« PreviousContinue »
ternal constraint and restraint. This, for want of a better name, may be called physical freedom. This is the sense in which Edwards uses the word. “The plain and obvious meaning of the words freedom and liberty is, The power, opportunity or advantage that any one has to do as he pleases. ... This is all that is meant by it; without taking into the meaning of the word anything of the cause of that choice, or at all considering how the person came to have such a volition; whether it was caused by some external motive or internal habitual bias; whether it was determined by some antecedent volition or happened without a cause; whether it was necessarily connected with something foregoing or not connected.” And he explains that the only contraries of freedom are constraint, by which a person is forced to act contrary to his choice, or restraint, by which he is forcibly prevented from doing as he pleases. * Freedom is here explicitly denied of the choice itself; all distinction between choice, volition or determination and the necessary impulses of nature is explicitly disclaimed; and the freedom is explicitly restricted to the absence of coercion compelling or hindering the person's action after the choice or impulse. Every dog which runs at large has precisely the same liberty.
Freedom of this kind is not essential to moral agency. Paul in the inner prison, with his feet fast in the stocks, had not liberty to do as he pleased. But his will remained free; he had not lost his moral responsibility; he could do his whole duty to God and man.
Freedom, used in a third meaning, has been called Real Freedom. This exists when a man does as he chooses unimpeded by any abnormal counter-influence from within himself. A drunkard resolves on total abstinence. In acting according to his resolve he is hindered by his morbid appetite. We say he is not free, but is a slave of appetite. The freedom here spoken of is Real Freedom.
Freedom in this sense is not essential to moral agency. Whatever sinful habits a man may form and however he may be enslaved in sin, he does not lose his moral freedom nor his responsibility for his action; he does not cease to be a guilty sinner. He has lost real freedom, but not freedom of will.
Real freedom exists only in the complete harmony of the rational and natural motives with one another and with reason. It can exist only in perfect holiness and the complete recovery from all the evil effects of sin.
It may be objected that a person wholly sinful, as Satan is supposed to be, would have real freedom by having attained complete harmony of his being in sin. But this is impossible. Reason and conscience, the regnant powers of the soul, are always opposed to sin. And in the perverting life of selfishness the sensibilities themselves come into conflict with each other. The gratification of one desire is the denial of another. Appetites, desires and passions, fevered by selfishness and morbidly sensitive by indulgence, contend for the mastery. “The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
* Freedom of the Will, Part I., sect. v.
It is of real freedom that Augustine says: “It is only a life in God which is truly a life of freedom; then only is man free when he gives himself up, not only to the thought and idea of God, but to God himself as his creating and molding strength; that God may be the allworking and all-moving power within him. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.” It is of this freedom only that Fichte's words are true: “ One must pass his life upon some idea ; and that life only which is molded by the idea is truly a life of freedom.” It is only of real freedom that the theological teaching is true that man lost his freedom in the Fall. When in the writings of theologians, modern as well as ancient, we read that by sin man has lost freedom or free-will, we are not to understand them as teaching that he has lost his free agency and moral responsibility, but only his Real Freedom. It is to be lamented that the word freedom is often used in this meaning without any intimation of its distinction from moral freedom. And it must be admitted that in many cases the theologians themselves had not discriminated between them in their own minds and seem entirely unaware of the difference. In fact we look in vain for any clear exposition of the freedom of the will as the basis of moral responsibility and any exact and consistent setting forth of doctrines consequent on it, until the comparatively recent periods of modern thought. The fact of free agency and moral responsibility was assumed in the earlier theology; but the lack of exact definition and discrimination opened the way for affirmations of the loss of freedom by sin which, while true only of real freedom, seem to affirm the loss of free agency itself. Dr. Dorner and some other theologians of the present day have not cleared their thinking from this ambiguity.
The fourth kind of freedom is formal freedom. It denotes the state of the will antecedent to its first choice and to the acquiring of any moral character. It is the characterless will. Formal freedom must necessarily be presupposed as existing before any moral action or character. The will must exist before it acts. And before it has acted at all it must be entirely undetermined and characterless. This is the liberty of indifference, which has no historical existence except in the time when the will exists antecedent to any choice. With its first choice the will determines itself and thenceforth has a character.
Formal freedom is not essential to moral agency and responsibility any further than as necessarily presupposed antecedent to all choice. The theory advanced by some that liberty of indifference antecedent to every voluntary act is essential to freedom in the act, is contrary alike to consciousness and reason, to the observed action and history of man, to sound ethics and to good morals.
No person remembers his first act of will so as to identify it. So far as memory reaches, every man knows himself as having already determined, while always conscious of perfect freedom in the determination. Formal freedom is recognized only as a presupposition necessary in thought. It is the point d'appui on which our thought respecting moral action and character necessarily rests.
71. The Influence of Motives. We must now consider what is the influence of motives on the determinations of the will; or, what is the nature of moral influence. And here, as in other parts of the subject, the progress of psychology gives clearness and precision of thought where in the old controversies were only confusion and error, and carries us beyond some of the questions which were long the themes of fruitless debate. It should be noticed, also, that the fact of free-agency has already been established and is not now under debate. In the present discussion the fact of moral freedom is admitted on both sides. The question is, between believers in free agency, as to the influence of motives on the free determinations of the will. If I show that the answers to this question by some Christian theologians logically involve the denial of moral freedom, I must not be misunderstood as charging them with intending to deny and disprove it.
