William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Has Will

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Short (edited) chapter this week. Busy busy busy. Note the items on free will at the end.

Chapter 72 That In God There Is Will (alternate translation)

[1] AFTER discussing the matters concerning the knowledge of the divine intellect it remains for us to consider the divine will.

[2] For from the fact that there is intelligence in God it follows that in Him there is will. Because, since the good understood is the proper object of the will, it follows that the good understood, as such, is willed. Now understood indicates a reference to one who understands. It follows therefore of necessity that one who understands good, as such, has a will. Now God understands good: for since He is perfectly intelligent, as shown above,[1] He understands being simultaneously with the notion of good. Therefore in Him there is will…

Notes The opposites are also true. The evil is also willed. It also follows that one who understands evil also has a will.

[6] Further. A form considered by the intellect neither moves nor causes anything except through the medium of the will, whose object is an end and a good by which one is moved to act. Wherefore the speculative intellect does not move; nor does the sole imagination without the estimative power. Now the form of the divine intellect is the cause of being and movement in other things, for God moves things by His intellect, as we shall prove further on.[3] Therefore it follows that He has a will.

Notes This is one of those things that should be kept in the back of your mind. We’ll return to it many weeks hence.

[7] Again. The first of motive powers in intelligent beings is the will: because the will applies every power to its act: for we understand because we will, we imagine because we will, and so forth. And the will has this because its object is the end–although the intellect, not by way of efficient and moving cause, but by way of final cause, moves the will, by putting its object before it, which object is the end. Therefore it is especially fitting that the first mover should have a will.

[8] Further. The free is that which is its own cause:[4] and so the free has the aspect of that which is of itself. Now liberty of action is seated primarily in the will, for in so far as one acts voluntarily, one is said to perform any action whatever freely. Therefore it is especially fitting that the first agent should act by will, since to Him it is most competent to act of Himself.

Notes A perennial topic. We all (as in all) observe that we have free will, which is sufficient proof that we do. Further, we would never use and understand (as that word is used above) the words we, I, me, and so forth. So what causes our will? For everything that changes must have an impetus. Our will itself, as St Thomas says, “by way of final cause, by putting its object before it, which object is the end.” Now, failing to understand this mechanism (as it were) does not mean that therefore we don’t have free will. This would be like a child saying a car doesn’t run because he doesn’t understand how an internal combustion engine works.

—————————————————–

[1] Chs. xliv., xlv.
[2] Chs. xliv., xlv.
[3] Bk. II., ch. xxiv.
[4] 1 Metaph. ii. 9.
[5] Cf. 2 Phys. vii. 3.
[6] Ch. xlii.

22 Comments

  1. “We all (as in all) observe that we have free will, which is sufficient proof that we do.”
    Briggs, I’m not sure that the “all” in the above quote applies, or did you mean it figuratively? Consider the many neuroscientists and physicists who claim we are not creatures of free will (just Google “hard determinism”)

    An interesting sidelight. The anti-Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, in his “Journey of the Mind into God” claimed that the mind/soul is tripartite: will, intellect and memory.

  2. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 30, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Consider the many neuroscientists and physicists who claim we are not creatures of free will

    They were compelled to say that by external forces.

  3. Yes, YOS, I see the inherent contradiction in saying “I am not a creature of free will”.

  4. your comment made me do it!

  5. I see the inherent contradiction in saying “I am not a creature of free will”.

    It’s not a contradiction if you always (as in compelled to) choose what you believe is the optimum choice. Not controlled by external force(s), per se, but how they are perceived by you.

  6. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 31, 2015 at 7:10 am

    It’s not a contradiction if you always (as in compelled to) choose what you believe is the optimum choice.

    Naturally, people choose what they think is best! The key words here are you and believe. As Aquinas said above:

    Because, since the good understood is the proper object of the will, it follows that the good understood, as such, is willed.

    Not controlled by external force(s), per se, but how they are perceived by you.

    The key words here are perceived and (again) you. Recall what Aquinas, quoting Aristotle, said above:

    The free is that which is its own cause.

    Hence, what you believe based on your perceptions, to which I would add also your conceptions.

  7. Naturally, people choose what they think is best!

    So you then agree there isn’t a choice involved? Anymore choice than say a computer program has when encountering if (x>0.5) … and x is greater than 0.5. Person sees best selection and, naturally, takes it — sounds pretty cut and dried and mechanical

    If you really want to refute this, you would need to show a choice made by a person that was NOT perceived as optimal (and not just claimed as such) by that person. Remember it’s the person’s perception of optimal — YOU don’t get to say what is optimal. Anything else is hand-waving.

