Liberty

Liberty "The idea of liberty," says Locke, "is the idea of a power in any agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, whereby either of them is preferred to the other. When either of them is not in the power of the agent, to be produced by him according to his volition, then he is not at liberty, but under necessity." From this, and the extract which follows, it will be seen that Locke's ideas of liberty and of power are very nearly the same. "Every one," he observes, "finds in himself a power to begin or forbear, continue or put an end to, several actions in himself. From the consideration of the extent of this power of the mind over the actions of the man, which every one finds in himself, arise the ideas of liberty and necessity." These definitions, however, merely extend to the ability of the individual to execute his own purposes without obstruction; whereas Locke, in order to do justice to his own decided opinion on the subject, ought to have included also in his idea of liberty a power over the determinations of the will. "By the liberty of a moral agent," says Dr. Reid, "I understand a power over the determinations of his own will. If, in any action, he had power to will what he did, or not to will it, in that action he is free. But if, 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 his external circumstances, he is not free; he has not what I call the liberty of a moral agent, but is subject to necessity." On the other hand, some affirm that necessity is perfectly consistent with human liberty; that, is, that the most strict and inviolable connection of cause and effect does not prevent the full, free, and unrestrained development of certain powers in the agent, or take away the distinction between the nature of virtue and vice, praise and blame, reward and punishment, but is the foundation of all moral reasoning. "I conceive," says Hobbes, " that nothing taketh beginning from itself, but from the action of some other immediate agent without itself; and that therefore, when first a man hath an appetite or will to do something to which immediately before he had no appetite nor will, the cause of his will is not the will itself, but something else not in his own disposing; so that whereas it is out of controversy that of voluntary action the will is the necessary cause, and by this which is said the will is also caused by other things whereof it disposeth not. it followeth that voluntary actions have all of them necessary causes, and therefore are necessitated. I hold that to be a sufficient cause to which nothing is wanting that is needful to the producing of the effect. The same is also a necessary cause. For if it be possible that a sufficient cause shall not bring forth the effect, then there wanteth somewhat which was needful to the producing of it, and so the cause was not sufficient; but if it be impossible that a sufficient cause should not produce the effect, then is a sufficient cause a necessary cause (for that is said to produce an effect necessarily that cannot but produce it). Hence it is manifest that whatsoever is produced a hath had a sufficient cause to produce it, or else it had not been, and therefore also voluntary actions are necessitated." "I conceive liberty," he observes, "to be rightly defined in this manner: Liberty is the absence of all impediments to action that are not contained in the nature and intrinsical quality of the agent: as, for example, the water is said to descend freely, or to have liberty to descend by the channel of the river, because there is no impediment that way, but not across, because the banks are impediments; and, though the water cannot ascend, yet men never say it wants the liberty to ascend, but the faculty or power, because the impediment is in the nature of the water, and intrinsical. So also we say, he that is tied wants the liberty to go, because the impediment is not in him, but in his bands; whereas we say not so of him that is sick or lame, because the impediment is in himself. I hold that the ordinary definition of a free agent — namely, that a free agent is that which, when all things are present that are needful to produce the effect, can nevertheless not produce it implies a contradiction, and is nonsense; being as much as to say the cause may be sufficient, that is to say, necessary, and yet the effect shall not follow." He afterwards defines a moral agent to be one that acts from deliberation, choice, or will, not from indifference; and, speaking of the supposed inconsistency between choice and necessity, he adds: "Commonly, when we see and know the strength that moves us, we acknowledge necessity; but when we do not, or mark not the force that moves us, we then think there is none, and thus conclude that it is not cause, but liberty, that produceth the action. Hence it is that we are apt to think that one doth not choose this or that who of necessity chooses it; but we might as well say fire doth not burn because it burns of necessity." The general question is thus stated by Hobbes in the beginning of his treatise: the point is not, he says, "whether a man can be a free agent; that is to say, whether he can write or forbear, speak or be silent, according to his will, but whether the will to write or the will to forbear come upon him according to his will, or according to anything else in his power. I acknowledge this liberty, that I can do if I will; but to say I can will if I will, I take to be an absurd speech. In fine, that freedom which men commonly find in books, that which the poets chant in the theaters and the shepherds on the mountains, that which the pastors teach in the pulpits and the doctors in the universities, and that which the common people in the markets, and all mankind in the whole world, do assent unto, is the same that I assent unto, namely, that a man hath freedom to do if he will; but whether he hath freedom to will is a question neither the bishop nor they ever thought on." Thus it will readily be perceived that Hobbes entirely denies the main point at issue, namely, the freedom of the will itself, and confines the subject — as his definition — purely to liberty of action. This latter is simply a physical question, and applies to all agents, whether human, animal, or even material; that liberty which concerns, and indeed constitutes, a being as a moral agent, is quite a different thing. - Hobbes as a materialist, and therefore a necessitarian, of course finds no room for this kind of moral or self-determining power.

