Determined but Free: Aquinas’s Compatibilist Theory of Freedom

Philosophy and Theology 16 (1):25-44 (2004)
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Abstract

This paper shows that Thomas Aquinas has a compatibilist position on the freedom of the will, where compatibilism is understood as the doctrine that determinism does not preclude freedom. Thomas’s position concerning free will is compatibilist regarding both the divine and human wills. Thomas pioneers the idea that human freedom is an image of divine freedom. It is on account of the notion that god is the exemplar toward which human beings proceed that it is much easier to understand why, if the freedom of god’s will is compatible with the determinism of omnibenevolence, it is acceptable that the freedom of the human will is compatible with the determinism that ensues from what Thomas calls the “natural necessity” of the human will. The evidence for his compatibilist stance on divine freedom emerges from Summa Contra Gentiles (SCG) I.74–91, whereas the strongest evidence for Thomas’s compatibilist position about human freedom derives from the Summa Theologiae (ST) and Quaestiones Disputatae De Malo (QDM) 6. This paper establishes a compatibilist reading of Thomas’s account of the freedom of the divine will and shows that Thomas’s theory of human freedom is modeled upon his treatment of divine freedom. Finally, I argue that the position maintained in QDM 6 does not abandon the theory presented in ST but instead is a clarification of it. Thus, Thomas presents a theory of freedom that is uniformly compatibilist

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