    And, no, choice from perceived ranking doesn’t necessarily mean what follows is self-caused. You don’t know what caused the perception in the first place. It could have been because of confluence of external factors and likely is. These would be the actual cause(s) as they are the dictators of the choice just as setting x in the program dictates the path the program will follow.

  8. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 31, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Naturally, people choose what they think is best!
    So you then agree there isn’t a choice involved?

    ???? Who decided what “the best” was”?

    Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study.
    — Alfred North Whitehead, “The Function of Reason”

  9. If God’s will has no efficient cause, then wouldn’t it be a random selection from all of the possible alternatives?

  10. ???? Who decided what “the best” was”?

    ???, as well. Perceiving something is the best isn’t a decision — at least no more of a decision than perceiving a cat instead of a square. You either see it or you don’t. It’s the best because it appears to be the best. You seem to be implying perceiving the best is somehow itself a choice. Even if it is, a series of mechanical choices wouldn’t suddenly make one of them less mechanical.

  11. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 31, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Perceiving something is the best isn’t a decision

    You can only perceive what is evident to the senses. You can perceive a cat because you have seen a cat (in the flesh or in art) and have imagined it (formed a sensory “image”). Where in the world have you perceived a “best”? It is something that you must conceive, a different matter altogether.

    a series of mechanical choices

    This is what remains to be proven, so you cannot use it as a premise. I much fear it is a case of “physics envy” among psychologists. Besides, if it is mechanical, it is not a choice.

    Further, no one contends that all acts of a man are freely willed. No one wills their heart to beat or wills their knee to jerk when struck. (That’s the diagonal line in the diagram:
    http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0010.GIF
    a/k/a the automic nervous system. But they do not all have to be. Perhaps 99% of all observed local motions can be accounted for by Newtonian mechanics. It’s the remaining 1% that’s the issue.

    Remember: the will is an appetite for the good, analogous to the emotions, which are appetites for the sensible; but the will is determined to this good or that good only insofar as our knowledge of the good is perfected. That is, if we know the truth perfectly, we will desire the good perfectly.
    +++++++++
    If God’s will has no efficient cause, then wouldn’t it be a random selection from all of the possible alternatives?

    Statistically absurd. Randomness is not a cause. Even in casinos, “randomness” must be carefully arranged and intelligently designed. “All possible alternatives” is a back-door for a Model to slip in. What are “all”? What are “possible”? Not everything imaginable is possible.

    Wills are predicates, not objects. It is not a thing that is caused, but an appetite for things conceived. The “cause” if you will is the voluntary subject himself.

  12. You can only perceive what is evident to the senses.

    Word games. Your favorite fallback. One of the definition of perception is a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. There’s a reason why people say “It appears to me”. What’s a “mental impression” if not a type of recognition, i/e/ perception.

    It is something that you must conceive, a different matter altogether.
    As if substituting words explains or changes anything.

    a series of mechanical choices
    This is what remains to be proven
    Besides, if it is mechanical, it is not a choice.

    And if it’s always based on what seems the best option, as you have agreed is only natural, then it is mechanical and choice only in name. You seem to want to have choices made from other choices on end. Completely circular.

    As I perceive it, it should be the assumed position. Your job would be to refute it. I outlined how earlier.

    the will is an appetite for the good

    Another way of saying compelled to select the best options? If so, how does this help?

  13. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 31, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    You can only perceive what is evident to the senses.

    Word games. Your favorite fallback.

    Surely, you don’t believe in extrasensory perception!
    An impression is of something impressed on the senses, like a signet on sealing wax.
    Imagine we were talking about “simple curves” in topology and you insisted on a colloquial rather than a technical usage of the term “simple.”

    It is something that you must conceive, a different matter altogether.

    As if substituting words explains or changes anything.

    It may, if the two words refer to two different concepts.

    if [the choice is] always based on what seems the best option, as you have agreed is only natural, then it is mechanical and choice only in name.

    The “good” is not a choice, but a direction of the choice. As Aristotle wrote, “the good is what all pursue.” If presented with A, B, C, D and told to “choose one,” which is the best?

    You seem to want to have choices made from other choices on end. Completely circular.

    There might be only one option available. But the will must still consent to it.

    As I perceive it, it should be the assumed position. Your job would be to refute it.

    OTOH, I know from direct experience that I have a will and that it is free. I acknowledge that I do not directly experience you and you may be the programmed robot you advocate, but I nonetheless make the generalization. From this perspective, it is incumbent on you to demonstrate that the will is always determined to this or to that.

    the will is an appetite for the good

    Another way of saying compelled to select the best options? If so, how does this help?

    a) it indicates that what you think is a fatal objection was well known to Aristotle, Aquinas, and the others, who took it as a starting point.
    b) Because choosing the good requires knowing what the good is. Yet our intellects are imperfect and we do not always know the good, or we confuse a lesser good with a greater. Hence, exactly what is chosen is indeterminate.
    c) Further, two goods may be in conflict as the good of liberty and the good of property conflict in the sentencing of a thief. The judge must choose to impose the lesser of the two evils (imprisonment of the accused v. a thief released) rather than the good as such.