It is unquestionable that the source of most of the confusion on the subject is in the ambiguity lurking under the term necessity, which includes both kinds of necessity, moral and physical. The double meaning of the word has been the chief reason why persons who were guided more by their own feelings and the customary associations of language than by formal definitions have altogether rejected the doctrine, while persons of a more logical turn, who could not deny the truth of the abstract principle, have yet, in their explanation of it and inference from it, fallen into the same error as their opponents. The partisans of necessity have given up their common sense, as they supposed, to their reason, while the advocates of liberty rejected a demonstrable truth from a dread of its consequences, and both have been the dupes of a word. The obnoxiousness of the name unquestionably has been the cause of nearly all the difficulty and repugnance which many who really hold the doctrine find in admitting it. It was to remove this prejudice that Dr. Jonathan Edwards was induced to write his celebrated treatise on the Will. In a letter written expressly to vindicate himself from the charge of having, in his great work, confounded moral with physical necessity, he says: "On the contrary, I have largely declared that the connection between antecedent things and consequent ones, which take place with regard to the acts of men's wills, which is called moral necessity, is called by the name of necessity improperly, and that all such terms as must cannot, impossible, unable, irresistible, unavoidable, invisible, etc., when applied here, are not employed in their proper signification, and are either used nonsensically and with perfect insignificance, or in a sense quite diverse from their original and proper meaning and their use in common speech, and that such a necessity as attends the acts of men's wills is more properly called certainty than necessity." The well-known definition of Edwards on this subject is in the following words; " The plain and obvious meaning of the words freedom and liberty, in common speech, is power, opportunity, or advantage that any one has to do as he pleases, or, in other words, his being free from hinderance, or impediment in the way of doing or conducting in any respect as he wills. I say not only doing, but conducting, because a voluntary forbearing to do, sitting still, keeping silence, etc., are instances of persons' conduct about which liberty is exercised, though they are not so properly called doing. And the contrary to liberty, whatever name we call that by, is a person's being hindered or unable to conduct as he will, or being necessitated to do otherwise." The radical defect in this definition as to the question in hand is that liberty, as thus defined, relates solely to action (or non-action, as the case may be), and not to the will at all. Thus, by a singular method of petitio principii, the very possibility of all freedom of will is excluded. The real point at issue is but casually named, and arbitrarily dismissed as a contradiction. That point is not whether a man may act as he wills (this, again, is mere physical liberty), but whether the will has a self-determining power; whether, in other words, a man may will in opposition to external influences, usually called motives. This question the universal experience of mankind has determined in the affirmative. On these two grounds, 1, the essential fallacy as to the point in dispute, and, 2, the unanimous testimony of consciousness as to the spontaneity of volition, the fundamental position of Edwards has been so successfully attacked, as, for instance (to name only Calvinistic writers), by Tapspan and Bledsoe, that it may now be regarded as failing to meet the present theological status of the question. SEE WILL.

True liberty evidently consists simply in freedom from external constraint. That Gods is free in this sense, at least in his acts, all must admit, inasmuch as there is no conceivable power that could coerce him. It is likewise obvious that he is equally free in his volitions, unless we suppose a system of arbitrary laws or absolute line of policy which shuts him up to a certain line of conduct. So far as these may be the resultant. or expression of his own nature, they might perhaps be admitted without essentially impairing our notions of his freedom. So, again, of man; if the motives, by which alone, if at all, it is claimed that his volitions are governed, are self- originated, or derive their governing weight from the influence which his own mind imparts to them, he may still be said to be free in at least the strict sense of the definition. If, however, these preponderating elements consist in his own desires, and if, further, these desires are beyond his own control (whether by reason of natural predisposition, inveterate habit, or the divine or satanic interposition), then it must still remain dubious if his liberty amounts to the measure of a, rational, moral, and accountable agent. In the humans sphere this is precisely the point of difficulty, but its determination as a matter of fact, if indeed possible, belongs properly under another head. SEE MOTIVE. In, the divine sphere, on the other hand, the difficulty arisesfrom the so-called system of fore-ordination, which is tenaciously held by Calvinistic divines, being either assumed as a metaphysical dogma, or inferred from certain scriptural statements, and as strenuously denied by others. SEE PREDESTINATION.

Bible concordance for LIBERTY.

