LECTURE V. - INTRODUCTORY - THE UNDERSTANDING, JUDGMENT, AND FREEDOM OF THE WILL.
I. THE UNDERSTANDING.
In further remarking upon the revelations given in consciousness, I call attention again to THE UNDERSTANDING as a function of the intellect. This faculty is concerned with the physical as distinct from the metaphysical, or with things in distinction from ideas. It combines, as has been before said, the intuitions of sense and of the other intellectual functions, and forms notions of things. It is concerned with the concrete and contingent, the finite, facts, and events. I have observed that much confusion arises from confounding the intuitions of reason with understanding conceptions. For example, in the understanding conception of God, the attributes of infinity and perfection are dropped; of God as the absolute or unconditioned, the infinite and perfect, the understanding has no conception, these being attributes incognizable by this faculty. It can have a conception of God as a concrete existence, indefinitely great, and of all his attributes as realities, but of no one of them can it conceive the attribute of infinity, except in the Lockean sense of finding no limit. But this is only the indefinite. In understanding conceptions, therefore, of God, I plainly perceive in consciousness that I refer to God my understanding conception of myself, only I conceive of him as being indefinitely greater than myself. I find that with my understanding I cannot but conceive of God as being an agent, and a moral agent like myself. I conceive of him as a personality, as having will, intellect, and sensibility. I conceive of him with my understanding as an affectionate Father, as a lawgiver, judge - in short, with my understanding I conceive of God in a manner that brings him into relation to me that is approachable and endearing. But if with my understanding I attempt to conceive of God's eternity or infinity, I find a seeming contradiction between my understanding and my rational conception. So of everything that is infinite.
My understanding conception of time is that of constant flux or succession of moments; my rational conception is that of an infinite unit, or duration as a unit. This is real time. It is absolute duration. Now my understanding conception of God is a very different one from my rational one in regard to his eternity. With my understanding I cannot conceive of an existence above the conditions of time and space. Everything given by the understanding is necessarily given under these conditions. Consequently my understanding conception of him is not as the self-existent and eternal Being, but simply as an agent living on through time as we do, of whom may be predicated, here and there, time, past, present, and future. From the very nature of the understanding it can conceive of God only under these limitations. But my rational conception of God is that, in some respects, he differs infinitely from this my understanding notion or conception of him. Then, the reason supplies what is inadequate in the understanding conception.
The rational conception is, of God the unconditioned, and of course as above conditions of time and space. The rational conception gives him as the infinite Being; consequently, that in respect to him there can be no here or there. With respect to all other beings there can be, and must be, place; but to the infinite Being, so far as his own existence is concerned, there can be no place in the sense of here or there; for here implies there, and the term here has no meaning unless there is a there, and there unless there is a here. These are terms of distinction that cannot belong to God. Of all other beings he can say here and there; but of himself there is neither here nor there, for this would contradict his infinity or omnipresence.
Now I find in my consciousness that in this respect my understanding and my reason differ entirely in their conceptions of God. The same is true of time as it respects God. Being absolute, or above the condition of time, or which is the same thing, being self-existent, he can sustain no such relations to time as finite beings must. So far as his infinite being is concerned, there can be neither past, present, nor future; for present as distinguished from past or future implies the past and the future. But my rational conception of God is that he is above conditions of time. Indeed, to call this in question is deny that he is self-existent, and to say that he never can exist. But this entirely baffles my understanding conception of him. My understanding cannot possibly conceive of him as being in such a sense above the conditions of time and place that it is not strictly proper to predicate of him both time and place. Hence we speak of him as everywhere, as here and there. This is common language both in the Bible and in all that we say of him. We also speak of him as sustaining relations to time such as we sustain. Especially in this - we speak of all time as being present to him.
Such language is inevitable as expressing our understanding conceptions of God, and these conceptions are not deletions in an injurious sense. And yet they fall infinitely short of expressing the rational conception that we have of God. Our understanding conception of God is that he fills all things; and the understanding is even overwhelmed by the magnitude of the universe, and gets its most exalted conception of his greatness by conceiving of him as being everywhere and as pervading the whole universe. But the rational conception of God is that he is infinitely above all ages, time, cycles, and our understanding conceptions of time. Care should therefore always be taken to discriminate between the rational conceptions of God and the understanding conceptions of him. The rational conception gives the idea of his being a substance possessing certain attributes; and that of infinity and perfection, absoluteness and incomprehensibility are attributes of his. The reason must necessarily conceive of him as a unity; the understanding may conceive of him as a three-fold personality.
