What Does It Mean to Have Free Will?

By Joseph LaPorte

An illustration of the medieval Franciscan John Duns Scotus, who argued that we are a “total cause” of what we freely will.

According to one venerable tradition, with roots in St. Augustine, the mark of freedom is to be able to bring about an effect as an “uncaused cause.” In other words, to act freely is to act without constraints. Neither God nor neurological processes, neither phobias nor any other event is causally responsible for our actions. We, as agents, are causally responsible.

We could call this view of freedom “originalism,” after the philosopher Ted Honderich, who speaks of “origination,” because free actions originate with the human person as their cause. As an originalist, the medieval Franciscan John Duns Scotus says we are “total cause” of what we freely will. Say you freely eat a meal. You are the cause of eating; the responsibility for eating the meal is yours, period.

Scotus developed this view in response to another tradition, also rooted in Augustine, which is associated with the Dominican order and whose classical articulation is in the writings of another medieval philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas. For Aquinas, you choose to eat the meal, but God causes you to make that choice. Even though God causes you to choose to eat, you still do so freely. (If this sounds like a stretch to …read more

Read more here:: https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/2017/10/11/what-does-mean-have-free-will/