I. The only motives to voluntary action are the natural and the rational sensibilities or feelings. These are in the constitution of man the only excitants or impellents to action. External circumstances and agents are not motives. They can influence the will only through the feelings which they occasion. Knowledge is presupposed in a determination; a determination is possible only in the light of intelligence. But the knowledge can influence the will only through the feelings which it occasions. It is often said that intellectual preaching is dry and ineffective. The reason is that the preacher addresses the intellect alone and awakens in his hearers no motives except their interest in getting knowledge of the subject discussed. A sermon is designed to quicken to right action and character, and in order to be effective must quicken the motives which move men to duty and deter them from unworthy and wrong action in the conduct of life. On the contrary it is often said that an advocate by appealing to the feelings of the jury misleads them to a wrong verdict. The one object of a jury is to give an intellectual decision according to the facts; and their interest in knowing the facts is the one motive which should move them. Knowledge of the truth is essential to right action, but in itself it cannot move a man to right action. That is possible only through the feelings which, as man is constituted, incite or impel to right action.
II. The motive is not the efficient cause of the determinations of the will. The will is the cause of its own determinations. And since the will is only a name of the rational person considered as capable of determining, the rational person or free agent is the cause of his own determinations.
The will, however, is an agent-cause of its own determinations, not a transitive cause. The will is the agent that acts. The determination is not caused by a causative act intermediate between the will and the determination; the determination is the act of the will. This immediacy is characteristic of personal acts. If then we distinguish between an agent-cause and a transitive cause, the agent is the cause of its own acts, but not by an intermediate causative act.
The younger Edwards says: “It is no more possible or conceivable that we should cause all our own volitions than that all men should beget themselves. ... The most of our opponents hold that we are the efficient causes of our own volitions, and that in this our liberty consists."* The doctrine of the self-determining power of the will, controverted by the two Edwardses, was the doctrine that the will is the cause of its own determinations. President Edwards argued that the will cannot cause its own determination, because it can cause it only by an intermediate causal act which would itself be a determination; and thus the supposition of self-determination would involve an infinite series of antecedent determinations. He further argued that the determination must be caused by something, otherwise it would be an effect without a cause; and since it cannot be caused by the will it must be caused by the motive: “ It is that motive, which as it stands in the view of the mind is the strongest, that determines the will." On, the contrary, Dr. West saw no way to defend his doctrine of selfdetermination except by contending that a determination of the will is not an effect and has no cause.
If we recognize the distinction between an agent and a transitive cause, and admit that a man is the doer of his own deeds, the question at issue in this controversy no longer arises and the controversy itself is left among the rubbish of the past with only an historical interest.
Sir William Hamilton, accepting Kant's antinomies of reason, finds
* Works. Vol. I., pp. 324, 325. Liberty and Necessity: Chap. ii.
an antinomy between freedom and necessity. He says that free-will is inconceivable because it would imply that a determination of free-will
because, denying the possibility of a real agent that causes his own action, it involves the assertion of an infinite series of causes ; every event must be caused by a preceding causal act which is itself an event, and so on without limit. Here Hamilton argues in accordance with the fundamental principles of his Philosophy of the Conditioned. Both necessity and free-will are inconceivable; they are contradictories ; one must be true. Then since consciousness testifies to free-will we believe the testimony. We know that we are free, but it is inconceivable how we are free.* So Prof. Jevons says: “ It is in vain to attempt to reconcile this doctrine (of free will) with that of an intuitive belief in causation.”+ Other recent philosophers have held the same view. This conception that a free choice is uncaused and therefore inconceivable rests on Kant's doctrine of the antinomies of reason. I have already shown that these are apparent and not real. And the same is true of this alleged antinomy of necessity and freedom. If the will is not the cause of its own determinations, in other words, if the will is not the agent that determines, then the existence of a personal being is impossible ; for free-will is of the essence of personality. Thus these philosophers are logically required to deny free-will and moral responsibility. Yet in spite of the logical demands of their principles they still believe in free-will. Their reasoning rests logically on the assumption that the existence of a free agent is inconceivable and impossible as involving events without any cause. Once admit that the existence of a free agent is conceivable and possible, and the antinomy is dissolved and the objection disappears. And this existence of a free-will is conceivable and possible and also known in consciousness, if it is true that I am the agent in my own determinations and the doer of my own deeds.
III. The motive does not determine the will to choose this rather than that. It may be admitted that the person willing is the cause of the choice or volition; he is the agent that chooses and wills. And yet it may be urged that a motive determines him to choose this rather than that. But this is impossible, for the gist of a determination is the determination of this rather than that as an object of action. The determination by the will includes the whole action and leaves no place for a determination by the motive. If the motive determines the man to choose this rather than that, then the will does not deter
* Hamilton's Edition of Reid's Works: p. 602, note. † Principles of Science: p. 223.