II. THE JUDGMENT.
Again, I must add a few remarks concerning the judgment as a function of the intellect. This faculty is concerned with evidence and proof. It is the faculty largely concerned in logical processes of thought. In consciousness I find that it is a passive function of the intellect, in the sense that when certain conditions are fulfilled, its decisions are inevitable. And yet, in regard to these conditions, I find in consciousness that the acts of my will have very much to do with directing the decisions of my judgment. I find in consciousness that by willing I direct attention either to or away from the proper sources of evidence in any case to be decided; and the bias of my will I find has often a decided influence in the view taken by the judgment of what is or is not true. By consciousness I find that I often prejudge a case in consequence of the unfair attitude of my will - that often I am unwilling to be convinced of certain truths or facts; or on the other had am very desirous of being convinced that certain things are true. In this case I perceive in consciousness that I cannot trust my opinions or the decisions of my judgment where my will is in a committed attitude; and I often discover that I have been deceived by the committed and uncandid position of my will. I find also in my consciousness that my conscience holds me responsible in many cases for the decisions of my judgment as well as for the actions of my life. It forbids me to judge censoriously or unfairly of my neighbor. It condemns me for prejudice universally; and conscience I perceive will hold me responsible, not only for the decisions of my judgment in all cases of doubt, but for my acts, whether in accordance with my judgment or not.
Conscience, I perceive, will not allow me to deceive myself in the decisions of my judgment, and then take refuge under these delusions to justify myself. In consciousness I perceive that conscience will justify my conduct only as I am conscious of judging and action in a perfectly benevolent state of mind. In consciousness I find that I am as severely censured by conscience for prejudice against my neighbor as I am for any injury that I might outwardly inflict upon him. Nay, so far as my own conscience is concerned, I perceive that to think ill of my neighbor is often to do him the greatest injury of which I am capable. His character is dear to himself and to God. Nothing in the outward life can be so valuable, and no injustice to him can be so great as in my judgment unreasonably to rob him of his character. Christ in his teaching strongly reprobates prejudice, and insists that all our judgments shall be formed in strictest charity. In the looseness of men's thoughts it often appears as if their ideas of morality were confined very much to their outward actions and relations, and as if they deemed it a greater crime to defraud a man in a business transaction than to judge his character uncharitably. But by attending to the voice of conscience as revealed in consciousness, we shall see that prejudice against a man, that allowing ourselves to form censorious judgments, is a far greater injustice to him than the mere defrauding him of money; and that publishing a censorious judgment and uttering a slander of a neighbor is one of the greatest of earthly crimes against him. Indeed, there is almost nothing in which we more frequently sin than in the use of this intellectual function, the judgment; and it is amazing to see to what extent sins of this character, though of the deepest dye, are overlooked in our estimate of our moral condition.
III. THE WILL.
But I must pass in the next place to some additional remarks upon the will, as this faculty and its activities are revealed in consciousness. By the will is intended that power or faculty of the mind by which I act. And here it is requisite to say, that by power or faculty is not intended a member, as we speak of the body as divided into parts and member; but by faculty is intended a property of the mind, a capacity, or that of which the mind is capable or susceptible. It has been said that the mind is to be regarded as a unit possessing a variety of capacities and susceptibilities. By the will is intended the mind's innate power of choice. It is the will in which particularly personality resides. By this power we are made agents, that is, self-active beings. By this power, in connection with the intellect and sensibility, we are made moral agents, or morally responsible actors. By this power we are self-determining in regard to our own activity, and sovereigns of our own actions. We mean by the freedom of the will precisely this: That we direct and decide our own choices entirely above and beyond the law of necessity. When I choose I find that I am universally conscious that I elect, prefer one course to the other, or one object to the other; and that in the identical circumstances in which I choose I am able in every instance to choose the opposite of what in fact I do choose. Herein, and nowhere else, I perceive the liberty of my will to reside.
Some have defined the freedom of the will to consist in our ability to execute our volitions, or to do as we will. But herein is no liberty. I am conscious that it is the law of necessity by which the actions of my will and the actions of my muscles are connected. My muscles cannot neglect or refuse to move under the decisions of my will. If in any case they do not obey my will, it is because this law of connection is for the time suspended. But it is absurd to define human liberty as consisting in the ability, power, or opportunity to execute my choices, or to do in conformity with my willing. I cannot but execute my volitions unless some obstacle is opposed to their execution that overcomes the power of my will. The willing is the doing inwardly; and this inward doing must express itself in outward doing by a necessary law. I cannot act otherwise than as I will. Of all this I am conscious.
