« PreviousContinue »
Of lhe will
PROP. mustunderstand substance in general, -substance in.
dued with unknown powers, with active as well as passive properties, which is confounding and taking away our idea of matter, and at the same time destroying all their own arguments against liberty, which they have founded wholly on the known properties of matter, or else they must speak out, (as they really mean,) that thinking and willing are nothing but effects and compositions of figure and motion, which I have already shown to be a contradiction in terms.
There are some other arguments against the possibility of liberty, which men, by attempting to answer, have made to appear considerable; when in reality they are altogether beside the question. As for instance, those drawn from the necessity of the will's being determined by the last judgment of the understanding; and from the certainty of the divine prescience.
As to the former, viz. the necessity of the will's being ne. being determined by the last judgment of the un
. determin- derstanding : This is only a necessity upon supposied by the tion; that is to say, a necessity that a man should last judg- will a thing, when it is supposed that he does of the un- will it; just as if one should affirm, that every thing ing
which is, is therefore necessary to be, because, when it is, it cannot but be. It is exactly the same kind of argument, as that by which the true church is proved to be infallible, because truth cannot err; and they who are in the right cannot possibly, while they are so, be in the wrong. Thus, whatever a man at any time freely wills or does, it is evident (even upon supposition of the most perfect liberty,) that he cannot (at that time) but will or do it, because it is impossible any thing should be willed and not willed, (whether it be freely or necessarily,) or that it should be done and not done, at the same time. The necessity therefore of the will's being determined by the last judgment of the understanding, is (I say) only a necessity upon supposition,-a necessity that a man should will a thing,
when it is supposed that he does will it. For the PROP. last judgment of the understanding is nothing else but a man's final determining, (after more or less consideration,) either to choose or not to choose a thing; that is, it is the very same with the act of volition.' Or else, if the act of volition be distin. guished from the last judgment of the understanding, then the act of volition, or rather the beginning of action, consequent upon the last judgment of the understanding, is not determined or caused by that last judgment, as by the physical efficient, but only as the moral motive. For the true, proper, immediate, physical efficient cause of action is the power of self-motion in men, which exerts itself freely in consequence of the last judgment of the understanding. But the last judgment of the understanding is not itself a physical efficient, but merely a moral motive, upon which the physical efficient or motive power begins to act. The necessity, therefore, by which the power of acting follows the judgment of the understanding, is only a moral necessity, that is, no necessity at all, in the sense wherein the opposers of liberty understand necessity, for moral necessity is evidently consistent with the most perfect natural liberty. For instance, a man entirely free from all pain of body and disorder of mind, judges it unreasonable for him to hurt or destroy himself; and, being under no temptation or external violence, he cannot possibly act contrary to this judgment, not because he wants a natural or physical power so to do, but because it is absurd and mischievous, and morally impossible for him to choose to do it ; which also is the very reason why the most perfect rational creatures, superior to men, cannot do evil, not because they want a natural power to perform the material action, but because it is morally impossible, that, with a perfect knowledge of what is best, and without any temptation to evil
, their will should determine itself to choose to act foolishly and unreasonably. Here, therefore, seems at last really to lie the fundamental error both of those who argue
PROP. against the liberty of the will, and of those who but X. too confusedly defend it; they do not make a clear
distinction between moral motives and causes physically efficient, which two things have no similitude at all. Lastly, if the maintainers of fate shall allege, that, after all, they think a man, free from all pain of body and disorder of mind, is under not only a moral but also a natural impossibility of hurting or destroying himself, because neither his judgment nor his will, without some impulse external to both, can any more possibly be determined to any action, than one body can begin to move, without being impelled by another : I answer, this is forsaking the argument drawn from the necessity of the will's following the understanding, and recurs to the former argument of the absolute impossibility of there being anywhere a first principle of motion at all, which has been abundantly answered already.
Some ingenious and able writers have spoken with much confusedness upon this head, by mistaking (as it seems to me) the subject of the question, and wherein the nature of liberty consists.
