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An Analytical Outline on Jonathan Edwards’ work of the Freedom of the Will by Jacob Aitken

This is an excellent treatment by Jacob Aitken; given that I had just finished reading and studying Edwards’ FOTW, I can assuredly attest to the fact that this wasn’t easily done. Edwards is, as Aitken states, ‘logical’ in his treatment in his treatise; however, processing the information, given Edwards is so heady in relation to philosophy, to accomplish this work and lay it out as Aitken has done, for myself, it would have been near to impossible.

 

Terminology:

  1. Will: that by which the mind chooses anything (1.1).
    1. Act of will: act of choosing. JE identifies volition with the prevailing act of the soul; what other writers call “voluntary.”
    2. Determined: under some influence to a fixed object.
  2. Thesis: it is that motive which, as it stands in the view of the mind, is the strongest that determines the will (I.).

Necessity of consequence: while JE plays fast and loose sometimes with terms, what he says makes sense, nonetheless. There is also a weaker type of necessity, accidental necessity.

  • Part 1
  1. Thesis: a man never wills anything contrary to his (greatest apparent) desire (section 1).
  2. Section 2: Determination of the WIll
    1. A will is determined when its choice is directed to a fixed object. Motive is that which excites the mind to volition. For Edwards “understanding” is the whole faculty of perception.
  3. Section 3: Necessity
    1. A thing is necessary when it cannot be otherwise. Necessity is a fixed connection between things (e.g., the subject and predicate of a proposition). Contingency is when something has no previous connection.
  4. Section 4: Moral Necessity and Inability
    1. Moral necessity is the certainty of the will itself. Edwards’ argument seems to be that it is impossible for the will to act contrary to its greatest inclination. This impossibility is the moral inability.
    2. Moral inability is the want or defect of an inclination. Being able is not the same thing as being willing. I can have the faculty/capacity to do x, yet never actualize it.
  5. Section 5: Concerning the Notion of Liberty and Agency
    1. Liberty is the power to do as one pleases. It doesn’t belong under the category of “Will,” but agency. Agents are free, wills are not.

Part 2: Is there a such thing as Arminian Liberty?

  1. Inconsistency
    1. If the Will determines all its free acts, then every free choice is determined by a preceding act of choice.
    2. JE sees a chain of causes in each act of the will. The key question: is this first act of the Will free or not? If it is free (in the sense of uncaused), then we have an uncaused Cause (God). If it isn’t free, then the Will is not free.
  2. Is the Will active or passive?
    1. If the Will is active, then the Will is determining other acts of the Will. If passive, then in what sense is the will a determining factor?
    2. The very act of volition is itself a determination of the mind.
    3. Definition of a cause: an antecedent on which an event depends.
  3. Short essay on the Cosmological Argument.
  4. The soul, even if active, cannot be the subject of effects which have no cause.
  5. JE recaps his argument.
  6. Difficulties in the view that the will is uninfluenced
    1. This is like saying that the mind has a preference but at the same time it has no preference.
    2. To suppose the Will to act in a complete state of indifference is to assert that the mind chooses without choosing.
  7. Liberty of Will and Indifference
    1. On an Arminian gloss, indifference must be taken in an absolute sense. This is so because if the will is already inclined, then the choosing isn’t solely on the sovereign power of the Will.
    2. Is a self-determining will really free? How can the soul be both in a state of choice and a state of equilibrium?
    3. Does the mind suspend itself in a state of complete indifference?
  8. Liberty and Necessity
    1. Acts of will are never contingent.
  9. Connection between the Will and Understanding
    1. Every act of will is connected with the perceived good from the understanding.
  10. Volition and Motives
    1. Every act of will is excited by some motive.
    2. The motive is the cause of the will’s act.
    3. Volitions are necessarily connected with the motive.
    4. If the motives dispose the mind to action, then they cause the mind to be disposed; and to cause the mind to be disposed is to cause it to be willing; and to cause it to be willing is to cause it to will.
  11. God’s Foreknowledge
    1. Thesis: God has a certain foreknowledge of the voluntary acts of moral agents. These acts, therefore, are not contingent.
    2. If God doesn’t have knowledge of the future actions of moral agents, then the prophecies in general are without foreknowledge.
  12. God’s foreknowledge inconsistent with contingent actions.
    1. The voluntary acts of moral agents are necessary in the sense of connection or consequence.
      1. For example, past actions are now necessary.
      2. God’s foreknowledge, therefore, gives the actions a kind of necessary ground of existence.
      3. If something is indissolubly connected with a necessary event, it, too, is necessary.
    2. Therefore, there is a necessary connection between God’s foreknowledge and these events.
    3. Infallible foreknowledge proves the necessity of the event foreknown, but does not necessarily cause it.
  13. Recap of argument

Part III: Is Liberty inconsistent with moral excellency?