  14. Surely, you don’t believe in extrasensory perception!

    The dictionary does. Note the definition is not confined to the senses. That’s just you controlling what words are used. The usual word game.

    a) it indicates that what you think is a fatal objection was well known to Aristotle, …

    No. It indicates that I think it pointless to bring up. Looks like another way of saying what I’ve been saying.

    Hence, exactly what is chosen is indeterminate.

    Ahead of time apparently. So what? Obviously what is chosen/selected is known at selection time by the person making the selection. Again, it’s not up to you to say what is best. It also seems an irrelevant side issue to the will is an appetite for the good as well.

    The judge must choose to impose the lesser of the two evils (imprisonment of the accused v. a thief released) rather than the good as such.

    Well, duh!! This only goes into defining “best” which is not a particularly germane response to what I originally said.

    So, when I say ” people always select what they think is the best option and this makes the selection mechanical”, you want to deflect that into definition of “what is best” ; how, when and why it’s deemed best; and other side issues. None of which really refute what I’ve said. Interesting.

  15. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 31, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    It also seems an irrelevant side issue to “the will is an appetite for the good” as well.

    Hunger is an appetite for food, but it does not determine what you will have for dinner. (For that matter, it may not determine that you will have dinner: you might be fasting or on a diet.)

    So, when I say ” people always select what they think is the best option and this makes the selection mechanical”, you want to deflect that into definition of “what is best”… Interesting.

    That’s not a deflection. It goes to the heart of the matter. If the intellect is ordered to Truth and the Will is ordered to the Good, why is it any more correct to claim that the will is mechanical than to claim that every thought is True?

    Besides, the desire for the good, which you seem to want to express as “picking the best choice,” is a generic power due to final causes, which I had thought you did not believe in. A generic desire for the Good does not determine a specific decision in an actual situation.

  16. That’s not a deflection. It goes to the heart of the matter.

    Then it should clearly show that the selection process is not mechanical but it doesn’t. “Always pick X”, where X is highest ranked selection, is the very essence of a mechanical response no different than a reflex action. None of what you have said refutes that.

    If the intellect is ordered to Truth and the Will is ordered to the Good, why is it any more correct to claim that the will is mechanical than to claim that every thought is True?

    You’d make a passable politician. If you can’t respond to the subject at hand, talk about something else instead.

  17. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 31, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    “Always pick X”, where X is highest ranked selection, is the very essence of a mechanical response

    I’m glad if all your lattices are ordered. What if the ranking is in complex numbers? You do realize that these “rankings” are assigned to known alternatives as part of the decision-making process, right?

    “If the intellect is ordered to Truth and the Will is ordered to the Good, why is it any more correct to claim that the will is mechanical than to claim that every thought is True?”

    You’d make a passable politician. If you can’t respond to the subject at hand, talk about something else instead.

    You were compelled mechanically to assert that because the Final Cause of the Will was the Good that acts of will are therefore mechanically determined. But if this is so, then what are we to make of the fact that the Final Cause of the Intellect is the True?

    I am not talking about something else. I am exploring the implications of the assertion you were compelled to make.

  18. I’m glad if all your lattices are ordered. What if the ranking is in complex numbers?

    Well, you certainly are working yourself into a tizzy over “best”. Let me quote your own words. Naturally, people choose what they think is best!

    What exactly did you yourself mean by “best” ? Why is it nonsensical to say A ranks over B if A is “better” than B?

    You really can’t refute “Always pick the best X” implies a mechanical response, can you?

  19. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 1, 2015 at 9:26 am

    your own words. Naturally, people choose what they think is best!
    What exactly did you yourself mean by “best” ?

    The key words are choose and think.

    You really can’t refute “Always pick the best X” implies a mechanical response, can you?

    Really, the mechanical metaphor is so 19th century! What about “pursuing the good” suggests that it is “mechanical”? The human psyche is a marvelous and complex set of powers and cannot be reduced to a set of wheels and gears and counterweights.

  20. Didn’t think you could.

  21. Statistically absurd. Randomness is not a cause. Even in casinos, “randomness” must be carefully arranged and intelligently designed.

    Statistics is a field in mathematics. Mathematical laws are not causes (although they may be descriptive of causal relationships).

    You say “randomness is not a cause” as though that refuted my remark. If I said that objects in free fall near the earth’s surface move in nearly parabolic paths, would you think you had refuted that by saying “parabolas are not a cause”? Well of course parabolas are not a cause, parabolas are mathematical objects whose relationship to reality is descriptive, not causal.