I know, then, by certain knowledge that I am an agent, a free, self-active being; and I know this with a certainty that cannot be shaken by logic or sophistry. I find that I cannot but assume my own liberty of will in every instance of affirmed obligation. Indeed, I find it impossible to conceive of an obligation to act, only as I have power thus to will and choose to act. And I find that I cannot conceive of obligation, of praise or blame, where but one kind of action is possible. If there is no other way, but so or so I must act, and it is impossible for me to act in any other direction or way, I cannot conceive myself as morally responsible in such a case.
In considering the question I perceive that my reason affirms that this liberty of will is essential to moral agency; that forced action is not responsible action; and that any action of will determined by a law of necessity cannot be moral action. I am conscious of affirming that where liberty of will ends and necessity begins, there moral agency ends; and that moral agency implies the power to resist any degree of motive presented as an inducement to act. If at any point the considerations presented could force the will, that forced act is not the act of a moral agent. Moral agency ceased where force commenced.
In consciousness I also perceive that as a moral agent my liberty is regarded even by God as sacred; he does not, and will not invade it. He knocks at the door of my heart; but he does not break in. He pleads, commands, and reasons; but he does not force. He will not invade the sanctuary of my liberty, nor allow it to be done by any creature in the universe. In this respect I conceive myself as bearing his image. I cannot but so regard myself. I am a free moral agent as he is; and this image in me he respects as his own image. This image with him is sacred; he will never invade the sanctuary which he himself has created, of my own personal liberty. He will present considerations to induce me to imitate him in action; but to force me to act like himself is naturally impossible and involves a contradiction; for forced action would not be like his action, his action being always free.
I find myself, therefore, necessarily conceiving of him as holding me responsible for the actions of my will; but never controlling these actions by any law of necessity or force. By consciousness I find that I affirm that this must be true of all moral agents, and that this liberty of will is necessarily implied in the very conception of a moral agent. Thus I know myself; and this knowledge is so intuitive and irresistible that I can no more doubt my moral agency and moral responsibility in respect to the actions of my will than I can doubt my own existence.
Again, by the use of the faculty of will I am conscious of being a cause, of causing the acts of will directly, and then indirectly actions of my body; and through the body of causing changes in the material universe around me. By the actions of my will I am also conscious of exhibiting my ideas to others, and of being instrumental in influencing the minds around me; and by influencing their minds I influence their bodies; and by influencing their bodies I produce many changes in the material universe with which I and they stand connected. I am conscious in willing, of being a proper cause. I say, in willing I cause my acts of will directly, and whatever else I cause, I cause by an act of my will. In willing, I act. I cause these actions of will, and am myself a proper cause. Proper cause must be me (?). Acts of will are not properly cause, for they are caused by the responsible agent. They are only instrumental causes, as are the hands or other faculties of body or mind. I act; in acting I am a cause, that is, my acts are effects. In consciousness I perceive that I am a cause, and I also perceive that reason affirms God to be a cause, and to be a first cause, and that in the most strict and proper sense a cause.
In consciousness I learn that the freedom of the will does not imply power to abstain from all action or choice in the presence of objects of choice; but in the power of preference, choosing the one or the other in a sovereign manner. I further learn in consciousness that I cannot choose without an object of choice; and that objects of choice are merely conditions upon which it is possible to choose. But that objects of choice do not necessitate or compel choice in the direction of the object. Without some object I cannot choose at all. But in the presence of any object I can choose one way or the other; I can prefer the existence or non-existence of the object in a sovereign manner.
I perceive, then, in consciousness, that what are generally termed motives are the conditions of action, but never the causes of action. The object is that without which I cannot choose at all; but in the presence of the object I may choose it or refuse it. Again, I learn in consciousness that the object of choice is something in which I can conceive there is some intrinsic or relative value. I perceive that it is contrary to my nature, for example, to choose evil either moral or natural, that is, sin or misery for its own sake. To choose anything for its own sake is to choose it for that which is intrinsic, and on its own account. But I can see nothing in sin, nothing in misery that is not intrinsically abhorrent to my own being; therefore I find that it is not to me an object of ultimate choice - I cannot choose it for its own sake. By consciousness I find that I remain indifferent to any object present to my mind in which I perceive nothing valuable or injurious, intrinsically or relatively, to any being in the universe. In such a case no matter what the object might be, I am necessarily as indifferent, so far as choice is concerned, as to a mathematical point. It is to me, and can be to me, no object demanding or even admitting of choice. I cannot prefer its existence or its non-existence, for I can conceive no possible reason for this preference. The preference in such a case would be an act of the will without an object, which is a natural impossibility.