For it being evident, that a free agent cannot choose whether he shall have a will or no will,—that is, whether he shall be what he is, or no; but (the two contradictories of acting or not acting, being always necessarily before him, he must of necessity, and essentially to his being a free agent, perpetually will one of these two things, either to act or to forbear acting : this has raised in the minds, even of some considerate persons, great doubts concerning the possibility of liberty.
But this difficulty (if it be any difficulty,) arises merely from not apprehending rightly what liberty is. For the essence of liberty consists-not in the agent's choosing whether he shall have a will or no will; that is, whether he shall be at all an agent, or no; whether he shall be what he is, or no; but it con sists in his being an agent, that is, in his having a continual power of choosing, whether he shall act, or
, whether heshallforbear acting: Which power of agency
or free choice, (for these are precisely identical terms PROP. and a necessary agent is an express contradiction,) is not at all prevented by chains or prisons; for a man who chooses to endeavour to move out of his place is therein as much a free agent as he that actually moves out of his place. Nor is this free agency at all diminished by the impossibility of his choosing two contradictories at once; or by the necessity that one of two contradictories must always be done. A man that sits, whether he be or be not a free agent, cannot possibly both sit and rise up at the same time; nor can he possibly choose both to act and not to act at the same time. Not, for want of freedom, but because the exercise of that very freedom, his freely choosing the one, does itself necessarily make the contrary to be at that time impossible. Nor: does freedom of will in any manner suppose a power, in the agent, of choosing whether he shall will at all, or no. For a free agent may be, and indeed essentially every free agent must bé, necessarily free; that is, has it not in his power not to be free.
God is, by necessity of nature, a free agent; and he can no more possibly cease to be so, than he can cease to exist. He must of necessity, every moment, either choose to act or choose to forbear acting; because two contradictories cannot possibly be true at once : But which of these two he shall choose, in this he is at perfect liberty; and to suppose him not to be so, is contradictorily supposing him not to be the first cause, but to be acted by some superior power, so as to be himself no agent at all.
Man also is, by necessity, (not in the nature of things, but through God's appointment) a free agent: And it is no otherwise in his power to cease to be such than by depriving himself of life.
The necessity therefore of continually choosing one of the two, either to act or to forbear acting
; (which necessity, nothing but a free agent can possibly be capable of; for necessary agents, as they are called, can neither chose to act, nor to forbear acting ;
incon. sistent with
of men's actions.
PROP. they being indeed no agents at all :) the necessity, I
say, of continually choosing one of the two, either to act or to forbear acting, is not inconsistent with, or an argument against, liberty ; but is itself the very essence of liberty.
The other argument which I said has also fretainty of quently been urged against the possibility of liberty,
is the certainty of the divine prescience. But this ledge not also is entirely besides the question. For if there
be no other arguments, by which it can be proved the liberty antecedently, that all actions are necessary, it is
certain it can never be made to appear to follow, from prescience alone, that they must be so. That is, if upon other accounts there be no impossibility, but that the actions of men may be free; the bare certainty of the divine fore-knowledge can never be proved to destroy that freedom, or make any alteration in the nature of men's actions : and consequently the certainty of prescience, separated from other arguments, is altogether besides the question concerning liberty. As to the other arguments usually intermingled with this question, they have all, I think, been answered already. And now, that the bare certainty of the divine fore-knowledge (if upon other accounts there be no impossibility for the actions of men to be free,) can never be proved to destroy that freedom, is very evident. For bare fore-knowledge has no influence at all in any respect; nor affects, in any measure, the manner of the existence of any thing. All that the greatest opposers of liberty have ever urged, or can urge, upon this head, amounts only to this; that fore-knowledge implies certainty, and certainty implies necessity. But neither is it true, that certainty implies necessity; neither does fore-knowledge imply any other certainty, than such a certainty only as would be equally in things, though there was no fore-knowledge.
For (1st.) The certainty of fore-knowledge does not cause the certainty of things, but is itself found