Freedom of the Will
by Jonathan Edwards
WHETHER WE SUPPOSE THE VOLITONS OF MORAL
AGENTS TO BE
CONNECTED WITH ANY THING ANTECEDENT, OR NOT, YET THEY MUST BE NECESSAR IN SUCH A SENSE AS TO OVERTHROW ARMINIAN LIBERTY
Every act of the Will has a cause, or it has not. If it has a cause, then, according to what has already been demonstrated, it is not contingent, but necessary; the effect being necessarily dependent and consequent on its cause, let that cause be what it will. If the cause is the Will itself, by antecedent acts choosing and determining; still the determined caused act must be a necessary effect. The act, that is the determined effect of the foregoing act which is its cause, cannot prevent the efficiency of its cause; but must be wholly subject to its determination and command, as much as the motions of the hands and feet. The consequent commanded acts of the Will are as passive and as necessary, with respect to the antecedent determining acts, as the parts of the body are to the volitions which determine and command them. And therefore, if all the free acts of the will are all determined effects determined by the will itself, that is by antecedent choice, then they are all necessary; they are all subject to, and decisively fixed by, the foregoing act, which is their cause: yea, even the determining act itself; for that must be determined and fixed by another act preceding, if it be a free and voluntary act; and so must be necessary. So that by this, all the free acts of the will are necessary, and cannot be free unless they are necessary: because they cannot be free, according to the Arminian notion of freedom, unless they are determined by the Will; and this is to be determined by antecedent choice, which being their cause, proves them necessary. And yet they say, Necessity is utterly inconsistent with Liberty. So that, by their scheme, the acts of the will cannot be free unless they are necessary, and yet cannot be free if they be necessary!
But if the other part of the dilemma be taken, that the free acts of the Will have no cause, and are connected with nothing whatsoever that goes before and determines them, in order to maintain their proper and absolute Contingence, and this should be allowed to be possible; still it will not serve their turn. For if the volition come to pass by perfect Contingence, and without any cause at all, then it is certain, no act of the Will, no prior act of the soul, was the cause, no determination or choice of the soul had any hand in it. The will, or the soul, was indeed the subject of what happened to it accidentally, but was not the cause. The Will is not active in causing or determining, but purely the passive subject; at least, according to their notion of action and passion. In this case, Contingence as much prevents the determination of the Will, as a proper cause; and as to the Will, it was necessary, and could be no otherwise. For to suppose that it could have been otherwise, if the Will or soul had pleased, is to suppose that the act is dependent on some prior act of choice or pleasure, contrary to what is now supposed; it is to suppose that it might have been otherwise, if its cause had ordered it otherwise. But this does not agree to it having no cause or orderer at ail. That must be necessary as to the soul, which is dependent on no free act of the soul: but that which is without a cause, is dependent on no free act of the soul; because, by the supposition, it is dependent on nothing, and is connected with nothing. In such a case, the soul is necessarily subjected to what accident brings to pass, from time to time, as much as the earth that is inactive, is necessarily subjected to what falls upon it. But this does not consist with the Arminian notion of Liberty, which is the Will's power of determining itself in its own acts, and being wholly active in it, without passiveness, and without being subject to necessity.-- Thus, Contingence belongs to the Arminian notion of Liberty, and yet is inconsistent with it.
I would here observe, that the author of the Essay on the Freedom of the Will, in God and the Creature, (p. 76, 77.) says as follows. "The word chance always means something done without design. Chance and design stand in direct opposition to each other: and Chance can never be properly applied to acts of the will, which is the spring of all design, and which designs to choose whatsoever it doth choose, whether there be any superior fitness in the thing which it chooses, or no; and it designs to determine itself to one thing, where two things, perfectly equal, are proposed, merely because it will." But herein appears a very great inadvertence. For if the will be the spring of all design, as he says, then certainly it is not always the effect of design; and the acts of the will themselves must sometimes come to pass, when they do not spring from design; and consequently come to pass by chance, according to his own definition of Chance. And if the will designs to choose whatever it does choose, and designs to determine itself, as he says, then it designs to determine all its designs. Which carries us back from one design to a foregoing design determining that, and to another determining that; and so on in infinitum. The very first design must be the effect of foregoing design, or else it must be by Chance, in his notion of it.
Here another alternative may be proposed, relating to the connexion of the acts of the Will with something foregoing that is their cause, not much unlike to the other; which is this: either human liberty may well stand with volitions being necessarily connected with the views of the understanding, and so is consistent with Necessity; or it is inconsistent with and contrary to such a connexion and Necessity. The former is directly subversive of the Arminian notion of Liberty, consisting in freedom from all Necessity. And if the latter be chosen, and it be said, that liberty is inconsistent with any such necessary connexion of volition with foregoing views of the understanding, it consisting in freedom from any such Necessity of the Will as that would imply; then the Liberty of the soul consists, partly at least, in freedom from restraint, limitation, and government, in its actings, by the understanding, and in Liberty and liableness to act contrary to the views and dictates of the understanding: and consequently the more the soul has of this disengagedness in its acting, the more Liberty. Now let it be considered to what this brings the noble principle of human Liberty, particularly when it is possessed and enjoyed in its perfection, viz. a full and perfect freedom and liableness to act altogether at random, without the least connexion with, or restraint or government by, any dictate of reason, or any thing whatsoever apprehended, considered, or viewed by the understanding; as being inconsistent with the full and perfect sovereignty of the Will over its own determinations.-- The notion mankind have conceived of Liberty, is some dignity or privilege, something worth claiming. But what dignity or privilege is there, in being given up to such a wild Contingence as this, to be perfectly and constantly liable to act unreasonably, and as much without the guidance of understanding, as if we had none, or were as destitute of perception, as the smoke that is driven by the wind!
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