The freedom of the will, then, does not imply the power to abstain from all choice in the presence of a real object of choice; nor does it consist in the power to choose without an object of choice; nor in the power to discriminate between the objects of choice where the mind can perceive no reason for discrimination. If the mind can perceive no difference in any respect between one object and another, neither in respect to what is intrinsic or relative in the object, the will cannot prefer the one to the other; for this is a contradiction, it would be a choice having no object. If two objects be presented to the mind, one of which I am to choose, if these objects are in all respects precisely similar in my estimation, I can choose the one and be indifferent to the other, but I cannot prefer the one to the other; for this again would imply a preference without an object, or any conceivable reason for the preference.
Again, in consciousness I learn that certain things are abhorrent to my whole nature, so far as their intrinsic nature and character are concerned; and as such they are not objects of choice. I can refuse them, but choose them for their own sake I cannot. And again, I perceive that other things commend themselves to my nature in the sense of being objects of desire. I can desire them on their own account, that is, for what they are in themselves; or, I can desire them on account of their relations to other desirable things. And I perceive, that to be an object of choice, a thing, as I have already said, must appear to me to be of some relative, or of some intrinsic value. If it be an object either intrinsically or relatively valuable, or the opposite, either intrinsically or relatively evil, the will can act, and must act, in the presence of it. If it be regarded as intrinsically evil, the will cannot choose it for its own sake, but necessarily rejects it. And where there is such a necessary rejection, this rejection is not a moral act. I learn by circumstances that what I regard as intrinsically evil, such as sin or misery, can only be chooses as relatively an object of desire. I can desire the infliction of pain upon another either in accordance with my ideas of justice, or to gratify a feeling of resentment. But the thing that I wish here particularly to insist upon is, that the freedom of the will does not imply the ability to choose things that are to us no objects of choice, in the sense that they in any respect commend themselves either to the intellect or to the sensibility; that no state of the sensibility can desire, and no function of the intellect can affirm, that in any respect they are a good. In consciousness I learn that my will sustains such a relation to my intellect on the one hand, and to my sensibility on the other, that from each of these departments of my mind I receive the motives that are conditions of my will's actions.
It appears to me that philosophers have greatly erred in maintaining that the will never acts except in obedience to desire. I am conscious that this is not true; and that I often act in opposition to all conscious desire. It has been common for philosophers to maintain that no presentations merely through the intellect excite the will's activity, or supply the conditions of its action; but that the will universally is dependent upon the excitement in the sensibility of some appetite, feeling or desire; and that whenever it acts it always obeys some desire. Now to this I object, first, that in my own case I am conscious that it is not true; that the moral law as given by my conscience is to me a rule of action; that it supplies the condition of the will's activity that I cannot but act in its presence whether there is desire or no desire, or whatever the desire may be. The law itself as subjectively revealed in my intellect actually necessitates action one way or the other, and my liberty consists in acting in accordance with or in opposition to this affirmed subjective law. This I as really know as I know my own existence. But secondly, I object to the doctrine in question, that if the will acts in obedience to desire, its actions are either sinful, or they have no moral character at all. Universally, feeling, desire, emotion, and all the states of the sensibility are blind. They are never the law or rule of action. The will ought never to act in conformity with them except as the law of the intelligence dictates that course of action; and in that case the virtue consists in its obeying the dictates of the intelligence, or the law, and not in its obeying the blind desire, which is never law. Indeed, herein is the distinction between saints and sinners; sinners obey their desires and saints their convictions. In other words, sinners follow the impulses of their sensibility, and to gratify them is their adopted law; but saints obey conscience, or the law of God as postulated by the conscience. I am conscious of this in my own case; and that when I act in accordance with the convictions of my conscience, I often at the same time act in opposition to the feelings of my sensibility. Indeed, in precisely this consists the Christian warfare - in resisting the emotional and sensitive parts of our nature and not indulging the desires, appetites, and propensities, but in obeying the law of God as postulated and given in the conscience.
