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12/25/2018 9:40 pm  #1


Intellectualist freedom

In respect of this forum's administration's rule that only old Feser blogposts can be discussed, I would like to discuss "voluntarism and PSR" from November 2014.

I think that there is a reductio ad absurdum that can refute one of the points in favor of intellectualism. I am talking about this from said blogpost.

By contrast, on the conception of free will as “freedom for excellence,” which is endorsed by Aquinas, the will is inherently directed toward the good in the sense that pursuit of the good is its final cause.  The implication is that the will is more free to the extent that it finds it easy to choose what is good and less free to the extent that it does not.

1. The easier it is to choose the good, and the harder it is to choose the bad, the more freedom you have.

2. So we can incrementally create more freedom by making the good choice easier and easier and the bad choice harder and harder.

3. Therefore, the maximum amount of freedom is when you have only one choice (to do good), a contradiction!

 

12/26/2018 4:02 am  #2


Re: Intellectualist freedom

There's some equivocation going on here. It's not because you can only choose the good that it means that there's only one choice: there can be many equal goods in some situation.

Also, I don't think that (3) is a contradiction; for the intellectualist, the possibility to do otherwise is more an accidental feature of freedom than an essential one. You can say that it's problematic, but it's not a contradiction

 

12/26/2018 12:21 pm  #3


Re: Intellectualist freedom

Ouros wrote:

There's some equivocation going on here. It's not because you can only choose the good that it means that there's only one choice: there can be many equal goods in some situation.

Also, I don't think that (3) is a contradiction; for the intellectualist, the possibility to do otherwise is more an accidental feature of freedom than an essential one. You can say that it's problematic, but it's not a contradiction

The conclusion reminds me of the beatific vision--the idea that, by being in God's presence, we will have no desire to choose other than God, other than the Good. Yet, the Thomist would hold that this is the highest form of freedom because we are no longer fettered by temptations to pursue choices that act contrary to our nature.

 

12/26/2018 4:04 pm  #4


Re: Intellectualist freedom

Well, at least on the surface Aquinas simply glosses free choice as the ability (or corresponding act) to do otherwise, exempli gratia. For that reason, while Aquinas of course thinks the beatific vision is superlatively great, the willing involved in it is not something he would call free. Choice is only of means, not ends, so free choice is only of means, not ends.

But here are some qualifications: That Aquinas glosses freedom as the ability to do otherwise does not on its own show that he is a libertarian rather than a compatibilist. For the question is what kind of modality is involved here, and he never articulates a conception of determinism against which a modern libertarian would define free choice as not determined. And I wouldn't deny that ultimately some kind of "freedom as excellence" conception of free will can be extracted from Aquinas, but I think this involves projecting a different use of "free" onto him; it's not the way he uses the term, I think because he does not have the anxieties of contemporary libertarians.

My own belief, stated dogmatically, is that Aquinas is a libertarian, because he thinks there are cases where precisely the same apprehension of competing goods can issue in diverse actions, but his ground for the view is not the principle of alternative possibilities, as it is for many contemporary libertarians, because he does not quite hold that principle.

I don't think Feser has fully staked out his views on the matter, but my sense is that he is sympathetic to the Dominican (Banez, Garrigou Lagrange) views on nature and grace, which turn out to be fairly compatibilist. But all of that is above my pay grade.

 

 

12/26/2018 4:08 pm  #5


Re: Intellectualist freedom

Which is the true definition of freedom?

1. Being able to make choices all of which are free from punishment? Elections where Stalin was the only option weren't free elections. Being able to say anything you wanted against Stalin as long as you could endure the gulag isnt free speech, so it seems that multiple options and freedom from punishment for taking advantage of options is essential to freedom.

2. Being unlimited? If freedom instead equals being unlimited, then having one option doesn't take away freedom. Being in the presence of the BV may remove your ability to say no, but you would be unlimited in some sense and so could be freedom.

     Thread Starter
 

12/26/2018 5:24 pm  #6


Re: Intellectualist freedom

 

12/26/2018 5:35 pm  #7


Re: Intellectualist freedom

@DanielCC unfortunately that thread doesn't give a definition of what freedom is. Is it "the ability to pursue multiple options and not be punished for taking advantage of this ability" or is it "being unlimited"?

     Thread Starter
 

12/26/2018 6:55 pm  #8


Re: Intellectualist freedom

Due_Kindheartedness wrote:

@DanielCC unfortunately that thread doesn't give a definition of what freedom is. Is it "the ability to pursue multiple options and not be punished for taking advantage of this ability" or is it "being unlimited"?

Neither and no one said it had to be either of those. Freedom is constituted, at least partially, by the principle of alternate possibilities.

 

12/26/2018 10:53 pm  #9


Re: Intellectualist freedom

I think freedom partly has to do with being able to choose what you want.  Having no choices would prevent this, but so would wanting things that are only apparently good, because you don't want them insofar as they are actually bad for you.  As your knowledge increases and you know more fully what is good (and thus what you truly want), your freedom becomes stronger because you are better at getting what you want.  Someone who lives all of the 7 deadly sins constantly wants a multitude of bad things that do not satisfy him, he loses freedom as he is pulled by his desires in every direction.  The virtuous man has made a habit of good action, and becomes more and more free the more his desire is on a virtue he regularly practices.

Thus from the outside a man may look like he has only one choice, the good, but in fact he has the same choices as others,  he is merely better informed on the nature of the good he wants for himself.  He is more focused and disciplined, but not less free.

 

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