The ground assumed on this vexed question by Sir William Hamilton and Mansell is that liberty and necessity are both incomprehensible, both being beyond. the limits of legitimate thought; that they are among those questions which admit of no certain answer, the very inability to answer them proving that dogmaticdecisions on either side are the decisions of ignorance, not of knowledge. "How the will can possibly be free," says Hamilton, "must remain to us, under the present limitation of our faculties, wholly incomprehensible. We are unable to conceive an absolute commencement; we cannot, therefore, conceive a free volition. A determination by motives cannot, to our understanding, escape from necessitation — nay, were we even to admit as true what we cannot think as possible, still the doctrine of a motiveless volition would be only casualistic, and the free acts of an indifferent are morally and rationally as worthless as the fore-ordained passions of a determined will. How, therefore, I repeat, moral liberty is possible in man or God we are utterly unable speculatively to understand. But practically the fact that we are free is given to us in the consciousness of our moral accountability; and this fact of liberty cannot be reargued on the ground that it is incomprehensible, for the philosophy of the conditions proves, against the necessitarian, that things there are which may, nay, must be true, of which the understanding is wholly unable to construe to itself the possibility. But this philosophy is not only competent to defend the fact of our moral liberty, possible, though inconceivable, against the assault of the fatalist; it retorts against himself the very objection of inconceivability by which the fatalist had thought to triumph over the libertarian. It shows that the scheme of freedom is not more inconceivable than the scheme of necessity; for, whilst fatalism is a recoil from the more obtrusive inconceivability of an absolute commencement, on the fact of which commencement the doctrine of liberty proceeds, the fatalist is shown to overlook the equal but less obtrusive inconceivability of an infinite non-commencement, on the assertion of which non-commencement his own doctrine of necessity must ultimately rest. As equally unthinkable, the two counter, the two one-sided schemes, are thus theoretically balanced." Sir William, however as it seems to us, in this extract does not closely adhere to the conditions of the problem. According to his own admission, it is not the fact of a self-determining power in the will that is "inconceivable," but only the mode (the how) of its exercise. This, like many other well-known processes, is a mystery. Again, it is not claimed that the will acts without motive, but only that it is not controlled by external motive; that it has the power of itself choosing what motive shall be strongest with it, irrespective of the intrinsic force of that motive. It is this distinction that preserves-as no other can-the truly moral character of the agent.

"The endless controversy concerning predestination and free-will," says Mansell, "whether viewed in its speculative or in its moral aspect, is but another example of the hardihood of human ignorance. The question has its philosophical as well as its theological aspect: it has no difficulties peculiar to itself; it is but a special form of the fundamental mystery of the co- existence of the infinite and the finite." "The vexed question of liberty and necessity, whose counter arguments become a by-word for endless and unprofitable wrangling, is but one of a large class of problems, some of which meet us at every turn of our daily life and conduct, whenever we attempt to justify in theory that which we are compelled to carry out in practice. Such problems arise inevitably whenever we attempt to pass from the sensible to the intelligible world, from the sphere of action to that of thought, from that which appears to us to that which is in itself. In religion, in morals, in our daily business, in the care of our lives, in the exercise of our senses, the rules which guide our practice cannot be reduced to principles which satisfy our reason." Those theologians, on the other hand, who deny that the divine predestination extends to the individual acts of men in general, think that they thus more effectually obviate the whole difficulty. In the divine foreknowledge of all human actions they admit the certainty of their occurrence, but find no causative power, such as seems to enter essentially into the predeterminations of an Almighty will. As to the argument that such foreknowledge rests upon, and therefore implies fore-ordination, they contend that this is a reversal of the true order (comp. Ro 8:29), and that God's prescience is a simple knowing beforehand by his peculiar power of intuition, not any conclusion or inference from what he may or may not determine. SEE PRESCENCE.

Definition of liberty

See Hobbes's treatise Of Liberty and Necessity; also his Option about Liberty and Necessity; also Questions concerning Liberty, Necessity, and Chance clearly stated and debated between Dr. Bramhall and Thomas

Hobbes; Leibnitz's Essais de Theodicee, a collection of papers which passed between Mr. Leibnitz and Dr. Clarke; Collins's Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty; Clarke's Remarks upon a Book entitled "A Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty;" Edwards's Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will; Essay on the Genius and Writings of Edwards, prefixed to the London edition of his works, 1834, by H. Rogers; J. Taylor's introduction to his edition of Edwards On the Will; Hartley's Observations on Man; Belsham's Elements of the Philosophy of the Mlind; Cousin's Elements of Psychology (Prof. Henry's translation); Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy, and Lectures on Metahysics; Mansell's Limits of Religious Thought; Herbert Spencer's First Principles; Stewart's Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers of Man; Tappan's Review of Ldwards's Inquiry into the Freedoms of the Will; Mill's System of Logic; Jouffroy's Introduction to Ethics; Blakey's History of the Philosophy of Mind; Hazard, On the Will; Bledsoe, On the Will; Whedon, On the Will. SEE NECESSITARIANS

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

 
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