I regard the theory that the will never acts except in obedience to desire as eminently false and dangerous, contrary to consciousness, and contrary to any sound view of moral obligation or moral action. In consciousness I find the distinction plainly marked that my conscience or reason is the law-giving faculty, the decisions of which I am bound to obey, consulting the desires of the sensibility no farther than this consulting and gratifying of the sensibility is dictated and required by the conscience.
I perceive that Bishop Butler in his sermons affirms that virtue consists in obeying certain desires. He says that we have constitutionally the desire of our own good and happiness and the desire for the happiness of others. We have private desires and public desires; that is, desires for private good and desires for public good; that virtue consists in the gratification of these public desires; and he regards it virtuous thus to choose because the desire itself is virtuous. He thinks that the nature of the desire gives character to the choice to gratify it, or makes it virtuous to act in conformity with it. But I do not so read the convictions of my own mind. Constitutional desire is never virtuous or vicious. Desire as distinct from willing, or choice, or volition, has, and can have, no moral character. The desires for the public good are passive; and this Bishop Butler holds, if I understand him. They can therefore in no proper sense be virtuous or vicious desires; and to obey them is not virtue, or to disobey them is not vice. To choose the public good for its intrinsic value is virtue; but to choose it for its intrinsic value as affirmed by the reason is not to choose it because it is desired. To refuse the public good is sin, because we intuitively affirm that it ought to be chosen for its own sake and not to be refused. But the sin does not lie in denying the desire, but in refusing to obey the law of God as postulated in the conscience. It is true that the conscience could not affirm obligation to choose the public good except upon the condition that it is regarded as a good, and that experience of pleasure or pain in the sensibility is the chronological antecedent and the condition of our having the idea of the good or the valuable.
Our desire, therefore, may be the condition of our affirming moral obligation in the sense that they are the condition of developing the idea of the valuable, and therefore the idea of the obligation to choose the valuable for its own sake. But in reading my own consciousness I cannot perceive that the conditions of my will's actions are the excitement of desire, and that virtue or vice consists in acting either in conformity with or against desire apart from the law of my intelligence or conscience. I suppose that animals act purely under the influence of the sensibility. They have no other rule of action. We are under moral law, moral law as given by conscience; and whatever the states of the sensibility are, we affirm ourselves bound to obey the rule of life revealed in the conscience.
In my own case I am sure that conscience requires me to act simply in view of the motive as presented in the law; that in the presence of that motive, whether I have desires or not, I am bound to act, and must act, and I do act one way or the other, and am held responsible accordingly. I am conscious that it often happens that desire and feeling are in accordance with the rule of duty. In such cases it is a comfort and a pleasure to decide and act in accordance with the rule of duty as given in conscience, and the performance of duty becomes a pleasure; but it is neither the pleasure nor the pain that results from obeying God or the law of my conscience. It is neither the gratification nor the denial of my desires that is the rule of my duty. This rule I receive from my intellect. My sensibility is to be consulted in my moral activity only as its emotions, desires and states are in accordance with the dictates of my conscience; or in other words, only as my conscience commands me to deny or refuse their indulgence.
A recent writer professes to believe in the freedom of the will; and yet his definition of what constitutes freedom of the will is so equivocal that I cannot understand why he should regard himself as believing in the freedom of the will in any proper sense. [Mental Philosophy: Including the Intellect, Sensibilities, and Will, by Joseph Haven, D.D., Prof. of Systematic Theology in the Theological Seminary, Chicago, Ill., and Late Prof. of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy in Amherst College; page 515; first edition, 1857.] His definition of freedom of the will is in substance, the power to will as we please. But it may be asked, what does this mean? What does this writer mean by "please?" Does he mean to use the word "please" or "pleasure" here in the sense of a voluntary state of mind? Is it willing or choice? If so, then the power to will as we please is simply the power to will as we will. But have we power to will as we do not will? To say that we have power to will as we really do will is nothing to the purpose. Or, does he mean in this case that we have power to will otherwise than we do will? Does he mean to say that we will as we do will by our own power; or that our pleasure, or some state of mind which he calls pleasure, necessitates the act of willing or choice? If by his definition he means simply that we have power to will as we in fact do will, this is nothing to the purpose, unless he also adds and holds that in the very identical case and under the identical circumstances we have power to will the opposite of what we do really will.
