augustine essay final

augustine essay final - 1 SID Phil 122F Professor Hoffman...

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1 SID:860-79-0678 Phil 122F Professor Hoffman November 8, 2008 1St. Augustine and Free Will The infamous question brought up in Augustine’s On the Free Choice of the Will consists in this: If God foreknows the future, and I will x in the future, then my will not free, since, in God’s mind, x has already happened. Something that is foreordained, in other words, cannot be the subject of free choice. There can be no freedom, it is concluded, if x is already an accomplished fact in God’s mind. The basic problem is that between God’s foreknowledge on the one hand, and the known action in the future. St. Augustine’s first response concerns the point of view of the questioner. The familiar argument against free will rests on humanity’s appropriating God’s point of view relative to human actions. Yet, we have no idea of Gods “point of view,” and hence, it can have no philosophical use. We only have knowledge of actions from our own point of view, that of the human being making choices in a specific context. If anything, it is God that functions by necessity, since his will is known relative to any human action, for good or ill, and this will is known because of God’s perfect justice, and this justice is based on omniscience. Nevertheless, God’s will towards human beings is known only from the human point of view, not the Divine. For humanity, our will in the future is a completely unknown quantity (Augustine, Choice , 74- 75). This response is only preliminary, and makes certain that any discussion on this topic will begin from the same place: from the point of view of human action first, rather than God’s knowledge of it. Once this is established, the stage for Augustine’s famous rebuttal to the query
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2 is set. Augustine writes: Simply because God foreknows your future happiness [for example]–and nothing can happen except as God foreknows it, since otherwise it would not be foreknowledge–it does not follow you will be happy against your will (Augustine, Choice , 76) By this statement (using happiness as an example), the conclusion can only be that God must foreknow future actions that were not, in fact, willed. As a result, such an idea results in a contradiction, namely, that what is willed is not willed. Again, these are preliminary points. The argument on page 77 is something that takes a bit longer to fully digest. The structure looks like this: 1. Something is in our power if it is present to the will 2. It is impossible that we do not will when we will 3. The will is present when we will (Augustine considers this a tautology, and hence, needing no further argument) 4. The will is in our power 5. We are free, since the will is in our power The concept of “presence” in proposition 1 is problematic. It may simply be that “present” means “in our power,” which would then be redundant and question begging. The argument hangs on
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