    To say that something is random is not to say that randomness is its cause. That would be to assert that the description causes the reality. Why do you insist that leap is necessary? And if it is not necessary, then denying randomness is a cause does not deny that randomness is a feature of spontaneity.

    You refer to casinos. I suspect that things like electronic slot machines may be completely deterministic in their results (or likely were at one time), however other games may involve chaotic processes whose outcomes depend on a sequence of steps which successively magnify the effect of variations in initial conditions to the point that the result depends on spontaneous quantum processes. You may assert that quantum processes are never spontaneous, but there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.

    Both physics and theology assert (via different models) that the ultimate origin of reality is simple. Thus both face the problem of the apparent diversity of the manifestation in this moment, and this seems to imply a spontaneous asymmetry.

    “All possible alternatives” is a back-door for a Model to slip in. What are “all”? What are “possible”? Not everything imaginable is possible.

    I am willing to entertain models by the front door, no statement can be made without a model. To speak of efficient cause is to speak of a model. Or rather, it would be if the notion of efficient cause were better defined.

    Here is an example of two possibilities. 1) The universe as it exists now. 2) The universe as it existed five minutes ago.

    Given these two possibilities, it seems that there are multiple initial possibilities. One in which the initial cause was long ago, and another in which it was that long ago less five minutes.

    Do you deny that clocks tick? Is this not spontaneous? What efficient cause can there be for the passage of time? Efficient cause describes a relationship in time, it would be circular to apply it to the passage of time itself.

    On the other hand, I accept that physicalists do deny that clocks tick in the sense that there is a distinguished present moment in which the tick occurs. But I think that this is because they are missing something fundamental about state machines, which is that the current state of a state machine is not a feature of the states themselves, but is a selection among the states from some other source. It akin to mistaking a computer program (which represents a collection of possible states and transitions) for the execution of that program, in which there is a current state. Physics creates an objective model of the possible states, but this cannot include a model of the selection that makes a particular state exist as “current”.

    Wills are predicates, not objects. It is not a thing that is caused, but an appetite for things conceived. The “cause” if you will is the voluntary subject himself.

    It certainly appears that a will is an object, much as any other thought is. But Briggs suggested that “The first of motive powers in intelligent beings is the will.” If this is so, then the direction of the will cannot have a prior cause, for nothing moves the will yet the will moves. This movement is thus spontaneous.

    I suggest that it is not will but efficient cause that is the predicate. After all, I can observe my will, as I can observe my other appetites. I cannot observe efficient cause (except as a thought or feeling). Cause may only be inferred from a model of events that appear to be related according to some rule within some model.

    It appears that human pattern recognition is so well-developed that we think of patterns as objects. The mass of an object is a pattern, a relationship between the force and acceleration we observe as its heft. But isn’t it tempting to think of this heft/mass as a substance? Yet recently we learned that it is not a substance but rather it is a consequence of the Higgs field. So this intuition that patterns are substances can be misleading.

    We similarly refer to such things as trees and efficient cause, when these things do not occur in nature. If something exists in nature, then it exists at some point in space and time. A tree and an efficient cause are names for patterns in observations made across space and time. At each point in space and time there are properties, but nowhere any tree nor any efficient cause. The real tree, and the real efficient cause, are thus found in the cause of these larger patterns (or perhaps the cause of the recognition of these patterns), but that would be material cause, not efficient cause, for it is a cause that happens within each moment, not across time (though the resulting pattern may appear across time). To the extent that efficient cause exists, it arises from an ontologically prior material cause.

    Then again, space and time themselves are also patterns within a model, they cannot be directly perceived. Rather we perceive the feeling of reaching out that we model as extension in space, or the feelings of memory and anticipation that we model as time. The only moment we perceive is the present one. We may believe strongly in the past, and it may exist, and likely it did once exist. I don’t deny the past, but we don’t perceive it, we perceive our present memories and infer the past from that perception, and similarly observe patterns in memory that we label as efficient cause.

  22. Aargh. Sorry, I didn’t notice that the quote tags are no longer supported in the blog (or at least not in the way I remembered and the help for them is gone), and I don’t see a way to either preview or to edit a post. The quotes in that post, all from “Ye Olde Statistician” were….

    “Statistically absurd. Randomness is not a cause. Even in casinos, ‘randomness’ must be carefully arranged and intelligently designed.”

    “‘All possible alternatives’ is a back-door for a Model to slip in. What are ‘all’? What are ‘possible’? Not everything imaginable is possible.”

    “Wills are predicates, not objects. It is not a thing that is caused, but an appetite for things conceived. The ’cause’ if you will is the voluntary subject himself.”

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