Secondly, Or, by "please" does he mean that we have power to will as we desire? If this is what he means, I ask, Have we power to will against desire? and against the strongest desire? If we have not power to will any otherwise than as we desire, and in accordance with the strongest desire, then is not our will free. But does he mean that any degree of desire is sufficient as a condition of our having power to will? That we have power to will against the strongest desire and in accordance with the weakest desire? But that desire is really an essential condition of our power to will? If this is his meaning, I would inquire whether the known command of God can impose obligation to will unless it creates desire in the sensibility in accordance with it? If desire is an essential condition of the power to will, it must be an essential condition of obligation to will; and in no case can we be under obligation until a desire is created in the sensibility in the direction of the thing required. But would this writer maintain that a plain command of God could impose no obligation unless it created a corresponding desire in the sensibility? Would this writer maintain that the direct affirmation of conscience imposes no obligation until it creates desire in the sensibility? Now if this doctrine be true, that desire is an indispensable condition of obligation, conscience cannot affirm obligation until after the desire really exists. If there is in fact no ability to will till desire in the sensibility is awakened by a necessary law - for desire we certainly know to be passive and not free - it then follows that the will is not free to act except in obedience to desires that are created by a law of necessity. When desire is awakened by necessity, I would ask this writer, does he mean to say that in every instance the will can act not only as we please or desire, but contrary to our desire or our pleasure? For this is the real question.
To be free, the will must have power in every case of moral obligation to act one way or the other in a sovereign manner. It must have power to act either in the presence of conviction or the perception of obligation, whatever the desire may be, or whether there be any desire or not; or it must be unable so to choose. If it is unable so to choose, it is not free. But if able so to choose simply under the perception of obligation, and without reference to desire or against desire, then it is free, otherwise it is not.
But again, ability to choose in a required direction must be a condition of obligation to choose in that direction. If the will has not power, then, to choose against desire, however strong that desire may be, there can be no obligation to choose against that desire; and obligation must invariably be as the desire is. If we are unable to will against the strongest desire, we can be under no obligation to will against that desire.
Again, if we always of necessity act in accordance with the strongest desire, then it follows either that there is no obligation, because the will is not free; or that we always do our duty, for obligation and ability must always be coincident. But again, does this writer mean by the word "please" that which we affirm to be right or useful? Does he mean to say that we have power to choose as we see or as we feel that we ought to choose? If this is what he means, then I would ask, if we have power at the same time and under the identical circumstances to choose as we see and feel that we ought not to choose? If not, the will is not free.
Again, does this writer mean that we have power to will according to the sense of what is upon the whole most agreeable? This is Edwards's view. He maintained that we have power to will according to the sense of the most agreeable; or more strictly, that we cannot help so willing. And strictly, he maintained that this sense of the most agreeable and the choice or willing are identical. With Edwards, this sense of the most agreeable, which is identical with the choice itself, is necessitated by the presence of certain motives. Now is this what this writer means? Is he Edwardean? This he does not profess. But is not his definition, after all, identical in its real meaning with that of Edwards?
But if this writer means by please or pleasure that we have power to choose that which is most pleasing to us, what does he mean by its being most pleasing? Does he or does he not mean, that which upon the whole seems most agreeable to us? If this is so, does he mean that we have power to choose the opposite of that which seems most agreeable to us? Do we by necessity choose that which is most agreeable? If so, this is not freedom of the will.
But again, I wish to ask, Is this pleasing or pleasure, according to which he says we have power to will, a state of the sensibility, and therefore passive? Or is it a voluntary state, and therefore an act of the will? If it is a voluntary state, it is identical with choice, and comes to this - that we have power to choose as we do choose. But if this is all, this is not freedom of will. But if this being pleased or pleasure is a state of the sensibility, then the question returns, Have we power to will in opposition to it? Again, if we have power to will only as we please, and by please is intended a state of the sensibility, and this state of the sensibility being passive is produced by a law of necessity, how is the will free? It is not. Indeed, if I understand this writer, his view of the freedom of the will amounts to nothing. He has by no means discussed the real question of freedom of the will. He has by no means stated it, nor does he by any means hold it.
