number of free acts in succession, without any beginning, in an agent that has a beginning. And therefore here is an infinite number of free acts, every one of them free; and yet not any one of them free, but every act in the whole infinite chain a necessary effect. All the acts are rewardable or punishable, and yet the agent cannot, in reason, be the object of reward or punishment, on account of any one of these actions. He is active in them all, and passive in none; yet active in none, but passive in all, &c.

V. Mr. Chubb most strenuously denies, that Motives are causes of the acts of the Will; or that the moving principle in man is moved, or caused to be exerted by motives. His words, (p. 388 and 389.) are, "If the moving principle in man is Moved, or caused to be Exerted, by something external to man, which all Motives are, then it would not be a self-moving principle, seeing it would be moved by a principle external to itself. And to say, that a self-moving principle is moved, or caused to be exerted, by a cause external to itself; is absurd and a contradiction," &c.--- And in the next page, it is particularly and largely insisted, that motives are causes in no case, that "they are merely passive in the production of action, and have no causality in the production of it,-- no causality, to be the cause of the exertion of the will.

Now I desire it may be considered, how this can possibly consist with what he says in other places. Let it be noted here, 1. Mr. Chubb abundantly speaks of Motives as excitements of the acts of the Will; and says, that motives do excite volition, and induce it, and that they are necessary to this end; that in the reason and nature of things, volition cannot take place without motives to excite it. But now, if Motives excite the will, they move it; and yet he says, it is absurd to say, the Will is moved by motives. And again, if language is of any significancy at all, if Motives excite volition, then they are the cause of its being excited; and to cause volition to be excited, is to cause it to be put forth or excited. Yea, Mr. Chubb says himself, (p. 317.) motive is necessary to the exertion of the active faculty. To excite, is positively to do something; and certainly that which does something, is the cause of the thing done by it. To create, is to cause to be created; to make, is to cause to be made; to kill, is to cause to be killed; to quicken, is to cause to be quickened; and to excite, is to cause to be excited. To excite, is to be a cause, in the most proper sense, not merely a negative occasion, but a ground of existence by positive influence. The notion of exciting, is exerting influence to cause the effect to arise or come forth into existence.

2. Mr. Chubb himself (p. 3l7.) speaks of Motives as the ground and reason of action BY INFLUENCE, and BY PREVAILING INFLUENCE. Now, what can be meant by a cause, but something that is the ground and reason of a thing by its influence, an influence that is prevalent and effectual?

3. This author not only speaks of Motives as the ground and reason of action, by prevailing influence; but expressly of their influence as prevailing for the production of an action, (p. 317.) which makes the inconsistency still more palpable and notorious. The production of an effect is certainly the causing of an effect; and production influence is causal influence, if any thing is; and that which has this influence prevalently, so as thereby to become the ground of another thing, is a cause of that thing, if there be any such thing as a cause. This influence, Mr. Chubb says, Motives have to produce an action; and yet, he says, it is absurd and a contradiction, to say they are causes.

4. In the same page, he once and again speaks of motives as disposing the Agent to action, by their influence. His words are these: "As Motive, which takes place in the understanding, and is the product of intelligence, is NECESSARY to action, that is, to the EXERTION of the active faculty, because that faculty would not be exerted without some PREVIOUS REASON TO DISPOSE the mind to action; so from hence it plainly appears, that when a man is said to be disposed to one action rather than another, this properly signifies the PREVAILING INFLUENCE that one motive has upon a man FOR THE PRODUCTION of an action, or for the being at rest, before all other Motives, for the production of the contrary. For as motive is the ground and reason of any action, so the Motive that prevails, disposes the agent to the performance of that action."

Now, if motives dispose the mind to action, then they cause.

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved