Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reading #7: Hodge on freedom of the will

Charles Hodge, "Systematic Theology" Vol 2. 

Study Questions:

1.  How does the liberty of indifference or  contingency view define freedom or liberty?
2.  In what way does this view assume uncaused events?
3.  Can it be known what will be chosen by a will that is indifferent or contingent?  How does this affect not only human responsibility but also divine sovereignty?
4.  What are the notable theologians or theological schools that tried to maintain this kind of uncaused will as the free will?
5. Who is the theologian that argues against this view of contingency and freedom?
6.  What is the difference between certainty and necessity?
7.  What is the difference between physical and moral necessity?
8. In a section prior to this one Hodge says that a person's view of human freedom will affect their entire theological system. How is this the case?


Directly opposed to all these schemes of necessity, is the doctrine of contingency, which has been held under different names and variously modified. Sometimes it is called the liberty of indifference; by which is meant, that the will, at the moment of decision, is self-poised among conflicting motives, and decides one way or the other, not because of the greater influence of one motive over others, but because it is indifferent or undetermined, able to act in accordance with the weaker against the stronger motive, or even without any motive at all. 

Sometimes this doctrine is expressed by the phrase, self-determining power of the will. By this it is intended to deny that the will is determined by motives, and to affirm that the reason of its decisions is to be sought in itself. It is a cause and not an effect, and therefore requires nothing out of itself to account for its acts. Sometimes this doctrine is called the power of contrary choice; that is, that in every volition there is and must be power to the contrary. 

Even supposing all antecedents external and internal to have been precisely the same, the decision might have been the reverse of what it actually was. Contingence is therefore necessary to liberty. This is the essential idea of this theory in all its forms. A contingent event is one which may or may not happen. 

Contingence, therefore, is opposed not merely to necessity, but also to certainty. If a man may act in opposition to all motives, external and internal, and in despite of all influence which can be exerted on him, short of destroying his liberty, then it must forever remain uncertain how he will act. The advocates of this theory of liberty, therefore, maintain, that the will is independent of reason, of feeling, and of God. There is no middle ground, they say, between contingency (i.e., uncertainty), and fatalism; between the independence of the will and of the agent, and the denial of all free agency. 

Although the advocates of the liberty of contingency generally direct their arguments against the doctrine of necessity, yet it is apparent that they regard certainty no less than necessity to be inconsistent with liberty. This is plain, (1.) From the designations which they give their theory, as liberty of indifference, self-determining power of the will, power to the contrary. (2.) From their formal definition of liberty, as the power to decide for or against, or without motives; or it is power of "willing what we will." "If," says Reid, "in every voluntary action, the determination of his will be the necessary consequence of something involuntary in the state of his mind, or of something in the external circumstances of the agent, he is not free." Cousin says, "The will is mine, and I dispose absolutely of it within the limits of the spiritual world." The Scotists of the Middle Ages, Molina and the Jesuits as a class, and all the opponents of Augustinianism, define liberty as consisting in indifference, or in the independence of the will of the preceding state of the mind, and make it to exclude certainty no less than necessity. (3.) From the arguments by which they endeavour to sustain their theory, which are directed as often against certainty as against necessity. (4.) From their answers to opposing arguments, and especially to that derived from the foreknowledge of God. As the foreknowledge of an act supposes the certainty of its occurrence, if free acts are known, they must be certain. To this the advocates of the theory in question make such answers as show that certainty is what they are contending against. They say that we have no right to argue on this subject from the attributes of God; it is a simple matter of consciousness; or they say, that God's foreknowledge may be limited, just as his power is limited by impossibilities. If it be impossible to foreknow free acts, they are not the objects of knowledge, and, therefore, not to foreknow them is not a limitation of the divine knowledge. 

From these and other considerations, it is plain that the theory of contingency in all its forms, is opposed to the doctrine of certainty no less than to that of necessity, in the proper sense of that term. By this, however, it is not meant that the advocates of contingency are consistent as to this point. Arguing against necessity, they frequently do not discriminate between physical and moral necessity. They class Hobbes, Hartley, Priestley, Belsham, Collins, Edwards, the French Encyclopaedists, and all who use the word necessity, under the same category; and yet they cannot avoid admitting, that in many cases free acts may be certain. They very often say that particular arguments prove certainty but not necessity; when certainty is precisely the thing contended for, and which they themselves deny. This is one of the unavoidable inconsistencies of error. No one, however, notwithstanding these admissions, will dispute that the theory of contingence, whether called indifference, self-determining power of the will, power of contrary choice, or by any other name, is in fact, and is intended to be, antagonistic to that of certainty."