The Arminian objects that anything that is necessary cannot be morally praiseworthy.

  1. God’s nature and moral excellency are necessary but that doesn’t preclude His being praiseworthy.
    1. Indeed, it is commanded.
    2. On the Arminian objection, why should we thank God for his Goodness, since His good acts are necessary?
  2. Jesus was necessarily holy and couldn’t sin, yet he is praiseworthy.
    1. In this section Edwards upholds dyotheletism.
    2. God promised to preserve and uphold Jesus by his Spirit.
    3. The benefits of Christ’s obedience are in the nature of a reward.
  3. Moral necessity and Inability are consistent with blameworthiness because of the fact that God gives people up to sin.
    1. If coaction and necessity prove men blameless, then Judas was blameless for betraying Christ.
  4. Command and obligation to obedience are consistent with moral inability to obey.
    1. The Arminian says that the only good acts are when the will acts from a state of Indifference and equilibrium. Yet, this runs into problems:
      1. If the soul doesn’t act by prior determining influences, then volitions are events that happen by pure chance.
      2. Laws require virtue and repress vice, yet a libertarian action is indifferent with respect to law.
      3. If liberty consists in indifference, then anything that biases the will destroys Liberty.
      4. Yet Scripture teaches that the Saint is most free when he obeys God.
    2. The inclination of a will is itself unable to change. This would be like saying the mind is inclined otherwise than it is now inclined!
  5. Sincerity of Desires are irrelevant
    1. Men are already inclined or not inclined prior to the relevance of needing to be sincerely inclined.
      1. It is like saying a man should sincerely incline to have an inclination.
      2. Being sincere is no virtue unless it is being sincere towards a virtuous thing.
    2. But being sincere destroys the idea of a Will resting in a complete state of indifference.
  6. Liberty of Indifference is not Necessary to virtue but actually opposed to it.
    1. If indifference of Will is necessary to Virtue, then the heart must be indifferent to the virtuous act when it performs it!
    2. Therefore, there is no virtue (or vice) in habitual inclinations.
  7. Arminian notions of moral agency (indifference) are inconsistent with the influence of motives and Inducement.
    1. If the only good act is one springing from an indifferent will, then what is the point of using motives or promises?
    2. Motives bias the mind and destroy indifference.
    3. If acts of the will are incited by motives, then motives cause those acts, which means the will isn’t self-caused.
    4. If the soul has in its act no motive or end, then in that act it seeks nothing. It desires nothing. It chooses nothing.

Part IV: Refuting Arminianism

  1. Essence of virtue, etc., lies in nature, not in Cause.
    1. We condemn or praise an act, not in its cause, but in the nature of the act.
    2. If we blame the cause of an act, then we have to ask why that Cause is evil, which moves the discussion back to a previous cause, and so on.
  2. Metaphysical notions of action and agency
  3. On necessity
    1. Strong connection between the thing said to be necessary, and the antecedents.
  4. Moral necessity consistent with praise and blame.
    1. When someone does wrong, it is because he is doing as he pleases, and we blame him for doing as he pleases.
    2. We do not speculate on the Causes of his actions (at least not immediately).
  5. Objections considered
    1. Necessity does not render endeavors to be vain, for we judge an endeavor based on the success of it, and not simply on the means.
  6. We are not fatalists. Edwards admits he has not read Hobbes.
  7. Necessity of the Divine Will
    1. God wills necessarily, yet no one bats an eye at this.
    2. God necessarily acts in a way to exhibit the perfections of his Nature.
  8. Necessity of God’s volitions
    1. If presented between two objects, ex hypothesi, God will always necessarily choose between the fittest.
    2. JE then gives an amazing analytical theological discussion about the nature of identity.
  9. Is God the author of sin?
    1. God is not the author of sin in that he is the agent of sin.
    2. Yet God does order the universe in such a way that sin does come about. Even Arminians must admit this.
  10. Concerning sin’s first entrance into the world.
  11. On supposed inconsistencies.
    1. God’s secret and revealed will.
    2. Men are still invited to the gospel, even if God has secretly ordered the universe in such a way that men will not respond.
  12. On atheism and licentiousness
    1. JE’s apologetics: the doctrine of necessity is the only medium for proving the being of God.
  13. Are we too metaphysical? No.
    1. The being of God is metaphysically construed, and this is valuable for apologetics.
  14. Conclusion
    1. God orders all events.
  15. Appendix
    1. Liberty is the power that anyone has to do as he pleases.
    2. Moral necessity is the connection between antecedent things and consequent things.

 

 

Jacob’s Blog:

*https://negatingthevoid.wordpress.com/

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