free will

That quality by which the will, when all conditions prerequisite for the production of an act are fulfilled, can place the act or refrain from it. Free will includes not only immunity from external coercion or force but also immunity from that internal necessity which determines a faculty to one way of acting. There is an indifference in the human will toward all objects (if we except beatitude and objects such as existence and life when viewed as necessary means to beatitude, and God intuitively known) which is removed by the will itself. The conditions prerequisite are that God be willing' to give (according to Molinism) or give (according to Thomism) the proper concursus and that the intellect offer motives for placing the act and motives {or abstaining from it. Hence free will does not imply choosing blindly and without motives but among motives. The motives influence the will but do not determine or necessitate it. The determining factor is the will itself. Free will does not introduce a "causeless" act, an effect without a cause, since the "efficient cause" of a free act of the will is the will itself, i.e., the agent, the ego, through the will; and the "final cause" is the motive which prompts the act. Since the consciousness of men, which we must accept as a criterion of truth under pain of falling into absolute scepticism, testifies so crushingly to the existence of freedom, in practise the doctrine of free will is held by all men. Those who preach determinism live and act by free will. Against the Protestant Reformers, the Council of Trent has solemnly condemned those who affirm that the free will of man was lost through the sin of Adam and those also who maintain that God's grace removes freedom from the human will.

New Catholic Dictionary

NCD Index SQPN Contact Author