Edwards professed to hold the freedom of the will, but gave such a definition of what constitutes freedom of the will as not at all to discuss the real question. His idea of freedom of will is power or ability to do as we please; or in other words, to execute our pleasure, or to act in accordance with our sense of the most agreeable, which sense of the most agreeable is identical with willing or volition. Now with him pure opportunity or ability to do as we will is liberty of will. But this is no liberty of will, for we cannot do otherwise than as we will. Edwards denied that we could originate in a sovereign manner our own volitions or actions of will. With him, this sense of the most agreeable, which is identical with volition, is necessitated by the objective motive. With him we are only free to do, but not free to will. That is, we are free to do, with him, when we are able to execute our volitions; but our volitions themselves are necessitated. But this is only freedom in the outward act, and not in the act of the will at all. But it was the freedom of the will that he professed to discuss, when in fact by his definition he evaded the whole inquiry. According to him there is no real freedom in any case, even in the outward act; for he did not pretend that our outward acts were not necessitated by the actions of our will. It is therefore absurd to maintain that freedom can belong to the mere acts of the body, which acts, as plainly revealed to us in consciousness, are necessitated by the will. With Edwards, then, man is not an agent in any proper sense of the term. An agent must be a self-determiner; otherwise he is a mere instrument or machine, determined not by a power within himself but by something presented to him as a motive of action. He denied and even ridiculed the idea of self-determination in man or in any other being, even in God himself. I say ridiculed, because by his mode of reasoning he represented the idea of self-determination as really ridiculous, and yet maintained the freedom of the will. This is absurd and preposterous.
Now what does this recent writer, Professor Haven, mean by asserting that we have power to will as we please? Perhaps I do not understand him. But if I do understand him, his definition of freedom of the will is radically defective, and he does not maintain the freedom of the will.
But the freedom of the will is a necessary knowledge, assumed by us as the radical condition of affirming our obligation. In every instance of affirming obligation the condition of this affirmation is the assumption or knowledge, or if you please, the consciousness, that we have power to will or choose as we affirm the obligation to choose. First, I appeal to consciousness - that we are directly conscious of assuming in every case of affirmed obligation that we can will in accordance with the obligation or in opposition to it in the identical circumstances in which we affirm the obligation. Secondly, in every instance of affirmed obligation we are conscious that this knowledge of our ability to will in accordance with obligation is a condition of our affirming the obligation; and that for the assumption of our ability we could not conceive it possible that we should be under any such obligation. This is certainly an ultimate fact in consciousness, and not to be set aside by logic. No truth of consciousness, no affirmation of the pure reason or intuition of any intuitive faculty is ever to be invalidated by any logical process. Intuitive knowledge is the most certain of all knowledge, and lies at the foundation of all knowledge. Our reasonings are often fallacious because of the errors to which the judgment is liable; our intuitions cannot deceive us. Therefore, the freedom of the will rests upon the same basis with the knowledge of our existence. We are just as certain that we are under moral obligation as we are that we exist. We are as certain that moral obligation respects acts of will as that we exist. We are as certain that the will is free, or that we have power to will in accordance with obligation or in opposition to it, as we are that we are under obligation, or that we exist at all.
But why blink, or why evade the real question of the freedom of the will? Why call the will free, to conceive the possibility of obligation, and yet so to define the freedom as to leave the question a mere mockery to a moral agent. It is undeniable that moral obligation is obligation to choose the highest good of universal being as an end, and to put forth those volitions that are possible to us and in our estimation useful to secure that end. Now this obligation implies the power to put forth these acts of will. Why then not march up at once to the definition of freedom of will - that it consists in the power to choose or refuse in every case of moral obligation?
But again, what is essential to obligation? Is obligation created by the perception of that object which we affirm we ought to choose? For example, is obligation to benevolence affirmed simply in view of the intrinsic value of the good of universal being? Or must there be a desire existing for this good as the condition of the obligation? Must both the perception of the intrinsic value of the good exist, and also desire in the sensibility in the same direction, as conditions of moral obligation? If both the perception and the desire must exist as the conditions of our power to choose the good of being, then the obligation cannot exist simply in view of the intrinsic and infinite value of the good. But desire must exist; and if desire fails to exist, however clear the perception of the intrinsic value of the good, obligation is not affirmed. Obligation does not exist because power does not exist to will in that direction. In this case the conscience must wait when the good is discovered, however clearly it is perceived, until desire awakes in the sensibility, before it can affirm the obligation to choose.
But will anyone seriously pretend that either God or conscience must wait before affirming obligation till desire for the object which we ought to choose is awakened? Who does not know the contrary? How long shall philosophers hold that ability to choose is conditioned upon awakened desire; and yet maintain, or seem to maintain, that obligation exists even in opposition to desire, or whether desire exists or not?